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 29, 2013
Benghazi US mission attack: 'No direct al-Qaeda role'
Al-Qaeda had no direct involvement in the September 2012 attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, according to a New York Times investigation.
The US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed when gunmen stormed the compound and set it on fire.
Some US Republicans accuse the Obama administration of failing to admit the involvement of terrorist groups.
But the New York Times (NYT) says a local Islamist militia leader was key.
The paper bases its report on months of interviews with local residents who have extensive knowledge of the events of 11 September 2012 and American officials linked to a criminal investigation.
Initially, Washington said the attack grew out of violent protests against an anti-Islam video produced in the US.
Later findings suggested that it was an organised attack planned by local militias.
Phoenix police fatally shoot man suspected in multi-state robberies, cop killing
The nationwide manhunt for a suspected bank robber and cop killer may have ended in Phoenix after an officer shot and killed a man following a new bank robbery.
The latest heist took place Saturday morning in Phoenix. After leaving the bank with a bag and gun, the suspect shot at two officers before one of the officers fatally shot him, Phoenix police said. Neither of the officers was injured.
The name of the suspect has not been released.
Authorities believe the suspect's crime spree started across the country nearly a week ago. The FBI said a man tried to rob a bank Monday in Atlanta but failed and ended up robbing a customer at the bank's ATM.
Hours later, authorities believe, the same man robbed a bank about 300 miles away in Tupelo, Mississippi. That robbery escalated to a gunfight with police and the shooting of two officers.
One of those officers, Gale Stauffer, died. Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said Stauffer's death may be the first in the department's history.
NSA: Phone data collection is legal
The embattled National Security Agency scored a victory on Friday, as a U.S. district judge ruled their controversial phone surveillance programs as constitutionally legal.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley stated that the NSA's surveillance was legal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
“The question for this court is whether the government's bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This court finds it is. But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of government to decide,” continued the ruling by Pauley, a 1998 appointee by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Other organizations continued to voice dissent. “We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government's surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, the Deputy Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU launched the initial suit.
The program was made public earlier in 2013 following leaks of classified information by Edward Snowden, resulting in substantial public backlash. It was discovered the agency was storing metadata of major U.S. telecommunications providers, including traffic analysis, detailed call information, and social network analysis.
Friday's ruling was an about-face from a ruling only a week ago from U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of Geroge W. Bush.
In Camden, young ex-offenders spread antiviolence message
Wilson Rodriguez thought he had something worthwhile to say, but he wondered why a young audience would listen to a 21-year-old parolee convicted as a teenager in the bludgeoning death of a sleeping homeless man.
He told more than a dozen youngsters in an event hosted by the Camden Board of Education he and his friends "did something horrible and someone ended up dying."
Two or three hands shot up, and questions followed: Why did you do it? How do you feel now?
The children wanted to know more.
"The lesson was: Don't follow nobody. That was my lesson," Rodriguez said, reflecting on his first appearance in July as a member of Cease Murder Diplomats, a Camden nonprofit that seeks to reduce the homicide rate by mentoring young adults and the formerly incarcerated.
When Rodriguez came home to East Camden in January after serving more than five years in a juvenile detention center and halfway house, he found his city as violent as when he left in 2008, when 54 people were killed.
In Baltimore, 2013 a lost year for fight against violent crime
Homicide rate hit four-year high, while other big cities saw declines
At 1:30 p.m. on a sunny December weekday, just down the hill from prestigious City College high school, shattered glass and blood stained the street.
Neighbors and passersby gathered on the fringes of the crime scene and watched as police officers began investigating the killing of 30-year-old Devlon Cates Jr. Their faces and words showed a mix of dismay and boredom.
"I bet [the killer] was wearing a mask," a young woman said.
The victim "probably didn't even see it coming," her friend surmised. Others waited silently, unable to get to their homes.
Such scenes have grown more common in Baltimore this year. On Saturday, the city recorded its 233rd homicide, the most in four years. Nonfatal shootings increased after six consecutive years of declines.
Though police blame most of the violence on gangs, the year claimed a range of victims: One-year-old Carter Scott was shot by accident during an attempt on his father's life in Cherry Hill.
Dec 28, 2013
Manhunt intensifies for Mississippi bank robber suspected in cop's death
(Picture on site)
The FBI is seeking the public's help in locating a man accused of fatally shooting a police officer and wounding another while fleeing the scene of a bank robbery in Mississippi.
Authorities say the suspect wanted in connection with Monday's fatal bank robbery in Tupelo also tried to rob a bank in Atlanta on the same day. The FBI released a wanted poster Friday showing the suspect wearing a facemask, a patterned jacket, khaki pants, and tennis shoes.
The suspect is described as about 5-feet, 8-inches tall to 6 feet tall with a slender build, the FBI said. Authorities believe the suspect fled in a grey sedan.
Police Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer died from gunshot wounds Monday at age 38. Law enforcement from as far away as Florence, Alabama, Jackson and Memphis, as well as local law enforcement, attended his funeral on Friday.
Also shot was Officer Joseph Maher, 27. Police Chief Bart Aguirre said Maher's wife reported he has greatly improved over the last two days and was able to walk with assistance.
When asked about a possible suspect in Chicago, Highway Patrol Trooper Ray Hall told the Daily Journal he couldn't release any information and no formal charges have been filed. Still, he said, investigators are following some good leads.
California man pleads guilty to terror count
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California man who used the Internet and Facebook to connect with al-Quaida pleaded guilty Friday to a federal terrorism charge after admitting he attempted to assist al-Qaeda by providing weapons training, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, unexpectedly entered the plea before U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter, who scheduled sentencing for March 21, prosecutors said in a statement. Reporters were not notified of his court appearance and were not present.
Nguyen faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.
Nguyen's lawyer, Yasmin Cader, refused to comment on his decision, quickly hanging up the phone on a reporter, and U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said prosecutors also would have no comment.
The judge who accepted the plea previously had expressed skepticism about whether Nguyen had any special skills to offer al-Qaeda.
Nguyen had confessed to federal agents after he was unmasked by an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group.
He said that he planned to offer himself as a trainer of some 30 al-Qaeda forces to ambush troops in Syria, where he had already spent five months fighting with rebels, Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Heinz said after his arrest in October. She said he underwent 50 hours of interrogation during which he confessed to his plan.
Teens learning radio skills in Chicago police program
Program is part of push to improve community relations.
A pair of police officers on Chicago's South Side are helping teens learn radio production in an effort to keep them off the streets and improve their views on cops.
The program in the Englewood neighborhood fits with a push by Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy to improve the relationship between police officers and the people they serve.
It is called the 7th District Youth Anti-Violence Media Program. It introduces teens to the ins and outs of radio production, and gives them a chance to get on the air.
The classes are held three days a week at Kennedy-King College. The broadcasting instructors there pitch in to teach the kids.
The program was started by Daliah Goree-Pruitt and Claudette Knight, both community policing (or CAPS) officers. The two started out as beat cops. Now they are in charge of neighborhood outreach, counseling crime victims, and running community meetings in a neighborhood struggling with some of the highest crime rates in the city.
Dec 27, 2013
In South Philly, community policing helps cut shootings in half
When Captain Lou Campione drives down the streets of South Philly, people stop. They jump at that chance to say hi to "Lou," to ask him how everything's going, to swap information.
On a recent snowy afternoon, Campione chatted up the staff of Rosica Pharmacy on Snyder Avenue near 21st Street, speculating on how deep the falling snow would pile. This wasn't police work - although Campione did visit the business to sign off on one of his district's 84 community police logs - just conversation.
"If we're asking these people to trust us, to contact us if anything goes wrong, they need to know who we are," he said. "We can't just be a face they see in a police car."
This emphasis on community policing and building relationships, as intuitive as it may seem, has worked wonders for Campione and South Philadelphia's 1st District: The number of shootings in the district has been cut in half this year over last - from 31 shootings to 15 through Dec. 17 - the highest decrease among the city's 21 police districts in the same time frame.
To reach that milestone, Campione and his officers mixed the new with the old, combining social media with good old-fashioned community policing.
N.J. bill would ban release of mug shots
For some local police departments, releasing mug shots of recently arrested people on Facebook and to the media is just part of good “community policing,” according to Sparta Police Sgt. John-Paul Beebe.
Beebe said he has seen time and again how providing the community with both the name and face of those arrested helps bring in additional police tips and acts as a deterrent. But for those arrested, it can have an embarrassing and even damaging result in the short and long term.
In response, proposed state legislation — opposed by Sussex County's lawmakers and some local law enforcement officers — would ban the release of arrest mug shots until a person is convicted, no matter how serious the alleged crime.
The bill (A3906) passed the state Assembly 69-11 on Dec. 19, but could die if the state Senate version (S3046) does not make it to the floor in the next two weeks. Assemblyman Parker Space and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, both R-24th Dist., were two of the handful that voted against the bill.
“We should tread cautiously on legislation that appear to restrict transparency,” the two local legislators wrote in a joint statement. The bill's supporters argue that the legislation would protect the reputation of those arrested who have not been found guilty of crimes.
Sandy Hook Documents To Be Relased Friday Afternoon
State police plan to release investigative documents related to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Friday, according to sources and one family member of a victim.
The release of the documents comes more than 12 months after Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six women at the Newtown school. Lanza shot and killed his mother before driving to the school. He killed himself after police arrived.
The release also comes about a month after a summary report based on the documents was released, concluding that Lanza acted alone in planning and carrying out the massacre. The 11-month investigation could not determine a motive in the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Danbury State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III's 44-page summary portrayed Lanza as an isolated, socially inept 20-year-old with a fascination for a dance video game and mass killers that seems to have been developed as far back as the fifth grade.
Sedensky also released a detailed time line of the events on the morning of Dec. 14 that shows Newtown police officers were outside the school for more than five minutes before entering. He concluded that police believed there might have been more than one shooter and “acted accordingly.”
Dec 26, 2013
President Urges Americans to Volunteer This Holiday Season
The president and first lady asks Americans to remember the troops who are serving throughout the world and to remember that the holiday spirit of giving.
President Barack Obama gave his annual Christmas message Wednesday and used the moment to ask Americans to remember the troops who are serving the country far from their loved ones.
"Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays," the president said with first lady by his side in a pre-recorded message, NBC News. "But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family."
The president, who champions community service, also used the moment to urge Americans to volunteer.
"For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us — to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper," he said.
The president and first lady planned to visit to a Marine Corps base in Hawaii, where Obama and his family are on their annual vacation, the Associated Press reports. According to AP, some 600 troops from various military branches were gathered to hear from Obama after being served Christmas dinner.
Obama also said that he called 10 troops stationed in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to thank them for their service and the incredible sacrifices they make every day, AP reports.
Michigan Jews, Muslims volunteering on Christmas
DETROIT (AP) — Jews and Muslims have been volunteering around metropolitan Detroit to help their Christian neighbors celebrate Christmas.
The Detroit Free Press says about 1,000 Jewish and Muslim volunteers from a number of congregations collaborated Wednesday on Mitzvah Day, the largest single day of volunteering by the local Jewish community. The Michigan Muslim Community Council is coordinating volunteers from its communities.
The volunteers are helping social service agencies at about 40 sites throughout the day.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit has sponsored Mitzvah Day for two decades, and Muslims have been part of the effort for the past five years.
Mitzvah means "commandment" in Hebrew and is generally translated as a good deed.
Cameras that scan Greeneville streets are subject to a policy designed to maintain privacy
Norwich - The idea of a series of surveillance cameras monitoring public areas was unnerving to some when it was first proposed in the Greeneville area more than a year ago. But those cameras have been there for a year, and a dozen new cameras now watch the daily goings-on in the downtown area.
There have been few complaints, according to police, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut says the police department appears to have taken appropriate measures to protect citizens' rights with their recently released usage policy.
The newest cameras were installed by Norwich Public Utilities earlier this month above Franklin, Main and Boswell streets and at Franklin Square and Howard Brown Park. They are linked to police department headquarters by the utility's fiber optic lines, which were installed throughout the city as part of the municipal area network to support the utility's own high speed and broadband systems.
The department's policy, still in its draft form, says the cameras are to be used solely for overt monitoring of public areas, "where no reasonable expectation for privacy exists." The policy is available on the city's website and outlines procedures for their use and storage of the video from the 16 cameras now in place. Police say they plan to keep recordings for 30 days before being destroyed unless the video is to be used as part of an investigation or prosecution.
"This policy is a solid one," said ACLU staff attorney David McGuire. "It really is great that the department is recognizing the potential privacy ramifications of the system. The 30-day retention period is absolutely key and prevents a massive buildup of data."
Captive American Warren Weinstein feels 'totally abandoned and forgotten'
Saying he feels "totally abandoned and forgotten," kidnapped U.S. government contractor Warren Weinstein called on President Barack Obama to negotiate for his freedom in a video released by al Qaeda on Christmas.
The 72-year-old Weinstein was abducted from his home in the Pakistani city of Lahore in August 2011.
In the 13-minute video provided to the Washington Post, Weinstein appeals to the President, Secretary of State John Kerry, the American media, the American public and finally his family.
"Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here," he said. "And now, when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned and forgotten."
This is the second video with him making a direct plea to the Obama administration. The first was released in May 2012.
Dressed in a light gray jacket and black cap, and sporting a full beard, Weinstein spoke with little emotion, saying he's not in good health, has a heart condition and suffers from acute asthma, before adding that "the years have taken their toll."
Dec 25, 2013
Inland counties denied millions for jail construction
Riverside and San Bernardino counties each were denied requests this month for $80 million in state grants for jail construction, even though their applications ranked among the highest-scoring based on criteria used to evaluate grant proposals.
The denial hampers efforts to add and improve jail space in this region. In order to comply with federal court orders, each county has released thousands of inmates early since 2011 because there's no room for them.
Riverside's 3,906 jail beds in five jails are all filled. And the chronic lack of beds was exacerbated in 2011 with the enactment of public safety realignment. Under realignment, offenders convicted of low-level offenses serve their time in county jails instead of state prisons, a move made to satisfy a court mandate to reduce California's prison population.
Almost 7,000 Riverside inmates were turned loose early in 2012 to relieve crowding. More than 9,000 have been let go so far this year.
Early release could cause a rise in low-level crimes, such as petty theft and drug possession, said Riverside County Assistant Sheriff Steve Thetford.
Dec 24, 2013
US moves troops in prep for more action in S Sudan
The U.S. is moving additional Marines and aircraft from Spain to the Horn of Africa to provide embassy security and help with evacuations from violence-wracked South Sudan.
Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that the commander in Africa is getting the forces ready for any request that may come from the State Department.
The U.N. says about 1,000 people have been killed in a week of violence in the world's newest country.
A defense official said the extra forces moving to Djibouti will bring the total U.S. troops in the region to 150, with 10 aircraft, including Osprey helicopters and C-130 transport planes.
Of those forces, about 45 U.S. Army troops are in South Sudan providing security. The remainder are in Djibouti, where the U.S. maintains its only permanent military base in Africa.
The official was not authorized to speak publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
New Haven Officers Take Community Policing to Heart
New Haven Police Officers Elizabeth White and Allyn Wright have been walking the beat ever since they joined the force nearly two years ago.
“We were one of the first classes that came out under the new whole community policing concept. Right off of FTO, we started walking up in Brookside, before people even moved into Brookside,” said Officer White.
As each person moved in, the officers introduced themselves and started building relationships.
“We started off in the summer. We bought ice cream off the ice cream truck. The parents started to feel more comfortable with us. It's all through the kids,” said Officer Wright.
The officers say that focus on the children is what really solidified their place at Brookside and in Westville Manor.
“The kids have helped us a lot. It's usually easier. The kids like the police more than the adults do. Once you get a relationship with the kids and then their parents see how much they like you, the relationship you have with their children, it opens the parents up to you,” said Officer White.
Because the challenge the officers face is trying to build trust between the community and the police. “Not everyone wants to talk to you, not everyone wants their kids around you, so it's just gaining their trust,” said Officer Wright.
Mass. police polishing image with kids through trading cards
An Essex chief comes up with trading cards featuring his officers' faces and stats.
ESSEX, Mass . — Just over a year ago, 20 schoolchildren and six adults were gunned down at a Newtown, Conn., school, a horrible incident that reverberated in this coastal town.
Police Chief Peter G. Silva's first instinct was to send officers to Essex Elementary School, but school officials were hesitant about having an unknown police officer in the classrooms, suspecting that his presence would make children more anxious rather than less.
So Silva made it his mission to find a way to introduce children to members of the local force, so they would recognize a friendly face matched with a helping hand. The solution: Trading cards, a throwback to both old-time hobbies and community policing.
The collectible cards, not unlike baseball cards, offer a photo of a police officer on the front, and some statistics and personal information on the back.
For example, Silva's card says he joined the town force in 1988; he's also fond of the classic rock sounds of Chicago and Styx.
“This is a perfect opportunity to get the kids and the community involved with the Police Department,” Silva said.
Bill Bratton on both coasts
Inspired by a chapter on policing by leading criminologists Jeffrey Fagan (Columbia University) and John McDonald (University of Pennsylvania), the editors of the recently published volume New York and Los Angeles: The Uncertain Future , David Halle and Andrew A. Beveridge, along with Sydney Beveridge, take a closer look at the consequences of the recent New York mayoral race.
Incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has just chosen Bill Bratton as the city's Police Commissioner. Bratton returns to the top post he occupied from 1994 to 1996 where he played a critical role in police reform in New York, and then as Los Angeles Police Commissioner from 2002 to 2009. Bratton's stint in Los Angeles is a key reason why community-police relations there seem in better shape than New York's. Bratton achieved this in Los Angeles while also presiding over a massive drop in crime. It is this apparent ability both to reduce crime and improve community-police relations that will now be tested in New York where outgoing mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly argue that their Stop and Frisk policy, which critics argue has alienated many in the black and Latino community, is vital for keeping crime low.
How did Bratton get his Los Angeles results? For sure the reasons that crime has plummeted in both cities to levels not seen since the early 1960s are a complex mix, from changing police tactics to long-term demographic shifts to the ebbs and flows of drug epidemics. Still, Bratton introduced the famous COMPSTAT program in interestingly different forms in both cities, and this is one key reason for the differences in community-police relations. COMPSTAT uses geographical mapping of crime to make strategic decisions about officer deployment, and sets police division benchmarks for crime reduction. Under the NYPD version of COMPSTAT, each division captain was basically responsible for crime trends and for formulating a response in his or her police area. Performance was noted in monthly, central command staff meetings, but what was noted was primarily crime trends, and how to deal with these was left to local commanders.
Dec 23, 2013
Sarasota Police's outreach barbecue draws criticism
SARASOTA - You would not think that a picnic with barbecue and music could be controversial, but when it comes to the community of Newtown and the officers that patrol there, even the simplest gesture can become a lightning rod.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said her idea for a barbecue block party is intended to strengthen community relationships, but rank-and-file officers say it sends a wrong message about a dangerous situation.
It all started with an incident last month in which a Sarasota Police officer, attempting to make an arrest in Newtown, got in a fight with a known drug dealer. What happened next varies based on who tells the story.
Officer Ken Goebel was conducting surveillance about 9:30 a.m. Nov. 26 when he saw what appeared to be a drug transaction on the street corner at 23rd Street and Leon Avenue.
In Goebel's narrative of the events preceding the arrest of Peter Porter, 36, the officer details his struggle to detain Porter. Goebel said Porter took his police radio, punched him in the head and removed his handcuffs from his utility belt. Goebel's holster and gun also were stripped from him, though how they were pulled from his belt is unclear.
Black box lets data flow in an emergency
Lets first responders on nearly any system share photos, videos
The dozens of federal, state, and local police departments that responded to the terrorist bombings during the Boston Marathon in April had a vital tool at their disposal: a radio network that enabled disparate agencies to talk to each other.
But one shortcoming of the system was that there was no easy way for investigators and officers in the field to share data, such as photos and videos. But a black box developed by engineers in Massachusetts could provide the ultimate solution.
The box, created by Mutualink Inc., lets firstresponder agencies instantly share all of their digital communications, regardless of what kind of two-way radio, computer network, or telephone system the agency uses. Mutualink can translate virtually any signal into a standard format that other agencies can use.
“We don't know of any company on the planet that's doing it the way we're doing it,” said Mark Hatten, chief executive of Mutualink. Based in Wallingford, Conn., it maintains its research-and-development facility in Westford.
Police, fire, and emergency medical services from many towns and cities routinely offer help during crises like the Boston Marathon bombing or Hurricane Sandy. State and federal agencies also get involved. But agencies may deploy vastly different electronic equipment, broadcast over different frequencies, use different digital encoding standards. As a result, vital information may not be shared with all who need it.