The Defense Department program accused of fueling the militarization of local law enforcement is stirring controversy again, this time for providing equipment and weapons to school police, reports the Washington Post. Law enforcement agencies affiliated with at least 120 schools, colleges and universities have received gear through the program. The gear included at least five grenade launchers, hundreds of rifles and eight mine-resistant vehicles. (Los Angeles schools, one of the biggest beneficiaries, announced it would return three grenade launchers but keep dozens of rifles and an armored vehicle.)
In some cases, the equipment has been altered and its use limited to such events as campus shootings and natural disasters. But the practice of transferring weapons to schools is drawing criticism. In a letter this week, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others called on the federal government to stop the transfer of weapons to school police and provide a comprehensive accounting of all equipment provided to school districts nationwide.
At least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from agencies large and small – from New York to California – have traveled to Israel for privately funded seminars in what is described as counterterrorism techniques, reports the Center for Investigative Reporting. For some, the training trips seem emblematic of the militarization of U.S. law enforcement since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Participants speak highly of the seminars, which began months after 9/11 when nine American police officials were invited to Israel to meet with the country's public security minister. Since 2002, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have sent several hundred police chiefs, assistant chiefs and captains on fully paid trips to Israel and the Palestinian territories to observe the operations of the Israeli national police, the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli Border Patrol and the country’s intelligence services.
The number of federal prosecutions for environment-related offenses continues to fall, reports the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Justice Department data show that during the first nine months of fiscal 2014, the government reported 271 new prosecutions in this category, on pace to decrease about 20 percent from the 449 reported in 2013, which was already a marked drop from the 612 defendants prosecuted in 2012.
Over the past 20 years, environmental crime prosecutions peaked at 927 in 2007, near the end President George W. Bush's second term. The sharpest drop for the period was seen in prosecutions aimed at protecting wildlife, down by 36.7 percent from five years ago. Less affected were prosecutions aimed at environment crimes such as water and air pollution and hazardous waste management, which fell by 8.6 percent. The three districts with the largest number of these prosecutions in 2014, with 19 each, were the Los Angeles area, the Miami area and South Dakota.
In an unusual move for a government entity presumed immune from civil liability, attorneys for Denver have stipulated that the city is liable for the actions of five deputies accused of causing the 2010 death of jail inmate Marvin Booker, reports the city's Post. The strategy helps Denver because it could mean plaintiffs will not be allowed to present evidence at trial of numerous excessive-force complaints that have recently plagued Denver, legal experts say.
The disclosure of Denver's trial strategy in the case, which is set to go to trial Monday, came in written motions and a telephone conference Thursday with federal Judge R. Brooke Jackson. The Booker family's attorneys filed a motion Thursday seeking sanctions against the city after belatedly receiving 3,000 videotapes and thousands of pages of documents in the weeks before trial in a case filed three years ago. Booked died on July 9, 2010, after deputies shocked him with a Taser, put him in a "sleeper hold" and lay on top of him in an effort to control him.
Alabama's two U.S. senators have called for U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to step down, joining a growing chorus of federal lawmakers seeking the judge's resignation after his arrest on domestic violence charges, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. Fuller, 55, was arrested Aug. 10 and charged with misdemeanor battery of his wife, Kelli, at an Atlanta hotel. The judge, appointed in 2002 to the U.S. Middle District for Alabama, agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program earlier this month. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has reassigned his caseload and is investigating.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said Fuller "has lost the confidence of his colleagues and the people of the state of Alabama, and I urge him to resign immediately." Alabama's other senator, Jeff Sessions, also urged Fuller to resign. He was joined by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, and U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, who raised the possibility of impeachment. Fuller's attorney declined to say whether the judge intended to resign.
Muslim community leaders are worried that some elected officials in Arizona and across the country are stoking a rise in Islamophobia in the wake of recent beheadings and other terrorist acts by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militant group, says the Arizona Republic. They cite as just one example a training session Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery scheduled for Friday that purports to teach law-enforcement officers in the Valley about the threat of Islamic terrorists.
The training session has drawn criticism from the ACLU and a cross-section of religious leaders because it will be led by a former FBI agent, John Guandolo, who critics say spreads anti-Muslim rhetoric. Muslim leaders say other elected officials are fanning anti-Muslim sentiments by perpetuating claims that ISIS-trained terrorists are on the verge of entering the U.S. through Mexico. One Muslim leader said those claims, which have been dismissed by federal officials, are being used "to score political points."
A suicidal Florida man shot and killed his daughter and six grandchildren, ages 3 months to 10 years old, Thursday at his home near Bell, Fla., reports the Gainesville Sun. The gunman was Don Charles Spirit, 51, who had served prison time for weapons charges. He killed his daughter Sarah Spirit, 28, and her six children. The motive was not revealed.
Don Spirit called 911 at about 4 p.m. Thursday and threatened to shoot his family. A deputy rushed to his home and talked to Spirit before he shot himself. Sheriff Robert Schultz said the deputy had "discussions" with Spirit but declined to give details. Deputies found the other bodies inside the house. Neighbors said Spirit family members had lived in the home since around 1998.
An elderly man and two other suspects were charged Thursday in an unusual human-trafficking scheme — recruiting felons from a Florida prison for women for a prostitution operation in Orlando, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Charged with human trafficking were Richard Rawles, 75, James Bernard King, 50, and Wilbert Shaver, 61. Rawles, the alleged kingpin, was described as a violent career criminal who has faced 47 felony charges over the years for robbery, sexual battery, child abuse and narcotics.
Police say he recruited prisoners from Lowell Correctional Institution, a women's prison in Ocala, and transported the women to Orlando after they were released from prison. "The defendants advertised the females on prostitution websites and transported them to locations in Central Florida to commit acts of prostitution," police said in a statement. Rawles gave the women drugs, including cocaine and heroin, and wouldn't allow them to leave without an "escort," the agency said.
A report commissioned after a violent St. Patrick’s Day melee near UMass Amherst blames a “collective failure” for the drunken gathering, and recommends the Massachusetts town ban the event, that the university crack down on visitors and booze inside dorms, and that police act less aggressively, says the Boston Globe. The recommendations are detailed in a 65-page report by Edward Davis, former Boston police commissioner, who was hired by UMass to lead a review after an unruly gathering last March led to dozens of arrests and clashes with police.
The town said it would take steps to end the gathering, known as the Blarney Blowout. The report apportions blame all around, saying the event “was a collective failure by the town, the university, and the students.” It said police were unprepared, overwhelmed, and unnecessarily forceful. Some party-goers damaged property, fought one another, and threw filled beer cans and bottles, snowballs, and rocks at police, who shot an estimated 600 pepper-spray and sting balls to scatter the crowd. Fifty-eight were arrested, including 21 UMass Amherst students.
In the wake of a botched execution, a coalition of Arizona TV, print and radio outlets has joined a lawsuit to compel the Arizona Department of Corrections to fully disclose information about how it executes death row prisoners and to allow the media to witness all stages of the execution, reports the Arizona Republic. Attorneys from the Federal Public Defender's office initially filed the lawsuit on behalf of Joseph Wood and other death row inmates before Wood's botched execution on July 23.
The lawsuit continued after Wood's death, on behalf of five other death row plaintiffs. On Thursday, the Federal Defender filed an amended lawsuit, adding as a plaintiff the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, which is based in Phoenix and comprises the Arizona Broadcasters Association, The Arizona Newspapers Association, the Arizona-New Mexico Cable Telecommunication Association, the Arizona Press Club, and the Society of Professional Journalists-Valley of the Sun Chapter.