11/30/11 Officer fatalities are up. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 158 officers died while on duty so far in 2011, a 12 percent increase from this date last year. Fifty-seven of the deaths were gun related, a 16 percent increase from 2010, when 49 officers were killed by gunfire.
11/30/11 Letters from the U.S. Attorney warning marijuana clinics that dispensing pot is illegal under Federal law have led 139 of 222 San Diego outlets to close. A second wave of letters, some delivered by DEA agents, repeated the warning to those still open. But it’s assumed that some prosecutions will be needed to secure full compliance.
11/30/11 Houston PD and Harris County D.A. Pat Lykos are at odds over her practice of not charging minor drug cases as felonies in favor of using prosecutorial resources to go after “dangerous criminals.” But officers say that these cases provide an opportunity to lock up exactly that kind of person before they commit a robbery or murder.
11/30/11 In Part III of a series, the Las Vegas Review-Journal criticizes agency training and practices with fostering a culture that encourages LVPD officers to “come on strong” and aggressively resolve situations. That can lead to the use of force, including lethal force in situations that could have been peacefully resolved had more time been taken.
11/30/11 Police overran Occupy encampments in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. About 1,400 LAPD officers arrested 200 protesters without chemicals, munitions or significant force. No injuries were reported. It was also mostly peaceful in Philadelphia, where dozens were arrested. Many had heeded prior warnings and left in advance.
11/29/11 “Talk about blaming the victim. Not only isn’t there any remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent.” So said Los Angeles Superior Court judge Michael Pastor as he sentenced Dr. Conrad Murray to four years on his conviction of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.
11/29/11 Quoting protesters and LAPD critics, the Los Angeles Times suggests that LAPD’s tolerant, low-key approach is “emboldening” Occupy campers, who remained ensconced by City Hall. But Chief Charlie Beck urges continued restraint, insisting that should action become necessary his officers are up to the task. Related post
11/29/11 Seven persons were shot, two critically, when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of an Oakland, Calif. liquor store. At least two gunmen fled after firing fifty or more rounds, many striking a local rapper’s promotional van. The rapper, Kafani, said he wasn’t present, but that his cousin and her child were among the wounded.
11/29/11 On August 3, 2010 Federal law changed to greatly increase the amount of crack cocaine one must possess to draw a stiff mandatory minimum term. But the liberalization is not retroactive. Now the Supreme Court will decide whether to extend relief under the law to persons who were convicted before this date but sentenced after.
11/29/11 Las Vegas police have shot and killed eleven persons this year, a record high. A newspaper investigation reveals that of 16 major agencies they are third in number of shootings per capita. It calls LVPD’s culture “hard-charging,” criticizing the department as reluctant to change and “slow to weed out problem cops.” Article part I II
11/28/11 The Police Executive Research Forum has hosted two telephone get-togethers for police executives who wish to “compare notes” on the Occupy protests. “What keeps police chiefs up at night is that somehow the purpose of the movement will become about actions that the police have taken,” says Chuck Wexler, PERF’s executive director. He denied a post by a San Francisco alternative news site that PERF was coordinating police response to the protests.
11/28/11 DOJ criticized Seattle PD, which is under a patterns-and-practices inquiry, for misinterpreting case law that protects officers against self-incrimination. Seattle PD policies discourage submitting use of force reports after a shooting occurs, thus depriving the agency from learning why officers thought gunfire was necessary. DOJ letter
11/28/11 NYPD reports record lows in officer-involved shootings. In 2010 officers purposely fired at 33 persons, nearly 1/3 fewer than in 2009. Sixteen were wounded and 8 were killed. That contrasts with 1971, when officers wounded 221 and killed 93, nearly two a week. Police attribute the decline to good policing and a plunge in violence.
11/23/11 DOJ sued Utah to overturn recently enacted state laws that, among other things, require police to ascertain the immigration status of arrestees and to arrest persons illegally in the U.S. and those who harbor or transport illegal aliens. DOJ, which calls such laws an unconstitutional intrusion, has also sued Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina.
11/23/11 Calling his state’s death penalty “a perversion of justice,” Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on executions. He acted two weeks before the scheduled execution of a killer whose competency is in question. Kitzhaber said he acted because the death penalty is applied inequitably, not because it is morally wrong.
11/23/11 Funding for the National Criminal Background Check System, which performs gun buyer checks, was cut 71 percent. Sen. Charles Schumer recently asked that funds be cut for non-complying states, including Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming. But 71 percent overall seems drastic.
11/22/11 Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, the man charged with shooting at the White House with an AK-47 type rifle, was suffering from delusions that an expert said were consistent with paranoid schizophrenia. He bought the weapon in Idaho last March for $550 from Jake Chapman, another 21-year old who was known as “the gun guy.”
11/22/11 Shortly before its expected publication, the CQ Press yearly city crime ranking was denounced by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which insists that the process is flawed. One criticism is that citizens and cities report crimes differently. Another is that the risk of being victimized depends on one’s activities and neighborhood. Related post
11/22/11 Educators, police experts and media pundits across the U.S. are criticizing the harsh treatment of California’s student protesters. Former Seattle chief Norm Stamper decried police militarization and the use of tear gas. “It is all too easy to resort to weapons that ought not be used at all, or in last-resort situations.” Related post
11/22/11 An investigator appointed to review the prosecution of the late Senator Ted Stevens concluded that Government lawyers illegally withheld exculpatory materials from his lawyers and the judge. He did not recommend charging prosecutors with contempt, but made no recommendation as to obstruction of justice. Related post
11/22/11 Does taking a drug-detection canine to someone’s front door, then using its alert to help secure a search warrant for the home violate the Fourth Amendment? Yes, says the Florida Supreme Court. No, say state prosecutors, who are appealing to the Supreme Court.
11/22/11 Sources say that the FBI declined to become involved in the case against Jose Pimentel, the man arrested by NYPD for conspiring to make bombs, because Federal law lacks a one-party conspiracy charge, and because agents feared that the informer may have played too large a role in getting Pimentel to make bombs. Related post
11/22/11 In the wake of the tear-gassing incident at UC Davis, Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, urged the ten campus Chancellors to not use police against “peaceful, lawful protests.” Students at the UC and Cal State systems are ramping up protests against tuition hikes and plan to reestablish tent cities taken down by police.
11/21/11 In response to California’s shift of “nonviolent” inmates to the counties, Los Angeles D.A. Steve Cooley has instructed his staff to try to make their cases meet the “serious, violent or sexual” criteria that require prison time. Meanwhile a RAND report cautions about giving counties with limited social services the new workload. Related post
11/21/11 More than 250 license plate readers dot the streets of Washington DC and its suburbs, storing information for as long as three years. That lets police connect vehicles with crimes and develop leads. But it makes some uneasy. “The government has no business collecting that kind of information on people without a warrant,” says the ACLU.
11/21/11 Manhattan man Jose Pimentel, aka Muhammad Yusuf, was arrested by NYPD as he put the final touches on three bombs at an informer’s residence. He intended to practice on mailboxes and then go on to bomb post offices and police stations. Pimentel, 27, had been under watch for two years. No one else was involved. Related post
11/20/11 Five weeks in, Portland’s Occupy camp had become a haven for vagrants, runaways and drug users, so the city’s liberal mayor stepped in. Police moved in quietly, without gas or rubber bullets, and in the end most campers left voluntarily. Only a few arrests were made, and even many radicals agree that the authorities handled things well.
11/20/11 Congress sent the President a partial budget bill that increases funding for the FBI, ATF and Bureau of Prisons but reduces funding to COPS by $296 million, leaving a lot less money to help hard-pressed police agencies hire and retain officers. “Certainly, there will be police officer jobs that will be lost,” said the president of the IACP.
11/19/11 UC Davis is investigating an incident where a campus police officer with a large pepper spray container methodically doused a line of sitting protesters. Officers earlier removed an Occupy encampment from the campus, arresting ten. The chief, who said she regretted the incident, said officers had been surrounded and wanted to leave.
11/18/11 Marches and mostly peaceful demonstrations marked the second month anniversary of the Occupy movement. Seventy-two protesters were arrested in Los Angeles for blocking roads and taking over a plaza; 200 were arrested in New York, 46 in Chicago and 45 in Portland for blocking bridges. Labor unions also participated.
11/17/11 Homicide overall is at the lowest rate in forty years. In large cities it dropped from 35.5/100,000 to 11.9/100,000 between 1991 and 2008. However, the proportion of homicides involving gangs and juveniles is up, and the actual count of homicides by teens and young adults (to age 24) is about the same as in the mid-1980’s.
11/17/11 Despite allegations that moneymaking shenanigans in the real estate and financial sectors helped bring on the financial meltdown, the past decade has seen the number of Federal prosecutions for frauds at or by financial institutions fall by more than fifty percent. Data Related post
11/17/11 DOJ announced a “patterns and practices” probe into the deaths of seven black men shot and killed by Miami officers in 2010 and 2011. It will look into training, leadership and procedures. Criminal culpability is being investigated by local prosecutors. Miami’s new chief is also conducting a “top to bottom” review of the department.
11/17/11 NYPD officers clashed with protesters, arresting dozens who blocked streets and tried to keep employees from entering the New York Stock Exchange. Other protesters streamed into Zuccotti Park, from where they had been expelled the other night, flinging aside police barricades and resuming their occupation. Related post
11/17/11 A new 60 Minutes report on the Taser concludes that the devices are handy tools that can if used wisely prevent deaths and injuries, but they’re prone to overuse. Researchers and police are interviewed, notorious episodes are discussed, and viewers are taken into the factory where the devices are made. Related post
11/16/11 A Chapel Hill, N.C. police tactical team armed with rifles stormed a vacant car dealership and removed dozens of protesters one day after they took over the premises. Thirteen persons including two reporters were handcuffed; seven were arrested. Criticisms of excessive force and of acting without warning are being investigated.
11/16/11 In 2008 a schizophrenic man died after he was Tasered, hit with a baton and hog-tied by Spokane officers who mistook him for a robber. A Federal jury just convicted one cop of civil rights violations. Evidence of a major police coverup has led the city’s mayor to ask DOJ to conduct a patterns and practices inquiry of the department.
11/16/11 Pennsylvania troopers arrested a 21-year old man suspected of firing a bullet that struck the White House last Friday. An AK-47 type rifle was discovered in an abandoned vehicle parked nearby. Authorities estimate that the round, which did not penetrate, traveled 700 to 800 yards.
11/16/11 A misdemeanor indictment charging Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn with failing to report sexual misconduct by a priest was set aside in exchange for his agreement to faithfully (no pun intended) keep prosecutors informed about all such allegations over the next five years. Related post
11/15/11 Despite Federal regulations requiring them to do so, few States share information about adjudicated mentally ill persons with the NICS, the Federal database used to check whether prospective gun buyers are prohibited from acquiring firearms. Many don’t know what’s needed; those that do usually have laws that mandate reporting.
11/15/11 A California man had a brake job done on a minivan he bought from a car-rental firm. A mechanic offered to fix the windows, which wouldn’t roll down all the way. So the owner said sure, go ahead. That’s when they found $500,000 worth of cocaine stuffed in the door panels. Police were called, and the seller agreed to replace the vehicle.
11/15/11 Hundreds of NYPD officers cleared the Occupy Wall Street encampment, removing tents and arresting 150 protesters who refused to leave. City workers cleaned the plaza and the mayor said protesters could return but not camp. A judge then issued a temporary restraining order against the city; its effect is unknown. Related post
11/14/11 A new California law shifting oversight of persons convicted of nonviolent crimes to the counties means that as many as 8,000 prisoners will be released to Los Angeles in the next year. With its jails running full plans are to set free thousands of inmates awaiting trial, leading to worries that crime will go up and witnesses will be intimidated.
11/14/11 In “Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs,” criminologists argue that fighting crime can be done better and cheaper. They call for increasing the “swiftness and certainty” of punishment while slashing imprisonment. Savings would be used for such things as more cops, raising the compulsory schooling age to increase graduation rates, expanding programs such as Head Start, and providing therapy to delinquents and families. Related post
11/14/11 In 1986 Federal law (18 USC 921[a]) was changed to let felons have guns if their State civil rights have been fully restored. Many states now do so automatically once a certain period has lapsed after a conviction. Some violent ex-felons have misused these rights, but gun lobby pressures prevent any thought of a rollback.
11/14/11 Hundreds of police officers cleared out the Oakland Occupy encampment. Most protesters had already left. Twenty who remained submitted peacefully to arrests while chanting “We Shall Overcome.” Oakland’s mayor said she supported the protesters’ goals but camping would no longer be allowed. Related post
11/11/11 A California appeals court ruled that a state law that authorizes and regulates medical marijuana does not prevent cities and counties from banning them. About 168 cities and 17 counties prohibit dispensaries, while about 40 cities and 10 counties allow them. Eighty and ten respectively have placed them on hold. Related post
11/10/11 An altercation between two groups led to the shooting death of a man near the Occupy Oakland camp. A news videographer was also roughed up. A protester said that neither the victim nor his assailants were connected with the movement. But critics said the encampment is drawing the wrong crowd and what happened is inevitable.
11/10/11 Police arrested a 57-year old man for the 1986 murder of a Texas woman after their DNA was matched to a bloody bandanna found near the scene. Her husband, Michael Morton, was released last month after serving 25 years in prison for that crime. The real killer’s DNA has also been matched to an unsolved Austin homicide. Related post
11/09/11 California assault weapons laws prohibit the sale of certain semi-auto rifles and high-capacity pistols and magazines. But police officers with letters from their departments are exempt. ATF is now investigating cops at several agencies who apparently misused their credentials to buy these items then resold them to ordinary citizens.
11/09/11 Budget cuts are basically shutting down California’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the state’s equivalent of the DEA. With all but $6 million of its $77 million budget eliminated, more than 200 agents are expected to be shown the door come January 1st. Their leadership of local drug task forces will also come to an end.
11/09/11 Of 53 murders in Boston this year, police have so far cleared nineteen. According to detectives the problem is a pervasive code of silence. “We solve crimes because people tell us who did it. The physical evidence helps us prove it.” Related post
11/09/11 Police patrol the perimeter of Zuccotti Park. To avoid confrontations they have ceded the interior to citizen volunteers, burly men and martial-arts experts who surround belligerent persons and walk them out. Within the encampment there is wary coexistence, with drug users in one area and “political science” types in another.
11/09/11 Arizona State Senate president Russell Pearce, author of Arizona’s tough anti-illegal alien law, was edged out by a fellow conservative and recalled from office. Pearce was accused of running a campaign that was replete with dirty tricks, including funding a bid by a Hispanic woman who was supposed to draw votes away from his challenger.
11/08/11 Felony arrests in New Orleans were up slightly in the first half of 2011 while arrests for misdemeanors declined. That reflects an effort to concentrate on serious crime, police say. But felony convictions dropped sharply. Prosecutors are only winning 52 percent of jury cases and 56 percent of those tried in front of a judge.
11/08/11 During the third quarter of 2011 there were 97 murders in Detroit, nearly one-third more than for the same period last year. Meanwhile other kinds of crime show decreases. Police Chief Ralph Goodbee attributes the carnage to the abundance of firearms in the city. Three-part series in the Detroit Free Press
11/08/11 DOJ has so far recovered more than $61 million in settlements with body armor companies that used Zylon fabric. Litigation against the makers of Zylon continues. “Zylon materials degraded quickly over time and were not suitable for ballistic use,” said DOJ, which criticized manufacturers for knowingly endangering officer safety.
11/08/11 A 14-year old Alabama boy killed a man by beating him with a baseball bat and setting his house on fire. A 14-year old Arkansas boy was a lookout in a robbery where a clerk was shot to death. Both got life without parole. In Graham the Supreme Court ruled that this sentence is inappropriate for persons under 18 in non-homicide cases. Now it will decide if life without parole is cruel and unusual punishment for those under 18 when death results.
11/07/11 A spate of arrests and convictions of parents who allegedly beat their children to death has focused attention on Tennessee pastor Michael Earl. His books, which have been found at some of the scenes, encourage parents to discipline their children physically and describe how to fashion implements to use for that purpose.
11/07/11 Pennsylvania authorities criticized Penn State officials, including coach John Paterno, for not telling police that prominent football assistant Jerry Sandusky was seen sexually abusing young boys. Sandusky has been arrested on multiple counts of sexual abuse, and two Penn State officials have been charged with lying about it to a grand jury.
11/07/11 An L.A. County jury found Dr. Conrad Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter in causing the pop star’s death. Prosecutors claimed that Murray recklessly administered the powerful anesthetic propofol, commonly used only in hospitals, and failed to properly monitor Jackson’s health. Murray faces up to four years in prison.
11/07/11 In July 2010 a man doing six months at the Rock County, Wisconsin jail for assault got a 5-year prison term for assaulting his cellmate. Jerry Jones, then 24, insisted he was innocent and that the “victim” caused his own injuries, then accused him out of spite. A diary kept by the accuser now confirms that Jones was telling the truth.
11/05/11 A Florida judge sentenced a 26-year old man with no criminal record to life without parole for having 454 pornographic images of children on his home computer. Under state law each image can be charged as a separate, five-year count. A prosecutor said the sentence was per guidelines, but an outside expert thought it unconscionable.
11/05/11 Preliminary, non-peer reviewed findings by researchers at Brown University revealed no difference in teen use of marijuana between Rhode Island, which legalized medical pot in 2006, and Massachusetts, which has not. In both states teen marijuana use before and after the change in law was common, about thirty percent. Related post
11/04/11 A Chicago judge vacated the convictions and released three men imprisoned since their teens for a 1991 rape and murder after DNA tests implicated a convicted rapist for the crime. Two others convicted along with them have already done their time; petitions to exonerate them have been filed. Related post
11/04/11 Black-clad anarchists have made themselves unwelcome guests in the Occupy Oakland encampment. With a taste for tagging, vandalism and tangling with police, their actions threaten the movement’s ability to draw support and further its goals. Yet “taking the brick out of the hand” of the violent fringe is easier said than done.
11/04/11 A New York judge convicted an NYPD narcotics detective of planting drugs on citizens, apparently to augment his case productivity. A former narcotics officer who faces prison after pleading guilty to similar charges testified that the practice was common.
11/03/11 FBI agents arrested four retired Georgia men, all in their 60’s and 70’s, for seeking to purchase ingredients to make ricin and bombs so they could wage a campaign of terror against the government. An informer passed them on to an FBI undercover agent. None have a criminal record; one had supposedly been involved with a militia.
11/03/11 Disorder overtook downtown Oakland after midnight as a group took over a vacant building near the Occupy encampment, set a trash fire and tangled with police. Officers used tear gas and arrested about 40. Things later quieted. At the port truckers criticized the protests, while union leaders sought cooperation. Related post
11/03/11 In oral arguments (Perry v. New Hampshire) Supreme Court justices seemed reluctant to require that judges exclude witness ID’s made under “suggestive circumstances” even when police did nothing wrong. In this case a physically distant eyewitness pointed out a man being questioned by officers as being the perpetrator. Related post
11/03/11 A crowd of 7,000 marched from downtown Oakland to the port, shutting it down. Called by the Occupy movement, the mostly peaceful strike was marred by some vandalism, allegedly by anarchists, and a collision between a car and two protesters. Police largely remained in the background and made no arrests. Related post
11/02/11 Nashville’s arrest of dozens of Occupiers led the ACLU to step in. A Federal court has now enjoined the city from enforcing a curfew and requiring insurance. So the city is again letting Occupiers camp overnight, engaging them in dialogue and providing toilets. Occupiers, in turn, are excluding aggressive persons and panhandlers.
11/02/11 Washington D.C.’s “All Hands on Deck” floods neighborhoods with officers on select weekends. Chief Lanier touts the program but cops say it’s a distraction. Some residents say it helps but it’s no panacea. “For a few days, the criminals stay away [but] if you don’t have persistent policing, of course they’re going to come back.” Related post
11/02/11 An analysis of the impact of the Mexican cartel on crime along the Texas border reveals that in a few areas, including El Paso, violence is up. Violence in border regions also decreased only 3.3 percent between 2006-10, much less than 12 percent statewide. But many murders and other incidents counted as Cartel-related are apparently not.
11/02/11 An open letter on the Oakland police union website says that cops are troubled by the mayor’s order to let Occupy protesters return to their campsite and to give city workers the day off so they can join in a planned general strike. “Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?” the union asks. Related post
11/01/11 DOJ official Lanny Breuer said that he didn’t sound the alarm about “Fast and Furious” because he didn’t realize its tactics were similar to “Wide Receiver.” “The tragic truth is that if those criminals who killed Agent Terry had not gotten the guns from this one source, they would have gotten the gun from another source.” Related post
11/01/11 Federal grants are enabling testing thousands of unexamined rape kits left behind after the 2008 shuttering of the Detroit PD crime lab. Tests on an initial sample of 400 recently led to an arrest for sexual assault and other charges. Two to three thousand more kits will be tested in the next 18 months. Related post 1 2
11/01/11 For a third time the Supreme Court set aside the Nonth Circuit’s grant of a Writ of Habeas Corpus to a California grandmother who had served 10 years of a 15-to-life sentence for shaking a grandchild to death. Justices said it was for the jury to decide between medical opinions, and that a guilty verdict was reasonable. Related post
10/31/11 Massachusetts judges acquit over 80 percent of accused drunk drivers. That includes one who drove the wrong way in an off-ramp, causing an accident with injuries, another who purposely ran over a man, and another who bragged after her second DUI arrest in a month that she would get off in both cases. Which she did.
10/31/11 One lawyer misinterpreted the law and urged his client to reject a plea deal. He did, and instead of doing 4-7 years he was convicted and got 15-30. Another didn’t pass on an offer, costing his client nearly 3 years in prison. Whether incompetent advice in plea deals is a 6th. Amendment violations will soon be decided by the Supreme Court.
10/31/11 Innocence projects will be visiting law schools, bar groups and prosecutors and judges around the U.S. in a “national tour” to highlight the problem of prosecutorial misconduct. They will be joined by former inmates including John Thompson, who served 18 years because prosecutors withheld evidence. Related post
10/31/11 Eleven NYPD officers, all present or former members of the police union, were arrested for fixing tickets in a widespread scheme that cost New York City up to $2 million and led to hundreds of officers stationed in the Bronx pleading guilty, facing internal charges and retiring. The investigation began when discussions about ticket-fixing came up on a wiretap of an officer suspected of drug dealing. He and his wife were charged in that case as well.
10/28/11 Little, Brown is about to release “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family.” Authored by Laurie Sandell, the book was written with the cooperation of Andrew Madoff, the surviving son of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, and his mother Ruth. Bernie Madoff is in prison and his other son, Mark, committed suicide last year.
10/27/11 Despite protests from law enforcement groups Minnesota inmate Timothy Eling, 63, will be paroled after serving 29 years for murdering an off-duty police officer. Eling, who has repeatedly apologized for his act, now mentors other prisoners. He will remain in prison four more years because he was caught smuggling drugs in 1996.
10/27/11 Prisoner hunger strikes and pressures from civil rights groups are leading California corrections officials to reform the process of identifying gang members and associates who merit solitary confinement. A new “behavior-based” system is being developed, and all prisoners presently housed in segregation will be reevaluated. Memo
10/26/11 FBI agents arrested twelve New York men, including five current and three retired NYPD officers for transporting counterfeit goods, stolen property and firearms including M-16 rifles from New Jersey. All items were furnished by undercover FBI agents. The investigation began when an FBI informant tried to get a traffic ticket fixed.
10/26/11 According to the 2011 Gallup Crime Poll only 26 percent of Americans favor banning handguns. That continues a long trend, with a pro-handgun majority dating back to 1975. But a slight majority now also opposes a ban on assault rifles, a flip-flop from 2001, when 59 percent favored a ban.
10/26/11 A Brown University researcher concludes that guns flow from weak-law to strong-law states, particularly if they are proximate, and that more gun crimes occur in weak-law states. Florida, Georgia and Virginia are the main gun sources for New York, while Indiana is the principal supplier to Illinois.
10/26/11 Oakland, Calif. officers in riot gear deployed chemical agents against 400 “Occupy” protesters who tried to retake a plaza that was sealed off. Police had earlier arrested 85 persons who camped out at the plaza for two weeks and refused to leave. Officials said they supported free speech and tried to negotiate with protesters but to no avail.
10/25/11 After a three-month “cooling-off period” Orange-Osceola County Chief Judge Belvin Perry released the names of the Pinellas County, Florida jurors who served on the Casey Anthony trial. Judge Perry had criticized media coverage of the trial, which he said “devolved into cheap, soap opera-like entertainment.” Related post
10/25/11 States with the highest rates of gun ownership have far higher gun death rates that states with low gun ownership according to data compiled by the Violence Policy Center. High gun ownership states also tend to have far weaker gun laws. Full chart - all states
10/25/11 According to the DOJ COPS office nearly one out of four police departments sustained budget cuts during the past two years. It is predicted that by the end of this year 12,000 officers will have been laid off and that 30,000 positions will stay vacant, marking the first national decline in the number of police officers in 25 years. Full report
10/24/11 Senate Democrats joined Republicans in rejecting an Administration proposal to spend $35 billion to create and preserve jobs for 400,000 teachers and “thousands” of cops and firefighters. It would have been paid with a .5 percent surtax on persons earning more than $1,000,000 per year.
10/24/11 In a rare show of unanimity, the Senate voted 99-0 to insert a provision in a spending bill that forbids ATF from knowingly allowing guns to head for the Mexican cartels unless they’re controlled every step of the way.
10/24/11 Fifty-six law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 2010, eight more than in 2009 and fifteen more than in 2008. All but one were slain with firearms: 38 with handguns, two with shotguns and fifteen with rifles, same as rifle deaths in 2009 and the most since 2001, when 70 were killed but only eleven with a rifle. Related post
10/24/11 Over the years nearly 100 Milwaukee police officers have been disciplined and even convicted of crimes including drunk driving and spousal abuse but allowed to remain on the force. Eighteen got deferred prosecution and other settlements. One, who served time for drunk driving last year, was assigned to the department on work-release.
10/24/11 Since 1978 Federal and state courts have sent back nearly a third of Pennsylvania’s death-penalty convictions for new hearings or trials because accused were poorly represented. Experts say that inadequate state funding of defense lawyers leads to shoddy work, which in turn causes even more costly reversals. Related post 1 2
10/24/11 Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed an order forbidding police from inquiring into an arrestee’s immigration status. If ICE places a hold it will only be honored for 48 hours. The policy’s purpose is to encourage illegal aliens to help police. But the police union criticizes it as pandering.
10/24/11 Increased use of life sentences has driven up incarceration costs. Texas has almost nine-thousand doing life, at a cost of $30,000 each per year. Of these, 391 are with no parole, an eight-fold jump from 2007. Nationally, the number of lifers quadrupled between 1984 and 2008, when it reached 140,000. Sentencing Project report
10/21/11 The prosecution’s key medical witness testified that Michael Jackson’s post-mortem propofol levels indicate that a full bottle of the surgical sedative dripped into his veins, forty times more than the 25 milligrams Dr. Conrad Murray said he administered. Dr. Steven Shafer said that Jackson could not have self-administered the drug.
10/20/11 More than a dozen Massachusetts probation managers face discipline for participating in a “sham” hiring program that processed masses of applicants for positions that were secretly reserved for politically well-connected applicants. Federal indictments are soon expected of officials and legislators whose friends and relatives got jobs.
10/20/11 An NYCLU report accuses New York state law enforcement agencies of using Tasers inappropriately. Other than NYPD, whose policies comport with national standards, officers are delivering multiple shocks and are using the devices on non-aggressive suspects and on persons at risk, including the elderly and mentally ill. Related post
10/20/11 An anesthesiologist who helped develop guidelines for the use of propofol said that “virtually none of the safeguards for sedation were in place when propofol was administered to Michael Jackson.” He called Dr. Conrad Murray’s violations of the standard of care “egregious” and “unconscionable.” Related post
10/20/11 Federal civil rights charges against an NYPD officer for falsely arresting a black man whom he stopped and frisked led a state senator and retired NYPD captain to renew his request for a Federal civil rights inquiry into NYPD’s expansive stop-and-frisk program. His call was joined by the Manhattan borough president and others. Related post
10/18/11 Dean Esserman, who left as chief of Providence PD under a cloud, is the new chief in New Haven, CT, where he once served as assistant chief. Chief Esserman pledges to return to community policing, with cops walking beats, and to institute innovative strategies such as “High Point,” which calls in drug dealers to warn them off. Related post
10/18/11 Public crime mapping is here...sort of. CrimeMapping.com offers free online crime maps for participating cities, a majority in California. There are two limitations: they display only six months of data and are limited to 800 data points.
10/18/11 In a consolidated opinion on two Federal suits for excessive force, the Ninth Circuit considered crime severity, threat to officers and suspect resistance to conclude that officers used excessive force in Tasering a female driver who refused to exit her car, and a woman trying to defuse a confrontation in her house between police and her husband. But qualified immunity was granted because the law in such cases was not well established. Related post
10/18/11 Providence police and citizens credit the unconventional “High Point” strategy with making a public housing project safe. Low-level drug dealers are called in, shown evidence of their crimes and told they will go to jail the next time. Wilmington is now considering it. But the Fort Wayne D.A. says it’s the wrong approach. Related post
10/18/11 A record 396,906 illegal aliens have been deported so far this year. In 2010 55 percent of the nearly 400,000 deportees were convicted criminals, ranging from 44,653 for drug offenses to 1,119 for homicide. In 2000 a far fewer 116, 782 were deported; of those, 31 percent were criminals.
10/18/11 In “The City That Became Safe” criminologist Franklin Zimring credits the crime drop in New York City to aggressive policing of crime hot-spots and drug markets, not to mass incarceration. He also claims that stop-and-frisk is effective. But he doesn’t know whether NYPD’s extremely aggressive stance makes a difference worth the cost.
10/18/11 David Devenny, 69, pled guilty to unlicensed gun dealing in Federal court. Devenny, who bought guns at retail and resold them at gun shows, told an undercover ATF agent that a gun he sold was used to kill Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton. He and his partner, who was wounded, were shot in an October 2009 attack. Related post
10/17/11 New York’s prison population has plunged 22 percent since 2000, largely due to fewer imprisoned drug offenders. At present the #1 offense for prisoners is 2nd. degree murder, with about 8,000 inmates, same as in 2000. But in 2000 the #1 offense for prisoners was 3rd. degree sale of drugs, with 10,000 inmates. Now there are 3,000.
10/17/11 Thieves stole 21 H&K MP-5 submachineguns and 12 large-caliber pistols from a site where they were being temporarily housed by LAPD SWAT. Although the weapons are configured to fire blanks, they can easily be converted to use live ammunition. Police have no leads but suspect that the storage facility was being watched.
10/17/11 Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca blamed commanders for keeping him in the dark about the abuse of inmates by jail deputies. He said he had been “out of touch” with the jails and promised reforms. One would be to install 69 video cameras that had been in boxes for a year. “The truth is I should have known. Now I do know.”
10/17/11 Frustrated by the legal complications that the state’s medical marijuana law poses for physicians, the California Medical Association came out in favor of legalization. While it calls marijuana a “folk remedy,” the CMA believes legalization would facilitate research and reduce costs associated with punishing pot users. Related post
10/17/11 Kansas City Bishop Robert W. Finn and his diocese have each been indicted on one misdemeanor count of failing to report a clergyman who took pornographic pictures of children. Finn knew of the pictures last December but did not alert police until May. In 2008 the parish paid $10 million in a priest sex-abuse scandal. Related post
10/17/11 Radio communications by Washington D.C police will soon be encrypted, making it impossible for citizens and the media to listen in as they have done for decades. Police say it’s necessary to keep bad guys from listening in but the media is balking, saying that its inability to convey information would endanger public safety.
10/14/11 Three Muslim men were convicted on a 2009 indictment for plotting overseas terrorism and an assault on a U.S. military base in a plot hatched by Daniel Boyd, an American convert. Evidence consisted of statements made to FBI informers and weapons found at Boyd’s home. He and his two sons, who pled guilty, testified against the men.
10/14/11 Two years ago eight NYPD narcotics officers were arrested for planting drugs on suspects to boost their arrest figures. One, Stephen Anderson, took a plea deal and is now testifying that he gave a former colleague drugs to plant. “I had decided to give him the drugs to help him out so that he could say he had a buy.” Related post
10/13/11 Stating that his conduct “reflects a virus in our business culture that needs to be eradicated,” a Federal judge sentenced Raj Rajaratnam, wealthy founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund, to eleven years. It’s reportedly the longest prison term ever given for insider trading. Related post
10/13/11 Los Angeles County’s official watchdog reports that thirty sheriff’s deputies have been disciplined in two years for abusing inmates or participating in coverups. Incidents can be difficult to confirm because deputies can easily make excuses and justifications, and when investigations do occur they are often half-hearted.
10/12/11 A man angry over a child custody dispute burst into the hair salon in Seal Beach, Calif. where his ex-wife worked and opened fire, killing her and seven others. A ninth person was left in critical condition. Scott Dekraai, about 40, was arrested nearby without incident. He reportedly had several rifles in his vehicle. Related post
10/12/11 Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American car salesman, was arrested for plotting with a member of Iran’s Quds revolutionary force to murder the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and ship Middle Eastern opium to Mexico. Arbabsiar paid $100K to a man he thought was a member of a Mexican cartel, actually a DEA informer. Related post
10/12/11 Anthony Batts resigned after two years as police chief of crime-ridden Oakland. Well regarded in the profession, he had clashed with council members who shrank the size of the department, limited the use of gang injunctions and other crime fighting tactics and instituted a four-day police workweek against his wishes.
10/12/11 At the trial of Michael Jackson’s physician, Conrad Murray, a medical examiner testified that Jackson was too drugged up to have given himself an overdose of propofol. Most likely the error was made by Murray, who lacked a “precision dosing device.” Even if Jackson did it, the standard of care was so low that it was homicide. Related post
10/11/11 In a new approach Portland police leave mentally disturbed persons alone unless they pose an immediate threat. Some now criticize officers for not acting until a man who had twice before roamed his apartment building with a rifle pointed it out a window. But others praise the police, and the chief says it’s a balancing act. Related post
10/11/11 Eleven months after Carlos Straub was jailed for murder, eyewitnesses who tentatively picked him out from a photo lineup testified that it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be, as the killer was short and stout while Straub is 6-2. Their only resemblance? Dreadlocks. Prosecutors asked that he be released, and a judge so ordered. Related post
10/11/11 It’s now illegal to openly pack an unloaded handgun in California. Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law at the request of police chiefs who complained that the practice created a dangerous situation for police. (Openly carrying a loaded handgun was already illegal.) Related post
10/10/11 California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have forced police to get a search warrant to search a cellphone and look at text messages. In January the state’s supreme court ruled in People v. Diaz that a warrant was not necessary if the search was incident to an arrest, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari.
10/10/11 John Jay’s Professor David Kennedy, a designer of a “call-in” strategy that brings gangsters into meetings with police, community members and social service providers, has published “Don’t Shoot.” One of his aims is to get rid of the “radicalized animosity” between street people and police that makes progress impossible.
10/10/11 Under a new Oklahoma law those convicted of nonviolent crimes and sentenced to 5 years or less can be released with ankle monitors after 90 days. 250-300 are set for release on 11/1. Angry prosecutors say that will threaten public safety. “I will absolutely adjust what I’m doing on my cases so this isn’t happening,” said one.
10/10/11 Facing budget cuts, the Shawnee, Kansas D.A. has stopped prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic battery. Meanwhile the city attorney says it hasn’t the resources to do so. Police are still arresting batterers - 18 since September 8 - but all have been released without charges. Now victim right groups are complaining.
10/1o/11 A former L.A. County sheriff’s deputy whom the FBI caught smuggling a cellphone into the jails has given statements about the “improper use of force” against inmates by himself and his former colleagues. Two days later Sheriff Lee Baca announces that a newly-formed task force will investigate the abuse of inmates by jail deputies.
10/07/11 An L.A. County jail deputy punches an allegedly unruly prisoner. Two days later the prisoner dies. Meanwhile a rookie deputy resigns, saying that his supervisor at the jail forced him to beat up a mentally ill prisoner. Reviewing Sheriff Baca’s record, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez urges that the sheriff resign. Related post
10/07/11 Members of the New York City Council took Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to task for sending police intelligence officers to monitor “hot spots” where Muslims gathered. Kelly said that information was only sought if there was a “possibility of criminal activity,” but council members worried that the basis for acting was too broad.
10/07/11 Claiming that for-profit pot dispensaries are illegal under both state and Federal law, U.S. Attorneys in California ordered them to shutter within 45 days or face prosecution and seizure of assets. Federal agents also raided an Orange County operation that sent pot as far as New York and netted $15 million in less than one year.
10/06/11 A Federal appeals court panel upheld Washington D.C. laws requiring handgun registration and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Hearings were ordered on other provisions, such as having handgun owners submit firearms for ballistics testing, to determine if they met a legitimate public safety need.
10/06/11 A jury awarded three experienced LAPD detectives $2.5 million after finding that superiors retaliated against them for speaking out. One had disagreed with a commander’s policy and was reassigned from supervision to a desk job; two of his supporters were transferred. Similar complaints have cost the city $18 million in five years.
10/06/11 A disgruntled Northern California truck driver used a handgun and a rifle to kill three and wound six, several critically, during an early morning safety meeting at a quarry. He then fled the scene and unsuccessfully tried to carjack a vehicle, wounding its driver. An acquaintance described the suspect, Shareed Allman, 46, as well liked.
10/05/11 Michael Morton served 25 years in Texas for murdering his wife. He was released yesterday after testing confirmed that a bandanna with blood from his wife found near the crime scene home had DNA matching a suspect in a later home invasion murder. Police and prosecutors had withheld evidence suggesting an intruder was responsible.
10/05/11 Last week Oakland police shot and killed an allegedly armed man. The incident was captured on video by an officer wearing a chest-mounted camera. Now in use by more that 1,000 agencies, the devices were implemented after the 2009 killing of a man by a transit cop spawned rioting and led to the officer’s conviction. Related post
10/05/11 With 86 homicides so far this year an Oakland Tribune columnist is looking for answers. One of his questions is “How can a city counter a thug culture that has infected the minds of so many of its youths?” To discuss problems Oakland officials have scheduled a public summit on violence on October 15.
10/05/11 ATF and FBI agents will be riding around with Cleveland police to take guns off the street, arrest armed criminals and interdict gun trafficking. Dubbed “V-GRIP,” the effort will target “the worst of the worst” with stiff Federal penalties. Police say that a similar program in Youngstown reduced violence.
10/05/11 Personal contacts between citizens and police continued to decline during 2007-08 according to a BJS survey. Drivers reported being stopped approximately the same regardless of race. Once stopped, blacks were three times as likely to be searched as whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics. Ticketing showed smaller differences. Report
10/04/11 Recently surfaced e-mails show that months before ATF’s “Fast and Furious” was shut down top DOJ officials were mulling over possible reactions to the operation, which let about 2,000 guns go to Mexico. It wasn’t the only example: between 2006-07 “Operation Wide Receiver” in Tucson had used the same strategy. Related post
10/04/11 A Boston neighborhood that has endured seven homicides this year is getting intensive attention, including bike patrols, surveillance cameras and more outreach to community groups. There will also be more undercover narcotics work, like the recent effort that resulted in 17 arrests.
10/04/11 Several days after his arrest for threatening members of her family, a Los Angeles-area high school senior snuck into the campus and stabbed his 17-year old ex-girlfriend to death. Prosecutors had refused to file charges against Abraham Lopez, 18, in part because they considered his text-messaged threats too unspecific.
10/04/11 A war of words has broken out between state officials and L.A.’s mayor and police chief, who claim that California has not provided funds to supervise the 4,200 inmates to be placed under local control by year’s end. Chief Charlie Beck will assign 150 cops to help probation officers, who are mostly unarmed, watch over their new charges.
10/03/11 Two years ago a Raleigh neighborhood was beset by violence. A crackdown, intense patrols and job and educational services turned things around. A resident says more police was key. “A lot of it is because of the police. That began to bring about change. And then, a lot of people were locked up. Some got out and got locked up again.”
10/03/11 Philadelphia police denied Rafiq Williams a CCW permit because of his involvement in prior shootings and possible connections with drugs. No problem. Williams, along with 900 other Philadelphians, got a CCW permit by mail-order from easy-going Florida, with whom Pennsylvania has a reciprocal agreement to honor gun permits.
10/01/11 Seventeen years after his imprisonment for murder, Obie Anthony, 37, was exonerated by a Los Angeles County judge. He and codefendant Reggie Cole, who was released earlier, were convicted solely on the testimony of John Jones, an ex-con who was seeking leniency on a new crime. But the deal had been kept secret from the defense.
10/01/11 California is shifting the incarceration of non-violent, non-sex crime offenders to county jails, and their post-release supervision to county probation. In four years counties may have 8,300 more inmates. Local officials complain that lack of space and funds will cause many to be prematurely released, and crime will inevitably go up.
10/01/11 Pittsburgh’s mayor and police chief boast that crime is at historic lows. But that’s only true if one ignores that the city’s population has declined by half since 1960. In fact, the 2010 murder rate, 17.6/100,000 population, is nearly four times higher than in 1960, when it was 4.6. Robberies and aggravated assaults have also gone up.
09/29/11 Arrests of Federal prison guards have nearly doubled in the last decade. A DOJ report identifies the major cause as as poor screening, leading to the hiring of unqualified applicants. It may be also due in part to the increased use of private prisons, whose standards may be even less stringent.
09/29/11 An ATF memo to Federal gun dealers advises that they cannot sell guns to medical marijuana users, as marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled drug, thus illegal for any purpose. Users also are also prohibited by law (18 USC 922[g]) from possessing firearms. That, says ATF, includes those with state-issued medical marijuana cards.
09/29/11 An Alabama Federal judge upheld provisions of the state’s immigration law, making it a state crime for aliens to not carry immigration documents if they are illegally in the U.S., and requiring police officers to check immigration status when they have reasonable suspicion that someone they detained is illegally in the U.S. Decision
09/29/11 According to the Field Poll Californians strongly favor keeping the death penalty (68 percent.) But more favor life without parole over death for those convicted of 1st. degree murder (48 percent to 40 percent), suggesting that the preference for death may be shifting to more heinous crimes like multiple killings, cop killings and terrorism.
09/29/11 DOJ’s COPS office awarded grants to hire police officers to 238 agencies. Oakland, Calif. , where 80 officers were laid off last year, won the largest grant, to hire 25 cops to work in four-block “safety zones” around four middle schools, where they will concentrate on youth violence and monitor parolees.
09/29/11 Police and victim groups say that the UCR’s antiquated, narrow definition of rape leaves out many cases, such as those where victims were drugged, penetrated with foreign objects or are male, and forces them to submit smaller counts of sexual assault to the FBI than what they internally record. The FBI agreed to work on a revision.
09/28/11 Where is Romulus, Michigan? It’s where a former police chief, his wife and five current cops allegedly spent more than $100,000 in forfeited drug money on alcohol, marijuana, prostitutes, trips and to buy the wife a tanning salon. Officers are also accused of obtaining duplicate expense reimbursements. All have been arrested.
09/28/11 An ACLU review of the L.A. County jail accuses deputies of systematically abusing inmates. Sheriff Lee Baca and his commanders are said to have ignored the problem for years and downplayed claims as exaggerations. But the latest report includes affidavits from three civilian observers who were appalled by what they saw. Report
09/28/11 In its first day, the trial of Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s doctor, featured testimony from choreographer Kenny Ortega. He read his e-mail to the concert promoter, calling Jackson too ill to rehearse and in need of psychological help. Murray, who was reportedly being paid $150,000 a month, told Ortega to “butt out.”
09/27/11 NYPD’s response to unpermitted demonstrations on Wall Street was criticized as heavy-handed. One incident involved the pepper spraying of four women who didn’t seem to be posing a threat. But police said that making arrests and shutting down the protests was necessary as the crowd had grown too large and unruly.
09/27/11 Following a recent Taser-related death Charlotte PD is buying 1600 Taser X2 models that cycle for five seconds regardless of the length of a trigger pull. They replace X26’s that emit electricity for as long as a trigger is depressed. New Tasers can also sound a warning that officers say is an effective deterrent.
09/27/11 More than 700 New Jersey police officers laid off this year are still looking for work. Trenton just laid off 105 cops, a third of its force. Camden laid off 167 in January; Paterson laid off 125 in July. Handfuls have been picked up by smaller agencies, but for most the prospects of returning to policing seem bleak.
09/27/11 A 96-year old Florida woman shot and killed her nephew while he was asleep, police say. Amanda Stevenson was living at the home of Johnny Rice, a married father of three. She had reportedly threatened the nephew and a neighbor, and a social worker who visited moved to hospitalize her, but without apparent effect.
09/27/11 An L.A. sheriff’s deputy resigned after it was revealed that he took $1,500 from an undercover FBI agent to deliver a cellphone to an inmate who was an FBI informer. The sting was kept from sheriff’s officials, leading Sheriff Lee Baca to blast the FBI and insist that his agency, which is under a broader FBI inquiry, can police itself. (See 9/25.)
09/26/11 Under pressure, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly has ordered officers to not arrest for possessing small quantities of marijuana when the only reason it comes into public view is because officers order someone to clean out their pockets. But officials warn that the move goes against improving the quality of life of neighborhoods.
09/26/11 NYPD’s ticket-fixing saga is coming to a head with the indictment of seventeen officers by a Bronx grand jury on felony charges including bribery, perjury and official misconduct. It’s reported that at least some of the officers turned away the chance to plead guilty to misdemeanors because they feared possibly losing their pensions.
09/26/11 Over the past decades the proportion of pleas versus trials in state and federal courts has shifted dramatically in favor of the former, with as few as one in forty cases now going to trial. Experts say that the biggest reason is the jump in sentence severity, leading even the innocent to accept plea bargains rather than flip the coin.
09/25/11 FBI agents are investigating alleged beatings of prisoners in the L.A. County jail. Deputies are suspected of breaking one inmate’s jaw and of beating and Tasering “the limp body” of another in an incident witnessed by an ACLU monitor. An inmate was apparently given a cellphone by the FBI to use during the inquiry, officials said.
09/24/11 Ten Muslim students at the University of California, Irvine were convicted of misdemeanor charges and sentenced to three years unsupervised probation for planning to disrupt, then disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador, making it impossible for him to continue. Many observers criticized the prosecution as unnecessary.
09/24/11 Leaks by Internal Affairs investigators to colleagues under suspicion in NYPD’s department’s ticket-fixing scandal have hampered the year-long investigation. With several IA investigators themselves under investigation it seems that integrity problems in the agency are far more entrenched than anyone suspected.
09/24/11 To prevent false confessions, especially by juveniles and the mentally ill, the Florida Innocence Commission, formed by the state supreme court, will recommend a statewide policy for police interrogations. Among possible remedies are recording interrogations and subjecting those of the mentally ill to special review.
09/23/11 Police officers in Fullerton, Calif. must carry audio recorders and activate them during encounters. “See my fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up,” were the “turning point” and “defining moment” that led D.A. Tony Rackauckas to charge officer Manuel Ramos with murder in the July beating death of homeless person Kelly Thomas.
09/23/11 Shootings of unarmed persons by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies climbed from four in 2009 to eight in 2010 although armed violence against officers dropped sharply, says a report by the agency’s official monitor. One response has been to reinstate sending officers from the department’s training bureau to each shooting scene. Report
09/22/11 A study of California inmates serving life sentences with the possibility of parole, mostly for murder, reveals that on average they spend 20 years in prison and are highly unlikely to commit new crimes when released. In 2010 they amounted to 32,000 inmates, one-fifth of the prison population. Report
09/22/11 NYPD intelligence deployed “demographics teams” to map everyday life in Moroccan neighborhoods, hoping that the information could prevent terrorism or help identify suspects after the fact. Data was gathered by canvassing travel agencies, hotels and shops and by visiting residents who had come to police attention.
09/22/11 Organized hackers cruised the streets of Seattle breaking into residential and commercial wi-fi networks. They stole passwords and personal data, emptied bank accounts, got fraudulent credit cards, added phantom employees to payrolls, and even monitored e-mails and destroyed data to erase evidence of their intrusions.
09/22/11 After a decades-long legal struggle including an extraordinary 2010 evidentiary hearing ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. Related post
09/21/11 Two Fullerton, California police officers face criminal charges in the beating death of a homeless man in July. One, officer Manuel Ramos, was charged with 2nd. degree murder and involuntary manslaughter; the other, corporal Jay Cicinelli, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Related post
09/21/11 Police in an affluent Southern California beach community suspected for a year that a registered sex offender with a long record had been assaulting female customers at his rug store. It turns out that he had, at least seven. Now citizens are questioning why cops delayed making an arrest, allowing two more women to be assaulted.
09/21/11 In 2008 a Philadelphia police officer was suspended for assaulting a neighbor. Now the city is paying a total of $425,000 to settle three similar claims. The officer remains on duty while these are investigated and for possibly violating department policy by posting a suggestive photo of herself on Facebook wearing her uniform hat.
09/20/11 In Georgia the final decider on clemency is the parole board. And after hearing from the victim’s survivors, the board ruled that the execution of convicted killer Troy Davis will go on. While the NAACP says evidence of Davis’ innocence is “overwhelming,” a judge who presided over a hearing called it “smoke and mirrors.” Related post
09/20/11 Preliminary findings of an experiment at four police agencies that randomly assigned simultaneous or sequential lineups to 497 eyewitness of real crimes revealed, for simultaneous lineups, significantly more misidentifications (18.1% v. 12.2%), and a much greater certainty when making rejections (80.8% no to all vs. 53.5%.)
09/19/11 In July 1986 Florida resident Jeremiah Fogle shot and killed a former wife with a rifle. He pled guilty to manslaughter and got ten years probation. On September 18, 2011 he shot and killed his seventh wife. Then, armed with a .32 caliber revolver, he went to a church and shot and critically wounded two ministers.
09/19/11 In 2007 Jose Padilla, a Chicago street gang member who was held in U.S. military prison three years as an enemy combatant, was convicted in Federal court with two others of conspiring to do Jihad and kill persons overseas. An appeals court has now declared his sentence of 17 years to be too short and ordered him resentenced.
09/19/11 Raids and arrests in Spokane, Washington have driven medical marijuana sellers underground. Meanwhile those in Seattle, the state capital, soldier on, “creatively interpreting” state law that limits marijuana dispensing to collective gardens. Why the difference? Perhaps outlets in Spokane marketed too aggressively. Related post
09/19/11 To toughen hiring Philadelphia PD reinstated the polygraph test. More than 60 percent of applicants fail it on their first try, including some who otherwise seem highly qualified. A critic calls the test “junk science” says it only measures anxiety, but PPD says they’ll keep at it and “fine tune” the tests if necessary. Related post
09/19/11 Reported violent crime fell six percent and property crime 2.7 percent between 2009-2010 the FBI said. Murder was down 4.2 percent, rape 5.0 percent, robbery 10 percent and aggravated assault 4.1 percent. Guns were used in 67.5 percent of murders, 41.4 percent of robberies and 20.6 percent of aggravated assaults.
09/17/11 More Americans now die from abusing painkillers and anxiety drugs than in car crashes. Prescription drug abuse also kills more than heroin and cocaine combined. The most abused precription drugs are Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. Related post
09/17/11 A “hot spots” experiment in Sacramento, Calif. that had officers pay prolonged visits to 42 high-crime locations every two hours resulted in 25 fewer Part I crimes and eight percent fewer calls for service at those locations. It’s evidence, researchers say, that reducing the opportunity for crime is as important as making arrests.
09/17/11 A ticket-fixing scandal that led NYPD to tighten oversight has cops writing far fewer tickets, with numbers down more than one-third overall. That led an NYPD chief to ask a subordinate if his men wrote 15 tickets during the month. But most commanders are far more concerned with keeping crime down than the number of tickets.
09/17/11 Umar Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national who tried to detonate explosives on a United Airlines flight in 2009, wasn’t read his Miranda rights by FBI agents who interviewed him in a hospital. A Federal judge ruled that the statements will be admitted at trial under a national security exception that allows urgent questioning. Related post
09/15/11 A report by a task force of police chiefs, state officials and immigrant rights advocates criticized “Secure Communities” for expanding its reach beyond dangerous criminals, thus discouraging cooperation from immigrants and damaging community policing. It recommends the program be revamped and that minor offenders be left alone.
09/15/11 Ninety minutes after the scheduled execution time, the Supreme Court granted a stay to condemned Texas inmate Duane Buck. Justices will decide whether a psychologist’s testimony at Buck’s penalty hearing that blacks are more likely to recidivate violated Buck’s civil rights. At least eight other black Texas convicts may also be affected.
09/15/11 A New York City police officer who was implicated in the ticket-fixing scandal and was expected to testify against his colleagues survived a suicide attempt. Robert McGee, 62, a union rep, had been relieved of his gun and badge. It’s expected that a dozen officers will be prosecuted; dozens more could face internal charges and be fired.
09/15/11 Fresh from its debut in the documentary “The Interrupters,” Operation Ceasefire, which uses ex-cons as street workers to discourage gun violence, is being implemented in two of Philadelphia’s most violent districts. Its operatives are introducing themselves to residents and have already spoken with several shooting victims.
09/15/11 According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime fell 13 percent between 2009-10, led mostly by a steep fall in simple assaults. This drop was three times the average annual reduction between 2001-09. Property crimes fell 4 percent in 2010. The NCVS counts a much larger range of crimes than the FBI’s UCR.
09/14/11 Abuse of highly addictive prescription sedatives like Xanax, which are widely prescribed for anxiety disorders, is leading to many overdose deaths in Kentucky. One clinic has begun phasing out such drugs in favor of less dangerous medications and therapy. But one patient says she can’t get appropriate relief from lesser drugs.
09/14/11 Several of the 9/11 hijackers had overstayed their visas. But a program to identify visa scofflaws by biometrically identifying persons departing the U.S. proved too costly. So now the focus is on thoroughly vetting applicants, even after they’ve arrived, using a system that simultaneously checks persons across various databases.
09/14/11 DEA agents arrested two police officers and three TSA employees for helping move massive quantities of prescription painkillers from Florida, where they are cheap, to Connecticut and New York, where they fetch high prices. About a dozen others who transported, bought and sold the drugs were also arrested. Related post
09/14/11 “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda,” a new book by former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan, blames a dysfunctional intelligence community for failing to prevent 9/11. Soufan says the biggest mistake in the War on Terror was letting the CIA torture prisoners and use “brutal” interrogation techniques.
09/13/11 To help families, and help meet a Federal mandate to reduce overcrowding, California is releasing 2,000 mothers with less than two years remaining on their sentences. A 2010 law allows it for inmates who committed “non-serious, non-sexual” offenses and were the “primary caregivers” of children. Males will also be considered.
09/12/11 On a 3-2 vote Miami City Commissioners fired chief Miguel Exposito for disobeying the city manager. Exposito, a 37-year Miami PD veteran, had been battling the manager and mayor over control of the police. He had refused to curtail overtime and stripped three high-ranking officers of their duties against the manager’s wishes.
09/12/11 In August Indianapolis officers pursued a stolen vehicle. It crashed, killing its two occupants, one 19, the other 15. Now the chief wants to tighten pursuit policy, perhaps to match Orlando’s, where cops can only chase violent felons. But the police union president is opposed, saying that many cops would consider it “surrendering.”
09/11/11 The Labor Day weekend brought 52 shootings to New York City, killing 13 and wounding 67. While still trailing last year’s count, the toll surprised cops and made citizens wonder about the effectiveness of Mayor Bloomberg’s heralded anti-gun campaign. But gun control advocates say the fault lies with the Federal government.
09/11/11 California has held nearly 400 violent gang members in solitary for a decade ore more. Their way out is to renounce their gangs and inform on others, which few do. Experts are highly critical. “We’re taking prisoners who were marginally neurotic and evolving them into people who are truly psychotic. And then we let them out.”
09/11/11 After an extensive investigation DOJ accused Puerto Rico police of engaging in “a pattern and practice” of using excessive force, conducting unreasonable searches and seizures and discriminating against persons of Dominican descent. DOJ said that the violations are “pervasive and plague all levels of PRPD.”
09/11/11 More than 100 Chicago cops have run afoul of a special unit established under the former chief to fight abuse of sick leave. Fourteen currently face termination. Many were caught by surveillance teams who watched them leave their homes, where they were supposedly recuperating, to engage in recreational and other activities.
09/11/11 Twenty-three Washington D.C. police officers have been charged with crimes this year. One is accused of murder. Others were arrested for property offenses and sex crimes. An academic compared the situation to New Orleans. But the chief said that was ridiculous, and that many of the cases originated from internal inquiries.
09/07/11 A 22-year old West Virginia man armed with a high-powered rifle, another rifle and a handgun shot and killed five persons inside a home, ran over and seriously injured an elderly motorist with whom he collided while fleeing, then critically wounded a gas station attendant before being stopped by police. He committed suicide.
09/07/11 A reluctant judge blasted the Government as she sentenced Laguerre Payen, the last of the alleged domestic terrorists known as the Newburgh Four to 25 years: “The essence of what occurred here was that a government [zealously] created acts of terrorism out of [fantasies] and then made these fantasies come true.”
09/07/11 A hospital physician’s report lists the death of a homeless man allegedly beaten by Fullerton, California police officers as due to “brain death,” caused by “head trauma,” in turn caused by “assault.” The family’s lawyer said that three officers were primarily responsible. Related post
09/06/11 A 32-year old Nevada man described as having “mental issues” opened fire with an AK-47 type rifle at a Carson City retail center and inside an IHOP restaurant, killing four innocent persons and wounding seven [updated.] He then killed himself. Among the dead are two National Guard troops who were having a meal. No motive is known.
09/06/11 California’s three-strikes law imposes a sentence of 25 to life for any third felony, even if it’s not serious or violent. Scott Hove, a persistent nonviolent offender with drug and burglary convictions got 29 to life after shoplifting inexpensive items at a Home Depot. Now some wonder whether that makes sense. Related post 1 2
09/06/11 Durham, North Carolina D.A. Tracey Cline is facing allegations of withholding evidence and misleading judges while a prosecutor in at least six cases. So far one murder conviction has been thrown out, and her testimony that evidence was sent to the lab in a case that may have led to a wrongful conviction has been proven false.
09/06/11 A new Arizona law imposes a $25 one-time charge on adults who want to visit a state prison inmate. Although it’s billed as a “background check” fee the money is intended to supplement the prison maintenance budget. Visitors are complaining of the burden, and the fee is being challenged in court as discriminatory.
09/06/11 According to the Annals of Epidemiology there is higher average use of pot by adolescents (ages 12-17) in states with medical marijuana laws (8.68% - 6.94%). They also consider it less risky. Trends in these directions were already present in States with medical marijuana laws before the laws were passed. Related post
09/04/11 Three top Wisconsin juvenile corrections officials have been suspended after the arrest of three Milwaukee teens for a vicious robbery-murder. Two had been released early from confinement for prior violent offenses. One, now 18, served less than three years for directing a killing in which his adult codefendants got twenty years.
09/02/11 In a boost to the Center for Constitutional Rights’ lawsuit against NYPD’s stop-and-frisk campaign, a Federal judge ruled there was enough evidence to let a jury decide whether officers used race as a basis for their decisions and whether quotas on officer activity were a “moving force” behind suspicionless stops. Related post
08/31/11 Federal and local undercover agents set up an old-fashioned storefront sting operation in a Mansfield, Ohio athletic clothing store. By the time that the year was over they had bought 70 guns and large quantities of cocaine and pharmaceuticals. Sixty persons have been indicted, 26 on Federal drug and gun counts and 34 on State charges.
08/31/11 Baltimore PD’s murder clearance rate of 43 percent has drawn criticism and led to the removal of the homicide commander. Detectives blame the D.A.’s office for dragging its feet. They’ve now leaked an internal memo that details five pending cases where the evidence seems solid but prosecutors haven’t filed charges.
08/30/11 Kenneth Melson, ATF’s embattled acting director, is out. He is being replaced by B. Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis. Melson is being transferred to an office job at DOJ. Dennis K. Burke, the U.S. Attorney in Phoenix is also leaving, and for the same reason - letting guns walk, all the way to the Mexican cartels. Related post
08/30/11 A DOJ investigation of Miami-Dade County jails concluded that inmates were subjected to excessive force and received inadequate medical care. Authorities were accused of being “deliberately indifferent” to mentally ill inmates, eight of whom have committed suicide since 2007. A lawsuit was threatened.
08/30/11 The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a civil suit against Boston officers who arrested a citizen filming an arrest because he was recording audio without their consent. That charge was later dropped. But the Court took a broader view, ruling that publicly recording governmental activities is protected by the First Amendment.
08/30/11 Seventy-five billion dollars. That’s what Federal and state governments have spent each year since 9/11 on domestic security. It’s bought police armored vehicles, communications networks and screening gear. Many have other uses, such as for SWAT teams. But their value against terrorists has yet to be demonstrated.
08/29/11 Chief Charlie Beck reported 125 violent assaults on LAPD officers in 2011, a 29 percent increase from last year. In ten days there have been four attacks with guns. Two officers have been injured, one who caught a bullet in his wrist and two more in his ballistic vest.
08/26/11 When he was 15 his Pakistani immigrant parents let the FBI repeatedly interview him. Now 17, and with a full scholarship to John Hopkins, he’s in Federal custody, charged with using the Internet to raise money for Colleen LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” a plotter in the scheme to murder a Swedish cartoonist for defaming a Muslim prophet.
08/26/11 After Governor Pat Quinn shut down an early release program Illinois prisons grew by 4,000 inmates, placing it at 147 percent capacity. But officials changed how capacity is measured from number of cells to space for beds and claim they’re only at 95 percent capacity. Watchdogs say that’s exactly what landed California in trouble.
08/26/11 Fifty law enforcement officers have been shot and killed so far this year, a nearly one-third increase from the same period in 2010. According to USA Today 19 died in “ambush or surprise attacks.” At a time of generally declining crime Attorney General Eric Holder attributes the increase to more guns falling into criminal hands.
08/26/11 To save on prison costs Texas has entered into an agreement with ICE that would guarantee the expulsion from the U.S. of inmates who have active deportation orders should they be paroled. State law is being changed to allow paroling violent and nonviolent inmates for that purpose. As many as 6,000 prisoners could be affected.
08/25/11 Top Missouri elected officials, including the Governor, Attorney General, a Supreme Court justice and legislative chiefs are calling for changes that would redirect nonviolent offenders from prison to intensive probation, drug treatment and rehabilitation. They claim the move would reduce crime and save money.
08/25/11 New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that eyewitness identification is so prone to error that it requires special handling. Judges will have to hold hearings whenever a defendant demonstrates that an ID might have been unduly influenced. Among the factors to be considered are whether the witness and suspect were of different races.
08/24/11 There have been seven more officer-involved shootings in Cincinnati this year than in all of 2010, when only two occurred. Youths are now more likely to be armed and to pull guns on cops said Lt. Col. Vince Demasi. “A lot goes back to kids carrying guns. We really just never had that before, not to this extent.”
08/24/11 Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that 54 State Troopers would be laid off. His action follows the trooper union’s rejection of a wage freeze that most other employees accepted as a way to help balance the budget. Troopers got a 2.5 percent increase in July. Some of those laid off will be rehired as others retire.
08/24/11 Brought in to fix a supposedly broken prison system, Florida’s new corrections chief, Edwin Buss, who held the job in Indiana, filled many top slots with former aides. But when he agreed to let MSNBC film episodes for its “Lockup” series at a Florida prison the governor said “no.” That and another disagreement have dampened things.
08/24/11 In Detroit overall crime is down from 2010 but homicides are up, from 190 to 230. At a meeting with other officials Mayor Dave Bing said he was outraged. As police work 12-hour shifts to quell the outbreak, the US Attorney announced an increase in Federal gun prosecutions that have led to 30-50 year sentences for violent felons.
08/24/11 New Mexico (along with Washington state) issues driver licenses regardless of immigration status. That’s led to issuing licenses to illegals who reside in other states. Now the Governor, herself of Hispanic origin, wants even past applicants to prove that they really live in New Mexico. But immigrant rights advocates are crying foul.
08/24/11 On motion of the Manhattan D.A., a judge dismissed all charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. An appeals court has already rejected the victim’s motion to appoint a substitute prosecutor, thus killing the criminal case. A civil suit is still pending. Related post
08/24/11 Lowell Milken, once-indicted but never prosecuted brother of infamous junk bond king Michael Milken, donated $10 million to UCLA Law School to establish a business law institute bearing his name. While some external critics thought it a bad idea, only one UCLA professor objected on ethical grounds. The university accepted gladly.
08/23/11 California’s new Governor, Jerry Brown, has accepted 207 out of 253 parole board decisions to free persons who have been convicted of murder. His predecessors, Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, who weren’t under court order to reduce the inmate population, rejected nearly all.
08/22/11 Manhattan prosecutors moved to drop all charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested in May for sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Evidence that she lied to prosecutors and in immigration proceedings and boasted to a drug dealer about Strauss-Kahn’s wealth made her a problematic witness. Related post
08/22/11 Miami PD Chief Miguel Exposito says that shifting 150 officers from patrol to specialized anticrime units allows his officer-strapped department to get guns off the street and go after robbers and other serious criminals that regular cops can’t. But some worry that lengthened response times and less police visibility are counterproductive.
08/22/11 Chicago PD’s new chief, Garry McCarthy, credits a downturn in shootings and murders to various initiatives. He shifted 750 cops from desk duty and specialized functions to patrol, implemented weekly Compstat meetings, cracked down on roving bands of youths, and moved to “obliterate” a dangerous street gang.
08/21/11 Gang conflicts were blamed for two shootings that left one man injured and another in critical condition after a Raiders-49ers game at Candlestick Park. Several brawls during the game also left one man seriously beaten. These events heightened safety concerns raised after the beating at a Dodgers game last March. Related post
08/21/11 Internal investigations of alleged officer misconduct are public records, ruled the Washington state Supreme Court, even when officers are exonerated. Officer names may be withheld in the interests of privacy.
08/21/11 Three-hundred thousand deportation orders are being reviewed under a new Federal policy that shifts the focus of immigration enforcement to convicted felons and other “threats” while sparing non-criminal aliens who were brought to the U.S. as youths, are victims of crime or elderly.
08/21/11 According to George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy there is no “conclusive” evidence that community policing reduce crime and disorder. But it does supposedly increase “public legitimacy” and satisfaction.
08/20/11 Eighteen years after their conviction and imprisonment for murdering three boys in an alleged Satanic ritual, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. are free. An Arkansas judge gave them time served in exchange for “Alford” pleas, in which defendants admit there is enough evidence for a conviction. Related post
08/18/11 Oakland has twenty percent fewer officers than two years ago. A recent mass police mobilization solved a murder and kept the streets fairly quiet for three days. Then with officers back on normal shifts, the weekend brought two shot and killed and six wounded. Could it be “as safe as any city” with an adequately staffed force? Related post
08/18/11 Four gang murders in less than a week led Pittsburgh police to stage a roundup. They seized several guns but no evidence relating to the killings. According to the chief a pervasive “street code of silence” makes solving such crimes difficult. Meanwhile several shootings happened in nearby communities. Related post
08/17/11 Memphis, Tennessee prosecutors win many capital cases. But they have been censured for “falsehoods” and withholding evidence. Lawyers for a man sentenced to die for a 1997 murder say it’s happened again. Now that the lead detective has been found to have testified falsely they demand a review by untainted, outside prosecutors.
08/17/11 Eighty-two persons have been shot in Trenton, New Jersey so far this year, nearly twice as many as the 42 shot during the same period in 2010. Still, budget cuts mean that 108 Trenton cops will be laid off next month.
08/17/11 Under a Federal court order to reduce its prison population, California will start sending some nonviolent inmates to County jails and paroling others to the supervision of County probation departments. Although some funds will be provided, Los Angeles County supervisors predict jails will get overcrowded and crime will increase.
08/17/11 Addiction is a disease, says the American Society of Addiction Medicine, involving the reward circuits in the brain. Cravings for food, sex, alcohol and drugs are triggered by memories of their effects, affecting judgment and impulse control. It is also a primary disease, meaning it is not caused by psychiatric or emotional problems.
08/16/11 Prosecutors declined to refile charges against a Missouri man who served 14 years for killing his mother. A judge had already declared Dale Helmig, 55, factually innocent, finding that prosecutors and sheriffs twisted Helmig’s statements in a case where his father was a better suspect and there was no physical evidence or witness testimony.
08/16/11 Legislation against pill mills and major law enforcement and regulatory initiatives have led to a 17 percent drop in Oxycodone sales in Florida, the nation’s capital of prescription drug abuse. Nearly 1,000 persons, including 17 doctors, have been arrested since a statewide drug task force began operating in March. Related post
08/16/11 Only five of 123 trainees at the New Jersey State Police academy are black. Other minorities are far better represented. Few blacks apply, and many are disqualified for past drug use or failing a background check. A 2000 settlement with the NAACP forced the state to drop a 4-year college requirement and to change the written test.
08/16/11 Santa Cruz, Calif. police arrested three women observed in a parking garage known for car burglaries. One had a warrant; the others had drugs. Officers were there because of a “predictive policing” program that analyzed years’ worth of data to assess where crimes might occur. One of those places was the garage. Related post
08/16/11 Three key ATF employees who managed Fast and Furious, including the Western regional director, the agent in charge of the Phoenix office and one of his supervisors have been reassigned to Washington in moves characterized by the Los Angeles Times as promotions. Related post [Note: on 8/18 the L.A. Times reported that according to ATF these were in fact reassignments, with no change in salary or grade.]
08/15/11 In June a 28-year old woman’s estranged husband kidnapped her at gunpoint. She complained and a warrant was issued. The next day she got a protective order and listed her husband’s current address. Two weeks later sheriff’s deputies went to an old address. One day later the husband shot and killed her, and then killed himself.
08/15/11 Police in Aurora, Colorado, a Denver suburb (pop. 325,000) have shot seven persons this year, five of them fatally. Two of the incidents involved hostages. “My sense,” said the chief, “is in my 30-plus year career, the propensity to challenge officers in a potentially armed confrontation is up, and it's obviously very concerning.”
08/14/11 An effort is underway to recall three members of the Fullerton, California city council in response to the alleged police beating death of homeless man Kelly Thomas . One of the targets is Fullerton’s former police chief. Another, the Mayor Pro Tem, is also a retired Fullerton cop. The third is the Mayor. Related post
08/14/11 Budget shortfalls have led to less severe punishment, causing the incarceration rate to drop. Nonviolent offenders are being diverted to drug treatment programs and parolees are less likely to be revoked. But Illinois, New Jersey and Wisconsin stopped giving “well-behaved” inmates early outs after two were arrested for murder.
08/12/11 Mark Ciavarella, a Pennsylvania judge convicted of sending thousands of youths to new private prisons in exchange for a $1 million bribe from their builder, got 28 years in Federal prison. The judge had rejected an earlier 7-year deal because Ciavarella and his co-defendant, judge Michael Conahan, weren’t sufficiently contrite.
08/11/11 Cleaning up meth lab sites can run as much as $5,000. A sudden decision by the Feds to stop reimbursing localities for these costs has led financially strapped police and sheriff’s departments to severely curtail enforcement. But in areas where cleanup was always locally or state funded, the fight against meth continues unabated.
08/11/11 Amid calls for his ouster Fullerton, California police chief Michael Sellers has taken medical leave. He is accused of “stonewalling” in the face of concerns over the alleged police beating death of a homeless man. City officials have called in the unit that oversees the sheriff’s department to probe the incident. Related post
08/10/11 Despite million-dollar plus Federal grants, the DNA testing of rape kits in Harris County, Texas remains severely backlogged, with 7,000 or more still to be typed. Meanwhile 1,000 new requests come in each year. Police can test as many as 40 each month, and twice that many are sent to outside labs every two months.
08/10/11 Philadelphia’s mayor announced curfews and stepped-up police patrols to combat flash mobs of youths which form through electronic messaging and assault and rob pedestrians in central city areas. “You know, I do not care what your economic status is in life - you do not have a right to beat somebody's ass on the street! None!”
08/10/11 In 1995 four Chicago teens were convicted of the strangulation murder of a prostitute on confessions they said were coerced, and even though their DNA didn’t match. This May, victim DNA was matched to a dead man suspected of murder-strangulations. Two of those convicted remain in prison and the D.A. is opposing their release.
08/10/11 In 1992 two Chicago teens pled guilty to a rape-murder and testified against three others, who were also convicted. Three later said their confessions were coerced. This March DNA from the victim was matched to a Chicago man who has done time for sexual assault and armed robbery. But the D.A. is opposing the five men’s release.
08/10/11 In the 1980s, ex-Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and his officers tortured suspects. In 2010 Burge was convicted of lying about it to the Feds and got 4 1/2 years. Now, backed by current and former prosecutors, fifteen inmates who claim they were forced to confess are asking the Illinois Supreme Court for evidentiary hearings.
08/09/11 A string of deaths following the application of the Taser has led police in Las Vegas, Memphis and San Francisco to ban their use. Still, 29 of the nation’s 33 cities use the device, holding that it reduces injuries and saves lives. One option, to use them only in place of lethal force, has been widely rejected. Related posts: 1 2
08/09/11 Milwaukee police are taking a lot longer to respond to calls for service. That’s an appropriate tradeoff, says chief Edward Flynn, who instituted a program of proactive policing when he took over in 2008. Traffic stops, person stops, neighborhood and hot-spot policing are the best way to keep crime down, he says. But many disagree. Update
08/09/11 Should therapy dogs be allowed to comfort children and other vulnerable witnesses while they testify? No, says a New York defense lawyer, who argued that it unfairly swayed jurors to believe a girl who said she was raped by her father. Such uses have also taken place in other states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho and Indiana.
08/08/11 California inmates have been using contraband cell phones to update Facebook pages from prison. They have also been posting comments on pages belonging to others. Facebook has agreed to remove pages changed after incarceration. A bill to make smuggling cell phones into prison illegal is winding its way through the legislature.
08/08/11 Orange County, Calif. D.A. Tony Rackauckas said that the cause of the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man is unknown, but there is no evidence that Fullerton police intentionally killed him. Thomas’ father said that hospital tests revealed severe brain injuries caused by blunt force trauma and oxygen deprivation. Related post
08/08/11 Although the D.A. has not yet filed charges, Naffisatou Diallo, the Manhattan chambermaid, sued former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for sexually assaulting her. Her lawyer indicated he will present testimony from other women whom he allegedly attacked in hotel rooms and apartments throughout the world. Related post
08/07/11 San Diego PD officer Jeremy Henwood, 36, was shot and killed by a man who had just wounded another person. The suspect drove up behind the officer’s car, flashed his lights as though he needed help, then pulled alongside and fired a shotgun. He was later killed by police. A suicide note was recovered.
08/07/11 An argument with his girlfriend prompted an Ohio man to go on a shooting rampage, killing seven and wounding two before being shot dead by police. The incident happened in Copley, a town of 14,000 forty miles south of Cleveland.
08/07/11 States and localities are no longer partners in “Secure Communities,” a Federal program to deport illegal aliens arrested by police. Many agencies were targeted by protesters who objected to their involvement. The FBI already supplies fingerprint records of all arrests, so ICE can make matches to their files without external assistance.
08/06/11 A crowd estimated at 400 descended on Fullerton, California police headquarters to protest the alleged beating death of a homeless, mentally ill man by six officers. The man’s father, a former sheriff’s deputy, echoed calls by two councilmembers for the chief to resign and demanded that the officers be charged with murder. Related post
08/06/11 To avenge the arrests of colleagues in the U.S. and Europe, “Antisec,” a secretive group of hackers, defaced sheriff and law enforcement websites throughout the Midwest, stealing cops’ home addresses, telephone and credit card numbers and collecting allegedly incriminating information that they promise to publish.
08/06/11 Ten LAPD motorcycle officers sued alleging that they were denied overtime and selected vacation days in retaliation for not meeting a ticket quota. In April a civil jury awarded two other officers with similar complaints $2 million despite LAPD’s insistence that 18 tickets per shift, a “goal” instituted by a new commander, was not a quota.
08/06/11 As expected, the NRA sued to halt enforcement of a new ATF regulation that requires gun dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to report sales of more than one assault-type rifle to the same person in five days. Weapons covered are semi-auto rifles over .22 caliber with external magazines.
08/06/11 In St. Louis, Missouri, where drug overdoses are rampant, a group of young addicts casually sold heroin and pills to each other. Now one member, a 27-year old woman, faces years in prison for a man’s overdose death. Feds and local cops say she’s as culpable as the dealers who bring in the drugs. But some wonder whether it’s overkill.
08/06/11 A California state appeals court panel sitting in San Francisco ruled 3-0 that a state statute allowing the collection of DNA from persons simply arrested for a felony is an unconstitutional breach of state privacy rights. In their rationale the panel cited statistics that only 51 percent of those so arrested are actually convicted of a felony.
08/06/11 A new Presidential initiative directs all Federal departments to combat domestic terrorism of all kinds by helping police identify extremists before they strike and by working with local agencies to develop and implement educational and mental health approaches that would keep away new recruits.
08/06/11 Working in pairs, fourteen new police academy graduates will be patrolling some of the meanest streets in Kansas City on foot. University researchers will compare pre/post crime rates and citizen satisfaction between the four neighborhoods in the program and four demographically similar areas that are left undisturbed.
08/05/11 Federal jurors convicted four present and former New Orleans police officers of civil rights violations and other crimes in two sets of shootings during the post-Katrina period. Two persons were killed and four were wounded. A supervisor was also convicted of covering up the crimes. None of the officers will likely ever leave prison.
08/04/11 A homeless, mentally ill man’s death after his alleged beating by Fullerton, California police has stirred a wave of protests in the middle-class community and moved a city councilmember to demand the chief’s resignation. Six cops have been placed on home leave and the FBI has been called in to investigate.
08/04/11 Florida has stepped up prison privatization. Under a new statute that requires savings of at least seven percent over the public sector, 30 prisons, camps and work-release facilities in south Florida are scheduled to go private by the end of 2011. The move is under challenge by the guard union which says the law was illegally passed.
08/04/11 Beset by a high crime rate, cop layoffs and money woes, Camden, New Jersey agreed with county and state officials to disband its police department and join in a yet-to-be organized regional force. But the police union is complaining, as wages would fall. Federal law could also prohibit half its current cops from joining the new agency.
08/03/11 The El Dorado County D.A. released a report that, among other things, criticized prison psychiatrists for giving convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido what has been called a “glowing evaluation.” Garrido went on to kidnap Jaycee Lee Dugard and hold her hostage for nearly two decades. Report and docs Quick link to report Related post
08/02/11 Speaking at a national gathering, criminologist Franklin Zimring credited better policing, and especially the reduction of open air drug markets, for falling crime rates. Another criminologist agreed, saying that the economy and prison matter “a lot less than we thought.” He recommended that imprisonment be sharply curtailed.
08/02/11 A new California law prohibits using accounts by one inmate as to what another inmate said as the sole basis for conviction. Such accounts will now have to be corroborated by other evidence. Its purpose is to address jailhouse informants whose lies, often to get deals on their own sentences, have led to wrongful convictions. Bill text
08/01/11 Traffic ticket dismissals caused by officer memory issues and clerical errors are being examined by NYPD internal affairs detectives investigating the simmering ticket-fixing scandal. Their probe worries honest cops who felt pressures to write tickets and didn’t keep notes. Some officers might also be tempted to lie in court to avoid trouble.
08/01/11 Rural Grant County, Washington is reeling from gang violence. Quiet towns like Quincy and Moses Lake are beset with members of Hispanic gangs who openly wear colors. U.S. Marshals arrested fifty gang members in Moses Lake last year, many connected with the Mexican Mafia. But local officials say the problem has been exaggerated.
08/01/11 A crackdown on ticket fixing and new rules that punish errors when writing summonses have apparently led NYPD officers to issue nearly a quarter fewer moving violations. Police officials say motorists are committing fewer infractions, but cops insist they’re doing it on purpose.
08/01/11 Fake driver licenses of such high quality that they can fool cops and bar-code scanners are being sold by a Chinese mail-order company that ships them in small boxes, often concealed in the soles of cheap shoes. The licenses, which cost $100 each or less in quantity, are being used by underage minors to buy alcohol in bars.
08/01/11 Twenty years ago a woman spent three years in a mental hospital after killing her two daughters, ages 4 and 8. She and her husband divorced. He remarried, divorced again and took his first spouse back. A judge just denied the second wife’s request that the first be kept away from the two teenage boys over which she and her ex share custody.
07/29/11 Red-light cameras in Los Angeles are history. On recommendation of the Police Department and Police Commission, the City Council shut down the cameras, which were criticized for having little effect on accidents while mostly ticketing right-turn violators. The last straw was the city’s inability to force scofflaws to pay the tickets.
07/29/11 Norway restricts ammunition feeding devices for rifles to no more than three rounds. So mass killer Andres Breivik got ten 30-round magazines for his .223 rifle by mail order from a U.S. supplier. But he legally bought the 10-round magazines for his Glock pistol at home.
07/29/11 Florida drug laws were amended in 2002. One change was to eliminate the requirement that defendants know they possessed drugs, making it the only state in the nation to not require mens rea in such cases. That just led a Federal judge to strike down Florida’s entire drug abuse act as unconstitutional.
07/28/11 Indianapolis public safety director Frank Straub blamed the city’s six percent rise in aggravated assaults last year while overall violence fell to an increased tendency to resolve disputes using violence and guns. “We no longer talk it out when we have a disagreement on the street. We go from zero to 100 instantly.”
07/28/11 “Coplink” is a national network that lets officers in nearly 800 local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies instantly search each other’s internal databases for matches to individual pieces of information, such as names, nicknames, partial license plate numbers and tattoos. Its latest member state is Arizona.
07/28/11 To allow things to cool off the judge in the Casey Anthony trial refused media requests for juror names and delayed their release until October. One juror retired early and left the state because of the angry response to the verdict. Another juror, reached by phone, said that he and other panel members don’t want to talk about the case.
07/27/11 At a Congessional hearing ATF’s former Arizona head agreed he didn’t adequately monitor “Fast and Furious” but said that going after the cartel was better than picking on straw buyers. A panel member suggested a law to make gun trafficking illegal, but the chair disagreed. A top ATF official apologized for losing track of so many guns.
07/26/11 In the first ruling of its kind, the Third Circuit held 8-6 that it is permissible to collect DNA from persons when they are arrested, as the profile is based on a small section of the genome and is used only for ID, making it nothing more than a high-tech fingerprint. In 2006 the FBI databank was authorized to accept arrestee DNA profiles.
07/26/11 As of July 10 Detroit has had 182 murders, 15 percent above last year’s pace. Police chief Ralph Goodbee lays some of the blame on the increasing use of guns to settle quarrels. Two persons were shot at a high school reunion in June and five at a reunion in July, prompting the school district to create security plans for such events.
07/26/11 A Mexican national who pled guilty to the 2009 murder of Border Patrol officer Robert Rosas Jr. said that he and his associates wanted the agent’s night vision goggles to help them smuggle aliens. Five were involved, three on the U.S. side and two in Mexico. One already pled guilty, two await trial, and the fifth is believed deceased.
07/25/11 Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who bombed a government building in Oslo and opened fire at a youth camp, killing dozens, seemed heavily influenced by American right-wing extremists and anti-Muslim websites. His manifesto quotes extensively from a similar document written by Unabomber Ted Kacynski.
07/25/11 A new Arizona law only allows nonprofit dispensaries to sell marijuana. But Governor Jan Brewer, who opposed but signed the bill, halted their licensing while she seeks an opinion of its legality from the Feds. That leaves 7,500 medical marijuana card holders to either grow their own, which is legal, or to buy it on the black market.
07/25/11 To save money Tennessee is tracking 3,500 parolees through telephone call-in. Many have convictions for violent crimes, including murder. Although authorities insist that parolees on the program must prove themselves reliable and be following the rules, in practice the definition of who merits this treatment seems loose.
07/25/11 Aggravated assaults against Chicago cops are way up, with 1,789 in 2010 compared to 739 in 2000. Officers have shot 40 persons so far this year, equaling the 2010 total. And they’ve been shot at in return. One week ago two officers were wounded by a parolee. One day later other officers shot and killed a man reaching for a gun.
07/24/11 Mass shootings erupted in Washington state. Twelve were wounded, apparently none critically, when gang members opened fire at a lowrider car show in Kent. Meanwhile seven were wounded, at least two critically, by an armed gunman who discovered his wife or girlfriend with another man at a casino nightclub near Auburn.
07/24/11 A Grand Pairie, Texas man shot and killed his estranged wife and four of her relatives. He then committed suicide. Four more were wounded. The massacre happened during an argument between the couple at a roller rink, where they were celebrating the birthday of one of their two children. Neither child was injured.
07/23/11 Dozens of NYPD officers and supervisors, including many union officials, who were caught in wiretaps arranging to fix tickets are accepting internal discipline in lieu of prosecution. Aside from fines and losing vacation days many are being forced into retirement. Several dozen more are expected to be indicted in the near future.
07/22/11 One day after a Federal jury awarded $10 million to the family of a Charlotte, N.C. man who died after being Tasered, another suspect died following its use. Although the city had just pledged to keep using the tool, which it considers vital in preventing injuries, police are taking all 1,200 units in service off the street until they are tested.
07/22/11 How would Senator Tom Coburn (R- OK), a member of the “Gang of Six” reduce spending? In part, by zeroing out COPS funding and shutting down the National Institute of Justice, that’s how. Among his criticisms of NIJ are its use of earmarks to fund pet projects, thus bypassing normal review.
07/22/11 LAPD announced that it cleared Giovanni Ramirez, the original suspect in the Dodger Stadium beating, and arrested two other suspects, Louie Sanchez, 29 and Marvin Norwood, 30, for mayhem. Both allegedly have violent records and one reportedly has neck tattoos. Sanchez’s sister was also arrested for being an accessory. Related post
07/21/11 Government e-mails reveal that ATF executives tailored their responses to Congressional inquiries so as to minimize the possible role that guns from “Fast and Furious” may have played in the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry and congratulated each other when they thought that was accomplished. Related post
07/21/11 New Jersey governor Chris Christie lifted his stay on implementing a medical marijuana law. He said a DOJ letter left him confident that the Feds wouldn’t interfere. “I believe that the need to provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk that we are taking in moving forward with the program as it is set up.”
07/21/11 Forty law enforcement officers were gunned down during the first six months of 2011, a 33 percent increase from the thirty shot and killed during the first half of 2010. Attempted arrests (non-burglary/robbery) took seven lives; domestics took five. Thirty-five officers died in traffic incidents, five fewer than last year.
07/20/11 San Francisco police arrested 35 persons protesting police use of force. In one incident city police killed a parolee wanted for questioning in a murder. Officers said he fired at them and later recovered the gun he allegedly used. In an earlier incident, on July 3, BART (transit) police shot and killed a man who allegedly pulled a knife.
07/20/11 In 1992 Palo Alto, Calif., pop. 24,000, had 42 killings, making the poor city the nation’s murder capital. Then, as in the rest of the U.S., crime plunged. There were eight murders in 2009, four in 2010. But there’s already been four this year, so police will concentrate on hot spots, drugs and gangs and continue “calling in” troublemakers.
07/20/11 New Jersey’s Megan’s Law criminalizes degrading conduct. That led to the conviction of two 14-year old boys who forcibly held down two 12-year olds while one sat on their faces with his naked butt. It wasn’t horseplay, ruled an appellate court, which agreed that under the law the boys will have to register as sex offenders - for life.
07/20/11 FBI agents arrested fourteen members of “Anonymous,” a hacker group that took credit for mounting a denial-of-service attack last December against PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Amazon and other sites that had stopped processing payments and doing business with WikiLeaks.
07/19/11 Police cutbacks are leading to a summer of violence says a Newark Star-Ledger editorial. “With fewer cops on the streets because of budget cuts, thugs flash and fire guns almost without fear.” In Newark shootings have increased 40 percent. Gun assaults are up 60 percent in Camden, and homicides up 16 percent.
07/19/11 Budgetary constraints have choked off overtime, leaving some L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies with paychecks too small to cover their lifestyles. That, says the agency’s watchdog, has led a few to become involved in financial crimes, from torching their own car and filing a false burglary report to multi-state mortgage fraud. Report
07/19/11 ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson reportedly told Congressional investigators that in order to protect high-level political appointees the Justice Department was not being candid about its role in approving “Fast and Furious.” He also acknowledged that ATF should have acted to stop at least one gun shipment but did not.
07/18/11 What’s up with Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins? The hard-charging hero of the exoneration movement (he established the nation’s first official “conviction integrity” unit) is laying low, besieged by internal strife, the departure of top aides and an unexplained visit by FBI agents reportedly probing integrity problems.
07/18/11 Heroin is displacing prescription drugs as America’s high of choice says White House drug control chief Gil Kerlikowske. Thanks to a flood of black-tar heroin into California (one traffic stop in a mid-state region recently yielded 24 pounds) it’s easier to find, cheaper to buy and can be snorted or smoked.
07/18/11 Nearly half of final court dispositions are missing from California’s computerized criminal records registry. That can make routine policing, gun sales and the oversight of ex-inmates a guessing game. For example, it was discovered last month that 450 inmates incorrectly thought to have no priors were released without supervision.
07/17/11 In February ICE agent Jaime Zapata was shot and killed and another agent was wounded in an ambush while driving in Mexico. One of the guns, an AK-47 clone, was traced to a gun store in Texas. Zapata’s family now wants to know where all the guns used in the assault came from and whether any were from “Fast and Furious.”
07/17/11 Mixtures containing synthetic stimulants such as mephedrone and MDVP are being blamed for inducing psychotic symptoms in users around the U.S. Sold in packets labeled “bath salts - not for human consumption,” the substances, already outlawed in a few states, are being considered for Federal listing as class I drugs.
07/16/11 State Attorney Generals in New York and Delaware are pursuing a broad-based criminal investigation of top executives at Wall Street investment banks to determine if they defrauded buyers of mortgage-backed securities by fooling them into thinking that the underlying loans were sound. Other states are being asked to join in the effort.
07/15/11 The recent robbery-murder of a restaurant owner in the crime-ridden Fruitvale section spurred Oakland to buy thirty night-capable video cameras. They will be installed inside and outside businesses. Police will not monitor the video but will be able to get the tapes (each will carry 30 days of data) from the business owners.
07/15/11 Crime rates of U.S. cities along the Mexican border tend to be lower and are falling faster than in inland areas according to FBI statistics. Violence is down even in cities like El Paso that are located near murderous Mexican towns. For example Ciudad Juarez, El Paso’s neighbor, lost 3,500 persons to murder last year.
07/14/11 After stops, Illinois cops (but not those in Chicago) were overall more likely to issue citations to minorities, by 63 to 55 percent. Chicago cops were six times as likely to ask minority drivers for consent to search their cars. But they more often found contraband if drivers were white, by 29 to 24 percent.
07/14/11 Violent crime in Los Angeles is down from 2010. Homicides dropped from 171 to 153 through July 9, an 11 percent decrease. Robbery is also down 11 percent, from 5790 to 5147. Aggravated assault fell 6 percent, from 4965 to 4662. But according to the L.A. Times , assaults with deadly weapons on cops increased, from 68 to 104.
07/13/11 Dewey Bozella, who served 26 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, received the 2011 ESPY Arthur Ashe award for courage, for never stopping his fight for freedom. He had taken up boxing in prison, and in time became the light heavyweight champion of Sing Sing. Related post
07/13/11 Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped when twelve and bore two daughters to registered sex offender Philip Garrido. Her just-released memoir, “A Stolen Life,” details her eight years in captivity. Related post
07/13/11 Ohio’s new sentencing law equalizes penalties for crack and powder cocaine and diverts low-level criminals to community treatment, where they get substance abuse counseling and job training. Governor Kasich says the law will save money and lives. But others feel that unless employers become willing to hire felons nothing will change.
07/12/11 BART police shot and killed a 42-year old transient who threw a bottle at them, then pulled a knife. There is no indication that the officers deployed a Taser. This incident led to a raucous demonstration and the temporary closing of a station. A citizen’s panel formed after the Mehserle shooting has opened an investigation. Related post
07/12/11 To settle a DOJ complaint that sheriff commanders had slandered religious and ethnic minorities, Harris County (Houston) agreed to hire an outsider to oversee internal affairs. It will also institute cultural awareness training, incorporate Sikh and Muslim religious leaders into its faith council and create a citizens advisory board.
07/12/11 Alabama is one of three states that let judges override juror sentencing decisions in capital cases. It’s the only where overrides usually favor death. Of 107 overrides since 1976, 92 percent imposed the death penalty. Alabama judges are elected on tough-on crime platforms, and it’s during election years when more overrides occur.
07/12/11 Under a new rule licensed gun dealers in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico will be required to report to ATF the sale to a private party, within a five-day period, of two or more semiautomatic rifles greater than .22 caliber that use a detachable magazine. The purpose is to alert agents of possible gun trafficking to Mexico.
07/11/11 At a court hearing on the legality of the commutation Fabian Nunez said that his son’s sentence and the D.A.’s challenge to the commutation were motivated by the San Diego D.A.’s political ambitions. The Calif. Attorney General is defending Schwarzenegger’s action, as the Constitution does not require consulting crime victims.
07/11/11 In 2010 a study revealed that reported rapes in Baltimore had declined 80 percent since 1995, mostly through officers “unfounding” cases. Police practices were revamped. Officers now take sexual assault cases more seriously and encourage victims to come forward. That’s led to a 50 percent increase in the number of such reports.
07/11/11 Known as “strict but fair,” in eight years Louisville chief Robert White has disciplined 755 officers and fired 28, most for on-duty crimes. Twenty-five cops resigned in lieu of termination. A major cause of discipline is missing court dates. Off-duty offenses such as drunk driving are dealt with more leniently, but still draw stiff suspensions.
07/11/11 Miami has not completed internal inquiries on 63 officer-involved shootings since 2006. Twenty-five involved civilian deaths. No Miami-Dade officer has been prosecuted in a shooting during the 18 years that the D.A. has held office. According to police chief Miguel Exposito, it’s the D.A. who has held up resolving the cases, not him.
07/11/11 A Wheatland, Wyoming man, 36, used at least one handgun to shoot and kill his three teenage boys and his 33-year old brother. He also seriously wounded his wife, who ran from the trailer where all apparently lived. Police arrested the man without incident.
07/09/11 San Francisco juvenile court judges have few options when youths who commit serious crimes may be incompetent to assist in their own defense. Some of the accused are too young to understand, and for others there are few resources for restoring competency, so many wind up being released or having their cases dismissed.
07/08/11 DEA published a decision in the Federal Register denying a petition to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I (no accepted medical use/high potential for abuse/lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision) to a less restrictive schedule. Its action sets the stage for an expected court challenge. Decision
07/08/11 A mentally troubled ex-con with a violent past went on a violent spree in Grand Rapids, Michigan, shooting seven persons dead, injuring two others and engaging police in pursuits and gun battles before taking his own life. Rodrick Dantzler, 34, was reportedly gunning for every woman he ever dated. Update: He used a reportedly stolen .40 caliber handgun. He may have been motivated by his wife’s decision to leave him.
07/08/11 Five-hundred inmates at California’s high-security Pelican Bay prison have gone on a hunger strike. They’ve been joined by more than a thousand prisoners in other facilities. Prisoners are protesting their isolation, lack of exercise, absence of educational opportunities, and practices used to get them to snitch on each other.
07/07/11 In September Denver’s public safety manager resigned after being criticized for lightly disciplining four officers involved in a beating. Cops have responded with fewer citizen contacts. “The perception is if...enforcement actions [are] deemed inappropriate by people who don’t understand...you could face discipline,” said an officer.
07/06/11 Jesus Aguilar, a recently-captured Mexican cartel leader wanted in the U.S. for murdering an ICE agent, told Mexican officials that “all the weapons are bought in the United States,” that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons,” and that, "Whatever you want, you can get.”
07/06/11 ATF acting director Kenneth Melson told Congressional investigators that ATF was not told that some cartel leaders it had targeted in the controversial “Fast and Furious” operation, where agents allowed guns to go to Mexico, were paid DEA and FBI informers, and that had he known he might have shut off the operation much sooner.
07/06/11 Who is Jose Baez? He’s a high-school dropout who was denied a Florida law license for years because of his own legal issues. He’s also the pugnacious lawyer who against all odds and with only three years’ legal experience won Casey Anthony an acquittal on charges that she murdered her infant daughter.
07/06/11 Flint, Michigan, pop. 102,000, cut its police force by two-thirds in three years, leaving it with 124 cops, the lowest ratio, 1.2, in the state. That plus twenty percent unemployment and entrenched poverty, due in part to the exit of its main employer, GM, helped its Part I crime rate be worst in the nation in 2010. And crime is getting worse.
07/05/11 Will ATF’s present “rough-patch” lead to the agency’s dissolution? Those who would like to see better gun law enforcement urge that its functions be absorbed by the far more prestigious and powerful FBI. That’s unlikely, say others, who assume that the NRA prefers the agency weak and ruderless.
07/05/11 In 2007 Baltimore replaced zero-tolerance policing with a targeted approach that emphasizes going after armed criminals. Since then arrests are way down, but violent crime has also fallen. A much higher proportion of crimes are also being prosecuted. But some fear that the new approach has led to more street drug dealing.
07/05/11 Maricopa, Calif., a dusty town of 1,154, has two-full time cops and 25 volunteers, mostly jobless L.A.-area academy graduates looking for experience. Their main job, impounding vehicles driven by unlicensed farm workers, has brought in cash and controversy. A Grand Jury has now recommended that the town be dissolved.
07/05/11 Civilian officials have criticized new LAPD disciplinary rules that allow officers to escape serious punishment on a first or second offense. To correct underlying behavior officers are first admonished, then counseled and warned if they relapse. Cops could get caught driving drunk three times before they are fired.
07/02/11 Authorities blame medical marijuana use for a rise in highway deaths caused by drugs. According to the Feds such fatalities jumped 55 percent in a decade. In February a stoned California driver got ten years for killing a jogger. Most states including California lack a standard for marijuana impairment, leaving it to cops to judge.
07/02/11 A new Justice Department memo to US Attorneys reiterates DOJ’s opposition to private, large-scale marijuana growing operations, even if dedicated to medicinal use and done in compliance with State laws. Oakland, Calif., which sought to license and collect taxes from pot farms, has been specifically warned off. Related post
07/01/11 The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply recently enacted reductions in crack cocaine penalties. About 12,000 Federal prisoners, six percent of the total, could get sentences cut an average of three years. Some members of Congress oppose the move and could block it before it takes effect on November 1.
07/01/11 A New York Federal judge sentenced James Cromitie, Onta Williams and David Williams IV to minimum 25-year terms for trying to bomb a synagogue and conspiring to down military aircraft. Calling the case a “fantasy terror operation” she said that “only the government could have made a ‘terrorist’ out of Mr. Cromitie.” Related post
07/01/11 California has until June 27, 2013 to reduce its inmate count by 37,000 according to a deadline set by a Ninth Circuit panel. Its decision follows on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Plata, which upheld the Circuit’s original order in the case (see 5/23/11 entry.)
07/01/11 Sixty-three percent of Americans support the death penalty according to a new Rasmussen survey. A majority also feels the criminal justice system is unfair, not because people are wrongly arrested, but because criminals are too often let go. Despite statistics to the contrary, a majority also believes that crime is on the rise.
07/01/11 Amid a surge in homicides, San Jose, Calif., once touted as “America’s safest large city” laid off 66 police officers, all hired within the last two years. Although officers had agreed to ten-percent pay cuts, saving 156 jobs, rising pension costs have plunged the city into the red. Many of those laid off found jobs in other departments.
06/30/11 Like Georgia, Alabama just passed a law that empowers police to detain persons they reasonably suspect of being illegal aliens. That could prove expensive. First there’s enforcing the law, then there’s defending it from legal challenges such as those by the ACLU and others which recently led a Federal judge to suspend Georgia’s statute.
06/30/11 Weighing in on “Fast and Furious,” Senator Charles Grassley (R - Iowa) challenges the notion that 70 percent of guns recovered in Mexico come from the U.S. ATF had previously downgraded the proportion from ninety to seventy percent. But Grassley points to another ATF estimate, of twenty-five percent, as perhaps more credible.
06/29/11 At a conference attended by police from throughout New Jersey, the U.S. Attorney urged a combined Federal-local effort to combat worsening street gang activity amidst a backdrop of police cutbacks. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said, urging programs to keep juveniles from joining gangs. Related post
06/29/11 A joint report by NPR, ProPublica and Frontline suggests that shaken baby syndrome is being badly overused. Once hailed as a hero by SBS supporters, the syndrome’s originator, Dr. Norman Guthkelch, is voicing concern that medical examiners have been diagnosing SBS without considering other possible factors. Related post
06/29/11 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, released a political ad that calls for regulating gun show sales. The ad cites Bloomberg’s 2009 undercover gun-show sting and footage from a video by an Al-Qaeda operative who boasts of the ease at which guns are available in the U.S. Related post
06/29/11 Forty-two Sacramento, Calif. cops have started turning in their badges as layoffs begin taking effect. At present police officers don’t contribute to their pensions, and the union pointed out that even if they did the savings wouldn’t be enough to keep 40 civilian police employees from losing their jobs.
06/28/11 Drug pushers are acquiring large quantities of pharmaceuticals such as OxyContin from crooked doctors and pharmacists in Detroit and reselling the drugs in other states, often for as much as $100 per pill.
06/27/11 Ruling 7-2 the Supreme Court invalidated a California law that barred selling violent video games to children. According to the justices the law does not pass the First Amendment’s “strict scrutiny” standard as the available evidence does not prove that the games induce violent behavior in children.
06/27/11 Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson is resisting pressure to resign over “Fast And Furious.” According to the Los Angeles Times he refuses to be the “fall guy” for the botched operation. Melson has volunteered to testify about the program before Congress but has yet to receive permission to do so from his superiors.
06/27/11 Cincinnati PD’s new guidelines require, among other things, that cops make at least two felony and ten misdemeanor arrests each month. While the department insists that these are only goals (“every industry has them,” according to an assistant chief) the union promises to act should an officer be disciplined for not meeting them.
06/27/11 To qualify for continued funding, the Dallas Police Department, which receives about $100,000 in Federal grants each year to purchase ballistic vests, will now require that patrol and gang officers wear these garments at all times. Other officers must also don vests while engaged in potentially hazardous work.
06/27/11 Settling a Federal lawsuit, Philadelphia vowed to rein in practices that led to more than a doubling of stop-and-frisks between 2005-09. Mayor Nutter pointed out that while 72 percent of those stopped were black, most homicide victims were also black. Still, he said that treating persons with dignity and respect would be paramount.
06/27/11 There are no exceptions to the Confrontation Clause. That’s the gist of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bullcoming v. New Mexico, which held that defendants have the right to demand that the analyst who actually tested a forensic sample testify as to the results.
06/25/11 In 2010 there were 983 murders in Puerto Rico, while New York City, with twice the population, had 536. This year Puerto Rico has already had 525 killings. Many are blamed on drug trafficking, gang warfare and carjacking, but a substantial number also stem from quarrels and domestic disputes.
06/24/11 Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, 34, and Walli Mujahidh, 32 were arrested for plotting to attack a Seattle military recruiting station with machineguns and grenades. These items, rendered inert, were supplied by an FBI informer whom Abdul-Latif reportedly knew through a local mosque, and whom Abdul-Latif allegedly approached for help.
06/24/11 DOJ’s new website, CrimeSolutions, assigns an effectiveness rating to criminal justice programs based on the outcomes of published academic evaluations. There are three ratings: effective, promising, and no effects. Programs are selected through literature reviews and from nominations submitted by experts and practitioners.
06/24/11 A spike in violence led Maryland to use the “call-in” strategy, ordering 233 convicted criminals living in a high-crime area to attend a meeting with police. Those who showed up (about half didn’t) were told that they would be severely punished if they recidivated. Counseling and other services were also offered. Reactions were mixed.
06/24/11 A recent study reveals that the mistaken arrest and wrongful conviction of 83 persons in Illinois between 1989 and 2010 allowed the actual perpetrators to commit at least 14 murders and numerous other serious felonies before being identified. Thirty-five other murders and many more serious crimes remain unsolved.
06/16/11 Ruling in Davis v. U.S., the Supreme Court held that the exclusionary rule does not apply when police comply in good faith with established case law that is later overruled by the Supreme Court. According to the Court the rule is meant to deter Fourth Amendment violations, a purpose that invoking it in such cases would not serve.
06/16/11 Whether a juvenile is “in custody” for purposes of Miranda must take into account the child’s age, the Supreme Court ruled. In the case, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, police investigating break-ins questioned a 13-year old at his school without first reading him Miranda. Justices sent back the case so that the youth’s age could be considered.
06/15/11 The House Committee on Oversight released a report calling ATF’s decision to let gun walk a “likely” contributor to the killing of a border patrol officer. Four ATF agents told investigators that they had begged to make arrests at various points but were turned down by their supervisor.
06/15/11 Begun in 2008, a Ceasefire-like program that called in criminals to warn them off and provide alternatives has failed to lower the number of homicides in Pittsburgh. Researchers blame police for only targeting gang members instead of the 35 “violent groups” previously identified. Police say the program will go on and are planning changes.
06/15/11 More than half the adult males arrested in ten U.S. counties monitored by an annual survey tested positive for drugs, from 52 percent in D.C. to 83 percent in Chicago. Cocaine use by arrestees seems to be down while opiate, prescription drug and marijuana use is rising. Overall drug abuse in the U.S., however, is half that of the 1970s.
06/14/11 Taser is marketing $1,700 ear-mounted video cameras for recording everyday police work. Video is downloaded at the end of each shift to a company computer, supposedly preventing alterations. Storage costs $1,300 per camera per year. The devices, including belt-mounted monitors, are being tested in Johnson County, Mo.
06/14/11 At least 70 percent of guns recovered in Mexico come from the U.S. according to a Senate report. Many originate in Europe and pass through U.S. dealers, where they are bought by straw purchasers. It suggests that the U.S. enforce a ban on importing military-style weapons and reinstate the assault weapons ban.
06/14/11 “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market,” a report by the Violence Policy Center, accuses the gun industry of searching for profit by manufacturing and importing highly lethal clones of military firearms, including AR-15 and AK-47 variants, that wind up being used against police officers and smuggled to Mexico.
06/13/11 A Maine man, 37, barred by court order from visiting his two children, grabbed his shotgun, went to his estranged wife’s home, and shot and killed his wife, a 38-year old schoolteacher, his 12-year old daughter and 13-year old son. He then committed suicide.
06/13/11 Johannes Mehserle, the transit cop who shot a rider in the back was released from prison after serving 11 months for involuntary manslaughter. Mehserle had apparently intended to use his Taser but drew his pistol instead. His release was met with protests by family members and others who insist that he acted purposely. Prior posts 1 2
06/13/11 Continued budget cuts threaten to leave the Sacramento, Calif. D.A.’s office with about half the lawyers it had in 2008. It has already dismissed 15 investigators. So far the trims have led to eight percent fewer filings, no prosecution of minor dug crimes and thefts, and, say judges, poor outcomes in many cases that do get to court.
06/13/11 Prodded by its new mayor, Chicago PD continues redeploying officers to patrol. Its latest move reassigns 150 cops from administration to working beats. Five-hundred cops were already stripped from specialized units; 400 went to patrol and 100 to work crime “flare-ups” throughout the city.
06/10/11 By contract LAPD doesn’t pay overtime; instead, officers must take time off when they accrue 96 hours. An interim agreement extending this to 250 hours is set to expire. If it’s not renewed, warned Chief Charlie Beck, so many cops will be sent home that he will have to fill patrol slots with detectives and officers from specialized units.
06/10/11 Sacramento (Calif.) faces the loss of 80 police officers under a budget proposed by the City Council. One way out would be for officers to start contributing to their pensions - at present the city pays everything - but the police union is balking at renegotiating a contract that doesn’t expire for another two years.
06/09/11 David Headley, a drug defendant-turned-informer, helped DEA and Islamic terrorists at the same time. Now he’ll be spared the death penalty for helping plan an attack on a Danish newspaper. Why? Because his testimony led to the conviction of a friend, Tahawwur Rana, who used his immigration business to give Headley a cover story.
06/09/11 Five Romanian AK-47 type rifles bought by traffickers during “Fast and Furious” were recovered in Mexico. They were part of a stash that authorities described as an illicit “arsenal.”
06/08/11 Should CCW permit holders be able to carry guns in bars and restaurants? Yes, say Ohio legislators, who are reconciling versions of a bill that would allow it. No, says the Ohio Restaurant Association, who is urging a veto. It’s a “stupid idea,” says a bar owner who feels that there are enough troubles without armed patrons.
06/08/11 Criticism from conservative groups over a report on “Righting Extremism” that warned the economy and other factors could stir domestic unrest led the Department of Homeland Security to sharply curtail its analysis of non-Islamic domestic terrorism. That’s left police who worry about such things unhappy, says the Washington Post.
06/08/11 Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito is defending his department after the release of a report by a retired FBI executive that questions whether the department has adequately responded to complaints that officers, who killed seven black men in the past year, make poor arrest decisions and needlessly use deadly force.
06/07/11 Chicago PD is combatting a wave of downtown street robberies committed by youth “flash mobs” who envelop pedestrians and make off with their valuables. “We’re gonna find every one of ‘em,” vows Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “And we’re gonna prosecute and arrest every single one of ‘em.”
06/07/11 The LAPD Commission voted not to renew a contract for operating the city’s red-light cameras. Going against the LAPD, it cited citizen complaints, a refusal by courts to enforce unpaid tickets and skepticism that the cameras really prevent accidents. Only the City Council can overrule the decision, which will take effect in ten days.
06/03/11 Gun violence besets Ohio, where cops investigate an average of 34 gun-related incidents each day. In five years 360 persons have been shot and killed in Columbus alone. Its police department formed a gun unit in 2009 to focus on armed offenders. But the slaughter continues, says an investigative series by the Columbus Dispatch.
06/03/11 Under pressure from gun-rights activists, Wisconsin legislators are preparing a bill that would allow concealed carry without a permit. That’s drawn objections from the Milwaukee police chief and sheriff, who insist on a permitting process. Citing recent incidents, they also want illegal concealed carry upgraded to a felony.
06/02/11 Citing conflicts between Federal and state law, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer sued in Federal court to halt the June 1 implementation of the state’s medical marijuana law, passed as an initiative in November. Citizens will continue to get medical marijuana cards and grow their own pot but no dispensaries will be licensed to operate.
06/02/11 About 5,500 Federal inmates would be eligible for an average three-year sentence reduction if the U.S. Sentencing Commission follows the Attorney General’s recommendation and retroactively applies, to nonviolent offenders, a Federal law passed last year that reduces the disparities between penalties for crack and powder cocaine.
06/01/11 Stop-and-frisks in New York City during January-March surpassed all previous first quarters. Twelve percent of those stopped were arrested or issued a criminal summons, a slight drop from 2010. About 51 percent were black, 27 percent were Hispanic and 9 percent where white, about the same as last year.
06/01/11 Waad Alwan and Mohanad Hamadi, Iraqi refugees living in Kentucky, were arrested for conspiring to help the insurgency. Fingerprints of Alwan, who said he used IED’s in Iraq, were matched to latents found on an IED in 2005. Alwan recruited Hamadi and they helped an FBI informer handle money and guns supposedly bound for Iraq.
05/31/11 Toney Armstrong, a veteran Memphis cop and its new chief, gave an in-house speech vowing to “cut off the heads” of officers who get in his way. He’s promoted friends, forced two Colonels to retire, and placed a number of well-regarded cops on night shifts. He promises to keep fighting crime but pay more attention to community needs.
05/31/11 When 15, an extremely violent Milwaukee youth with a history of armed assaults seriously wounded a man with a shotgun. Despite pleas that he be remanded to adult court he did 14 months in juvenile lockups. After release he got a shotgun and terrorized neighbors. Then one day he shot a woman in the head. She died. Series of articles
05/31/11 FBI agents searched the home of a 91-year old California woman who sells mail-order “suicide kits” comprised of a plastic bag (goes over the head) and tubing (connects to a helium tank.) Users die by asphyxiation. At least one death has been attributed to the product, which the Feds claim is an unauthorized medical device.
05/30/11 Federal immigration authorities have shifted from arresting workers to building criminal cases against their employers. Among those presently under the gun are the owners of the Chuy’s restaurant chain, who were recently arrested for tax fraud and knowingly harboring illegal workers. They face up to 80 years in prison.
05/30/11 California passed a law allowing early parole of disabled prisoners. But it turned down its first candidate, Steven Martinez, a repeat violent offender doing 150 years for kidnap/rape. A prison assault left him a quadriplegic, but he’s verbally abusive and authorities fear that the “evil, angry, violent person” could order retaliation if he’s out.
05/27/11 Jerome Ersland, the Oklahoma City pharmacist who pumped five bullets into an unconscious, unarmed 16-year old robber whom he had already shot, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life. Some citizens hailed his actions, which were captured on store security video, but the prosecutor called them an execution. Posting
05/27/11 Oliver O’Grady, the Catholic priest and convicted child abuser profiled in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Deliver Us From Evil,” was deported in 2001 to Ireland following his release from a U.S. prison, where served seven years. He is now pending trial in Dublin for importing large quantities of child pornography.
05/27/11 Suboxone, a pill used to treat withdrawal from opiates, has become a favored drug of abuse in prisons. It is often smuggled in letters to prisoners, the pills crushed and spread like a paste. Drawings, like by children, are used to conceal the substance, which gives an orange hue that can be detected with a light source.
05/26/11 Facing a $110 million budget shortfall, Providence, R.I. unsuccessfully sought $6 million in concessions from the police union. Now the mayor has announced that 60-80 cops will be laid off, up to 17 percent of the force. Officers expressed worry about crime rates and their safety, especially the availability of timely backup.
05/25/11 A 2009 California program that released about 15,000 supposedly low-risk prisoners early on “non-revocable,” unsupervised parole included 1,500 who didn’t qualify. Among them were 450 who had been tagged as “high risk for violence.” Blame for the misclassification was attributed to computer errors.
05/25/11 Four Chicago men who were imprisoned as teens for a 1994 rape/murder to which they confessed have been tentatively cleared by DNA tests that connect known serial killer John Douglas to the crime. But authorities say that Douglas, who was shot dead years ago, could have had consensual sex with the victim before she was killed.
05/25/11 Motivated, perhaps, by threats from the Feds, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire vetoed parts of a state law that would legalize marijuana dispensaries. That leaves small collective gardens as the only legal way for users to get pot. Clinics now in operation - there are fifty in Seattle alone - have until July to close.
05/25/11 Chicago’s new police chief, Garry McCarthy, is bringing in CompStat to enhance accountability. Five-hundred cops are also being reassigned from specialized units to patrol. While the police union says that “shuffling” isn’t what Mayor Emanuel promised, he calls it a “down payment” on his pledge to put 1,000 more cops on the street.
05/25/11 In the gritty community of Lawrence, Mass. specialized units and community policing initiatives are a thing of the past. With city hall strapped for cash, the police force has decreased by fifty in less than a year, from 161 officers to 111. Meanwhile Part I crimes have gone up forty percent.
05/24/11 Bucking the national trend (see 5/23 entry) New York City experienced increases in serious crime in 2010. Its 536 murders represent a 14 percent jump over 2009. Rapes went up 24.5 percent, robberies 5.4 percent and aggravated assaults 3.2 percent. But officials say that things have been leveling out this year.
05/24/11 Most states have registries for sex offenders. Legislators are now proposing registries that would let police and citizens track the whereabouts of persons convicted of murder, drug use, drunk driving and animal cruelty. But given the poor track record of sex offender registries, the cost and usefulness of these databases is in question.
05/23/11 NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice released “Targeted and Entrapped,” a report that criticizes the FBI for exaggerating the threat posed by domestic terrorists and for using informers, psychological persuasion and other means to “manufacture” cases. Among those cited are the Newburgh Four and Fort Dix Six.
05/23/11 Preliminary FBI statistics indicate that violent crime dropped 5.5 percent between 2009-2010, while property crime fell 2.8 percent. Overall declines were posted for murder (-4.4 percent), aggravated assault (-3.6 percent), rape (-4.2 percent) and robbery (-9.5 percent.) Murder did increase in mid-size cities, by 3 percent.
05/23/11 Ruling in Brown v. Plata, the Supreme Court upheld an appellate decision that ordered California to trim its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity within two years, a reduction of about 33,000 inmates. Plans are to transfer many to county jails, and the Governor is seeking a tax increase to give local governments adequate funding.
05/20/11 In 2007 seven Texas residents were arrested for having four children perform sex acts at a swinger’s club. Called “weird and implausible” by the Texas Monthly, the children’s tales led to four convictions at trial. Two were overturned, but all the accused remained locked up. Now six have pled guilty in exchange for their freedom.
05/20/11 Advances in fire science and testimony by a new breed of experts have led the number of arson reports and convictions to plunge. A Federal judge recently voided the conviction of James Hebshie, a Massachusetts man, after expert John Lentini testified that a bogus “V” pattern cited by prosecutors misplaced a fire’s point of origin.
05/20/11 Spurred by several excessive-force allegations and the death of a jail inmate last year DOJ is mulling over whether to launch a “patterns and practices” investigation of law enforcement in Denver. The mile-high city forestalled an inquiry in 2004-05 by forming a citizen oversight panel and taking several other measures.
05/19/11 Top L.A. city officials, including the mayor and council members, had 1,000 parking tickets dismissed in two years on behalf of constituents, some for inability to pay, others for no known reason. According to an audit critical of the practice the requests were handled by a “Gold Card” desk at the city Department of Transportation.
05/19/11 “Secure Communities” will be reviewed by the DHS Inspector General to determine whether it targets “serious convicted felons” as originally intended. In the program fingerprints of those arrested by local police are run through ICE. Critics say that mostly leads to the deportation of persons with minor or no prior criminal records.
05/19/11 Private prisons are not cheaper says an official Arizona study. In part because they “cherry-pick” prisoners, rejecting the sickest, they can cost an average of $1600 more per inmate per year. Critics have attacked the report’s methodology but a 2007 University of Utah report came to essentially the same conclusion.
05/18/11 Preliminary FBI statistics indicate that 58 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 2010, an increase of eight from the previous year. All but one were victims of gunfire: 38 from handguns, 15 from rifles and two from shotguns. Thirty-eight wore body armor. Ambush, by far the most frequent cause, led to 15 deaths.
05/18/11 A study by the John Jay College and financed by the Catholic Church attributes priest sex abuse to the culture of the 1960’s and 70’s, not pedophilia. But critics say that its definition of pre-pubescent as being 10 and younger rather than the accepted 13 and younger vastly understates the problem of pedophiliac clergy.
05/17/11 Chicago’s new police chief, Garry McCarty - he’s presently awaiting confirmation by the city council - vowed to fulfill “real fast” the new mayor’s campaign promise to put 1,000 more cops on the street. Where will they come from? By correcting “overspecialization” that stripped too many patrol officers from the streets.
05/17/11 Internal records prove that lab errors at Indiana’s toxicology lab, which tests blood and urine samples, go back to at least 2004. Between 2004-06 there were twelve false positives, which could have convicted the innocent, and 14 false negatives. Poor external oversight, an underqualified director and a lack of resources have been blamed.
05/17/11 At a community meeting New Orleans Police Chief Ronal W. Serpas said he would use hot-spot policing to combat violence. But citizens besieged him with questions about a city contract with a company run by a police chum, since suspended by the mayor, which hired his bodyguard and son-in-law to review traffic camera violations.
05/16/11 In Kentucky v. King, the Supreme Court approved the warrantless entry of a residence where police suspected evidence was being destroyed. Officers smelled marijuana, knocked on a door, then heard suspicious noises. According to the Court, as long as police don’t try to precipitate destruction, exigent circumstances apply.
05/16/11 DOJ investigators are in Seattle interviewing residents about allegations of police misconduct. Not all expect results, but some seem pleased. Meanwhile Chief John Diaz demoted an officer for directing racial slurs at a robbery suspect and announced that in the future such conduct would result in termination.
05/16/11 In Pittsburgh heroin has become the illicit drug of choice. At $10 a bag it’s far less expensive than OxyContin, which can run to $80 per pill. Because of purity levels - heroin now runs as high as 90 percent - addicts can snort the drug, making it far easier to consume. Using ten bags a day is not uncommon.
05/13/11 Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB-87, authorizing police who have probable cause to believe that someone has violated state or Federal law and is illegally in the U.S. to ask for ID, and if no satisfactory proof of legal residence is given to detain the person and hand them over to Immigration (sec. 17-5-100.) Bill text
05/13/11 Saying that what the U.S. now needs is continuity, President Obama has asked Congress to extend FBI Director Mueller’s term by two years. Not everyone is happy, especially FBI managers who feel hemmed in by a lack of turnover in the top ranks. Some observers feel that the President is simply trying to avoid a confirmation battle.
05/13/11 In Bell, California, the city whose former leaders were indicted for drawing unconscionable salaries, past police chiefs were eased out with disability retirements that entitled them to half their income tax-free. Unused vacation, sick time and severance payments became “workers compensation” settlements, a violation of tax codes.
05/12/11 The San Diego D.A. sued to overturn a commutation given to the son of the former California State Assembly leader by then-Governor Schwarzenegger: “...this last-minute commutation made without all the facts or input from the parties only fueled the public mistrust of government and greatly diminished justice....” Related post
05/11/10 A San Francisco ordinance blocks reporting juveniles to immigration unless they are convicted of a felony. It was ignored by the last mayor. New mayor Ed Lee directed it be implemented to the extent that immigration not be notified of juveniles who are arrested, even for felonies, if they have local ties, go to school and have clean records.
05/11/10 San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne publicly apologized for a rash of officer misconduct. Eight officers have been arrested since October on charges ranging from drunken driving to vandalism, domestic violence and sexual assault. Chief Lansdowne announced improvements in supervision, training and processing complaints.
05/11/10 Does barring gun shows from County property violate the individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense articulated in Heller and McDonald? In Nordyke v. King the Ninth Circuit applied the “substantial burden” test and found that the restriction was a permissible regulation and did not violate the Second Amendment.
05/10/11 Kevin Glasheen, a Texas lawyer, billed more than a million dollars each to two exonerees for representing them in a civil suit against authorities after they were freed. What did he do? He helped get a law passed to increase their compensation. Jeff Blackburn, of the Texas Innocence Project, also stands to gain $400,000 as a referral fee.
05/10/11 Black residents comprise 22 percent of Houston’s population but 32 percent of its police stops. That, says an academic, causes resentment, because stops don’t lead blacks to be arrested more frequently than whites. But the police union says that police purposely make more stops in high-crime areas, where many minorities happen to live.
05/10/11 Florida Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign a law tightening regulation of doctors and clinics who prescribe pain medication. The measure prohibits supplying the drugs in-house, increases penalties for over-prescribing, and requires prescriptions be promptly entered in a statewide database accessible to law enforcement.
05/10/11 Two L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who were beaten by six colleagues in a brawl (see 3/23/11 entry) have sued the department for sloppy hiring practices and poor supervision, allowing a gang-like officer clique to form in the Men’s Central Jail. To forestall future problems the department has instituted a rotation system. Opinion column
05/09/11 California is one of three states that allow familial searches of its DNA repository. That recently led to the arrest, for a brutal murder, of the son of a felon whose profile was in the database. California AG Kamala Harris is now doubling the budget for conducting familial searches, which can cost as much as $20,000 each.
05/09/11 Ten years ago Kenneth Kagonyera, whom evidence now seems to exonerate, pled guilty to murder to avoid the death penalty. He then tried to withdraw his plea but without success. Prosecutors are now objecting to a decision by the North Carolina Innocence Commission to send his case to a panel of judges for re-examination.
05/09/11 States are backing off expanding medical marijuana laws after receiving sharply-worded reminders from DOJ that the drug remains illegal under Federal law. Although DOJ has said it won’t go after medical users, DEA has gone after commercial pot-growing operations and some dispensaries, sowing confusion about what’s permissible.
05/09/11 After a preliminary inquiry DOJ has announced it will conduct a formal “patterns and practices” investigation of Newark PD. Its action follows a formal request by the ACLU that cites 261 citizen complaints of excessive force, bias and illegal searches and arrests during 2008-09, of which the department sustained only one.
05/07/11 During the past decade seventeen LAPD officers have become millionaires by winning lawsuits charging their superiors and the department with workplace grievances, including sexual and other forms of harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Numerous other officers have won or settled for amounts in the five and six figures.
05/06/11 Ohio, where prison overcrowding has reached 31 percent, is set to save $78 million each year by giving early releases to inmates who complete training and education programs, by releasing certain inmates who have served 85 percent of their time, and by diverting nonviolent offenders from prisons to community programs.
05/06/11 Washington D.C.’s mayor wants to cut 280 officers over the next year. The chief and union head are satisfied with present numbers, while a ward leader wants hundreds more than the 3,880 now on staff. But an academic said that police numbers are not a science, and there are many other factors that drive crime rates.
05/06/11 Some are upset at San Diego PD’s shift away from a community model. When budgets are lean it’s necessary, says the Chief, to cut back on specialized teams and reemphasize patrol and crime-fighting. Metrics have changed. Measures of community involvement and satisfaction have been replaced by crime rates and response times.
05/05/11 A Federal appeals court rejected an appeal by Adventure Outdoors, a Georgia gun shop that was sued by New York City in 2006 for carelessly selling guns. The gun shop defaulted at a Federal civil trial, then appealed an order to have its sales monitored. It was ordered to submit, although not to the extent originally required.
05/05/11 Illinois became the first state to withdraw from Secure Communities, a Federal program that seeks to deport criminal aliens who are booked into local jails. In a letter to ICE, Governor Pat Quinn called the program flawed, as nearly a third of those deported under Secure Communities had never been convicted of any crime.
05/04/11 A Federal judge agreed that “there is some truth” to the argument that, as the defense claimed, “the Government had created the criminal, then manufactured the crime.” Still, she ruled that what was done to snare Cromitie and the three others did not rise to the level of “outrageous misconduct” and affirmed their conviction.
05/04/11 Members of the House and Senate are severely criticizing ATF for letting large quantities of guns go to Mexico. It has turned into the biggest scandal to envelop the agency since WACO. At a House hearing on 5/3 AG Eric Holder said that “under no circumstances should guns be allowed to be distributed in an uncontrolled manner.”
05/03/11 California Governor Jerry Brown is approving 80 percent of paroles recommended for lifers serving time for murder. Schwarzenegger, his predecessor, approved 30 percent; Gray Davis, whom he replaced, virtually none. Brown says he is following the law, trusts the parole board, and that unlike other parolees, lifers rarely reoffend.
05/03/11 In 1996 Richard Rosario was convicted of a New York City murder based solely on eyewitness testimony. He said he had been in Florida but his lawyers didn’t seek out the many alibi witnesses. His appeals were rejected because of New York’s weak standard for lawyer performance. Now the Supreme Court has been asked to step in.
05/02/11 Six cities are participating in an NIJ-sponsored National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. The cities, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas and San Jose, will identify goals, develop “multi-disciplinary, data-driven” approaches and undertake activities over a three-year period. Boston
05/01/11 Maricopa County (Phoenix) Chief Deputy Joe Hendershott resigned after a report accused him and others of orchestrating the arrest of persons, including a judge, a lawyer and two journalists, who criticized Sheriff Joe Arpaio. None were prosecuted. Arpaio, who insists he wasn’t involved, also fired a deputy chief and a captain.
05/01/11 According to the Los Angeles Times L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca has reported accepting $120,000 in gifts and free trips since his initial election in 1998. Many were from persons seeking business or favors; one was from a pair of felons who were “implicated” in a major fraud case. Baca said he passed many of the gratuities down. List
04/29/11 In the past the only way to discover if a job seeker had a criminal past was to check court records. Now the Internet and firms that use it to screen applicants are making it harder than ever for those with records to hide their backgrounds and land a job. Employers prefer clean resumes, and even an arrest can disqualify.
04/29/11 Three Philadelphia cops were arrested for dealing in steroids. These drugs, which can cause aggressiveness and mood swings, are used by officers who think that bulking up will help them do their jobs. Last year a New Jersey physician was caught dealing steroids and HGH to hundreds of police officers under the pretext of treatment.
04/29/11 In New York having a small amount of marijuana is not a crime, only a ticketing violation, unless carried openly, a misdemeanor. Minority members complain that during stop-and-frisks officers will order them to empty their pockets or reach in, and if they find a baggie pull it out and arrest them for having marijuana in public view.
04/28/11 More than 1,000 cops and ATF, DEA and ICE agents staged early morning raids in Los Angeles’ gang-infested Harbor district, arresting 80 members of the notorious Rancho San Pedro gang on state and federal charges. Undercover agents had spent two years buying guns and drugs from the defendants. More arrests are anticipated.
04/28/11 It’s common practice for states to require that officers retain the raw notes they use to prepare official reports, and that these be available to defense lawyers. That will now be the practice in New Jersey, ruled the state’s Supreme Court, which said that officers can be impeached and their testimony challenged if notes are destroyed.
04/28/11 Federal grants helped LAPD eliminate a backlog of 6,132 untested sexual assault kits, which contain biological material from victims and crime scenes. LAPD’s DNA lab, now at 78, doubled in size, but still needs twenty more to handle everything in-house. It’s guessed that the testing led to “dozens” of new identifications and arrests.
04/27/11 Orange County, Florida Sheriff Jerry Demings credits a 9.6 percent crime drop to “community policing initiatives that reduce the prevalence of street drugs by arresting repeat offenders and by taking over 1,000 firearms off the streets.” His wife Val, the chief in Orlando, says the same about her city, where crime fell 10.7 percent.
04/26/11 Ohio awarded $2.59 million compensation to Raymond Towler, who was exonerated by DNA last May after serving nearly 29 years for a rape based on faulty eyewitness testimony and a “Negro hair.” Related post
04/26/11 In January Camden laid off 163 officers. A Federal grant enabled rehiring 55, with funds for ten more on the way. All cops have been put on patrol. That, together with technology such as gunshot detection sensors and license plate readers, has reportedly helped last year’s downtrend in violence continue. Shootings, though, are up.
04/26/11 In November Newark laid off 167 cops. Since then crime has gone up sharply, 21 percent over this point last year. Murder has seen the steepest rise, with 29 killed so far in 2011, a 71 percent increase. Shootings jumped from 56 to 72; robberies from 418 to 462. Cops complain that they have no time for anything but responding to calls.
04/26/11 Hot-spot policing in Houston is done by the CRU, a mobile 70-officer team that is deployed to crime-ridden areas. Two years ago a study concluded that their efforts reduced property but not violent crime. Team members strongly disagree, but now that the budget is tight the study is being cited to reduce the unit’s funding.
04/25/11 Milton Scarborough has been in prison 33 years for participating in a multiple murder. Although all three witnesses recanted and another man confessed, a judge refuses to hear an appeal because a 1995 state law requires exculpatory evidence be presented within 60 days of discovery. Scarborough’s lawyers took too much time, he said.
04/25/11 Federal law enforcement agencies are using search warrants to get information from Facebook accounts of suspected robbers and gang members, including photos, messages, contact information and GPS data. One suspected bank robber is in trouble because of similarities in attire between his photos in Facebook and bank security cameras.
04/24/11 Secure Communities, an ICE program that screens jail inmates for immigration status, is criticized because half of those deported were arrested for minor offenses. ICE is also accused of tricking communities into cooperating by falsely telling them that they can opt out, when in fact by 2013 the program will get all it needs from the FBI.
04/24/11 Prosecutors in Ventura County, Calif. are reviewing 300 drunk driving convictions that may have been tainted by the Alco-Sensor V, a portable breathalyzer that has been found to give inaccurate readings. “They spent a half-million on a bunch of junk, basically,” said a defense lawyer who specializes in DUI cases.
04/24/11 An LAPD helicopter made a forced landing after an 18-year old man fired at it with a semi-automatic rifle, puncturing a fuel tank. The suspect, who was taken into custody with the help of family members, was reportedly distraught over someone’s death.
04/22/11 A jury convicted ex-Philly police inspector Daniel Castro of lying to FBI agents about his alleged plot to collect a $90,000 debt by violence. But they deadlocked 10-2 for acquittal on eight counts that he recruited an enforcer, actually an FBI informer, to extort the debtor. Castro testified he was entrapped, and jurors believed him.
04/22/11 Alabama’s prison population, now at nearly twice the designed capacity, will be reduced one way or the other, says a coalition of legislators and agency officials. Proposed measures include early-outs from prison, lowering sentence thresholds for property and drug offenders, and fewer probation revocations for technical violations.
04/22/11 Under a new “zero-tolerance” policy for misconduct, Glendale, Calif. fired three officers who took a police car to Las Vegas (what else they might have done wasn’t revealed.) A number of other officers are being investigated for matters including an illicit sexual affair, soliciting sex, off-duty road rage and creating a hostile work environment.
04/22/11 Michigan State Police officers are equipped with portable “Data Extraction Devices” that can be plugged in to cellphones to collect stored data. MSP rejects contentions by the ACLU that it is invading privacy, insisting that the units are used only in certain cases, such as child abuse investigations, and only with consent or a search warrant.
04/22/11 Four years after responding to the scene of a murder as a station sergeant, an L.A. County sheriff’s detective was flipping through booking photos when he ran across a gang member whose torso was tattooed with an elaborate reproduction of the crime scene. Until that very moment, the killer had not been identified.
04/21/11 In Graham v. Florida the Supreme Court prohibited life without parole for persons under 18 for “nonhomicide” crimes, reasoning that youths cannot be held to the same standards as adults. Petitions are now coming in asking the court to extend its rule to those who were only 14 when they killed or were involved in a killing.
04/21/11 A youth was charged with shooting and killing two British tourists in a poor, crime-ridden area of Sarasota, Florida. Shawn Tyson, 16, faces murder charges as an adult. He was free pending charges for an unrelated incident nine days earlier, when police arrested him for shooting at an occupied car, supposedly to “scare” its occupants.
04/20/11 Flint, Michigan (pop. 102,000) leads the U.S. in murders, with 66 in 2010. What it lags in are jobs and police, having lost two-thirds of its force to layoffs. A New York Times reporter rides along with one of the six officers on duty that night. “We ain’t cops anymore,” he says. “We’re librarians. We take reports. We don’t fight crime.”
04/20/11 In Massachusetts possessing an ounce or less of pot is no longer a crime. So the odor of marijuana coming from a parked car is insufficient cause to order its occupants to exit or to make a search. So says the state’s highest court, which ruled inadmissible the cocaine that cops found while investigating the source of the smell.
04/20/11 The Federal government announced a nationwide plan to combat abuse of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin. In Appalachia it has reached epidemic levels, killing more in Ohio each year than car crashes. “We’re raising third and fourth generations of prescription drug abusers,” said Portsmouth police chief Charles Horner.
04/19/11 Three weeks before Florida mother Casey Anthony went on trial for murdering her child, “48 Hours Mystery” put together a mock jury to hear its version of the evidence and render a verdict. Guilty on manslaughter, it said. Anthony’s former defense attorney went on the show and admitted that her client gave police a false alibi.
04/19/11 Budget problems led Paterson, New Jersey to lay off 125 police officers, one-fourth of the force. Twenty-five may be brought back with Federal funds. Thirty ranking officers were also demoted to patrol. Mayor Jeffery Jones denied that crime would spike but, just in case, invited the Guardian Angels to help patrol the town.
04/18/11 Mexican cartels have set up shop in dozens of U.S. cities and sent their own representatives to run the operations. One such man, Frediberto Pineda, had been twice deported. A natty dresser, he lived near Columbia, South Carolina, where he looked and acted like a professional. Then the FBI caught him with ten kilos of cocaine.
04/18/11 A report on the Willingham case by the Texas Forensic Science Commission notes that changes in fire science now contradict the expert testimony that led to his conviction and execution. Commissioners recommended many changes in practice and faulted the State Fire Marshal for endorsing the investigation as late as 2010. Report
04/18/11 Six Cleveland cops hired during 2008-09 face felony charges for beating suspects. Several had spotty backgrounds, including drug use, financial problems and minor arrests. Officers have complained about hiring cops with records, but the chief must pick at least one of every three that hit his desk. He’d like it to be one in ten.
04/16/11 Federal prosecutors are seeking to extradite the owners of the three largest offshore internet poker websites for violating a law that forbids them from accepting funds from the U.S. Two Americans including a bank executive were arrested for laundering the money by pretending that it represented payments for purchased goods.
04/16/11 In 2008 the Los Angeles Dodgers cut back from a large uniformed LAPD presence during home games to officers in polo shirts. Earlier this month a San Francisco fan was beaten nearly to death. Now dozens of uniformed cops are back. “There is no authority in a polo shirt,” said an officer who had stopped working games in soft clothes.
04/15/11 ATF’s decision to allow thousands of straw-purchased guns to go to Mexico drew objections from a gun store owner who was concerned that the guns might be turned against U.S. officers. Even though the store got written assurance that its actions were legal, on two occasions employees refused to make straw sales that ATF had approved.
04/15/11 A new rule requires Cincinnati police officers working off-duty uniformed jobs to pay the city $4.90 per hour, ostensibly to cover costs of department personnel who schedule and oversee the thousands of off-duty shifts. But some suspect it’s just another way to help cover the police budget and avert layoffs.
04/15/11 Under pressure from prosecutors upset with light sentence recommendations for repeat violators, Missouri legislators have proposed to abolish the state sentencing commission and its “evidence based” guidelines. Meanwhile a new Pew Center report has praised the state’s sharp drop in recidivism during 2004-2009.
04/14/11 Barry Bonds was convicted of obstructing justice for giving evasive testimony before a Federal grand jury in the BALCO steroids scandal. He had been given immunity. Jurors deadlocked on three counts of lying for stating that no one other than his doctor injected him, and that he thought that the substances he was taking were legal.
04/14/11 FBI is battling Coreflood, computer malware that infects 1.8 million PC’s in the U.S. and steals data such as bank and credit card information. The information is sent to servers in Eastern Europe and used to make withdrawals, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of unauthorized wire transfers from unsuspecting American companies.
04/13/11 In troubled Denver six cops have been fired this year, all for lying on reports, mostly about the use of force. New disciplinary rules making termination the default punishment for dishonesty were imposed in 2008. But management turmoil continues, with four persons cycling through the public safety manager’s job in less than a year.
04/13/11 Indiana’s governor abandoned a plan to save money by reducing sentences of “low-level offenders” and placing many on probation after legislators, prodded by police and prosecutors, amended the bill to require serious offenders to serve 85 percent of their terms. Presently all inmates can shave off half their terms with good behavior.
04/13/11 To save millions of dollars Texas legislators are proposing a plan to place nonviolent probation violators in “shock” treatment, sending them to state prison for up to a year instead of the current average of nearly five years.
04/13/11 A national study reports persistent recidivism rates of about 40 percent. Three-year rates for state prisoners released in 1999 were 45.4 percent and for those released in 2004 as 43.3 percent. A 2002 BJS study of a cohort of offenders released in 1994 reported 3-year recidivism of 51.8 percent.
04/13/11 Ex-New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer Alex Brandon, now with the AP, was apparently present at many scenes of post-Katrina police brutality and misconduct. Yet he maintained close relations with cops later convicted in killings and didn’t speak up until subpoenaed to court. Now his former colleagues want to know why.
04/12/11 A New York City-based website reports that a grand jury has been investigating hundreds of NYPD officers for fixing tickets. Some were apparently for money, most as favors for friends and relatives. Practices included altering records and getting cops to not appear in court or claim amnesia. Arrests are anticipated.
04/12/11 New York City’s license plate readers - 108 in fixed locations, 130 mobile - have led to the recovery of many stolen cars and helped arrest fugitives and criminals; most recently, a bank robber whose car was spotted in an area that Federal agents staked out. He was caught nearby the next morning.
04/11/11 A Los Angeles civil jury awarded a total of $2 million to two LAPD motorcycle cops who said their careers suffered after they refused to meet an 18-citation per shift quota imposed by superiors. The city denied there were quotas, which are illegal; instead there were “goals” meant to reduce injuries and not, as claimed, increase revenue.
04/11/11 DOJ will require that police agencies receiving Federal grants for body armor mandate its wear by uniformed officers. A 2009 study revealed that 41 percent of agencies don’t require it. Sacramento (Calif.) Chief Rick Braziel doesn’t want DOJ imposing rules, but his department needs the funds, so they’ll change. Related post
04/11/11 California wants bidders for prison telephone service to pay the estimated $16 to $33 million to include cellphone blocking. A test stopped 4,000 cell calls and increased prisoner use of approved phones 64 percent, so blocking could pay for itself. Inmates would be forced to go back to making collect calls, which cost about $2 each.
04/11/11 In a pilot test fifty Houston PD officers carry a wireless fingerprint reader that enables near-instant checks of RISC, a subset of the FBI’s fingerprint repository that includes all wanted persons. That’s the first phase of an FBI upgrade that will soon allow field checking of palm prints. Accuracy has also improved, from 92 to 99.6 percent.
04/10/11 In an op-ed in the New York Times, exonerated death-row inmate John Thompson, now the director of a support group for exonerated ex-inmates, asks why the prosecutors who hid evidence and had him wrongly sentenced to death aren’t facing any sanctions. (See 3/29/11 entry) Related post
04/08/11 Four former Chicago cops are expected to plead guilty to federal charges of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug dealers and others by staging phony arrests and searches. These events, which occurred in the mid and late 2000’s, have already led to the conviction of seven other officers. All were members of an elite squad.
04/08/11 Barry Bonds’ fate is now with a jury. On trial for perjury and obstruction of justice for telling a Grand jury that he never knowingly took steroids, he didn’t testify, leaving his lawyers to argue that prosecution witnesses lied and that Bonds’ statements weren’t material to the investigation of Balco, the firm that supplied the substances.
04/07/11 Northwestern University said that professor David Protess, head of the journalism school’s famed Medill Innocence Project, altered records and lied to lawyers and administrators to hide documents in a case from prosecutors. Protess says that any failures were inadvertent. He has been removed from teaching position. Posting
04/07/11 Philadelphia PD Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was “persuaded” to remain in Philly and not take the top slot in Chicago. He’s getting a $60,000 salary boost, to $255,000, in addition to his $95,000 Chicago pension. Ramsey reportedly asked incoming Chicago mayor Emanuel for more than $400,000 but was turned down.
04/07/11 Last August the amount of crack cocaine needed to trigger a mandatory prison sentence was raised. Now the US Sentencing Commission has adjusted its guidelines on such cases, reducing the average sentence by 25 percent. It is also seeking to revise sentences upwards for straw buyers of guns and for trafficking guns across the border.
04/07/11 Police agencies and cops are discovering the pitfalls of social networks. An officer whose Facebook posting described his job as “human waste disposal” wound up in the crosshairs after he shot and killed a man. So did another whose self-portrayal as the “PUNISHER” was cited by a Federal appeals court as evidence of his character.
04/06/11 California passed a law that would transfer tens of thousands of nonviolent felons, including numerous parole violators serving short terms, from state prisons to local jails. Advocates say it would provide better services and save money. But the measure cannot be implemented until there are funds to reimburse local governments.
04/06/11 Orange County, California banned registered sex offenders from visiting numerous public places, including the county zoo and many parks, beaches and harbors. “We are setting up a safety zone by keeping parks and recreation zones safe from predators,” said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
04/06/11 The FBI reported a seven percent drop in bank robberies, from 5943 in 2009 to 5546 in 2010. California was the most hard-hit, with 805. Next were Texas (464), Pennsylvania (292), Ohio (263) and Florida (243).
04/05/11 With only eight hours to spare, the Supreme Court stayed the execution of Texas inmate Cleve Foster, convicted in a 2004 killing. This stay and two others granted in the past month to condemned men in Alabama and Arizona are based on claims of various forms of ineffective legal assistance.
04/05/11 An L.A. man who severely beat his wife then holed up in his house and shot at officers, gravely injuring one, was found dead in the ruins of the home, a rifle at his side. The wounded officer, who was shot in the face and the torso, is expected to survive. SWAT used a specially modified piece of heavy equipment to dismantle the home.
04/05/11 Ten years ago Cincinnati erupted in riots when police shot and killed a black man. A DOJ consent decree led to many changes. More officers are now college-educated and thirty percent are minorities. All carry a Taser. Shootings are down and relations have improved, yet cooperation from witnesses to crime remains very poor.
04/04/11 Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others will be tried for the 9/11 attacks before a Guantanamo military tribunal, not a civilian court. Holder criticized Congress for passing legislation last year that prohibited using Federal funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.
04/04/11 A new report identifies 130 instances of prosecutorial misconduct in 102 California state and Federal court cases in 2010. One example is Bobby Maxwell, now serving his 25th. year in prison. In December the Ninth Circuit ordered a new trial, partly because the State failed to disclose that the jailhouse informer who fingered him was a liar.
04/03/11 Douglas Warney, a mentally disabled man, did nine years for a murder he did not commit. But New York state denied him compensation because he had confessed. Not so fast, said the state’s high court, which ruled that the “calculated manipulation” of a susceptible man, in which police fed him details of the crime, was indeed coercive.
04/01/11 Los Angeles serial killer John Thomas, the “Westside rapist,” pled guilty to seven killings to which he was linked with DNA. His DNA was collected during an investigation of murders for which another serial killer turned out to be responsible. Police suspect that Thomas killed as many as thirty women and sexually assaulted two dozen more.
04/01/11 A series of egregious errors by the state crime lab led North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue to sign a law calling for the lab to meet “the highest international standards.” Scientists must also be certified in their fields. An outside committee of experts has been formed, and the lab will be required to release all its notes to the defense.
04/01/11 Spurred in part by a fatal shooting by a Seattle police officer last August, a killing that the department itself ruled unjustified, DOJ opened a formal probe into whether Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of bias and excessive force. Chief John Diaz minimized the implications, calling it a “free audit from the Department of Justice.’
04/01/11 Think you’re good at cracking codes? The FBI needs your help. In 1999 St. Louis, Missouri deputies found the body of Ricky McCormick, 41. He was murdered and dumped in a field, a crime that remains unsolved. Two encrypted handwritten notes were found in his pockets. Cryptanalysts haven’t been able to make them out. Can you?
03/31/11 Former rookie New Orleans PD officer David Warren got 25 years for the September 2005 post-Katrina killing of Henry Glover. Warren’s reason, the judge said, was because he thought Glover was a looter, not because he posed a threat. Another officer, Greg McRae, got 17 years for burning Glover’s body in a car to cover up the incident.
03/31/11 In 2008 the new director of Indiana’s unaccredited state toxicology laboratory warned prosecutors that it didn’t meet accepted standards. An audit revealed that ten percent of marijuana cases during 2007-09 were faulty, yet it kept testing. Now there are concerns about cocaine and alcohol results. Defense lawyers were never told.
03/31/11 A report by the Seattle (WA) City Auditor suggests that police focus on crime hot-spots. It cites a 2004 study (echoed by studies in 2009 and 2010) that concluded half the crime occurs in 4.5 percent of the city’s street segments. Redistributing police patrols, though, is expected to draw opposition from areas that might lose cops.
03/30/10 Two-hundred years to life. Plus eight consecutive life terms without parole. That’s what an L.A. judge gave Asian Boyz leader Marvin Mercado, 37 for his February conviction on eight counts of murder and ten of attempted murder. Seven others were convicted in 1999 but he fled to the Philippines, where he hid out for a decade.
03/29/11 In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court ruled that a single Brady violation and the absence of a “pattern of deliberate indifference” were insufficient grounds for finding that the New Orleans prosecuting office failed to train its staff. Their action reversed a $14 million award to exonerated death-row inmate John Thompson. Related post
03/29/11 Five years ago San Diego deputies on a call about a suicidal man shot and killed him when he raised a knife while six feet away. One officer had a Taser but did not use it. Reinstating a lawsuit against the deputies, the Ninth Circuit ruled that excessive force is a normally question of fact, so summary judgments should be used “sparingly.”
03/29/11 Two years ago private grants helped launch StreetSafe Boston, a gang intervention program using ex-gang members as street workers. Homicide in Boston has kept going up, but advocates of the program - and those like it around the country - say that reversing the underlying causes takes time. Some police, though, are skeptical.
03/29/11 Ten Colorado probationers - six on “intensive supervision” - have been arrested for murder or attempted murder in nine months, including killing of a deputy sheriff and the wounding of two police officers. P.O.’s are blamed for laxity, but in Colorado they have little authority and aren’t armed, making them reluctant to stage surprise visits.
03/29/11 The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals of celebrated Georgia death-row prisoner Troy Davis, clearing the path for his execution. Last summer a Federal judge who conducted a hearing at the Court’s request called Davis’ evidence “smoke and mirrors.”
03/28/11 A Federal judge scolded prosecutors and FBI agents in the Galleon insider-trading case for omitting their key witness’s checkered past from wiretap applications, for not mentioning possibly exculpatory information, and for failing to “minimize” the intrusion. Still, the wiretaps, without which convictions would be unlikely, held.
03/28/11 Philadelphia police, which make thousands of DUI arrests each year, say that four breathalyzer machines were miscalibrated for fifteen months, throwing 1,147 cases into question. Persons are being given an opportunity to challenge their convictions. Some may sue because the professional and other consequences of a DUI can be severe.
03/25/11 DUI checkpoints have been endorsed by the CDC, which says they reduce crashes. Some highway safety experts and police say they deter drunk driving and have educational value. But twelve states don’t permit them, and many law enforcement officials and experts say that patrols are far more effective at catching drunks.
03/25/11 In Austin, which had 8,000 burglaries in 2010, only five percent are solved. A shortage of officers, detectives and crime scene technicians means that the report will likely be taken by phone. A victim who waited for officers “for hours” said “I just didn't feel like I was a priority... it's not cool to feel like police don't even care.”
03/25/11 Reforms in Texas have failed to keep youths out of adult prisons, where many of those aged 14-17 who are convicted of violent crimes wind up. Legislation dropped the youth commitment age from 21 to 19, and with delays caused by crowding it’s difficult to place older youths in year-long state programs designed for the most violent.
03/24/11 Interim Chicago PD chief Terry Hillard criticized ex-chief Jody Weis for “decimating patrol” by transferring hundreds of beat cops to specialized units that targeted crime hot-spots. “[He] took the good cops and put them in special sections and units. That’s not right.” Now they’re going back, and that’s all for the good, says the police union.
03/24/11 A Colorado D.A. developed an innovative goal for prosecutors: take felonies to trial at least five times a year and win 70 percent of the time. Plea bargains don’t apply. The reward? $1,100. There is concern that this could unfairly distort the process; e.g., a lawyer might not plea-bargain a case that could help them earn the loot.
03/24/11 New internal rules provide that FBI agents can, in exceptional cases, question terrorism suspects for prolonged periods without advising them of their Miranda rights. Legal constraints still apply, meaning that statements said outside Miranda cannot be used as evidence against those who made them.
03/23/11 A DOJ-commissioned report concludes that Bruce Ivins, the Army researcher who committed suicide as a Federal grand jury prepared to indict him for the post-9/11 anthrax mailings that killed five, had a documented mental history that should have kept him from being cleared to work in biowarfare. But no one apparently checked.
03/23/11 Virginia man Thomas Haynesworth, 46 was released on parole after serving 27 years in prison for four sexual assaults in which he was identified by the victims. DNA in two of the attacks has now been tied to a serial rapist. Prosecutors are supporting his bid to be cleared in the other assaults. A pardon is also being considered.
03/23/11 Chicago PD has been aggressively defending itself against civil lawsuits with some success. Now citizens are complaining that in some cases the city should settle as a moral obligation, and that in others the private lawyers Chicago hires - they get bonuses for winning - have acted unethically. In one recent case a judge agreed.
03/23/11 In response to an increase in the killings of police, the Attorney General instructed Federal prosecutors to go after the “worst of the worst” local criminals when Federal laws offer more severe sentences. More emphasis is also being placed on a program that uses Federal funds to fund the purchase of bulletproof vests for local police.
03/23/11 Police in a suburban New York community shoot a deranged man wielding knives. Meanwhile cops from different agencies are responding to assist. A retired cop spots someone with a rifle and yells “gun!”, prompting an officer to shoot and kill a SWAT member. An uncoordinated and possibly excessive response is being blamed.
03/23/11 L.A. County intends to fire six deputies who formed a gang-like clique, complete with hand signs, in the central jail. The last straw was when they attacked a non-member deputy at a Christmas party and punched a female deputy who tried to intervene. In 1996 a clique of patrol deputies cost the LASD $9 million in a court settlement.
03/22/11 A TV pilot for “Miami’s Finest SOS,” a proposed reality show backed by Chief Miguel Esposito, depicted gang officer Reynaldo Goyo wearing a hoodie emblazoned “The Punisher.” Weeks ago Goyo shot an unarmed motorist, the seventh black man killed by Miami officers in eight months. Now the show’s off, and so may be Esposito.
03/22/11 Tennessee is merging prison programs, allowing an additional 2,200 inmates to complete a rehabilitation program that gets them sixty days off their sentence. That will open beds for state inmates now housed in local facilities, saving $5.7 million in one year.
03/22/11 A Baltimore weekend leaves eighteen persons shot. One, a police detective, was wounded by a man who served six months in 2009 for packing a pistol. “It's [exasperating] that more people don't understand the enormous ramifications of these guys running around the city with these handguns," said Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld.
03/21/11 The Supreme Court reinstated a California state rape conviction that was summarily struck down by the Ninth Circuit, ruling that under the AEDPA, decisions by State trial courts (in this case, allowing the exclusion of two black jurors) are entitled to “great deference” and cannot be overruled unless “clearly erroneous.”
03/21/11 Chicago crime may be down overall, but 700 youths between the ages of 5-18 were struck by gunfire in 2010. Sixty-six died. Most violence is attributed to gangs. The city has placed mentors in high schools, offers safe after-school transportation and funds Project Ceasefire, which employs ex-gang members as street caseworkers.
03/21/11 Many poorly-paid New Orleans cops work off-duty jobs, enabling a culture of corruption, with those who informally get colleagues work having more clout than superiors. Other issues include exhaustion, falsely calling in sick to work off-duty, and extorting storekeepers to hire officers on pain of not getting regular police services.
03/21/11 Laws that prohibit ex-cons from engaging in a wide variety of occupations may encourage recidivism by creating a bar to gainful employment. Now a deadly New York bus crash that left 15 dead might make things worse. The driver, Ophadell Williams, had a manslaughter conviction and was apparently driving on a suspended license.
03/21/11 Fond du Lac, Wisconsin police officer Craig Birkholz, 28 was killed and officer Ryan Williams, 33 was critically wounded by a gunman with a high-powered rifle. Both officers were struck in the torso by rounds that reportedly penetrated their body armor. Their assailant committed suicide.
03/18/11 Northwestern University accuses David Protess, the professor in charge of the Medill Innocence Project, of not being truthful about whether he had all the memos prepared by students in an ongoing, controversial case, and whether he released them as required to a defendant’s lawyers and to prosecutors. Related posting
03/18/11 Camden laid off 168 officers in January. Now the State, using late rent funds, is offering $2.5 million to rehire 50, plus 15 firefighters, to serve between April and June. Negotiations to extend the period are underway.
03/18/11 Should students and teachers be allowed to pack guns on college campuses? It’s legal in Utah, and there is proposed legislation to allow it in Tennessee, Texas, Florida and Arizona. But most professors and campus police, who would need to distinguish between good guys and bad guys, say “no.”
03/17/11 Nearly half of the city workers in hard-hit Costa Mesa, California are being fired. Among them are a dozen civilians who staff the city jail, meaning that sworn officers will have to fill their slots. A city maintenance worker apparently jumped off a city building after learning he would be one of those laid off. He didn’t survive.
03/17/11 DOJ released a comprehensive report accusing New Orleans PD officers of a pattern of civil rights violations that persist to the present day. Among the findings are that NOPD officers have often used deadly force inappropriately, but that not once were their actions deemed out of policy by the city. DOJ New Orleans homepage
03/17/11 An LAPD commission report on the killing of day laborer Manuel Jamines said that the officer approached within 10 feet and ordered Jamines to drop the knife or be shot. Jamines turned, asked to be shot and took a step towards the officer, raising his knife. Hernandez said he had drawn close to get Jamines’ attention away from a woman and child, but no other officer saw a citizen in harm’s way immediately before Hernandez fired. Report Related post
03/16/11 To help Mexico spot armed drug gangs, U.S. agents are flying surveillance drones deep in the Mexican interior. It’s a touchy issue for Mexico, which takes great pride in its sovereignty. One drone mission was recently credited with helping find the killers of ICE agent Jaime Zapata.
03/16/11 A Texas prisoner arranged his escape with a cellphone. Last year more than 200 were confiscated from inmates at his lockup, about one-quarter of the total seized in the prison system. Officials are testing systems to block cellphone signals and detect phones. But how the inmate managed to have two Facebook pages hasn’t been said.
03/15/11 Frankie Carillo, 37 was freed after 20 years because five of the six eyewitnesses who ID’d him in a 1991 murder recanted during a habeas hearing. Cross-racial ID was said to be a problem (the witnesses were black; Carrilo is Hispanic.) Prosecutors said Carrillo will not be retried. He was represented by the Northern Calif. Innoc. Project
03/15/11 President Obama isn’t looking for new laws, but the Administration has called for a dialogue between both sides of the gun issue. The NRA says that’s out. “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment...?” asked Wayne LaPierre, its chief executive.
03/14/11 Bemoaning that “a man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun,” President Obama recommended that the gun buyer record check system (NICS) be improved so that it is “faster and nimbler.”
03/14/11 Buchanan County, Virginia sheriff’s deputies Cameron Justus and William Stiltner were shot dead and deputies Erik Rasnake and Shane Charles were wounded by an assailant with a rifle. He was hiding in woods and fired on them when they arrived to investigate a theft at a salvage yard. State police shot and killed him two hours later.
03/11/11 Oakland police start at $70,000, perhaps the highest beginning pay in California. One reason it might have laid off 80 officers in 2010 is the generous pay, with one cop, whose official salary is less than $100,000, earning $245,000. And it’s not just Oakland. A San Francisco deputy chief got a cool half-million when he retired.
03/10/11 In San Francisco a plainclothes squad has been suspended and fifty-seven cases were dropped in the wake of allegations that officers illegally entered and searched rooms in downtown flophouses. Most of the cases involved drug possession. Defense attorneys have demanded an audit of all of the unit’s busts.
03/09/11 Sixty percent of illegal aliens deported through the Federal “Secure Communities” program, which runs persons booked by local police through an ICE database, have only a low-level or no criminal record. But the Feds say that many reentered the country after deportation, while others are gang members who should be excluded.
03/09/11 Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill abolishing the death penalty. He also commuted the sentences of all prisoners on death row to life imprisonment. His action was precipitated by fears of a wrongful execution, spurred by the fact that as many as 20 Illinois inmates once sentenced to death were subsequently exonerated.
03/08/11 A study of Taser use in Richland County, S.C. and by Miami-Dade and Seattle police, and a review of data from Austin and Orlando concludes that Tasers significantly prevent suspect and officer injuries. However, concerns were voiced about their potential for overuse and the application of excessive shocks during individual encounters.
03/08/11 California law provides compensation for the wrongfully convicted. But to qualify requires that applicants pass a very high bar, which in practice means that those who can’t prove their innocence with DNA need not apply.
03/07/11 Can a State prisoner use a Federal civil rights lawsuit to argue how a State interprets its post-conviction DNA laws? Yes, said the Supreme Court, holding that the challenge of a decision to not release materials for DNA testing is not foreclosed as it does not impermissibly impute the outcome of the underlying case. Skinner v. Switzer
03/07/11 Quicker, cheaper and so effective that there have been more ID’s than police can handle. That’s what Palm Bay, Florida police discovered about running their own DNA databank. Set up in 2007 with help from a private lab, it has led to many arrests, including, most recently, of a serial burglar. Plans are in the works to expand it countywide.
03/06/11 Phoenix police chief Jack Harris stepped down while city and Federal investigators examine inflated kidnapping statistics submitted in 2008, supposedly to win border stimulus money. Of 358 reported incidents, 53 were assaults or robberies, 59 were “information only” (not crimes) and some were double-counted. Related post
03/04/11 A scathing Grand Jury report accusing the Philadelphia Archdiocese of ignoring evidence that 37 active duty priests had sexually abused parishioners led the D.A. to indict two current priests, a former priest and a teacher at a parochial school. A lawyer brought in by the Church said she has been given free reign to review the allegations.
03/05/11 Thirteen states consider 16 or 17-year olds adults for criminal justice purposes. In New York and North Carolina the age of majority is 16; in eleven others it’s 17. Experts encourage the use of juvenile courts but the costs are considerably greater, spurring reluctance by legislators to endorse changes.
03/05/11 Under fire for supporting “Secure Communities,” a Federal program to identify deportable criminals, Rhode Island’s State Police chief resigns. Meanwhile police chiefs around the U.S. express reluctance to take on a role in immigration enforcement, saying it would impair their relations with minority communities. Report
03/05/11 In Camden, New Jersey, where 160 police officers were laid off January 18, gun assaults during January-February jumped from 22 to 79. But murder and robbery are down. Burglary was up, from 130 to 208. According to a John Jay professor what this portends is hard to say but nonetheless worrisome.
03/05/11 In an unanimous ruling, the LAPD Commission rejected Chief Charlie Beck’s conclusion that the shooting of an autistic man last March was justified. Beck had found that two officers incorrectly approached Steven Washington but were justified in thinking he was armed. He was not. Chief Beck has now begun disciplinary proceedings.
03/04/11 ATF wanted to stem gunrunning to Mexico but going after straw buyers yielded few results. Facing criticism that bigwigs weren’t being touched, ATF decided to target the cartels, and in so doing let straw buyers acquire more than a thousand guns. Many were used in crimes in Mexico, leading agents to complain. Eventually there was a roundup, but the damage had been done, with two of the guns turning up at the scene of the killing of a Border Patrol agent in the U.S.
03/03/11 Philadelphia’s murder toll had been falling since a peak of of 392 killings in 2007. But “a string of violent weekends” where multiple persons were shot and killed has raised this year’s toll to 56, forty percent over the first two months of last year. Still, whether this pattern will hold is too early to say.
03/03/11 One of the weapons used by cartel gunmen to murder ICE agent Jaime Zapata and wound his partner in Mexico this February was bought in the U.S. by a gun smuggling ring last October. ATF arrested three of its members, who were under investigation at least since November, two days ago.
03/03/11 Unless Dallas PD makes wearing body armor mandatory it will lose a $200,000 Federal grant to buy vests. So it’s mulling over a change in policy. One officer, who said he always wears his, admits the discomfort. “It is hotter, especially in the summertime. It is kind of restrictive, and if you are not used to wearing it, you are uncomfortable.”
03/02/11 To save $600 million over the next two years the Texas legislature has, among other things, proposed closing an entire treatment facility and doing away with many treatment and pre-parole beds. That, a new report says, would increase the prison population up to 12,000 inmates in two years, wiping out the savings, or worse.
03/02/11 After a rocky three years, Chicago PD police chief Jody Weis resigned. While he apparently succeeded in fighting corruption and misconduct within the ranks, his personality rubbed officers raw, causing morale problems and leading to a campaign pledge by the new mayor (and each of his major challengers) to replace him.
03/02/11 DEA used its emergency authority to enact a nationwide ban on five chemicals used in synthetic marijuana sold at “head” shops. The ban will be in place for at least one year while health studies are conducted. A similar ban is already in effect in sixteen states.
03/02/11 Contamination of DNA, sometimes by examiner DNA, affected one percent (106 cases) at the Ohio crime lab in the past four years. In some it made DNA useless, preventing an ID. In one case DNA was used to convict a man for drug trafficking even though a lab employee conceded that contamination might have occurred.
03/01/11 Are people’s perceptions of crime way off? So claims a Portland State University study, which found that a majority of citizens think that crime overall is on its way up although it’s falling. However, only a quarter thought that crime was up when asked about their own communities.
03/01/11 Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta) handles minor felonies with a “rocket docket” whose judges speedily resolve cases, dismissing many where evidence may be lacking and often invoking mild penalties. Last October a career criminal on probation got 60 days for possessing cocaine. Two months later he shot and killed a state Trooper.
03/01/11 Most city leaders in Bell, California are pending trial for fraudulently giving themselves astronomical salaries. How could the working class community afford it? One way was to issue as many tickets and tow as many cars as possible. Now a memo that told cops to treat such things as a competitive sport has been uncovered.
02/28/11 Upholding the admissibility of a dying declaration by a victim who was shot, the Supreme Court ruled that in determining whether a statement is excludable as hearsay courts must objectively evaluate whether it was made for the purpose of gathering evidence or as part of an “ongoing emergency.” Michigan v. Bryant
02/28/11 Seattle city council members proposed eleven reforms to increase trust in the police. Improvements were suggested in hiring, with priority given to college graduates, and in training and discipline. Mandatory drug testing was also recommended.
02/28/11 Federal authorities indicted seventeen Baltimore police officers for referring motorists to an unlicensed towing company in exchange for kickbacks. More than a dozen other cops were suspended. An inquiry is also underway into the long-standing practice of awarding city tow licenses to a “tightly knit group” without competition.
02/26/11 FBI agents arrested Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, a Saudi community college student in Lubbock, Texas for plotting a bombing campaign. Aldawsari, a former chemical engineering major, had bomb-making supplies and notes indicating his intentions. A chemical supply company alerted police after Aldawsari ordered a quantity of phenol.
02/25/11 Federal agents arrested twenty-two, including five physicians, who ran Florida pain management clinics that made huge profits dispensing prescription medications to addicts and others, including many from out-of-state, who lacked a legitimate medical need. The year-long investigation included undercover buys.
02/25/11 In response to the murder of ICE agent Jaime Zapata (see 2/16/11) Federal agents and State and local police fanned out through the U.S., arresting 450 persons for cross-border drug trafficking activities linked to the Mexican cartels. More than 300 kilos of cocaine, 150,000 pounds of marijuana and 190 weapons were also seized.
02/24/11 The murder of St. Petersburg, Florida police officer David Crawford, who was not wearing a bulletproof vest, has led the Brandenton, Fla. police department to institute a mandatory-wear policy. But it’s not required in St. Petersburg or most other Florida cities. “They’re extremely hot and uncomfortable,” says an officer. Related post
02/23/11 A Texas legislative committee passed a bill requiring that police agencies follow eyewitness ID procedures to be established by a group at Sam Houston State University. Also being considered are measures to extend the time for filing Writs of Habeas Corpus and that would require recording interrogations in cases of serious crimes.
02/22/11 The New York State Justice Task Force on wrongful convictions has recommended procedures for showing photo arrays, including an initial warning, a post-array statement of confidence, using at least five fillers, and protections against suggestibility. Sequential administration was set aside until studies are completed. The task force has also recommended that DNA be collected from those convicted of Penal Law (i.e., non-traffic) misdemeanors.
02/22/11 Until last month, St. Petersburg, Florida had not had a police officer killed on duty for 31 years. But on January 24 two were gunned down by a wanted criminal. Last night a third officer, 25-year veteran David S. Crawford, was shot and killed while on a prowler call. His assailant remains at large.
02/22/11 Kenneth Minor is on trial for stabbing Jeffrey Locker to death. But there’s no argument that Locker, who had taken out a $14 million life insurance policy, hired Minor to kill him. Minor says he only held the knife while Locker repeatedly plunged himself into it. Some jurors opted out of the case, saying they were for assisted suicide.
02/21/11 The Nassau County crime lab has been shut down “out of an abundance of caution” after the police lieutenant in charge said that problems had been festering since 2006. At present only drug tests are known to have been botched, but all forensic requests are being farmed out while a review of 9,000 drug cases is under way.
02/21/11 Eighty-two percent of the 785 firearms mentioned in the January indictment of Arizona straw buyers who supplied Mexican cartels came from one gun store, which sold 190 AK-47 type rifles and 42 handguns to a single buyer. In Arizona gun dealers can sell as many firearms as they wish with no waiting period. Selling more than one handgun to a person in five days requires reporting to ATF but a House vote just blocked a similar rule for rifles.
02/19/11 In 1970 a Sheriff’s tear gas projectile killed noted L.A. journalist Ruben Salazar. Known for his pursuit of police abuses, he had been investigating deputies for using excessive force against Hispanics. An official inquiry now confirms his killing was accidental but criticizes police for not thoroughly investigating the incident when it occurred.
02/19/11 Dennis Montgomery, a chronic gambler pending trial in Vegas for passing bad checks, has collected tens of millions in secret Federal contracts for software that supposedly decoded terrorist messages hidden in ordinary communications. Only problem is, it didn’t, and it now appears, to the CIA’s chagrin, that it was all a fraud.
02/18/11 Federal agents arrested more than 100 doctors and other health care workers in a nationwide sweep of Medicare fraud. Defendants were charged with participating in 40 unrelated schemes that billed for services not provided and for procedures either unnecessary or not done. Some patients were bribed for lending their names.
02/17/11 The current mayor, two current council members and three former council members of Bell, California, were ordered to stand trial for looting the city treasury by artificially inflating their salaries to stratospheric levels. Bell’s former city manager and city administrator are already pending trial on similar charges (see 1/15/11 entry.)
02/17/11 Southern California grand juries indicted ninety members of an Armenian crime gang, mostly for sophisticated white-collar crimes. They replaced cash machines at 99-Cent stores with their own, skimming customer information to make phony credit cards. They also impersonated holders of bank accounts and depleted their funds.
02/16/11 In a prison interview Madoff said that some of the banks and hedge funds who invested in his fund “had to know” that it was a Ponzi scheme. Why did they turn a blind eye? Because they were making a lot of money. In his words, “I am saying that the banks and funds were complicit in one form or another.”
02/16/11 Ankle monitors are an imperfect solution for keeping track of parolees. Some alert when the wearer leaves their residence; others track through GPS. In Texas more than 600 warrants for tampering with the devices have been issued in two years. For safety’s sake they’re easy to remove. It’s then up to parole agents to respond to alerts.
02/16/11 ICE special agent Jaime Zapata was shot and killed and another agent was wounded in an ambush by drug gangsters in Mexico. They were driving on official business between Monterrey and Mexico City, where they are assigned. ICE has agents in Mexico working on human trafficking and weapons smuggling.
02/15/11 “The First 48 Hours” filmed De Kalb County, Georgia homicide detectives at work. With a 38 percent increase in murders between 2009-10, county commissioners, who didn’t sign off on the project, are objecting to its airing. Even if it’s true that De Kalb enjoys a high clearance rate, they fear the impact of the portrayal on business.
02/15/11 The recession’s new toll is on police mounted units, which are being phased out across the U.S. Cities discontinuing the use of horses to save money include Charleston, S.C., Newark, San Diego, Tulsa, Camden and Boston. Stables are being closed, gear is being sold off and the horses are being adopted.
02/15/11 “I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell’s money?!” That’s what newly hired police chief Randy Adams e-mailed city administrator Angela Spaccia. His salary was to be $457,000, with perks $770,000. Hers was $850,000. She and former city manager Robert Rizzo are pending trial for misappropriating city funds.
02/14/11 Sacramento, strapped for funds, will be conducting a one-year “hot spot” policing experiment to drive down “soft crimes” like prostitution and drug dealing. Patrol units will visit 21 hot spots for 20 minutes each shift to write reports and watch for persons under supervision, while another 21 locations will not get special attention.
02/14/11 For 2012 the Administration proposes to increase the Justice Department budget two percent, with a four percent gain for the FBI, slight increases for the Marshal Service and ATF, and a two percent drop for DEA. Justice Programs, which includes Community Policing and grants to state and local agencies, would be slashed 17 percent.
02/14/11 After taking sizable cuts over the years, should L.A.’s libraries be guaranteed an improved income stream? Many politicians say yes, and they’ve drawn support from a coalition of authors, including Joseph Wambaugh. But the LAPD union says absolutely not, that it’s just more “ballot-box budgeting” that would rob Peter to pay Paul.
02/12/11 Another lethal Los Angeles-area weekend got underway Friday with three adults shot to death in an apparent domestic quarrel, followed several hours later by the gunning down of four in a suspected gang attack.
02/11/11 The “Smart on Crime” coalition, which claims to represent the views of leading experts in criminal justice policy, issued a report calling for reforms in 16 areas. Among these are overcriminalization, Federal investigations, forensic science, innocence issues, indigent defense, prison reform, and the death penalty. Exec. Summary Report
02/11/11 Historic laws place control of the St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri police departments on a board that reports to the state’s governor. Four members are appointed by the governor; one is always the city’s mayor. St. Louis is now trying to wrest away control; the Governor is resisting, saying that it could lead to corruption.
02/11/11 Connecticut legislators propose to create the nation’s first gun offender registry. Patterned after those for sex offenders, it would require persons convicted of serious gun crimes to register their residences with local police. While gun crime victims and police seem pleased, gun rights groups are crying foul.
02/10/11 Federal law enforcement budgets and justice grants to state and local agencies face major cuts this year. Community policing would be hardest hit, with a $600 million loss. The FBI could lose $74 million; the US Marshals $10 million. Cuts will be part of a continuing resolution that must be passed by March 4 to keep government afloat.
02/10/11 All four top mayoral candidates in Chicago have promised to bring in a new police chief. Current chief Jody Weis, an ex-FBI executive hired by mayor Richard Daley to deal with persistent police corruption, has rubbed officers raw. Crime is down, but so is staffing, and some neighborhoods continue to be plagued by gun violence.
02/10/11 California sheriffs and police chiefs depend on a 2009 vehicle tax increase, set to expire this year, to help fund officers, vehicles and equipment. Voters once refused to extend it. If it doesn’t make the ballot or voters refuse again, San Diego PD would lose $1.65 million. A smaller department, Chula Vista, would lose $285,000.
02/09/11 Last year a local newspaper concluded that Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) prosecutors were filing hundreds of cases with little or no supporting evidence. A few days ago jurors ruled there was no evidence to support assault charges against a Cleveland teen; they’re so upset that they offered to given him their court pay.
02/09/11 Robbers looking for powerful prescription opiates are striking pharmacies across the U.S. Their main targets are OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodene) and Xanax. Some pharmacies have stopped stocking OxyContin, while others have hardened physical barriers, installing glass dividers and raising counters.
02/08/11 Farmers who make false claims that their crops were destroyed are raking in as much as $200 million a year. In a recent North Carolina case twenty-two persons got $22 million by claiming that a tobacco crop they secretly sold off was destroyed by bad weather. Crop insurance is subsidized, so much of the losses fall on taxpayers.
02/08/11 A new Federal report states that reducing recidivism and the costs of imprisonment requires using risk assessment to diagnose who is most likely to reoffend, then applying “logical, research-based” supervision practices. Texas, Kansas, Arizona and New Hampshire are given as models of this “Justice Reinvestment” approach. Report
02/07/11 The comment period for a proposed rule to require gun dealers to notify ATF when an individual buys two or more semi-auto rifles with detachable magazines within five days has been extended to February 14. Originally shelved by the White House last year, the rule got a second wind because of concerns about gun trafficking to Mexico.
02/07/11 California’s “Armed Prohibited Persons System” lists more than 18,000 persons who have acquired disabling convictions after legally purchasing a firearm. Fifteen to twenty more are added each day. Other than for a small corps of State agents who pursue possessors, few police departments actively use the list.
02/07/11 Two Pennsylvania judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, accepted “finder’s fees” of more than $400,000 each from a private correctional firm in exchange for contracts to house juveniles. They then started imprisoning defendants at an unusually high rate. Ciavarella’s trial on a 39-count Federal indictment starts today.
02/06/11 A non-student who was kicked out from a frat party at a home near Youngstown State University came back with a friend who had also been there and opened fire with pistols through the open front door. A 25-year old college senior was killed and eleven others were wounded; one critically. Both assailants were arrested.
02/05/11 Prosecutors charged 11 Muslim students at U.C. Irvine with misdemeanors for planning to, then disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. a year ago: “In our democratic society we cannot tolerate a deliberate, organized, repetitive and collective effort to significantly disrupt a speaker who hundreds assembled to hear.”
02/04/11 Frontline, a PBS program, has posted a homepage and videos on the WASR-10 7.62mm rifle. An AK-47 clone legally imported in large quantities from Romania, it is bought at U.S. gun stores by straw buyers and smuggled to Mexico. Your blogger is quoted as faulting lawmakers for purposely crafting regulations that allow this to go on.
02/04/11 A US Senate report faults the Defense Department for ignoring obvious symptoms of radicalization while Major Hassan was in medical training, and the FBI for conducting a “slipshod” investigation and not informing DOD after they learned that Hassan was in contact with a radical cleric.
02/04/11 Franklin Zimring, a famous criminologist, praises New York for reducing crime and making streets safer without launching a drug war or massively increasing incarceration. As for under-reporting, he claims it’s less an issue than in the past. Zimring also says that Compstat created tensions within the department from inception.
02/04/11 Ten-thousand cell phones were snuck into California prisons last year. Analysts say that prison employees - half are guards - were mostly responsible. Guards say they’re not necessarily opposed to being searched but their union insists that they would have to be paid for their time, which could cost the state millions.
02/04/11 In August 2005 Rosa Jimenez was convicted of murdering a child by forcing paper towels down his throat. Experts testified that her account, that the boy choked while she wasn’t watching, was implausib;e. She got 99 years. At a December 2010 hearing experts paid by Mexico said it was an accident. A judge has ordered a new trial.
02/03/11 More than 80 LAPD gang officers have refused to comply with financial disclosure rules instituted in 2009 as part of the settlement with DOJ over the Rampart scandal. Uniformed anti-gang units have been shut down in six divisions, and replacement officers are reluctant to apply for the openings for fear of being branded as traitors.
02/03/11 ATF agents apparently told a U.S. Senator that Arizona dealers were allowed to sell guns to straw buyers during the course of a recent investigation that led to multiple arrests for running guns to Mexico. Two of these guns, both AK-47 type rifles, were later recovered from the scene of the fatal shooting of a US Border Patrol agent.
02/01/11 A year-long media investigation of coroner’s offices around the U.S. discovered that incompetence by non-medical coroners, a shortage of well-trained pathologists and a lack of resources have led to the botching of many death investigations, convicting the innocent and letting the guilty go free. 2009 NAS report
02/01/11 State budget woes that cut aid to New Jersey’s poorest cities have left them with substantially fewer police. In Camden, which lost half its force, shootings continue apace. Newark, where 167 officers were laid off, faces an epidemic of carjackings. Trenton is now threatened with losing 111 cops. And other cities aren’t far behind.
02/01/11 ATF agents arrested twenty persons who were patronizing seven Phoenix gun stores, buying as many as dozens of AK-47 style rifles at one time and smuggling them to Mexico. Charges include dealing in firearms without a license, lying on gun forms and drug possession and trafficking. Indictment
01/31/11 Texas’ success in reducing prison populations while holding back crime are cited by “Right on Crime,” a politically conservative group that is promoting a nationwide agenda to shift to a treatment orientation. Budget problems have reportedly led 21 states to experiment with various versions of that approach.
01/31/11 “[DOJ] is a lawyer culture and we know from history that it can be hostile to science.” So said Assistant AG Laurie Robinson as her agency formally kicked off a Science Advisory Board, chaired by Carnegie Mellon’s Dr. Alfred Blumstein, that would help DOJ better apply science to its justice programs.
01/31/11 Reprising a sting he did in 2009 in three other states, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent undercover investigators to a Phoenix gun show. They bought guns and extended magazines without paperwork or record checks. Two got guns after telling sellers they probably couldn’t pass background checks.
01/29/11 With one month left on his 2-year probationary period, Border Patrol agent Bryan Gonzalez was fired, supposedly for telling another agent that the drug wars in Mexico would end if drugs were legalized in the U.S. That statement, said the Border Patrol, went against the “core characteristics” expected of agents. Gonzalez is suing.
01/28/11 Criticism is mounting about the decision of St. Petersburg officers to go after an armed felon who was holed up in an attic. Experts have said officers should have contained the situation and called in SWAT, which has ballistic shields, chemical agents and the ability to negotiate. Promptly demolishing the house was also thought unusual.
01/28/11 Lonnie Franklin, charged with murdering ten prostitutes and homeless persons in Los Angeles during 1985-1988 and 2002-2007 was dubbed “The Grim Sleeper” because of the gap between his sprees. Now that two unsolved homicides committed during that break have been tied to him it looks like the killing never stopped. Related post
01/27/11 Cuts in Federal discretionary spending will of necessity include law enforcement and corrections. Among the recommendations so far are a hiring freeze at DOJ, giving Federal prisoners more good time, eliminating the FBI gang intelligence center, and, naturally, slashing the ATF budget.
01/25/11 Ruling 9-0, the Supreme Court held that as long as state parole applicants have an opportunity to be heard and contest evidence, and are told why parole is denied, the merits of such decisions (California requires “some evidence” for a denial) are not subject to Federal review.
01/25/11 During past years Nashville police classified a substantial number of reported sexual assaults as non-criminal “matters of record” supposedly because there was insufficient evidence that a crime was committed. That has changed, leading to post-fact increases in sex assaults of 9 percent in 2009 and 12 percent in 2007.
01/25/11 Data compiled by the Brady Center reveal that ATF inspectors discovered more than 62,000 firearms missing from dealer records between 2008-2010. ATF inspects the records of less than 20 percent of licensees each year so the actual number of missing guns must be higher.
01/24/11 St. Petersburg, Florida police officers Thomas Baitinger, 48 and Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39 were killed and US Marshal Scott Ley was wounded in a shootout with a wanted criminal hiding in an attic. Hydra Lacy Jr., 39, was being sought on aggravated battery charges. He was shot and killed.
01/24/11 Former Chicago PD Cmdr. Jon Burge, 62, convicted in Federal court last year of falsely denying in a 2003 civil suit that he and other officers tortured confessions from suspects in the 80’s, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years.
01/24/11 Cleveland police have been designating many unsolved rapes as “exceptionally” cleared in violation of FBI requirements that there be enough evidence to prosecute but there are reasons, such as an uncooperative victim, why doing so is impossible. Closing cases that way makes cops seem more efficient and lets perpetrators off the hook.
01/24/11 Four Detroit police officers were wounded, one critically, when a man walked into a precinct and opened fire with a pistol-grip shotgun. All the officers are expected to survive; their assailant was shot dead. The incident came only hours after a Sunday shooting outside a Detroit strip club that left five persons wounded.
01/21/11 A 22-year old convicted drug dealer with a long rap sheet gunned down two Miami-Dade detectives trying to serve him with an arrest warrant for murder. Dead are officers Amanda Haworth, 44 and Roger Castillo, 41. Another detective shot and killed their assailant.
01/21/11 FBI agents and local officers arrested 124 reputed organized crime figures in a massive East-coast sweep. The defendants, who spanned all rungs of the Mafia, were named in a Federal racketeering indictment that spanned two decades and included crimes ranging from gambling, extortion and loan-sharking to murder.
01/21/11 Three states allow concealed-carry without a permit. Nine allow citizens to carry openly in state buildings, including their Capitols. The drive for looser gun restrictions continues to build steam, with pro-gun advocates citing mass shootings as a reason for citizens to always be armed.
01/20/11 Family members of victim Luis Santos sued Schwarzenegger and the state for not giving them the opportunity to comment on a “post-conviction release decision” per the California Constitution. Related post
01/20/11 Miami’s police chief and the mayor’s son got involved in filming and promoting a trailer for a proposed reality show about the city’s cops. When the video hit YouTube black activists complained about how its depicted their community. The chief now says that he shared their concerns from the start, but is he telling the truth?
01/20/11 The US Justice Department is investigating the apparent failure of Newark officials to act on numerous citizen complaints of excessive force. Injuries and deaths of civilians in custody has prompted the ACLU and citizen groups to demand that DOJ sue Newark under civil rights statutes to gain oversight of the troubled department.
01/19/11 Due to a budget crisis Camden, New Jersey laid off 168 police officers, nearly half the force. A third of firefighters were also let go. Among the newly unemployed are a street cop with 10 years on the job. To maintain patrol coverage many supervisors have also been demoted. Local, state and Federal agencies are also pitching in.
01/19/11 DOJ has created a “Professional Misconduct Review Unit” to discipline Federal prosecutors who are found to have engaged in “intentional or reckless” misconduct. Formerly such discipline was assessed by each prosecutor’s supervisor. USA Today series on Federal prosecutive misconduct
01/18/11 Police shootings in Harris County (Houston) have dropped markedly, from 60 in 2009, with 27 civilian deaths, to 46/13 in 2010. Officials attribute the decline to less crime, stricter use of force policies, better training and the availability of Tasers, which give officers “more options.”
01/17/11 NICS, the FBI database used to clear gun buyers, depends on the ability of State and local authorities to report court dispositions in a timely fashion. Checks are usually instantaneous; those not completed within 3 days means that guns must be delivered. In 2005, 3,000 acquired firearms that they were not legally qualified to possess.
01/17/11 Colorado’s financial problems allow violent, dangerously unstable men such as Edward Romero to repeatedly avoid prison, even after multiple convictions for armed crimes. Romero, a 26-year old probationer with a record of armed robbery and gun possession is now charged with murdering a 16-year old neighbor.
01/14/11 Seven years after being fired for publicly criticizing low staffing levels at her agency, former U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers has been ordered reinstated. During extended litigation all charges against her were either set aside by judges or dismissed by a civil service oversight board. The current chief will have to step down.
01/14/11 Plainclothes police officer William Torbit Jr. and a civilian were shot dead and four other civilians were wounded as officers tried to break up a disturbance at a Baltimore nightclub. Forty-one shots were fired, all by police. The friendly-fire death has led Baltimore to put all officers in uniform. An outside investigation will be conducted.
01/14/11 Charges are flying between Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Police Chief Michael Esposito. Regalado accuses Esposito of having him watched, while Esposito accuses the Mayor of interfering with the seizure of illegal gambling machines. Both were good friends until earlier this year, when a major corruption probe fell apart.
01/13/11 On orders from L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, deputies conducted a year-long investigation on behalf of Guess jeans co-founder George Marciano, a major donor to Baca’s charities. Marciano said employees embezzled $1.4 million, but auditors had already determined that Marciano spent the money. Baca said he hadn’t known that.
01/13/11 An Arizona gun dealer reports that sales of high-capacity magazines have “spiked.” He is now selling several hundred a day. It’s believed to be a response to a new Congressional effort that would ban the sale of magazines that hold more than ten rounds. Gun sales in Arizona also seem to have sharply increased.
01/12/11 In Utah it’s legal to openly carry a firearm. But University of Utah rules forbid it, and its president insists that it should remain that way because open carry would be disruptive and interfere with faculty recruitment. Meanwhile legislators are planning to introduce a bill that would force the university to allow the practice.
01/12/11 Boston Police Commissioner Edwards Davis attributes a fifty-percent jump in homicides to a booming narcotics trade, spurred in part by decriminalization of marijuana, and the release of large numbers of jailed drug dealers. But some community members are skeptical that drug rivalries are the full explanation.
01/11/11 In denying certiorari (Alderman v. U.S.) the Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit ruling (U.S. v. Alderman) upholding a Federal law which prohibits felons from possessing body armor “sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce.” A similar interstate nexus underlies the law that prohibits felons from possessing firearms.
01/11/11 Spurred by the rape and murder of a child by a probationer, a 2004 Florida law made it tougher for felons who violate probation to stay on the streets, even if their misconduct was minor. Critics say that locking up ex-cons for petty transgressions actually increases crime by causing them to lose their jobs and places to live.
01/11/11 In California 50,000 prisoners serve less than 90 days in state custody each year. Governor Jerry Brown proposes to shift low-level adult prisoners, parole violators and all juveniles to County facilities, saving money and supposedly providing services that are more attuned to inmate needs. But funding and space are in question.
01/10/11 To battle meth, many states track sales of cold medicines with pseudoephedrine to enforce purchase limits. That’s created a “smurfing” culture where profiteers buy small amounts for resale. Some say that tracking has increased the meth problem; others disagree. One answer: Oregon’s prescription-only policy for cold pills.
01/08/11 A troubled 22-year old man opened fire at a “Congress on your Corner” event at a Tucson supermarket. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D - Ariz.) and eighteen others were shot. Six died, including a judge and a 9-year old girl. The gunman was arrested. He reportedly used a pistol with an extended magazine.
01/07/11 A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit rejected ex-Orange County (Calif.) sheriff Mike Carona’s appeal of his 2009 conviction for witness tampering. The justices ruled that his words, secretly recorded by a cooperating witness, were admissible even though collecting them breached ethical rules as Carona was represented by a lawyer.
01/07/11 Overall, NYPD is 53 percent white. But for the first time, blacks, Hispanics and Asians constitute a majority (nearly 53 percent) of the patrol force. Although the proportion of minorities in management is still low (356 white captains, 76 non-whites) a spokesman said that their numbers will naturally increase over time.
01/07/11 Director Robert Mueller said that the FBI has been “very careful” conducting domestic sting operations and that no one has been entrapped. “We have been tremendously successful in thwarting attacks,” he said. He emphasized that the work is “absolutely essential” and that only individuals are targeted, not “areas of worship”.
01/06/11 L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa refused to comment on the commutation of Esteban Nunez (see 1/3/11 entry). In a pre-sentence letter to the judge he had described Nunez as a “decent and responsible young man.” Meanwhile San Diego D.A. Bonnie Dumanis blasted the commutation, saying it “greatly diminishes justice.”
01/06/11 A Chicago Tribune investigation of three years of data for suburban police departments revealed that only 44 percent of canine alerts resulted in the recovery of drugs or paraphernalia from vehicles. For Hispanic drivers it was 27 percent. Reasons given include the presence of drug residue, poor training and sloppy dog handling.
01/06/11 NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly selected a team of three former Federal prosecutors to determine whether crime data has been manipulated to make the department look good. A police spokesman said the inquiry is being conducted because “there’s been a lot of false, or unfair, accusations against the Police Department....”
01/05/11 Chicago had 435 murders in 2010; Los Angeles, 297. For both it was the fewest in more than four decades. Police and some experts credit “smarter policing.” Others attribute the drop to better technology (e.g., DNA) that leads to fewer whodunits, increased incarceration during the 90’s, and social factors outside of police control.
01/05/11 After serving 30 years for a rape/robbery Texas inmate Cornelius Dupree was exonerated by DNA. Dupree and a codefendant, whose release is pending, were picked out by the victim from a photospread. Her companion did not identify them. Only two other exonerated persons have served more time: James Bain, a Florida inmate who did 35 years, and Lawrence McKinney, a Tennessee inmate who served 31 years.
01/04/11 The shooting of five persons in the last forty days, including of two mentally ill men within a week, was decried by Portland’s new chief, Mike Reese. “Absolutely, there's too many.” The previous chief was fired last May one day after a mentally ill man died in a struggle with police. Since then shootings have increased.
01/04/11 A NHTSA study reveals that officers were not wearing seat belts in at least 42 percent of fatal police car crashes during the past three decades. Officers say sat belts slow their exit from vehicles and get tangled up with equipment on utility belts.
01/03/11 Prisoners with cellphones and smartphones play online games and even have their own Facebook pages. Some also use the instruments to run gangs and set up crimes. Authorities try to fight back with searches and sniffer dogs but success is limited. A new call detection technology being tested in Mississippi seems to be promising.
01/03/11 In a move that dismayed the victim’s family, outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted the prison sentence of the son of a close political ally, shaving a term of sixteen years to seven. Esteban Nunez, son of former Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, had pled guilty to complicity in a 2008 stabbing death.
01/01/11 Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are preparing immigration measures similar to Arizona’s. Georgia wants to prohibit illegal aliens from enrolling in state universities, while other states are planning to pass laws that would somehow deny citizenship status to native-born children of illegal aliens.