LACP - NEWS of the Week
on some LACP issues of interest
NEWS of the Week
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles is but a small percentage of the info available to the community policing and neighborhood activist. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view. We present this simply as a convenience to our readership.
"News of the Week"  

December 2018 - Week 3
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.

Crime Gun Intelligence Centers: A promising way to reduce gang violence

These centers incorporate all aspects of intelligence-led policing by emphasizing information sharing and collaboration among varying criminal justice

Editor's note: In resource-strapped times, intelligence-led policing is a key to identifying and investigating gang activity. This special coverage series reviews strategies departments can deploy to take a data-driven approach to reducing gang-related crime.

Reducing gang crime by identifying, investigating and incarcerating gang members – especially those who are repeat violent offenders – has been a top priority for law enforcement for the past couple of decades. According to the National Institute of Justice, gang members engage in a higher level of serious and violent crime than non-gang members. When communities assess their gun violence problem, they often uncover a gang violence problem – therefore, identifying and apprehending these individuals in a timely manner remains critical.


Intelligence-led policing (ILP), a policing model introduced in the 1990s, is being adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country in order to take a data-driven approach to reducing gang-related crime.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, ILP is “a collaborative law enforcement approach combining problem-solving policing, information sharing and police accountability, with enhanced intelligence operations.” It is designed to guide policing activities toward high-frequency offenders, locations, or crimes to inform resource allocation decisions. The main component of ILP is collaboration among various agencies and levels of law enforcement.


One example of an intelligence-led policing initiative is the National Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) Initiative.

The National CGIC Initiative supports local multidisciplinary teams in their efforts to integrate into the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) existing CGICs to prevent violent crime by identifying perpetrators, linking criminal activities and identifying sources of crime guns for immediate disruption, investigation and prosecution. ATF CGICs incorporate all aspects of the intelligence-led policing model in that they emphasize information sharing and collaboration among varying criminal justice stakeholders and conduct systematic data analysis using ATF and local law enforcement data sources to target the most prolific shooters in a given community with the ultimate goal of reducing gun violence.

Multiple jurisdictions across the country, with assistance from the ATF, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Police Foundation, have implemented business practices to enhance their utilization of CGICs.

The CGIC concept was developed by ATF and is defined as an “interagency collaboration focused on the immediate collection, management and analysis of crime gun evidence, such as shell casings, in real time, in an effort to identify shooters, disrupt criminal activity, and prevent future violence.” CGICs leverage two key ATF technologies to ballistically connect shootings and determine the sources of crime guns- the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) and eTrace.


NIBIN allows for the systematic collection and processing of ballistics evidence collected at crime scenes in which shell casings are left behind. When fired, each shell casing has microscopic marks etched on it from the gun. Those marks are unique to the gun that fired it. Investigators can input images of casings into NIBIN, and use software to scan through the database to find probable matches to casings recovered at other crime scenes. The result is automated ballistics evaluations, providing investigators actionable leads in a timely manner.

Firearms tracing is the systematic tracking of the movement of a firearms recovered by law enforcement officials from its first sale by the manufacturer or importer through the distribution chain (wholesaler/retailer) to the first retail purchaser. Comprehensive firearms tracing is the routine tracing of every crime gun recovered within a geographic area or specific law enforcement jurisdiction. eTrace is a paperless firearm trace submission system that is readily accessible through the internet that provides the necessary utilities for submitting, retrieving, storing and querying all firearms trace related information relative to the requestor's agency.


Key CGIC partners include the ATF, local police departments and their gang units, local crime laboratories, probation and parole officers, state and federal prosecutors, crime analysts, victim advocates and academic organizations. CGICs utilize systematic data analysis of ATF's NIBIN and eTrace information coupled with intelligence analysis from local law enforcement to guide their pursuit of violent offenders.

The primary outcome of these centers is identifying armed violent offenders for investigation and prosecution. Other outcomes include: the identification of crime gun sources, efficient resource allocation, providing decision-makers with the most accurate crime data available, increasing case closure rates, public safety and gun crime prevention.

Jurisdictions that have implemented CGICs have seen a number of success stories as they relate to apprehending violent street gang members.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a participating CGIC agency, was able to use ballistic evidence collected at a crime scene to identify, arrest, and prosecute three gang members linked to a string of shootings.

Investigators in New Haven, Connecticut, deployed an intelligence-led policing strategy through the use of NIBIN technology to help identify, arrest and prosecute a violent gang member responsible for several murders, armed robberies, and drug trafficking, amongst other charges. According to investigators, collaboration between the local police department, state police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), state crime laboratory, and the State Attorney's Office was key in the prosecution of the gang member. In addition, an instrumental component of the investigation was the work of the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory in utilizing NIBIN to analyze ballistics evidence.

In each of these cases, the strong collaboration between partners was key to successful prosecution. From the early stages of comprehensive collection through prosecution, CGICs emphasize the need for increased communication between local, state, and federal partners.


Crime Gun Intelligence Centers are one example of an approach utilizing an intelligence-led policing strategy to reduce gun violence, as well as gang crime in communities. CGICs, with the use of ATF's NIBIN and eTrace technologies, incorporate all components of an intelligence-led policing strategy that can not only reduce crime, but proactively prevent it from happening. CGICs can help investigators link shootings and ultimately identify, arrest and prosecute violent gang members who are engaged in repeat gun violence.

For more information on how Crime Gun Intelligence Centers can be an effective tool to target gangs and other criminal networks, view this one-pager developed by the National Police Foundation (available below). You can also visit the National Crime Gun Intelligence Center website. For inquiries, contact National Police Foundation Executive Vice President James Burch at


New Jersey

New Hamilton police chief focuses on community aspect of policing

by Rob Anthes

New Hamilton Police Chief James M. Stevens has wasted no time making his mark on the division that has been his professional home for the last 34 years.

Since taking over as chief from James Collins six months ago, Stevens has set out to make inroads with the public, putting heavy emphasis on community policing as means to combat crime.

The police division already had a robust community policing platform, with programs like Safety Town and Officer Friendly introducing children to police officers in a social, non-emergency situation. Under Stevens' guidance, Hamilton Police launched in September its own Coffee With A Cop program, borrowing from a model that has seen success nationwide.

He and his wife Patricia have have two grown children: Nicole and James. Stevens has been involved in law enforcement 34 years. He is a 2009 graduate of the FBI National Academy, a 10-week advanced leadership and executive management training at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He has served as the township's school safety liaison officer, the commander of the township SWAT team, a counter terrorism coordinator and the police division's first ever public information officer. Prior to joining the Hamilton Police, Stevens worked as a medic and nurse at a hospital in North Jersey, while also volunteering as a firefighter in Hamilton.

Stevens sat down with Hamilton Post editor Rob Anthes at the Hamilton Police headquarters for a wide-ranging interview, with topics including his career, the opioid addiction epidemic and how the division responds to trends in crime. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you pursue a career in law enforcement?

Probably family history. Both my grandfather and uncle were cops in New York City. The typical immigrant story—came from Ireland, served in World War I, then later on wound up as police officers in New York, back in 1920. The other side of my family, also from Ireland, were firefighters in New York City. So, kind of a family tradition.

You mentioned to me that retirement is not far off for you. How much longer do you envision working?

I hope to be here and successfully make some nice, progressive changes with the men and women that work here. I have a vision for the division. I hope to continue the great work that the other chiefs have left this division, and I hope to build upon all their great successes. I would say I'm probably here 3-4 more years.

What is your vision for Hamilton Police?

What I'd like to do is expand upon what many of the former chiefs have done here. Our community policing unit is one of the things we'd like to expand upon, which we have. We have three community policing officers. They're assigned to the chief's office. They're very involved in community-oriented projects. The Neighborhood Watch programs, the community policing programs. We've also introduced them into the schools in order for them to have a little bit more contact with the schoolchildren, with our [Law Enforcement Against Drugs] program, our [school resource officer] program. One of the nicest things we have here that probably most of the police departments don't have in the state is the Safety Town we have out back here. We actually provide instruction through our LEAD program. They do the sixth grade LEAD program, they do the Officer Friendly in Kindergarten and 4th grade and the 2nd grade bicycle program. So, we're very involved with the young population, which we like.

My community policing officers are very involved with the other part of the community. We visit our seniors. We just launched a Coffee with Cops program, that's a national program. We had our first one on the 22nd of September at the Dunkin Donuts.

A lot of communities have turned to Coffee With A Cop as a spoke of its community policing. Why did you institute it here in Hamilton?

Community policing is the foundation of all policing. We'd like to expand upon it. It's a proven program; it works. The nice thing with the Coffee With Cops program, it breaks down physical barriers. The public is able to come up and talk to an officer. We're a large town. The officers ride around in patrol vehicles. They're busy, they get detailed from one assignment to the next. It's a little bit harder for them to get out of those vehicles and engage the public on a regular, social level, like at the Coffee With Cops. They can come in, meet an officer, talk to an officer, ask them a question. It's not a formal process. It's just a nice, relaxed atmosphere.

Aside from that, are there any changes you think are needed with the Hamilton Police?

No. We would love to continue the forward direction this division has taken from former chiefs. They've built a foundation that I'd like to continue to build upon. There are many changes out there. Technology changes; we're always fighting to keep up with technology. But I'd like to continue the very good work former chiefs have done here.

So, you think the size of the division is OK?

Any chief would tell you they'd like to have more manpower. We understand there's a fiscal responsibility that comes with that. We will always do more with less. That's just the way life is today. Any chief would tell you they'd like more. Would we like more? Sure, we would. Will we continue to do all the good things we do with the number of officers we have currently? Yes, we will. And we will always improve upon what we do with what we have.

You mentioned the SRO program earlier. Many communities have increased police presence at their schools this year. Has Hamilton made any changes?

We've looked at what the LEAD officers do in our schools. We're going to expand upon some of the things they do aside from the programs they currently provide in the schools. We've also integrated our community policing unit into a Stop program, and that's basically a program where they'll stop by the elementary schools, meet the principal, see how things are going and just have a presence. We really want to increase our presence and our footprint in all of our schools in Hamilton. We're doing that between our LEAD program, our SRO program, our community policing officers. I've heard some positive feedback already. Our LEAD guys do teach at the elementary school level and the middle school level, and our community policing officers will be in the schools when those guys are not there, just to share some of the time.

With Safety Town, you're reaching children before they've even started school. And then you have officers with them in elementary and middle school. Was that a conscious decision to expose children to police so young and so often?

It's another way for the community to have contact with them. The Dunkin Donuts was a very nice event, and there were a lot of young children. Parents are busy in the mornings. There's athletic events going on, other events going on. So, it was great to see a lot of young individuals had that contact. It's expanding upon our current programs, and trying to reach out more to the community and to have that contact with them, to have that good experience with an officer. We've been very fortunate here that the officers do a fantastic job, the contacts are always very, very rewarding for them and for the division.

Switching to another aspect of policing, you often see the State Police's Uniform Crime Statistics quoted. For example, so far this year in Hamilton, aggravated assault is up but violent crime overall is down. How much does the division read into those statistics, and how much weight is given to them when making policing decisions?

All the statistics we use, from either the Uniform Crime Reporting from the State Police—obviously those are then sent to the FBI for federal standards and statistics—but we also use those numbers with our CommStat. Our CommStat meetings that we hold, we discuss where crime's occurring. We try to handle it with real-time intelligence that allows us to assess where we're having certain issues, where to redeploy certain assets of the division to better encounter those problems and serve the public. So, we use all that data to better deploy the men and women.

It seems like it'd be easy for that data to be misunderstood. Take murders in Hamilton. Last year, there was one. This year, there have been four. That's a 300 percent increase. What does it mean? How do you use something like that to direct where you're deploying officers?

I'm not sure I understand the question. There's certain crimes you can't prevent. You try to plan. For example, if you're having a large number of robberies in an area, based upon real-time intelligence and the detective bureau gathering information, you try to determine the best way to deploy those individuals to prevent those crimes and lower those numbers. There are certain crimes that are crimes of opportunity. You really can't change that number.

Listen, any time there's an increase in violent crimes, that's a major concern to me and every man and woman who works in this division and the political leaders here. It's a concern. You want to have a safe community. You want to be able to go out at night and do your thing without being in fear. But that takes us back to community policing. Trying to make communities feel safer and be safer by providing that community policing relationship that we have. Numbers are always a concern, and numbers also reflect change—good or bad—in what we do. And we try to reorganize and decide how we're going to redeploy assets and hopefully bring those numbers down.

What I'm asking is, on a year-to-year basis, a number may see a large increase and followed by a large decrease. How do you determine when something's a trend versus an anomaly?

The best thing you can do is look back at issues when a lot of the crime was driven by cocaine. Crack cocaine, regular cocaine, methamphetamines. It's a difficult trend right now in this country. It's not just a geographical program, with an opiate abuse issue. Obviously, people are struggling with opiate addiction. Some of that causes them to go out and commit certain crimes. Some of that is driven by certain addiction issues. We try to address that accordingly. But that's where we'll see some of that fluctuation of numbers. Changes in behavior are part of those changes.

It seems like policing is more complex because of those changes. You have an opioid addiction response plan now. An officer might have to revive someone with Narcan. There is more required of you.

There is. We do so much more with the men and women that work on the street. Even before I came on the job, we didn't have the automatic defibrillators in the car. We weren't giving out Narcan when I came on the job. Officers are now deploying Narcan, automatic defibrillators, a multitude of things now that we do because we're required to do. People will turn police officers to look for assistance. When they call 911, we will send individuals to assist in the best way we can, and we train our men and women to have the best training possible and the best equipment possible. In my time, has policing changed? Absolutely. The men and women are doing much more than they did 10 or 15 years ago.

Aside from training, how do you prepare an officer to deal with so much?

It's training. When there are changes and certain issues in society, it affects how we police. That gets drafted down to our training unit.

A lot of the training here with the Narcan deployment is coming from the county, with assistance with Narcan, and the local hospitals. As needs in society change, we adapt to that change. That's what makes this a very dynamic job. It's not a static profession, where you just come here and don't learn anything new. What we do every year changes with society's needs.

Several police departments in Mercer County belong to an opioid addiction response plan called CARE.

We do, too. We have the CARE program here. All the officers are trained to deploy Narcan. We also give information out through the county prosecutor's office, the SMART program, which gives them information on how to get assistance and numbers to call for assistance or counseling. That's also provided to individuals if we were to go to their home and deploy Narcan. We are part of the CARE program. The mayor takes a very strong stance on this.

Is there anything else that is important for people to know about you or the Hamilton Police?

We cannot do it all ourselves. We rely very heavily on the community. There's only so many men and women here that work here, but there are so many more that live in the community, with eyes and ears to help us help others by reporting incidents, suspicious activity. That's why this community policing, we're trying to elevate contact with the community to let them know, ‘You may not think it's important at the time, but that one little piece of information you give to us may solve a crime for somebody or assist somebody.' If you don't think it's important, it doesn't hurt just to call.

We have an anonymous tip line they call at 581-4008. That's an anonymous crime tip line, they don't have to leave their name. If they have seen something or heard something, just call us and a detective will be assigned that will follow up on it. That's this whole premise of community policing—get the whole community to help us and to partner with them to solving these issues. It's a very difficult job that we have to do with just the men and women we have working here. It's truly a collaborative effort between us and the community partnership. When we get that successfully working together all the time, we get great results.



At Local Police Departments, Inequality Abounds

Where you live in Allegheny County determines what kind of police officer responds to your call for help.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Where you live in Allegheny County determines what kind of police officer responds to your call for help.

High-paid, low-paid, full-time, part-time, experienced, inexperienced, well-equipped or poorly equipped — it's a roll of the geographic dice, according to an analysis by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which discovered wide disparities in funding, staffing, training and workload among the county's 109 police departments.

Police forces in Allegheny County fare poorly on diversity; lack female, black recruits

While communities with the most violence or highest number of 911 calls might need the most robust police services, the Post-Gazette's analysis found those communities often support police departments with limited budgets and low-paid, part-time officers, while richer communities with less crime can afford to spend more on police.

From the two-man police department in Fawn to the nearly 900-member Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County contains more police departments than any other county in the state. This patchwork, which involves more than 2,700 officers and $340 million in annual spending, creates far-reaching divides — some residents are served by full-time officers who take home $71,000 salaries, while others get help from part-time officers who earn $10 an hour.

The best-staffed police departments in the county have 10 times more officers per resident than the least staffed, and the best-funded departments have more than 10 times the budget per resident than the poorest.

The police officers in Allegheny County who face the highest crime and poverty rates in their communities are also typically the lowest paid, the Post-Gazette found. Officers don't stay as long in communities with lower pay, and in three of the lowest-paying departments, the average officer has been on the job only a year. In more affluent communities, officers average more than a decade on the job.

The current patchwork of police departments across the county won't work for the long-term, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a recent interview, and it reflects how some communities, forced to cut budgets after losing industry and revenues decades ago, are struggling to provide not only quality policing but also all basic municipal services, harming residents' quality of life.

"If you've got a shrinking population and shrinking tax base, but the geography doesn't shrink and you've still got to patrol the same square miles, it makes it very difficult to be sustainable," he said.

A community's crime doesn't dictate police resources, the Post-Gazette found. Both Oakdale and McKees Rocks have 14 officers, even though Oakdale reported a single violent crime and no property crimes in 2017 while McKees Rocks had 79 violent and 324 property crimes.

In McKees Rocks, there are fewer than two officers for every 1,000 calls for service. Police departments in the county average four officers for every 1,000 calls. In richer areas, departments have dozens of officers for every 1,000 calls they receive.

"There is no rhyme or reason," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. "Some communities can afford more police, so they have them. Others can't."

Yet independent, small-scale policing has deep roots not only in Pennsylvania but across the nation. Politicians, community members and police unions have for decades resisted attempts to merge departments, arguing that small local departments can provide personal, tailored police services to their communities better than a centralized force.

"There's a lot of duplication, there's a lot of redundancy, but that's really the way American police have evolved," Mr. Wexler said.


In Munhall, which has a 23-member force, Chief Patrick Campbell thinks the benefits to local policing outweigh the challenges.

"You know your residents, you know who is trouble, you have a personal connection with those people," he said in September. "You get to know a specific area, street, neighborhood, and you know what goes on in that neighborhood."

But, he added, it's a "double-edged sword."

"I can tell you I've had my windshield broken, I've had sugar dumped in my gas tank, and I've had someone enter what he thought was my home and punch the guy laying bed, thinking it was me," Chief Campbell said, adding, "I'd moved."

He's got enough funding to hold his officers to a professional standard, he said, but acknowledged that's not the case everywhere.

"I know there are neighboring places that have more than us, and there are neighboring places that have way less than us," he said.

While officers in Munhall have a starting salary of about $21 an hour, in neighboring Whitaker, officers on the 10-person, part-time force start at $10 an hour and top out at $14.80 an hour.

Next door in Homestead, the department's three part-time officers start at about $16 an hour and the 13 full-timers start at $20 an hour.

Pay has more than doubled in Homestead since Chief Jeff Desimone started full-time on the force in 1998, and the department's ratio of part-time to full-time officers is better than many Mon Valley agencies.

"There was The Waterfront," he said. "Money started coming in."

The vast shopping complex pays taxes, and also pays for a full-time officer assigned exclusively to its grounds. The borough also pays another officer, assigned to Barrett Elementary School, using federal funds.

Homestead still struggles to keep policies and technology up to date, the chief said.

"A lot of times it's not a matter of getting the equipment and software — it's a matter of maintaining it," Chief Desimone said.

By contrast, Penn Hills, one of the largest municipalities in the county, has a new police headquarters and training facility, including a firing range. Police Chief Howard Burton said the disparity between his and other departments shows up in pay, training and length of service.

He sees the need for departments to consolidate, but he understands the reluctance of some smaller surrounding communities to give up their identities.


Struggling to keep policies up to date is a common problem at resource-strapped departments, Wexler said. While larger police agencies are able to attend conferences and training, smaller agencies can't afford the same access and often work with policies that are decades old.

"The reality is they get very little training, very little guidance and very little supervision, so they're left on their own to put together what they can," he said.

All Pennsylvania police officers must go through 919 hours of basic training designed by the state, but subsequent on-the-job training varies greatly among departments. At some agencies, state-certified officers receive little to no additional training.

In June, East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II as the unarmed teenager ran away from a traffic stop. In the wake of the shooting, which was captured on video and attracted national attention, East Pittsburgh police admitted they did not have written procedures for the handling of critical incidents like officer-involved shootings.

The Post-Gazette requested budget, salary, staffing and policy data from all 109 police departments in the county and received information from every one. East Pittsburgh was the only department without written policies, but three others acknowledged their manuals are outdated: Duquesne, Homestead and North Braddock.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and the county's Chiefs of Police Association maintain model policies and procedures that any department can use, Zappala said, but there's no way to force departments to adopt the standards.

"A municipality can open a police agency and there is no minimum standard," he said. "There no accountability, no audit process for what the police department needs to be able to provide to the public."

Zappala requires officers to get approval from his office before charging some felonies, and requires officers who specialize in investigations to meet certain training criteria. He aims to use the DA's office as a way to hold police to a professional standard.

Zappala brought homicide charges against Officer Rosfeld in Antwon's death; the officer is awaiting trial. In December, East Pittsburgh shut down its force and accepted free coverage from Pennsylvania State Police.

During a December interview, Zappala ticked off problems in East Pittsburgh: part-time force, not well-trained, trouble recruiting, real crime to deal with — and estimated a quarter of the county's police departments are in similar situations.

"What East Pittsburgh demonstrated was that the people have to have confidence in their criminal justice system," he said. "And when they looked at that scenario, and people started looking deeper into how the department is run, the background of the people, the training, I don't think they do have confidence that East Pittsburgh can run a police department."

State police are required by law to provide free police services in areas with no local coverage. In some counties, state police cover the majority of communities, but in Allegheny County, they provide full-time policing in just three municipalities, now including East Pittsburgh.

Maintaining an independent police department is a matter of pride for some small communities. In Heidelberg, which at 0.26 square miles is the geographically smallest borough in the county to have its own force, residents want to keep the nine-officer department, six-term Mayor Ken LaSota said.

"I do know the people in Heidelberg really support this," he said. "It's not like we're relying on the state police to just drive through once in a while."


Small communities regularly rely on each other to help shoulder the burden of local policing by coming to each other's aid on critical incidents or busy days, crossing municipal borders to lend a hand.

Reached on a Tuesday in September, Ingram Chief Jack Doherty had little time to talk.

"Can I call you back?" he said. "They just had a shooting in Kennedy that I have to assist on."

In the end, he decided to send his lone on-duty officer to the shooting, while he remained in his borough in case of an incident there. His eight-officer department regularly gives and gets help from all of its neighbors.

"It's a weekly thing that we back each other up, it's not just an occasional thing," he said.

Crime flows across borders, said Jonathan Ingram, a senior associate at The Novak Consulting Group in Ohio that has extensively studied police consolidation in Pennsylvania. Small departments are confined to their own jurisdictions, he said, and may not be well-equipped to handle larger investigations that cross borders.

"There are certainly positive working relationships," he said, "but in terms of a broader regional approach to crime, there are some inherent limitations to having a fragmented policing set up around a metro area."

And while the close proximity of neighboring departments allows police to help each other, it can also make it difficult for lower-paying departments to retain their officers, especially part-timers. East McKeesport Chief Russell Stroschein, who's been at the department since 2003, has seen firsthand a revolving door of part-time officers.

"I've probably got 60 plus people from here who have gone on to full-time jobs," Chief Stroschein said. "So the way I look at it, I'm hiring the right people and giving them what they need to be attractive to other places, because they're getting hired at really good departments."

Chief Stroschein added he feels East McKeesport's force is well-equipped. He's got five part-time and three full-time officers; about half have fewer than three years' experience.

Cash-strapped communities in Allegheny County rely heavily on part-time officers to staff their police departments, the Post-Gazette found. It's cheaper than hiring full-timers because municipalities typically don't pay benefits, but the part-timers tend to be less experienced and less trained.

Part-time officers are "fine for a stop-gap measure, but I find it's not a very reliable way to have a sustainable police department," Ingram said.

Chief William Wanto, of Leet, has a force split roughly between full-timers and part-timers, and he worries about the resilience of the latter.

"Oftentimes we hire a part-timer, they get with other departments, and they work as many as three or four departments," he said. "It just beats them up — it really does. You've got to be really careful that you don't get the tail end of a double or a triple shift, because then you don't have them at 100 percent."

There's movement at the state level to raise pay for part time officers, said state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, who plans to reintroduce legislation to do so next year.

"We should not be paying $10-11 and hour," he said. "It's wrong, it's not enough, and that's why they work in three different communities."

Brewster, along with Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, and several other Democratic politicians, said in September they'd be pushing several policing reforms at the state level, including creating a uniform use-of-force policy for all departments.

"At the end of the day, individuals are better served when you've got consistency in training and in accountability," Costa said in a recent interview, adding that the disparities in pay and staffing "highlight the need for more regional departments."

In addition to hiring part-timers, many of the region's police chiefs have found they're receiving fewer applications for open positions than they have in years past, a recruitment crisis they say is happening in law enforcement across the country.

In September, Lincoln police Chief Richard Bosco was juggling a roster with four vacancies.

"The economy is good, so there are well-paying jobs out there," he said. "We average somewhere in the $16, $17 an hour range for our employees. .You can drive a truck in the gas fields right now and earn $24 to $30 an hour."

On average, police officers in Allegheny County are paid $18 an hour. First-year Pittsburgh police officers earn $21 an hour; Castle Shannon officers start at $40 an hour.

Controversial police shootings have also made it more difficult to recruit, Chief Bosco said. Other chiefs said younger people aren't interested in shift and holiday work, and pensions hold less appeal because they require staying in one job for 25 years.

The chiefs who spoke with the Post-Gazette also noted that conversations about consolidation and regionalization have been ongoing for decades — but haven't lead to widespread changes.

When Chief Campbell started in Munhall two decades ago, the consensus was that consolidation would happen within eight years, he said.

"Here we are," he said, "23 years later.



Community policing drive concludes with call to share information on wrongdoers

The Rwanda National Police (RNP)'s week-long campaign to strengthen community policing concluded on Thursday with a call to reinforce community initiatives against lawlessness.

Even as the country is witnessing sustained security, police says prevailing cases of drug abuse, domestic and gender based violence, a child abuse are corruption are some of the issues that could jeopardise efforts to improve people's social welfare.

Addressing hundreds of Kigali dwellers and other community policing groups at Kigali stadium, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Barthelemy Rugwizangoga, said that community policing is the backbone of the current security situation.

Community policing, he added, helped break the past phobia that made the citizenry fear their security organs while denying them the right to safeguard their own security.

Community policing was adapted in the year 2000, when the national police force was created, to encourage citizens to participate in crime-solving.

It came as a strategic response to rampant crime, police says.

Since then, various community policing groups have been established, including over 140,000 members of community policing committees, 260,000 Rwanda youth volunteers in community policing, about 3,000 anti-crime clubs, anti-crime ambassadors as well as Irondo (community night patrols)across 14, 837 villages in the country.

The 2017/2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) ranked Rwanda the first in Africa and 13th globally where citizens trust and rely on police services for their safety.

“Community policing gains should be sustained and strengthened to give no room for drug dealers, and ensure those who abuse the rights of women and children, and deny the young people a better future are brought to justice. All this largely depend on information sharing,” ACP Rugwizangoga said.

On the issue of narcotics, ACP Rugwizangoga observed that it remains one of the major obstacles to youth development both in aspects of education and health.

More than 4000 drug dealers were arrested last year. Youth aged between 18 and 35 years account for at least 70 per cent of the people involved in drug related crimes, including trafficking, and abuse.

Between 2010 and 2015, the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital of Ndera received 1,432 patients with mental illness due to use of drugs, according to Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).

The number increased to 2804 in 2016 but dropped to 1960 last year. Huye Isange Rehabilitation Centre received 209 cases, last year.

Kirehe, Nyagatare, Rubavu, Burera and Gicumbi districts, where the latest campaign was also held, are considered as the main transit routes for drug traffickers.

As a result, communities especially, along borders, have formed anti-drugs groups aimed at reenforcing police efforts to break chains of supply.

Official reports indicate that the number of teenage mothers is high in the districts of Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Kirehe, Bugesera, Gasabo, Rubavu, Kayonza, Musanze, Ngoma and Rwamagana.

“Don't witness or suspect a crime and keep quiet,” Rugwizangoga said.

He hinted on the issue of road traffic safety urging them to report drivers and motorcyclists whose behaviours put lives of people at risk.

Despite the 20 per cent reduction in road accidents in this year's first nine months, overtaking and dangerous spots, speeding, drunk-driving and driving while using the phone remain the major causes of fatalities.

Motorcyclists account for 30 per cent of road injuries and deaths registered, followed by cyclists and pedestrians.



When A Police Force Doesn't Match the Population It Serves – Still, We Can Solve

A recent lawsuit filed by Prince George's County police officers along with key area civil rights groups shows us something that is an all too familiar narrative in the fabric of American life: there are not only increasing tensions between law enforcement and the diverse, particularly Black and Brown, citizens they are sworn to protect, but many of the officers themselves are engaged in behavior that can only be characterized as active targeting of both residents and fellow officers of color.

This is what's alleged in the complaint filed as part of a joint legal effort between the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and the United Black Police Officers Association, in conjunction with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and law firm Arnold & Porter providing support.

We've seen this trend accelerating like wildfire throughout the rest of the nation. It is the routine racial profiling of diverse citizens and the alarmingly incessant rate at which Black citizens are targeted by false 911 calls and, more tragically, police officers who are more inclined to gun down unarmed Black people than dangerous, armed white men committing mass murder. Hence, we are sadly adapting to a world whereby an innocent Black man is shot by a police officer in his own apartment for simply being there – while an armed-to-the-teeth white man, for example, murders 11 people in a synagogue then injures several officers afterwards … and survives his encounter with responding police.

In some ways the Washington, D.C. community, particularly places like majority-Black Prince George's County, considers itself relatively insulated from these trends. Perhaps, because 65 percent of county residents are Black, it enjoys a Black-led government, and because it possesses the highest concentration of middle-class to affluent African Americans (including African and Caribbean migrants) in the nation. As a result, there is an occasional tendency to assume Prince George's County, Maryland could never turn into Ferguson, Missouri.

What's alleged in this latest lawsuit, however, warns us against complacency. These are also familiar concerns. While the complaints from Black and Latino officers provide a fresh glimpse into the inner workings and racially-charged psyche of the county's police department, they are not new. Maryland has the 5th largest Black statewide population in the country, according to Census figures, and yet state and local law enforcement are not proportional to various city and county demographics. In Prince George's County, while 65 percent of the population is Black, only 43 percent of the police force is the same. Meanwhile, Whites are over-represented: while White residents account for just under 27 percent of the county's population, they constitute 47 percent of county police officers.

That doesn't look like culturally competent policing. If anything, it's culturally lopsided. And it's one obvious ingredient creating an unnecessary breakdown in trust from residents and officers of color. This reality should prompt county leaders and the county police chief to take immediate and dramatic steps toward achieving racial parity in the police department.

In meeting that goal, the county must be a lot more transparent with the police department's data than it's ever been. Those numbers aren't available on the agency website for all residents to access when they should be. We also don't know how many county officers live within the community they patrol versus the number of officers who don't. A comprehensive annual report which includes crucial information such as officer demographic data, the percentage of officers who live within the county and a tally of citizen complaints and officer-involved shootings would be an important first step in the right direction. Prince George's County residents shouldn't have to wait for a lawsuit or a Justice Department probe to finally access information on how their local law enforcement agency works.

Diversity recruitment efforts should also be an immediate and top priority for the department, with a mission towards matching agency demographics to community demographics. Transparency around that effort is also key, but greater inclusion of the general public in that process, including collaboration with local non-profits and community institutions would be essential. Diversity by itself is not the complete key; research, such as a 2004 National Research Council study and a 2006 Fayetteville State University study, offer a mixed picture on outcomes. But diversity, when combined with a mission to ensure racially proportional agency leadership and the aggressive training of officers, is proven to help substantially.

Perhaps it's time to also revisit residency requirements for Prince George's County police officers.

Research on the effectiveness of residency requirements in major police departments is still ongoing. But there are clear economic, social and political benefits. There is consensus around an urgent need to design a police department that is as familiar as possible with the community it patrols and protects. Even if there is no appetite for a mandatory residency provision, the department should re-examine its efforts to not only recruit diverse candidates, but to give more priority to county residents and to also encourage others to live in the county. Should policymakers and police unions disagree with that proposal then perhaps its worth looking into creative versions. For example, it could be viewed as a major “option” with incentives. Or there could be “tours of duty” in which non-resident officers become stakeholders by rooming briefly in the districts they patrol.

It will be a long and difficult process to eliminate any form of racial discrimination in the Prince George's County police department. But it will be necessary, especially during the age we live in. Plus, it's just smart governance. County law enforcement should be much more proactive at addressing these issues given rising tensions and current events. It has no choice and it is duty bound to do so.



Talk to people you don't know. I do. It can help make our city a better place

Maggie Hoey is the executive director of TYPros, the Tulsa Regional Chamber's organization for young professionals. Her job is to recruit young people who want to live and work in Tulsa, and help make sure this is a community in which they want to stay.

“It's hard to hate up close,” she said.

Maggie is the executive director of TYPros, the Tulsa Regional Chamber's organization for young professionals. Her job is to recruit young people who want to live and work in Tulsa, and help make sure this is a community in which they want to stay.

The discussion was part of the Tulsa World's annual meeting of our Community Advisory Board. For many of us, it's the best luncheon conversation we have all year.

The board is made up of about 25 local citizens who are leaders of businesses, organizations, schools and nonprofits. They are also community volunteers and ordinary people with one thing in common: a desire to make this community a better place to live.

Once a year, the group gathers to give us an earful on what they believe to be the most pressing issues in our city and state, how they believe we're doing in covering those issues, and what we can do to be better.

Editorial Pages Editor Wayne Greene is in charge. He recruits the advisory board members and facilitates the overall conversation. Further discussions happen in smaller groups, and that's where Maggie made her statement as we talked about issues that keep Tulsans divided.

It's hard to hate up close.

Think about that for a minute. The more specific knowledge we have about people we don't know, the less likely we are to hate. When you have a positive specific experience with someone who is defined by a different religion, race, gender, occupation, ethnicity, geographic birthplace, or, yes, even political party, then we're less likely to stereotype and more accepting of others.

In his recent State of the City address to the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Mayor G.T. Bynum touted two programs — among many being implemented by his administration — that caught my ear. Both are aimed at breaking down the barriers formed by the labels of east, west, north and south Tulsa.

One deals with community policing — a concept that has been talked about for years. The Tulsa Commission on Community Policing is made up of ordinary citizens, police, and elected officials. The mayor called the commission's 77-point strategy that will encourage collaboration between Tulsa citizens and police officers “the most ambitious community policing program in the nation.”

There's a hope that a mutual respect will be formed as officers and those in the community become more familiar with each other and, as the mayor said, “build relationships between officers and the community so that everyday citizens are empowered to help make Tulsa safer.”

It's hard to hate up close.

Last month, my husband and I attended the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Dinner at the Greenwood Cultural Center. For many reasons, it was one of the most interesting events I've been to this year. Many fund-raising events center on a business or individual donating money; and, in return, the donor receives a table for their guests to share a pretty good dinner.

At this dinner, they asked everyone to sit at a table where they didn't know the other people. The food was served family style. The plates were set and the food was placed on the table. We passed the food around.

You get the picture: we had to interact as we served our plates. “I'll take a little more of that pot roast, thank you.”

For dessert, the plates were stacked in front of me. I had the privilege of serving each of my dinner companions. Conversations were started over the preference between peach cobbler and apple pie.

And maybe the simple task of sharing dinner might lead to a relationship with a person we didn't know. It worked.

It's the same concept behind the other Tulsa project that caught my attention at Mayor Bynum's State of the City speech. Under the direction of the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Equity (MORE), Tulsans signed up in November for what were also called “interfaith race reconciliation dinners” across the city. The mayor said more than 250 Tulsans gathered to talk about their “life experiences in Tulsa.” Another round is planned for this spring.

So Tulsans from all walks of life are having dinner and conversations with a small group of their fellow citizens. Nothing else really in common except for the fact all want to live together in a better city. According to its website, MORE hopes these dinners will create “a snowball effect, fostering new relationships among diverse groups of Tulsans and encouraging those participating to continue the conversation after dinner has concluded.”

As the mayor said, “There is just something about sitting down over a meal with your neighbors and hearing the good and the bad of our lives in this one place. Ultimately, reconciliation in Tulsa will occur at that person-to-person level.”

It's hard to hate up close.

It seems so simple. Talk to people. Seek out someone you don't know who might have a different life experience. What's it like walking in their shoes?

I'm extremely fortunate that in my job I get to meet people who differ from me — an older, moderate, Christian, white woman — on a daily basis. I'm a better person for having met each of them. My hope is that they feel the same after having met me.


Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, Vigilante Violence Keeps Terrorizing Communities

Twenty years after the end of the nation's civil war, real peace is still far off.


“We have to go, son.”

The young man trots down the stairs and climbs into a car. His mother drives in silence, tears gathering in her eyes. She stops near a parking lot. “I love you,” she says.

He doesn't respond. He pushes the car door open and walks into the lot, behind some low-slung buildings. His breath grows rapid, ragged, anxious. Men in balaclavas approach.

Within seconds it's over. A pop, a scream. “Again!” Another pop, another scream. He's weeping on the asphalt; there are bullets in his legs.

His story is fictional—he's an anonymous character in a shockingly violent public-service ad—but it's representative of an old trend that is newly virulent in Northern Ireland. Two decades after the Good Friday Agreement formally ended the long-standing sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants there, and seemed to offer a template for ending civil conflicts around the world, a different kind of violence persists in working-class communities.

And the police have warned it is not going away.

“We call them ‘paramilitaries,' but in bygone days a lot of them would've been called terrorists,” Anthony Harbinson, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice's director of safer communities, told me.

The attackers are essentially gang members enforcing their own version of justice in communities where law enforcement is either unwelcome or fears to intervene. Sometimes they claim to be policing “anti-social behavior” such as drug dealing, but Harbinson says the perpetrators are often dealing drugs or participating in other criminal enterprises themselves and trying to protect their turf.

Northern Ireland's struggle with paramilitaries illustrates just how complicated it is to end a war, even in the event of a successful peace deal. For many conflicts around the world, the Good Friday Agreement represents the best-case scenario of power-sharing and disarmament. But Northern Ireland's continuing violence also shows how the societal distortions and the trauma of a long-ended conflict can continue to tear at communities, leaving them in a condition that's not technically war but is far short of real peace.

The attacks take the form of shootings in the ankles, elbows, or knees (“sometimes all six,” Harbinson says), or beatings with hammers or clubs. The objective is not generally to kill, though some result in fatalities. Frequently, the victims know their attackers personally, since they all hail from the same close-knit communities. And often, as the new PSA depicts, the victims themselves show up, or their parents take them, to an appointment to be beaten or shot—they fear worse if they don't.

Northern Ireland police say so-called punishment attacks like this are markedly higher than five years ago. But the origins lie in the deeper dynamics of the conflict, which didn't so much end as shift into another domain.

The violence of the Troubles took some 3,600 lives over a 30-year period. When the Good Friday Agreement laid out provisions for a unity government and the disarmament of paramilitaries in 1998, sectarian violence across the country swiftly plummeted. Even then, though, there was evidence of a key problem left unsolved.

“It is a funny sort of peace in which people are regularly maimed and driven from their homes by paramilitary thugs,” wrote The Economist in 1999, a year after the agreement was signed. The punishment attacks weren't mentioned in the accords; they weren't, after all, the kind of Catholic-on-Protestant violence that the peace deal was meant to stop.

But the phenomenon had developed alongside the Troubles, for different reasons in different communities, explains Rachel Monaghan, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Ulster who has researched intra-communal violence in Northern Ireland. In the case of Catholic republican communities, who sought independence from British control, paramilitaries formed in opposition to—or defense from—the police. In Protestant loyalist areas, they formed as a kind of auxiliary to the authorities.

The phenomenon outlasted the Troubles. This year, one researcher on the Northern Ireland Policing Board tallied a toll of 158 deaths in “security-related” incidents in the 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, most of them due to this kind of paramilitary activity. It was a total nowhere near the worst levels of the civil war, but one the researcher, Paul Nolan, told the BBC he found shocking.

“The violence has been turned inwards,” he told the broadcaster.

Those figures may even understate the prevalence of paramilitary activity, because many punishment attacks take the form of beatings or nonfatal shootings designed to intimidate rather than kill. At the post–Good Friday Agreement peak of such activity in 2001, the police counted 323 casualties tied to paramilitary activity, though given the distrust of police in many affected communities, this may be also be too low a number.

More recent statistics put the count near 90 annually for the past two years, compared with a post–Good Friday Agreement low of near 50 a decade ago. But the absence of other types of political violence renders these numbers especially stark, Monaghan said.

It persists even though communities can typically identify the assailants. Brenna Powell, a lecturer at Stanford Law School who has researched the Northern Ireland peace process, recalls meeting a teenaged boy who had been shot so many times with a nail gun that his hands were mangled. Every time he got attacked, Powell said, he knew exactly who was carrying it out. But the beatings didn't stop, because he had nowhere else to go.

Powell cited high rates of suicide and drug abuse associated with the trauma of the conflict. “Does this kind of violence disappear in the absence of progress on all those other fronts? I don't think so.”


Talking Suicide

Suicide prediction technology is revolutionary. It badly needs oversight.

Should we trust Facebook to dispatch police to the homes of distraught users?

by Mason Marks

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies in April before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees, on Capitol Hill. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Last year, more than 1 million Americans attempted suicide, and 47,000 succeeded. While some people display warning signs, many others do not, which makes suicide difficult to predict and leaves family members shocked — and anguished that they couldn't do something.

Medical providers and tech companies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and Facebook, are increasingly applying artificial intelligence to the problem of suicide prediction. Machine learning software, which excels at pattern recognition, can mine health records and online posts for words and behaviors linked to suicide and alert physicians or others to impending attempts. The potential upside of this effort is huge, because even small increases in predictive accuracy could save thousands of lives each year.

This research, however, is progressing along two tracks, one academic-medical and one skewed heavily toward the commercial. Through a pilot program called REACH VET, for example, VA uses artificial intelligence to analyze medical records and identify vets at high risk for self-harm. The system weighs such factors as patients' prior suicide attempts, past medical diagnoses and current medications (red flags include recent chronic-pain diagnoses and prescriptions for opioids or Ambien). Early results are encouraging, but progress both within and beyond VA is necessarily slowed by the need to be sure this line of research complies with health laws and ethical standards, and the need to demonstrate efficacy at each step.

In Silicon Valley, it's a different story: Corporations outside health care are racing to use AI to predict suicide in billions of consumers, and they treat their methods as proprietary trade secrets. These private-sector efforts are completely unregulated, potentially putting at risk people's privacy, safety and autonomy, even in the service of an important new tool.

Facebook is the largest and most visible company engaged in suicide prediction. After it introduced a live-streaming service in early 2016, dozens of users broadcast suicide attempts in real time on the platform. In response, on Feb. 16, 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was experimenting with AI-based suicide prediction. Its software analyzes user-generated posts for signs of suicidal intent — the word “Goodbye” paired with responses like “Are you OK?,” for example, or “Please don't do this” in response to a live stream — and assigns them risk scores. Cases with high scores are forwarded to Facebook's community operations team, which reviews them and notifies police of severe cases. Facebook also helps pinpoint users' locations so first responders can find them. In the past 12 months, the company initiated 3,500 of these “wellness checks,” contacting police about 10 times per day, Antigone Davis, Facebook's head of global safety, said in a recent interview with NPR.

In an email exchange with me, a spokeswoman for Facebook said its community operations team includes people with experience working in law enforcement and for suicide hotlines and crisis intervention centers. But she declined to say what kind of official credentials or licenses such employees have, how much training they receive, or what standards are used for deciding to contact police.

Facebook's record of handling sensitive data in other contexts should raise concerns about how companies store and use suicide predictions. A British parliamentary committee released documents this month showing that Facebook used access to customer data to curry favor with partner companies and punish rivals. And in August, the Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a discrimination complaint against Facebook for giving landlords and home sellers a platform and tools that let them prevent disabled citizens, people of some religious faiths and members of racial minority groups from seeing certain housing ads. More directly relevant, in 2017, Facebook reportedly told advertisers that it could identify teens who feel “defeated,” “worthless” and “useless,” presumably so they could be targeted with ads.

This week, it came to light that Facebook had shared far more data with large tech companies like Apple, Netflix, and Amazon than previously disclosed, in some cases allowing them to read users' private messages.

To its credit, Facebook says it never shares suicide prediction data with advertisers or data brokers. Still, the public must take Facebook's word for it at a time when trust in the company is waning. Theoretically, such data could be incorporated into company-facing user profiles and then used to target suicidal people with behavioral advertising, or transferred to third parties that might resell it to employers, lenders and insurance companies, raising the prospect of discrimination.

Smaller developers have made inroads, too. The start-up Objective Zero proposes to use smartphone location data to infer suicide risk in veterans — for instance, if veterans who are physically active suddenly stop going to the gym, a possible sign of worsening depression.

It's in the public interest to prevent profiteering off suicide prediction. But data brokers and social media platforms may argue that sharing the data with third parties is protected commercial speech under the First Amendment — and they'd find some support in Supreme Court precedent. In the 2011 case Sorrell v. IMS Health , the justices struck down a Vermont law restricting the sale of pharmacy records containing doctors' prescribing habits, a potentially analogous use. In the Sorrell case, names and other identifying information were removed from the pharmacy records. Companies that make suicide predictions could also remove personal information before sharing the data, but de-identification is an imperfect science, and it can often be undone.

Using AI to predict and prevent suicide has disconcerting parallels to predictive policing. Judges already use proprietary, nontransparent algorithms in sentencing and parole hearings to help decide who is likely to recidivate. Critics argue that such algorithms can be racially biased, yet the lack of transparency makes it hard to prove their case. Similarly, we don't know if Facebook's algorithms have discriminatory features.

There should be a very high bar for sending police into people's homes, a practice that Facebook now contributes to. The Fourth Amendment protects Americans against warrantless searches, but police may enter homes without warrants if they reasonably believe that doing so is necessary to prevent physical harm, including self-harm. And once officers enter a residence, they can search and seize items in plain view that are unconnected to suicide risk, a potential back door to policing unrelated crimes without warrants. So long as suicide prediction algorithms remain opaque, we can't make a proper cost-benefit analysis of the risk.

The data could also be used to police attempted suicide, which is still a crime in some countries. Facebook deployed its suicide prediction software outside the United States a year ago, and it says its ambitions are global. (An exception is the European Union, where strict privacy laws require greater transparency and accountability.) Yet in countries including Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei and Singapore, suicide attempts are punishable by fines and imprisonment for up to one year. Facebook's spokeswoman declined to tell me what percentage of its wellness checks occur outside the United States — and she left open the possibility that they occur even in countries where attempted suicide is unlawful.

In general, the police are seldom well-trained to deal with suicidal or mentally ill people, and it's not uncommon for such encounters to spiral out of control. In August, an officer in Huntsville, Alabama, was indicted for murder after shooting a man who had called 911, saying he was suicidal and had a gun; the man refused to put down the gun when the police arrived. It's not obvious that increasing how often police are dispatched to check on people in distress will, on balance, improve overall well being.

And other elements of suicide prevention efforts — which will occur more often as suicide prediction spreads — have downsides. Involuntary hospitalization is one tool police can use to deal with the actively suicidal. Yet research suggests that people are at increased risk for suicide shortly after being admitted to or released from psychiatric hospitals. People who lack social support and access to mental health resources outside the hospital are particularly vulnerable at these critical moments.

The Food and Drug Administration could exercise its power to regulate medical products and treat suicide prediction tools like mobile health apps or software-based medical devices: The agency regulates such apps and devices when they perform “patient-specific analysis” and provide “patient-specific diagnosis, or treatment recommendations.”

Alternatively, courts and lawmakers could impose special obligations, called fiduciary duties, on companies that make suicide predictions. It's a technical concept but a potent one. When doctors practice medicine, fiduciary duty requires them to act in their patients' best interest, which includes protecting their information. Law professors Jack Balkin of Yale and Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard have proposed treating social media platforms as information fiduciaries, which would cover far more than just medical data. But, at the least, when Facebook makes health inferences from consumers' data, it's reasonable that it should be held to standards similar to those doctors must meet.

The fiduciary “duty of care” might require Facebook to demonstrate that its prediction algorithms have undergone thorough testing for safety and efficacy. The “duty of confidentiality” and “duty of loyalty” could require Facebook to show it's protecting user data, and refraining from sharing it (or otherwise exploiting users).

Facebook is losing the trust of consumers and governments around the world, and if it mismanages suicide predictions, that trend could spiral out of control. Perhaps its predictions are accurate and effective. In that case, it has no reason to hide the algorithms from the medical community, which is also working hard to accurately predict suicide. Yes, the companies have a financial interest in protecting their intellectual property. But in a case as sensitive as suicide prediction, protecting your IP should not outweigh the public good that could be gained through transparency.



Ireland has no plans for hard border after Brexit, says Varadkar

Irish prime minister says he fears preparations would be ‘self-fulfilling prophecy'

by Lisa O'Carroll

Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has said his government has made “no preparations whatsoever” for a hard border on the island.

Despite the looming possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Varadkar said he felt that if the Irish government made plans to facilitate a hard border, it would become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

The taoiseach's position chimes with that of the UK, where a no-deal technical notice for the Irish border was conspicuously absent from the list of those published in the autumn by the Brexit department.

Speaking at a media briefing following the publication of a 131-page document on Ireland's contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Varadkar said: “We are not preparing for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“We have made no preparations whatsoever for physical infrastructure or anything like that. We certainly do not want it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

But he said there had been talks with the UK and Ireland's European partners about the difficulties Ireland could face if the UK changed its customs regulations.

“The answer I've been giving people all along is the honest truth,” he reiterated. “We're not making plans for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Our focus is entirely on getting an agreement that ensures that doesn't happen.”

The Irish government unveiled contingency plans on Wednesday to cope with a potential no-deal Brexit, identifying affected sectors that would require up to 40-50 pieces of new legislation.

It also revealed plans for border inspections at Dublin airport, Dublin port and Rosslare port.

Ireland calls no-deal Brexit plan a ‘damage limitation exercise'

Its strategy of not publishing any no-deal planning for the border with Northern Ireland echoes that of the UK and the EU, neither of which have published any contingency planning for the border communities.

The obligation on Ireland to ensure border controls is implicit in the EU's latest no-deal paper, which notes that member states must be ready to enforce the EU customs code – the rules on goods entering the bloc.

Varadkar said the best way to avoid a border was for the Brexit deal to be ratified. He also said there was support for his position in Europe.

“There is a real understanding across the EU that this isn't a typical border, that this is a border that goes through villages, goes through farms, goes through businesses and of course is a border that people fought and killed other people over,” he said.

On Wednesday night, the Irish government raised the issue of policing and security between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and Ireland and Britain, in the event of the UK leaving the EU on 29 March with no further access to EU shared criminal databases, fingerprinting and other intelligence.

In particular, it is concerned the UK would no longer have the power to issue or act on European arrest warrants, which would restrict its ability to ask the gardaí for assistance in catching people who flee south of the border and limit the Irish police's ability to ask the Police Service of Northern Ireland for assistance north of the border.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Brexit spokesman, David Cullinane, has said if the UK crashed out of the bloc and a hard border ensued, a border poll on the future constitutional status of Northern Ireland would be warranted.

Northern Ireland voted 56% in favour of remaining in the EU, but Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in Westminster and have not been involved in the House of Commons decisions.

But Cullinane said: “The north cannot be used as a bargaining chip, no matter what type of Brexit arrives. If politicians in Britain recklessly allow a no-deal, hard-crash outcome, then the holding of a border poll must be brought forward, as the people north and south will have a clear choice – a hard border or a united Ireland.



The Pittsburgh shooting caught the US Jewish community off guard. Can they catch up?

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Eliot Engel, a Democrat who reviles President Donald Trump, and Lee Zeldin, a Republican who eagerly embraces the president, happen to have plenty in common.

They are Jewish congressman from New York known for their pro-Israel leadership, and they share a distant relative.

They were also both blindsided by the recent season of anti-Semitic invective, culminating in the Pittsburgh massacre in October, when an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 Jewish worshippers.

“It almost feels like we're back in the 1930s,” Engel said last week at a meeting of the American Zionist Movement in the U.S. Capitol building.

Zeldin, speaking a few minutes later, said he understood how Engel felt.

“I never once experienced anti-Semitism, from kindergarten to leaving active duty in the army,” he said. He then noted the flood of anti-Semitic invective he now brooks as a congressman.

“I could show you 3,500 different times, sometimes they're handwritten on heart-shaped stationery,” he said. “There are some pretty sick ways of delivering the message.”

Engel, Zeldin and their bafflement are emblematic of a national Jewish community dealing with the aftereffects of the worst attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Six weeks after Pittsburgh, and almost two years into a presidency that pushed discussion of resurgent bigotry to the front of the political debate, the American Jewish community is grappling with its consequences. The effort suggests that anti-Semitism in its classic form — a product of white supremacism and conspiracy-mongering — took by surprise a community focused on the threat of radical Islam.

It also exposed the way the Jewish community has come to equate anti-Semitism with anti-Israel activity. In their remarks to AZM, both Engel and Zeldin mentioned their defense of the Jewish state in describing what actions they took in the wake of Pittsburgh. Engel mentioned legislation targeting the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, or BDS. Zeldin spoke of efforts to protect religious minorities throughout the Middle East.

The lawmakers knew their audience: Few communal lobbying efforts have been as successful in recent years as the push for anti-BDS laws, now in place in 26 states. Supporters had hoped to attach the Israel Anti-Boycott Act to the end-of-year omnibus spending package wending its way through Congress.

But feelings about Israel didn't seem to motivate the Pittsburgh gunman, who drew from ancient tropes of Jewish control, targeted a Jewish agency that assists immigrants and held a theory that lacked evidence but was shared and promulgated by President Donald Trump: that Central American migrants were intent on invading the United States.

A sense of complacency

Threats to Jews overseas — whether in Israel or elsewhere — have become preeminent in the American imagination in part because of a misconception that whatever threat there was to American Jews has passed, said Eric Ward, who directs the Western States Center, which combats bias.

“This country has not honestly confronted anti-Semitism in any real way [since] the 1970s,” in part because so many doors opened to Jews in the universities, in the professions and in popular culture in the post-World War II era. As a result, more insidious forms of anti-Semitism were allowed to fester, he said.

American Jews are more ensconced in the establishment and likelier to trust its instruments of protection, like the police. That may have enhanced a sense of security in the American Jewish community.

The differences between how Jews overseas and Jews in the United States sense threat “relate to the Jewish community's relationships in this country, our incredibly strong relationship to law enforcement,” said Michael Masters, who directs the Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America. “We simply do not face the same historic issues or concerns or threats [in the United States] we face in Europe.”

A generation is entering American Jewish public life with no first-hand experience of anti-Semitism. The experience of Zeldin, who is 38, is emblematic: How does one acquire tools to combat anti-Semitism when it isn't experienced until well into adulthood?

“Our staff is very young (20s) and this was their first real experience with anti-Semitism,” Meredith Jacobs, the spokeswoman for Jewish Women International, said in an email, describing a staff meeting convened in the immediate wake of Pittsburgh. “They were frightened and talked about being hesitant to go to any overtly Jewish gatherings (synagogues, Jewish groups).”

The far right crept and crawled around the margins for decades. Trump's election, and the perception by white supremacists and other extremists that he shared much of their worldview, emboldened them. The immediacy of social media made sure their message was heard.

“We are facing an unleashing of right-wing anti-Semitism we haven't seen in a long time in this county,” said David Bernstein, who directs the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups. “I'm not sure everyone was aware to the degree white nationalism was focused on Jews as its main target.”

Safety in numbers

In conversations with Jewish leaders coping with the issue, a number of strategies for catching up to the new reality emerged.

Brian Schreiber, the director of Pittsburgh's Jewish Community Relations Council, said his community had been striving to build alliances since a deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in August of 2017. That effort has intensified, he said.

“It's being in a coalition of those that have also suffered discrimination so that you're building a coalition larger than yourself,” he said.

Asked whether such coalitions were merely preaching to the converted, Schreiber acknowledged that extremists are with some exceptions beyond reach — but that getting public figures to speak out about bigotry and hatred was also a means of reaching and mobilizing good people who had until now downplayed the dangers.

“People who were on the sidelines are saying how can I get involved, how can we expose acts of hate before they become dangerous,” he said. He cited the example of a Washington D.C. man whose family turned him into police when they sensed he was planning a copy cat attack after Pittsburgh.

Awareness of hatred exuding from the margins is as important as watching out for suspicious packages, he said.

“‘See something and say something' is being engaged in security and calling out hate speech,” Schreiber said, referring to the Department of Homeland Security catchphrase.

Bernstein of the JCPA said cultivating community relations was key to raising awareness about anti-Semitism.

“The Jewish community needs to build the necessary political capital,” he said.

JWI's Jacobs similarly described how an old friendship with a local DJ took on a surprising twist. Twelve years ago, Gregory Roche, who has a show on DC101, the capital's largest rock station, decided that it was unfair that Christmas got all the seasonal music.

“So, he decided that one night of Hannukah, he would play music by Jewish rockers (think KISS, Beastie Boys, etc.),” she wrote. Since then, Jacobs has co-hosted the annual “Jew Rock Marathon.”

“Anyway, this year, for the first time, he decided to have an on-air fundraiser with proceeds going to the JCC of Pittsburgh. I do think things like ‘Jew Rock Marathon' help to address hate — if someone learns a rock group they love happen to be Jewish — who knows how feelings could change,” she wrote.

Matthew Berger, the vice president for communications at Hillel International, said alliance building was a natural for Jews on campus.

“Being vocal and present in the community — that's our best asset,” he said.

“Sometimes people aren't aware of what we might consider dog whistles, it's not clear that everybody sees George Soros as a dog whistle so it's our duty to educate how that's been perceived by Jews,” Bernstein said. The billionaire philanthropist's liberal agenda has made him a target of the right, but also among extremists who accuse him of orchestrating a global conspiracy.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, doesn't think his organization was caught off guard by Pittsburgh.

“At ADL, we were shocked but sadly not surprised by the horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in October,” he said in an email. “It came on the heels of a 57 percent surge in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, the largest such spike we have seen in almost 40 years of tracking this data. It was a reminder that incitement and intolerance can yield deadly consequences.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League CEO, speaks at the ADL National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2018. He says the ADL was “shocked but sadly not surprised” by the Pittsburgh shooting. (Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Still, Greenblatt said his organization was taking on anti-bias education with “renewed vigor” since Pittsburgh.

“We're working to expand our footprint and our day-to-day impact, as well as broaden our reach in schools with anti-bias education that ideally can inoculate schools from hate,” he said.

Greenblatt also urged lobbying of the private sector, particularly social media magnates.

“As we saw the Pittsburgh shooter rail online just minutes before the attack, we want to see the social media companies do a better job of policing their platforms to ensure that the safety of their users,” he said. “ADL recently opened a Center for Technology and Society to facilitate our collaboration with the companies to ensure that their policies and products effectively monitor hate.”

Start at the top

Trump and his aides deny bias, but Bernstein said that Jews who are close to Trump should urge the White House to distance itself from hate's purveyors.

“White nationalists clearly perceive that they have been given a vote of confidence by the White House, and that places a special obligation to distance himself and his administration in every way possible,” he said. “You can ensure that mainstream officials condemn it and marginalize it. You can strengthen legislation and monitoring” of hate groups.

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security stripped funding from an Obama-era program that tracked the far right; Jewish groups have pressed for its reactivation. They also want the administration to make good on a promise to appoint a global anti-Semitism monitor and restaff the State Department's office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.

The Orthodox Union's Washington director, Nathan Diament, said his group would intensify lobbying for security funding for non-profits at risk of attack.

“A key part of the OU's plan is to advocate for increased resources for security,” he said in an email. “We are doing that in Congress and at the state level – New Jersey's legislature just passed a bill increasing security funding which we were pushing for.”

Dan Mariaschin, who directs B'nai B'rith International, said his group was doubling down on gun safety.

“Our staff, in particular our policy team, met to discuss next steps on sensible gun laws,” he said, adding that his group was also focusing on getting through hate crimes legislation.

Masters and Schreiber said the untold story of Pittsburgh was that it could have been far worse. The local community had a large training exercise in January, and as a result, people in the Tree of Life synagogue knew to run and hide rather than to hide in place. Schreiber said that during the training, local emergency response personnel learned the security protocols for treating the wounded while was an attacker was still loose — that likely also saved lives, he said.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Conservative movement Tree of Life congregation had until January not carried his mobile phone on Shabbat — he learned that it was safer to have it handy. His was the first call to 911.

Don't forget who you are, is what Jacobs said she counseled her frightened young staffers.

“I shared that I started baking challah because of 9/11,” she said of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “My children were in nursery school, and when I went to pick them up (it may have been a few days after, I can't remember), but one of the teachers had baked challah with the children and the smell was comforting. In a way, it made me connect with all the generations who have come before, who have also survived. I told the staff that there is much to be found in our traditions and rituals, and in gathering as a community.”


Police have to repair community trust to effectively do their jobs

Police shootings and brutality in the US: 9 things you should know

by German Lopez

A common response to protests over police shootings is, “What about black-on-black crime?” The question, often poised rhetorically, argues that people should worry more about violence within their communities — and, specifically, the higher rates of violence in minority communities — before they worry about violence by the police.

The response misses that a lot of people in minority communities are very, very worried about the crime and violence there, and are doing something about it.

But another issue is that a lack of trust in the police, fostered by police use of force that's widely viewed as unfair, likely leads to more crime and violence.

This is what scholars call “legal cynicism”: When people don't trust the government and criminal justice system, they are less likely to rely on the law to solve conflicts. And that might make them more likely to try to solve conflicts on their own, which can lead to a violent, if unlawful, resolution.

Consider: If you believe that someone shot and killed a family member and may try to go after you next, and you don't trust police to do anything about it, then you might be more likely to try to go after the shooter on your own to stop them.

David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College, explained: “This is what folks who rail against the focus on police violence — and pull up against that, community violence — get wrong. What those folks simply don't understand is that when communities don't trust the police and are afraid of the police, then they will not and cannot work with police and within the law around issues in their own community. And then those issues within the community become issues the community needs to deal with on their own — and that leads to violence.”

There's research to back this up. A 2016 study, from sociologists Matthew Desmond of Harvard, Andrew Papachristos of Yale, and David Kirk of Oxford, looked at 911 calls in Milwaukee after incidents of police brutality hit the news.

They found that after the 2004 police beating of Frank Jude, 17 percent fewer 911 calls were made in the following year compared with the number of calls that would have been made had the Jude beating never happened. More than half of the effect came from fewer calls in black neighborhoods. And the effect persisted for more than a year, even after the officers involved in the beating were punished. Researchers found similar impacts on local 911 calls after other high-profile incidents of police violence.

But crime still happened in these neighborhoods. As 911 calls dropped, researchers also found a rise in homicides. They noted that “the spring and summer that followed Jude's story were the deadliest in the seven years observed in our study.”

That suggests that people were simply dealing with crime themselves. And although the researchers couldn't definitively prove it, that might mean civilians took to their own — sometimes violent — means to protect themselves when they couldn't trust police to stop crime and violence.

“An important implication of this finding is that publicized cases of police violence not only threaten the legitimacy and reputation of law enforcement,” the researchers wrote, but “they also — by driving down 911 calls — thwart the suppression of law breaking, obstruct the application of justice, and ultimately make cities as a whole, and the black community in particular, less safe.”

So police abuses don't just damage community trust and disproportionately hurt minority groups. They hurt police's ability to keep the public safe, too.


New York City

How Can Police Engage In Trust Building With Communities Of Color?

There are a number of ways that NYPD engages in trust building with communities of color. Our neighborhood policing philosophy serves as a guide for all of our community trust building activities, and it is taught to all new recruits when they are in the academy. Recruits receive courses on Policing a Multicultural, Fair and Impartial Policing (Implicit Bias), Procedural Justice and Tactics of Perception, and LGBTQ Workshop, just to name a few. Our neighborhood policing philosophy strives to achieve three goals: promote trust and respect, collaborative problem solving, and reduce crime. We do this by dividing the precinct into sectors that correspond with neighborhood boundaries, and assigning steady-sector officers, who work the same neighborhood so they can get to know the people who work and live there.

Also included in the sector team are Neighborhood Coordination Officers, who attend and host our Build The Block ( where problem solving efforts relating neighborhood issues and crime take place. The NCO's receive special training for their dual roles as collaborative crime fighters, investigators and community conveners. Another component of Neighborhood Policing team are Response Auto Officers. They provide support to the Steady Sector Officers who are given at least one-third of their shift to engage with the community rather than answer calls for service. The way we have operationalized neighborhood policing allows time for officers to build and strengthen relationships that foster trust, especially communities of color.

Building community trust is a shared responsibility which means communities must also participate in crime reduction and public safety efforts. We also have a very robust Community Affairs Bureau who work everyday engaging in numerous community and department led activities that focus youth, seniors, schools, and special populations. Building and sustaining our relationships with communities we serve requires consistent and authentic engagement.


New York City

NYC top cop wants cops to fight crime and cut red tape


NYC's top cop wants cops to fight crime and cut red tape.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill's latest neighborhood policing initiative would have cops armed with access to a powerful up-to-the-minute database that would lay out all points of contact for city services in a given precinct.

If the city's top cop has his way, at some point in the near future, police officers will not only fight crime, but will help needy New Yorkers cut through bureaucratic red tape to get services they need.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill's latest neighborhood policing initiative would have cops armed with access to a powerful, up-to-the-minute database that would lay out all points of contact for city services in a given precinct.

"We want to make sure that we leave people who need help with someone in this city whether government or a (nonprofit) who will follow up and help make people's lives a little better," he told the Daily News on the fourth anniversary of the murders of Officers Wenjian Lu and Rafael Ramos — a tragedy that in part spurred the creation of neighborhood policing. "I'm not looking for the Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) and steady sector cops to go to a job and just kind of think this isn't part of my responsibility and just leave people with nowhere to go."

Right now, cops refer people who are sick, depressed, mentally ill, hungry or losing their apartments to city agencies for help.

But that's not enough, O'Neill believes. The city's red tape is daunting and even impassable, and people need a kind of champion to guide them to the right people. "It is frustrating for police officers. I think it would be frustrating to anyone in city government that the help sometimes doesn't come to people in need," O'Neill explained.

With the new database, available first as a website and eventually as an app to their department-issued iPhones, officers can reach out to the agencies for help — and those agencies would have to respond. Their response would be mandated by mayoral decree and tracked.

O'Neill credited Chief of Department Terence Monahan, Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison and NCO officers for help in coming up with the idea.

"I have a lot of interaction with sector cops and NCOs, and they want to be able to help people beyond just responding to crime and quality of life conditions," he said.

For now, the NYPD, the Mayor's Office of Operations and City University of New York's Institute for State and Local Governance have embarked on an initial planning stage with $175,000 in city money.

"This goes well beyond 'Am I arresting this guy or not,'" said Michael Jacobson, a former city correction commissioner. "It sort of maximizes the resources that people can get. But you don't just send out a memo and say 'Do this.' In order for it to work, the city agencies and (community organizations) have to want to do it and see the value in it and cooperate."

Told of the plan, one officer grumbled, "Sounds like they want to make us social workers."

Jacobson, who is now at CUNY, disagreed.

"We don't see this as turning police into social workers," he said. "For the day-to-day lives of the folks in New York City, this will be a well-received policy when they get to see it and understand it."

Police brass believe the initiative will continue to reduce crime by dealing with underlying causes in a better way. Though the 2017 crime numbers are on pace to set record lows, O'Neill thinks they can drop even more.

"We're not at bottom yet. I think there's more work that can be done. The only way we can do that is by building trust," he said. "If New Yorkers trust their local cops, they will be more apt to help them if there's a crime issue on the block."

Some of the 15,000 CUNY students who live in public housing will help by conducting surveys about the plan.



Local church event condemns gun violence in 2018, when 90 percent of Memphis homicides involved firearms

Close to 200 people were inside the fellowship hall of First Congregational Church on a recent Thursday evening — many silently holding small electric candles with names ascribed in black.

Each of the more than 100 flickering candles represented a Memphis man, woman or child killed by gun violence in 2018.

After a prayer, the names of the victims were read aloud by several in attendance.

"Dorian Harris," a middle-aged man near the front of the hall said.

Stories behind the names

Police say Harris, 17, was shot and killed on March 31 in North Memphis by a store clerk after Harris stole a beer. Anwar Ghazali was charged with first-degree murder, and a judge set his bond at $1 million.

The shooting triggered unrest in the community — with some residents questioning business owners valuing the lives of customers in predominantly black neighborhoods. Initially, after the shooting, a store manager at Top Stop Shop said they were fearful that someone would retaliate after Harris was killed.

In the church, the man read another name:

"Dejaun Hill."

Hill was killed on May 6 after a gunman shot up his friend's car near Crosstown Concourse.

Soon after the shooting, Hill's mother, Talisha Brooks, said he was trying to find his "way in the world like a lot of young men."

For young people in Memphis who sometimes could be adversely affected by trauma surrounding gun violence, Deandre Brown, founder of Lifeline to Success, said it's difficult for younger generations to cope.

Brown was among several groups who met at the church Dec. 14 to commemorate Memphis victims of gun violence in 2018 and observe the sixth anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Brown said losing a person to gun violence can always be an issue that family or a close friend of the victim can have trouble processing mentally even years later.

"People don't realize that it is a wound that never heals when you lose someone to gun violence, you always wonder why," Brown said.

"But no matter what you do, you can never resolve that question so it just lingers and eats at you, just continually."

Records show gunfire main cause of homicides in Memphis

In Memphis, 176 deaths were ruled homicides between Jan. 1 and Dec. 19, according to records obtained by The Commercial Appeal from the Memphis Police Department. Ninety percent of homicides in 2018 were the result of gunfire.

Brown said the emotions young people experience when someone they know is gunned down come in "like a flood", and things can get even more difficult when the young person does not have the right person to talk to about it.

"Sometimes they want to be involved and retaliate. It is difficult for them to have to learn at an early age how to deal with something so tragic and not become a part of that problem as well," Brown said.

"They are still learning how to deal with their own lives and then they have this thing that comes in and no one can explain to them how to deal with it because so many people have not gone through it themselves."


Hollywood / Show Business

'Welcome to Marwen' review: A hate crime sparks Steve Carell's fantasy world — and a seriously misjudged movie

by Michael Phillips

“Welcome to Marwen” is a misjudgment only a first-rate filmmaker could make.

I hope I'm in the minority with this opinion. It's a drag to respond poorly to the latest from director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis, who landed in my Top 10 as recently as 2012 (for “Flight”). The Chicago native's early progression from the exuberant flops “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” (1978, one of next month's Criterion Collection releases) and “Used Cars” (1980) to his first certifiable pop classic (“Back to the Future,” 1985) remains gratifying proof that a commercial filmmaker can hit it big without losing his way. Maybe Zemeckis' particular solutions to the narrative challenges posed by “Welcome to Marwen” simply don't feel satisfying or emotionally authentic to me.

All I can do is try to explain why.

The story behind “Welcome to Marwen” has been recounted, beautifully, by the 2010 documentary “Marwencol.” (That film's director, Jeff Malmberg, served as an executive producer on the Zemeckis film.) In 2000, Kingston, N.Y., resident Mark Hogancamp was nearly killed in a brutal five-man assault. The beating left Hogancamp with a traumatic brain injury, severe impairments and virtually no memories of his life until that night.

Hogancamp sought refuge in a wholly invented world, built to his own specifications and filled with 12-inch-high plastic figures. This was “Marwencol,” Hogancamp's fantasy Belgian town, and the site of various and variously therapeutic World War II scenarios involving his alter ego, Capt. Hogancamp; a powerful sorceress; a passel of sexy, available female warriors; and an onslaught of Nazis hellbent on the captain's destruction.

Built carefully in his yard to 1:6 scale, Hogancamp's Marwencol turned into an extended photo shoot, with Hogancamp capturing images of the imaginary town and its inhabitants. The results found their way to a Manhattan art gallery in 2006, and the rest is a peculiar and reassuring slice of “found” history, asserting the power of one imagination over some pretty awful circumstances.

There's so much to this story: Hogancamp's post-traumatic stress disorder, the hate crime that brought him to the edge of the abyss, the creative outlets by which he turned that suffering into something else. It's clear why Zemeckis was compelled to attempt a big-screen dramatization of this defiantly small-scale universe.

Steve Carell plays Hogancamp and, in the extended motion-capture animation sequences, the studly captain. Roughly half the movie takes place in Marwen, as vignettes of combat, carousing, torture and romance are interlaced with real-world scenes. Screenwriters Caroline Thompson and Zemeckis freely fictionalize their version, so that Nicol, the friendly woman new to Hogancamp's neighborhood, played by a warmly empathetic Leslie Mann, becomes an audience conduit. For Hogancamp, Nicol's threatening ex-boyfriend (Neil Jackson) triggers memories of the homophobic thugs we see in flashback.

The foot-high women in Hogancamp's Belgian enclave are played by Janelle Monae (G.I. Julie); Eiza Gonzalez (Caralala); Diane Kruger (as Deja Thoris, the Belgian witch); and others. Unsettling objects of desire, certainly, and Zemeckis knows it. We spend a lot of time with these figures, in Hogancamp's alternate reality.

Marwen (here shortened from “Marwencol”) very quickly becomes the very thing “Welcome to Marwen” cannot overcome. The way Zemeckis shapes these stop-motion animation scenes, they're meant to be exciting, funny, scary, a little of everything. But they whack the movie completely off-kilter. We lose the strange, quiet intimacy of Hogancamp's careful manipulation of this world. The real-life scenes don't feel like Hogancamp's real life; they feel like a Hollywood falsification of it, despite Carell's and Mann's valiant efforts.

Zemeckis has long been a technical wizard: In 2004, his mo-cap version of “The Polar Express” (which I find hard to watch, for a lot of reasons) planted a flag for revolutionary technology. He's in love with what digital filmmaking can mean, and the tools it affords the clever filmmaker. But he can get lost in all that stuff, and in “Welcome to Marwen,” the toggling between Marwen and Hogancamp's real world becomes a source of aggravation — a long way from the triumph of the human spirit promised by Universal's marketing campaign. Not long ago Zemeckis made “The Walk” (2015), another unsteady dramatization of events inspired by an excellent documentary. The last thing an idiosyncratic loner of an artist needs, especially from a first-rate director, is a movie desperate to make the man's story as comforting as possible.,amp.html



Here's to a year with more civility, less crime

by Diane Dimond

Professor P. M. Forni, 67, died earlier this month in Towson, Md. He was born in Bologna, Italy, and became a proud U.S. citizen and educator. I didn't know the man personally, but I am sad to hear that he is gone.

Forni was one of the last clarion voices to advocate for civility among people. You know, the human behavior that comes from a place of respect, politeness and graciousness? Civility is rare to find in these oh-so-discourteous times, but Professor Forni's work lives on for anyone who would like to explore how we might change today's ugly discourse.

Pier Massimo Forni was a professor of romance languages and Italian literature, a member of the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., where he co-founded The Civility Project in 1997. Among the books he authored were “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution.”

His wife, Virginia, told an interviewer, “The first book is how not to be rude and the second book is what to do when other people are rude to you.”

What struck me most about Professor Forni's passion was how firmly he believed civil-minded human beings could ward off crime.

“Acts of violence are often the result of an exchange of acts of rudeness that spiral out of control,” he said. “Disrespect can lead to bloodshed. By keeping the levels of incivility down, we keep the levels of violence down.”

It might sound like a quaint notion to some, but the simplest solutions are often the best. As my mother, like yours probably, said, “Be nice to people and they will be nice to you.” Simple. Elegant. Effective.

Professor Forni also believed that if we teach youngsters from all walks of life how to manage conflict in a respectful manner, “We will have a less uncivil society, a less violent one.”

So, in the year ahead, what if law enforcement officers tried to be more civil to the public they are sworn to serve? Conversely, how about the public being more understanding of what daily life is like for those who wear a badge and come face to face with the worst society has to offer?

What if judges practiced being more patient with and civil to those who come before them? And here's a call to all lawyers to be more civil to their clients and adversaries, more adherent to the law, and less focused on finding winning loopholes and their billable hours.

Prison wardens and guards could be more civil to prisoners who, no matter what their crimes, are still human beings capable of responding to civility if it is shown to them. It's the old biblical Golden Rule idea.

Social workers, emergency medical technicians and hospital workers, all overwhelmed by the never-ending needs of crime victims, must also be treated with respect. And in turn, those who are forced by circumstance to rely on their often life-changing assistance should respond with graciousness and thanks.

And what a different world it would be if even half of all those keyboard warriors, intent on spewing out ugly and anonymous social media posts, would just stop and think how they would feel if they were similarly attacked. Again, Mom's words echo in my head, “If you don't have something good to say, don't say anything at all.”

Professor Forni's simple idea has radiated from his base at Johns Hopkins University out into the fabric of the Maryland community. The “Choose Civility” organization in Howard County has attracted hundreds of sponsors that agree to follow a 15-point strategic plan to make their community a nicer, lower crime area in which to live. The plan encourages simple things like respect for others' opinions, time and space, taking responsibility for one's own actions, speaking kindly and assuming the best about the people you meet. A most important point: apologizing earnestly when necessary,

I strive for civility, but I must admit I've been short, even downright angry, with others this past year. I've said things I regretted because it just felt right in the heat of a moment. Sometimes, I apologized later, and sometimes I did not.

If it's true that a more civil society would have less crime – and that concept sure makes sense to me – how about in the year ahead if we all try to apply this concept?

Oh, and Dr. Forni believed one more thing. A person who conducts themselves in a civil manner has a lot less stress, which results in improved health, safer driving and better workplace productivity. Probably all of us could use a life with less stress.



No 'magic lever' to solve gun crime: expert -- Toronto gun firearms seized

How to get handguns off the streets promises to be a divisive issue in the upcoming election year.

by Meredith MacLeod

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government plans to limit access to handguns and assault weapons and has not ruled out an all-out ban.

"We are currently reflecting on how we are going to do better to counter the violence caused by handguns and assault weapons, yes. What's happening is unacceptable," Trudeau said during a radio appearance in Montreal on Dec. 6, the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre in which 14 women were killed.

"But, yes, we want to limit the easy access that criminals unfortunately still have to handguns and assault weapons," he said.

City councils in Toronto and Montreal have asked Ottawa to ban handguns, a move backed by mayors in other cities. The idea is that getting handguns off the streets will put a dent in fatal and non-fatal shootings.

But critics say a ban, opposed by the federal Conservatives, won't deter the criminals who are trafficking and using illegal guns.

According to Statistics Canada, about 60 per cent of firearm-related violent crimes involved handguns in 2016.

There has been plenty of debate this year about the origins of the handguns that are used in violent crimes. Some law enforcement officials said that a growing number of handguns initially obtained legally are finding their way into the hands of criminals.

There are more than one million Canadian handguns legally held in private hands. Canadian citizens can only obtain a handgun licence if they are a target shooter, a collector, or need a handgun for their employment.

But independent firearms researcher Dennis Young says no statistics bear out the idea that lawful gun owners or their guns are the reason for increased shootings or guns on the streets. In fact, Young says he has yet to find anyone who tracks how many gun crimes are committed by licensed gun owners or how many handguns have been stolen from licensed owners.

“If politicians want a handgun ban, they have to fabricate the stats to justify that,” Young told in a telephone interview from his home in Airdrie, Alta.

An OPP organized crime taskforce arrested 23 people in December and charged them with 156 offences related to trafficking of illegal firearms and drugs in the Golden Horseshoe. The OPP says two of the arrested men have trafficked as many as 120 illegal guns.

The accused are said to have been manufacturing restricted and untraceable firearms with unregulated parts purchased in Canada and then selling the guns to multiple “criminal cells” in Ontario.

In a press release, the OPP noted that the nine-month multi-jurisdictional investigation was trigged by a “rise in domestically-sourced guns.”
Police in the GTA seized dozens of handguns as part of Project Renner. (OPP)

The project team seized 14 handguns, six long guns, including a machine gun and an assault rifle, numerous other prohibited weapons and devices, including four silencers, grenades, and body armour, along with drugs and cash.

Amid growing concerns about gun crimes, Trudeau's Liberals campaigned in 2015 on a promise to get handguns and assault weapons off the streets.

A quick fix

The prime minister appointed former Toronto police chief Bill Blair to minister of border security and organized crime reduction. In his August mandate letter, Trudeau said Blair would “lead an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.”

Blair held roundtables in Montreal and Toronto that were closed to the media and discussions have not been released publicly. But the minister did acknowledge that consultations have illustrated that the country needs to collect better gun crime data.

Young says Canada's gun laws are already highly restrictive but politicians are looking for a quick fix while reacting to unfounded public fears about an American gun problem heading north.

A former RCMP officer and parliamentary assistant to a Saskatchewan MP who championed gun rights, Young has filed hundreds of freedom of information requests around gun data. He says the RCMP and other police services keep woeful statistics and that other agencies, including the Toronto police and Statistics Canada, operate with no agreed-upon definition of gun crime.

That, he says, leads to situations where an incident is called a gun crime when a firearm is merely present in a building or a car but hasn't played a role in the commission of the crime. Licensed gun owners failing to renew their licences is often lumped into gun crime stats, which also paints an unfair picture, says Young.

‘Most pressing issue in Toronto'

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan advocated for a handgun ban when he sat on Toronto city council from 2006 to 2014 but says there was no political will at the time to go forward. He says a ban will only be effective if there is an effort to build on the strengths of marginalized communities with investments in childcare, education, housing, youth programming and job opportunities.

“That is the most critical way to respond,” he said. “You are not going to arrest your way out of the problem. The social transformation of neighbourhoods that are oppressed by violence is the most pressing issue in Toronto.”

University of Toronto sociology professor Jooyoung Lee, who studies gun crime, says handgun bans have been effective in Britain in cutting homicides and suicides but Canada has a “unique dilemma in terms of sharing a border with the country with the greatest gun consumption in the world.”

He agrees that to be at all effective, a ban must be coupled with investments aimed at eliminating economic and social marginalization. He says there also needs to be better data around the origins of guns to develop a clear picture over time, along with more investment in gun crime research that can lead to evidence-based policies.

“We have to abandon the notion that there is a magic lever that will reduce or eliminate gun violence. There is an ebb and flow over time that is changed by factors on the ground.”

According to Statistics Canada, violent crime accounted for 20 per cent of all police-reported crime in Canada in 2016. And of all violent crimes, just 3 per cent involved a firearm.

But firearm-related crime did rise between 2013 and 2016, when there were about 7,100 victims of violent crime where a firearm was present. That is a rate of 25 victims of firearm-related violent crime for every 100,000 Canadians, which was up 33 per cent over that reported in 2013. But over the same time, the rate of overall police-reported violent crime fell by 4 per cent.

National statistics also found there were 195 homicides involving firearms in 2016, accounting for 38.4 per cent of all homicides. Homicides grew 20 per cent between 2013 and 2016, driven by a “substantial increase” of 68 per cent in gang-related homicides.

In 2013, about 27 per cent of homicides were committed by a firearm, says Statistics Canada. That increased to 38 per cent in 2016.

When it comes to the tracking of the origins of guns used in homicides, Statistics Canada says data “should be interpreted with caution” because a large number of recovered guns cannot be traced. “The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics is currently working with police services to increase the quality of these data.



Order from Chaos

How Brazil's Bolsonaro can apply global lessons learned in fighting crime

by Michael E. O'Hanlom

What should incoming President Jair Bolsonaro do to advance his anti-crime agenda in Brazil? His tough-on-crime rhetoric has done much to catapult him to the Brazilian presidency. Yet his actual ideas for fighting crime, including giving police and army units greater prerogatives to use force and employing the army in street patrols, seem incomplete at best. Some of his proposals also imply the use of extralegal measures that could bear too much similarity to the abusive practices of President Rodrigo Duterte's policing policies in the Philippines, to take one undesirable example.

It is true that Brazil's crime rates are horrible, and a major shakeup in approaches to public safety is needed. It is also true that Brazil has already tried one of the key ideas recommended below, a variant of community policing, the Pacifying Police Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, or UPP) program—though it wound up under-resourced in terms of both law enforcement and its associated economic and social programs.

Still, Bolsonaro would do well to bear in mind principles that have been learned in creating successful strategies to fight crime around the world. Several are highlighted in a 2017 study, “Securing global cities: Best practices, innovation, and the path ahead,” that I co-authored with former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Iraq commander General Raymond Odierno. Below, in short, are the core findings of our research, which examined a range of major challenges to the world's cities, including “normal crime,” transnational criminal organizations and drug cartels, terrorism, and massive disasters. Not all the principles are equally relevant to Brazil's core problems today, but it is still useful to summarize all of them in case the situation evolves. It is also worth emphasizing that the general concept of community policing must be adapted to the circumstances of a given country; in Brazil, this will admittedly be a challenge, yet it is important not to give up, or to think there is an easier way.


Community policing is foundational in the urban security enterprise. It has helped drive major reductions in crime rates not only in many U.S. cities, but also in other countries from Latin America to Europe and beyond. It is also crucial in the fight against transnational crime and terrorism, largely for the intelligence it can provide when communities feel engaged in helping ensure their own safety. The concept includes methods such as: decentralized organization of police with delegation of authority; stable assignments of officers in certain beats and neighborhoods, to foster relationships and communications; an emphasis on crime prevention rather than response (for example, patrolling more heavily in places and at times when crime is otherwise most likely to occur); analytics designed to identify and highlight patterns of crime, allowing for targeted strategies at the local level to address high-risk areas; and encouragement of assistance from the broader community—including local businesses—in identifying dangers as well as solutions to crime. Other simple tactical innovations have helped too, such as enhancing confidence and safety in public places like parks. Close cooperation between police and prosecutors is also important for ensuring that the latter are invested in cases, and that the former understand what kinds of evidence will hold up in court. Finally, sentencing as well as prison conditions need to be designed with the goal of lowering future crime rates. Ultimately, community policing and related activities need to shore up the rule of law and citizen security as preeminent concerns.


From Dept of Justice


Walnut Man Sentenced to Nearly 4 Years in Federal Prison for Scheme to Smuggle Rifle Scopes and Tactical Equipment to Syria

SANTA ANA, California – An Inland Empire man was sentenced this morning to 46 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle rifle scopes and other tactical gear to Syria in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States. 

Rasheed Al Jijakli, 57, a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who resides in Walnut, was sentenced by United States District Judge James V. Selna.

During today's sentencing hearing, Judge Selna agreed with prosecutor's that the goods Jijakli took to Syria were “instruments of death.”

Jijakli pleaded guilty to the two felony offenses on August 13 and admitted he conspired with others to export tactical gear from the United States to Syria. That tactical gear included U.S.-origin laser boresighters, and day- and night-vision rifle scopes.

From June through July of 2012, Jijakli and a co-conspirator purchased the Tactical Gear. On July 17, 2012, Jijakli traveled with the tactical gear from Los Angeles to Istanbul with the intent that it would be provided to Syrian rebels training in Turkey and fighting in Syria.

Jijakli provided some of the tactical gear, specifically the laser boresighters, to a second co-conspirator, who Jijakli learned was a member of the militant group Ahrar Al-Sham. Jijakli also provided the goods to other armed Syrian insurgent groups in Syria and Turkey.

Jijakli and his co-conspirators knowingly provided at least 43 laser boresighters, 85 day rifle scopes, 30 night-vision rifle scopes, tactical flashlights, a digital monocular, five radios, and a bulletproof vest to Ahrar Al-Sham and other Syrian rebels in Syria, or with knowledge that the tactical gear was going to Syria.

Additionally, in August and September 2012, Jijakli directed co-conspirators to withdraw thousands of dollars from Palmyra Corporation, where Jijakli was the chief executive officer, to pay for tactical gear that would be provided to Syrian rebels. In his plea agreement, Jijakli specifically admitted directing that $7,000 from Palmyra be used to purchase tactical gear intended for Syrian rebels.

The case against Jijakli was the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Export Enforcement, and IRS Criminal Investigation. 

The case against Jijakli was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section in the United States Attorney's Office and Trial Attorney Christian Ford of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.


from Thom Mrozek, Director of Media Relations