NEWS of the Week
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. 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 ...
NOTE: To see full stories either click on the Daily links or on the URL provided below each article.
June 16, 2013
Officials: NSA programs broke plots in 20 nations
WASHINGTON—Top U.S. intelligence officials said Saturday that information gleaned from two controversial data-collection programs run by the National Security Agency thwarted potential terrorist plots in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries—and that gathered data is destroyed every five years.
Last year, fewer than 300 phone numbers were checked against the database of millions of U.S. phone records gathered daily by the NSA in one of the programs, the intelligence officials said in arguing that the programs are far less sweeping than their detractors allege.
No other new details about the plots or the countries involved were part of the newly declassified information released to Congress on Saturday and made public by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Intelligence officials said they are working to declassify the dozens of plots NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander said were disrupted, to show Americans the value of the programs, but that they want to make sure they don't inadvertently reveal parts of the U.S. counterterrorism playbook in the process.
The release of information follows a bruising week for U.S. intelligence officials who testified on Capitol Hill, defending programs that were unknown to the public—and some lawmakers—until they were revealed by a series of media stories in The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who remains in hiding in Hong Kong.
Bilingual police officers reach out to community
WOODLAND PARK — Englewood officers carry bilingual dictionaries in their patrol cars. Fairview police recently completed an eight-week Spanish course to learn basic terms. A Korean-speaking officer is stationed at the Fort Lee police front desk on a regular basis.
And North Jersey police departments, including Clifton, Bergenfield and Hackensack, have become more culturally diverse, hiring officers who speak second languages.
But adding more Latino and Asian officers and learning key Spanish phrases may not always be enough to break down barriers between immigrants and local law enforcement. Many immigrants, police and experts tell The Record, are hesitant to approach police — fearing deportation, or worse, after negative experiences in their native countries.
Those walls have made it difficult for some police departments, such as Englewood, where a string of robbery assaults against Hispanic immigrants occurred recently, to establish successful relationships with minority communities.
Englewood is not alone. Similar challenges have been reported by other departments across the nation, according to a report published in October by the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice. The center identified ways law enforcement can establish and improve relations with immigrants.
June 15, 2013
Facebook, Microsoft Share Some Numbers on Government Requests for Information
Following reports that they have complied with a broad government spying program, technology companies have begun releasing more information about the national security-related requests for user information made by the federal government.
Facebook published a statement on its blog late Friday which gave a general idea of how many requests for information it received from the government in the second half of last year. Including national security letters, the total number of requests was between 9,000 and 10,000, relating to between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts.
Later on Friday Microsoft posted a similar statement , saying it received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts in the U.S. The company said it was forbidden from saying whether any of these were FISA orders, but if any were, they would be included in that total.
Both companies stressed that even the overall numbers of requests were tiny in comparison to their user bases. The number of national security-related requests likely make up a relatively small proportion of these requests.
Bellevue police credits community in the arrest of 38 burglars in 6 months
BELLEVUE, Wash. — Bellevue police announced that they have arrested at least 38 burglars in the last six months, and they credit the help of the community for nabbing them.
According to police, out of the 38 arrested, 24 of them were interrupted by a witness or the victims themselves.
Last year during the same time, 36 burglars were captured.
"Our alert community members calling when they see someone/something suspicious, providing good descriptions and the quick response from our police officers have led to the apprehension of several burglary suspects. This is what community policing is all about. I am proud of our community's commitment to watch out for each other and of our officer's commitment to provide exceptional law enforcement," said Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo.
Bellevue police said most of the burglars were caught running out of homes with stolen items and officers in the area captured them quickly.
Baltimore police form new advisory council on LGBT issues
Goals to improve relations with community, atmosphere for gay officers.
Making good on a promise by Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts after the severe beating of a gay East Baltimore man, the city Police Department announced Friday a special advisory council to help improve its relations with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The panel of activists, civil rights advocates and attorneys also plans to work to improve the atmosphere for gay and transgendered officers within the Police Department as it increases efforts to recruit from that community.
"More times than not, we find the most vulnerable communities throughout the city are the communities that have the most fractured relationships with the Police Department," said Alvin Gillard, co-chair of the council and director of the city's Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement. "Until now, we haven't invested the appropriate resources to develop the trust."
Tensions have long existed nationally between police departments and gay communities, dating to wholesale arrests of gay bar patrons in the 1950s and 1960s and continuing to more recent allegations of law enforcement mistreating transgender crime victims.
June 14, 2013
FBI: Secret NSA Program could have stopped 9/11 attacks
New details in Al-Qaeda's San Diego connection
The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is using San Diego's connection to the 9/11 hijackers in his defense of the controversial NSA phone-tracking program.
Before Congress, FBI Director Robert Mueller said he believed the attacks could have been stopped if the program had existed then.
"The simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan," said Mueller. "In any case an opportunity was not there. If we had this program, that opportunity would have been there."
Khalid Al-Mihdhar was one of 5 Al Qaeda hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 that flew into the Pentagon. He and his accomplice Naway Al-Hazmi lived at a Clairemont Mesa apartment complex in 2001, and even took flying lessons at Montgomery field. Mueller said Al-Mihdhar phoned an Al Qaeda safehouse in Yemen, information that intelligence officials found out too late.
"If we had the telephone number from Yemen, we would have matched it up to the telephone number in San Diego, got further legal process, identified Al Mihdhar."
Sheboygan County Sheriff's Office moves forward with community policing initiative
Sheboygan County Sheriff Todd Priebe's campaign vision when he was elected in November 2010 was centered around changing the way the department does business, using his philosophy of community policing and building relationships.
It was a vision Priebe developed while serving with the Sheboygan Police Department for 18 years before taking over as sheriff in January 2011.
“You're focusing on building partnerships with the citizens, businesses, community stakeholders,” Priebe said. “It goes hand in hand with problem solving. So when an issue is brought forward by the community or brought forward by law enforcement as an area of concern, the idea is that you get the stakeholders together, the partnerships forming, to work together collaboratively to address those concerns.”
He said the vision began with former Sheriff Loni Koenig in the late 1990s and the department is “continuing to build on that.”
Priebe said successful community policing is started by identifying a geographical area that has a “common denominator” and bringing citizens in that community together with common concerns and forming a partnership in resolving issues together.
Calls for action mark 6 months since Newtown
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Six months after the Newtown school shooting, the tragedy will be marked with a moment of silence, the reading of thousands of names of gun violence victims and calls around the country to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases.
Family members, elected officials and other leaders will gather in Newtown on Friday for a day of remembrance and a call to action. The reading of names is expected to take 12 hours.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns will launch a bus tour that will travel to 25 states over 100 days to build support for background checks legislation. Legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers failed in the Senate in April.
The mayors group is also holding events in 10 states calling for lawmakers to expand background checks and urging senators who opposed the bill to reconsider. Those events, which include gun violence survivors and gun owners, will be held in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
June 13, 2013
Texting hands-free while driving still dangerous, study finds
With Siri on the iPhone and Bluetooth in dashboards, it's a lot easier for drivers to talk or text on their cellphones -- but a study released Wednesday found these hands-free technologies could be even more dangerous than hand-held devices when used on the road.
The study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety measured drivers' brainwaves while they were multitasking and found they had to cope with a heavier "mental workload" and distractions when using voice-to-text email features compared to talking on a cellphone, whether hand-held or hands-free.
The study found voice-to-text features sometimes caused drivers to have "a kind of tunnel vision" or -- even more problematic -- "inattention blindness," Automobile Club of Southern California senior research associate Steve Bloch said.
With the former, he explained, drivers "see what's right in front of them, but don't see stop signs, traffic lights, people on the side of the road who might enter the road."
With the latter, drivers "don't even see what's right in front of them, because they're so lost in their own thoughts, so cognitively distracted," he added.
District Attorney awards local residents Courageous Citizen Awards
LOS ANGELES -- Lady Justice sometimes needs help.
Some of it came in the form of four local heroes who were awarded the Courageous Citizen Award on Friday.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office presented residents from Inglewood, Van Nuys, San Gabriel and Los Angeles with the distinction.
These fantastic four are ordinary people who momentarily seemed to be costumed with tightfitting latex superhero outfits. It was their efforts to help those in need that placed them among some 700 people who have been given the award since its inception 28 years ago.
"You'd be surprised how many people are afraid of coming forward to report a crime because they're afraid. They're here illegally or worried about their own safety," said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. "Imagine the defendants that we just discussed -- someone who would beat a defenseless man on the street, rob a pregnant woman or rob for robbing's sake -- those people would still be on the street harming people if not for these brave individuals."
US Justice Dept weighs in on NY stop-frisk case
NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department says it would strongly endorse a court-appointed monitor to oversee changes at the New York Police Department if a judge were to find its stop & frisk practices unconstitutional.
The Justice Department filed papers late Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.
Closing arguments in the civil trial were held in May. The judge will decide in coming months whether any changes are needed in the NYPD's practice of stopping, questioning and frisking people.
About a dozen witnesses testified that they were wrongly stopped. The NYPD says there is no evidence of racial motivation in its use of the tactic.
June 12, 2013
The Dumb Police State
Investigative work is built on selective mistrust. The difference between a state in which there are police and a police state is the scope of that mistrust. A state in which there are police will pursue criminals by using investigative techniques to profile suspects while a police state criminalizes everyone by treating the entire population of the country like suspects.
Some police states are smart, calculated power grabs. Others are dumb defaults. A smart police state suspects everyone because it's a tyranny. A dumb police state is run by people who can't or won't narrow down the suspect list so that they are forced to suspect everyone.
The United States has been on the road to becoming a dumb police state for a while now. It's not dumb because its law enforcement officers and military commanders are stupid. They are actually some of the best in the world. It's a dumb police state because fear of bigotry makes selective mistrust impossible.
The problem hit home for most people when the TSA began strip searching small children and amputees who were a long way from the typical profile of a Saudi male in his twenties or thirties likely to hijack a plane and fly it into a skyscraper.
‘Hot spot' policing in KC working, chief says
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte calls it a “hot spot” success. Homicide numbers are way down in parts of town where Kansas City normally sees the worst crime.
“I keep sharing with the community that we're trying to do something,” Forte said.
In fact, all four “hot spots” around Kansas City, Mo., have seen improvements. And Kansas City's year-to-date homicide rate in the metro is at an all time low at 42. By comparison, it's usually 45 to 50 at this same time in previous years.
“There will be times we`re not making progress, but hot spot policing is not just arresting offenders — it`s nurturing relationships — and we've been successful. Everywhere I go, people stop me and tell me they feel differently.”
Police Cadets Help Build Homes for Habitat for Humanity
CORPUS CHRISTI - Police cadets got their hands dirty in an effort to help out Habitat for Humanity. This part of there training is a way to get involved in the community.
24 police cadets hammered away at this house as part of their community policing philosophy.
"Police work in general is getting back to the community, helping them out, doing everything we can to succeed in the community," Cadet Labatto said.
The cadets are happy to donate their time to make this house a home for a grandmother and her grandson.
"The whole way that we accomplish building a home is primarily through volunteers who come out and donate their time just like the academy's doing today," Mark Blankenship said.
June 11, 2013
L.A. porn actor's conviction for working with syphilis is rare, but civil courts are filled with STD cases
The prosecution of an adult film actor who was sentenced to jail last week for exposing two co-stars to syphilis is rare both within the porn industry and the city of Los Angeles, but not in civil courts across the nation, legal experts said.
And while criminal prosecution has been in place for more than 20 years for those with HIV, some are calling on efforts to repeal those laws.
In April, a lawsuit was filed by a woman in New York against Arnold Simon, a former Calvin Klein CEO and major donor to Bill Clinton, claiming that he gave the woman herpes after the two met through an online dating service.
Attorney Matthew Blit, who specializes in discrimination suits and sexually transmitted disease law, said his firm Levine & Blit represented the woman, who was awarded $5 million, he said.
"The law in most states is that a person with an STD must disclose that to their partner before engaging (in sexual activity)," said Blit, whose law offices are in Beverly Hills and New York.
Little-Known Guide Helps Police Navigate a Diverse City
Arab immigrants often speak loudly, even by New York standards, so what sounds like an argument could be just a family discussion. Chinese immigrants are uncomfortable asking strangers for help. And immigrants from rural Mexico generally avoid making eye contact with authority figures.
These are among dozens of “communication tips” mentioned in a Police Academy training manual that describes the various immigrant and ethnic groups that New York City police officers will encounter. Titled “Policing a Multicultural Society,” the manual seeks to help recruits overcome cultural barriers that threaten to escalate tense situations and can stymie efforts to elicit information.
Many of the pages offer the breezy read of a travel guide, offering advice to help police officers navigate a patchwork of foreign cultures across the five boroughs. Police officers are reminded that everyday gestures, like using a finger to point at someone, for instance, can cause unintended offense.
“Beckoning people to come to you by holding your palms up, for example, may be seen as obscene among Latin Americans,” the guide states. “Probably it is best for police officers to avoid using hand gestures until they have acquainted themselves with what they mean to the community members whom they serve.”
Warm weather brings bikes, car thefts
We usually see an increase in thefts during the warmer months.
Summer is finally here. The Superior Police Department reminds people to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Bicycle traffic has increased in Superior with the warmer weather. Be aware of bicycles and understand the laws. A bicycle is considered a vehicle. It can operate in the driving lane and should obey traffic signs and laws.
We usually see an increase in thefts during the warmer months. Take a few extra seconds to secure your property and prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Do not leave property in your vehicle overnight. If you see suspicious activity or need to make a report to an officer, call 911.
A great deal of criminal activity is related to drugs and drug abuse. The Superior Police Department is sworn to protect our citizens and those visiting our city, but we can't do it alone. Community involvement is key to prevent criminal activities in the city.
Part of the police department's efforts have involved getting Citizen Watch Groups started in Superior. Superior Citizen Watch is the same as Neighborhood Watch. Members of Citizen Watch are involved in crime prevention in their neighborhoods by watching out for suspicious activity or criminal behavior and reporting it to the police department. Members take extra care in securing their property and homes to prevent burglary. They reach out to their neighbors so together they can keep their neighborhood safe. Citizen Watch is a network of community support involving a police and citizen partnership.
June 10, 2013
NSA whistle-blower who sought to 'inform the public' in surveillance leak faces decades in jail
The source of the bombshell leaks about the U.S. government gathering information on billions of phone calls and Internet activities risks decades in jail for the disclosures if the U.S. can extradite him from Hong Kong, where he says he has taken refuge after saying his sole motive was to “inform the public.”
Edward Snowden, 29, who claims to have worked as a contractor at the National Security Agency and the CIA, allowed The Guardian and The Washington Post to reveal his identity Sunday. Snowden, in a video that appeared on the Guardian's website, said two NSA surveillance programs are wide open to abuse.
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere," Snowden said. "I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email."
Snowden said he was a former technical assistant for the CIA and a current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, which released a statement Sunday confirming he had been a contractor with them in Hawaii for less than three months. Company officials have promised to work with investigators.
Madison's top cops ponder how to better connect with us
In his crisp blue uniform with the twin-bar captain's insignia, Joe Balles certainly looks the part of important cop, but when he speaks, he sounds more like a banker.
He refers to deposits and withdrawals and bank accounts as metaphors for the overall level of confidence — or lack thereof — that city residents have these days in the Madison Police Department.
Balles, who commands the department's South District, is part of Chief Noble Wray's senior team. Wray asked him to draw up a plan to better engage the community, and Balles produced an eight-point chart that includes such elements as more effectively using social media, conducting more topical forums and better leveraging the deployment of volunteers.
Worth noting up front is that the issue of community trust seems top of mind in police ranks these days.