In another setback for California's tough gun-control laws, a federal judge ruled Monday that the state can't require gun buyers to wait 10 days to pick up their newly purchased weapon if they already own a gun or have a license to possess a handgun, says the San Francisco Chronicle. U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii of Fresno said the 10-day wait for current gun owners is a restriction on constitutional rights that isn't justified by safety concerns.
He said there was evidence that some would-be gun buyers, including the two individual plaintiffs in the case, had decided not to make the purchase because of the time and expense needed for a second trip to a gun shop. "The 10-day waiting period burdens the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms," Ishii said. The ruling applies only to individuals who already own guns or have obtained a concealed-weapons license from their local law enforcement agency, and leaves most first-time gun buyers still subject to the waiting period, which was not challenged in the lawsuit.
The Wire examines the technology of wearable police body cameras "to understand the inner workings of (the) possibly game-changing accessories." Prompted by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Missouri teenager, about 150,000 people have signed a White House petition in favor of creating the "Mike Brown Law," which would require all police to wear body cameras. Numerous U.S. police agencies are considering adding or expanding the use of the devices.
A number of companies market the cameras, which are about the size of a beeper and can be clipped to an officer's uniform shirt. Design, data storage and costs are explored in The Wire article. "It's the best available evidence that's neutral," said Steve Tuttle of TASER. "It's just an observer. The truth is the truth."
A highly touted computer system designed by the LAPD to identify misconduct by police officers routinely flags cops who appear to pose no problem while failing to catch many of those who do, says the Los Angeles Times. A report by the Police Commission's inspector general, Alex Bustamante, scrutinized an early warning computer program that the LAPD has used since 2007 to track patterns of excessive force and other misconduct by its 10,000 officers. The analysis casts doubt on the usefulness of the computer system, which federal officials forced the LAPD to build after years of corruption and abuse.
In light of similar concerns raised internally, department officials have asked an outside research group to conduct a comprehensive review of an entire network of databases that contain information on officers' performance and are used to trigger the early warnings. That review began last month and will determine whether changes should be made to more effectively focus on potentially trouble-prone officers. It will also examine whether the system has had any effect on improving officers' conduct.
Journalists and the ACLU are suing the Oklahoma Corrections Department, alleging the decision to close the blinds on a botched April execution violated the First Amendment, reports the Oklahoman. The civil lawsuit filed Monday in Oklahoma City federal court contends that closing the blinds midway through the execution of Clayton D. Lockett kept the media, and by extension the public, from witnessing what the suit says is the most powerful governmental procedure: the taking of a life.
An ACLU lawyer said the state "should not be exercising its most awesome power in the shadows, outside the view of the press and the taxpayers." Lockett writhed, grimaced, mumbled and shuddered during his April 24 execution, which became a focal point of the national debate over the constitutionality of the lethal injection process and the secrecy laws surrounding the sources of the drugs used. The blinds were closed 13 minutes into Lockett’s execution, and media witnesses were escorted out minutes later. The Corrections Department reported Lockett died 43 minutes after the beginning of the procedure of an apparent heart attack.
Florida Today says that the eight law enforcement agencies in Brevard County have more than 1,100 pieces of military surplus equipment, including 400 assault rifles, a mine-resistant armored vehicle and a Vietnam-era helicopter. The newspaper is one of many in the U.S. that has inventoried the military-style gear of local police agencies in light of the controversial show of force by cops during protests of a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo. About 2.42 million military surplus items worth $1.32 billion are being used by police nationwide.
Brevard's armored vehicle belongs to police in West Melbourne, population 19,000. "All those armored vehicles have been used to rescue kids in schools and people in shopping malls," explained West Melbourne Police Lt. Mark Thompson, citing mass shootings around the country. In Brevard County, some law enforcers carry military assault rifles on routine patrol. "You don't need a big gun until you need a big gun," said sheriff's Lt. John Coppola, who oversees most of the surplus buying for the agency.
A federal judge has found that Detroit police operations changed during the past 11 years and ended oversight of an independent monitor who was put in place after police were accused of excessive use of force, illegal detentions and unconstitutional conditions of confinement, reports the city's Free Press. U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn granted a request that had been filed jointly by the city and the U.S. Justice Department to enter into an 18-month transition agreement.
During that time, the Department of Justice maintains watch over ongoing reform efforts in the department without oversight by the monitor. The city entered into consent judgments with the Justice Department in 2003 after constitutional violations were found.
Two years ago, a police shooting in his town prompted D. Brian Burghart, editor of the weekly Reno News & Review, to seek the answer to what he thought was a simple question: How often do cops kill people in the United States? "Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police," he writes in Gawker. "How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn't being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn't have a way to compare to other cities?"
So Burghart began his own count, a crowd-sourced national database of deadly police encounters at the website FatalEncounters.org. His list now includes thousands of entries and is growing rapidly. He writes, "The biggest thing I've taken away from this project is something I'll never be able to prove, but I'm convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why."
Jolted by images of protesters clashing with heavily armed police officers in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the government’s decade-old strategy of outfitting local police departments with military equipment, says the New York Times. The review will consider whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately. The government will also consider whether it is keeping a close enough watch on equipment inventories, and how the weapons and other gear are used.
The review, coupled with proposed legislation and planned congressional hearings, opens the possibility for significant changes in Washington’s approach to arming local law enforcement agencies. America got a glimpse of that gear over the past two weeks in Ferguson. “The whole country and every representative and senator have seen the visuals, and at some level, it made all of us uncomfortable,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.,), who will lead a hearing in September into police use of military-style equipment. “It’s a moment where we can take a timeout and look at these policies.”
Writing in the New York Post, law professor and crime expert Franklin Zimring rebukes activists who, "in a startling bit of revisionist history," argue that the sweeping crime decline in New York City was inevitable and had nothing to do with the “broken windows” policing strategy enacted two decades ago. "Crime dropped nationwide, they argue, so New York isn’t unique," Zimring writes. "But these arguments defy logic — New York not only became safer than any large city in America, it did so while its population grew and its prison population fell."
Zimring says "the only logical explanation" for the crime decline was the NYPD's proactive, aggressive targeting of specific crimes in specific areas, like cleaning up outdoor drug markets. That aggression has been blamed in the death of Eric Garner, who died in police custody after he was violently subdued on Staten Island earlier this summer for selling cigarettes. "Garner’s death is proactive policing done wrong, not right," writes Zimring. "But should this really lead to the elimination of the strategy that made the city safe? Done right, the benefits of intensive patrol and aggressive policing are real."
Each time police officers draw their weapons, they step into a rigidly defined world where written rules, hours of training and Supreme Court decisions dictate not merely when a gun can be fired, but where it is aimed, how many rounds should be squeezed off and when the shooting should stop, says the New York Times. A grand jury will decide whether the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager two weeks ago followed his department's 12 pages of police department regulations that govern officers’ use of force.
But deciding whether an officer acted correctly in firing at a suspect is not cut and dried. A host of outside factors, from the officer’s perception of a threat to the suspect’s behavior and even his size, can emerge as mitigating or damning. Says one expert, “If a police officer has an objectively reasonable fear of an imminent threat to his life or serious bodily harm, he or she is justified in using deadly force.” “Objectively reasonable” is a standard set by the Supreme Court in 1989 when it said that a police officer’s use of excessive force must be seen in the context of what reasonable officers would do in the same situation.