Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
Thank a police officer on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day
This is a day to show the men and women in blue how much we value them, their service and protection of our communities
This article was written in collaboration with Sara Slone, the director of public relations for National C.O.P.S. We encourage everyone to "Take the LEAD" and show your support to the law enforcement community on Tuesday, January 9.
While the public should recognize the bravery, courage, honor and integrity shown by our nation's law enforcement officers every day, there is one day each year set aside to show how much we value their service and protection of our communities.
Every Jan. 9, the National Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) encourages everyone to show support for the more than 900,000 law enforcement officers in America. National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D.) is a way to show the men and women in blue how much we value them.
There are a number of ways to show support on Jan. 9 – from planned events to simply changing your social media profile picture. Other ways to show support include shining a blue light from your home, posting a story about a positive law enforcement experience on social media, supporting a local C.O.P.S. chapter or simply sending a card of support to your local agency.
During times of heightened awareness and evolving roles we want police officers to undertake, participating in National L.E.A.D. is a simple, yet meaningful way to show support. Mayors, city managers, departments (e.g. fire, public works) and other city personnel can also show appreciation through social posts, a luncheon and/or simply stopping by the department to say “thank you” to their police counterparts.
L.E.A.D. is one designated day out of the year that encourages displays of support for all law enforcement officers. It's a way to simply say “thank you” to officers who sacrifice so much and get very little appreciation the rest of the year. Even though L.E.A.D. occurs one day per calendar year, C.O.P.S. encourages everyone to show officers support 365 days a year.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL L.E.A.D.
In 2014, law enforcement in America was changed forever after an officer involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The violence and negativity aimed at law enforcement following that incident sparked C.O.P.S. to implement the first L.E.A.D. Jan. 9 was chosen as a day to encourage citizens to do something special for their community's peacekeepers and take the time to show their appreciation.
Communities all across America showed their support by taking treats to local departments, lighting up neighborhoods with blue lights, local elementary schools made cards and communities held ceremonies to simply say “thank you” during this difficult time.
To find out what is going on in your area, follow the National C.O.P.S. Facebook page or visit their website.
If nothing else, thank an officer for his or her service. It will make a difference.
In Baltimore, a Revolving Door at Police Chief
Michael Harrison, left, with Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, has won plaudits for how he shepherded an overhaul of the police department in New Orleans.
by Richard A. Oppel Jr.
The job of commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department has proved to be one of the most tenuous in the country.
The mayor this week selected Michael Harrison as the city's fifth police chief in four years, and asked him to try to solve a list of persistent problems that chased most of the others from the job. Among the tasks: Reducing one of the nation's highest murder rates; building trust among residents who widely view the department as racist, corrupt and indifferent; and earning the support of rank-and-file officers.
And lately, doing all of this under a federal court order intended to curb the department's long history of abusive and discriminatory practices.
If that were not enough, perceived success has often boiled down to one yardstick — the tally of murders and other violent crimes — whose roots, many experts say, lie to a large extent in a stew of deeper problems beyond the reach of a police chief.
Those include the privation in some of the country's poorest big-city neighborhoods, where incomes, and life expectancy, are stunningly lower than in Baltimore's prosperous districts.
Mr. Harrison, 49, has a reputation as a reform-minded superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, and has won plaudits for overseeing sweeping changes in police practices required after the Justice Department found widespread civil rights violations and other abuses.
“He understands the similarities between us and New Orleans,” Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore said in announcing his appointment.
Baltimore was the subject of its own scathing Justice Department investigation in 2016 that found that its police force had systematically harassed and hounded black residents for years, among other abusive practices. But the city has struggled to carry out its consent decree, and Baltimore officials hope Mr. Harrison's appointment will smooth the process.
His selection must be approved by the City Council, though he is expected to be on the job within weeks as acting commissioner.
Mr. Harrison, who was on the New Orleans force for 27 years and was named chief in 2014, had initially declined to pursue the job when approached some months ago.
But when the leading contender — Joel Fitzgerald, the Fort Worth police chief — took himself out of the running after learning his son needed brain surgery, Mr. Harrison was persuaded to reconsider, a mayoral aide said.
In an interview, Mr. Harrison said that his first order of business would be to go on a “listening tour” to hear members of the community and the police department and find out “what the real or perceived problems are.”
“That will help me determine what skill sets are needed, and it will help me figure out what the leadership team should be,” Mr. Harrison said.
Lester Davis, a senior aide to the Baltimore City Council president, Bernard C. Young, said that Mr. Harrison had a lot of support on the council, but that his background would be thoroughly vetted.
City leaders hope his selection will finally bring stability to a job that has been a revolving door ever since the retirement in 2012 of Frederick Bealefeld III, a career officer popular in the community.
Since then, Baltimore has run through four commissioners as violence has raged and many in the city — which is two-thirds black — lost all trust in the department, culminating in the 2015 riots that came after a resident, Freddie Gray, died from injuries received while in a police van.
A Border Wall Won't Make Anyone Safer
by Benjamin Waddell and Matías Fontenla
The United States is safer today than at nearly any other point in the last 25 years.
Although crime has increased slightly in select U.S. cities in recent years, on average, crime in the U.S. has fallen precipitously since 1991, when homicide rates were 9.8 per 100,000 residents. Today, that rate has been cut in half to around five deaths for every 100,000 residents. Overall, crime in the U.S. has decreased by 64 percent since 1990.
Despite this, Donald Trump and the Republican Party have held the American public hostage for nearly three weeks as a means of forcing taxpayers to include more than $5 billion in the budget to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a live address to the nation Tuesday night, Trump said, “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal immigration.”
The problem is, they aren't. The truth is, immigrants make us safer.
While multiple factors have contributed to falling crime rates, an overwhelming body of evidence demonstrates that crime in the U.S. is significantly lower in communities with relatively more immigrants. According to Christopher Lyons and his colleagues at the University of New Mexico, immigrants revitalize communities within the developed world by revamping urban communities, improving family and neighborhood ties, and jump-starting local economies.
A border wall with Mexico -- no matter who funds it -- is unlikely to improve security in the U.S.
As a corollary, our research in Mexico finds that when immigrants move to the U.S. and then subsequently return home, they have a similar crime-reducing effect within their home communities. In an article recently published in World Development, we showed how return migrants have contributed to significant reductions in violence across Mexico.
This coincides with other recent research on return migration, which shows that when migrants return home they have a positive effect on the well-being of their communities. While working abroad, migrants save money, develop new skills, improve their education and acquire social capital. If they move back home, they come back different people than they were when they left.
It's hardly a surprise then to find that when migrants come back, they inject physical, human and social capital into their communities, where residents typically lack formal training and broad networks. The know-how that migrants acquire abroad helps them settle back into life in their home countries and has important multiplying effects within local economies. In Mexico, for example, 75 percent of return migrants become part of the economically active population, and 70 percent of them within stable areas of the formal economy. And this, in a country where the vast majority of people hold informal, part-time positions.
This research in Mexico contributes to a better understanding of the relationship between migration and crime in general. Although researchers typically study crime within cities and states, our study shows that transnational factors -- such as international immigration -- deeply influence how safe communities are. In a world where immigration is on the rise, policymakers and everyday citizens should find solace in our findings, which contribute to our understanding of the positive effects of immigration.
Regarding Trump's government shutdown and his claims of a “crisis” at the border, our work implies that a border wall with Mexico -- no matter who funds it -- is unlikely to improve security in the U.S. In fact, by continuing to deport law-abiding immigrants and discouraging immigration to the U.S. at all costs, policymakers in Washington will leave communities both in the U.S. and in Latin America worse off. This is before we even consider the fact that, as other studies have revealed, “The push to prioritize prosecuting illegal border crossers has begun to impact the capacity of federal prosecutors to enforce other federal laws.”
That is, given the abundance of evidence demonstrating net-positive effects of immigrants, coupled with our research on return migration in Mexico, we'd be handicapping ourselves both socially and economically by building a wall. And since we know that immigrants contribute to reductions in crime, keeping them out actually makes the nation less safe.
Americans need to have a more constructive conversation about the actual effects of immigration on crime. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely.
Trump's wall has absolutely nothing to do with physical security. Rather, like all walls, the proposed border wall is about constructing a cultural barrier, not a physical one. Unless we tear down the cultural walls inside our own minds, this dispute is likely to live on beyond Trump's presidency.
Bronx - New York City
Neighborhood policing program bridges gap between community, NYPD
News 12 went on patrol Wednesday with two officers who are part of a neighborhood policing program designed to strengthen the bonds between officers and community members.
Neighborhood coordination officers Matthew Velger and Eric Bukoweicki say they have personally seen community bonds strengthened by the program.
NCOs were first rolled out in 2016 in the 42nd Precinct. Velger says the area he now patrols had the highest crime and drug activity within Morrisania. Velger says crime dropped 75 percent within his sector in four months after the launch of the program. He believes it is because officers are now more visible.
"You get to know us on a personal level, you have our emails, cellphones," says Velger.
Businesses say the officers' frequent visits deter loitering and other quality-of-life offenses. Others say they have made a positive impact on kids and seniors in the community, knowing that NCOs are looking out for them.
The officers admit there is still work to be done to change some negative attitudes about law enforcement, but they say neighborhood policing is a start.
NYPD - New York City
5-0's new leader vows neighborhood policing revamp
by ZAK KOSTRO
With a new commanding officer helming the 50th Precinct, police officers could be tweaking a few things when it comes to cracking down on crime in Kingsbridge, Marble Hill and Riverdale.
Former 5-0 commanding officer Terence O'Toole — who left his position just before Thanksgiving — officially said goodbye to Community Board 8 at its full board meeting Dec. 11 to praise and a standing ovation. But with the deputy inspector's farewell, it's the start of a new era as Capt. Emilio Melendez — a nearly three-decade veteran of the police department who's also served in the military — takes the lead.
“I've got some big shoes to fill,” Melendez told the board. “If I can give you 50 percent of what (O'Toole) gave you, I think I'm giving you a lot.”
In an age where terrorism, hate crimes and mass shootings dominate local and international headlines, “The NYPD is up to the task,” Melendez promised. That includes in Riverdale, where some synagogues have ramped up security in light of the Pittsburgh mass shooting last October. It also includes at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy on West 237th Street following a reported social media threat last November and later, two students bringing a gun to campus — left their peers, parents and school officials shaken at the start of a new academic year.
In spite of that, Melendez noted a more than 4 percent drop in major crimes at the Dec. 11 meeting, adding much malfeasance within the 5-0 actually isn't quite so frightening, but rather “mischief crime,” from leaving property and cars unguarded.
“We know we have individuals out there who are just opportunists,” Melendez said. “It's the holiday season. Don't leave your gifts in your cars.”
Despite the overall decrease, robberies had climbed as of Dec. 11 compared to the same time the previous year, Melendez said, while burglaries were down. Those are among a litany of nuisances and quality-of-life concerns he's looking to tackle right from the get-go.
And while Melendez acknowledged his predecessor's solid work, he also plans to make a few changes.
“Come Jan. 1, the 50th Precinct offensive starts all over again,” the captain said. Not that anything's really that bad — just there's always room for improvement.
“We have to take a look at what we did right in the past (and) continue working on that,” Melendez said. “But what we did wrong is what's more important. That's where we really want to make the turnaround.”
And while severe violence and gang issues are less of a problem in the 5-0 than in Melendez's former commands — including the 44th Precinct — property crimes, while “totally different,” are still important as far as quality of life.
So what's the captain's plan?
“We still need to focus on the little things, in order to prevent the big things,” Melendez told The Riverdale Press.
“The 5-0 has been very fortunate it hasn't (a lot of) violent crime. The community has a sense of responsibility. Violence is never tolerated.”
Still, 2018 saw a spike in murders — more than doubling the previous year's total, according to New York Police Department statistics as of Dec. 16 — as well as a slight jump in shootings. But Melendez called these anomalies, some related to domestic disputes — his “No. 1 target” in 2019.
That means focusing on residents who may own guns, Melendez said, because “those who have access to weapons have a propensity to use them.”
The second target is recidivists, who “for some reason, through the years, continue to wreak havoc on nuisance crimes such as car break-ins” and minor theft, Melendez said, which may eventually lead to bigger burglaries and grand larceny.
Cracking down means working closely with the district attorney's office, pinpointing the 5-0's top-10 repeat offenders.
“That way, from arrest to prosecution, we can follow the case, and see the status” of perpetrators, Melendez said.
Not that this kind of precision enforcement wasn't happening before Melendez — or even O'Toole — but it wasn't quite as focused as it is now.
“Let's target those individuals that have the biggest bang for the buck to bring down crime,” Melendez said, and in some cases offer help — by steering them toward drug treatment programs, for example.
But Melendez's vision also hinges on the 50th Precinct's still relatively nascent neighborhood coordination officer initiative.
“Because they're in charge of their specific section — because of their interaction with the community, that cooperation — the NCOs are crucial to this,” Melendez said.
Chief among their priorities are car thefts, break-ins, and continuing weeding out those feisty rogue tow operators, said Sgt. Mark Giordano — who leads the NCOs —while “getting information out there for people to know how to prevent that from happening to them.”
Prevention also involves sharing information with other police departments, Giordano said, including Yonkers.
And so far — after barely a month overseeing the 50th — all of these initiatives seem to be working, Melendez said. Yet, he's quick to point out it's a synchronized effort involving all of his officers, including patrol.
“There's a sense that they have a big stock in this community, and I love that,” the captain said. “They care about the community. A lot of these cops are legacy cops in the 5-0. They know everybody in the command.
“And we win a war that way. Because when an officer takes a stock in their sector, in what they do, there's nothing they can't accomplish.”
Take a bow, Miami, crime rates have taken a dive
by THE MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD
It wasn't that long ago that Miami, with bullets flying, looked like a lawless city.
Crime rates, especially homicide rates, were high — and the main victims appeared to be aimless, feuding teens who settled disputes by firing AR-15s out of moving car windows.
When police sought out witnesses in violence-plagued neighborhoods, residents clammed up, understandably, while the bloodshed left community leaders and politicians angry, but seemingly helpless.
But newly released crime stats for the city of Miami say that things have drastically changed — and we hope they signal permanent progress.
A thrilled Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez began 2019 by announcing that the city of almost 500,000 — and also home to the county's most troubled inner cities — made history last year, this time for the lowest number of murder victims. The count was 51, a figure not seen since 1967, according to statistics supplied by the city's police department.
That's a solid decline, down from 59 in 2017. And gun violence seems to be slipping, too. Of those 51 homicides, only 39 were the result of gunfire, the chief told the media.
“This is not only history, this is personal for me, and a testament to our commitment to save lives and reduce crime,” Suarez said.
What happened to bring about such a radical change in the streets of Miami? The chief said neighborhood policing, cameras, mounted police and something almost miraculous — residents who are buying into the “see something, say something” principle, helping police solve and prevent crimes. That's excellent news, a testament to residents' increasing courage to talk to police, not tolerating violence even in the face of potential harm from the suspects they are telling on. It also speaks well of police efforts to build trust where it has been perennially damaged, often with good reason.
“The cooperation with residents is better than I've seen it in a long time,” Colina said at a news conference this week. “People call us now to say where there are guns stashed. That wasn't happening before.”
A drop in homicides is not the only decline on record. Crime numbers in Miami show that burglaries in 2018 were down 11 percent from the previous year. Robberies dropped 17 percent. Assault and battery were down 6 percent.
Sex offenses, which jumped 14 percent compared to the previous year, were the only crimes that rose significantly. But in the #MeToo age, more cases are being reported, authorities suspect. Miami-Dade police saw a similar increase.
Across town, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said his department has also seen a downturn in crime: Homicides in unincorporated Miami-Dade — whose residents who don't live in cities and that has a population of more than 1 million — dropped almost 16 percent, from 94 in 2017 to 79 last year, the Miami Herald reported.
If you eliminate domestic-related homicides, the number of street-level murders are significantly lower than past years.
But it's too soon to declare we've beaten back crime. Anything — high unemployment, lousy economy — can trigger an uptick. We need a third consecutive year of decreases to declare it a significant trend. Still, the most heartening number revealed by Miami's police chief is the number of people who are getting involved in keeping crime out of their neighborhoods. That's something to celebrate.
Louisville police chief: We will respect people in every neighborhood
by STEVE CONRAD | OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
Every day, the dedicated men and women of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) do the often difficult work they are charged to do to make our city safer. They do this work committed to LMPD's data-driven approach to confronting crime, using our People, Places and Narcotics strategy:
We focus on the people who are committing those crimes with priority on the most violent.
We go to the places where the most crime is occurring.
We focus on narcotics because we know they often fuel gun violence and criminal activity.
I ask our officers to respond to calls for service professionally and respectfully. I also ask them to proactively patrol, vigilant for things that may be causing problems for neighborhoods, so they can address those issues. This type of police work allows us to seize illegal drugs before they get into our community and illegally possessed guns before they can be used to hurt our citizens.
Louisville's story is not unlike the story of many urban American cities. The failings of economic, health and educational systems have left some neighborhoods strangled in the unrelenting grip of poverty. This leaves us with a split between higher crime neighborhoods with fewer opportunities, and those neighborhoods of relative prosperity. And as is true nationally, many of our neighborhoods with the greatest challenges are communities of color.
I hear the voices of citizens expressing concerns about police tactics and disparities, and I share Mayor Fischer's commitment to eliminating disparities and enhancing our community policing efforts, mindful that, as the mayor has said, our efforts are only as legitimate as the community thinks they are.
I also hear the voices of our officers, concerned about high call volume, unpredictable and dangerous situations, and a desire to make their community safer. We must find a way to bring these voices together, and to find solutions together. And next week, Mayor Fischer will announce a strategic initiative to do just that. LMPD will be intricately involved in this initiative, called Lean Into Louisville.
In the meantime, I can tell you that LMPD is committed to unbiased, fair and ethical policing. Our officers have approximately 500,000 contacts with community members each year, and only a fraction of a single percent of those contacts devolve into a use-of-force situation.
When they do, the department completes a thorough and impartial investigation, aided by video from the cameras that officers wear on duty. I understand these incidents sometimes raise questions, but I urge our community to trust the investigation process.
Training provides the tools our officers need to offer quality services to our community. That's why we actively train in implicit biases, procedural justice, crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, which we are expanding in this year's training curriculum.
And we are actively delving into the reasons behind disparities in our justice system, examining the data and working with our justice partners to determine what systemic policies and practices need to be addressed.
This department remains committed to delivering professional police services that show dignity, respect and fairness to every person in Louisville — regardless of the neighborhood in which they live.
I ask you to join with me and the officers of this department as we embark on a year where we tackle these issues through engagement and collaboration designed to build the trust and legitimacy necessary to make Louisville a safer place for us all.
New York City
NYC homicide tally may be lowest in several decades in 2018
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK —
New York City could register the fewest number of homicides in several decades in 2018, as the city continues its long battle against violent crime.
As of Sunday, the city had recorded five fewer killings than the 292 investigated in 2017, according to preliminary police data provided to The Associated Press. That year's figure was itself the lowest in decades.
The New York Police Department said it also had seen a modest decline in shooting incidents in 2018 and an 8 percent drop in robberies. Figures for other categories of crime were not immediately available.
In the past two years, the city's homicide rate has plunged to levels that were unthinkable a generation ago, when New York became known as the murder capital of the country and recorded an eye-popping 2,245 homicides in 1990.
"Not all that long ago, people had given up on New York City," said David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has worked with police departments around the country to reduce killings. "Now it's the safest big city in the world— and that is not an accident. It's the result of decades of steady, meaningful attention to community public safety."
The city has recorded fewer homicides in 2018 than Philadelphia, a city with a fraction of New York's population where police had investigated 351 killings through Sunday.
This year's statistics include the lowest number of homicides in Brooklyn since record keeping began. District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said last week that trend has coincided with efforts by local authorities to reduce incarceration and to increase diversion for nonviolent offenders.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn said the most significant declines were seen in Coney Island, where not a single killing occurred in 2018, compared to eight slayings in 2017. The tally also plummeted in the 75th Precinct, in East New York, an area once considered among the nation's most violent places.
There were six killings in that precinct in 2018, Gonzalez said, compared to 126 in 1993.
"Our city is on track to yet again be the safest big city in America thanks to the work our NYPD officers and community leaders are doing block by block across our five boroughs," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement to the AP. "Neighborhood policing in New York City has defied the naysayers to become the model for 21st century American law enforcement."
Criminal justice experts attributed the city's progress to several factors, including its massive police force of 36,000 officers, and a practice known as precision policing in which the authorities focus resources on the most likely offenders.
"The conventional wisdom was that you couldn't do anything about crime except maybe reduce it for a while in some areas," said Tom Repetto, the author of several books on policing in New York. "That has been disproved, and it is amazing that the rate is so low in a city of this size and composition."
Repetto said he believes the number of killings in New York is approaching what he calls an "irreducible minimum," suggesting it could be implausible for the number of killings in a city of 8.6 million residents to fall any further.
Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, credited the NYPD's "unrelenting" focus on removing illegal guns from the streets, including the prosecution of some weapons charges in federal court. He also pointed to neighborhood policing efforts and re-entry initiatives aimed at rehabilitating prisoners returning to the community.
"I think the broader story is that the city has understood that the fight against violent crime doesn't reside solely with the police," Aborn said. "It's not because the air is better in New York. It's because of things the city has done, and it's making a huge difference."
NPD to begin Cops and Neighborhoods United program in January
by Orrin Shawl Newton Daily News
The Newton Police Departments has separated the city into Cops and Neighbors United zones. Each zone has one or two designated officer assigned.
The Newton Police Department is just a few weeks away from staffing an officers-led version of a neighborhood watch group for six zones throughout the city.
Cops and Neighborhoods United has three of their first six zone meetings ready for January.
The first is for Zone 5, which will take place at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Christian Reformed Church, 511 S. Fifth Ave. E. The meeting for Zone 2 will take place 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at First United Methodist Church, 210 N. Second Ave. E. The third meeting in Zone 6 will take place at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at The Way Church, 2306 S. Third Ave. E.
NPD Lt. Wayne Winchell said he is currently finalizing the first meetings for Zones 1, 3 and 4 for February.
“(The first meeting) kind of gives you an idea of what this is, how we developed the program, all the history and what our goals are,” Winchell said. “If they live in a zone, work in a zone or own property in a zone, this will probably be the key for them.”
At the Dec. 17 Newton City Council meeting, police chief Rob Burdess shared an update on how the Cops and Neighbors United program was developing.
“We really wanted to look at neighborhood policing. This is a concept that is really being used throughout the United States,” Burdess said. “Right now, patrol officers patrol the city, the entire city, and really their responsibility is the entire city for the most part. What we're really looking at is building relationships in smaller sectors.”
According to Burdess, NPD gets more than 18,000 calls per year. A significant portion of those calls come from the repeat callers about the same types of situation in the same places. Having an officer monitor a designated area should provide more organization and swiftness in dealing with calls in each area, as well as developing relationships with citizens.
“Each month, we are supplying our zone officers with the stats for their zones,” said Winchell, who will oversee the implementation and management of Cops and Neighborhoods United. “Whether it will be (an) accident, a house receiving lots of calls, they start looking at these stats and see there's a recurring issue and develop a plan to take care of that.
“This does not replace calling 911. This is something we can reach out and communicate about long-term within a neighborhood,” Winchell added. “Calling 911, it won't necessarily be your zone officer responding. Officers will still respond to calls as normal.”
Officer Lovan has been given Zone 1, Officers Watson and Zylstra have Zone 2, Officer McDonnell has Zone 3, Officers Plowman and Walker have Zone 4, Officers Oldfield and Blom have zone 5 and Officers Eckert and Harden have Zone 6.
For people who cannot attend the meetings but want to learn more about Cops and Neighborhoods United, they can visit www.newtongov.org.
When Winchell worked for the Des Moines Police Department, he learned from a similar system that city used on a larger scale. An agency from South Dakota introduced the program to the metro police department, and after seeing the success it brought, people came in all over from the United States to train with those officers.
While some Des Moines police officers were hired specifically to be a zone officer, police in Newton will have the added zone responsibilities. Winchell said it may seem to them like additional work, but it will make their jobs easier in the long run.
“Initially, they might thing, ‘Whoa, I'm getting a new assignment' or ‘I'll have more work to do.' But they'll eventually get to know the people. The town is not large, so they know the town well. But as you get out there and mingle with the people face to face, now, all of the sudden, you have people willing to give you information and alert you to things that are going on that you didn't know,” Winchell said. “In the end, it will make it easier for the officers. Initially, there will be more work involved."
Kelly: Blacks 'terrified' police will kill their kids
by Pat Pratt
Blacks in Columbia are "terrified that their kids are going to be killed by police" and must be involved in the selection of a new police chief, mayoral candidate Chris Kelly said Thursday night during the first joint event of the campaign.
Incumbent Mayor Brian Treece and Kelly spent about 20 minutes each making remarks and answering questions at a meeting of the Boone County Democratic Central Committee. Kelly made his remarks in response to a question asking what model of community policing he supports and how he would make sure the city manager and chief hired in coming months will implement Columbia City Council resolutions directing the police to implement a community-wide policing strategy.
Kelly opened by addressing the topic of relationships between the black community and law enforcement.
"I will make sure that the people terrified that their kids are going to be killed by police are involved in the hiring," Kelly said. "And that's real important because that's what African-American people in Columbia, Missouri, feel today. They feel afraid of the police department, and that is inappropriate."
Kelly added that it's "not the whole department," but regardless, fear should not be present and that is something elected officials need to change. He said leadership is needed to create a different climate and resources need to be devoted.
The council approved the first resolution on community policing in February. Then-Chief Ken Burton assigned Sgt. Robert Fox, since promoted to lieutenant, to write a report on implementation. There were a series of community meetings, one in each ward, that led to a report in late August calling for 60 new officers.
Burton and former city manager Mike Matthes resisted the council's instructions, Treece said. Burton resigned Dec. 28, eight days after being placed on administrative leave and a little over a month after Matthes resigned.
"I had the opportunity to ride along with police officers and I am amazed by the patience and discretion they show in a daily basis in their interactions," Treece said. "But what we discovered is that the police chief and the city manager were stonewalling and dragging their feet."
Community policing is not just a council initiative, Treece said, but rather what the community wants in terms of local policing. He said for two years the city has been reaching out to the community to gauge what that is, meeting with a number of civic groups.
"The council passed a resolution unanimously calling for community-oriented policing," Treece said. "We engaged in a nine-month long citizen engagement process. We had town hall meetings in every ward and another one in the city council chamber."
Treece said what officials have taken away from those meetings is that residents want a community-oriented strategy, where officers can get to know the people they serve.
"Personally, I believe community-oriented policing ought to be philosophical, a culture-shift transformation within our police department that empowers that individual police officer to have the stability and consistency and repetition they need to have the same constituents, so they can recognize what that neighborhood's needs are," Treece said.
Kelly, who has 40 years experience in politics, spent most of his career in state government. The department does need additional money to do its job and to make community policing work, he said.
"Because if you look at state government organizations, the action always follows the money," Kelly said. "If you devote resources to the problem, then the problem will change. This is a problem that we as a community can solve, but it means actually involving, not paying lip service."
Kelly touted his endorsement by local NAACP chapter president Mary Ratliff, saying she knows he will "change the situation." He also said low morale is causing issues in the police department.
"The situation is not just bad for the African-American community," Kelly said. "The morale is low in the police department, clearance of crimes is not what it should be, the department needs a lot of serious work, and I am going to get after it, I am going to stick with it, and I am going to bite into it and stay with it until it's done."
More money is not necessary to implement those practices, Treece said.
"They wanted to use community-oriented policing as a way to raise taxes," Treece said. "We don't need to raise taxes to raise expectations. And the mayor that you hire in April is going to hire the city manager, who hires the police chief that is going to implement the values of the vision of community policing that you have shared with us.
"The only way I can do that is to reflect what you have told me over the last two years and to make sure we continue to move that forward."
New York City
NYC achieves record-breaking low crime in 2018, but rape crimes increase: police
NEW YORK — New York City saw record-breaking lows in crime in 2018, setting records for public safety crime reduction in the modern era.
Overall crime was lower in 2018 than in 2017, below a new benchmark of about 97,000 reported crimes, police said.
There were 1,245 fewer incidents compared to 97,089 reported crimes in 2017, making it the lowest number index rimes in the modern era, according to crime statistics.
The city saw the lowest number of homicides recorded at 289, compared to 292 in 2017.
Robberies, burglaries and grand larceny of autos were also down from the previous year, and shootings were also down about 35 incidents compared to 2017.
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill praised the NYPD and community leaders for keeping the city safe.
“Our city is yet again the safest big city in America thanks to the work our NYPD officers and community leaders are doing block by block across our five boroughs,” said the mayor. “Neighborhood policing in New York City has defied the naysayers to become the model for 21st century American law enforcement.”
“The skill and dedication of the men and women of the NYPD are keeping New York City the safest big city in America. With stronger bonds of trust with the community created with neighborhood policing; a singular focus on violent crimes and those who commit them; and ever stronger coordination with our law enforcement partners, we can continue to drive crime down even lower in 2019,” said O'Neill.
Despite New York City's overall crime rates decreasing, there was a 22.4-percent increase in reported rapes through the year, up 328 reports at 1,795 from last year's 1,467 incidents.
Police also saw an increase in grand larceny and felony assault crimes.
With suburban schools to guard, police cut patrols in a dangerous Miami neighborhood
by DOUGLAS HANKS
Miami-Dade cut police patrols in the Northside district outside of Miami in August. The county said it couldn't afford the extra police and send officers to guard schools, as Florida required after the Parkland massacre.
When chronic gunfire turned particularly dangerous in and around Miami's Liberty City neighborhood last spring, local police flooded the area with extra patrols dubbed operation Blue and Brown to discourage trouble in the streets.
The flood ended in August, when county officers pulled back in the midst of a $20 million deployment to guard schools across the county under new requirements imposed by Florida after the Parkland massacre. The drastic cuts implemented Aug. 19 — from 16 county officers per shift on the Blue and Brown routes to just four — were needed “to ensure the availability of personnel required to staff the school initiative,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote in a December memo.
Miami-Dade's shift of policing resources from a high-crime area in the county's Northside district to dozens of suburban elementary schools illustrates the rapid shift in priorities required by Florida's post-Parkland legislation. With armed security now required at every school, the county school board helped convince voters to increase property taxes to fund a major expansion of the school system's own police force.
Local governments throughout Miami-Dade, led by the county itself, also rearranged police budgets to deploy officers to schools that previously had been considered safe enough to do without a school-system officer. Gimenez in September won approval of a $10 million budget for a new squad of roving tactical teams whose primary mission is to be on the road for a quick response to a mass shooting.
Leaders from high-crime areas questioned pulling money from the fight against ongoing crime in order to beef up security against a potential threat.
“I've got folks that are being shot, folks that are being killed, in my district,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss said during a July budget hearing about Gimenez's school-security plans, which were approved. Moss represents a rural area in South Dade. “That $20 million could sure go a long way.”
Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, named after the Parkland high school where a shooter killed 14 students and three staff members on Feb. 14, 2018, requires at least one armed guard at every public school in the state.
The law allows armed school staff members to satisfy the rule, but South Florida districts opted to use professional safety officers to comply with the new rules. Broward used a mix of certified guards and police for its school-security plan, and Miami-Dade opted for both the school system's officers and police dispatched by local agencies. The county agreed to send officers to elementary schools outside of city limits.
Florida didn't provide enough state funding to cover police staffing for Miami-Dade schools. The county's police force dispatched the most of any local agency — about 100 officers, paid out of overtime. Miami-Dade agreed to the $20 million deployment as temporary, allowing the school system time to raise the funds to expand its force. “It was a stop-gap measure to comply with state law,” Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, a school board spokeswoman. said in a statement. “We are quickly hiring our own School Resource Officers.”
Miami-Dade voters in November approved an increase to the property taxes that fund schools, and part of that money is slated to hire enough system officers to replace the ones that cities and the county sent to temporarily guard campuses.
Gimenez's budget office said the temporary school deployments would be paid out of one-time revenue sources, meaning there shouldn't be a windfall waiting once the school system takes over guard duty. That makes funding beefed-up patrols in Northside more complicated.
The county says it would cost about $4.8 million a year to resume 20-hour patrols with 12-person shifts in two high-crime pockets that were the original targets of Operation Blue and Brown when it launched in April.
Miami-Dade and Miami mostly shared the staffing load for the operation, with the city providing an additional 28 officers every day to patrol the nearly 150 blocks covered by the patrol “boxes” that sit between Northwest 12th Avenue and 27th Avenue, and 41st Street and 71st Street. Those run through the Brownsville and Liberty City neighborhoods, with a mix of territory inside and outside of Miami city limits.
It launched after the gunfire deaths of two teens at the Liberty Square housing complex. The daylight killings rattled a neighborhood already weary of gang-driven violence, shootings and gunfire.
Miami deployed a mobile command center in the neighborhood, and joined Miami-Dade in overlapping shifts that during the day had 25 officers on patrol, plus three with drug dogs and two officers on horseback. The operation got its name from the agencies' uniforms: blue for the city, brown for the county.
“When we're fully staffed and are able to get out there and walk the streets, it has an impact,” said Sgt. Jason Waite, who joined a Blue and Brown patrol during a recent Friday morning.
He was one of four county officers on patrol for that daytime shift, about a quarter of the presence the neighborhood saw during the peak of Blue and Brown. The city of Miami has shut down its part of the operation, saying the police surge succeeded in tamping down violent crime in the Liberty Square complex.
“The goal was met,” said Freddie Cruz, head of the Miami Police Department's public information office.
Miami-Dade still considers Blue and Brown an ongoing operation, but one with reduced staffing that relies on patrol officers assigned to Northside.
Officer Zuri Chambers joined Waite for what turned out to be a quiet Friday morning shift. Before 10 a.m., a man flagged down Chambers as a woman, who later described herself as a crack smoker on psychiatric drugs, stripped off her clothes on Northwest 18th Avenue while screaming at onlookers.
“That's mild,” Chambers said about 45 minutes later, after he and Waite turned her over to hospital workers at the North Shore Medical Center. “She was actually cooperative.”
Chambers grew up in the Liberty Square complex, became a fan of an “Officer Friendly” who visited his school to meet the students, and set his sights on a career in law enforcement.
After two decades as a county police dispatcher, Chambers joined the patrol ranks three years ago. The 43-year-old's first and current assignment is the Northside district, where he serves as a mentor to a pair of boys, age 12 and 17, as part of the department's youth-outreach unit.
He visits their homes, helps arrange tutoring for school, and gets updates through WhatsApp. “They'll send me messages: Hey, I got a hundred on this test,” said Chambers, a father of a grown daughter. “They're studying hard.”
Chambers said the high-profile police presence at the peak of Blue and Brown made patrols calmer. He's seen a drop in reports of gunfire in some of the area's notorious trouble spots. He also thinks the respite will be temporary.
“I think if we don't get the right number of officers to Northside, it's just a matter of time before the hotbeds start to rise again,” he said.
Gimenez's memo to county commissioners said the county could dip into money seized from convicted criminals to beef up staffing once again along the Blue and Brown routes. But those dollars aren't a stable source of funding, and “additional resources are required to implement [a] sustained enforcement operation.”
Juan Perez, the county's police director and a Gimenez appointee, said high-visibility operations like Blue and Brown aren't permanent solutions to long-term crime problems. Instead, crime tends to migrate elsewhere, then drift back once staff returns to typical levels.
He said funding will be available for increased patrols to deal with another wave of violence, but that he prefers a strategy that lets district commanders shift staffing as needed.
“The moment we leave, it may spark up again,” Perez said. “We have to be flexible enough to address crimes with the personnel we have.”
LA's Battle for Venice Beach: Homeless Surge Puts Hollywood's Progressive Ideals to the Test
The western edge of Penmar Golf Course, now one of the largest homeless encampments on the Westside, abuts the Frank Gehry-designed home of artist John Baldessari.
With swelling transient encampments abutting seven-figure homes, the beachside enclave has emerged as a flashpoint for the inequality shaping Los Angeles — and a real-world test case for the liberal ideology of the area's showbiz residents.
After the first attack, Randy Osborn figured it was just his turn. Tire slashings in his east Venice Beach neighborhood had become commonplace. But when his vintage Land Rover was hit a sixth time in the course of a few months, Osborn, who runs a small virtual reality company and has lived in Venice for seven years, began to worry he was being singled out.
"It may have been random, but it sure felt targeted and concentrated," says Osborn, who now protects his tires each night with a jury-rigged plywood-and-chain contraption that has so far deterred the assailants. Every time he takes his family out of town, he worries about his house being robbed. "It's not a very fun way to live," he says. A lot of residents within Osborn's 15-block area just east of Lincoln Boulevard — where actor Viggo Mortensen owns a home and director Jon Favreau is opening a production office — have similar stories. And though they can't say for sure, Osborn and others suspect the crime is tied to several homeless encampments that have sprung up nearby in the past 15 months.
Los Angeles is grappling with a homeless epidemic. "It's the worst human catastrophe in America," says Andy Bales, a pastor who runs the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. Faced with a growing crisis, city leaders last year budgeted more than $100 million for affordable housing, addiction treatment, job placement and mental health services. And yet, as L.A.'s real estate prices soar, so does the city's homeless population. And nowhere have the twin forces of inaccessible housing and inequality created a more explosive mix than in Venice Beach, a hotbed of entertainment executives and talent where the median home price is $1.9 million. Many of these residents are now grappling with a quality-of-life issue that defies their own liberal ideals.
Sleepless in Seattle and Community producer Gary Foster, who moved to the area two years ago from Westwood and works with the homeless advocacy group The People Concern, says he was surprised by the number of residents who expressed exasperation with — if not outright disdain for — the transient population. "They tend to be liberal, they want to do good in the world, but they're balancing their beliefs with how that might impact the value of their real estate," says Foster, who began his activism after producing The Soloist, about a journalist who discovers a musical savant living on Skid Row.
"There are actually [residents] advocating driving the homeless out of Venice — shipping them off somewhere, which is such a proto-fascist move," says television writer Evan Dunsky, a 27-year resident of the area. "And then what? Do we have to build a wall around Venice?"
Venice is now home to the largest concentration of homeless anywhere on L.A.'s Westside, with nearly 1,000 non-domiciled people. During the past 18 months, several encampments have swelled in more residential areas where homes can easily sell for eight figures and up. Tents, many of them equipped with mini refrigerators, cupboards, televisions and heaters, vie with pedestrian traffic.
Residents who live near the encampments say mail regularly goes missing. Break-ins have jumped. Hypodermic needles and human waste are appearing on sidewalks and at local playgrounds. Residents have complained to police about harassment and even physical assaults. "This is more of a criminal problem than a homeless problem," says one resident, who lives next to the so-called Frederick camp adjacent to the Penmar Golf Course.
"There are crime problems in Venice," concedes Mike Bonin, whose Council District 11 includes Venice Beach. Bonin has come under intense criticism for his handling of the homeless crisis by Venice residents displeased with his support of a measure to introduce a massive, $5 million transitional housing project in their city. At the same time, Bonin says, "I can't accept the idea that there is an inextricable link between crime and homelessness. It is wrong, it is not backed up by the data, and it leads to bad policy."
Disagreements over the potential causes of the crimes have begun to factionalize Venice's neighborhoods. "It was six months of terror, absolute terror," says radiologist Maria Altavilla, who lives in east Venice. She says that the period of increased health and safety concerns coincided with the expansion of the homeless encampments the past year. She recently arrived home with her two children to find a woman shooting up in her yard. Lately, her husband has expressed a desire to move because of his frustration with the encampments. Several residents shared an unconfirmed theory — suggested to them by a local patrolman — that certain assailants were using the social media app NextDoor to monitor which residents are most vocal about their opposition to encampments and then targeting those individuals for retribution.
As the problem worsens, homeowners are banding together to try to reclaim patches of sidewalk in an effort to deter future encampments. At the corner of Millwood Avenue and Lincoln, bulky wood planters now hog much of the sidewalk. Those planters emerged mysteriously two months ago outside a Staples office supply store that was once a popular resting spot for a handful of tent dwellers. The same pattern can be seen on another block, further south on Palms Boulevard, where similar metallic planters have recently appeared.
Should police video be made public?
by Donna Thornton Times Staff Writer
Most local law enforcement agencies equip officers with cameras and count them as essential equipment.
Since the City of Gadsden equipped their police officers with body cams, the number of complaints against officers have dropped.
Events Thanksgiving night at the Galleria in Hoover proved tragic.
Someone fired a gun in a crowded shopping mall. Two people were injured. As law enforcement officers responded to the scene of the shooting, they encountered an armed man; he was shot and killed. Initially, it was reported that he was the suspect, but authorities quickly learned he was not. He was a shopper at the mall, and had a concealed carry permit for his weapon.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is investigating, and the shooting brought protests to the City of Hoover. Part of the protest has been a call to release body camera footage from the officers involved — something the investigating agency has not done.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legislation concerning body cameras and open record laws, but Alabama is not one of those states.
For the most part, local police don't want to comment about the Hoover case, citing a lack of information about it. However, some were willing to talk about body cameras, their policies for using them and their place in modern policing.
Most local agencies equip officers with cameras, and count them as essential equipment.
The Gadsden Police Department's officers have used body cameras for years. Sgt. John Hallman said since the cameras have been in use, the number of citizen complaints against officers have dropped.
"Everyone knows they are being recorded," Training Officer Sgt. Jay Johnson said — both the officers and the people they encounter.
That knowledge can prevent people from claiming something was said or done that was not, and it also can make officers more mindful of what they say and do.
It is important, Capt. Paul Cody said, to understand the limits of what is seen on camera. The view shown by the camera may not capture all that an officer sees and hears around him, or record all that creates an officer's perception of a situation. There also can be malfunctions with the equipment, as with any technology. There have been cases — some high-profile ones in other areas — where there were problems in the way an officer reacts to a situation.
"Anything an officer does is reactive," Cody said.
The camera captures what's in front of it, but an officer could be looking in another direction, he said. Regardless, it takes a second — really 1.5 seconds, studies have shown — to process and react to what you see. That's something that can get lost when people look at body camera recordings like an action movie, where everything is scripted in advance.
In local departments using body cameras, the policy is for patrol officers to turn on the camera at each encounter with the public — for the taking of reports, for traffic stops, for any encounter.
"To me, the body cameras keep everybody honest," Glencoe Police Chief Alan Kelly said. "I can remember when an officer's word was everything. Now, if there's a image, people want to see it.
"It's evidence to every complaint voiced," Kelly said. "They say there are three sides to every story. To me, the body camera is what falls between the two sides."
Attalla Police Chief Dennis Walker said his department's officers are required to wear body cameras and to have the camera recording any interactions with the public. "We use them as evidence all the time," Walker said.
Southside Chief Chris Jones said his department has used body cameras for about 10 years — long enough to have upgraded to a much better version. Like Kelly, he remembers when an officer's word and testimony in court was enough. Now, he said, people seem to expect video evidence to back it up.
When high-profile incidents occurs, it might seem that rolling the film will resolve questions. But police say they have to be concerned with more than public relations in such cases — that when digital evidence could be part of a court case, it should be guarded just as other evidence is.
Hallman said in a case with many witnesses, it takes time to interview them all. He said if body camera footage is released publicly, what the camera saw could change witnesses' perception or recollection of what they saw at the time from their own vantage point.
A benefit to current body cam capabilities, both Gadsden officers and Rainbow City Chief Jonathon Horton said, is that the digital images recorded by body cams are stored in the Cloud. No one within a department can get to the images to alter them even if he or she wanted to, Horton said.
Horton faced an incident where he decided to release body camera footage of an encounter between police and a man after a traffic stop in July 2017. Friends of the man involved took to social media accusing Rainbow City officers of throwing the man off a bridge on Black Creek Parkway near the Interstate 759 ramps. The man had injuries from falling onto the rocks below the bridge.
With officers being bashed on social media, Horton decided to release body camera footage that showed what officers already explained: that the man fled from them after a traffic stop and jumped over the bridge to get away from them.
"It immediately quelled the outrage," he said, that people were expressing against the police. "A lot of people came and apologized after seeing the footage."
It was a unique circumstance, Horton said, not one that involved a fatality, or the potential for serious criminal charges.
"With an ongoing investigation, I completely understand (a department) trying to keep everything pulled together until they have answers," he said.
There is another question: if a department releases body cam images in one incident, should it withhold such images in another?
"You release the video when it exonerates your officer," one police officer said, "but are you willing to release it when it doesn't?"
Hokes Bluff Police Chief Mitchell Hill said his department uses cameras, but has not had a serious incident where evidence from them came into play. Still, any encounter with the public could turn into a serious incident. Hill said the department policy is to turn cameras whenever there is contact, and if there is a problem with the camera, to report it to dispatchers so that it can be noted.
Different chiefs have different ideas of where cameras should be worn. Johnson said Gadsden's officers have magnetic body cameras that can attach to their protective vests in the middle of the chest.
Jones said Southside officers have the option to wear cameras where they see fit, but he believes positioning them on an officer's chest is best. "To me, that gives you the face-to-face view," he said.
Kelly said Glencoe will likely update its cameras before long, and he would like to use a camera mounted on glasses.
"That shows what an officer sees," he said. "If he turns his head to check traffic at an intersection, you see what he sees."
In the years since body cameras have been in use locally, most departments are on a second generation of hardware and have seen tremendous upgrades in the quality of images the cameras provide.
Like any technology, the equipment is expensive, and so is Cloud storage for the digital images recorded by the cameras. The higher the resolution of the images, the more storage space required.
Cody said the GPD has been fortunate that the mayor and City Council have supported the department in keeping equipment up-to-date. Most chiefs echoes that sentiment; they, too, have the support of their muncipal governments. City leaders may see it as a wise investment — an ounce of prevention to stave off paying for a pound of cure, should an officer be falsely accused of brutality or misconduct
These school districts tried to arm coaches. It's harder than it sounds.
More than a third of the school systems had problems getting the controversial program off the ground.
by Katherine Campione, Vincent McDonald and Christina Morales 12 hours ago
After the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, Brevard County Schools Assistant Superintendent Matt Reed faced a challenge unlike any in his career.
His team had to find, hire and train more than two dozen new employees to carry firearms on school campuses and protect students in the event of a school shooter. They had less than six months.
The district missed the deadline.
“Even though school started in August, it really was another month and a half after school started that we were ready,” Reed said.
Brevard isn't the only school system to have trouble complying with a new state law that allows certain employees to be armed, according to an examination of how the program is being implemented across the state by the Tampa Bay Times and University of Florida student journalists.
Some small districts struggled to recruit enough so-called school guardians to keep their schools safe. Levy County launched a program, only to have nobody apply for weeks.
Others had trouble with the guardians they hired. In Duval County, a school safety assistant was arrested for pawning a service weapon issued to him by the school district. In Hillsborough, a school security deputy resigned after exposing students to pepper spray.
The problems have piled up, largely unnoticed, even as the concept of vastly expanding the controversial program has gathered momentum.
Last month, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommended the Legislature allow teachers to participate, saying the current law is too restrictive to keep kids safe.
The Coach Aaron Feis School Guardian Program currently allows certain school-district employees who are not classroom teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus.
School guardians cannot make arrests. But they are expected to protect students in the case of an active shooter.
The program was created last year as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, which aimed to increase school security in the wake of the shooting in Parkland. Florida school boards were required to either put a sworn law enforcement officer or a guardian on every campus.
The legislature gave them until the start of the school year to comply.
The idea of putting more guns on elementary and secondary school campuses has transfixed the state and the nation. President Donald Trump tweeted his support for arming teachers last year. In Broward County, where the shooting took place, the concept sparked protests. School board members first voted against arming school personnel, then conceded they couldn't afford to comply with the law any other way.
Journalists at the University of Florida participating in a data reporting class under the direction of Times editors reviewed news clips from around the state and reached out to many of the school districts that opted to use guardians in their traditional schools. More than a third of the 24 districts had problems in the program's first few months.
Pinellas and Pasco did not have obvious issues. Hernando did not participate.
In Brevard, pushback from the community held up the process, Reed said.
The sheriff didn't want to survey the community and hold town hall meetings on the subject “in part because that would have meant that the security specialists or the guardians, whatever we choose, would not have been trained by the first day of school,” he said.
The Okeechobee School Board decided to participate in June. But the Okeechobee Sheriff's Office won't begin training guardians until January 2019, Sgt. Michael Hazellief said.
Hazellief said training six to 10 volunteers would be challenging because of the high standards set in the law.
“We have that many people who are interested,” he said. “Out of that, I doubt we'll have that high of a success rate.”
The Lafayette County school district also began the year without any guardians, Sheriff Brian Lamb said. By January, a few volunteers were nearing the end of the training process, but none were active in schools.
“It's gonna be hard for us to get it all completed,” Lamb said.
Levy County had no applicants at the start of October, Assistant Superintendent John Lott said. Asked in January if anyone had applied, Lott would not give an answer, citing security risks.
“You don't want the bad guys to know whether you've got 100 (guardians) or one,” Lott said.
Duval County faced a different kind of challenge: Several parents sued the school district on November, claiming that it is illegal for school safety assistants to carry weapons on school grounds.
“The (school) board adopted a program to hire inadequately trained individuals who are not law enforcement officers to carry guns while policing public schools,” the parents wrote.
Three nonprofit organizations — the League of Women Voters, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Southern Poverty Law Center — joined the lawsuit, which calls for the removal of firearms from the safety assistants' possession.
Duval County Schools spokesman Tracy Pierce declined to comment on the litigation.
The school safety assistants were required to undergo 200 hours of training, including firearms courses, from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, according to the Duval County Public Schools website.
In Manatee County, guardian John Cinque was fired from his duties at Kinnan Elementary School in Sarasota after the Bradenton Herald unearthed a series of controversial post on his Facebook page.
One displayed a SWAT helmet with a bullet hole, according to a district investigatory report. The caption — “Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer's life if necessary” — was attributed to an 1893 court case in the Indiana Supreme Court. The quotation, however, does not appear in the ruling.
Cinque told school district investigators that he “stood by his beliefs,” but said he was “not a right-wing extremist.” He could not be reached for comment for this report.
Manatee County school district attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum declined to discuss Cinque's case in further detail, but said guardians were trained and advised on social media in advance.
District officials were taking a closer look at the guardians' social media accounts, he added.
In Hillsborough County, a school security deputy resigned after exposing several Lopez Elementary School students to pepper spray, according to the county sheriff's office.
One student was taken to the school nurse and had to be treated with water and ice, the report said.
The district is using contracted deputies until it can hire and train more people to add to its armed security team. One of those deputies, Patricia Parker, sprayed the chemical agent into a napkin to show it to four students who were curious about the gear on her belt, the sheriff's office said. Three students sat nearby and came into contact with the spray.
Hillsborough County Public Schools Security Services Chief John Newman said the chemical spray “doesn't know a good guy or a bad guy.”
“It comes out in a big splat, and well, that splat will have collateral contamination in that classroom,” he said.
Parker, 56, began working with the sheriff's office in May 1990 and retired from service in 2015. She was rehired in July as a school security deputy and resigned after the incident. She could not be reached for comment.
“That deputy retired that day knowing she had not performed to the standard we expect,” Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman Daniel Alvarez said. “That's not a toy and she knew that.”
A new deputy was put in the school when Parker resigned, Newman said.
Across the state, Duval County school safety assistant James Richard Johnson was arrested for pawning a service weapon issued to him by the school district two separate times, records show.
He used the Glock handgun for collateral to borrow $300 in August, records show.
Then, on Oct. 5, he pawned the weapon again, this time for $230.
Johnson could not be reached for comment. He resigned in October.
Danielle Thomas, the legislation chairwoman for the Florida PTA, said her organization had worried problems like this might arise if the state approved a school guardian program. The PTA wanted only sworn law enforcement officers on campuses, she said.
Thomas said she hopes to see the state lawmakers consider changes to the guardian program when the legislative session begins in March.
“We don't want to necessarily be lenient on timelines,” she said. “But understand that not everything can be done in really short time frames if we want to do this and do this well.
How to Deal with Cops Who Believe Wild Conspiracy Theories Like QAnon
Mike Pence appeared in a photo with a cop wearing a "QAnon" patch, and he got demoted. But how many more like him are out there?
by Mark Hay
Last year, Matt Patten, a sergeant with the Broward County, Florida, sheriff's office, set off a minor scandal when he posed for a photo with Vice President Mike Pence while wearing an agency-issued SWAT vest bearing a "QAnon" patch that read "question the narrative." Depending on who you ask, QAnon is either an amorphous, continually shifting pro-Trump conspiracy theory or possible anti-Trump prank that has been percolating in the cultural ether for well over a year. Among other views, many adherents hold (incorrectly, of course) that the president is secretly working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to expose high-level Democrats' involvement in a murderous, Satanic pedophile ring.
About a month ago, the sheriff's office disciplined Patten for violating its employee conduct and uniform policies. (The 31-year vet was removed from the local Homeland Security branch and SWAT team and chided for breaching official practices of political neutrality.) But Patten is hardly the only cop who has voiced, shown solidarity with—or shared materials related to—a conspiracy theory. Famously, after the Umpqua Community College mass shooting in 2015, reporters found that local sheriff John Hanlin had previously shared content on his personal Facebook page suggesting the feds may have staged the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting—and even the 9/11 terrorist attacks—as pretenses to disarm the public by way of gun control laws. The posts Hanlin engaged with—seemingly approvingly—also advanced the idea that the parents of murdered Sandy Hook children were, in fact, “crisis actors.” Likewise, notorious (albeit pardoned) criminal and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio used his office, and public resources, right up until his ouster in a 2016 election, to promote the racist anti-Obama “birther” conspiracy theory. Neither Arpaio nor Hanlin appear to have faced real pushback for their conspiratorial alignments (though Hanlin later denied believing the crisis actor theory).And those are just the high-profile, national cases.
It is tempting to brush off most instances of cops aligning themselves with conspiracy theories. After all, according to some research, the majority of Americans believe in some kind of conspiracy theory, and usually that belief doesn't amount to very much. But the last two years have demonstrated that conspiratorial beliefs can morph into concerning—or worse—real-world actions. The presence of unabashed conspiracy theorists in the White House, the president chief among them, has also arguably emboldened peddlers of these toxic or just not-factual ideas. In the case of law-enforcement officers, it is not unreasonable to worry that a clear adherence to a conspiracy theory—an honest belief, say, that the Democratic Party is one big pedophile ring, that many mass shootings are “false flag” operations, or that liberal protestors are paid actors—may seriously bias their interactions with the public or compromise criminal investigations. At the very least, their open association with these ideas could spread misinformation, or (further) erode public trust in law-enforcement institutions.
So what can be done about law-enforcement officials who, in one way or another, align themselves with conspiracy theories? VICE reached out to Samuel Walker, a prominent expert on police law and conduct and emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, for perspective.
VICE: In general, is it appropriate for law enforcement officers, given the place of authority they hold in their communities, to voice belief in or share stuff related to conspiracy theories?
Samuel Walker: Basically, off the job, police officers enjoy the same free speech rights that the rest of us do. If they're publicly putting out conspiracy theories about a case that they or the department are working on, that is different. That would be a violation of department policy; an officer can't publicly discuss the background of a robbery suspect or someone who has been arrested, for example. But in terms of things unrelated to department activities, how are conspiracy theories different from most religious beliefs? Where do you draw the line? Are you saying there are some theories of how the world and universe operate that are acceptable and some that are not?
Where it gets trickier is when you get into areas of race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual [identity]. What if a police officer is a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Is that person disqualified from being a police officer? I think it depends on the officer's actions. If there is evidence of discriminatory actions in, for instance, traffic stops or uses of force, the officer should be disciplined for that. And a person's membership in a racist organization then becomes relevant to the extent of his or her [racist] beliefs [and thus the discipline meted out]. But if a person is a member of whatever group and that officer's conduct on the force is without any serious blemish, I don't think it's relevant.
Threats against the president of the United States are a crime. So an officer can express his or her opinion about whoever happens to be president. But if it verges into the territory of incitement, as in “somebody ought to take care of that guy,” well, that's a crime, and that person is not fit to be a police officer. So there are a bunch of different areas and some are clear and some are grey.
Officers may have the same private free speech rights as anyone else. But is the situation different if one is using their position with a law enforcement agency, or the resources of an agency, to broadcast a conspiracy theory, or broadcasting it while on the job?
Samuel Walker: Yes, very much so. A police officer is a public servant. Their commitment is to neutrality, dealing with all people on an equal basis. So a police officer cannot be communicating a political message on the job. I regard that as pretty serious.
On public policy issues, such as legalizing marijuana or gun control, there are a number of police chiefs who are very active as advocates. Chiefs regularly testify before state legislatures and city councils on these public policy issues. As a group, they have a right and responsibility to comment on what is in the best interest in terms of community safety. Obviously, people are going to disagree on, say, guns. But if there's a public policy issue and they have direct, professional expertise, they should have a First Amendment right there. So I would make an exception there.
What if a conspiracy theorist in law enforcement honestly believes that, say, a massive, Democrat-run pedophile ring is a real and major public safety concern? Does that open a free speech window to use a position in law enforcement to speak on the QAnon theory?
Samuel Walker: I don't think so. We can draw some lines between those [issues] that have some—and it's very difficult—legitimacy [as public policy issues], and others that are verging over into issues unrelated to the law enforcement profession. In the whole world of First Amendment law, there are some things that are very clear, and some things that are very difficult and murky.
For conspiracy theory-related actions that clearly violate on-the-job, official-capacity neutrality, or other codes of conduct, are there clear standards for discipline?
Samuel Walker: We have no national standards for policing. We have 18,000 separate local police departments—15,000 city police departments and 3,000 county sheriffs. The only applicable national standard would be Supreme Court decisions. The Miranda decision is a national standard. But 99 percent of police work involves issues where there is no national standard. On some issues, some states have statutes that cover areas of policing. Since Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, there's been a real rash of laws about police accountability in terms of open records and transparency.
But one of the real problems in this country is that we have these 18,000 separate, independent, local law enforcement agencies. And they do most of the work in policing.
So for something like the QAnon patch incident, it's essentially just local discretion, or local law if relevant, that dictates discipline for a flagrant violation of on-the-job neutrality?
Samuel Walker: Right, that's the current situation. Should the law enforcement official be disciplined and they appeal [and] that discipline and that appeal goes all the way to the Supreme Court, that decision, one way or the other, would be a definitive national standard. Or, if it just went to the state Supreme Court, it would be a statewide standard, but would have no applicability in any other state.
What if an official espouses or shares content related to a conspiracy theory that has nothing to do with legitimate public safety policy concerns, and makes many under their jurisdiction feel uncomfortable, but there is no clear reprimand for their blatant political maneuvering while on the job—like with Joe Arpaio (who had no "boss" per se, as an elected cop)? Or what if their constituents feel like a reprimand that comes down is insufficient for the scale of the breach of trust or neutrality involved?
Samuel Walker: There is some room for challenging some kinds of political actions. What I think happened with Joe Arpaio was, he was so bad in so many ways, and the profiling [of Latinos] issue was so dominant, that a lot of these things went unchallenged, just swamped by so much other stuff.
So some of this just comes down to how salient something an official says or does seems in relation to other concerns about a given department at a given time?
Samuel Walker: Yeah, especially in an extreme situation, which that was.
What about situations in which a law enforcement official shares conspiracy theory content on their personal social media channels, while off duty, but that private speech is visible enough that it causes concern among those under their jurisdiction about how they might act on the job, potentially influencing public faith in, or interactions with, law enforcement?
Samuel Walker: That's a good question, and a difficult one. I hadn't really thought about this too much.
It seems like a concern that might grow more prominent in the coming years, as there is increasingly room online for people in positions of power to technically privately express their views, but still have them become very public expressions that might seem to many to have some relevance to how they could potentially approach official, on-the-job matters.
If it involved derogatory comments about immigration, for example, then it's touched upon equal protection issues. It would be the same if it was about a particular religious group.
Here's what needs to happen: One of the law enforcement professional associations needs to set up a working group on all of these related issues and come up with recommended national standards.
Would any professional group take this on, though? When this issue comes up, it's usually an isolated case in one jurisdiction, while other sources of misconduct or decreased public trust in law enforcement relate to more apparently systematic and major issues. Isn't this issue so sporadic that it would be functionally difficult to mobilize professional group action on it?
Samuel Walker: I don't see it as being that farfetched an issue. Maybe there needs to be one high-profile case to spark work on it. But I can see it happening. And it is really needed.