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Secret Service Panel Seeks Reforms, Starting With New White House Fence

The Secret Service must change the way it trains agents and hire more of them, says a panel that reviewed the agency that has endured a string of embarrassing lapses, NPR reports. The panel calls its suggestions "a road map for reform" under a new director. Some suggestions are practical, such as the one that "the fence around the White House needs to be changed as soon as possible to provide better protection." The panel stated, "the ease with which 'pranksters' and the mentally ill can climb the current fence puts Secret Service personnel in a precarious position." Agents must quickly decide whether a threat requires a potentially lethal response. Three months ago, a man scaled the 7 1/2-foot fence and ran inside the building.

The panel also recommended everything from increasing accountability to being more open to input from officers and agents. Saying that the Secret Service's "training regimen has diminished far below acceptable levels," the panel recommended a "Fourth Shift," shorthand for a process in which personnel on its presidential protection detail would devote two weeks out of every eight to training. It recommended a boost in staffing to make that training possible.

 

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Court Says Law Can't Keep Man Who Was In Mental Hospital From Owning Gun

In what the Wall Street Journal calls the first legal ruling of its type, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled unconstitutional a federal law that kept a Michigan man who was briefly committed to a mental institution decades ago from owning a gun. The court said the federal ban on gun ownership for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” violated the Second Amendment rights of Clifford Charles Tyler, 73.

“The government’s interest in keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill is not sufficiently related to depriving the mentally healthy, who had a distant episode of commitment, of their constitutional rights,” wrote Judge Danny Boggs for a three-judge panel. Lucas McCarthy, Tyler’s lawyer, called the ruling “a forceful decision to protect Second Amendment rights,” and said he hoped it that it would have “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights.” Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert and law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the ruling could give momentum to the gun-rights movement. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see legal challenges to other parts of the [federal gun] law now,” he said.

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Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia Fired For Insubordination

After a tumultuous 2 1/2-year tenure marked by continual clashes with police unions and a string of high-profile controversies, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia was fired after he defied an order from his boss and called a press conference to unload on his critics, the Arizona Republic reports. Less than two hours after Garcia's press conference ended, Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher called his own to announce that he had terminated Garcia for insubordination for holding court with the media after Zuercher had forbidden it.

"I think Chief Garcia has done a good job — all the men and women of the department have done a good job. But let me be clear, this issue is about following orders, about obeying an order from a supervisor," Zuercher said. Garcia held a blistering news conference in which he fired back at his critics, called for more power over internal disciplinary actions and demanded a two-year contract. Assistant Chief Joseph Yahner was named acting chief. In what would be his final press conference as chief, Garcia fiercely defended his years in charge, citing a continual reduction in crime while managing with 600 fewer officers.

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Associated Press Trial Reporter Linda Deutsch Retires After 48 Years

Linda Deutsch, whose 48-year career at the Associated Press made her a witness to some of the most sensational trials in U.S. history, is ending a career that saw her report Charles Manson's murder conviction, O.J. Simpson's acquittal and countless other verdicts involving the famous and the infamous, the AP reports. Deutsch was thrust onto the court beat in 1969 when a rag-tag band of young hippies, influenced by a petty criminal who had reinvented himself as their guru, broke into two upscale Los Angeles homes and killed seven people, including actress Sharon Tate.

Deutsch had been covering trials for 25 years when the public finally put a face with the veteran AP reporter's byline. After one of America's most beloved sports stars, O.J. Simpson, was charged with killing his wife and her friend, Judge Lance Ito made her the pool reporter during jury selection. She went on to appear on television every day to summarize what had transpired. Then, after the yearlong trial ended, Simpson tracked her down while she was vacationing and called to give his side of the story. It was the first of many conversations over the next 13 years that would lead to exclusive interviews with the fallen football hero. Deutsch, 71, plans to write a memoir recapping those moments and others in her life.

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Should Charlotte Employee Be Out Of A Job For Facebook Post On Ferguson?

Charlotte City fire investigator is out of a job because of a Facebook post in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Mo., riots, reports WFAE in Charlotte. It’s the first time a Charlotte city employee has been fired over a posting on social media. An attorney for the investigator said the city overreached. City Manager Ron Carlee said it’s essential the public is confident that city employees will treat all people with dignity and respect. He believes Crystal Eschert violated that confidence shortly after police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Eschert is white. After a white person was shot near Ferguson, she wrote on her personal Facebook page: “Where is Obama? Where is Holder? Where is Al Sharpton? Where are Trayvon Martin’s parents? Where are all the white guy supporters? So WHY is everyone MAKING it a racial issue?!? So tired of hearing it’s a racial thing. If you are a thug and worthless to society, it’s not race – You’re just a waste no matter what religion, race or sex you are!” Eschert did not identify herself as a Charlotte employee, but she was fired in September after someone emailed the post to city officials. “I’m inclined to say the employee has a pretty strong case here, but when it comes to the government acting as an employer, the legal rules are quite vague,” said  UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh.

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U.S. To Sue New York City Over Civil Rights Violations At Rikers Island

Federal prosecutors plan to sue New York City over widespread civil rights violations in the handling of adolescent inmates at the Rikers Island jail complex, making clear their dissatisfaction with the city’s progress in reining in brutality by guards and improving conditions at the jail complex, the New York Times reports. The decision to take the city to court comes more than four months after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a blistering report that cited a pervasive and “deep-seated culture of violence” directed at teenage inmates at Rikers. The Times says the report "found rampant use of excessive force by correction officers, the overuse of solitary confinement and an ineffectual system of investigating assaults by guards."

That report proposed more than 10 pages of remedial measures that prosecutors said the city’s Correction Department would have to put in place. "While the United States had hoped to reach a speedy resolution with the city on these critical issues,” Bharara said today, “thus far insufficient progress has been made.” In September, Mr. Bharara issued a strongly worded statement after the Times reported that city officials had withheld key portions of a report on violence at Rikers from his office during its investigation, and that officials involved in reporting distorted data had been promoted.

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