Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
City councilors announce plan to increase community policing on Route 66
by Ryan Laughlin
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City councilors say more than 200 new businesses have popped up since ART construction ended and they plan on using $1 million for community policing. They intend to hire 10 new bike patrol officers for the Central corridor.
"To prioritize safety and a way to invite customers back to Central, and so today is our announcement of how we intend to do just that," said city councilor Pat Davis.
Davis said the money will come from a proposed amendment to the city's budget. The money will be generated from the new internet sales tax.
Dan Garcia from Garcia's Kitchen says he's hopeful about the new plan. There have been multiple incidents at his business recently.
"They just broke our windows, all our windows in the front," Garcia said. "One guy actually got in through our back door and stole the computer and stuff."
Garcia says hopefully it will get better with police patrol because people will feel more secure.
The Albuquerque Police Department's Deputy Chief of Staff Elizabeth Armijo says hiring has already begun, and she estimates some of the officers will be patrolling Central by this summer.
"Knowing that the officers are engaged, I think that's huge for the community," Armijo said.
There's another $500,000 planned for marketing grant money.
Yale committed to community policing in wake of officer-involved shooting
by Ben Lambert
NEW HAVEN — Yale police reiterated their commitment to community policing as they discussed the April 16 police shooting that involved one of its members and a Hamden officer who fired on an unarmed couple who had been stopped after a reported robbery.
Officer Martin Parker, one of the Yale Police Department's community engagement officers, told those gathered for a Yale University Community Breakfast Wednesday that he works to build a bridge between city residents and university police — and to help people, both in the department and in the city, see each other as acquaintances and friends instead of strangers, fostering familiarity, respect and rapport.
Parker said the work is personal for him. He's a native of the Newhallville neighborhood. He's had family members shot; he's had to arrest family members. He's experienced the relationship between police and the community — and the anger and pain of residents — from both sides of the equation.
“I work for my hometown. I wear New Haven on my chest. I wear New Haven in my heart,” said Parker, in response to a question about how he balanced his loyalty to Yale and to city residents. “This is life for me.”
In addition to the other forms of the work — from turkey drives to buying Thanksgiving dinner for a Bristol Street family to intervening when a 12-year-old boy was detained for kicking a police car — Parker said he wanted to talk with the community to improve policing and the relationship between officers and residents.
He asked those in attendance and beyond to be a part of that dialogue, both now, when the energy, pain and passion sparked by the shooting of Stephanie Washington, 22, is fresh, and in the future.
Community residents are still grappling with the police shooting, in which Hamden Officer Devin Eaton and Yale Office Terrance Pollock fired at Paul Witherspoon III, 21, leaving his girlfriend, Washington, wounded. There have been many protests and rallies calling for justice and for the officers to be fired; Yale students have been part of some of the events.
“(The shooting) touched me — it hurts me on a lot of different levels. So yes, I understand the anger. I understand the pain. Right now, until the investigation's over, we can't do anything about it,” said Parker. “But what can we do as a community to more forward, to better the relationships, to change what needs to be changed?”
“Be angry — be passionate — every day to create the change that you want. Come to the police department, call Martha (Ross, a fellow community engagement officer) and myself. Come to the community management teams meeting and express your anger every day,” said Parker. “Because I can tell you — we are listening to you.”
“I hate going home every night and realizing, damn, people hate my profession. It hurts. Honestly, yes, it does,” said Parker. “I tell people: I don't want to change the world. I have no passion, no want, no need to change the world ... but I will change New Haven. I will change my community; I will change Newhallville. I can start there ... Yale PD can start there, but again we need community participation. We need to come together, we need to talk, we need to build.”
In response to a question about how Yale police were dealing with the continuing effects of racism and bias, Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk said the relationship between police and city residents had improved dramatically during his career. But trust was still being built — and, as happened with the “tragic situation” of the shooting, could be lost quickly.
“It really isn't my quote — it's the chief's quote — but it's spot on: We're gaining trust drop by drop. We gain it drop by drop,” said Woznyk. “When we lose it, we lose it bucket by bucket. And now we're back to where we started at square one.”
Woznyk also responded to the idea, raised by some protesters in the wake of the shooting as well as during Wednesday's breakfast, that Yale police officers should be disarmed.
He said he believed he and Higgins would be willing to discuss the idea, but noted that Yale officers had been armed since the department was founded in 1894, and incidents like the Argyle Street shooting were rare.
Not having a firearm may make it harder for police to do their job, he said, noting that the department could be called to respond to a shooting such as the one at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Tuesday.
The Connecticut State Police investigation into the police shooting is ongoing. Hamden officials also have begun an investigation.
Surveillance footage published Tuesday appears to show the encounter between Witherspoon and a newspaper delivery driver at the Go On Gas station on Arch Street.
In the video, Witherspoon stops the delivery driver as he attempts to step up to the front of the store; the two speak momentarily. Witherspoon appears to touch the other man, who then hands off the papers, apparently in a slot in the store's door. Witherspoon then follows the driver back to his vehicle before turning away, seeming to tap on the rear bumper as he goes.
The clerk at the gas station called 911 afterward, telling dispatchers that Witherspoon had “pulled a gun” on the driver.
This set into motion an investigation into a reported armed robbery, which ended with Eaton and Pollock firing at Witherspoon as he stepped out of a Honda Civic on Argyle Street.
The clerk later told police he had not actually seen a gun in Witherspoon's hand, according to an affidavit seeking a warrant to search the Civic.
Witherspoon told state police “that he was involved in an altercation with a newspaper delivery man at the gas station but denied ever showing a gun, implying that he had a gun, or that he was in possession of a gun,” according to the affidavit.
The delivery driver later told police that he was “100% sure that the black male (Witherspoon) was trying to rob him.”
The clerk no longer works at the gas station, a staffer there said Wednesday.
Boston Police rolling out body camera program
BOSTON - After a successful, year-long pilot program, Boston Police officers will officially be equipped with body cameras.
Officers in South Boston and parts of Dorchester have already started receiving the body camera equipment, and will reportedly begin training next Monday and start wearing the cameras later this spring.
Despite opposition from the union representing officers, Boston Police participated in a one-year body camera pilot program.
A report jointly released by researchers at Northeastern University and the City of Boston last year says the cameras yield "small but meaningful benefits" in encounters between residents and police.
The number of complaints against officers and use of excessive force complaints also dropped slightly.
From 2013 to 2017, the number of complaints against officers decreased 46 percent, from 350 complaints in 2013 to 189 complaints in 2017. Additionally, use of force reports generated by BPD officers between 2013 and 2017 decreased by 52.3 percent, from 107 reports in 2014 to 51 use of force reports in 2017.
One hundred officers participated in the pilot program, which concluded in September 2017. The body cameras generated about 38,200 videos that covered more than 4,600 hours of police work in Boston neighborhoods.
“Boston is a model city in our nation for having strong police-community relations, and our goal is to continue building trust and positive relationships between law enforcement officers and community members," Mayor Marty Walsh told the Boston Globe.
Last year, the city projected the cost of the program to hit $8.5 million in the first three years, with a little more than $3 million a year after that.
"The Body Worn Camera Pilot process and study have been very important in understanding firsthand what members of the community believe will help the city move forward and how technology can play a role," said Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross. "I look forward to the opportunity to lead our officers in adding this program to our community policing strategy and strengthening relationships across this city."
A Surprising Downside of Bodycams
A former police officer explains how a body-worn camera forced her to do everything by the book—even when that might not have been in the community's best interest.
by KATIE MILLER
It was a routine traffic stop. A Subaru Forester blew past a stop sign in northwest D.C., and I pulled it over. But the driver, a middle-aged woman with an infant in the back seat, seemed shifty.
“Good afternoon, ma'am. My name is Officer Miller. May I please see your license, registration, and proof of insurance?”
“I don't have my license on me,” she blurted.
“No problem.” I pulled my notebook and pen out of my back pocket and handed it to her. “I can look your license up in the system. Please write down your name and date of birth.”
The driver didn't reach for my notebook. Instead, she reached for her purse and said, “I'm sorry. I just lied to you.” She handed me her license—two years expired. I was supposed to arrest her. I looked at the grocery bags on the floor and then the child, wide-eyed, my red and blue lights splashing across his hairless head. Violating protocol, I asked the woman to park the car and call a friend to pick her up. In five minutes, she was gone.
That traffic stop took place at the tail end of 2015. I couldn't have gotten away with that decision today.
I didn't know it then, but the era of “nothing to see here” and “keep it moving, folks” was coming to an end. A year earlier, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. Amid calls for increased police accountability, a prominent reform that took root was body-worn cameras for officers. Not long after that traffic stop, I was wearing one too.
Seemingly overnight, keeping my job meant doing everything by the book.
At first, I loved it—the impartial third party affixed to my chest. I could review video when I forgot something a witness told me, letting me include extra details in my reports at the end of the shift. The footage squashed false complaints at a time when it felt like everybody hated the police. I watched my colleagues speak more respectfully to citizens and fellow officers.
But the new system wasn't without its downsides. My footage was subject to review by my supervisors, who could punish violations of our general orders, no matter how petty. Body cameras provided a piece of evidence shown to judges, juries, and, of course, defense attorneys, who could now pick apart both my recorded voice and my testimony at trial. And it was a public record the mayor sometimes released to local news outlets when there was a use-of-force incident. Seemingly overnight, keeping my job meant doing everything by the book.
And seemingly overnight, the technology proliferated. Before Ferguson, there were only a couple dozen police departments piloting body-worn cameras. Today, half of the country's 18,000 police departments have them. The change was sweeping, and it was fast.
Part of this is because the perceived benefits of body-worn cameras are obvious—citizens and officers behave better in the presence of a camera. Yet studies do not present a clear picture of their effectiveness. According to some, a bodycam program is correlated with a reduction in civilian complaints against officers as well as use-of-force incidents. But a study conducted on the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, where I worked, found no meaningful change at all in these statistics.
Regardless of their broader efficacy, my colleagues and I adapted our behavior to preserve our relationship with members of the community, even as body cameras forced an unfamiliar formality with them. Gone were the days of being able to tell a mom to park her Subaru. I made fewer traffic stops. I spent less time patrolling on foot. If I discovered a homeless person urinating in public, the video forced me to fine him, arrest him, or violate general orders by not recording the interaction. I used to pop into a market on New Hampshire Avenue and holler at Mike, the owner, who gave me the latest news from the block. Technically, I should have pressed “record” the moment he indicated there was criminal activity underfoot, like people blocking the sidewalk in front of his business.
For fans of The Wire , a television show about politics, police, and crime in Baltimore, my dilemma may ring familiar. In most American cities, it's unlawful to consume alcohol in public—an ordinance that burdens both the police who have to enforce it and people in low-income neighborhoods, where the addicted and unemployed sit on stoops and at street corners, passing Mad Dog 20/20 or Colt 45 back and forth. Thus, an official explained in one episode, drinking from a brown paper bag came to be a gentlemen's agreement. By concealing the beverage, police weren't obligated to address it and folks could enjoy their beverages on a hot summer day without interruption. It didn't make drinking in public lawful; it provided a workaround for police and citizens who agreed it was frivolous.
Body-worn cameras had the reverse impact of the brown paper bag. Whereas the brown bag gave officers permission to look the other way, the body-worn camera was a third party making certain we didn't. So, bodycams may have made it easier to hold bad cops accountable for their actions, but they also have the effect of holding citizens strictly accountable for theirs.
I did what I could to preserve community policing, but when I was called to people's homes for family disputes, it was particularly challenging. Often, I found, people call police because they want someone to listen to them. They don't necessarily want anybody locked up. They're inviting a third party to a matter that overwhelms them. I found this most common with single mothers dealing with rebellious children. Before body-worn cameras, I was happy to listen fully to their account of events, describe civil and criminal recourses, and take their preferences into account when deciding whether an arrest was prudent. If a mother told me her child had broken something of hers in a heated argument, we could talk candidly about her safety and whether a police intervention was the best strategy to address the problem
Since the adoption of body cameras, the law is the law. If a person described being the victim of a crime while I was interviewing them, I was obligated to take police action. I once interrupted a mother who called 911 on her son, pointed to the camera on my chest, and said, “If you're about to report a crime, we have a duty to apply for a warrant for his arrest.” Her son was a young man of color without a criminal history. She was unharmed but frustrated. And there was a hole in the drywall that could have been punched in. Whether it became evidence that her son committed a crime was entirely dependent upon what she chose to say next.
She nodded, suppressing the mouthful she had rehearsed before I had even arrived, understanding the discretion I had given her. We stood looking at one another for a moment—the two of us, skirting a system.
Even if the benefits of body-worn cameras are disputed, the technology is likely here to stay. Once they are outfitted with them, police officers generally believe the pros outweigh the cons. Citizens are supportive of them. Though it made community policing more difficult for me, with clever communication, I could work around it—I could build the trust that it, ironically, was intended to foster.
That's because I'm confident good cops will always find a way to be good cops. And as much as I hope it spells change for the bad apples, that conclusion is far from foregone.
As I wrapped up on the scene with the mother who called 911, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you, ma'am?”
She said, “No, I guess not.” As I turned to leave, she went out of her way to add, “Thank you.” My department's motto was: “We are here to help.” When I left the department last year, it struck me how much harder that mission had become.
In El Salvador, a Thin Line Between Community Policing and Vigilantism
by Tristan Clavel
Authorities in El Salvador are keen to expand a much-praised local policing model believed to have helped two rural communities tackle bloody gang control. But a visit to the areas revealed a murky combination of factors behind the security gains, including indications of vigilantism.
On a dirt road leading to the villages of Guajoyo and Miramar in the municipality of Tecoluca, some 80 kilometers east of the capital, San Salvador, a rusty checkpoint barrier blocks an unpaved path cutting through the countryside.
Uncultivated fields sprawl on either side of the dirt road, in one direction to the foot of a mountainous forest looming in the distance that once served as a hideout for guerrilla insurgents who fought in El Salvador's civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s.
*This article is part of an investigation on state and community responses to extortion in Central America and was carried out by InSight Crime as a joint project with the Global Initiative. See the rest of the series here.
A few kilometers back stands the landmark “Golden Bridge,” one of the biggest and most impressive engineering feats in El Salvador until it was famously blown up in 1981 by a commando from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional – FMLN), the guerrilla group that later became the governing political party.
The civil war is long over, and the FMLN flags flying above so many of the rural households here now represent a non-violent political movement rather than armed revolution — a sign of how far the country has come in securing peace. But the war in this region gave way to another conflict, this time between the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs as well as state security forces, which turned the area once again into a battleground.
Juan José Leyva, a sturdy man in his mid-fifties who is an officer with Tecoluca's municipal police (Cuerpo de Agentes Municipales – CAM), remembers that the presence of gangs began expanding in 2012.
Early one evening in 2014, he was stationed in Tecoluca's central plaza when he says three gang members walked up to him, two with weapons visibly tucked under their shirts, the third with his gun in his hand.
“So tell me, if we kill someone right here are you guys [the municipal police] going to get involved?” Leyva says they asked him.
The police officer says he told them that if they attacked innocent men, women or children, then yes, the CAM would retaliate. But if they happened to run rival gang members out of town and deal with them elsewhere, it wouldn't be of the CAM's concern.
“We'll take that into account,” Leyva remembers the young gang member saying.
Under increasing pressure from urban security forces in the 2000s, gang members had migrated to the countryside, setting up some of the same activities that make up their bread and butter in cities, such as extortion. With this geographical shift, violence increased, with rising homicides blamed on extortion and score-settling.
Another Tecoluca police officer, José Ambrosio, told InSight Crime that the situation around Guajoyo and Miramar quickly worsened in 2014 with the arrival of a hardened Barrio 18 gang member, Apolonio Neftalí Rivera Durán, alias “Polo.” By 2015, some businesses near the Golden Bridge were paying up to $100 a week in extortion to the gang — nearly half the monthly minimum wage for a commercial employee.
In June 2015, things came to a head. A police operation to arrest the gang's second-in-command in the area resulted in the suspect's death. The following day, members of the Barrio 18's Revolucionarios faction dragged the daughter of a local Guajoyo community leader from her house onto the main road, and in broad daylight executed her and her father, who tried to intervene.
Shock to the System
The motive behind the killings was uncertain — the daughter reportedly was in a relationship with one of the local gang members — but the bloody incident sent ripples through the community. Fourteen families fled, while the rest organized to create a local committee for violence prevention and increased their cooperation with local police, which helped lead to the dismantling of the gang, according to authorities.
Ambrosio, the police officer, says that the development of community policing in the area dates back as early as 2010, but that it was the desperation provoked by the killing of the leader and his daughter that really brought the local population closer to law enforcement, who simultaneously saw the opportunity to launch an outreach campaign.
“First, [law enforcement] succeeded in gaining the population's trust,” local community leader Miguel Ángel Cruz told InSight Crime.
“Before, we would have community meetings and there would be no law enforcement participation. Since then, there hasn't been a single social meeting without a member of the police present, giving out a speech or training,” he added.
The renewed trust spurred the sharing of information by locals that allowed police to take down the local gang structure. By the end of 2016, all fourteen families had returned to their homes.
Praising the security gains achieved in the area since the peak of the violence, authorities at the national level are pushing to replicate a model known as the Local Violence Prevention Committee (Comité Local de Prevención de la Violencia – CLPV), through which law enforcement and the Guajoyo and Miramar communities cooperated. In April, the government announced that it was hoping to see 23 new CLPVs in the area.
Ambrosio's superior, Police Commissioner Gerson Pérez, in charge of the department of San Vicente, also insisted that the community's social cohesion was key to the successful model.
“These are places that have remained organized since the war,” Pérez noted.
Community Policing or Vigilantism?
There is a consensus among officials and non-governmental observers that the lack of trust in Salvadoran law enforcement is one of the main obstacles to bringing down extortion levels and prosecuting gang members. Improving the flow of information from communities to law enforcement appears to be a step in the right direction.
But improved cooperation alone may not fully explain how such a powerful gang presence was dealt with so quickly.
Two sources requesting anonymity told InSight Crime that extrajudicial killings and executions of gang members had taken place during the period in which locals were trying to force the gangs out of the area — a period during which murder accusations against security forces jumped by 630 percent at the national level.
Such a hypothesis would be in line with a national and regional pattern of extortion victims taking justice into their own hands. Some politicians are advocating for a bill to legalize self-defense movements against gangs. The president of Congress, Guillermo Gallegos, has even boasted about financing the arming of a vigilante group.
At the national level, extrajudicial killings by Salvadoran security forces have also become an issue. Several investigations have revealed the existence of death squads led by police and military, sometimes in coordination with community members. And local press reports suggest that a combination of policing efforts and a vigilante movement by locals pushed gang members out of Miramar and Guajoyo.
Ambrosio vehemently denies these claims, but Commissioner Pérez told a different story.
“It doesn't really matter if they [the civilians] were armed or not,” Pérez told InSight Crime, choosing to highlight the communities' concerted effort to coordinate with local authorities.
Officials and experts consulted by InSight Crime concurred that the ability of a community to organize itself is essential to resisting gang infiltration and criminal activities like extortion. All agreed that measures such as Tecoluca's community policing program can go a long way in undermining gang structures.
But the story of Guajoyo and Miramar suggests that attempts to replicate this model in other communities should take into account the potential for abuses by both community members and security forces.
Vallejo, California, calls in the 'peacemakers.' But residents are skeptical.
As the city invites DOJ mediators to ease racial tensions following the killing of a black man by police, the agency involved may be gutted.
In cities where racial strife has flared following high-profile deaths — such as in Sanford, Florida, in 2013; Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014; and Baltimore in 2015 — the federal government's "peacemakers" have been called in to cool the tensions.
Now, those mediators who belong to the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service have been invited by city officials to the Bay Area community of Vallejo, California. Residents there have complained of a wider pattern of excessive force and overly aggressive policing, highlighted by the death in February of a young black man named Willie McCoy, who was fatally shot by six officers. McCoy's was the 16th death involving Vallejo officers since 2011, police records show.
This isn't the first time Vallejo has asked for assistance from that same agency, and residents and activists say they're cautious about the likelihood of changes happening — given that the mediators have no power to investigate or enforce recommendations for the police department.
"All we want is an unbiased person to come in and say, 'Yes, we've looked at what's happened and determined the police needs to change its policy with X, Y and Z," said Liat Meitzenheimer, a Vallejo resident who helped to coordinate the DOJ's community meetings in 2013 following the fatal police-involved shooting of a black man in his car.
"Otherwise, we've been down this road before," she said.
The Community Relations Service also assisted in Vallejo in 2004, following the death of a man who was tased by police 17 times.
Lawyer Melissa Nold, whose firm is representing the McCoy family and others in litigation against the Vallejo Police Department, blasted the decision.
"I would say that they are not at all serious about reform because they're requesting the assistance of a division of DOJ with no enforcement or investigatory powers," Nold said. "Vallejo doesn't have a community relations problem, it has a culture of violence and lack of supervision problem. CRS cannot address those problems."
In a news release Friday announcing its invitation to the DOJ for help, city officials said they would be coordinating a "community engagement plan," as well as reviewing and reducing the city's risk liabilities. Since 2011, civil rights lawsuits and claims in connection with the police department have cost Vallejo more than $7 million in settlements.
"To improve, we must listen, assess, review, plan and change," City Manager Greg Nyhoff said in a statement. "Whether we celebrate areas we are strong in or change areas where we are weak, every step we take will be to improve the quality of life for our residents and the working environment of our employees."
The last time the DOJ came into Vallejo, a city of about 122,000, community meetings were held and there was a list of requests, including cultural and sensitivity training for officers, youth outreach, a whistleblower program, and having a dedicated person in the department act as a liaison for the family of people killed in police-involved incidents.
But Meitzenheimer, who's encouraged by the city's involvement, said that while some of those requests were implemented, others fell by the wayside — and allowed for the current divisions to crystallize.
"If you keep ignoring what the community wants, it's like a pressure cooker. It's going to come out somewhere," Meitzenheimer said. "I'm afraid it's going to explode."
Don Jordan, chairman of the African American Alliance, a politically active organization in the city, said he'd like to see an independent investigator with no connection to the police department or its union that can review policies and make recommendations that stick.
"There has to be a better way," Jordan said.
Further complicating matters for cities looking to the federal government for direction is a proposal under the Trump administration that could essentially eliminate how the Community Relations Service operates.
The CRS would be gutted under a proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. If passed, the agency's funding of $15.5 million would be eliminated, 54 authorized positions cut and its duties transferred to the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
It's unclear how the agency's tasks would be structured within the Civil Rights Division.
The administration attempted to do the same under the fiscal year 2019 budget, when DOJ officials said the job of the agency could be done with fewer people and a smaller regional presence.
That proposal was criticized by civil rights advocates who said the purpose of the Community Relations Service would be weakened. The agency was established as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is the only federal agency dedicated to assisting state and local governments along with community groups to resolve racial conflict, as well as prevent hate crimes. Its services are free and confidential, and it has 10 regional offices.
The DOJ did not return emails seeking comment about the agency's status, and a spokeswoman declined to comment about any potential involvement in Vallejo.
Grande Lum, a former director of the Community Relations Service under the Obama administration, said moving the agency to the Civil Rights Division, which does have the ability to investigate a police department, could deter community officials and law enforcement agencies anxious about whether the DOJ would engender prosecution.
"It's important as a mediator to be perceived as neutral and unbiased," said Lum, now the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Menlo College in California.
The Community Relations Service's input was welcomed in Sanford, following the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett credited the agency for keeping the calm in his city as the case drew international attention and went to trial.
"I'd hate to say that we couldn't have done it without them, but I'd much rather learn from someone else's experience rather than my own misfortune," Triplett told MSNBC in 2013.
But Lum said communities, such as Vallejo, looking for outside guidance have fewer resources under the Trump administration. Another DOJ office, the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, would be defunded under the fiscal year 2020 budget and merged into another office. On top of its usual duties to advise, help train and do organizational assessments of a police force, the COPS office in recent years had been issuing public reports about police departments' problems.
Communities are "just going to get less support and less assistance from federal agencies right now," Lum said. "They have to turn to local, state, protesting and nonprofits in order to have their interests met or to make a difference."
Ronald Davis, who was the director of the COPS office under President Barack Obama and now consults with law enforcement agencies, said the work of the Community Relations Service and COPS would be undermined by reshuffling them into other parts of the department.
Ultimately, he added, it's not only residents but also police officers who deserve the chance to be heard.
"The job is easier and safer for officers when they have the community's back up and confidence," said Davis, a former officer in Oakland and police chief in East Palo Alto. "Officers are victims of bad policies, too."
Parkland retains BSO as their police provider
by Vanessa Medina
PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Officials have recommended that Parkland retain the Broward Sheriff's Office as the city's police provider.
After a nearly year-long review following the fatal mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, BSO will stay in Parkland for the next two years, the city announced Friday.
Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex Schachter in the February 2018 shooting, said that the families of all 17 victims support the city's decision.
“The new sheriff is building a state-of-the-art, $30 million training facility, and I know that he is going to make sure that during the next mass casualty event, his deputies respond, they go in and they save lives,” Schachter said.
The city of Parkland hired the Center for Public Safety Management to investigate whether BSO was the best choice as the city's police agency or if the city should create its own agency.
Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said, “CPSM cited an unfavorable national landscape for officer recruitment and retention, including that of a qualified police chief experienced in starting a new agency.”
BSO said they are involved in taking CPSM's recommendations to improve its community policing presence.
“We've instituted educational programs,” BSO Capt. Chris Mulligan said. “We are in the middle of putting together an explorer program for our 14 to 21-year-old young adults. Everywhere I go in the city and the contact I have with the residents, everything is positive.”
On the day of the mass shooting, there was a radio issue between BSO and Coral Springs Fire Rescue and other police agencies.
Coral Springs Fire Rescue Chief Frank Babinec said that issue has since been fixed.
“As we stand here today, both of our radios have each other's channels on them,” Babinec said. “Our firefighters are able to go to BSO's channels. BSO is able to come to our fire rescue channels.”
The contract between BSO and Parkland will expire on Sept. 30.
Negotiations between the two parties is scheduled to begin soon.
Parkland officials said if negotiations go well, they will renew their contract with BSO.
Ex-Fla. deputy says he acted properly during Parkland massacre
The LEO says he secured the building as he was trained, repeating his actions were based on "real time intelligence"
by Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The then-Florida sheriff's deputy assigned to protect the high school where 17 died in last year's massacre has filed a rebuttal to a commission's conclusion that he was "derelict in his duty," saying the findings were "biased" and not supported by evidence.
Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson said in a 14-page rebuttal to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission dated April 26 that he secured the three-story freshman building where the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting happened as he was trained, repeating several times his actions were based on "real time intelligence."
"The findings contained in the MSD Commission Report regarding my response to the shooting ... are blatantly false," Peterson wrote. A 30-year deputy who had been assigned to Stoneman Douglas for nine years, Peterson, 56, wrote the report "does not contain evidence to substantiate the findings regarding my law enforcement actions."
The rebuttal was first reported Thursday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The commission's January report found Peterson knew a gunman was inside but took cover rather than enter and confront the shooter. He refused to testify before the commission. Peterson resigned days after the shooting when he was told he was going to be suspended without pay and subject to an internal affairs investigation. He became a target of widespread public criticism, including from President Donald Trump.
Commissioner Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in the shooting, said Thursday that nothing in Peterson's rebuttal matches up with the facts, including the school's surveillance video and the testimony of other police officers.
"He keeps mentioning his 'real time intelligence,' but I wonder how things would have been different on Feb. 14 if he had shown some real-time courage. This is just a continuation of his cowardly behavior," Petty said.
According to surveillance video and the commission's report, Peterson was at the school's main office when the shooting began shortly before classes were to be dismissed for the day. Video shows two unarmed security monitors on a golf cart dropping Peterson off at the freshman building about 90 seconds after the shooting began. By this time, 21 people had been shot, nine fatally, on the first floor.
Peterson drew his gun, but told investigators and others he didn't enter because he thought a sniper was shooting from outside the building. He told investigators he only heard two or three shots — the shooter fired several dozen more shots after Peterson arrived, some of which were picked up by the body-camera microphone of an officer a quarter-mile away.
Peterson moved to the base of a stairwell at a nearby building. He radioed that shots had been fired and told dispatchers to have arriving deputies close down nearby intersections. He radioed to have deputies stay back 500 feet (152 meters). Bullets exited a second-floor window of the freshman-building, almost directly above Peterson's head. He remained at the stairwell for about 40 minutes, long after the shooting ended and other officers had entered. Commissioners contend that if Peterson had entered when he arrived, he may have been able to prevent the last eight fatal shootings.
Peterson wrote that as the first deputy on the scene, he had to establish a perimeter around the building to make sure no civilian entered and to coordinate the response. He pointed out that then-Broward Sheriff Scott Israel had changed the agency's policy to say deputies "may" engage an active shooter from "shall," saying this shows he "did nothing wrong." He said his thought that the shooter was outside was buttressed by police radio reports that shots had been fired at the football field and that an injured student was being treated at the neighboring middle school.
Peterson wrote that the commission failed to include "exculpatory evidence," calling that "reprehensible." He asked that his rebuttal be attached to the commission's report.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission's chairman, told the Sun Sentinel that won't happen, calling the rebuttal "a fairy tale."
"It makes me mad," Gualtieri said. "The reason why is he continues to engage in this self-serving rhetoric. He needs to take responsibility for his actions. He needs to fess up."
What you need to know about Brown's new budget proposal
by Deidre Williams
Mayor Byron W. Brown's $508.6 million proposed spending plan for 2019-20 is $4.9 million less than the current budget. So where did the money go?
The smaller budget resulted from savings and efficiencies, not by making cuts, said Donna J. Estrich, commissioner of administration, finance, policy and urban affairs.
The administration cited:
- Sales tax growth of $3.6 million plus $1.8 million from the state's new internet sales tax.
- A new online portal that will allow city residents to pay property taxes and user fees online, set up a payment schedule and schedule electronic reminders. The new system's efficiencies are projected to save the city $280,000.
- $3.1 million in PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) revenues, down from the previous year because more properties are paying regular taxes. That puts $580,000 back on the tax rolls.
The upshot is that the residential property tax rate in Brown's spending plan is $18.47 per $1,000 of assessed value, down a couple pennies from the current rate of $18.49. Commercial taxes would rise to $29.48 per $1,000, up from $28.22, but still less than when Brown took office.
As recommended by a citizens' commission, the budget also includes money to hike the mayor's salary to $158,500, up from $105,000; the comptroller's salary to $119,500, up from $88,412; and Council members' salaries to $75,000, up from $52,000.
Here's what else you need to know about the proposed budget:
- There will be $1.26 million for full implementation of the Buffalo Police Department's body camera program, as well as for Tasers and more vehicles.
- There is also money for two new police classes, totaling 75 officers, to cut overtime and enhance community policing.
- Funding for a new class of 40 firefighters is also included in the budget to to cut overtime in that department.
Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera, a former police officer, estimated it could be about six months for new recruits to complete training and hit the streets once they've been selected.
- The Buffalo Public Schools would get the same $70.8 million schools are getting this year. Out of that would come $45,000 if the citizen panel's recommendation to raise salaries of the nine School Board members from $5,000 to $10,000 is adopted.
- Brown allocates another $500,000 to Buffalo's Say Yes to Education, bringing the administration's total investment to $2.8 million. New is $125,000 to the schools and Say Yes for a program to stem learning loss during summer vacation.
Rivera had said he'd like to see increased funding for the school district, including an expansion of the "community schools" initiative. In an emailed statement Thursday — the day after the proposed budget was released — the Council majority leader said that in terms of "increasing the schools allotment … we'll have to wait and see as to what we hear from each department" during the budget hearing process. The Council has until May 22 to adopt a budget.
Buying Street Lights to Save
Brown would have the city take over the street lighting system from National Grid at a cost of about $80 million and with assistance from the New York Power Authority. State law requires electric companies to offer this to municipalities, said Michael J. Finn, acting commissioner of public works, parks and streets.
The city currently pays $10 million annually for a monthly facility charge, which would cease, and for the energy. While still paying for energy, that cost would be cut in half and the plan would save at least $1 million a year once the conversion to energy-saving bulbs is complete, officials said, adding that the estimate is based on science and accounting.
"This is what we know we pay now. This is what we know we'll stop paying. This is the money needed for the conversion... We consulted with experts in a lot of places, including ones where this has been successful," Finn said.
Brown's budget includes $11 million in casino revenue from the Seneca Nation, less than last year's amount but still a question mark for some Council members given the nation's call for a federal review of the arbitration decision ordering it to pay the money.
"It's like an I.O.U.," Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk said Thursday. "We won that case … but ... unless it's cash in hand, I wouldn't book it. It's as simple as that. Will the state make up the gap? That I don't know. … Those are the answers that we need to know."
The budget includes $750,000 from a controversial surcharge on tickets at Canalside, Coca-Cola Field, KeyBank Center, Kleinhans Music Hall and Shea's Performing Arts Center. The money is included on the expectation that legislation that has been tabled in the Council during the months-long dispute will be amended and then adopted.
A charitable donations program is expected to bring in $3.1 million that has already been committed over a two-and-a-half-year period, and the administration expects the number to grow as the program continues.
Justine Damond's family agrees to $20 million settlement with Minneapolis over police shooting death
The fired officer, Mohamed Noor, was convicted of third-degree murder in the 2017 shooting, which occurred after she called 911.
by David K. Li
The city of Minneapolis agreed to a $20 million settlement with the family of a woman shot dead by a police officer who was convicted of murder, lawmakers announced on Friday.
The settlement came just three days after jurors convicted the former officer, Mohamed Noor, of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 15, 2017, slaying of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual citizen of the United States and Australia.
Damond, 40, called 911 believing she had heard a sexual assault or rape in an alley next to her house. But when Noor and partner Matthew Harrity drove up to Damond's home, they mistook her as a threat and Noor opened fire on her. There was no evidence found of a sexual assault.
The family filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city, an action that was put on hold pending the result of the criminal trial. Settlement talks began just after the verdict was reached, City Council President Lisa Bender said.
“We know that no amount of money can heal the pain that the Ruszczyk family or any family that has lost a loved one in this way," Bender told reporters. “It is our continued commitment to work together, with our community, to demand and support change to policing."
The family has pledged $2 million to a local charity focused on gun violence in Minneapolis. The city council voted unanimously to approve the settlement on Friday.
"This is not a victory for anyone, but rather a way for our city to move forward," Mayor Jacob Frey said. "And I do believe that we will move forward together, united in the shared believe that such a tragedy should never occur in our city."
Noor testified in his own defense, saying he believed his partner — in the squad car's driver's seat — was about to be shot by the woman approaching their vehicle.
The woman was Damond, and she was unarmed.
"I fired one shot," Noor told jurors, later adding: "My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner's life."
Noor, 33, faces up to 15 years in prison when he's sentenced on June 7. He was taken into custody moments after the verdict was read.
“We are here today because Justine is not. We're here because her life was taken too soon,” City Councilwoman Linea Palmisano said Friday.
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Police: Nev. trooper hit by truck may have been struck on purpose
Body camera footage shows the truck accelerating and the trooper groaning in pain
by Ricardo Torres-Cortez, Las Vegas Sun
LAS VEGAS — The driver of a pickup truck that clipped a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper on May 2 in the east valley might have hit him intentionally, authorities said.
As the pickup accelerated, the trooper jumped out of the way, escaping serious injuries, Trooper Travis Smaka said. “He's banged up, but we're lucky he's not severely injured,” Smaka said of the trooper, whose name was not released.
The driver left the scene and remained unidentified, Smaka said.
The incident happened during a traffic stop on Boulder Highway, near Desert Inn Road, Smaka said.
The trooper and a Metro Police officer, part of a DUI strike team, were driving north on Boulder Highway, toward the county jail, to book a suspect when they encountered a wrong-way driver, Smaka said.
They stopped the vehicle and called a backup unit, Smaka said.
The trooper was standing just outside the cruiser when the pickup, which was also northbound, hit him, Smaka said. His body camera recorded audio of the truck accelerating and the trooper groaning in pain.
He was treated for lower-body injuries and has since been released from University Medical Center, Smaka said.
Police: Hero student 'took the assailant off his feet' before being fatally shot
Officials say the student did what police train people to do in active shooter situations
by Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A North Carolina college student tackled a gunman who opened fire in his classroom, saving others' lives but losing his own in the process, police said Wednesday.
Riley Howell, 21, was among students gathered for end-of-year presentations in an anthropology class at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte when a man with a pistol began shooting. Howell and another student were killed; four others were wounded.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Howell "took the assailant off his feet," but was fatally wounded. He said Howell did what police train people to do in active shooter situations.
"You're either going to run, you're going to hide and shield, or you're going to take the fight to the assailant. Having no place to run and hide, he did the last. But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed," Putney said. "Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives."
The father of Howell's longtime girlfriend said news that he tackled the shooter wasn't surprising. Kevin Westmoreland, whose daughter Lauren dated Howell for nearly six years, said Howell was athletic and compassionate — and would have been a good firefighter or paramedic.
"If Lauren was with Riley, he would step in front of a train for her if he had to," Westmoreland said. "I didn't realize it might come to that for somebody else."
In a statement, Howell's family remembered him as a big-hearted person who was friends with everyone.
"He always was able to put others before himself and never hesitated to help anyone who needed it," the statement read.
The motive wasn't clear. Suspect Trystan Andrew Terrell had been enrolled at the school but withdrew this semester, UNC-Charlotte spokeswoman Buffy Stephens said. Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker said Terrell had not appeared on their radar as a potential threat.
"I just went into a classroom and shot the guys," Terrell told reporters Tuesday as officers led him handcuffed into a law enforcement building.
Terrell, 22, was charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder and other charges.
Putney said the suspect didn't appear to target any particular person but did deliberately pick the building. He wouldn't elaborate on why. Authorities said the anthropology class was fairly large, without specifying how many students were present. Putney said the handgun was legally purchased.
Terrell is under observation in police custody, and his father and attorney haven't been allowed to speak to him, his grandfather Paul Rold said.
"His dad hasn't a clue about what happened, or why it happened," said Rold, of Arlington, Texas.
Terrell was on the autism spectrum but was "clever as can be" and bright enough to learn foreign languages, Rold said. He said his grandson wasn't very social.
Rold said the Charlotte campus shooting is the latest in a long line of mass shootings that won't end until laws reduce the volume of readily available guns.
"It's unfortunate that in our society it can be so easily perpetrated. He has no background in guns or gun collecting, gun interest," he said. "And how, in a short period of time, he was able to secure these weapons —legally, illegally, however— is the problem until Congress does something. If Sandy Hook, if Las Vegas, if Florida and these multiple incidents like yesterday can't get them to move, if they're more interested in reelection than the value of human life, this thing will continue."
In a statement, UNC-Charlotte said all the victims were students, five from North Carolina and one international. Howell, of Waynesville, and Ellis R. Parlier, 19 of Midland, were killed. Those wounded were Sean Dehart, 20, and Drew Pescaro, 19, both of Apex; Emily Houpt, 23, of Charlotte; and Rami Alramadhan, 20, of Saihat, Saudi Arabia.
In a class a few rooms away from the shooting site, Krysta Dean was about to present a senior research project when she heard someone scream "shooter." The anthropology major huddled behind a table with classmates.
"When I was sitting there on the floor, thinking that I might get a bullet in my head, my biggest fear was somebody's reality. And there are parents that are never going to be able to hug their children again," she said.
After the shooting, students and faculty scrambled to find safe spaces on the campus of nearly 30,000 students, enduring a lengthy lockdown.
On Wednesday night, thousands of students and others thronged the school's basketball arena for a campus vigil. Student body president Chandler Crean wiped away tears as the school chancellor said they couldn't emerge unchanged from Tuesday's shooting, but they could emerge stronger. He later said the university needs to use the shock of what happened to change society.
"What happened yesterday cannot happen again," Crean said.
Ore. city hopes new methadone clinic will reduce EMS overdose calls
EMS providers in Clatsop County consistently administer naloxone for opioid overdoses at rates higher than the state average
by Brenna Visser, The Daily Astorian
Emergency responders in Clatsop County consistently administer naloxone for opioid overdoses at rates higher than the state average.
It's one aspect of a larger opioid abuse problem that some hope can be eased by a methadone clinic scheduled to open in Seaside this fall.
Last week, representatives from the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. and CODA, a Portland-based drug treatment provider, shared with the county Board of Commissioners how a methadone clinic might help.
“It's not a magic bullet, but it's a tool,” said Tim Hartnett, CODA's executive director.
Methadone acts as a powerful pain reliever that mimics some of the same effects as heroin or prescription opioids to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Having a local option is driven by the desire of the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, which oversees the Oregon Health Plan in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties, to reduce the high cost of paying for people to get help in the Portland metro area.
The clinic would treat up to 300 people.
“There's a lot of people spending a lot of money to go to Portland for something they should be getting here,” said Leslie Ford, Behavioral Health Clinical Integration Advisor for the coordinated care organization.
But some on the North Coast have raised concerns over whether the methadone clinic would increase the call load for medics and other emergency responders who are already responding to a higher-than-average number of overdose calls.
There are several factors that contribute to a high rate of naloxone use by emergency responders. Part of the reason is Clatsop County is among the top four most heavily impacted by opioid misuse and overdose deaths in the state, Ford said. Oregon Health Authority data shows the county as one of the highest in the state for hospitalizations for opioid overdoses in 2017.
Clatsop County has also been among the worst in the state for prescribing a large number of opioids. In 2015, more than 27 percent of county residents were prescribed opioids, according to the Oregon Health Authority, though that number has steadily decreased over the years.
“I think the rate of addiction in general is higher here,” Ford said.
Higher abuse rates could also be related to the labor-intensive jobs in the timber and fishing industries that can lead to injuries or chronic pain, said Mimi Haley, the CEO of the coordinated care organization.
Data can also be skewed because it relies on self-reporting by emergency responders, meaning a county that consistently reports naloxone use is likely going to be higher than counties that do not.
But the high rate also suggests a need for more resources before addictions turn into overdoses, Haley said, a problem reflected in many rural Oregon counties.
One of the misconceptions that surround methadone clinics is the fear that more people with addictions will be attracted to the region, and therefore increase the burden of medics and firefighters to respond to more overdoses, Haley said.
“The idea is people are so much less likely to overdose because they are in treatment ... because they are using this medicine,” Haley said. “We don't represent an increase in probability. We represent a decrease.”
“It's not like we're bringing in new people,” Ford added. “They're here.”
Duane Mullins, the general manager of Medix, said it's no surprise to hear the rate of naloxone being dispensed by emergency responders is high in Clatsop County, though he attributes some of the trend to the fact that more agencies are carrying it than before.
Mullins also doesn't anticipate the methadone clinic will bring any more calls than the ambulance service would already be handling.
But he hopes the clinic will help make it so fewer people will need his service down the road.
“The value (of the clinic) is going to be after I'm done with them,” he said.
Man reunites with first responders who 'saved his life' during a snow storm
Rescue crews had to shovel some of the four inches of freshly fallen snow to get to Bob Beaman after his wife called 911 to report his heart attack
by Phil Anderson, The Topeka Capital-Journal
Bob Beaman credits first responders for helping save his life after they braved snowy conditions and extreme cold weather to get to his home southeast of Topeka after he suffered a heart attack early Sunday, March 3.
On Wednesday morning, those who had a hand in getting Beaman to the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis campus at 1700 S.W. 7th were honored with the "Great Save" award, which the hospital presents quarterly to paramedics and first responders for their work in helping save lives in the Topeka area.
Beaman, 67, who was present for the "Great Save" ceremony, recalls in detail what happened the night he suffered a heart attack.
"I woke up the first time around 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning," he said. "I wasn't feeling well. I went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the face and I was gray."
Thinking he may have had the flu, he went back to bed.
But when he continued to feel bad, he got up and again saw his "gray" appearance in the bathroom mirror.
"I went back to bed and started having chest pains," Beaman said. "Then my arm started to tingle. I thought, 'I'm having a heart attack.'
"My wife came in and she finally said, 'I'm calling the ambulance.' "
Beaman remembers nearly everything in detail from that morning: the blizzard-like conditions outside; the cold weather, with a low of 3 degrees; the way cars in the driveway had to be moved to make room for the ambulance; the way rescue crews had to shovel some of the 4 inches of freshly fallen snow to get to him; and how paramedics loaded him onto a gurney and somehow maneuvered around a piano in his house to get him to the ambulance.
"They saved my life," Beaman said Wednesday, after the "Great Save" ceremony had ended in the St. Francis auditorium. "It was a bad morning. They basically risked their lives. This is what they do. And everything worked out great."
Beaman credits his wife, Theresa, for making the 911 call that brought help.
First responders arrived a short time later from the Shawnee Heights Fire District, followed by American Medical Response ambulance crews.
As they were treating Beaman, first responders notified the St. Francis emergency department that they were on their way, saving important minutes for the patient, hospital officials said.
Then the medical team at St. Francis provided care for Beaman.
Surgery was done to place a stent in a blocked coronary artery, Beaman said. The relief was nearly immediate after the procedure, which he said lasted about 45 minutes.
He said he was in the intensive care unit at St. Francis for a couple of days before going to a private room. By 2 p.m. March 6, he was back home.
On Wednesday, Beaman said he was feeling well, though he took it easy for a few weeks after the scare.
Beaman said he was glad he could see those who helped provide emergency medical care that frigid March morning, including first responders and St. Francis hospital personnel.
Among first responders who were on hand at Wednesday morning's ceremony was Lt. Jessica Shrewsbury, of the Shawnee Heights Fire District.
In most cases, Shrewsbury said, first responders don't get a chance to see the people they helped.
"I'm mostly thankful to see our patient, seeing he's doing well," Shrewsbury said. "That's what's important to me."
Shrewsbury said the weather conditions were treacherous that morning, and that the Shawnee Heights Fire District's four-wheel-drive SUV that is used expressly for medical calls came in handy.
"Everything came together," she said. "Everyone worked well as a team and the patient had a good outcome. That's really what's important to me."