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

June 2019 - Week 3
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


'We have to realize we're one city': Discussion on Equality Indicators offers chance at dialogue


To see people, organizations and the community come together to talk about Tulsa's Equality Indicators report is more than vindication for Tiffany Crutcher. Saturday's meeting at the Rudisill Regional Library was the fulfillment of one of the last things her brother, Terence, told her.

“It means so much to me today to know that Terence's prophecy is coming to pass,” Crutcher said. “Because one of his last statements to me was, ‘God's going to get the glory out of my life,' and I believe today is the manifestation of that statement.”

Tulsa City Councilors held a discussion Saturday at the north Tulsa library on the Equality Indicators report, designed to provide an outlet for more community members to attend and give their input than a traditional Wednesday evening event.

Speakers talked of encounters with police, some in graphic detail and with emotion in their voices, and others spoke of ideas toward improving relations between Tulsa police and the community. Crutcher said it was a step in the right direction for the city and the community.

“I'm just elated that the community came out to share because what that tells us is that this is not just about data, this is about the lives that are being affected by racially biased policing,” Crutcher said. “So it's so important that the powers that be in this city, including the mayor and the chief of police, I don't think he's here but he should be here listening, because these numbers don't lie and there are stories behind these numbers.”

District 7 Councilor Lori Decter Wright said she and other councilors wanted to go to the public, rather than have the public come to them in the course of a regular meeting.

Wright said the strategy was effective in encouraging community members to be vulnerable and tell those stories harder to tell.

“We needed to be in a more comfortable space where people felt like they could get to it and they could be in dialogue with us rather than more presentational, which we do experience in our chamber,” Wright said. “Through a feedback process with some of the community organizers that are here today, some of the councilors go together and said, ‘Let's just go ahead and book a room at the library.'”

One of the speakers, Obum Ukabam, moved to Tulsa from Ferguson, Missouri, several months ago. He warned the council that the issues discussed Saturday have to be approached as one city, not as two factions divided in how to address the community's problems.

Without the unified approach, Ukabam said, Tulsa will see the same problems that led to protests and riots in Ferguson begin to fester.

“No matter what we're dealing with now, if we do not solve it and find a way to come together to address it, it will explode the way it did in Ferguson in 2014,” Ukabam said. “It will explode in a way that is damaging to the city, damaging to the people and damaging to the reputation of the city.

“You have to make sure that we realize we're not on two different sides. We have to realize we're one city.”

Among other attendees was retired Tulsa police Sgt. Dave Walker, who most recently led the department's homicide unit. Walker, who has attended other community meetings but only spoke at them recently, said he chose to speak Saturday after comments critical of police officers' “warrior mentality” on the force.

Walker said he wanted to provide context that officers have to have the mentality when called upon to do the job they signed up for, specifically referencing the scenario of an officer rushing into a burning home to rescue a family before firefighters arrive or going into a home to rescue a child in a hostage situation. He said he wanted to provide the community a law enforcement perspective.

Despite those situations, Walker said he knows law enforcement isn't perfect, it's changing in many ways and that officers have to have more than only a warrior mentality. He said since his retirement, he has had time to learn and better understand why there is such a divide between the community and police.

“We are in that position because we know what it's like to go through the door, we know that feeling,” Walker said. “And now we can educate ourselves on why the community feels the way they feel, why do they feel disenfranchised. That was some of the things I felt when I worked some of these shootings where the community would be angry just because we're there.

“We're so busy in law enforcement you don't get a chance to sit back and educate law enforcement, me personally, on why. Now that I've retired, I've done that and I can get where the community's a little bit pissed. But we have to work toward the goal, and that is law enforcement coming into the community and the community coming into law enforcement.



Northwest Side activists challenge community policing rally, fundraiser scheduled for Juneteenth


A Northwest Side community group is asking city officials to reschedule a rally and community policing fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday, which also happens to be Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

T-shirts and signs branded with the sayings, “Support your Local Police” and “We Support Our Police” will be sold to benefit the Jefferson Park District community policing program at the event Wednesday at the district police station and sponsored by local aldermen, according to an announcement about the event. But because of the city's “struggle with racial equality and justice,” members of the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate said the event should be rescheduled out of respect for those celebrating Juneteenth.

“One simple step towards healing, in the City of Chicago, would be for Northwest Side communities and the 16th police district to specifically recognize and respect Juneteenth Day, on June 19, 2019, as a national and state day of observation to celebrate civil rights,” the group said in a letter to officials.

The group sent the letter last week to Ald. Anthony Napolitano, 41st, Ald. James Gardiner, 45th, and Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 38th, who are co-sponsoring the event. Karie James, a spokeswoman for the Chicago police, said the event was going on as scheduled as of Monday afternoon. Napolitano's office could not immediately confirm information about the event.

"We want to encourage our aldermen to be cognizant of the time and place they choose to hold events and thoughtful of the whole city and country,” said Shawna Bowman, a member of coalition.

"It's our position there is clearly a lot of work for us to do in the city particularly with the police and justice system."

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers told enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War was over and they were free. The holiday is recognized in 47 states, including Illinois.



Q&A: How one Calif. officer is breaking barriers with the youth

Officer Ryan Tillman is repairing the bond between law enforcement and the community through his organization, Breaking Barriers United

by PoliceOne Staff

One of the most monumental tasks for modern police agencies is repairing the strained relationships they have with the communities they serve. For Officer Ryan Tillman, the key to a creating a better future lies in the youth.

Tillman joined the Chino Police Department in California in 2013 and served as a patrol officer before recently becoming a school resource officer. He's also the leader of Breaking Barriers United, which is designed to repair the bond between law enforcement and the youth through workshops and other programs.

We spoke with Tillman ahead of Breaking Barriers United's first #ITSNEEDED conference – of which Lexipol's Gordon Graham is a featured speaker – about how he approaches policing and connects with the community. Sign up for the conference, which takes place August 1 in California, here.

PoliceOne: What were your interactions with police when you were a kid and how did you end up in law enforcement?

Ryan Tillman: Growing up, the only interaction I had with officers was negative. Once I had some officers pull up next to me and start cussing me out for being on the phone. There was another occasion where I was driving through a nice neighborhood and a guy claimed to be a deputy and said I looked suspicious and that I needed to leave, or he would call his friends to come arrest me. So, I really only had a negative view of police officers.

After college, I was working retail and knew I needed to make a change. A family friend suggested I look into law enforcement. My mentality was, “I'm not about to be working for the man, I'm not about to be a pig.” That mentality was all based on my interactions I had when I was younger, coupled with all the bad publicity we see on TV about cops. But I prayed about the situation because I'm a very spiritual guy. I said, “God, if this is what you want me to do, then open the door; if not, close the door.” I put my applications out to a few agencies, and I got picked up by Chino PD. I went to the academy and graduated number two overall in my class. These were signs, but I still didn't know if I wanted to be a cop at that point.

P1: How did you get over those moments of doubt and really come to embrace the job?

Tillman: When I started on patrol, I realized a lot of my negative perceptions of law enforcement were based on false information. I started to see why police officers do what they do, that there's a reason why we exist. I also realized I can do the job the way Ryan wants to do it, within the confines of the law obviously. I didn't have to be a stereotypical hard-nosed cop.

This was right around the time Ferguson happened. My friends and some of my family didn't like that I was a cop, but I remember thinking they just needed to understand why we do what we do. So, I had a conversation with my mom. She asked herself what I would have done had I been in that Ferguson officer's shoes, and she concluded I would have done the same exact thing. Then she said, “And I know that my son is a loving husband, a loving son, a loving dad to his kids.” That conversation really made me realize that a lot of the negative perception people have of law enforcement is based on what they see on TV as opposed to real life. That was the start of Breaking Barriers United.

P1: What is your organization's mission?

Tillman: To bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. Going back to the conversation I had with my mother, I realized that when my mom changed her perspective on law enforcement, that only happened because her son is a police officer. Had I not been her son, she wouldn't have understood. So, I knew early on that I had to humanize myself. I needed to allow people to see “Ryan” instead of “Police Officer Ryan.”

I created a presentation called the "Initiative Workshop" where I tell my story about who I am and where I come from. I show audience members photos of me, my family members, what I look like when I'm not working, the whole nine yards. Then I talk about why I became a police officer, my bad interactions with officers when I was young. I ask the audience if they've ever had a bad experience with cops and most of the audience always raises their hands, and we discuss it. Then I talk about the training that I receive, why we do the training we do and that's really to debunk a lot of the myths about cops, because there are so many myths out there.

Then I bring up some audience members on stage and we do police scenarios – I'm the bad guy and they must overcome whatever resistance I'm giving them. I take them through a domestic violence scenario, a traffic stop scenario, a 5150 scenario. I research real-life situations where officers have been killed or hurt and I use those scenarios on stage. Of course, everybody fails miserably every time. Once we finish the scenarios, we debrief. Then people start to see law enforcement differently. I'm able to communicate in a way they understand, with transparency and honesty, which is key. The only way we're going to be able to bridge the gap is through transparency.

P1: What are the main causes of these barriers between police officers and their communities?

Tillman: Number one is the history of law enforcement in this country. We're not that far removed from the civil rights movement, where you had officers enforcing racist types of behavior. That history creates a barrier.

Then you have the barrier of the badge. People forget that behind the badge, we're humans. There's a video I did awhile back where I was dancing on campus and it went viral. I had officers saying, “No, that's not what we should be doing. We shouldn't be dancing on campus.” The thing they fail to realize is that I wasn't dancing to appease the kids. I wasn't dancing because my boss told me to. I was dancing because Ryan likes to dance. Ryan just so happens to be a police officer and while I was dancing, I was in my uniform. So even officers forget that you're still a human behind that badge. That's a barrier.

Then you have the barrier – obviously the big one – of media. When big media puts out their take on an officer-involved shooting or whatever it may be, you only get one side of it. That's a big thing I talk about in my presentation, that there are more sides to the story.

Then you have personal interactions with law enforcement, whether direct or indirect. People have these negative interactions sometimes with law enforcement and that creates barriers.

P1: What makes your workshops effective? What's the secret sauce to engaging the youth?

Tillman: Being open and transparent and honest. Don't talk above people, talk on their level. I think that helps them sense my genuine desire to help them change the way they see policing.

P1: What made you want to target the youth in particular?

Tillman: I started with adults, but then somebody asked me to do a presentation to some high school kids and they really bought into it. When I realized it was really impacting them, it reminded me of a quote by Frederick Douglass: “It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” If we can start fixing the mindset of our children, then when they become adults, they can make wiser decisions.

P1: What feedback have you received from students?

Tillman: I had a student tell me he didn't like police officers and when I asked him why, he said, “You guys killed my aunt.” So, I talked to him about it. Later, I did some research to see if this kid was even telling me the truth. And sure enough, three or four months prior to my presentation, deputies had shot his aunt. It was a justified shooting, but all the teenager saw was that cops killed his aunt, no one explained to him why it happened. He messaged me the night after the presentation and said that he now understood why we do what we do. He said, “I may not understand everything that went into my aunt's situation, but you have inspired me to become a police officer and be mentored by you.” That was so impactful to me.

P1: How do you handle negativity or pushback when you're presenting to students?

Tillman: I don't like to call it negativity, I call it realness. What I mean by that is people ask real questions to me. I have real dialogues with people. That builds trust because I'm not painting myself as being a perfect person. I share my bad experiences I've had as a police officer. I share negative experiences I've had with police officers. That develops trust.

When I started this organization, I refused to let it be just another dog and pony show to combat the issues that are going on. For example, on my Instagram page I sometimes post videos of officers who have done bad things. Real cases, real things that have happened. And I've seen people from the community say, “I appreciate you because you're not afraid to call out those bad ones.” For so long law enforcement has had the reputation that we don't call out bad officers. And that's something that we need to fix to build credibility because we cannot sit here and say that a hundred percent of us are good.

P1: What role do parents have in this? How do you work with them?

Tillman: I put the parents through the same workshops that I do for the kids because the information is just as pertinent for them. That way they know what their kids are receiving in school and it also helps them have a better understanding of police officers as well.

The parents' role is pivotal because I only have a small window of time to try to impact a student's life. The reality is when that student leaves my school or leaves my office, he has to go home to a parent. And if that parent is sending the kid mixed messages, which often is the case, then the message I've given that kid might not get through.

I recently did a podcast about this where I talked about how there are more people that buy into negativity because it's popular as opposed to buying into it because they think something is actually wrong. There are so many people that jump on the bandwagon that police officers are racist, but they don't know why they think police officers are racist, they don't know why they don't like police officers. They just think it because it's the popular thing to do. A lot of parents are on that same bandwagon. That's why it's so important for me to not only share my message with the kids but with the parents.

P1: How can police officers and agencies better connect with the youth in their community?

Tillman: You have to realize that not every single person in the community has had a positive interaction with police. Realize that some people in our community have had more negative interactions than they've had positive interactions. Once you acknowledge and empathize, then you have to be able to embrace where we're going as a profession. Police officers get so ingrained with tradition and old ways that it's difficult to move forward. We have to be able to embrace new ways of doing things.

P1: What recommendations do you have for agencies looking to implement a program like yours in their jurisdictions?

Tillman: Agencies need to pick the brains of their new officers as there are a lot of good things they bring to the table. When they're new is the time you're going to get their best ideas. When I started Breaking Barriers United, I had one year on the job. Often, you're going to get your best ideas when somebody is new because that's when their thinking is fresh, and they still have an outsider perspective.

A program like Breaking Barriers United is important because it's proactive. Unfortunately, what happens in a lot of agencies is we are reactive as opposed to being proactive. You start reaching out only after something bad happens in your city. When you do that, the community receives it as being reactive and it's not as effective.

P1: What other ways do you reach out to the public?

Tillman: I realized while I was doing my workshops that the conversation was good, but it was only 90 minutes. To continue the conversation, I started a podcast called “#ITSNEEDED," because anytime I tell people what my business is people always say how much this dialogue is needed.

Then from the podcast we wanted to expand the conversation even further. I wanted more teachers, parents, and police officers to get the resources they need to improve things. So we're hosting the first #ITSNEEDED conference on August 1st in Riverside, California, where we will provide resources to parents, teachers and police officers on a wide range of topics.

P1: Is there anything else you'd like our law enforcement audience to know? Any other lessons you'd like to share?

Tillman: The world needs to see officers are human. They need to know this is just a job we do. Unfortunately, sometimes people in our profession allow this job to become their identity. It can easily happen because you spend so much time on the job. But when you allow this job to become your identity bad things start happening. You start to take things personally. Lead with kindness, show people your kindness and that you're human, but don't let kindness be your weakness. Be strong in those moments you need to be on the job. I think that's the police officer our communities are looking to see



Brazil shifts from koban policing to car patrols

Police in Brazil have reduced the number of Japanese-style koban neighborhood police boxes, and instead are increasing car patrols in Sao Paulo due to deteriorating security.

Brazil introduced the koban policing system, mainly in Sao Paulo, in 1997. At one point, there were 150 koban boxes, as the method deepened ties between the police and the community. But the number has now dropped to 110.

The lives of nearly 70,000 people are taken by crime in Brazil every year, and the government says about 400 police officers are also killed.

Officials say in order to protect police officers, more districts are sending them out to patrol in vehicles, rather than have them remain in the police boxes.

Officers are required to wear bullet proof vests and work in pairs in the event they are assaulted in the koban. But many local governments are said to have had funding difficulties and finding personnel to staff them.



‘Broader than justice': Indigenous commissioner searches for answers to incarceration crisis

Justin Mohamed says about 65% of young people with a youth justice order are reoffenders

by Lorena Allam

Victoria's first taskforce on young Indigenous people in the criminal justice system has begun, with the commissioner for Aboriginal children touring the state to investigate community-based solutions that work at keeping young Aboriginal people out of contact with police and the criminal justice system.

The Aboriginal youth justice taskforce, announced in 2018 by the premier, Daniel Andrews, will examine the cases of about 250 Aboriginal young people in the youth justice system.

Sixteen per cent of children in the youth justice system are Indigenous, even though they make up only 0.7% of the state's population, and 1.6% of 10 to 19-year-olds.

A 2017 Victorian government review found that over-representation is caused by intergenerational trauma, broken connection to country and community, over-policing, not enough focus on diversion and exclusion from mainstream culture.

Abbott's $5.1bn Indigenous funding program must be overhauled, critics say

Parallel to the taskforce, the commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people, Justin Mohamed, is conducting the “Our youth, our way” inquiry.

“It's broader than justice,” Mohamed, a Gooreng Gooreng man originally from Bundaberg in Queensland, said. “We are looking at the things that make our young people resilient.”

Mohamed will have four months to hold 13 regional forums in Victoria, “pulling together local service providers, police, courts, Aboriginal organisations … We'll present a picture of what that region looks like, in terms of the cycle of offending, and we'll start building a plan for that region, to have a focus on Aboriginal young people.

“Our team will [look at] the two bookends of this: how do we reduce young people coming into contact with the youth justice in the first place, and how do we stop the reoffending numbers?”

Around 65% of young people with a youth justice order are reoffenders, Mohamed said.

“The idea is to get to the communities, because we know the answers lie within community and we want those communities to be heard,” he said. “And we need to hear the voices of those young people.”

The first hearings were held in Warrnambool and Framlingham last week.

“Warrnambool has one of lowest rates of young Aboriginal people offending,” Mohamed said, citing cultural engagement of children from an early age as a protective factor against offending. “Cultural engagement is the stabiliser within a lot of the programs being run. It's the reason why the region's [offending] numbers are so low.

The commissioner will travel to Ballarat next, with other regions to follow.

“We'll be hearing from young people what they think is working, about a lot of services that are supposed to be there to protect our young people,” Mohamed said. “How are young people valued and supported, what are the social norms of those communities, how is racism working? It may not just because young people in that region want to do bad things.

“We want to create a safe space for them to have their views, and not something that makes their lives more difficult. Like most things around youth engagement, having young people as part of the planning process hasn't always been done in the best way.”

The report will be tabled in March 2020.


South Bend

Police shooting poses Buttigieg's biggest 2020 challenge yet

Mayor Pete Buttigieg stood before newly sworn police officers to welcome them to the city's ranks, just as he has more than a dozen times since taking office. But this time he was a Democratic candidate for president, speaking just days after a white officer fatally shot a black man the officer said was armed with a knife.

The timing made for a more sober, less congratulatory occasion, Buttigieg acknowledged Wednesday. Then he delivered a speech intended for an audience far beyond South Bend, touching on a long history of racial injustice, "justified anger" among residents and "a seemingly constant series of stories and videos from around the country showing abuses that tarnish the badge.

"You may think to yourself — how is this my fault? How is this my responsibility?" Buttigieg asked the six officers who sat looking up at him from the front row. "It may not seem fair as you prepare for your first day on the job, but you are burdened with this. We all are."

Sunday's shooting of 54-year-old Eric Logan has posed perhaps Buttigieg's biggest challenge of the presidential election cycle so far, forcing him to navigate the dual roles of mayor and candidate at a critical time for both his campaign and the city of roughly 100,000 people. It also highlights Buttigieg's struggle to appeal to black voters and threatens to undo some of the progress he has made with the minority community in his hometown.

The 37-year-old of Maltese descent, who rose quickly to the top tier of the Democratic field since joining the race in January, had to cancel several fundraisers just as candidates are scrambling to raise as much money as possible before the June 30 quarterly fundraising deadline. He's also investing significant, unanticipated time in his day job just as he's set to appear in next week's debate against several better-known top candidates — including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Since leaving the campaign trail on Sunday, Buttigieg, who is white, said he's met with Logan's family as well as leaders of the black community, clergy and police officials. He's also been consulting with experts on community policing, race relations and civil rights, as well as former mayors with experience with similar cases, his office said.

Buttigieg, as one of the few Democratic presidential candidates with executive experience, suggested Wednesday that it has made him a better candidate and a better leader and will allow him to speak during the campaign about issues he's dealt with firsthand. That may be particularly true as he stands on the debate stage next week alongside Biden, who has defended his support for a 1994 crime bill many say led to mass incarceration of blacks and other minorities.

"What I will say is that when the topic of criminal justice comes up, this is obviously something that is not theoretical, for any of us, but certainly for anyone who's responsible for guiding a city," Buttigieg told reporters after his speech. "And its importance is only heightened, having navigated something like this."

But the shooting also has renewed the focus on one of Buttigieg's biggest vulnerabilities. He has struggled to attract early support from black voters, who are key to winning as a Democrat, and has drawn attention to problems of race within South Bend and under his leadership. The two-term mayor was highly criticized for firing the city's first black police chief early in his career, and while he has implemented several programs to try to improve relations between police and the black community, he admitted this week that any gains they've made are now in jeopardy.

The Rev. Wendy Fultz, who is black, described the relationship between police and the black community as "broken, very broken." The 69-year-old has lived in South Bend her entire life and said, "It's gotten to the point that we are hopeless."

"We talk. We try to organize. We do a plan, we have a strategy," she said. "And yet we feel like in this community, every time a black man calls the police you may as well call the morgue."

As for the mayor, she said: "I think he's removed. Everybody in this situation - even the mayor - is removed. They don't understand."

Prosecutors say the officer who killed Logan, Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, was responding to a report of a person breaking into cars when he encountered Logan in an apartment building parking lot. O'Neill told authorities that Logan had a knife, and when he refused the officer's orders to drop it, O'Neill opened fire, shooting Logan in the stomach. Another officer took Logan in a squad car to the hospital, where he later died.

While South Bend officers are equipped with body cameras and dashboard cameras, the shooting was not captured on video. Mike Grzegorek, commander of the county prosecutor's Metro Homicide Unit, said O'Neill told investigators he spotted Logan leaning inside a car and didn't press a button to turn on his body camera as he approached to ask if he was a resident of the apartment building. Both the dash and body cameras would have been automatically activated if his squad car's emergency lights were turned on or if O'Neill had been driving fast, but he was driving slowly without lights because he was looking for a suspect, Grzegorek said.

Buttigieg said Wednesday that he was "extremely frustrated" that O'Neill's body camera wasn't turned on. On Tuesday, he asked his police chief to issue an executive order reminding officers of a department policy that says cameras must be on during any interaction with civilians.

"The justified anger over why our system of body-worn cameras did not lead to a clear picture of Sunday's events is just one reminder of how much work is yet to be done," Buttigieg told police recruits and their families gathered for Wednesday's swearing-in. "How much it will take to reinforce trust. How far we will have to go before the day when no community member or officer would hesitate to trust one another's word_and, ultimately, how far we have to go before we live in a society where none of the circumstances leading to Sunday morning's death could have happened in the first place."

Buttigieg is scheduled to campaign Friday in Miami and this weekend in South Carolina, though so far only his appearance in South Carolina has been confirmed. He said he has not yet decided when he will start campaigning again, adding that he's "working to make sure that balance is appropriate."

"Mayors, like presidents, have to do many things at once," he said.


Great Falls

#blessed or #cursed? Social media a mixed bag for law enforcement


It's everywhere. You can't hide from it. You can't escape it.

It's at work. It's at home. It's in your pocket.

It's social media.

Between Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, it sometimes seems like much of our lives are lived online.

And where there's life, there's crime.

Law enforcement agencies such as the Great Falls Police Department have had to make adjustments in the digital age to take social media into account, and those changes have altered the way cops do their jobs.

“It's on a huge rise,” said GFPD Special Victims Unit Detective Katie Cunningham, “Everything interacts with social media to one extent or another. I mean, we're talking about burglaries to rapes to homicides. Absolutely everything seems to have some kind of nexus to social media.”

Sometimes that nexus is relevant, and sometimes it's not. That's where Cunningham's job gets tricky.

“It's given a whole new level to investigation”

When GFPD pulls social media information from a company such as Facebook or Instagram, it's often hundreds of pages of data to sift through. Combing so much data takes time and manpower. It makes investigations lengthier but also more thorough, according to Cunningham.

“We could use a full-time social media person, truly. Just to sift through social media,” she said.

In a position like Cunningham's, which often relies on personal testimony, social media can provide hard evidence in cases that might otherwise be one person's word against another.

“It's hard to find anyone who actually communicates through a phone call anymore,” Cunningham said. “It's always through social media or Messenger or text message, so oftentimes that information is preserved.”

Even Snapchat, which makes snaps inaccessible to users after a short period of time, can still be accessed by police during an investigation.

It has become extremely common for attorneys to introduce social media evidence at trial, as well.

Just like the rest of the general public, victims, witnesses and criminals all use social media regularly. That means cops can sometimes find unexpected nuggets of information in a platform's comments section.

A news article might hit Facebook, for example, and a person who was also victimized by the suspect might comment about a similar experience.

Witnesses to crimes may take to social media even before calling a tip line or the police department directly.

GFPD has even posted surveillance videos of unknown persons of interest and appealed to the public for help identifying them.

Unfortunately, social media can also be a place where criminal activity occurs.

According to GFPD's Training and Community Policing Sergeant Jim Wells, burglars will monitor Facebook posts to find out when homeowners are out of town, leaving their houses easy targets.

“We have in Great Falls had a house virtually cleaned out of anything of value because a family was posting this stuff all the time,” he said.

“Protecting kids from their own devices” is a whole other category of how social media can be dangerous. Predators can pose as young people to talk to kids online and sometimes arrange to meet face to face.

There's also a healthy trade in child pornography online, even where you might not expect to find it.

“People are downloading child pornography on Facebook,” said Cunningham. “You wouldn't think it's there, but it's there.”

Sometimes, the explicit material consists of nude selfies sent by minors over social media, which technically qualifies as child porn.

The rise of internet porn led to need for an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force just to investigate crimes such as child pornography and people contacting minors online and arranging in-person meetups for sex.

Digital trade in child porn may have increased access to that material, but it's also made it easier for police to identify and arrest people who make and download child porn.

Once, police would have had to be present to witness the exchange of a physical photo or find the evidence while executing a search warrant. Now, organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sift through online pictures and send them to local agencies if something suspicious may be happening in their area.

“That's how we fund our ICAC position, because we're getting tips all the time,” Cunningham said. “With every good thing, there's bad. Social media is a good thing, to an extent, but it always comes with a little bit of evil, and so we just kind of have to take it in stride and do the best that we can.”

Social media sites can be rough places for crime victims, too, as comments sections often degenerate into a blame game.

“People are pretty mean,” said Cunningham. “The general public, they're very judgmental about people, especially victims of rapes.”

At one trial in Great Falls, social media posts by the victim were used by the defense to try to imply that she was not really traumatized by the crime because she could be seen going about her daily life on Facebook.

In general, Cunningham tells victims and their families to stay off of social media altogether, both to avoid being traumatized further by commenters and to prevent them from jumping in to defend themselves and perhaps jeopardizing their case.

Social media can be a siren song for criminals as well, who often have additional charges tacked on for contacting victims or witnesses against the court's orders or even get busted after "liking" their own mugshot on a "most wanted" post.

In a recent case, a suspect allegedly created over 20 Facebook profiles to harass and stalk a woman, all without ever leaving his own home.

“It humanizes us”

Fortunately, it's not all bad news.

To encourage a dynamic of communication, GFPD maintains its own social media presence managed by Volunteer Coordinator Adrienne Ehrke.

When Ehrke takes to social media for GFPD, she likes to post the positive things officers are doing in the community and highlight their service.

Having the spotlight turned on them hasn't always been easy for the men and women in blue.

Wells recalled the story of one officer who helped an elderly gentleman that he'd stopped for expired temporary tags. The man had his license plates but hadn't put them on. The officer got a screwdriver and installed them for him.

“We don't do that stuff for acknowledgment. We don't do that stuff for an 'attaboy' or to see it on social media,” said Wells. “We do it because it's the right thing to do. We do it because we care about our community and the people. We do it because we genuinely want to make a difference and help people.”

Facebook is Ehrke's main platform, and it allows her to send community alerts directly to the public, especially at times when people should take some sort of action.

GFPD keeps the public updated on natural disasters like the 2016 Vineyard fire north of Great Falls that approached homes in that area and major incidents such as this year's refinery fire.

“It could be a major traffic incident on 10th Avenue South where we're going to try and get people to avoid the area all the way to an armed intruder situation where we need people to know what is going on,” she said.

The department also takes to Facebook when a vulnerable person in Great Falls goes missing.

“Our social media has helped us tremendously with finding lost people, especially little kids,” said Ehrke. “We've found several little kids because people came outside and started looking because they saw it on social media.”

In a society where people expect news instantly, the police department must strike a balance between getting the word out quickly and making sure its information is accurate and verified.

“Sometimes our posts don't go out quite as quickly as those that are at the scene, obviously, because we're going to put out a very factual post,” Ehrke said. “We know that we don't reach everybody by social media, but it does help a lot. And we're an official source, so we can quash rumors really quickly.”

If there's an incident happening, the GFPD, Great Falls Fire Rescue, dispatch and other agencies are on the scene are dealing with the situation, so checking social media first before making a call can cut down on call loads to 911 or dispatch because people can get timely, accurate information that way.

In situations involving schools, especially, parents have an overwhelming concern for their kids' safety, but going to the building or tying up school and dispatch phone lines makes it more difficult for authorities to handle the situation.

“If something is actively happening, the last thing that you want is parents bombarding the school,” said Ehrke. “And it's hard. I totally get that. Parents are their kids' number one protector, and they want to get there and take care of their kids.”

According to Wells, school shelters-in-place and lockdowns are often done merely as a preventative measure and are nothing for parents to get too worked up about.

“We take our children's safety so seriously that I would rather do 1,000 shelter-in-places and 500 lockdowns that were unnecessary than to not do one and have a child hurt or worse,” said Wells.

“A connection that can't be replaced”

Overall, having a social media presence has been a good thing for GFPD.

In-person community outreach requires people to take time out of their lives to come to the event. Things like schedules and full family lives get in the way, and people might have barriers such as age or disability that keep them from getting out in person.

Social media is someplace people spend their time anyway and provides a connection anyone can access.

“Anytime you can communicate directly with the community, it will have an impact on how the community views you,” said Wells.

Hiring apps that feed to social media have made hiring easier and cheaper for Wells to find candidates from across the nation and the world.

“We get applications from all over now,” he said. “We just recently hired a retired New Jersey cop who was a cop for a few years in Portland, and he's out in the field today and loving it.”

“I think by letting the community members in through our social media, we bring them into the department and see what's going on,” said Ehrke. “Getting to know the officers is huge. They see them out on the street and they have a connection to them already.”

It's not all wine and roses for Ehrke, though, who is the sole manager and moderator of everything you see on GFPD's Facebook page.

That means she reads every comments section, combs through and deletes inappropriate responses, receives every message sent via Facebook and takes a lot of blows on behalf of the department.

“I receive a lot of private messages that are quite hateful towards the police department,” Ehrke said, “and I just bear that burden because our officers have enough to deal with. They don't need to see hateful comments.”

She also gets called out for major incidents, making hers a job that is essentially on-call 24 hours a day, but she doesn't see that as a drawback.

“I'm happy to do it. I'm happy to lend my help when I can,” she said. “I take running this page very seriously. The chief has trusted me to speak on behalf of him and the department, and that is not a duty I take lightly.”

If Detective Cunningham were to name a downside to social media, it would be a reduced human connection with her fellow officers.

Officers used to go to trainings to meet people from other agencies, share information and keep in contact.

“Now, you go to these trainings and people…do their own thing,” Cunningham said. “They kind of keep to themselves because they've got their nose in their phone or whatever. So, I almost think (social media) doesn't really help at all.”

Cunningham found she had to make a conscious effort to talk to co-workers in her own department.

Wells agreed that electronic communication, while faster, has come at the expense of building relationships.

“When I became a supervisor, one of the things that I really wanted to do was really know the people that I'm working with,” he said. “You have to work at it to begin with, but it's gotten even more difficult because you don't even talk to people anymore, really.”

Cunningham has become very purposeful about forging deeper relationships with emergency department nurses, the county attorney's office, the sheriff's office and the officers on patrol.

“That's how we build our relationships, and that's how we become productive and successful because nobody can do it on their own,” said Cunningham. “You've got to have a team. And in order to have a team, you've got to have relationships.



Drag queen's push against gangs

by Carl Collison

Elhaam Davids lives with her 10-year-old son, Lyle, in Rondom-Tik, an informal settlement adjacent to Lavender Hill. Loosely translated as “Around Tik” the settlement's name is a telling reflection of the prevalence of drugs — and gangsterism — in the Cape Flats.

The Western Cape has the highest number of gang-related killings nationally and Lavender Hill is a particularly notorious hotspot. This month alone, at least 14 people were killed in gang-related violence in the area.

And children, Davids knows all too well, are not immune.

“I know a lady, a friend of mine.

Her son, about a year ago, they shot him dead. He was 10 years old. He was involved in gangs. You see, the kids as young as them get caught up in gangsterism, because they offer them money. And all kinds of stuff. Her son was caught up in that and, unfortunately, he lost his life. She is still very heartsore. She can't get over it,” says the unemployed 46-year-old.

“The shootings is like second life here. When there is a shooting, it's not something new. It's a very normal thing here. It's very sad. And bad, you know, for our children to grow up like that.”

Not wanting Lyle to become another statistic, Davids agreed that he could start drumming lessons.

“I'm very impressed with him,” she says of Lyle's progress so far. “And with the other children also. Because as you know ... this is keeping them off the streets. Keeping them away from gangsters.”

The person spearheading an initiative to keep children off the streets and away from gangsterism is an unlikely figure. Born Ralph Bouwers, he is now more commonly known as Zsazsa.

“It's from my drag queen days,” he smiles. “I used to be the beauty queen of Lavender Hill. I always won the competitions. Almost every weekend, my mother's bathroom used to be full of bouquets.”

Bouwers left the area years ago to practise as an optician in the United Kingdom. When he returned 18 months ago, he established Guardians of the National Treasure.

“I was born in Lavender Hill. I grew up here. I know what life was like then with opportunities. I played sports every day. I did chess and netball and tennis. But when I came back from England, there was nothing in Lavender Hill.”

Swapping a life of strutting in heels and tight-fitting sequinned dresses for traipsing in takkies and jeans on sports fields, Bouwers established the nonprofit organisation with the express aim of keeping children such as Lyle on the straight and narrow.

“It's really just about unpacking opportunities for youth in our communities to keep them away from the substance abuse and gang affiliation,” he says.

The organisation now has hundreds of children participating in various activities, including soccer, netball and ballet.

“There is also chess, but it's not really up and running because of space issues. I can't keep carrying my bed out of my room to make space for chess tables,” Bouwers laughs.

At his Lavender Hill home, bright soccer outfits hang out to dry as he snaps a head-and-shoulders photograph of a snotty-nosed nine-year-old who will soon join the organisation's 200 other soccer players.

“You're now in an area where, at night, you don't want to be,” he says a little while later when we drive past a police nyala. A cross is placed on a pavement to mark the spot where someone was killed recently. A street is closed off by residents with tyres and rubble “to try and prevent drive-by shootings”, Bouwers says.

Gavin Walbrugh, the chairperson of the Steenberg Community Policing Forum, says: “When there are drive-by shootings, they might be aiming at hitting maybe a group of guys on the corner. But in the process of them doing that, bullets hit innocent people in the streets. That's what happens many times.”

Under an afdakkie attached to a two-bedroom shack, about 20 young drummers are rehearsing for a memorial.

“They sold rotis to pay for the drumsticks,” Bouwers shouts proudly above the din.

In a corner, a few girls — in ballet outfits, bright pink lipstick and hair tied back into neat little bollas — shiver. But, not even the biting-cold Mother City wind blowing through the paper-thin walls can stop them from attending their twice-weekly class.

Faranaaz Kandon's eight-year-old daughter, Aakiefah, has recently joined these ballet classes.

“She was two years old and started doing ballet in front of the mirror. I told her, like, ‘no, you can't do it'. But she was, like, ‘no, I want to do it'. So her aunt recommended her to this. She enjoys it very, very much.”

The rehearsal space is far from ideal, so Bouwers intends to convert an open stretch of land in the area into a multipurpose recreational centre. This field is known in Lavender Hill as “The Battlefield” because of the shoot-outs between rival gangs that take place there.

But, the proposed project, under the name Rise Above — to have the open land fenced off to build sports fields and recreational facilities — has been hitting bureaucratic snags.

Despite having secured funding from In Place of War, an organisation based in the United Kingdom, the plans are yet to be approved by the City of Cape Town.

“We have most of the money and are fundraising for more. We just need the city to approve it. But it's been 18 months,” Bouwers says.

Monishia Schoeman is the project manager for Rise Above. She says: “Sometimes the kids would find a dead body here. It's a constant. So there's an energy here. It's threatening. Like spilt blood.”

Bradley Rink is a senior lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, whose speciality areas are “mobilities, cities and urban identities”. For Rink, the transformation of this “contested space” is essential in the creation of “a positive sense of place”.

Rink says that, although many people generally have a positive attachment to home, “people who live in an area that is controlled by gangs would really struggle to have this positive sense of place. So they would be constantly fighting emotions of fear as they go outside of their home — or even when inside their home”.

“But,” he adds, “if you establish this positive sense of place in your home and your community, it gives you a better sense of who you are. The sense of fear of a public space that a child may have currently in areas such as Lavender Hill could be turned around, and that would have an impact on how they sense and experience public space everywhere.

“They'll have more engagement with the world and have a better sense of who they are and where they come from. So, to me, this would bring a positive sense of identity and connection to community. Which then has positive impacts on how that community develops in future as well.”

Parents such as Kandon and Davids are clinging doggedly to this hope.



Crime reports website helps you keep an eye on crime in your neighborhood

by Anna Darling

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - There are ways for you to take control of your safety against crimes in your neighborhoods, tools that are free for anyone to use. A website called is a free tool where you can see what crimes are happening around your home, and how often they happen.

"Knowledge is power and the more you know the safer you can be," said Kitty Campbell, who has lived in West Lafayette for 30 years.

"Overall in this community I feel very safe," she said. "When I was a dog owner I used to walk the streets a lot taking my pets out and even now without a dog without a dog I feel very safe."

But for those who want to monitor crime in the area, there are ways that you can monitor those trends. On, you can click the "explore the map" feature and zoom in on any city or town in the world. You can also search an address or location, however there is only data for departments who share information with the site. Lafayette Police Department is one of those departments.

"There's no substitution for personal accountability," said Sgt. Mike Brown with LPD.

He encourages everyone to take their safety into their own hands.

"If you are concerned or interested about crime trends in your community, either your neighborhood, your part of the city, or the city in general, there are tools out there that allow you to research that for yourself," he said.

The website also allows for transparency between the local police department and the community, something Sgt. Brown said is important to LPD.

"Transparency is paramount," he said. "We rely so much on the community to help us police their community."

Having data on what types of crimes happen where, helps our officers. Some areas see more car accidents than others because they are high-traffic areas. Other areas see more cases of robbery or theft than other because they are more residential or retail. He said this data helps them tailor what officers need to focus on, and he said they have success using numbers.

"Every time we focus on a particular crime trend and use data driven policing it's effective in lowering that type of crime," he said.

While you can take steps to keep an eye on safety from the internet, you should also always be aware of your personal surroundings.

"People need to stay vigilant," said Campbell. "Don't put yourself in silly situations that could be dangerous."

"Take a close look around you, pay attention to your surroundings and that will prevent a lot of problems," said Sgt. Brown.


New York City

Sex Work Could Soon Be Allowed In A Huge Part Of New York City

“This is literally how they put food on their tables,” Queens District Attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán, who is campaigning to not prosecute sex workers, told BuzzFeed News.

by Otillia Steadman

A headline-grabbing candidate for district attorney in New York City — who became a favorite of progressives after getting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement — plans to single-handedly make the borough of Queens the first major metropolitan area in the country where sex work would, effectively, not be a crime.

If Tiffany Cabán wins the Democratic primary in late June and general election in November — and actually puts her plan in place — it would mark one of the biggest successes for the sex work decriminalization movement that, after years of struggling to gain mainstream traction, has growing popularity and political influence across the country.

Cabán, who was a public defender until March, has framed her argument for not prosecuting sex work as one about class. "We just criminalize the people who have been destabilized by systemic problems, and you know our sex work community falls squarely within that category," Cabán told BuzzFeed News during a recent interview at Mike's Diner in Queens' Astoria neighborhood.

“This is literally how they put food on their tables,” she argued during a debate Tuesday night.

Sex workers “end up with criminal records for minor offenses that could lead to deportation, could lead to criminal convictions that then make it even harder to stabilize lives,” she told BuzzFeed News.

“We want to support people in sex work who want to engage in sex work because certainly our economy doesn't work for everybody,” she said. "Or, if it's survival work, provide other means where their survival is no longer contingent on sex work."

The district attorney in Queens — home to nearly 2.4 million people, roughly the population of Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city — oversees one of the most heavily policed parts of New York City and the state when it comes to sex work arrests. The office has the power to decline to prosecute people that the police arrest for specific crimes — similar to how former Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson declined to prosecute possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014, paving the way for the current legislative push to legalize marijuana statewide that has recently stalled.

Cabán said that if she's elected, “on day one it comes from being part of a memo to our district attorneys saying you will not prosecute sex workers, customers, and you will not prosecute under the promoting prostitution charges” — which cover what is colloquially called “pimping,” but which advocates say also impact sex workers supporting one another.

Sex trafficking, sexual coercion, and sex assault would still be prosecuted, Cabán said, adding, “but we are not there to police bodies and take away folks' autonomy.

Cabán frames decriminalizing sex work as a feminist issue, in addition to being a human rights, economic, and public health issue. Still, decriminalization has been polarizing for women's rights advocates.

“Criminal justice reform is imperative,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women. “But that doesn't include, shouldn't include, supporting the idea of legalizing an inherently violent business enterprise with connections to organized crime that fundamentally preys on the most vulnerable in our community.”

NOW-NYC is part of a coalition of organizations opposing full decriminalization and has endorsed candidate and current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “Katz does not support the wholesale decriminalization of the sex trade, recognizing the harms of an unfettered industry of exploitation and the violence that comes with it,” NOW-NYC said in a press release.

“Instead, she supports removing discriminatory laws such as loitering for the purposes of prostitution, decriminalizing people in prostitution, and increasing services to meet their needs, while retaining the power to legally hold sex buyers and pimps accountable.”

Cabán argues that proposals like Katz's — known variously as the Nordic model, "end demand," or the equality model, which still target clients and third parties for prosecution — don't work.

“You can't police customers without policing sex workers. And you create an environment where there's an incentivization of police officers harassing and taking advantage of sex workers to get information on their clients,” she said.

Cabán believes decriminalizing sex work would bring stability to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Queens, who she says have been failed by a system that sends in police rather than providing services.

In 2018, 19% of the state's arrests of people selling sex came from Queens alone, and a staggering 44% of the state's arrests on a charge called “loitering for the purposes of prostitution” came from the borough, according to statistics provided by the Division of Criminal Justice Services. In the borough, which is often celebrated for its ethnic diversity, the loitering charges overwhelmingly target black and brown communities — 97% of arrests in 2018, many of whom were also transgender or undocumented.

Queens has already been at the forefront of addressing sex work as a crime. In 2004 it became home to the state's first diversion program, which, in most cases, directs people arrested for prostitution to counseling sessions. Once the mandated sessions are complete, the charges are dismissed and the records are sealed.

“It did result in people being less likely to have criminal convictions,” said Leigh Latimer, who is the supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society's Exploitation Intervention Project. “But it's not what I consider the ideal way to address the needs of people who are engaging in sex work, whether that's voluntarily or not.”

The intersection at Roosevelt Avenue and 82nd Street in Jackson Heights, Queens. The intersection is often heavily policed for prostitution along Roosevelt Avenue.

A recent study from the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership found that the diversion courts, called human trafficking intervention courts by the state, are not living up to their stated ambitions.

The courts view people arrested for prostitution as victims rather than criminals, but structurally, the report said, the courts still treat people selling sex as defendants. Critics also say that the waiting period between an arrest and when the charges are dismissed makes it difficult to find alternative sources of income.

Proponents of the court say that within the context of the criminal justice system, the diversion programs are a good compromise to avoid incarceration for people accused of selling sex. The arrests also provide law enforcement with access to sex workers, which some argue is necessary for obtaining information to go after traffickers.

Cabán says this isn't working.

She argues that the current model makes it more difficult for people to come forward about sex traffickers, and says that removing the threat of prosecution will provide better opportunities for collaboration.

“We are repairing fractured trust so that we have witnesses for our sex trafficking cases, so that we can start to be successful in those prosecutions,” she said. “Because in Queens we have been dismally unsuccessful through the ways in which we've tried to combat trafficking.”

Cabán says those models ignore collateral impacts on sex workers.

“Sometimes I don't leave my house after 10 p.m. because the harassment is so strong,” said Mayra Colón, a 60-year-old sex worker from Jackson Heights who is supporting Cabán. “If I was somewhere with my husband, the police would ask us if he was a client, and they wanted to put us in jail.”

Colón is one of a group of sex workers who have been knocking on doors, passing out flyers, talking to neighbors, and going to rallies for Cabán.

“Cabán is the first time that sex workers have the opportunity to support someone who is bringing us out of the shadows,” said Bianey García, a former sex worker who organized the group canvassing for Cabán, and who is a member of Make the Road Action, which has endorsed Cabán.

The loitering charges are particularly problematic for this group, who say they are often targeted solely on the basis of their appearance or clothing.

Giovanna, who declined to give her real name because she is undocumented, told BuzzFeed News that she has been arrested twice when coming home late at night after dancing at a club, and that the arrests could affect her immigration status.

Her story is very similar to that of state Sen. Jessica Ramos, who represents the same area in Queens and is supporting a bill to decriminalize sex work at the state level. Ramos told BuzzFeed News that she was personally harassed by the police under the loitering statute as a young woman.

“It was late at night, it was the summer. I was with my girlfriends, our skirts were a little short, and the police officers, you know, suspected that we were sex workers,” Ramos said. “It was humiliating.

Giovanna and Silvia Escobar on Roosevelt Avenue. Both women are sex workers campaigning for Cabán.

The Legal Aid Society sued the NYPD over the loitering statute in 2016 for what it called unconstitutional enforcement. As part of that settlement, NYPD has changed arrest guidelines so that appearance and clothing can no longer be the sole factors cited for an arrest.

“For crimes that New York State has decided are very low-level crimes, those arrests can have very long consequences for people,” Latimer said, “particularly immigrants.”

“The NYPD is committed to providing clarity to our officers on loitering enforcement, and did so through a combination of amplifications to the patrol guide and enhanced training to ensure compliance,” the department said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “We will continue to address community concerns about prostitution and at the same time take steps to address and prevent human trafficking and protect victims of sex crimes.”

In addition to the bill introduced by Ramos and others in Albany, lawmakers in Washington, DC, introduced a bill to fully decriminalize sex work in the district earlier in June. Narrower bills have also been introduced in Maine and Massachusetts, and Rhode Island is considering a proposal for a task force to study the issue.

Sex work has also been legal in some parts of Nevada since 1971, but that primarily applies to rural areas of the state, and advocates for decriminalization say the regulatory regime there fails to protect the most marginalized sex workers.

At Tuesday's debate, all seven of the candidates in the Queens DA race said they would decline to prosecute sex workers themselves, but Cabán is the only candidate supporting full decriminalization, including clients and third parties, and her endorsements from the community and advocates reflect that.

Katz, who has more campaign donations and endorsements than Cabán, told BuzzFeed News that she also supports legislation in Albany to repeal the loitering statute and allow victims of trafficking to vacate related convictions. During Tuesday's debate, she said that she would also aim to offer more services through the courts, and that she thinks “you can do both.”

Declining to prosecute cases doesn't change the law — though Cabán has also spoken in support of the bill to decriminalize sex work that was introduced Monday — which would still allow police to arrest people on offenses related to sex work. Cabán said she is prepared to work with the NYPD on alternatives, like pre-arrest diversion programs.

“There's still a system within which we're working, and the Police Department and the policing system is part of that,” she said. “I hope over time we're able to change what policing looks like in our country, in our city, in our borough.


San Diego

Citations and Arrests Used as a Strategy To Solve Homelessness in San Diego

by Dorian Hargrove, Paul Krueger, Tom Jones and Sophia McCullough

San Diego Police officers are handing out more tickets to homeless people across the city as part of a push to address homelessness.

Data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates shows in 2018 police officers in San Diego issued 5,910 encroachment tickets in San Diego, a nearly 300 percent increase from 2013 when officers issued 1,413 encroachment citations.

The data shows tickets for encroachment, illegal lodging, and loitering has increased dramatically from year to year since 2013.

It also provides a look inside the city's strategy to solve rising homelessness in San Diego and shows the department has turned to cite homeless people as a way to deter public loitering and gathering.

Walter Howard can attest to that strategy.

In September 2018, Howard, an elderly homeless man walked outside of a 7/11 convenience store at the corner of Beech and State Streets in Downtown. Two San Diego Police Officers approached Howard moments after he set his backpack down on the sidewalk.

The interaction was recorded on an officer's body camera and ended with Howard receiving an encroachment citation.

Attorney Scott Dreher helped Howard fight his ticket.

“If that's the real interpretation of the statute, that's ridiculous,” said Dreher. “You can't set something down for a few moments?”

A judge later dismissed Howard's case. Dreher says the encroachment statute was actually written to stop homeowners from leaving trash cans on the sidewalk after collection day, not as a tool to address homelessness.

But that changed, as can be seen in a June 2014 email obtained by NBC 7.In the email, police officers from the Western Division spoke of the use of the encroachment citation as one of the tools officers can use to “handle transients.”

“It is a bookable offense,” reads the email. “ when you see someone's tent, backpack, shelter, or stuff sprawled in the park, making the space unusable to the normal citizenry, you can use this section.”

Among the other tools, according to the email, officers can offer to call the Homeless Outreach Team to provide help and resources. If officers run into the same individual on numerous occasions then they are encouraged to write citations for illegal lodging and encroachment.

Scott Wahl is a Captain of the San Diego Police Department's Neighborhood Policing Division. “Some of the conditions on these streets are deplorable. They're not healthy, they're not safe and the homeless population pays the price the most when we look the other way. So we're proud of the fact we're out here doing something about it.”

But the City has been challenged over the enforcement strategy. In 2017, several people sued the city for issuing enforcement citations.

Dreher has sued and won several landmark cases against the city on behalf of homeless people, says the city is targeting the homeless population.

“Bottom line: The court said you can't cite for sleeping between 10 pm and 6 am,” said Dreher. “So in 2014, someone in the police department figured out they can use the encroachment statute regardless of the time of day.”

Added Dreher, “It's carte blanche to do anything to anybody, anytime somebody sets something down. And they only use it against homeless people.”

Dreher said by using that logic, homeless individuals would be forced to carry their belongings with them at all times, never allowed to set any items on the ground.

According to the data, while a vast majority of citations and arrests occurred in the City's East Village neighborhood, the highest increase in citations and arrests from 2013 to 2018 happened along Sports Arena Boulevard. In 2013, only five arrests and citations were made or issued on Sports Arena Boulevard. In 2018, that number ballooned to 133 arrests and citations.

Similar increases were seen on Pacific Highway, where 139 more arrests and citations were made in 2018 compared to 2013; or on Park Avenue where 44 arrests and citations occurred in 2013 versus 140 in 2018.

In regards to Howard's encroachment citation, Dreher says homeless people are also hard-pressed to appear in Kearny Mesa for the misdemeanor citations.

“The City Attorney never appears for these cases, in derogation of its prosecutorial obligations and duties,” said Dreher. “The City and City Attorney's Office receives significant 'administrative fees' in these cases.”

Captain Wahl met with NBC 7 Investigates on 17th Street, one block north of Imperial Avenue where more than a thousand citations and arrests have been issued for encroachment and illegal lodging since 2013.

“The public right of way needs to be clean, safe and healthy for everyone,” Wahl told NBC 7. “Oftentimes it's misconstrued that enforcing the law means that we don't have compassion. And that couldn't be further from the truth.”

Wahl told NBC 7 that citations are the last resort. Officers are trained to offer help first, and tickets and citations after the fourth interaction. He said people who are homeless can leave their belongings at the city's storage facilities as an alternative to leaving them on the street.

“But at the end of the day, if they're going to refuse all the help that's out there, we've got the very difficult job of enforcing the law.”

As for the increase in tickets, Wahl said part of the reason for the uptick was the response to the Hepatitis A outbreak that killed 20 people between 2016 and 2017.

The data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates shows the number of citations has steadily increased from 2013. Only two months during the peak months of the Hepatitis A outbreak, May and September of 2017, had a high citation and arrest count. Five months that had the highest citation and arrest count were in 2018.

Meanwhile, San Diego's City Attorney and Dreher will meet this week for a settlement conference in the class-action lawsuit over the encroachment citations.

“Problem is no one wants a day center in their neighborhood,” said Dreher. “No one wants them in the park. So give them a place to go. Let's come up with some housing for people. Lots of them have mental issues, we need to find out what's wrong with the homeless and give them someplace to go.



Search committee asks Hamden what they want in a police chief

by Clare Dignan

HAMDEN — Accountability, cultural competency, community engagement. That's what residents want in their police chief.

The mayor's committee to find a new police chief held its first community meeting at the Keefe Community Center Wednesday, gathering input from residents about what values and qualifications a new police chief should hold and what policing in Hamden should look like overall.

Several themes emerged from the groups about what a police chief should represent and how a police department should serve a community.

Many who spoke at the meeting talked about hiring a chief who is culturally competent and instills that in the police department. Residents said a chief should know and understand the community in which their officers work.

“The police chief needs to build a relationship with the community,” said resident Cherlyn Pointdexter. “They can't just build a relationship with the officers. They need to be in the community — that's part of community policing, not just the officers but the chief himself.”

Residents said the police chief should prioritize building relationships with the community and lead officers by example to do the same.

People were divided on whether the next chief should come from within Hamden's ranks. Some said an outsider who isn't entrenched in the department's culture and current practices would be better, while others said hiring from within gives officers professional opportunity to rise through the ranks, as well as providing familiarity with the town.

Many recommendations were consistent, though, including ensuring the chief holds officers accountable while also being accountable to another body, such as the Police Commission or a civilian review board.

Along with accountability and cultural competency, residents said they want someone who understands what police are dealing with day to day and how that can affect their jobs.

“We need to be concerned about the wellness of our officers because they live stressful lives,” Pointdexter said. “We need to do regular wellness checks. Officers are dealing with stress in their personal lives and they can take it into the community.”

She said officers need regular mental wellness checks and the Police Department should be supporting residents as well in their encounters with police.

“The discussion was robust but there's definitely a divide and it's authentic because our experiences are different,” state Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, said. Porter, a woman of color, also represents Hamden.

Throughout the discussion many people of color said school resource officers shouldn't be in schools because they increase the likelihood of children of color to be written up or criminalized.

Another woman, who was white, said she her children had positive experiences with SROs and they're beneficial for students.

Councilwoman Athena Gary, D-3, whose district includes the Keefe Center, said people have divided opinions about police because their experiences with them are different, both positive and negative. She said many people of color don't share the same views as whites because they're policed differently.

“We have racial issues, not just in Hamden, not just Connecticut, but nationally,” Porter said. “This country is rooted and founded in racism and we can't get away from that. It's the elephant in the room. So when you talk about how great SROs are, for students that look like them, it's wonderful, but that's not what we get in the schools down here for black and brown people.”

“(Police) still act like they're in the military and that's how they should deal with us,” said resident Elizabeth Hayes, a woman of color who's lived in Hamden for 24 years. “We're not at war, bur right now the way police operating, in some communities, it's as if they're fighting a war and look at our communities as war zones.”

Councilman Justin Farmer, D-5, said he was surprised by the meeting's dynamic because only a few people in the room out of about 50 were from the immediate neighborhood.

“It would be more legitimate if it were actually a community meeting,” he said.

Farmer said he was also upset about it's timing because it landed on Juneteenth, a holiday observing the day in 1865 that slaves in Texas finally learned they were free.

The committee, which was created to bolster transparency and accountability as the town searches for police chief candidates, will be gathering input and recommendations for hiring at two more meetings June 26 at Memorial Town Hall and July 3 at West Woods School, both at 6 p.m. Then, the committee will make a recommendation to Leng about appointing someone.

“This was an important start of this new process, it gave our residents a chance to have voices heard,” Mayor Curt B. Leng said in a statement. “This can help to build stronger trust between the community and the police department and town government, which is always valuable.



Asheville's new chief: 'I do get it' why some people don't talk to police


It's not uncommon for murders and violent crimes to go unsolved for lack of willing witnesses, police say.

That's something Asheville Police Department officers have struggled with, notably the July 1, 2018, killing of 12-year-old Derrick Lee Jr. in the Lee Walker Heights housing complex.

But the problem is not surprising, said Chris Bailey, a longtime Indianapolis law enforcement officer who spoke to the Citizen Times on June 14, a day after he was tapped to be Asheville's next police chief.

Bailey, Indianapolis' current deputy chief of criminal investigations, said he doesn't pretend his life was like those who grew up with violent crime or in marginalized communities. And it makes sense, he said, that people who did would be reluctant to cooperate.

"My circumstances growing up where I live have been a lot different than people growing up with violent crime. I've never had to live in fear every day of gunshots, so saying I 'understand' wouldn't be a fair statement. But I do get it."

He recalled one determinedly outspoken Indianapolis resident, a man named Henry Nunn, who was killed after helping police with a homicide.

Police need to help potential witnesses relocate or feel safe, he said. They also need to establish credibility with residents of neighborhoods that have been underserved or "have a history of negative police interactions," he said.

Bailey, who is white, said he was not commenting on any specific Asheville case.

'Rambunctious,' then quick climb through ranks

Bailey will start the job July 29 with a salary of $165,000 plus benefits. He was in Asheville meeting with city personnel and preparing to relocate when he spoke about how his current department coped with record-setting murder rates as well as the importance of police not "occupying" neighborhoods with high crime.

He also talked about racial disparities in Asheville traffic stops and among those arrested for resisting an officer, a charge some activists say is more about perceived disrespect than actual law-breaking.

Bailey, 43, has been an Indianapolis officer for two decades, starting with the department in 1999.

He described his early years as a more "rambunctious" period — even before being an officer, he jumped into a swiftly flowing river to help police trying to rescue a mother and son. As a patrolman he penned an op-ed defending 1,800 citations given during a 2002 downtown Black Expo. In 2003, he ran for the city-county council.

In 2002, Bailey got an automatic one-day suspension for failing to find scissors hidden on an arrestee. Two years later he was suspended for five days; Bailey declined to describe that incident. His personnel record references what appear to be sections of an older policy manual that wasn't immediately available.

Bailey said he'd been "open and transparent" with Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell, his new boss.

"I made some mistakes early in my career, but learned from those mistakes," he said. "I've spent the last 15 years doing my best to be a great husband, father and cop."

In announcing her choice, Campbell said she picked Bailey from 89 "very high-caliber candidates."

City officials declined to give information on other candidates, including race and sex. Bailey, Campbell said, had a demonstrated ability "to connect with the community and his fellow officers."

Promoted to sergeant in 2005, Bailey won back pay in 2009 in a racial discrimination settlement brought against the city by federal employment regulators. In 2011, he made lieutenant, followed by a quick succession of promotions to major, commander, captain and, in 2017, deputy chief. For many years he was the department's media contact dealing frequently with reporters. He won more than 10 awards and commendations, including nomination for officer of the year among police, firefighters and sheriff's deputies.

Active in the police union, Bailey served as a negotiator in a 2006 contract standoff. But in 2018, he disagreed with the Fraternal Order of Police's defense of two officers who killed an unarmed black motorist, telling an administrative board the 11 shots fired into the car were "unreasonable." The officers were cleared of any policy or criminal violations.

Murders, not occupying neighborhoods

Indianapolis has experienced four record-breaking years of homicides, giving it the fifth-highest murder rate among large cities, according to the Brennan Center. That makes it 13th among major cities for violent crime, according to USA Today.

Homicide case clearance rates under Bailey improved from 41% in 2017 to 65%, according to 2018 police figures. Officers boosted witness cooperation, Bailey said, after persuading local leaders to start a $300,000 program to pay to move people to other parts of the city. If such funds weren't available in Asheville, Bailey said he would look for other resources, such as nonprofit assistance.

Precise, data-driven approaches were important, he said, rather than traditional sweeps of "going in a neighborhood and stopping everything that moves."

"I've done it as a law enforcement officer back in the day. That has negative consequences." Neighborhoods that become known as "bad neighborhoods" because of crime are "not filled with a majority of bad people," he said. "In fact, it's just the opposite. Most neighborhoods are filled with good people."

Police need to meet with residents and talk to them about approaches they would like to use, such as pursuing warrants related to illegal firearms. Officers should learn how residents want to be policed, he said. And though law enforcement isn't good at fixing long-term social ills, they should recognize poverty, food insecurity and other issues that lead people to crime and the should reach out to organizations that can help.



Neighbors patrol community with guns and dogs to protect from uptick in crime

by Sean DeLancey

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Several people living in La Villa Vegas Mobile Home Park describe their daily lives as a cycle of vagrancy and crime.

"It's dangerous," says Daniel Winchester. "And most of us are seniors."

Winchester has lived in the park on and off over the course of 30 years.

He says he patrols the park several times every night to keep the growing homeless population from taking over the area.

"I carry a firearm," Winchester says.

"Anywhere else in town I don't carry, but here I always carry."

Both Winchester and his neighbor Janelle Lowrance say the problem grew out of control when most of the street lamps in his neighborhood disappeared, and the park management, Patriot Mobile Home Parks, pulled the on-site manager from the property.

"It's scary even though I have this big German Shepherd," Lowrance says.

She says every morning the homeless emerge from vacant mobile homes in the park.

"There goes the homeless people again, out for the morning," she says. "The solution would be to get the lights on first thing."

Patriot Parks Management tells 13 Action News that it has replaced the lighting multiple times, but they get broken or stolen frequently.

They also say the on-site manager was pulled from the park for security reasons.

"I'm about ready to move," Winchester says. "I hate to move, but it seems like all of the homeless from downtown have moved this way and then stopped."

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says the Community Policing Division has been aware of the problem, and most of it has stemmed from a single vacant mobile home owned by P.P.M.

Police say they have responded to 31 calls for service to the area since April 1, most are domestic or drug related.

They say P.M.M. has been working with Code Enforcement, the Health District, and Las Vegas Fire and Rescue to clean up the park.