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John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Honorees Among 2013 George Polk Award Winners

Journalists who investigated the unregulated use of young confidential informants, failures by California’s Office of Protective Services to address abuse at state clinics and the death of a man who was in Milwaukee police custody were among the 14 George Polk Award Winners announced Monday by Long Island University. Sarah Stillman of The New Yorker, whose article “The Throwaways” was runner up for this year’s John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards, won for magazine reporting. Gina Barton of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — a previous John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim winner and judge for the 2012-2013 awards — won the local reporting award for her story “Death in a squad car leaves trail of anger, doubt.” Ryan Gabrielson of California Watch — a previous ohn Jay/H.F. Guggenheim fellow — won the award for state reporting for his “Broken Shield” series. For the full list of winners, click HERE.

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Report: NYPD Violated Rights of Journalists Covering Occupy Wall Street

A report released by a group of human rights lawyers found that New York police officers often violated the rights of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests and arrested at least 18 of them, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Protest and Assembly Rights Project, the coalition of lawyers that authored the 200-age report, listed numerous incidents where reporters were obstructed, arrested or physically abused since the beginning of the Occupy movement in September.

The study also found that the NYPD conducted frequent surveillance during the demonstrations. The report said a “media blackout” during an eviction of protestors in Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15 was “the most egregious single example of police violation of the rights of the media to cover protests freely.” Relying on eight months’ worth of data collection and the testimony of journalists who were blocked from covering the eviction, the study noted that many reporters were forcibly removed from the scene and that at least 10 of them were arrested that day.

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Methadone, Penn State, Policing, Judiciary Stories Win Media Awards

Criminal-justice stories were among major award winners in an annual contest by the Associated Press Media Editors association, the Associated Press reports. A Seattle Times' investigation of the state of Washington's practice of steering people to methadone to reduce its Medicaid costs won a public service award. The newspaper's three-part "Methadone and the Politics of Pain" exposed how more than 2,000 people in the state between 2003 and 2011 fatally overdosed on methadone, a cheap and unpredictable painkiller that was routinely prescribed for people in state-subsidized health care.

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., was honored for its coverage of the Penn State sex-abuse scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Sarasota (Fl.) Herald-Tribune were the winners of the Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism. The Journal Sentinel was honored for "Both Sides of the Law," an investigation into the system that allows Milwaukee police officers to stay on the job despite violating laws and ordinances they were sworn to uphold. The Herald-Tribune won for its "Unfit for Duty" reports on Florida's law enforcement officers, their personal and professional conduct, and the system that was not up to the task of monitoring them. The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press got a First Amendment award for its investigation of the sloppy handling of warrants by the Vermont judiciary, which revealed negligence at every level of the legal system.

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Boston's Davis to Journalists: Don't Overemphasize Crime Stats

Running community policing programs well is more important than bringing crime statistics down, says Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis. Speaking to a national journalism convention yesterday in Boston, Davis said that while reducing crime numbers is important, "what matters is how the public feels about" police department efforts. He said, for example, that police flooding an area where drug sales are rife will produce high arrest numbers. He added, "That's not the solution to the problem, and it can increase the public distrust of the police." He urged journalists not to take a "myopic view" of crime statistics that can prompt "crazy" policing methods that will not lead to long-term crime reduction.

Davis spoke on a panel sponsored by Criminal Justice Journalists at the national convention of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Earlier, Brian Haas of The Tennessean talked about his stories on police officials who declared crimes "cleared" on the ground that witnesses would not cooperate. Ben Poston of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described his ongoing series on Milwaukee police employees who have downgraded reports of crimes so they are not included in the city's violent crime rate. Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University criticized media reporting that exaggerates the significance of one-year changes in crime rates that may amount to no more than random fluctuations. Taking a longer view of statistics gives the public a better perspective on actual crime trends, he argued.

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TCR at a Glance

How to Build the ‘Perfect Cop’

February 27, 2015

Can community policing restore public trust in a profession shaken by national events? The Sacramento News & Review gets a mixed answer.

Study: Medical Identity Theft on the Rise

new & notable February 26, 2015

The number of patients victimized by medical fraud schemes jumped nearly 22 percent in 2014, according to an annual study by the Ponemon ...

How to Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform

new & notable February 25, 2015

Two new studies by the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group, highlight successful campaigns for changes to state criminal justice policy

There Goes the Judge

February 24, 2015

Once-sleepy “retention elections” for judges have become vulnerable to big-spending partisan campaigns.