Two University of California Davis police officers involved in the pepper spraying of protesters who were peacefully sitting and linking arms were placed on paid administrative leave, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. University president Mark Yudof said he was "appalled" by the use of force against nonviolent campus protesters and said he would convene a meeting of chancellors from all 10 UC campuses to ensure law enforcement reacts proportionally to future protests.
Videos showing officers wearing riot gear and pepper spraying a line of demonstrators seated on the ground Friday as part of an Occupy Davis movement went viral, drawing furious responses on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Protesters had erected about 25 tents on the campus quad, leading to the police response. Ten protesters were cited and released on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse. Eleven were treated on campus after being pepper sprayed, and two were taken to a local hospital and released, the university said.
More than 250 cameras in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. The Washington Post says the program has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined a few years ago. With almost no public debate, police store information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles. Police say the tag readers can give them a critical jump on a child abductor, information about when a vehicle left or entered a crime scene, and the ability to identify a suspected terrorist’s vehicle as it speeds down the highway, perhaps to an intended target.
The capital city has more than one plate-reader per square mile, the nation's highest concentration. Police departments are trying to decide how long to store the information and how to balance privacy concerns against the value the data provide to investigators. The data are kept for three years in Washington. Citing "quite a large database of innocent people’s comings and goings,” Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union contends that, “the government has no business collecting that kind of information on people without a warrant.”
The Washington Post says the "smaller government" spending bill passed Thursday will mean less money for local cops, but more money for FBI agents and to fix crowded prisons. The House and Senate passed a bill that provided a detailed vision of the federal government on a diet. Lawmakers approved a $130.4 billion measure to fund five Cabinet departments, the first big budget bill since this summer’s promise of greater austerity.
It was a guide to what this Congress cares about, now that it can’t care about everything. The bill favors law enforcement agencies and programs that funnel money directly to voters. And it cuts programs that send cash to local government agencies — or other nonvoting recipients. The bill contains a provision that would fund the entire federal government until Dec. 16, averting a shutdown.
A shroud of secrecy covers much of the search-warrant process in Vermont, reports the Burlington Free Press. Vermont police obtain hundreds of search warrants each year to enter private homes and businesses, to record conversations secretly, and to obtain GPS tracking information on personal vehicles -- but nobody keeps track of the numbers or the results of the warrants. The police who seek the warrants, the prosecutors who review the requests, and the state judges who ultimately must approve them all say they are not required to provide any type of annual report or compile any statistics about search warrants.
Warrants are obtained behind closed doors, the files are often sealed or withheld unless an arrest is made, and nobody in the criminal justice system is monitoring whether police provide the court an inventory of items taken during the search as required by the warrant. Chris Brock, clerk of Vermont Superior Court in Burlington, said only cases with criminal defendants are assigned docket numbers -- that is, an official identifier in court records -- and warrants themselves do not qualify. "We do not track search warrants," Brock said.
The U.S. Justice Department will investigate whether Miami police violated the constitutional rights of seven black men who were shot to death by officers over a recent eight-month span, raising tensions in the inner city and sparking demands for an independent review, reports the Miami Herald. The civil investigation — known as a “pattern and practice’’ probe — will examine Miami police policies and training involving deadly force. The goal: to determine if systemic flaws made shootings of black men more likely, rather than unfortunate, last-choice actions, as the officers’ supporters maintain.
The investigation was announced Thursday in Miami. “Oh, that’s great, great, really good,” said Sheila McNeil, whose unarmed son Travis McNeil, 28, was shot to death in his car in Little Haiti Feb. 10 by Officer Reinaldo Goyo. The officer said McNeil was driving erratically. No weapon was ever found. “I’m just glad to know it’s not forgotten,’’ McNeil said. But Nathaniel Wilcox, executive director of the advocacy group PULSE, criticized federal authorities for not opening a criminal investigation into the shooting deaths, which occurred from July 2010 to February 2011.
In a sweeping change, federal immigration enforcement is shifting toward faster deportations of convicted criminals and fewer deportations of many illegal immigrants with no criminal record, reports the New York Times. The Department of Homeland Security is beginning a review of all deportation cases before the immigration courts and will start a nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers,
The accelerated triage of the court docket — about 300,000 cases — is intended to allow severely overburdened immigration judges to focus on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks, Homeland Security officials said. It is part of a policy announced in June to encourage immigration agents to use prosecutorial discretion when deciding whether to pursue a deportation. The policy would scale back deportations of illegal immigrants who were young students, military service members, elderly people or close family of American citizens, among others. While the announcement raised expectations in immigrant communities, until now the policy has been applied spottily.
Officials from nearly 40 cities are using phone conference calls to share ideas on how to deal with Occupy Wall Street protests, reports the Associated Press. The best conventional wisdom now suggests that cities should not set public deadlines for eviction because that serves to rally the demonstrators. Ultimatums likewise only seem to incite protestors. And cities that have managed to disassemble encampments suggest that parks be fenced off to prevent a new occupation.
As concerns over safety and sanitation grew at the encampments over the last month, officials commiserated over how best to deal with the leaderless movement. From Atlanta to Washington, D.C., officials talked about how authorities could make camps safe for protesters and the community. Officials also learned about the kinds of problems they could expect from cities with larger and more established protest encampments. The Police Executive Research Forum organized calls on Oct. 11 and Nov. 4.
The New York Times reports on the resistance mounted by a minority of prosecutors around the country in the face of exculpatory DNA evidence in criminal prosecutions. For most prosecutors, the presence of post-conviction DNA evidence is enough to prompt action. An examination of 194 DNA exonerations found that 88 percent of the prosecutors joined defense lawyers in moving to vacate the convictions. But in 12 percent of the cases, the prosecutors opposed the motions, and in 4 percent, they did so even after a DNA match to another suspect.
Hundreds of people in the United States have been cleared by DNA evidence over the last two decades, in some cases after confessing to crimes, often in great detail. Juveniles, researchers have found, are more likely to make false confessions. Four of the five teenagers who were convicted in the brutal 1989 rape of Trisha Meili, known as the Central Park jogger, for example, confessed to the rape but were later exonerated when DNA evidence confirmed another man’s involvement.
The Supreme Court has called for 5 1/2 hours of oral arguments on the health law, reports the Wall Street Journal. That's the longest in recent decades and harks back to the court's custom in the 19th century. The overwhelming majority of cases nowadays receive just an hour of argument time before the court, thanks to a rule change in 1970.
Oral arguments have grown steadily shorter as the court has evolved. In the 1950s and 1960s, arguments "seemed to go on forever," one expert told the paper. In 1966, arguments in South Carolina's challenge to the Voting Rights Act lasted more than seven hours. Arguments in 1955 over enforcement of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools, went on for more than 13 hours over several days. Before 1849, there were no time limits on oral arguments. Over time, the court's workload increased, as did its reliance on written legal briefs and legal precedent, making the long arguments burdensome and unnecessary.
The commissions that nominate, evaluate and discipline Tennessee’s judges were all scrutinized at a legislative hearing this week that set the stage for an expected fight next year over the future of the state’s judiciary, reports the Tennessean. The Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Judiciary and Government met Tuesday to discuss whether to retain the Court of the Judiciary, the Judicial Nominating Commission and the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission or let them expire. Members made it clear that a broad restructuring will be on the table when the full General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The Court of the Judiciary, which investigates ethical complaints against judges and determines discipline, received most of the committee’s attention. Lawmakers from both parties warned Court of the Judiciary officials that if they don’t change their processes, the General Assembly will do it for them. The hearing featured testimony from several people who complained of mistreatment by Tennessee judges. “Judges, you better get your house in order because we’re going to do it for you if you can’t,” Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, warned after listening to testimony from disgruntled litigants.