Talk to residents and business owners alike and they agree they want to see more police officers walking instead of driving. says the Baltimore Sun. They want a cop they can talk to, a cop they can see, a cop who understands their problems and can tell, street to street, door to door, the good guys from the bad. Sprawling cities, a deluge of emergency calls, and strained budgets have turned the old-time walking beat cop into a luxury.
Baltimore police commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III, wants to change that. He's using a $10 million federal grant awarded to the city to hire 50 officers, 25 of whom are already going through the training academy. And when they graduate in a few months, they'll find themselves on foot instead of in a car. Bealefeld has ordered his patrol chief to concentrate on "quality-of-life enforcement," deploying the new officers where they can help combat prostitution, public drinking, and so forth. These are the types of crimes that Baltimore residents often say get lost amid the murder and mayhem, and can frustrate them enough that they threaten to leave the city if their garbage can gets stolen one more time, or their planter is broken, or their wife gets propositioned for sex while carrying groceries inside.
An organization specializing in high-risk police situations will begin a study of Oakland police SWAT policies and procedures to assist in implementing recommendations made by an independent board that found many tactical law-enforcement errors in the March 21 fatal shootings of four officers by a parolee, reports the Oakland Tribune. The California Association of Tactical Officers had offered to do an assessment soon after the shootings, but the Police Department wanted to wait until the board's report was completed. The report was written by James K. "Chips" Stewart, a police consultant and former Oakland police captain.
The report, released Wednesday, was highly critical of police commanders' decisions March 21, particularly as they related to the decision to "prematurely" send SWAT officers into an apartment where an armed parolee was hiding after he had fatally shot two motorcycle officers during a traffic stop. The parolee, Lovelle Mixon, then killed two SWAT officers before he was killed. Police Chief Anthony Batts, a former SWAT team leader when he was a Long Beach, Ca., officer, said, "I concur with all the findings." He said the department is moving quickly to deal with the recommendations. Mayor Ron Dellums commended the department for releasing the report and taking "another step in the healing process" for the city, the department and the officers' families.
Bristol County, Ma., Sheriff Thomas Hodgson had no right to impose a controversial $5 a day fee on inmates at the county jail for room and board, as well as additional charges for medical care and other services, said the state's Supreme Judicial Court this week in a ruling reported by the Boston Globe. In a class action filed by inmates and pretrial detainees, the court unanimously rejected Hodgson’s argument that English common law gave him such authority.
The court concluded that only the state legislature has the power to set such fees. Hodgson had touted the program as a way to instill a sense of responsibility among prisoners and to save taxpayers’ money. He will ask the legislature for the authority to collect fees. "Look, having inmates come to prison and telling them that you don’t need to worry about the costs associated with running the prison is, I don’t think, a good message for them,’’ said Hodgson, who has been sheriff for more than 12 years. Hodgson will be asked to return about $750,000 to hundreds of current and former prisoners.
When 30-year-old heiress Casey Johnson was found dead in her Hollywood home last week, questions arose about whether prescription drugs may have contributed to her death—as they have in so many other recent high-profile deaths, including Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, DJ AM, Anna Nicole Smith,and possibly Brittany Murphy. But the problem isn't just among the rich and famous: according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, prescription drugs are the number one cause of fatal overdoses in the U.S. A 2008 survey by the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that painkillers lag just a breath behind marijuana as the most abused drug in the nation, and last month, the Pentagon released a report showing that 20 percent of Marines had abused prescription drugs in the last year.
Yet, prescription drug users often fall outside the parameters of the criminal justice system. Illegal sellers or prescribers can be arrested, but law enforcement agencies tend to prosecute only abusers with a large enough quanity to create a suspicion of sale, says Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson Meghan McCalla. The allure of no reprimands and easy access makes this rising problem very difficult to contain.
A disgruntled employee of a St. Louis power company stormed the plant with an assault rifle this morning, killing two workers and injuring five others, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Police say a third person has been found dead -- and he is presumed to be the gunman. His wound may have been self-inflicted.
The gunman, Timothy Hendron, 51, was a plaintiff in a class-action federal lawsuit against the company, ABB, and its pension review committee over financial losses. A bench trial of the case was under way today in federal court in Kansas City. At the St. Louis plant today, conversations between dispatchers and police on the scene painted a horrific scene -- where bleeding victims were hiding, afraid to come out.
An estimated 12 percent of youth in state operated and large locally or privately operated juvenile facilities reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another youth or facility staff in a federal survey, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported today.
The National Survey of Youth in Custody limited reporting by youth to incidents occurring in the last 12 months or since their admission to the facility, if less than 12 months. About 4.3 percent of youth reported having sex or sexual contact with staff as a result of force; 6.4 percent of youth reported sexual contact with staff without any force, threat, or other explicit form of coercion. About 95 percent of youth reporting staff sexual misconduct said they had been victimized by female facility staff. In 2008, 42 percent of staff in juvenile facilities under state jurisdiction were female.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed in his State of the State speech yesterday a mandate that the state invest more dollars each year in its public universities than in locking people up in prison. The Los Angeles Times says that to many inside the State Capitol, that idea appears all but unattainable."What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns?" Schwarzenegger said. "The priorities have become out of whack.  Thirty years ago, 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons. Today, almost 11 percent goes to prisons and only 7.5 percent goes to higher education." The governor called for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit corrections spending from outstripping funds for higher education by 2014-2015. The plan would require approval from lawmakers and voters.
Violent crime in Los Angeles hit its lowest level in more than half a century last year, one of a growing number of U.S. cities reporting its streets were remarkably safe in 2009, the Wall Street Journal reports. "The graying of America is a significant factor," said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. "The largest and fastest growing segment of the population is people over 50. People over 50 also happen to be the age group that is the least likely to commit crimes. As the group grows, crime rates do decline."
Fox said a common assumption that crime goes up during a recession is wrong. Historic data show there is little connection between economic conditions and crime, particularly violent crime. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck said, “It is inexplicable why these crime numbers are so good except for one thing: cops count, effective policing matters,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
As his primary election rival poured on criticism over the state's early release of prison inmates, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn tried to dampen the issue by appointing a longtime Chicago police officer to oversee release programs. reports the Chicago Tribune. Quinn named Michael McCotter chief public safety officer at the Illinois Department of Corrections, a position he created after halting a program that let convicts out of prison extra early by awarding them good-time credit at an accelerated pace.
McCotter, who recently retired from the Chicago Police Department, held several top posts over a nearly 40-year career. Part of his job will be to "bird-dog each and every one of these inmates with respect to early release," Quinn said. Quinn also suspended a separate program to release 1,000 nonviolent offenders who are within the last year of their sentence. About 170 prisoners have been released to electronic monitoring under the program Quinn announced in September.
The CompStat meetings of the San Francisco Police Department are the best live theater in town, says San Francisco Chronicle columnist C. W. Nevius. The star of the show is Commander Jeff Godown, brought in from Los Angeles by new Police Chief George Gascón to run the statistics-driven program that tracks crimes by location so if a number of auto break-ins happen in a specific area, police efforts can be concentrated there.
Part game show host, part prosecuting attorney, Godown grilled the captains from five of the city's 10 police districts yesterday. Fans of the HBO show "The Wire" would recognize the scene. The cop drama staged a weekly grilling of police captains based on actual CompStat meetings. Godown asked for trends, disputed numbers, and delivered more than one minilecture on breaking out of the status quo. As positive as this is, it only highlights what a dysfunctional mess the department has been, Nevius says.