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Competing House, Senate Border Plans Mean Likely Stalemate Before Recess

The Senate and House are poised to act on separate emergency border security plans, likely setting up a protracted debate in Washington as the Obama administration warns that it is running out of money to address the child-migrant crisis at the southern border, the Washington Post reports. “Unfortunately, it looks like we’re on track to do absolutely nothing,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), sounding pessimistic about whether the differences in the plans can be bridged.

Senate Democrats plan to move forward next week on a spending bill to provide $2.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with the influx of minors from Central America flooding into the country illegally, about $1 billion less than President Obama has requested. House GOP leaders are working on a proposal to set the funding at less than $2 billion. They are set to unveil a set of policy principles today that would also mandate that the administration send National Guard troops to the border, a move the White House has called unnecessary. The competing border plans are expected to ignite a fierce fight on Capitol Hill that is unlikely to be resolved before Congress adjourns for a five-week summer break at the end of next week.


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MN Sues Globe University, Says School Misled Students About Police Jobs

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, alleging the for-profit sister schools misled criminal justice program students about their career prospects, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Swanson described a "sales-oriented culture" on their campuses, which she says aggressively pursued potential students with deceptive claims about jobs they would land and their ability to transfer credits to other schools. "This school left some people deep in debt with promises that did not materialize," Swanson said. She said school recruiters steered students who wanted to become police officers into bachelor's programs that lacked Minnesota accreditation. In addition, they recommended two-year associate degrees to would-be probation officers, although the state and most counties require at least a bachelor's degree for such jobs. A criminal justice associate degree program at the two schools costs $35,100; a bachelor degree program costs $70,200.

Globe and Minnesota School of Business said claims made in the suit "could not be further from the truth." The schools said their recruiters tell students that the criminal justice program does not fulfill requirements to become a licensed police officer in Minnesota. The almost 130-year-old Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business have seen rapid enrollment growth in recent years and now serve more than 11,000 students on campuses in five states and online. For-profit higher education institutions and their marketing practices have come under intense scrutiny in recent years in Minnesota and nationally.

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9/11 Panel Cites Terrorism's "Dangerous Phase," "Waning Sense Of Urgency"

The global struggle against terrorism has "entered a new and dangerous phase" with growing threats posed by foreign fighters returning from the civil war in Syria and the vulnerability of critical systems to cyber attack, say the authors of the 9/11 Commission report a decade after their original findings, USA Today reports. Panel chairman Tom Kean said there was "broad agreement" on the new threats facing the nation and rest of the world. The core leadership of al-Qaeda, which was responsible for launching the 9/11 assaults, has been dramatically weakened.

Yet the panel concluded that "affiliated groups are gaining strength throughout the greater Middle East" and are operating in 16 countries. "The country may be suffering from a waning sense of urgency," vice chairman Lee Hamilton said. Some of the group's most biting commentary was aimed at Congress, which panel member James Thompson, a former Illinois governor, called "embarrassing" for its deeply partisan political ways. The new commission report says Congress has "resisted" decade-old recommendations to streamline its oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, which now reports to 92 congressional committees and subcommittees, up from 88 in 2004.

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Light Penalties Given In NYC Police Officer Chokehold Cases

From 2009 to 2013, a New York City police oversight board substantiated nine complaints by people who said  police officers restrained them with a chokehold, a banned tactic that may have played a role in the death of a Staten Island man last week, the New York Times reports. In each of the nine cases, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates police misconduct, recommended that the Police Department pursue the strongest form of punishment for the officers: an administrative trial, which could lead to termination.

The police commissioner has the final say, and in all but one of the cases decided, the officers were not disciplined, or were given the lightest possible sanction: a review of the rules. The department’s response in the nine cases raised uncomfortable questions for the Police Department, which prohibits chokeholds because of the risk of serious injury or death, but in practice appears to treat the maneuver as little more than a lapse.

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Number Of Unaccompanied Kids Crossing TX Border Drops, White House Says

The number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border in recent weeks appears to be dropping substantially, reports The Hill. While an average of 355 unaccompanied children crossed the Rio Grande every day in June, an average of 150 migrant children per day were apprehended crossing the border over the first two weeks of July, said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. Earnest said it was unclear why the numbers had dropped, though he said the White House believes the administration’s “response and efforts to work with Central American leaders to publicize the dangers of the journey,” and efforts to tell immigrants they’d be sent back to their home countries, “have all played a part.”

Despite the decrease in migrant children captured across the border, the White House is still encouraging Congress to pass the $3.7 billion supplemental immigration request it unveiled this month. Earnest said “efforts to support deterrence, address the root causes of migration and build our capacity to provide the appropriate care for unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children” remained “critical to managing the situation.” Also yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that he planed to deploy 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border in a bid to address the crisis. 


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U.S. Criminal Justice System Now The Caretaker Of The Mentally Ill

An overwhelmed criminal justice system has become the de facto caretaker of Americans who are mentally ill and emotionally disturbed, says USA Today. From police departments and prisons to courthouses and jails, the care of those who are mentally ill weighs on law enforcement authorities, many of whom acknowledge they lack both resources and expertise to deal with the crushing responsibility. In a series, the newspaper will explore the human and financial costs the U.S. pays for not caring more about nearly 10 million people with serious mental illness.

About 1.2 million people in state, local and federal custody reported some kind of mental health problem, a 2006 Justice Department analysis concluded. Though the report included a broad definition of "problems'' — from mere symptoms to severe illness — the numbers represented 64 percent of those in jails, 56 percent of state prison inmates and 45 percent in the federal prison system. In one of the nation's largest detention systems, Chicago's Cook County Jail, Sheriff Tom Dart keeps a running tally of the incoming mentally ill cases on his Twitter account.

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Will Federal Prisoners Get Legal Help To Reduce Their Drug Sentences?

Most lower federal courts have ruled that federal prisoners do not  have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel at the sentence modification proceedings judges must conduct to reduce retroactive sentencing guidelines. Consequently, none of the nearly 50,000 federal drug offense prisoners who may soon become eligible for a reduced sentence have any right to legal assistance in seeking this reduced sentence, says Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman on his Sentencing Law and Policy blog..

Many federal public defender offices have traditionally made considerable efforts to provide representation to those seeking reduced sentences.  But even the broadest guideline reductions applied retroactively in the past (which were crack guideline reductions) applied only to less than 1/3 of the number of federal prisoners now potentially eligible for reductions under the new reduced drug guidelines. Berman suspects that public defenders are unlikely to be able to provide significant legal help to a significant number of drug offenders who will be seeking modified sentences under the new reduced drug guidelines.

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FBI To Start Recording Interrogations; False Confessions Still Possible

The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies soon will begin recording the interrogations they conduct, says NPR. It's a reversal of decades of policy and, the Obama administration says, a demonstration that agents act appropriately, without coercing suspects. Some big loopholes remain in the policy, though. Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project says that "recording, although it's not perfect, will go a long way to not only creating a neutral record, not only helping police, but also being able to demonstrate when a false confession occurs."

Keith Swisher, a professor at Arizona Summit Law School, argues that even innocent people can be coerced into false confessions under pressure from authorities. "Many of us will give them the answer these authorities want to hear," he says. "It's even a more dangerous situation when you have intellectually disabled individuals being interrogated or you have young individuals being interrogated."

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Border Crisis Leads To More Federal Investigations Of Money-Laundering

The increasingly costly and divisive border crisis is pushing federal investigators to crack down on money-laundering schemes they say are being used to smuggle thousands of Central American children into the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), are targeting suspicious patterns of deposits and withdrawals through "funnel accounts" held at U.S. banks.

Human-smuggling rings are using such bank transactions to fund their activities, officials said. In recent months, the arrests of several low-level money launderers, drivers, scouts and guides have bolstered and expanded the government's ongoing effort. Nearly 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, have been apprehended crossing into the U.S. since Oct. 1, overwhelming Border Patrol stations and social services. As a result, federal anti-money-laundering agents who once focused on dismantling violent drug cartels are turning their investigative firepower to human-smuggling networks.

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How St. Petersburg Mayor Went Off The List To Find New Police Chief

A day after St. Petersburg, Fl., Mayor Rick Kriseman interviewed his top four candidates for police chief last month and introduced them to the community in a public meet-and-greet, he got on a plane to Dallas. He was  unsettled, unconvinced that any was the right fit, says the Tampa Bay Times. At a conference that weekend, Kriseman sought advice from other mayors. They all had the same message: Don't settle. Don't be afraid to scrap the list.

Over the next several days, Kriseman put out feelers for chiefs he might want to recruit. One, it turned out, was close to home: Clearwater, Fl., Police Chief Anthony "Tony" Holloway. Kriseman cold called him, and liked him immediately. Two weeks later, they met at a diner outside both their cities. Kriseman said he asked Holloway the same questions he'd asked the others. This time, he liked everything he heard. "I came away very impressed and convinced this was the guy," Kriseman said yesterday, a few hours after officially announcing Holloway as the new chief. "The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was." Praise poured in for Holloway, 52.

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TCR at a Glance

The ‘War’ Against Whistleblowers

July 19, 2014

Hackers and free speech activists gather in New York to denounce what they call unprecedented government efforts to prosecute leakers

Indigent Defense Spending Stalled

new & notable July 18, 2014

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that government spending on indigent defense steadily dropped from 2008 to 2012