NEWS of the Week - Dec 9 to Dec 15, 2013
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


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.


Dec 15, 2013



Wall of silence surrounds killings by border agents

Since 2005, on-duty Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers have killed at least 42 people, including at least 13 Americans.

PHOENIX -- A ghost is haunting Nogales.

His face stares out from shop windows. It is plastered on handbills and painted on walls under the shadow of the U.S.-Mexican border fence here. Candles and doves are stenciled onto steel posts of the fence itself in his memory, each a promise not to forget the night, 14 months ago, when teenager Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was shot 10 times in the back and head by one or more Border Patrol agents firing through the fence into Mexico.

Similar specters haunt other border towns in Arizona, Texas and California, with the families of the dead charging that Border Patrol agents time and again have killed Mexicans and U.S. citizens with impunity.

An Arizona Republic investigation has found Border Patrol agents who use deadly force face few, if any, public repercussions, even in cases in which the justification for the shooting seems dubious.

Since 2005, on-duty Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers have killed at least 42 people, including at least 13 Americans.

These deaths, all but four of which occurred along or near the southwestern border, vary from strongly justifiable to highly questionable. CBP officials say agents who use excessive force are disciplined. But they won't say who, when, or what discipline, with the exception of a short administrative leave. In none of the 42 deaths is any agent or officer publicly known to have been disciplined or to have faced serious consequences.




Lawyer disputes SF hospital stairway death report

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An attorney for the woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell disputed on Saturday a coroner's report saying her death was probably due to a chemical imbalance related to chronic alcohol abuse.

Haig Harris asserted that Lynne Spalding's death wasn't related to alcoholism and insisted that she died of starvation or dehydration.

‘‘To suggest alcoholism was involved is an outrageous, gratuitous comment,'' Harris told the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1dep8HS) a day after the medical examiner's report was released.

Spalding, 57, was found in a locked stairwell on Oct. 8, 17 days after she went missing from her hospital room. The coroner's report said she died accidentally and the cause was ‘‘probable electrolyte imbalance with delirium'' because of ‘‘complications of chronic ethanolism.''

She had been admitted to the hospital Sept. 19 with a urinary infection, and she also had an altered mental state for one to two months and weight loss for two weeks, the report said.

Two days after she was admitted, she disappeared from her hospital room. Spalding was confused and delirious that day, the report said. She didn't know the day or time or even why she was in the hospital, according to the report, which also said her laboratory test results were consistent with ‘‘alcoholic liver disease.''

Harris said the mention of alcoholism ‘‘demeans the memory of this woman, without telling us when she died, how long she was out there suffering.''




Norwich police ranks growing more diverse

NORWICH — In the past two and a half years, two women, one African-American man and two Latino men, both bilingual in Spanish, have become Norwich police officers.

“We've been working at improving our diversity for decades now,” Police Chief Louis Fusaro said.

The police department has 90 officers. Of those, 73 are white males, nine are minorities and eight are women.

In the past year, the chief said, the department has gone from 83.5 percent white males to 81.1 percent white males.

Two main factors account for the recent diversity increase, Fusaro said. First, the department's officers have reached out to the city's minority community and encouraged people to apply.

“We have a great relationship with the NAACP,” Fusaro said.

“I think the police department is doing pretty well,” Jacqueline Owens, president of the Norwich Branch NAACP, said.



New Jersey

Help Claudia get her first Christmas present ever

Claudia has never opened a Christmas present.

The 52-year-old (Case CSK-2) is an adult survivor of severe child abuse who suffers from mental illness and several other severe health problems. She is very artistic, intelligent and enthusiastic about life despite what she has been through. While attempting to gain some community-based services, she shared that she was never given any gifts at Christmas a child. This broke the hearts of those she told, and they wanted to make sure she has her first Christmas presents to open this year. That's why they reached out to Operation Holiday.

Over the last 42 years, Operation Holiday, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Woman's Club of Morristown and the Daily Record, has raised over $2.7 million, and last year donations totaled more than $132,000. As a result, with the help of local individuals, schools, and businesses, Operation Holiday last year provided more than 450 families and individuals with necessary items they cannot afford and granted some of their very special wishes.

From now until Christmas Day, you will learn about those referred to Operation Holiday by more than 20 social service agencies in Morris County, many of whom find themselves all alone during the holiday season. Each day from now until Christmas, the Daily Record will share their stories with you and ask for your donations to do what we can to help lift each other up in the spirit of the season. Once donations are received, volunteer shoppers purchase needed items for delivery to the families in time for the holidays.

Without the help of the hundreds of generous readers who reach deep in their pockets each holiday season and donate to the campaign, we cannot continue this proud tradition.



Dec 14, 2013


Los Angeles

A helping hand in the form of a packed duffel bag for L.A.'s homeless

Volunteers will fan out across Los Angeles this weekend to distribute duffel bags chockful of food and other necessities to 2,600 homeless men, women and children in an annual effort to help some of the city's most vulnerable residents.

The Giving Spirit will be coordinating handout of the “survival” packages from the San Fernando Valley to downtown L.A., so those pitching in can make a personal connection with those they meet on the streets, said Tom Bagamane, founder and chairman of the 14-year-old nonprofit. A special effort will be made to reach women and children and those outside of the traditional support network.

“We really try to seek out those on the fringes,” Bagamane said. “We also want to give our volunteers time to spend quality time with our clients, to have one-on-one conversations. “The touching of hands or a heart goes just as far as the wonderful things in their kits.”

According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, Los Angeles has one of the nation's largest homeless populations — nearly 53,800 residents, although most aid organizations say that the number is much higher. From 2012 to 2013, the report said, the city's homeless population increased by 11,445, a jump of 27 percent.

Bagamane said The Giving Spirit has been overwhelmed with volunteers for its winter campaign — the group also distributed 1,700 survival backpacks last summer — and now is desperate for cash donations. As of Friday afternoon, the charity was about $65,000 short of its $250,000 goal for the year.




Son of accused Wichita airport bomb plotter calls father a ‘really happy guy,' report says

A man who identified himself as the son of the aviation technician arrested Friday for allegedly plotting to detonate a car bomb at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport says his father was "a really nice guy," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Damien Loewen, 24, who told the paper he is Terry L. Loewen's son, said in a phone interview that his father was "really laid back, really happy guy."

"I never thought this would happen," he said.

Investigators allege that Terry L. Loewen planned to attack Wichita's Mid-Continent Regional airport in a plot aimed at supporting Al Qaeda.

Loewen, a 58, worked at the airport for Hawker Beechcraft, was arrested before dawn Friday as he tried to drive onto the tarmac. The materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any immediate danger, authorities said.

Loewen, who lives in Wichita, had been under investigation for about six months after making online statements about wanting to commit "violent jihad" against the United States, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. An undercover FBI agent befriended Loewen, striking up conversations about terrorism and Loewen's admiration for those who plotted against American interests.




Death of British woman Lynne Spalding found in US hospital stairwell linked to alcohol abuse

A British woman whose body was found in a hospital stairwell in America over a fortnight after she went missing died because of chronic alcohol abuse, a coroner has confirmed.

Lynne Spalding disappeared from her room at San Francisco General Hospital on 21 September 2013 after she was admitted on 19 September for a bladder and urinary tract infection.

The mother-of-two was reported missing from her room two days later, and was found 17 days later in a locked stairwell by a member of the hospital's staff.

She had been dead for days when she was discovered.

San Francisco assistant medical examiner Ellen Moffat said in a new report that the 57-year-old most likely died of a chemical imbalance due to complications from chronic alcohol abuse.

The report also states that Ms Spalding was confused and delirious on the day she disappeared, not aware of what day it was or why she was in hospital.

Ms Spalding's friends and relatives spent days scouring the streets of San Francisco with flyers because they were thought that the hospital had been searched.




Montclair Police aims to improve community relations

MONTCLAIR -- Police Chief Michael deMoet wants a better way of interacting with residents of this city.

Upon his ascension as the lead law enforcement official earlier this year, he worked to implement a community relations division, a program which aims to immerse law enforcement personnel in events and programs.

Now in place, police officers conduct open meetings with the public to exchange ideas and information, listen to issues and concerns; and enhance relations with residents and the business community, deMoet said.

“We developed a mission for the community relations division which is to improve the quality of life for residents and maintain an environment in which commerce can thrive in partnership with community and civic groups, a philosophy that involve proactive problem solving,” he said.

The department was a bit stagnate and morale was down but it was shifting, it was on the upturn, the chief said.

After reviewing the department's operations, he determined several areas of improvement were needed, particularly in community outreach.

“We always did a good job of attending events, but we really never reached out to find out what the needs of the community were,” deMoet said. “I believe we didn't have an adequate form of communication with the community, business community. What we lacked was just that strong connection with the community.”



New York

New York's Community-Police Togetherness Era to Begin

NEW YORK—The mayoral election in 2013 will be remembered for a lot of things, but no issue proved to be more influential than stop and frisk. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's opposition to the police department's controversial tactic propelled him, in part, to a historic victory.

In 2013, a landmark federal court ruling and a set of bills passed in City Council. These will influence policing in the city going forward. Bill Bratton, De Blasio's pick for police commissioner, will be at the helm of the nation's largest police force as the impact of these changes ripples to the rank and file.

Over the summer, the City Council passed two bills aimed at reforming the practice. One bill mandated that an inspector general oversee NYPD's policies and practices. The other enabled citizens who felt they were racially profiled to sue the city, albeit not for monetary damages.

Shortly after the council passed the bills, a federal judge ruled stop and frisk was being done unconstitutionally and ordered a federal monitor to oversee how the practice was being conducted. The city appealed, but de Blasio has said he will drop the appeal when he takes office and moves forward.

The council bills as well as the court case fueled de Blasio's campaign message of “ending the stop-and-frisk era” and bringing police and communities back together.





Our Opinion: One year later ...

... and what has changed since the deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown? Not much, except that another 173 children under the age of 12 have died as a result of gunshot wounds.

"The Newtown killings horrified the country and provoked angry debates over access to the most lethal firearms," noted the Washington Post. "A year later, the anger and grief caused by the deaths continue to be felt. So, too, do the ripples from the other killings ... Like Newtown, every one of these killings has provoked a special kind of despair among the survivors -- parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, police officers, teachers, pastors. And as in Newtown, all of these people have continued to mourn, regret, reflect on and agonize over the deaths as their first anniversaries have come and gone."

We would be remiss if we didn't point out that in the year since Sandy Hook, some things have changed -- nearly all U.S. states have passed at least one new gun law. But as the New York Times noted, of those 109 new laws, only 39 tighten gun restrictions while 70 relax them. This year, 22 states also loosened restrictions on carrying weapons in public. The right to carry is now legal in all 50 states.

"Far from the catalyst for gun control that many thought it would be, Sandy Hook lit a fire under gun enthusiasts, who, threatened by a slew of stricter laws and determined not to let the government tamper with their right to bear arms, have made it easier to own and carry a gun in America than it has been in decades," noted Politico.

As we know, after a few weeks of silence following the murders at Sandy Hook, gun rights enthusiasts came out in force to shout down any talk of sensible gun controls. When the president proposed legislation to expand background checks, ban assault rifles and limit magazine purchases, thousands of gun activists swarmed state capitols in all 50 states to simultaneously protest gun control legislation and celebrate the first national "Gun Appreciation Day," noted Politico.



The School Shootings You Didn't Hear About—One Every Two Weeks Since Newtown

In the year since Newtown, at least 24 school shootings have claimed at least 17 lives, according to a Daily Beast investigation. On Friday, a day after this investigation, a 25th occurred in Colorado.

In the year since 20 first-graders were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, another school shooting has taken place in America every two weeks on average.

These events aren't necessarily the types of tragedies that come to mind when one thinks of “school shootings”—madmen in fatigues roaming school hallways, strapped with automatic-style guns, murdering indiscriminately—nor do they receive the media attention of such mass shootings. But they can be similarly traumatizing for students and staff, and they have led to at least 24 injuries and 17 deaths over the past year, The Daily Beast has found.*

(*We published this article on Thursday, Dec 12. Friday Dec 13 brought reports of yet another school shooting, this one at Arapahoe High School, in Centennial, CO. One student was transported to a hospital with a gunshot wound and listed in serious condition. The shooter is dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.)

Using data culled from media reports and collected in part by the gun-control advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, we tallied 24 school shootings during 2013—that is, shootings that occurred on school campuses when students were present. Shootings that took place after hours on school grounds were not included.



Dec 13, 2013



California prostitutes win victim compensation

Prostitutes who are beaten or raped will now be allowed to receive compensation from a victim's fund after a California board voted on Thursday to reverse a 1990s law that prohibited them from applying for the monetary help.

Under a system that had been in place since 1999, those harmed in violent crimes could be paid for medical costs and related expenses, but prostitutes were excluded because their activities are illegal.

California was the only state in the nation to have such a law. The three-member Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board voted unanimously to end that exception.

"They've been raped, abused, crimes committed against them," Michael Ramos, the district attorney in San Bernardino County, who sits on the board, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"They're victims. Nobody deserves to be raped, I don't care who you are."




Lakeview Cops Offer Safety Tips to Prevent Theft During Holiday Season

LAKEVIEW — Still stocking up on holiday gifts? Be careful — more packages and more shopping also means the potential for more theft, Town Hall District police said.

"Everyone could use extra money around the holidays," a safety notice from the district said. "Criminals thrive on unsuspecting and innocent victims."

The district released personal safety tips so that residents and visitors can minimize burglary and theft this holiday season.

For one, all those holiday packages shouldn't be delivered to an empty house, police recommend. Criminals will watch when delivery trucks drop off goods on doorsteps — including when homeowners instructs the postman to put the package behind the house, community policing Sgt. Jason Clark said in past meetings.

It makes for easy pickings.

Instead, make sure somebody is home to accept the package or consider delivering packages to centers that will hold the goods. UPS, for example, will hold packages at UPS Customer Centers for five days.



New York

When Bratton quit Muslim mapping

In the fall of 2007, amid an uproar over his plan to construct a detailed map of the city's Muslim community, Los Angeles police commissioner Bill Bratton publicly abandoned the program, just two weeks after a top deputy had touted its importance in a hearing before the U.S. Senate.

“We will never do anything to the Muslim community, we will only do things with the Muslim community,” Bratton told a group of Muslim community leaders the day he announced his decision, recalled Salam al-Marayati, president and founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who attended the meeting.

For Bratton, who was tapped last week as the next commissioner of the New York Police Department, the abrupt shift represented a commitment to his own ideals of community policing, and the importance of maintaining good relations with an important subset of L.A.'s minority population.

Bratton's decision to scrap the program would seem to signal a substantive contrast with Ray Kelly, the current NYPD commissioner, who has also preached the need to connect with local communities, and was once seen as a forerunner of community policing, before he became a target of criticism in this year's Democratic primary for mayor.

The LAPD program, outlined by one of Bratton's top lieutenants in a 2007 hearing before the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, echoed a more comprehensive program that was already quietly underway in New York.



Dec 12, 2013


NSA: No better way to protect US than surveillance

WASHINGTON (AP) — The NSA chief said Wednesday he knows of no better way his agency can help protect the U.S. from foreign threats than with spy programs that collect billions of phone and Internet records from around the world.

Pleading with the Senate Judiciary Committee to not abolish the National Security Agency's bulk-collection programs, Gen. Keith Alexander warned that global threats are growing — specifically in Iraq and Syria — that pose what he called "an unacceptable risk" to America.

"How do we connect the dots?" Alexander said, referring to often-hidden links between a foreign terror threat and a potential attack on the U.S. "There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots. ... Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do."

The committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said it was troubling that the government was sweeping up millions, if not billions, of Americans' records. He has proposed legislation to prohibit the NSA from the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, and said Wednesday that he was concerned that Americans' Internet records also were vacuumed up before the program ended in 2011. That program now focuses only on people who live outside the United States — which could include Americans living abroad.

Alexander acknowledged the privacy concerns that have dogged the NSA since leaker Edward Snowden revealed the programs in June. And he said the NSA was open to talking to technology companies for a better solution without compromising security.




South Side man leaves prison after conviction is overturned

Stanley Wrice noticed two things late Wednesday morning after he was released from the Pontiac Correctional Center after three decades behind bars.

“The size of the cars, I can't believe how small they got, and everyone has these phones,” the 59-year-old Wrice said as his lawyers laughed during the car ride back to Chicago.

A day before, Wrice was sent into giddy daze when Cook County Judge Richard Walsh overturned his conviction and granted him a new trial for a brutal 1982 gang rape.

“I was relieved. I was happy that it happened. I feel good, really good right now,” said Wrice, who said he was forced to confess to the South Side crime after he was tortured by a pair of detectives working under now-disgraced Area 2 Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Wrice testified earlier this week that then-Detective John Byrne whacked him with a flashlight while Byrne's partner Peter Dignan beat him with a 20-inch piece of rubber.



Rise Of Militarized Police Threatens Civil Rights, Community Well-Being

Problem-oriented policing is increasingly alienating the police from the communities they protect.

It has been said that “if all you've got is a hammer, then everything will look like a nail.” Increasingly, a militarized, hostile police force has emerged in America, which has moved away from community-oriented policing and taken a hardened posture combatting crime — typically, without adequate reserve or consideration toward the communities affected.

With police departments relying on special weapons, tactics, SWAT techniques and militarized equipment for routine police work at an accelerating basis, for many, the modern American police is starting to resemble a municipal army.

In 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg boasted incorrectly, “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh largest army in the world.” (The seventh largest army in the world actually belongs to Russia, with 350,000 to 400,000 deployable troops, compared to New York's 33,000.)

However, with his own terrorism response center, mobilized strike units, paramilitary storm troopers and a citywide attitude of aggressively controlling the crime rate by any means necessary, it is understandable why Bloomberg would feel the way he did.

In an article for Community Policing Dispatch, the newsletter for the Justice Department's Community-Oriented Policing Services Office, Senior Policy Analyst Karl Bickel argues that the military attitude of modern policing belies the police's community role.




Durkan tells citizens panel that its police-reform role is limited

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan tells the Community Police Commission to focus on its own duties as the Department of Justice and the city of Seattle move to adopt court-ordered police reforms.

Two weeks after a federal judge denied a citizens commission's request to intervene in Seattle's court-ordered police reforms, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan apologized to its members if they have felt steamrollered and said reform efforts cannot succeed without their work.

But Durkan, in a no-nonsense exchange with Community Police Commission (CPC) co-chairs Lisa Daugaard and Diane Narasaki, reminded them Wednesday that they are not a party to the civil-rights settlement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over findings of police abuses, and that the process will move forward.

She suggested the commission focus on its own duties under the consent decree.

“What you say matters,” Durkan told the commission. “But it's important to know where and when to push. We will take the pushing and shoving, but as the Department of Justice we will fight to maintain a two-party agreement.”

Durkan urged the commission to refocus on its mission of community engagement and reviewing the Seattle Police Department's accountability system as outlined in the memorandum of understanding between the DOJ and the city that established the CPC.



Dec 11, 2013



Inkster teams with sheriff's office, volunteers to boost patrols

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office will partner with Inkster police in an effort to double patrols in the cash-strapped city, authorities announced Tuesday.

The Sheriff's Office will aiming to launch its Sheriff's Community Organized Urban Team program in Inkster in collaboration with neighborhood watch groups and block clubs. Volunteers will be trained in community policing techniques.

“It's a collaborative effort between Wayne County reserve unit, radio patrol and State Police, and it will double patrols,” Raphael Washington, Wayne County Sheriff's chief of police operations. “Inkster police are the first responders, but we'll be there for quality-of-life issues, and our mere presence will drive down crime.”

The Inkster Police Department has lost two thirds of its officers since 2011, leaving only 25. It has received help from regional and state law enforcement in the past year.

Wayne County and community patrols will start by Jan. 1, Washington said.

“Both (Wayne County Sheriff's Office and Michigan State Police) have been here, they'll just be involved in a bigger way,” Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon said.




Ann Arbor police chief plans to ramp up traffic enforcement, do more proactive policing

Ann Arbor is the 29th safest community in the nation among cities in its population category, according to FBI crime statistics for last year.

A total of 212 cities are on that list, which means Ann Arbor is meeting its goal of being among the safest 20 percent of communities.

Meanwhile, a new survey shows community perception of safety remains high.

Those successes were shared with Ann Arbor City Council members during their annual budget retreat Monday night , as Police Chief John Seto gave an update on ongoing efforts to do more proactive policing in the city.

"The officers are doing a spectacular job as far as going out there and being responsive, but I have to do my part in establishing speciality assignments and also reallocating some of the staffing," Seto told council members.

Council members indicated that public safety will remain a top priority as they work out the city's budget for the coming fiscal year between now and May.



North Carolina


Terminally ill boy and Durham police bolstered by heartwarming visit

It's the kind of poignant story that will warm your heart and even bring some tears no matter the time of year -- a sick boy whose spirits are lifted by a spectacular visit from some Durham police officers.

Police from Durham Regional Police's Oshawa division paid a visit on Dec. 6 to Danny Taylor, who is four and dying of cancer. They brought police cars, SUVs, the tactical vehicle, police dogs and even the police helicopter, which hovered over the Taylor family's Waverly Street home. Danny, who loves police cars, got a ride in the SUV and lots of attention from the kindhearted cops.

This is Durham Regional Police at their best, as individuals, as people, as part of the community, and it's most welcome after a year with some rather ill-advised actions that generated much publicity.

There was the police officer who was caught on video making threats to a citizen earlier this year. And then there was the fraud squad officer who was demoted after he created a Twitter account in another officer's name and tweeted nasty messages about Ontario's ombudsman.

The visit to Danny won't make us forget those incidents but it does show the strength of Durham cops, building strong relationships with people and the community.





Public safety change in Calif. has real consequences

Public safety realignment has increased crime in California.

A report released Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California compares the first nine months of 2011 — before realignment was launched that October — to the first nine months of 2012, focusing on the 10 largest counties where 70 percent of the population lives. It found that property crimes increased 7.4 percent and violent crimes rose 3.7 percent.

In Riverside County, the increase in violent crime was almost double the state average at 7.2 percent. Most dramatically, vehicle theft increased 14.8 percent — an increase of 24,000 thefts, reversing a downward trend.

The reason is obvious. In the first 12 months following realignment, the prison population declined by 27,000. Of those, about 9,000 of them now serve time in county jail and about 18,000 are on the street.

Realignment was designed to shift only low-level criminals from state to county responsibility, following three criteria:

• Offenders convicted of nonsexual, nonviolent and nonserious crimes (so-called triple-nonoffenses) with no such crimes appearing in their criminal records.

• Parole violators who re-offend are no longer sent to state prison but serve short stays in county jails or face other local sanctions.

• Most offenders released from prison for triple-nonoffenses are now supervised by county probation departments rather than state parole.



Dec 10, 2013



Report connects realignment to increases in property crime, auto theft

The rise in property crimes in California can be tied to the implementation of the state's prison realignment, according to a report by The Public Policy Institute of California.

On Monday, the research nonprofit released a report that found that crime rates increased during the first year of realignment from 2011 to 2012 and that property crimes — motor vehicle theft, larceny and burglary — rose 7.6 percent. This increase is higher than in states that had crime trends similar to those in California prior to realignment. Nationwide, property crime decreased slightly.

The report did not find that realignment had any effects on serious violent crimes, murder and rape.

“When we compared California to other states, we saw an increase across the board in the same period,” said Magnus Lofstrom, co-author of the report with Steven Raphael. “It's part of a broader trend.”

In particular, auto thefts started to increase noticeably at the time realignment began, according to the report, which was based on data from the California Department of Justice's Criminal Justice Statistics Center. The exact reason why auto theft in particular saw an increase is not known, but Lofstrom said it could be tied to the nature of the crime itself.




FBI arrests 16 Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities arrested 16 current and former Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in connection with five criminal cases that involve allegations of corruption and civil rights violations at Men's Central Jail.

The arrests were announced at a press conference downtown Monday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte, Jr.

“The five cases allege a wide scope of illegal conduct,” Birotte said in a written statement. “This investigation started by focusing on misconduct in county jails, and we uncovered examples of civil rights violations that included excessive force and unlawful arrests.

“Our investigation also found that these incidents did not take place in a vacuum in fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized. The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff's Department considered themselves to be above the law. Instead of cooperating with the federal investigation to ensure that corrupt law enforcement officers would be brought to justice, the defendants in this case are accused of taking affirmative steps designed to ensure that light would not shine on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights.”

A total of 18 deputies were named in the indictments which were unsealed Monday.

Steve Whitmore, Sheriff's Lee Baca's spokesman, said county officials had very few details on the matter.



Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games

Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.

Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.

Online games might seem innocuous, a top-secret 2008 N.S.A. document warned, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Virtual games “are an opportunity!” another 2008 N.S.A. document declared.

But for all their enthusiasm — so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat.

The documents, obtained by The Guardian and shared with The New York Times and ProPublica, do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the effort. Former American intelligence officials, current and former gaming company employees and outside experts said in interviews that they knew of little evidence that terrorist groups viewed the games as havens to communicate and plot operations.



DOJ Agency Warns Of Police Militarization

In the monthly e-newsletter for the Justice Department's Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) program, Senior Policy Analyst Karl Bickel sounds the alarm about the militarization of America's domestic police forces. Here's his conclusion:

Police chiefs and sheriffs may want to ask themselves—if after hiring officers in the spirit of adventure, who have been exposed to action oriented police dramas since their youth, and sending them to an academy patterned after a military boot camp, then dressing them in black battle dress uniforms and turning them loose in a subculture steeped in an “us versus them” outlook toward those they serve and protect, while prosecuting the war on crime, war on drugs, and now a war on terrorism—is there any realistic hope of institutionalizing community policing as an operational philosophy?

Given that a number of federal agencies are responsible for incentivizing and providing the hardware for police militarization, it's interesting -- and encouraging - to see a federal agency publish a piece like this. I suppose if there were a federal agency that would publish it, it would be COPS, which promotes a style of policing that's in direct contradiction to the trend Bickel, and I, and others, find troubling.

Community policing should be the antithesis of militarization. It puts cops directly into the community, where they walk beats, attend neighborhood meetings, and know the names of the high school principals and business owners in the areas they serve. The idea is to give the cops a stake in these communities, so they're seen by the communities -- and see themselves -- as citizens protecting and serving other citizens, not enforcers fighting wars on crime, or drugs, or terrorism.

But it's also worth noting that while its aims are certainly noble, the federal COPS program itself has contributed to the problem. It's another example of good intentions not necessarily producing unintended consequences.



New York

Troy woman honored by FBI for community leadership

ALBANY -- Marion Field has devoted her time and energy to the city for years and been rewarded with her positive impacts on the community, but now that effort is being recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI presented Field with the bureau's Community Leadership Award during a ceremony on Monday morning, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew W. Vale.

A longtime resident of Troy, Field helped establish the Little Italy Neighborhood Association, and form the association's neighborhood watch group, which became one of the most active in the city.

Over the years, she has also organized several National Night Out events in Little Italy, coordinated the annual International Day, and established the Path Stone Porject, which employs retired adults in neighborhood cleanup projects.

Field has worked with the city police department in the Weed and Seed program, which aims to prevent and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in select neighborhoods, assisted with the department's Education for Youth program, and is currently working on the Community Oriented Policing program.

She has been invited to Washington next year to be honored by the FBI and a larger ceremony alongside other nominees from FBI districts across the country. Field has lived in Troy for 73 years.



Washington D.C.

D.C. police investigating reports of after-hours sexual assaults at Wilson Pool

District police investigating a report of a rape by an employee at the Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown are looking into complaints from two other young women who say they were sexually assaulted there by a worker, according to law enforcement authorities and a D.C. Council member.

Officials said the reported attacks occurred Nov. 9 and Nov. 26, after the pool had closed to the public, and that the women had gone there with two workers who used keys to let themselves inside what is considered the District's premier public pool. John Stokes, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, said one employee has been fired and another has been suspended.

D.C. police issued a statement Monday saying no arrests had been made and that an investigation was continuing.

The council member, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), whose district includes the pool, said residents are worried. “This whole thing is causing a lot of concern and a great deal of insecurity,” she said, adding that her constituents are asking her “about whether there's a rapist running around.”

Police earlier confirmed that they were investigating the Nov. 26 incident, which reportedly occurred between 2 and 4 a.m. at the aquatic center in the 4500 block of Fort Drive, near the Tenleytown Metro station and adjacent to Wilson High School in Northwest Washington.



Dec 9, 2013


Technology firms seek government surveillance reform

Leading global technology firms have called for "wide-scale changes" to US government surveillance.

Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group.

The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice "undermines the freedom" of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programmes.

"We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide," the group said in an open letter published on its website.

"The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual - rights that are enshrined in our Constitution.

The fact that eight technology giants which are normally bitter rivals have united to condemn the extent of government surveillance shows just how strongly they feel. In part, this reflects the libertarian thinking that permeates Silicon Valley - but there's also a commercial aspect to their concerns.




Amish school shooter's kin: Horror, then healing


STRASBURG, Pa.—Once a week, Terri Roberts spends time with a 13-year-old Amish girl named Rosanna who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. She can only guess what's going on inside Rosanna's mind because the girl can't talk.

Roberts' son did this to her.

Seven years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide as police closed in.

The Amish responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer—even attending his funeral—and embracing his family.

Terri Roberts forgave, too, and now she is sharing her experience with others, saying the world needs more stories about the power of forgiveness and the importance of seeking joy through adversity.

"I realized if I didn't forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone," Roberts said. "We are called to forgive."




Audit Finds Progress in BART Police Reforms Since Oscar Grant Killing

A report by an independent expert has found that BART police have made significant progress in adopting reforms since the fatal police shooting of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale station in 2009.

A report issued this past week by an independent expert found that BART police have made significant progress in enacting reforms since unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III was fatally shot by police at the Fruitvale station in 2009.

Patrick Oliver, who formerly headed several police departments in Ohio, said the key areas where BART police have improved are: the use of force, officer training, community engagement and organizational statements.

Organizational statements consist of having a mission statement, having core values and defining the police department's purpose, Oliver said after presenting his assessment at a special BART board meeting today.

Earlier this year, BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey selected Oliver to conduct an assessment of the reforms the agency has made since Grant was killed by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle on the platform of the Fruitvale station early the morning of Jan. 1, 2009.