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Salary Gap In Police Response To Brown Killing; Some Get $10.50 Per Hour

After the Ferguson police killing of Michael Brown this summer, police officers from throughout St. Louis County were dispatched there to respond to mounting protests. Though the officers were doing the same jobs, they were paid starkly different wages, some as low as $10.50 an hour, reports NBC News. Data from 24 municipal police departments in St. Louis County show a gulf between police officer pay in poor, majority African-American cities and wealthier, whiter cities. Average annual patrol officer pay ranges from $23,000 in Hillsdale to nearly $70,000 in Town and County and Des Peres.

The police pay gap in St. Louis County is mirrored in metropolitan areas and rural communities around the U.S., with some officers earning a comfortable middle-class living and others scraping by on poverty and near poverty wages, forced to take second and third jobs to cover basic costs. The wage gap affects not only the police officers themselves, experts say, but the communities they are paid to serve. “In areas without a tax base to speak of, where residents live in poverty already, communities are saddled with a police force that is underpaid and under resourced in other ways,” says David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies policing. “It’s another form of a penalty for being poor.”

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Ferguson Chief Thomas Jackson Denies Report He Is Resigning

Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson denies a CNN report he is resigning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. "It’s absolutely not true. Nobody has asked me to resign, nor have I been fired," Jackson said. He added: “If I do resign, it will be my own choice.” CNN’s report cited unnamed “government officials familiar with the discussions ongoing between local, state and federal officials” as saying Jackson is expected to step down. Mayor James Knowles III confirmed that Jackson has not resigned. “He’s stayed strong with us till this point,” Knowles said by text. “Don’t see that changing.” Knowles also said no state or federal officials had asked the city to consider disbanding its police force.

Assistant St. Louis County Police Chief Kenneth Cox said he was unaware of any formal discussions about the county taking over policing duties in Ferguson. “This is a decision that would be up to the city of Ferguson,” Cox said. “I definitely don’t know what the future holds, but there have been no contracts signed and no formal movement from the Ferguson City Council.” Meanwhile, seven St. Louis area school superintendents asked St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCullough not to announce the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting case during the school day, fearing that riots will occur if police officer Darren Wilson is not indicted.

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Pathologist Denies Saying Autopsy Shows Brown Was Reaching For Officer's Gun

A forensic pathologist quoted in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the shooting death of Michael Brown said some of her statements concerning the autopsy were taken out of context, reports the Washington Post. Judy Melinek was quoted about the volatile case in which Brown was fatally shot Aug. 9 by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. The Post-Dispatch, focusing on St. Louis County’s autopsy of Brown and an accompanying toxicology report, relied on unidentified sources with knowledge of the county’s investigation of the shooting, leaked autopsy documents, and quotes from Melinek and others. The Post-Dispatch said it stands by its reporting, including Melinek’s comments.

Melinek, based in San Francisco, tells the Washington Post she did not assert that a gunshot wound on Brown’s hand definitively showed that he was reaching for Wilson’s gun during a struggle while the officer was in a police SUV and Brown was standing at the driver’s window, as the Post-Dispatch reported. Melinek says the autopsy facts could be viewed differently. “Bullet trajectory analysis is complex, and you cannot interpret autopsy reports in a vacuum,” she wrote in an e-mail. “You need the scene data and the witness statements. When a forensic expert says something ‘appears to be’ or is ‘consistent with’ the findings, that doesn’t mean it is the only explanation. It means it is one possible explanation — one that fits the current forensic data. That opinion might change as other data comes to light.”

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U.S. Files Civil Charges Against Narco Freedom In Medicaid Kickback Case

The U.S. government filed civil charges yesterday against a chain of substance abuse treatment centers in New York City over an alleged Medicaid kickback scheme, a week after the New York attorney general's office indicted the father and son who ran the centers, Reuters reports. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sued Narco Freedom, a nonprofit that provides treatment to tens of thousands of patients at 10 locations.

Narco Freedom operates what are known as "three-quarter houses," where individuals undergoing treatment are offered housing. The nonprofit requires those individuals to enroll in outpatient programs run by Narco Freedom, according to the lawsuit. "Narco Freedom then bills Medicaid for the outpatient program services that are a condition of residency at its Freedom Houses," the lawsuit said. "As a result of this illegal kickback scheme, Narco Freedom has received tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid funds." The organization's top executives, Alan Brand and his son Jason Brand, last week pleaded not guilty to criminal charges.

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Dallas Police Will Start Web Page With Data On 12 Years Of Police Shootings

Dallas police officials will launch a Web page next month detailing information on 12 years of shootings by police officers, reports the Dallas Morning News. The announcement comes after a spate of such shootings this year by Dallas officers, and mounting complaints from community leaders about them. This year, the department has had 19 shooting incidents so far this year. The total had ballooned during the summer months. Typically, Dallas police have averaged 16.5 shootings each year since 2003.

Chief David Brown told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee that his goal is to increase transparency. “We just believe that the public’s trust is at stake,” Brown said. A 2012 shooting nearly sparked a riot. In April, a grand jury indicted a Dallas officer in an on-duty shooting for the first time in more than 40 years. An indictment of another Dallas officer for a separate shooting followed the next week.

 

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Postal Service Approved 50K Mail Monitoring Requests From Law Enforcement

In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the U.S. Postal Service approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to monitor Americans' mail secretly for criminal and national security investigations, the New York Times reports. The number of requests, cited in a new audit by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting citizens from potential abuses is lax.

The program has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The audit found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization. The audit questioned the agency's efficiency and accuracy in handling the requests. Many requests were not processed in time, the audit said, and computer errors caused the same tracking number to be assigned to different surveillance requests.

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Cold Case Investigators Checking Files After IN, VA Murder Arrests

The arrests of serial homicide suspects in Indiana and Virginia have prompted cold case investigators around the U.S. to dig through files of unsolved murders, reports USA Today. Police in Texas and North Carolina are looking for killings similar to those linked to Darren Vann, under investigation for at least seven killings of women in and around Gary, In. Investigators in Virginia are seeing if unsolved killings could be connected to Jesse Matthew, charged in the Sept. 13 disappearance of Hannah Graham in Charlottesville, Va. "If you know there is credibility to what (a suspect) is telling other people because he is recovering bodies, and when you have someone like that who is saying he has been on a spree for a long time, that tends to get your blood pumping," says Lt. Scott Ehlert, head of the Austin, Texas, cold case squad. "You immediately want to look into unsolved cases you have that occurred in the time frame when he would have been in your jurisdiction, and then look to see if those cases are similar as to his MO."

For many Americans, their perception of cold case investigators was shaped by the CBS television series "Cold Case," which ran from 2003 to 2010. "No cold case of 30 years gets solved in 45 minutes with three commercials," says Joseph Giacalone, retired commanding officer of the Bronx cold case squad in New York City. A cop for more than 20 years, he is now an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a consultant.

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Some San Francisco Jail Inmates Getting Computer Tablets For Education

San Francisco jail inmates now have the opportunity to access computer tablets as part of the institution's educational programs, the Bay City News Service reports. The San Francisco Sheriff's Department, along with its associated charter school, partnered with New York-based American Prison Data Systems on a pilot program to provide content-secured tablets to inmates, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said. The program is aimed at increasing an inmate's ability to access education and reduce recidivism. In addition to GED classes, the jail offers vocational training in what Mirkarimi calls "marketable skills," including bicycle repair, solar panel installation and urban gardening, among others. 

"It's all about public safety and crime prevention," Mirkarimi said. "If we equip people in our custody with a desire to learn -- that also requires some motivation to help them learn and to stick with it -- then we are seeing less and less people return to the San Francisco jail system." The jail purchased 125 tablets for 1,300 inmates. Mirkarimi said the tablet program is a natural extension of the jail's Five Keys Charter High School, an independent accredited charter school on the jail's premises that has been in operation for 11 years. In the past four years, Mirkarimi said, the recidivism rate of inmates has dropped nearly 40 percent to a 44 percent total.

 

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