New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attended his first CompStat meeting yesterday at a time when the city is grappling with a new wave of gun violence, the Wall Street Journal reports. Analysts said de Blasio's appearance sent a message that he is engaged and is taking trends in public safety seriously. This year, the city has seen reductions in most major crime categories but shootings are at their highest levels since 2012. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 10, there have been 702 shooting incidents, compared with 621 for the same period last year.
Franklin Zimring, a professor at Berkeley School of Law, said the mayor's presence at the briefing indicated he was "taking crime very seriously." So far, Zimring said, the mayor can point to several law-enforcement successes, such as declining homicides as the police department rolls back its use of stop-and-frisk, which had created friction with black and Latino communities. Eugene O'Donnell of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a former police officer, said de Blasio's appearance at the briefing overall shows "police brass that there isn't a divide between him and them, that they're on the same page, that he's willing to be supportive of them. It's symbolic."
Task forces convened to review the policies of the troubled Denver Sheriff Department have issued 40 recommendations, reports the Denver Post. Suggestions designed to reduce the number of excessive force complaints include automatic notifications to the independent monitor, a review of the Taser policy, and training deputies on how to intervene in a crisis. The groups also recommend shorter work shifts and a revised break policy.
The draft recommendations will be refined before a final report is submitted to Public Safety Department executive director Stephanie O'Malley and a third-party oversight firm by the end of September. The process has also produced controversy. The Colorado Latino Forum last week dismissed the task forces as "political window dressing" and voted to withdraw from the process. Denise Maes of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado complained the group "didn't even know if any of our input was even taken."
Ohio and Kentucky police departments have snagged $80 million worth of military equipment, everything from grenade launchers to body armor to M16 rifles, through the federal program that allows local law enforcement agencies to get surplus equipment from the Pentagon, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. The program has come under new scrutiny after police in Ferguson, Mo., responded to civil unrest clad in body armor and camouflage, driving armored vehicles, and carrying assault rifles. It has also sparked a national debate about the "militarization" of local police. Backers of the Pentagon program say the equipment is vital for strapped local agencies that need to be prepared for dicey situations, including possible terrorist attacks.
Critics say local law enforcement officials now look more like they're prepared for combat in Iraq than for patrolling local communities. "One of the most alarming trends we've seen has been the militarization of American policing," said Tim Lynch of the libertarian Cato Institute. He said paramilitary units – like SWAT teams – were initially only in big cities, but now they're in small towns across America. And they are not just being used for extraordinary situations, as they were in the beginning. Nowadays, they are called out for routine policing."
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a $5-million settlement with the family of an unarmed National Guard veteran killed on live television in a barrage of gunfire at the end of a wild pursuit last year in downtown L.A., the Los Angeles Times reports. The proposed payout is the largest settlement the city has made in a fatal police shooting case in at least a decade and comes after Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck raised concerns about the officers' tactics.
Brian Newt Beaird, 51, led police on a dangerous pursuit on Dec. 13, weaving in and out of traffic in his Corvette at a high rate of speed. He was shot after he crashed into another vehicle and staggered out of the sports car. The officers who opened fire have been on paid leave. Councilman Bernard Parks, a former LAPD chief, said that the case was serious enough to warrant such a large payout and that a jury could have awarded far more had the case gone to trial. "This is a case that clearly had significant potential liability far beyond what the settlement offer was," he said. "It was a good business decision when you have a loss of life and you have evidence that could be viewed as overwhelming against the city of L.A."
Is Texas-born Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen ignited racial upheaval in a St. Louis suburb, an aggressor whose deadly gunfire constituted a daylight execution or a law enforcer wrongly maligned for just doing his job? The Associated Press says an incomplete picture of Wilson has emerged since Aug. 9, when authorities say the white six-year police veteran killed Michael Brown during a confrontation in the predominantly black city where all but three of the 53 police officers are white. The 28-year-old officer has gone underground since the shooting, with relatives contacted by AP refusing to reveal his whereabouts or discuss the shooting or Wilson's background.
His parents were married only four years before divorcing in 1989. Court records say Wilson divorced last November. His mother, a convicted forger and alleged con artist, died 12 years ago. Wilson got a commendation in February from the Ferguson police force, four years into his job there. An online fundraising drive on Wilson's behalf has drawn $77,000 in donations for the tall, slender and blond-haired cop. A longtime friend, former high school classmate and hockey buddy Jake Shepard, has come to Wilson's defense, insisting that the shy Wilson would never maliciously take a life and fears possible retribution. Having talked to Wilson since the shooting, Shepard said, "I think he's kind of struggling a little bit, but I think he's doing OK." Shepard added, "I can tell you for sure it was not racially motivated."
Many are worried that the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., could erupt on the streets of New York city this weekend, with a major protest march and rally scheduled to take place in Staten Island at the site of the sidewalk killing of Eric Garner allegedly at the hands of police, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The march, already planned by the Rev. Al Sharpton two weeks before the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, could draw more than 15,000 protesters to New York’s outer borough, drawing demonstrators both from the tri-state area and from across the U.S.
Organizers have been planning “justice caravans” of cars and buses across the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island. Since the police shooting in Ferguson, the significance of the protest march has grown exponentially from a march against NYPD tactics and Garner’s death to a national protest of police violence against minorities. Brown’s family is expected to attend, joining the family of Garner and others who died at the hands of police. So far, there has been little violence during New York protests, and Sharpton has repeatedly urged demonstrators in Ferguson to protest peacefully. Saturday’s protest rally, dubbed the “We Will Not Go Back March” by Sharpton’s National Action Network, will start in the morning and end at 3 p.m.
The shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., has exposed what the Justice Department doesn’t know about...
The news that a St. Louis County, Mo., grand jury began hearing evidence yesterday in the case of a white policeman who...
Jonesboro, Ar., Sun police reporter Sunshine Crump resigned Monday after being repeatedly attacked on Facebook by Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates, reports JimRomenesko.com.. She told her paper. “I do not feel safe here, and I will not continue to be put in a position of self-defense. I am an innocent person and an American citizen.” Among the comments Yates posted about the reporter: “Pro-dope smoking, law license revoked, left wing liberal, smelly, arrested by police, unscrupulous reporter;” * “This is the kind of journalism we have now … ask ole Sunshine (reporter) why her law license got suspended next time you see her;” “Dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the ‘clean end.’”
Waylon Harris, the Sun’s managing editor, quoted Crump as saying allegations about drug use were false. She said she once had a law license in Texas, but quit practice and stopped paying annual licensing fees, resulting in a procedural suspension. She was arrested once in college for participating in a protest. The charge was dropped. The newspaper’s publisher and its law firm have asked the city to take action against the chief. “Any other entity would have already fired or suspended an employee who made these types of vindictive comments,” says publisher David Mosesso, “and our city department heads should obviously be held to an even higher standard.” The chief says his comments about Crump are “constitutionally protected free speech” and that “I didn’t sacrifice my rights to freedom of speech for the sake of my job as police chief.”
The number of murders in New Orleans continued to decline through the first half of the year, albeit at a slower pace than the substantial drop last year, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The figures are on track for a third consecutive year of decreases in a city that has long struggled with one of the nation's worst murder rates. Police reported 70 murders in the first six months of this year, 8 percent fewer than 2013's midyear total of 76. Recent violence increased the murder count to 92 as of Thursday morning, but that's still on pace to end the year below the 156 murders in 2013.
City leaders credit an anti-gang task force and social programs launched less than two years ago, but they wondered if the positive effects will be long-lasting. The downward trend has been eclipsed at times by outbursts of deadly violence and multiple-victim shootings that made national headlines, including killings on Bourbon Street and the Lower 9th Ward this summer. The recent surge comes as police force attrition continues, and during a leadership change after the sudden retirement of Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas this week. Criminologist Peter Scharf wondered if the downward trend in murders is sustainable. "There have been positive changes," he said, adding that an estimated 140 to 150 murders for 2014 appears to be "a cautious guess." He said, "the rise in murders in the past 30 days makes even the most ardent supporters of the city's efforts fearful of a reversal of fortune."