Facing protests from other vendors, the FBI has cancelled plans to hand industry giant Motorola Solutions Inc. a sole-source contract worth up to $500 million to upgrade the bureau’s antiquated nationwide two-way radio network, reports McClatchy. The FBI had argued that switching to another vendor would force the purchase of a complete new system costing $1.2 billion because the existing Motorola network has proprietary features that can’t interact with non-Motorola equipment.
However, the bureau proposal in July was met by three formal protests to the Government Accountability Office, led by a small Florida radio manufacturer, RELM Wireless Corp., which said uniform design standards for radios had ensured that other brands could connect to a Motorola system. The firm sells walkie-talkies with the same specifications as Motorola’s for less than half the price, $1,700 compared with Motorola’s $4,200. Illinois-based Motorola commands an estimated 80 percent of the U.S. public safety market. An FBI official said the bureau will "reassess its requirements as well as the acquisition strategy for meeting them.”
Writing in USA Today, criminologist James Alan Fox mulls whether school-shooting drills serve a useful purpose or needlessly frighten students. Countless schools have adopted these simulations, voluntarily or by legislative mandate. The hope is that students and faculty will be sufficiently prepared should some dispirited student or deranged intruder decide to turn the school into a battle zone. But Fox writes that such drills can do more harm than good.
"It is questionable whether children are indeed better prepared by participating in such charades," he writes. "But the downside is in needlessly scaring impressionable youngsters and reinforcing the notion that they are in constant danger." Fox concludes, "Obsessing over the unlikely possibility of a school shooting can unfortunately serve to inspire potential copycats and inadvertently increase the chance of tragedy."
The Times-Picayune reports that a $600,000 campaign to recruit new police officers in New Orleans has attracted hundreds of applicants but only a handful who qualify. Some wonder if NOPD standards, including requiring some college credits, may be hindering the recruitment effort. But in a department with a long history of rogue officers, advocates in the past have also urged the NOPD to be more selective.
The city has a goal of increasing the NOPD's regular ranks from the current 1,100 to 1,600. It won't be easy. Of the 2,048 people who have applied this year, only 17 had been cleared for hire in an upcoming NOPD academy class. Officials explained that most of the applicants don't meet basic requirements, don't follow through on their initial application or can't pass the required tests and background check.
South Carolina's aging prison population will become an increasing financial burden, reports The State. In the past decade, the number of state inmates age 55 and older has more than doubled. At the end of June, one in every 11 inmates was 55 or older. Barring changes in the state’s parole system, the aging prison population stands to become even more expensive.
“We’ve passed policies and laws that have dictated we want our prisons to become nursing homes,” said Jon Ozmint, the Columbia lawyer who was head of the state’s prison system under former Gov. Mark Sanford. It costs about twice as much nationally to house a prisoner over 50 as it does the average prisoner, according to an ACLU study. South Carolina prison officials say they do not break out costs according to a prisoner’s age. But the cost per inmate to state taxpayers increased from $12,353 in 2003 to $16,542 last year.
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.