05/15/12 Appearing before a commission of inquiry, a retired sergeant and retired lieutenant testified that some deputies at the L.A. County had formed gang-like cliques and beat prisoners. But they said that Undersheriff Paul Tanaka squelched attempts at discipline and their direct complaints to Sheriff Baca went unheeded. Related post
05/14/12 Neither Governor Cuomo nor NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly support the move, but ICE is implementing Secure Communities in New York state. Arrestee fingerprints sent to the FBI will be automatically routed through ICE to identify possible illegal aliens. ICE pledges only those with criminal records will be flagged for deportation.
05/14/12 Acting to help beleaguered local police stem a wave of gun violence, New Jersey troopers arrested 29 persons in three weeks on charges including possession by a felon, possession of assault rifles, and trafficking firearms from out of state. Many of these cases developed from drug investigations.
05/14/12 NYPD conducted 203,500 stop-and-frisks during January-March, versus 183,326 stops during the same period in 2011. Thirty-one percent more guns were seized, 260 v. 199. Homicides are down this year. Eight-seven percent of those stopped this year and 90 percent of homicide victims in 2011 were black or Hispanic. Related post
05/13/12 Someone told NYPD that Karl Vanderwoude resembled the video image of a “groper”. Police put him in a lineup, then arrested him when a witness picked him out. But Vanderwoude had two lawyers and a boss who provided firm alibis, and he was cleared. But “what if” there had been no one help him, a columnist asks? Related posts 1 2
05/13/12 Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes has strong support from leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. One reason, says the New York Times, is that he approves their practice of screening complaints against child abusers before police are called. That, victims say, hides the problem and keeps many such crimes from coming to light.
05/13/12 Elisa Castillo, a 56-year old Texas grandmother, insists she was unaware that tons of cocaine were flowing across the border secreted in tour buses operated by a company she partly owned. Castillo, who said she was tricked into partnering in the firm with a Mexican national, went to trial and lost. She’s now doing life in Federal prison.
05/10/12 Concerned over cost and control issues, Seattle officials are mulling over DOJ demands that police deploy more sergeants, hire a powerful external monitor and a large staff. Restrictive use of force policies are also part of a proposed consent decree. Lacking agreement, DOJ is expected to sue the city in the next few months. Related post
05/10/12 DOJ sued the Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff’s Dept. for discriminating against Latino prisoners and residents and retaliating against those who complain. Sheriff Joe Arpaio tried to head off the action with a reform plan, but unlike DOJ’s proposed consent agreement insisted that the plan’s monitors report directly to him. Related post
05/09/12 So far fourteen Baltimore PD officers have pled guilty and ten are going to prison on Federal charges resulting from a scheme in which a body shop paid off cops to bring in cars involved in accidents, bypassing normal procedures. Fourteen more officers are subject to internal discipline and state prosecution. (See 2/28/11 entry.)
05/08/12 At a forum organized by the Police Reform Organizing Project, a suspended NYPD officer and five former cops accused the NYPD of fudging crime statistics and making needless arrests and stop-and-frisks. Another speaker was ex-NYPD Capt. John Eterno, co-author of a book that accused NYPD of manipulating statistics. Related post
05/07/12 A graphic video depicting a homeless man pleading with two Fullerton (Calif.) police officers to stop beating him caused spectators at the cops’ preliminary hearing to gasp. Several left the courtroom. One officer is charged with murder and manslaughter, the other with manslaughter and excessive force. Related post
05/07/12 LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is at odds with the Police Commission, which disagrees with some of his decisions clearing officers of using excessive force. This time it’s a 2011 killing, in which a detective said he shot a man in the chest when he threatened him and a partner with a knife. But the two bullet wounds were in the back. Previous story
05/07/12 A 17-year old woman who was arrested as a material witness, then fitted with an ankle bracelet after failing to appear at her alleged rapist’s trial finally did so. She testified at length, admitting that she was working as a prostitute but had in fact been assaulted. A second prostitute with the same claim also testified. Related post
05/07/12 Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were there when a felon on psychiatric meds drove away in a car that was left with the engine running and keys in the ignition. But the caper, filmed by reality TV show “Bait Car,” turned sour when outtakes proved that the detective who swore in court that he read the man his rights, didn’t. Related post
05/07/12 A ruling by the Ninth Circuit that the use of a Taser against a nonviolent person can be excessive force is up for review by the Supreme Court. Tasers have fared well in lawsuits, and police and others warn that if their use is restricted officers will resort to more dangerous tools, and injuries to citizens will be more severe. Related post
05/07/12 In response to the pepper-spraying of passive student demonstrators at its Davis campus, University of California officials released draft guidelines that would require the UC to devise a systemwide “response option framework” to prescribe what force is appropriate force given a particular level of resistance. Related post
05/06/12 Most undercover work in NYPD is done by 120 officers assigned to a special unit. Because of what they do - mostly buy drugs and guns - most are minorities. As many as one-third are dissatisfied and want out, but few are allowed to leave. One who couldn’t tried to kill herself. Another was involved in the Sean Bell shooting. Related post
05/04/12 The Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press and other groups and individuals, including Occupy protesters and four city council members, have sued NYPD in Federal court over First amendment violations. They claim that NYPD used force, arrested them and restricted their access to protests without justification. Related post
05/04/12 A reputed neo-Nazi who led an Arizona border militia shot and killed his live-in girlfriend, her daughter, granddaughter and daughter’s boyfriend, then killed himself. Jason Ready, an ex-Marine who was thinking of running for sheriff, had a history of domestic violence. Police recovered two handguns and a shotgun. Related posts 1 2
05/03/12 Three ICE agents were wounded while executing Federal warrants during a multi-agency gang sweep in Northern California. Nineteen persons were arrested in the operation, which was in response to a 2010 triple slaying. Sixteen gang members were charged with racketeering and murder, and three others as accessories. Related post
05/03/12 A 23-year old UC San Diego student is recovering after being left forgotten in a police holding cell for five days without food or water. DEA agents placed him there after raiding a house and finding drugs and guns. The items are not thought connected to the student, who said he was visiting the home to smoke marijuana with friends.
05/03/12 Eleven persons, thought to be mostly students, were charged with felony criminal hazing and two with misdemeanors in connection with the 2011 death of Robert Champion, 26, a member of Florida A&M’s marching band. An additional twenty persons accused in other hazing episodes will be charged with misdemeanors.
05/03/12 NYPD warrant-service squads, normally used to arrest serious absconders, spent the days preceding May Day rounding up known Occupiers who had failed to appear on minor offenses. Critics say the reason was to collect intelligence about planned demonstrations and to keep radicals away.
05/03/12 To reduce the number of revocations, Missouri legislators passed a bill authorizing probation and parole officers to jail misbehaving, nonviolent clients for two days when they violate minor rules, and up to four months for more serious transgressions. Each month of good behavior would also earn a month of credit. Related post
05/03/12 Federal agents arrested 87 health care professionals, including doctors and nurses, in a nationwide crackdown on Medicare fraud. Twenty more are being sought. Schemes included billing for phantom services, drugs and items such as wheelchairs and getting healthy persons to pretend they are ill and receiving services.
05/02/12 A survey reports that the number of teens who say they are heavy marijuana users has gone up by 80 percent since 2008. Forty-two percent more report recent use of marijuana. “Teen marijuana use has become a normalized behavior,” says the report. Prescription drug abuse remains at about the same levels. Related posts 1 2
05/02/12 To save on prison costs Georgia has joined in sentencing reforms that are sweeping the country, reducing penalties for nonviolent crimes and raising thresholds for felony prosecution. Recommendations have also been made to cut back on mandatory minimum sentences and to decriminalize most traffic offenses.
05/02/12 FBI agents arrested five Ohio anarchists, all associates of the Occupy movement, as they tried to detonate a dummy bomb that was supposed to blow up a Cleveland bridge. Their fringe group, which once planned to topple bank signs atop buildings, had been infiltrated by an informer who provided all the necessary materials. Related post
05/01/12 A peer-reviewed medical study of eight cases where persons lost consciousness after being shocked with a Taser concluded that its use can lead to cardiac arrest and, if untreated, death. Abstract
05/01/12 Bucking national trends, crime and violence in Camden and Newark started rising in 2010. Police layoffs then followed, and crime kept going up. Murders in Camden went from 34 in 2009 to 50 in 2011. Newark had 91 killings in 2011, the most since 2007. Meanwhile the number of arrests have dropped in both cities. Related post
05/01/12 Based on a DNA match a Detroit man is going on trial for a 1997 rape. That’s not unusual, but the rape kit that led to his arrest is one of a random sample of 400 that was drawn from more than 10,000 such kits that were “languishing” untested in the since-shuttered police crime lab. Related posts 1 2
05/01/12 Two weeks after the police chief quit over an evidence foul-up, Indianapolis public safety director Frank Straub also resigned. He was besieged during his two-year tenure by the police union, which criticized his disciplinarian streak and was angry over his recent comments that IPD had been out of control for “decades.”
05/01/12 Police budgets across the country are still being cut, says a PERF report, although not as severely as in past years. Many agencies, like Detroit, are shrinking by attrition. Oakland says the loss of 80 cops in layoffs and 108 in attrition led to more crime in 2011. Camden says losing more than 200 cops also had an impact. Related post
05/01/12 In a blow to L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal of a Ninth Circuit decision allowing him to be named in a civil rights lawsuit. The plaintiff, a former inmate, says Baca was “deliberately indifferent” to conditions, resulting in his being stabbed by other inmates and kicked by a guard. Related post
04/30/12 In response to the Cartagena, Colombia scandal, the Secret Service issued rules banning employees from bringing local residents into their hotel rooms while overseas, drinking within 10 hours of going on duty, and visiting questionable establishments. Agents will be briefed about places and areas to keep clear of when they arrive.
04/30/12 Washington D.C. resident Santae Tribble was released from Federal prison on motion of prosecutors after DNA revealed that, contrary to an examiner’ testimony, Tribble could not have been the donor of hairs found at a murder scene. Tribble had been imprisoned for 28 years. See 4/17/12 entry. Related post
04/30/12 Citizen fund-raising drives are helping Philadelphia offer $20,000 rewards for tips leading to solving any of the 300-plus murders that take place in the violence-besieged city each year. Detectives struggling to improve a 60-percent clearance rate say it’s all for the good, that the more notoriety a case gets the better.
04/27/12 A DOJ consent decree stemming from past abuses and criticisms that Oakland officers used excessive force on Occupy protesters led police chief Howard Jordan to order that all officers to be retrained on handling large protests. His goal, the chief said, is to balance First Amendment rights with public safety needs. Related post
04/27/12 ATF reported the results of efforts to trace the origin of 99,691 guns recovered by Mexican authorities between 2007-2011. It confirmed that 68,161 - 68 percent - were either of U.S. manufacture or had been imported into the U.S. The origin of the remaining guns could not be established. Related posts 1 2 3
04/26/12 Lamar Advertising, the nation’s largest highway advertising firm, with over 150,000 billboards located throughout the U.S., is under criminal investigation on allegations that its employees in Florida engaged in large-scale tree poisoning to clear the view to their signs.
04/26/12 In quiet New Hampshire, where crime is low and gun laws lax, ten violent deaths in ten days have left citizens stunned. Nine were by gunfire, including the killing of a rural police chief. An additional five persons were wounded. One of the incidents, and likely another, were murder-suicides involving domestic quarrels. Related post
04/26/12 According to new EEOC guidelines, to deny jobs based on criminal convictions employers must prove the crime was “job-related” and the denial is “consistent with business necessity.” Factors include the relevance of the conviction, nature and gravity of the crime, and the amount of time that has passed since the conviction.
04/26/12 A Federal grand jury indicted four Los Angeles-based TSA employees for taking bribes to help drug couriers sneak large quantities of drugs through airport checkpoints. One incident involved eight pounds of meth; another, 11 pounds of cocaine. In the latter, the courier was caught because he went through the wrong checkpoint.
04/25/12 Do “evidence-based” strategies work? Some academics believe that there isn’t enough “solid evidence” to say. One complained that “more and more” is being written about “less and less.” Community policing, said another, has no impact on crime but improves citizen satisfaction. Other initiatives seem to have small effects. Related post
04/25/12 The death penalty is under attack. Evidence that blacks are disproportionately excluded from death penalty juries led a North Carolina judge to commute a killer’s death sentence. The judge relied on a law that allows statistics to form a presumption of bias. California voters will vote on the death penalty in November. Related post
04/25/12 A heavily armed “militia” member wearing body armor fired on his wife. He then stood off sheriff’s deputies for ninety minutes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center a burgeoning militia movement is being fed by issues such as the economic crisis, hatred of President Obama, and the woes of the working class. Related post
04/25/12 Six of the twelve secret service agents accused of cavorting with prostitutes in Colombia resigned. Two were fired and one retired. It seems that not all the women were prostitutes, and one agent said he didn’t know until asked for money. Apparently there are no regulations on whether agents can spend the night with females overseas.
04/24/12 A report cites Chicago police officers for carelessly filling out traffic tickets, leading to numerous dismissals, and for submitting “wildly inaccurate” accident reports. These lapses, it’s said, impair public safety and make it difficult for traffic planners to decide what locations need special attention and how to fix potential problems.
04/24/12 Officer complaints that patrol dash-cam videos are used to discipline them for minor infractions such as speeding led Dallas PD to suspend their regular review by a small unit formed for that purpose after incidents of bad conduct. “We need to figure out a way to review driving behavior without being so onerous,” said Chief David Brown.
04/24/12 California is reducing the corrections chunk of the budget from 9.4% to 7.5%. It’s mostly being done by transferring nonviolent inmates to the counties and by bringing back prisoners who are being housed out of state.
04/23/12 Warning that crowding and severe understaffing at the Cincinnati crime lab led to failure to process evidence and threatened the integrity of its work, consultants recommended hiring a dozen new staff and renovating, expanding or replacing the facilities, at a cost of $16.5 million and up. Related post
04/23/12 Nearly 300,000 Ohioans have obtained CCW permits since the 2004 law allowing concealed carry was enacted. Bills now in the legislature would loosen where guns can be possessed and eliminate requirements for gun safety training, background checks and the need during traffic stops to alert police that one is armed. Related post
04/22/12 California man Frank O’Connell was freed after serving 27 years for murdering the ex-husband of a woman with whom he had an affair. The witness who picked his photo said he had been pressured, and authorities had failed to tell the defense that another man, who resembled O’Connell, tried to kill the same victim four years earlier.
04/20/12 Los Angeles Sheriff’s internal affairs is investigating the “Jump Out Boys,” a clique within its prestigious anti-gang squad that only admits deputies who have been involved in shootings. A brochure it has circulated extols positive values but also advances aggressive ideas that may conflict with departmental policy. Related post
04/19/12 Four years ago seven Los Angeles youths were dubbed the “bling ring” for burglarizing the homes of Hollywood celebrities and making off with valuables, cash and jewelry. Filmmakers have paid Brett Goodkin, LAPD’s main detective on the case, about $5,000 as a consultant. Problem is, three of the accused are still pending trial.
04/19/12 Fallout from the Colombia prostitute scandal has so far ended the careers of three secret service agents. One supervisor retired, another was recommended for termination, and an agent has resigned. Eight other agents are being investigated, and several are expected to resign or lose their jobs.
04/19/12 Stating that “we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” the White House drug czar said the nation’s new drug-control policy sees addiction as a disease and emphasizes treatment. That focus was criticized by a public health official who says it would be better to restrict prescription drugs and prevent addiction in the first place.
04/19/12 Hundred-foot long semi-submersible vessels that carry up to five crew members and hold up to 10 metric tons are used to ferry $150 million loads of cocaine from Colombia to Central America. Thirty have been intercepted by the Coast Guard in six years. One caught two weeks ago was scuttled by its crew, carrying its load to the deep.
04/19/12 Indianapolis’ police chief has stepped down and public safety director Frank Straub is under fire over evidence-handling errors that threaten the case against an allegedly drunk cop who ran over a group of motorcyclists, killing one. Straub, a New York transplant, has also angered officers for calling the department tough to reform.
04/18/12 Six Michigan drivers are being convicted each day as “super drunks,” intoxicated drivers whose B.A. exceeds twice the legal limit of .08. Enacted seventeen months ago, the statute prescribes stiff penalties, including jail time, a one-year license suspension and mandatory use of ignition interlock devices.
04/18/12 A 17-year old alleged rape victim is now free and wearing an ankle GPS device after being detained more than three weeks as a material witness. Citing fears, she had failed to appear at a hearing and at the trial of her accused attacker, a suspected serial rapist. Still, her status as a sex-assault victim might shield her from having to testify.
04/17/12 Although the Police Commission ruled that the killing of Steven Washington was unreasonable, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck only reprimanded the officers who mistakenly thought the autistic youth was armed. Beck has cleared nearly every officer in 90 deadly force cases since 2009. This is one of four in which they disagreed. Related post
04/17/12 A secret 2004 DOJ report criticized hair and fibers analysis by the FBI and indicated that examiners may have given erroneous testimony in hundreds of cases. Wrong “matches” led to convictions that DNA has since since proved wrongful. But information about these errors wasn’t shared with defendants, only prosecutors. Related post
04/16/12 Speaking at a South American summit, President Obama rejected calls for legalizing drugs, saying that drug vendors could “dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint.” He acknowledged the influence of the U.S. as a large drug consumer and vowed continued action. Related post
04/16/12 A recent study suggests that forcing eyewitnesses to choose quickly significantly improves accuracy. Researchers suggest that’s because strong memories are easier to access. Also, the process of retrieving memories can itself distort, so the less time spent at it the better. Related post
04/15/12 Eleven Secret Service agents who were providing advance services for a Presidential visit were brought home and placed on administrative leave while the agency investigates allegations that they consorted with prostitutes in Colombia. It all began when a prostitute complained to local police that an agent had stiffed her.
04/13/12 A small-town New Hampshire police chief was shot and killed and four officers were wounded, two critically, when they attempted to serve a search warrant on a home whose occupant had been recently indicted on charges relating to anabolic steroids. An “active, armed standoff” ensued and remains in progress.
04/12/12 In 2006 U.S. passed SORNA, a part of the “Adam Walsh” law, requiring that states tighten registration of sex offenders, such as requiring that those who abuse juveniles register for life. Only 15 states have complied, putting 35 at risk of losing some criminal justice funds. But complying may cost far more, and many states are balking.
04/12/12 Six and one-half weeks after killing a 17-year old youth, Florida neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman was booked into Seminole County jail on 2nd. degree murder charges filed by Angela Corey, a 30-year veteran state prosecutor. Corey was appointed as special prosecutor in this case by the state governor. Related post
04/11/12 An official report severely criticizes UC Davis police for pepper-spraying student Occupy protesters, refuting claims that officers were trapped or threatened with violence. UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi was also taken to task for failing to prevent the incident. Related post
04/11/12 New York’s Attorney General has created a “Conviction Review Bureau” that will on request from local D.A.’s investigate questionable convictions to determine if a miscarriage of justice took place. The office will also take over the processing of civil cases filed by persons who have been wrongfully convicted. Related post
04/11/12 Plagued by violence, under DOJ investigation for allegations of deputy brutality, the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail may soon close. Sheriff Lee Baca says the move, recommended by the ACLU, can be made possible by releasing 3,000 low-level, nonviolent offenders and moving hardcore cases to other facilities. Related post
04/11/12 Kansas City is considering implementing a “focused deterrence” [pulling levers] strategy that’s used in Cincinnati and elsewhere that targets networks of gang members and criminals with “call-ins” where they are warned to toe the line, then hammered with local and Federal law enforcement should they misbehave. Related post
04/11/12 Crime never has been so low, and neither has morale, says a New York Magazine series that discusses the discontent prevailing in Raymond Kelly’s numbers-driven NYPD. Outbursts and bad behavior by cops are a symptom of the malaise that many attribute to micromanagement and the use of tools such as CompStat. Related posts 1 2
04/10/12 Seventy-two police officers were killed by gunfire in 2011 according to the IACP, while 64 died in traffic accidents. That’s the first time that more officers died from gunshot injuries, and the largest such toll in two decades. Some believe that more aggressive crime-fighting strategies such as NYPD’s may have contributed to the rising toll.
04/09/12 DOJ’s finding that Seattle PD officers used excessive force nearly twenty percent of the time leads some to feel that court-ordered oversight of SPD is “inevitable.” But city officials complain that Federal officials who conducted a patterns-and-practices inquiry have yet to reveal which uses of force were unreasonable. Related post
04/09/12 Four NYPD officers were wounded, none seriously, in a gun battle with a violent ex-con who had taken his girlfriend and son hostage at gunpoint. Their assailant used a 9mm. pistol purchased in a multiple sale in North Carolina. He was also armed with a military-type assault rifle with 20 and 30 round clips and a .22. Related story
04/09/12 Two white Tulsa men who allegedly fired on black pedestrians at random are under arrest for a shooting spree that left three black men dead and two wounded. Roommates Jacob England and Alvin Watts may have been racially motivated; England’s father was killed in 2010 by a black man who is serving a prison term for the crime.
04/07/12 Some ex-cons have put out their shingles as prison consultants, advising those about to enter prison on what to expect, how to behave, deal with medical issues, get transfers, and so on. They compete for clients by emphasizing their experiences and “savvy.” There’s even a national registry, but one consultant calls it a “hoax.”
04/06/12 A Federal judge sentenced Russian arms dealer Victor Bout to 25 years for plotting to arm the FARC, actually DEA agents posing as terrorists. She refused to apply a terrorism enhancement of life as “fundamentally unfair.” Russian officials called the case politically motivated and demanded Bout’s release. Related post
04/05/12 Despite recent shootings, gun restrictions around the U.S. continue to weaken, with more States and localities allowing individuals to carry guns concealed and openly, into more places. Related post
04/05/12 Connecticut’s governor will sign a bill repealing the death penalty, making the state the 17th. to do so. One legislator, Sen. Edith Prague, said she voted to end the penalty because of a fear of a wrongful execution: “I cannot stand the thought of being responsible for someone being falsely accused and facing the death penalty.” Related post
04/05/12 Six former New Orleans PD officers received Federal terms of up to 65 years for shooting six unarmed persons in September 2005 after hurricane Katrina struck, then covering up their acts by planting guns and lying about what happened. Two victims died. Three other officers who cooperated with prosecutors got up to eight years.
04/04/12 “Both Sides of the Law,” a multipart series by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reveals persistent problems of lawbreaking by Milwaukee police officers, with 13 convicted of Federal crimes since 2005. Seven officers and a sergeant are now being investigated for sexually abusing persons under the guise of conducting body cavity searches.
04/04/12 One Hoh, the Oakland university shooter, reportedly bought the pistol used in the murders from a local gun store in February.
04/04/12 After a 3-year investigation DOJ accused the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Office of discriminating against Hispanic persons. DOJ has said that to negotiate a settlement and avoid going to trial the Sheriff must accept a monitor. But Sheriff Joe Arpaio has “flatly” refused, saying that would yield control of the agency to Washington.
04/04/12 Last October California shifted care and housing of all nonviolent felons to counties. In Los Angeles progress is unsteady. One-quarter of inmates have been arrested for new crimes (a lower rate than before) but ten percent have disappeared. Private placement and counseling providers are not getting paid. Fixes are in progress.
04/03/12 “Oaksterdam University” is the San Francisco school where Richard Lee, California’s marijuana impresario teaches others how to get into medical pot. DEA and IRS agents raided the school, Lee’s pot dispensary and other locations, gathering evidence in a continuing Federal campaign against commercial pot distribution. Related post
04/02/12 A 44-year old man walked into a Hattiesburg, Mississippi restaurant and opened fire, wounding five, including three critically. He was arrested nearby. No reason was immediately given.
04/02/12 A former student barged into a class at a small Christian college in Oakland, California and fired as many as thirty rounds from a handgun, killing seven and wounding three. Hours later One Goh, 43, went to a shopping center in a nearby community and surrendered. Oikos University serves mostly Korean students. Related post
04/02/12 Ruling in Florence v. Board of Freeholders, the Supreme Court upheld the practice of strip-searching everyone who is booked into jail. Justices ruled that strip searches were related to legitimate penal interests, and that trying to make distinctions between potentially dangerous inmates and others was unworkable. Related post
04/01/12 Cellphone tracking is a commonplace police tool, but the legal requirements vary. Some jurisdictions allow it without a warrant for routine investigations, while others permit warrantless use only in emergencies - say, to locate a kidnap victim. The ACLU insists that warrants always be required, just like in GPS tracking. ACLU report
03/30/12 New York state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that expert testimony about false confessions is admissible when relevant. “That the phenomenon of false confessions is genuine has moved from the realm of startling hypothesis into that of common knowledge, if not conventional wisdom,” said the majority opinion (p. 12).
03/29/12 Fearing that he was going for a gun, Pasadena, Calif., police shot and killed an unarmed 20-year old burglary from auto suspect. The death led to murder charges against his 17-year old alleged accomplice. It also led to manslaughter charges against the 26-year old victim, who falsely told 911 dispatchers that the men were armed.
03/28/12 Before sending the case against Michigan’s Hutaree militia to the jury, a Federal judge acquitted seven members of seditious conspiracy and other charges, leaving only weapons counts against leader David Stone and his son Joshua. In effect the judge concluded that all their talk about rising against the U.S. was just that. Related post
03/28/12 LAPD Chief Charlie Beck approved the findings of investigators who concluded that a veteran motorcycle officer had been singling out Hispanic drivers, going so far as to purposefully misidentify their ethnicity to avoid getting caught. Chief Becks’ recommendation for dismissal goes to a three-person board, whose decision if final.
03/27/12 In Florida v. Harris (no. 11-817) the Supreme Court granted certiorari to an appeal by Florida prosecutors. They are contesting a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that an alert by a trained and certified drug dog isn’t by itself enough probable cause to search for narcotics. Related post
03/27/12 Philadelphia police arrested a Temple University photojournalism student who took pictures for class of a nighttime traffic stop. His girlfriend was arrested for taking the camera. Both were held overnight. Police say officers know to allow photography and made the arrests for hindering, not for taking pictures, but observers disagree.
03/27/12 In the first felony case of its kind, Philadelphia Msgr. William J. Lynn went on trial for conspiring to cover up the sexual abuse of minors in his diocese by hushing up claims and moving priests among parishes while leaving them in charge of vulnerable children. Rev. James Brennan, a codefendant, is charged with actual molestation.
03/27/12 In 2006 NYPD Det. Gescard Isnora and several colleagues riddled a car with bullets mistakenly thinking that the driver, Sean Bell, 23, was armed. Bell was killed and two passengers were wounded. Isnora and two other officers were later acquitted of manslaughter. Isnora has now been fired and three of the others were forced to retire.
03/26/12 At least one eyewitness corroborates the account of Florida shooter George Zimmerman, to the effect that Trayvon Martin decked him, then climbed on top and began pounding his head into the ground. Police say that’s why they didn’t arrest Zimmerman. Martin was reportedly on suspension from school for using marijuana. Related post
03/25/12 Albuquerque police have shot and killed 18 persons since 2010, just shy of the 22 that NYPD officers killed during that period. The Albuquerque police union gives officers up to $500 for each incident to help them take a vacation to cope. Some say it’s a “bounty,” but despite requests from the chief and mayor the union refuses to stop.
03/23/12 Memphis police and the sheriffs have held some crime suspects for 48 hours for further investigation. But the state appeals court has repeatedly ruled that these “holds,” which are authorized by court commissioners, are illegal, most recently excluding a confession in a murder case and ordering the defendant’s retrial.
03/23/12 NYPD did 684,330 stops in 2011, 87 percent of minorities, citing or arresting in 10 percent, and seizing weapons in one percent (8,000, including 800 handguns.) Minority legislators say the practice is degrading and demand curbs. But police say 96 percent of shooting and 90 percent of murder victims are minorities. Related post
03/22/12 After a reminder from the chief to “be aware of whether or not they could articulate the facts that would justify the search,” Austin officers are making fewer searches after traffic stops but the proportion that yield contraband is higher - 20 percent in 2011 versus 12 percent in 2009. Related post
03/22/12 Texas authorities say that a 22-year old man “obsessed” with the Columbine massacre was planning his own when he shot and killed his parents and older brother. Trey Sesler, a gun aficionado, had reportedly planned to stage a massacre at his former high school with another youth.
03/22/12 Sanford, Florida city commissioners voted “no confidence” in police chief Bill Lee by a 3-2 margin. Although they urged the chief to resign, the city manager said his future will remain undecided pending Federal and state investigations into the legitimacy of a self-defense claim by the killer of a 17-year old teen.
03/21/12 The Supreme Court ruled in Lafler v. Cooper and in Missouri v. Frye that a defense lawyer’s failure to correctly interpret a favorable plea offer (Lafler) or to pass it on altogether (Frye) constitute ineffective assistance when there is a reasonable probability that the offer would have been accepted by the judge. Both were reversed.
03/21/12 Past instances of excessive force and inadequate discipline led Denver’s new public safety director to install a retired judge as his deputy in charge of discipline. A new commander will oversee Internal Affairs, which will be staffed with a dozen hand-picked sergeants. Plans to boost the patrol force are also in the works.
03/21/12 Authors of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law said that it does not apply to the killing of teen Trayvon Miller because the shooter instigated the incident. But police and prosecutors claim the ambiguities of the law have proven “devastating,” allowing drug dealers and other criminals to successfully raise claims self-defense.
03/20/12 Hundreds of protesters turned out at New York City’s Zucotti Park on March 17 to mark the six-month anniversary of the Wall Street occupation. Clashes with police resulted in 74 arrests, mostly for resisting officers. Two council members present criticized NYPD for suppressing dissent. Related post
03/20/12 Robberies are up 30 percent in Washington D.C., 8 pct. in New York City and 10 pct. in Philadelphia. D.C. criminals are also more often using guns. D.C. police have made twice as many robbery arrests as this time last year. They have increased marked patrols, are deploying vehicles and undercover cops as “bait”, and are targeting fences.
03/20/12 Just before he was shot Florida teen Trayvon Martin reportedly told his girlfriend on his cell phone that he was being followed. She heard him ask “what are you following me for?” and heard the reply “what are you doing here?” Meanwhile the US Justice Dept., the FBI and a Florida grand jury will be investigating the killing. Related post
03/19/12 There is no question that marijuana can at some level impair driving - its use is said to double the risk of an accident - but experts disagree over how much THC (the active ingredient) can be in the blood before driving should be banned. So at present enforcement is based mostly on officer observations. Related post
03/19/12 Out of one random day’s felony filings in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, sixty percent (38/62) were related to drugs or alcohol. A local D.A. said it understated the problem. “I would estimate 80 to 90 percent of our cases, including homicides and robberies, involve some link to illegal drugs or alcohol.”
03/16/12 An armed community watch member was driving around when he spotted a 17-year old black youth on foot. He approached the youth and a scuffle ensued. By the time it was over the unarmed youth was dead from a gunshot wound. No arrest was made, and Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law may immunize the shooter.
03/15/12 A court-ordered report on the Ted Stevens case concluded that Federal prosecutors concealed information that undermined their case and the truthfulness of their principal witness. The report questioned the veracity of prosecutors and FBI agents but said there wasn’t enough to warrant their prosecution. Related post
03/15/12 Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reported to Federal prison today to being serving a 14-year sentence for corruption. George Ryan, the man he replaced, is still in, set for release in 2013.
03/15/12 Fort Worth police are replacing their X26 Tasers with the X2 model, identical in all respects except that each jolt cuts off after five seconds no matter how longer the trigger is depressed. It’s a reaction to incidents where long-duration shocks have been followed by death.
03/15/12 Burglary nationwide was down two percent in 2010 according to the UCR, but when compared to 2001 was actually up by two percent. One contributor to the uptick is Macomb County, Michigan, where burglaries increased 23 percent over the decade. In Wayne County (Detroit) the increase was 14 percent.
03/14/12 Federal jurors awarded $200,000, mostly in punitive damages, to a Portland man who fell and was injured after being Tased by officers who mistook him as a nighttime vandal. Officers claimed the plaintiff was running away, but he said he didn’t know who was chasing him. Officers Tased him four more times while he was on the ground.
03/13/12 Denver’s chief is seeking to place as many as 70 more cops on patrol and in geographical districts by civilianizing desk and crime scene investigation tasks. Civilians may also be assigned to take accident reports.
03/13/12 Houston’s D.A. is filing civil nuisance lawsuits against businesses that generate lots of criminal complaints, demanding that the conduct be enjoined or the business shut down. Four bars beset by drug dealing and violent crime have been targeted. One had to hire an off-duty cop and make other improvements, and another is closing.
03/13/12 A rural Ohio police chief is on his way out and the department of part-timers faces disbanding after an officer Tasered a 9-year old twice to get him on his feet. The youth, who is 5-5 to 5-8 and weighs as much as 250 pounds was lying on his hands to avoid being cuffed. He was being sought on a truancy complaint.
03/12/12 “Gun Nation,” a major article in the Christian Science Monitor, documents the vast expansion of gun rights during the past decade. Forty states mandate issuing a CCW permit to all who qualify, resulting in more than six million licensed citizens. Gun carry in urban centers remains restricted, but in suburban areas it’s become common.
03/11/12 High costs and worsening prisoner mental health issues led Mississippi to shut down a supermax facility and move its inmates to regular prisons. Its success is prompting other states to rethink solitary confinement, a practice that originated with the get-tough-on-crime movement but is now being criticized as badly overused.
03/11/12 The University of Pittsburgh gunman was John F. Shick, 30, a bright Duquesne University graduate student who was recently banned for harassing female undergraduates. Shick, who had changed his name in the past, was apparently once charged with assaulting a cop. Both of his handguns were from Texas; one was reportedly stolen.
03/08/12 LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting the wife of her former lover in 1986. Lazarus, then on the force, had been overlooked as a suspect until 2009 when the case was reopened. She was arrested after detectives surreptitiously collected her DNA and matched it to a bite on the victim’s body.
03/08/12 Mississippi Supreme Court justices voted 6-3 to reject a challenge to the pardons granted by departing Governor Haley Barbour, ruling that separation of powers prevented them from interceding even if Barbour failed to follow proper procedures.
03/08/12 A gunman armed with two pistols opened fire inside a University of Pittsburgh hospital psychiatric facility, killing one and wounding seven before he was shot dead by campus police. One officer sustained a minor wound, and all the others hurt are expected to survive.
03/08/12 New Jersey FBI head Michael Ward said that terrorism intelligence-gathering should have an “articulable, factual basis” and focus on specific threats such as terrorist cells and radicalized individuals. He criticized NYPD’s “mapping” of Muslim activity in New Jersey as ineffective and said it damaged relations with the Muslim community.
03/07/12 Concerns that four of the ten top-violent crime cities are in Michigan led its governor to propose beefing up state forensic services and spending $15 million on projects such as reopening a jail. But he resists spending $140 million to hire 1,000 cops. Budget problems have left cities and counties with 3,400 fewer than in 2011. Related post
03/07/12 In Haskell v. Harris the Ninth Circuit ruled that California’s practice of collecting DNA from persons arrested for felonies does not violate the Fourth Amendment, as on balance the intrusion is minimal and far outweighed by a Government interest in identifying suspects, solving crimes and exonerating the innocent.
03/06/12 A founding member of the LulzSec hacking group pled guilty to breaking into computer systems at Fox, Sony and PBS and five associates were indicted on like charges in New York City Federal court. Among their exploits was the disruption of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal websites in retaliation for cutting off payments to WikiLeaks.
03/06/12 A Federal jury convicted former Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford of 13 counts of fraud in connection with a $7 billion Ponzi scheme in which 30,000 investors from around the world bought high-interest certificates of deposit from his bank in Antigua, where regulators had been bribed to look the other way.
03/06/12 Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has faced criticism for handing out reserve deputy badges to unqualified campaign contributors, assigned several politically-connected reserve deputies take-home cars. The practice was stopped when reporters began making inquiries. Related posts 1 2
03/06/12 In 2011 an L.A. gang member was convicted of first-degree murder after a deputy noticed that his chest tattoo depicted the scene of the unsolved crime. His father and two girlfriends have now been arrested for helping him obtain $30,000 worth of unemployment checks. Police allege that the money went to his gang. Related entry
03/06/12 On urging by police, Minnesota’s governor vetoed a bill that would have endorsed the use of lethal force by citizens who reasonably considered themselves to be at risk, in places outside their homes and without a need to retreat. The bill would have also required Minnesota to honor gun carry licenses issued by other states.
03/06/12 Declaring that it impinges on the Second Amendment, a Maryland Federal judge ruled unconstitutional a state law which requires private persons to show “good cause” for being granted a permit to carry a gun outside their home. The state attorney general deplored the ruling as a return to the “wild West” and vowed to appeal it.
03/05/12 Durham D.A. Tracey Cline was removed from her position. The last straw was falsely accusing the chief judge of misconduct. But over the years her failure to get facts straight and an “unwillingness to change course” when confronted with facts led to a series of injustices against defendants and at least one wrongful conviction. Related post
03/05/12 In a meeting with Muslim leaders Chicago Police Supt. Gerry McCarthy pledged never to follow NYPD’s lead in collecting intelligence on Muslim groups. McCarthy, who was a command officer in Newark when NYPD sent intelligence officers there to spy on Muslims, insists that Newark PD didn’t participate. But NYPD claims they did.
03/05/12 Miami narrowly avoided laying off 100 cops, but budget woes will keep them from replacing 100 officers who are expected to retire in the next two years. Key specialized units are also being disbanded to bolster patrol.
03/05/12 Federal sentencing guidelines were made optional by the Supreme Court in 2005. Since then disparities in sentencing between roughly equivalent circumstances have increased substantially according to a five-year study. But a special review revealed that judges’ political affiliation did not seem to have an effect on sentencing decisions.
03/02/12 Local prosecutors charged a Los Angeles-area physician with three counts of murder for prescribing painkillers without a valid reason, leading to patients’ deaths by overdose. In 2010 the L.A. Times connected Dr. Hsiu-Ying Tseng, 42, with other deaths, prompting an apparently still ongoing Federal investigation. Related post
03/01/12 In a bid to comply with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which grants citizens the right to possess handguns, at least in their homes, Washington D.C. is moving to eliminate a vision test, safety course and other requirements that can lead to months of delay in complying with its gun registration laws, the toughest in the nation.
03/01/12 Two-hundred sixty Texas police departments and courts are conducting their sixth annual roundup of scofflaws who owe money on fines or have ignored citations. Police use newspaper ads, post photos and go door to door to make arrests and get people to pay up. In 2011 Houston arrested 4,110 and its courts collected $2.5 million.
03/01/12 Detroit homicides increased from 308 in 2010 to 344 last year, including a 75 percent surge in the city’s east side. They’re at 49 citywide this year, versus 39 during the same period in 2011. In response the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Attorney pledged to target east side gun crimes and invoke the heavier penalties available in Federal law.
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