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.
Sept 1, 2013
President Obama seeking lawmakers' approval for Syria strike
WASHINGTON (AP) — Delaying what had loomed as an imminent strike, President Barack Obama abruptly announced Saturday he will seek congressional approval before launching any military action meant to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds.
With Navy ships on standby in the Mediterranean Sea ready to launch their cruise missiles, Obama said he had decided the United States should take military action and that he believes that as commander in chief, he has “the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.”
At the same time, he said, “I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective.” His remarks were televised live in the United States as well as on Syrian state television with translation.
Congress is scheduled to return from a summer vacation on Sept. 9, and in anticipation of the coming debate, Obama challenged lawmakers to consider “What message will we sent if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price.”
The Public Safety Tipping Point: When Saving Money Loses Lives
Recently my wife and I were strolling along the shore in Long Beach, N.Y., when a young woman ran up to us, thrust her sunglasses into my wife's hands and dashed into the ocean. It took me a minute to realize that she was a lifeguard. She dove into each breaker as it came, swimming strongly straight toward a young man and a teenage girl quite a ways from shore. I wasn't sure at first if they were just playing or in trouble, but the lifeguard knew. They were in trouble, especially the girl. We stood and waited as the three of them came to shore. Everyone was OK.
I was impressed. I had just seen a government employee do her job superbly. Aside from the strength and determination displayed by her swimming, it takes skill to watch hundreds of people in the water and identify, at a distance of many yards, someone who is in trouble. The job is important not just to the individuals assisted and their families, but to the economy of the city of Long Beach itself.
Like many cities, Long Beach has financial problems and has been cutting spending and reducing the number of public employees—including, in this case, lifeguards. The money budgeted for lifeguards in Long Beach has been cut by more than 18 percent in the past year.
Not every city has a beach, but lifeguards are essentially public safety employees, just like cops and firefighters, which every city has. How many you need and how much to pay them is a tough call. If things are going well, you could be spending way more than needed and not really notice. In tough financial times, you can cut a little and maybe nothing bad happens. So you cut a little more.
Aug 31, 2013
Microsoft, Google to sue US government over user data request restrictions
Microsoft and Google have both announced intentions to sue the US government over their right to publish details about user data requests.
The companies wish to reveal more about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders issued to them, following exposure of the government's actions by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In a blog post, Microsoft's executive vice president for legal & corporate affairs Brad Smith said that the two companies "remain concerned with the Government's continued unwillingness" to allow additional publishing of the data requests.
"We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public," Smith argued.
"It is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email."
However, Smith welcomed the government's decision to publish more data itself. It intends to publish the total number of national security requests for customer data in the past 12 months.
"We believe it's possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk," Smith said. "And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete."
From the White House
Vice President Biden Swears in ATF Director, Announces Two New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence
Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals to reduce gun violence, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, President Obama and Vice President Biden remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make our communities safer.
Today, as part of that commitment, Vice President Biden swore in B. Todd Jones as the first permanent Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in seven years. As the Vice President said, “ATF is the key agency enforcing our gun laws, and they need a permanent director in order to do that and to do the job to the best of their ability.” The Vice President was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole.
The Vice President also announced two new executive actions, building on the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan he and the President laid out on January 16, 2013.
First, ATF is closing a loophole that has allowed machine guns and other particularly dangerous weapons to get into the wrong hands. This loophole allows prospective buyers to license these weapons to shell corporations, which lets them bypass a required background check. ATF is proposing a rule to change that, requiring anyone associated with those corporations to go through the very same kind of background check process. Closing this loophole will make a difference—last year alone, there were more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano at the National Press Club
Washington, DC -- Good morning and thank you for joining us today, and I'd like to thank the National Press Club for hosting us.
And I want to thank the men and women of DHS. In my four-and-a-half years as Secretary I've come to know many of these men and women, hear their stories, and see them perform important work of the department every day.
Getting to know them has been one of the most rewarding parts of being Secretary, and any success we have achieved flows directly from their dedication and service.
I've also had the chance to engage partners across the homeland security enterprise: governors and mayors; police, firefighters, and first responders; and business and faith-based community leaders. All are essential partners in the shared responsibility for homeland security, and I'm grateful to have their strong support.
You know, the job of securing our nation is a large one. It requires us to enlist the talents and energies of people all across the United States. In that way, all of us are stakeholders in this department's work. All of us share in its ultimate success.
Together, we have faced many challenges these past four and a half years. To list them all would take more time than we have today.
Aug 30, 2013
Establishing an Analytics Culture in Public Safety
The explosion of big data provides a vast new resource that can transform organizations, helping them build smarter systems that drive economic growth, sustainable development and societal progress.
by Ryan Prox
The explosion of big data provides a vast new resource that can transform organizations, helping them build smarter systems that drive economic growth, sustainable development and societal progress.
In the world of public safety, big data comprises existing data often stored in disparate databases, including a wide range of sources, from arrest records to court documents and mug shots. Much of it is also text-based documents, police reports, and field reports to name a few. For many agencies, it can be difficult to make sense of this data in a meaningful way that can help solve and even prevent crime. Combined with the near infinite volumes of new data sources from the Web and mobile applications, this challenge is compounded further.
Sometimes lost in the big data discussion, especially in public safety circles, is the challenge of overcoming organizational cultural challenges in employing analytics as part of day-to-day operations. Renowned criminologist Jerry Ratcliffe suggests in his article, “Integrated Intelligence and Crime Analysis,” that while analytical technology and analysts can be introduced into the organizational structure of police departments, the receptiveness of police departments to assimilate this information may be difficult.
Despite well-documented cases of this mindset being prevalent in some police organizations, the Vancouver Police Department did not encounter the issues reported by Ratcliffe.
A lot of public-safety apps are out there, but many aren't public-safety ready
Applications already are being developed for the public-safety sector, and while some— like Charles Werner, chief of the Charlottesville (Va.) Fire Department —are putting them to good use, others are urging agencies to use caution.
“Some of the apps are good, and some are not very good at all,” said Marty Bausano, deputy director of St. Clair County (Ill.) 911 Emergency Telephone System Board, who spoke on the topic at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) conference in June.
One of the big issues is that application developers often don't have a very good grasp of how public-safety answering points (PSAPs) operate, or how they differ from each other, according to Sandy Beitel, 911 coordinator for the Ogle County (Ill.) Sheriff's Office, who also spoke. Consequently, NENA and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) developed a joint working group that has published a document designed to better educate app developers, Beitel said.
“I run very small centers—I have two PSAPs with a total of six positions—whereas [cities like] Charlotte, Houston and Dallas have very large centers. While we all have the same concerns, some of our [operations] are very different,” she said. “Application developers, in the beginning, didn't understand all of the disparities between the different centers.”
UD Public Safety outfits officers with body-worn cameras
As of last semester, every University of Dayton Public Safety officer is equipped with a camera at the beginning of their shift, according to UD Public Safety officials.
UD Police Chief Bruce Burt said the pager-sized cameras are attached to officers' shirts and are utilized to record interactions between police officers and individuals.
“The primary purpose for the cameras is to document and create evidence for both administrative and criminal investigation purposes,” Burt said.
Randy Groesbeck, a UD police major and the director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety, said the cameras provide video and audio account from an officer's prospective.
Burt explained the cameras are only activated by the officers when they make contact with individuals for enforcement or to take reports from complainants.
UD Public Safety already uses video to gather evidence through usage of dashboard cameras in patrol cars and the over 1,000 cameras placed throughout campus, Groesbeck said.
Great use of video by public safety officials is in the interest of society
Police officers in San Francisco will soon wear chest-mounted cameras when serving search warrants. This will be beneficial for everyone involved and should highlight the advantages of having evidence when the actions of public safety employees are called into question.
The Police Department will equip supervisors with cameras to be turned on just before officers enter a residence to serve a search warrant. This policy is a response to 2011 accusations by the Public Defender's Office that officers illegally entered single-room occupancy hotel rooms and later falsified reports to justify the searches.
More than one story often emerges when citizens and law enforcement officials interact. With video, after-the-fact observers will have a much more precise record of exactly what transpired, unclouded by the emotions or faulty memories that often affect people on both sides.
The Police Department has not jumped blindly into giving officers cameras. It took a year to roll out a limited program that will be used by a small number of supervisors in certain situations. Police Chief Greg Suhr doesn't rule out using cameras in other situations, but said his department would first have to change its policies — a public process likely to take time.
National Suicide Prevention Week to be observed Sept. 8-14
The theme for the 39th annual National Suicide Prevention Week is “Challenging Our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together." Suicide prevention is everyone's business and anyone can participate in National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide Prevention Week for 2013 is set for Sept. 8-14.
Alabama ranks No. 23 in suicide, deaths are at 639 at a rate of 14.2 percent (all rates are per 100,000 population) U.S.A. suicide: 2010 official final data. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with one suicide occurring on average every 14.2 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. The elderly make up 12.9 percent of the population, but comprise 15.9 percent of all suicides.
Approximately 922,725 Americans attempt suicide each year. It is estimated that five million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves. Every year in the United States, more than 18,500 men and women kill themselves with a gun; two-thirds more than the number who use a gun to kill another person. An estimated 4.73 million Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one.
A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show some warning signs, for example: threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and/or, looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
Aug 29, 2013
Nidal Hasan sentenced to death for Fort Hood shooting rampage
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was sentenced to death Wednesday for killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., the worst mass murder at a military installation in U.S. history.
Dressed in Army fatigues, Hasan, who turns 43 next month, listened impassively as the death sentence was handed down by a panel of 13 senior military officers in a unanimous decision after less than two hours of deliberations. If even a single panel member had objected, Hasan would instead have been sentenced to life in prison. He also was stripped of pay and other financial benefits, which he continued to receive while in custody.
No active-duty service member has been executed since 1961, and legal experts said it will probably be many years, if ever, before the sentence will be carried out. Hasan will be flown shortly to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he will join five other inmates on military death row, officials said.
In military cases, there are several mandatory appeal stages and a military death sentence requires final approval by the president, as commander in chief.
Despite the expected delays, survivors of the shooting welcomed the verdict. According to news reports, Kathy Platoni, an Army reservist, said: “From the bottom of my heart — he doesn't deserve to live. I don't know how long it takes for a death sentence to be carried out, but the world will be a better place without him.”
‘New NYPD low': Muslims outraged by ‘terror enterprise' mosque probes
At least a dozen NYC mosques were put under police surveillance after 9/11 on the basis of being ‘terrorism enterprise investigations,' the AP reports.
The NYPD slapped a terrorist organization label on mosques in order to put its members under surveillance, it was revealed Wednesday.
Cops opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” after the 9/11 attacks, The Associated Press reported.
A confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to place informants on the boards at mosques and other organizations.
Asked about the report, Mayor Bloomberg defended the tactics.
“What we do is we try to keep this city safe, totally consistent with what the laws require,” he said. “We believe that we are compliant with those laws.”
Notorious Pillowcase Rapist to be released in L.A. County
A man who raped 38 women over decades throughout California is coming back to Los Angeles — the scene of many of his crimes — after the state Supreme Court late Wednesday denied prosecutors' attempts to keep him under lock and key at a state mental hospital.
Christopher Hubbart, dubbed the “Pillowcase Rapist” because he muffled his victims' screams by placing pillowcases over their heads, could be released within weeks, though the exact date is unknown.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey petitioned the state Supreme Court in July to block his release from Coalinga State Hospital, but the move failed.
“We aggressively pursued and exhausted all legal avenues to stop the release of sexually violent predator Christopher Hubbart to Los Angeles County,” Lacey said Wednesday. "We now are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that all terms and conditions of Hubbart's release from custody are strictly enforced,” she added.
Aug 28, 2013
Syria strike seems inevitable as U.N. warns against unilateral military action, hunt for evidence continues
DAMASCUS, Syria -- U.N. chemical weapons experts investigating an alleged poison gas attack near Damascus left their hotel again Wednesday hoping to carry out their second field trip, which was delayed Tuesday for security reasons.
The team of about 20 inspectors left their hotel in the Syrian capital in a convoy of cars to visit the eastern Ghouta suburbs, where the Obama administration says President Bashar Assad's forces unleashed a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people.
Local opposition activists told CBS News that the convoy had reached the town of Mleiha, in the sprawling Ghouta area, and videos posted online by the activists showed the U.N. inspectors interviewing patients at clinics in Mleiha and the nearby town of Zamalka.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden made it clear that regardless of what the U.N. inspectors find, the White House is now convinced the attack was carried out by Assad's forces.
The American government's assessment is based on the circumstantial evidence from videos posted on the internet, and, as CBS News correspondent David Martin reported Tuesday, intelligence -- much of it still classified -- ranging from intercepted Syrian communications to tests of tissue samples taken from victims.
Jerry Brown has plan to ease prison crowding without early releases
To comply with judges' order, Jerry Brown proposes to spend from state's reserve to house excess prisoners in alternate facilities.
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers pledged Tuesday to ease prison crowding without releasing inmates early, laying out a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for alternate housing.
The proposal, which has divided Democratic leaders, would pay for enough beds in privately owned prisons and other facilities to shed more than 9,600 inmates from state lockups by the end of the year, as federal judges have ordered.
"This is the sensible, prudent way to proceed," Brown said at a Capitol news conference. "The plan is to find as many cells as needed."
Paying for the extra housing would drain $315 million from the state's $1.1-billion reserve over the next year. The price tag is expected to increase to $415 million for each of the following two years.
The proposal would avoid inmate releases while Brown continues fighting the order to reduce the population in state prisons, which the judges say are unconstitutionally crowded. Plans his administration previously considered could have forced the state to free about 1,000 inmates before their sentences were finished.
Delmarva police agencies expand social media to help public outreach
Police expand public outreach through social media
SALISBURY — When the Delaware State Police posted on Facebook looking for a man in connection with the assault of a trooper, people responded by tagging him on the social media site and posting his cellphone number.
Social media is making it possible for law enforcement agencies to connect with the community in different ways, get the information that they want to out there and offer an additional venue to obtain tips on crimes.
“It's been a win-win for everyone involved as well as the public,” said Police Officer 1st Class Mike Levy, public affairs officer for the Ocean City Police Department. “Now the public can get the information they want directly from their department. As it was when I first started 25 years ago, it wasn't that easy. You know, if you couldn't get through on the phone, it was very challenging to get the information.”
Using Twitter and Facebook allows the Salisbury Police Department to show that it is comprised of members of the community, according to Chief Barbara Duncan, one of the officers who updates the department's social media feeds. While the department gets crime tips through social media, that isn't all it's about, she said.
Aug 27, 2013
McCarthy On Expanded Safe Passage Program: ‘This Is True Community Policing'
CHICAGO (CBS) – The city's top cop said he's pleased with how things have been going so far, as children head back to their first day of classes.
WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports Police Supt. Garry McCarthy – whose department has been preparing for this day for months – said the first day of the expanded Safe Passage program has gone smoothly so far.
McCarthy said the tumult of transferring nearly 13,000 kids to new schools, because of the closing of 49 elementary schools, has had a silver lining.
“I'm seeing small groups of kids being walked to school by their parents, or their older brothers or sisters,” he said. “This goes to the heart of what we've been talking about since I've been here, which is … to me, this is an opportunity. This is true community policing.”
With a heavy visible police presence along the Safe Passage route for Charles W. Earle Elementary School at 62nd and Seeley – which replaced the now shuttered Goodlow Elementary Magnet School – and a police helicopter hovering overhead, McCarthy said, despite a few glitches, everything has been going well.
“Knock and talk” is smart community policing
Police are using a "knock-and-talk" tactic to enter homes and arrest suspects.
Sometimes the simple strategies yield the biggest payoff.
Dallas police are using a strategy called ”knock and talk” to gain entry into homes of small-time criminals. Based on a tip, they knock on the front door and ask to enter. Sometimes they find illegal stuff. Score one for the cops.
My concern, however, is that this quite legal, by-the-book strategy will grab low-hanging fruit and not much else. In the long run, small-timers will get smart to this tactic and force officers to get a warrant, as is their right. Also, I wonder whether officers using this tactic will walk into a situation that would put them at risk than they mght have anticipated.
For now, I give the DPD credit for smart community policing. Neighbors are the best eyes and ears in a community. Asking questions isn't a bad thing, especially if it gets a few bad apples off of the street.
Hartford Chief Cracking Down On Police 'Offices'
HARTFORD — — Police Chief James Rovella is cracking down on the department's little-known but longtime practice of maintaining under-the-radar "offices" inside local storefronts.
Rovella sent a memo to the deputy and assistant police chiefs on Aug. 16 asking them to provide a list of all such offices throughout the city.
The practice of police partnering with local business owners and landlords has been seen as beneficial for both sides — the police presence means crime deterrence for landlords, while a quiet room inside a local establishment can provide a welcome respite for officers.
But these makeshift offices, which have been a hallmark of community policing in Hartford for at least 20 years, aren't regulated, and it's not always clear how they're being used.
"We don't want to give the appearance of impropriety," Rovella said. "There's zero tolerance for drinking or sleeping [on the job]. How the community perceives us is important."
Aug 26, 2013
California lawmakers seek solution to growing problem of Internet ‘revenge porn'
SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers are attempting to limit a distressing social media phenomenon known as “revenge porn,” where spurned suitors post intimate photos of their ex-lovers on the Internet for all to see.
The Assembly is set to debate a bill that would make such conduct punishable by up to a year in jail, while Gov. Jerry Brown is considering separate legislation that would make it a crime to impersonate or bully a domestic violence victim online.
The measures are forcing lawmakers to consider where to draw the line between unfettered free speech and privacy rights.
“Right now law enforcement has no tools to combat revenge porn or cyber-revenge,” said Sen. Anthony Cannella, a Republican from Ceres who proposed one of the bills. “Unfortunately it is a growing trend and there are a lot of victims out there, a lot more than I ever imagined. ... It's destroying people's lives.”
Under his SB255, perpetrators who post identifiable nude pictures of someone else online without their permission with the intent of causing serious emotional distress or humiliation could be charged with a misdemeanor. They could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense, with a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for repeat violations.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the National Action to Realize the Dream March
It is an honor to be here – among so many friends, distinguished civil rights leaders, Members of Congress, and fellow citizens who have fought, rallied, and organized – from the streets of this nation, to the halls of our Capitol – to advance the cause of justice.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared his dream with the world and described his vision for a society that offered, and delivered, the promise of equal justice under law. He assured his fellow citizens that this goal was within reach – so long as they kept faith with one another, and maintained the courage and commitment to work toward it. And he urged them to do just that. By calling for no more – and no less – than equal justice. By standing up for the civil rights to which everyone is entitled. And by speaking out – in the face of hatred and violence, in defiance of those who sought to turn them back with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs – for the dignity of a promise kept; the honor of a right redeemed; and the pursuit of a sacred truth that's been woven through our history since this country's earliest days: that all are created equal.
Those who marched on Washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult road – from Montgomery, to Greensboro, to Birmingham; through Selma and Tuscaloosa. They marched – in spite of animosity, oppression, and brutality – because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept. Their focus, at that time, was the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the American system as it applied to African Americans. As we gather today, 50 years later, their march – now our march – goes on. And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment.
From the FBI
Serial Bank Robber -- Help Us Catch the Loan Ranger Bandit
(Pictures on site)
Over the past four years, a man authorities have dubbed the Loan Ranger Bandit has committed at least a dozen armed robberies of banks and other financial institutions in four different states—and he is so brazen he doesn't bother covering his face.
“We have a lot of good surveillance photos where he is looking directly at the camera,” said Special Agent Russell Di Lisi, who is coordinating the investigation from our Dallas Division. “Somebody out there has to know him or recognize him, and that's why we need the public's help.”
A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the Loan Ranger Bandit. Beginning in 2009, he has robbed banks in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Texas. His most recent robbery was last month in Temple, Texas at the Santa Fe Community Credit Union—the second time he has targeted that institution.
“He is a lot more reckless now,” said Di Lisi, explaining that in the early robberies, the bandit would give tellers a demand note and show them a weapon in his waistband. “Beginning with the ninth robbery and every one since then,” Di Lisi said, “he has actually brandished the weapon.”