Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 521 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY November 15, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Walk, don’t run; award-winner’s mixed emotions; Buck stops here; saluting TOP COPS.
Liquid assets: Cops train to handle suspects in fluid situations.
Going mobile: Louisville’s new approach to containing civil unrest.
Sign of the times: For some offenders, a dose of public shame can work wonders.
Be on the lookout: Sheriff asks residents to help spot meth labs.
Not in our town you don’t: Philadelphia seeks help in keeping suburbanite druggies out of “the Badlands.”
One man’s soapbox: Sheriff’s Web page message pulls no punches.
Problem solved: Green Bay cops earn kudos for downtown improvement effort.
Thanks but no thanks: PD rejects prosecutor’s input, decides to go it alone on reform.
Forum: An American sergeant finds lessons on combating police violence in the slums of Rio.

 
Rethinking stopping power
Bean bags, capture nets gain in popularity

      Before there were Taser guns and pepper spray, there was the capture net and bean bag ammunition. Although the former have remained popular with law enforcement agencies seeking less-than-lethal force options, the popularity among police of nets and impact rounds has seemed to wax and wane over the years. Now, however, interest in capture nets and bean-bag rounds seems once again to be on the upswing, with a number of departments using them effectively in standoffs with lightly armed suspects.
      Perhaps chief among the reasons for the less-than-lethal approaches returning to vogue is that they can significantly reduce a department’s liability, as well as quell community outcry over the use of deadly force — especially when the victim was considered to be mentally disturbed...


FBI & others keep a close eye on millennium threat from extremists

      After conducting a lengthy analysis of the millennium-related ideologies held by political and religious extremists, the FBI believes the potential for violence by such individuals as the new year approaches to be great enough that it has drafted a highly secret report on the issue, and distributed it only to state and local law enforcement.
      The study, called “Project Megiddo” after an ancient battleground in Israel associated with Armageddon, is intended to provide a clear picture of potential extremism by groups who attach special theological or technological significance to the Year 2000, according to the bureau. The FBI has carefully guarded against the release of the document to the media, and issued only a single statement after an article about Project Megiddo appeared in USA Today last month...


Internal review under review in Seattle. (Anyone seen the files?)

      As if the Seattle Police Department had not already had its ability to police itself called into question by allegations of a theft and cover-up by veteran detectives and the subsequent appointment of a citizen review panel to examine the way internal police investigations are conducted, the FBI is now looking into how confidential materials gathered by that review board disappeared while in police custody.
      The missing-files incident erupted just weeks after the department and city officials in September embraced the recommendations of the four-member review panel, chief among them the appointment of a civilian to head an Office of Public Accountability (OPA) to direct internal investigations...

When it’s sink or swim:
Cops learn to handle suspects in the water

      Given the profusion of rivers, canals, bays and inlets in Broward County, Fla., law enforcement officers there are being taught how to defend themselves and control suspects while submerged in the water as proficiently as if they were on dry land.
      Eight training instructors from around the county participated in a three-day course in September where they learned basic techniques for staying alive if an offender should pull them into one of the numerous waterways that crisscross the area. Participants were required to wear their bulletproof vests, gun belts and work shoes as they plunged into the water. After a day of training at the Central Park Pool in Plantation, the group advanced to waters that were 14 to 18 feet, said Sheriff’s Deputy Wally Haywood, a safety training coordinator who proposed the course...


Going mobile: Louisville tries new approach to containing civil unrest

      It may never be used, but a new type of riot-control strategy is nonetheless being taught to more than 600 Louisville, Ky., police officers, in hopes that the approach can effectively contain civil unrest in multiple locations before the violence has a chance to spread.
      Over a three-month period beginning in September, officers were trained in what the Police Division is calling a mobile field force system. Instead of a standard military model, in which officers stand in long lines facing rioters, the new tactics calls for deploying officers in smaller, more flexible groups. Traveling four to a car, a special squad of 80 officers can be sent anywhere in the city to contain civil unrest before it explodes into full-scale mayhem...


Anti-crime message: ‘Shame on you’

      What worked for the Puritans 300 years ago still appears to be working today for San Antonio community police officers, who are using public shaming to keep some probationers from recommitting crimes.
      San Antonio Fear-Free Environment, a program launched in 1997, forces offenders to display signs announcing the crimes they have committed. Bexar County Court-at-Law Judge Karen Crouch has made it a condition of probation in some cases. Nearly a dozen graffiti vandals throughout the city now have signs erected in front of their homes reading, “Graffiti Offender on Probation Lives Here.”...


Calling on reinforcements to help spot meth labs
Sheriff has residents, merchants serving as extra “eyes and noses”

      Coffee filters, lithium batteries, engine starter fluid and cold formulas containing pseudoephedrine — all are off-the-shelf products with legitimate uses that would not look suspicious in any home or garage. Yet that same shopping list could be applied to far more sinister purposes by criminals who use the items to mix potentially lethal batches of methamphetamine in the home-grown laboratories being uncovered with increasing frequency by police in Arkansas and other states.
      To make merchants and residential property owners aware of the ingredients used in methamphetamine production, the Pulaski County, Ark., Sheriff’s Department last month began holding an ongoing series of public meetings with neighborhood watch groups...


Keeping suburbanite druggies out of town

      In an effort to dam the stream of suburban motorists who flock to North Philadelphia to purchase heroin, the city’s Police Department has applied for Federal funding to create a joint city-suburban task force that would arrest buyers as they return home with the drug.
      It is the steady flow of out-of-towners that has led the department to expand its focus to include buyers, Deputy Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We have to send a message to them…. Because if you don’t have the buyers, then there are no sellers.”...


Sheriff’s on-line message: Crime prevention or soapbox?

      Lee County, Fla., Sheriff John McDougall is entitled to call the shots as he sees them, but some county commissioners are questioning whether he has the right to air his conservative views on abortion rights, media moguls and “United Nations one-world government radicals” on a department Web site paid for with public funds.
      While the county attorney’s office and state Attorney General’s office have declined to comment on whether McDougall is violating the law by using the site to trumpet his own opinions, county Commissioner John Manning told The Associated Press: “Anybody can hold their own personal views, but when it comes to taxpayers paying for the Web site there has to be a question…of the appropriateness of that activity.”...


Lights shine a little brighter on Broadway
Green Bay officers’ problem-solving efforts to clean up business district earn national recognition

      Five years ago, the Broadway Business District in Green Bay, Wis., was a decaying part of the city, trashed by a population of transient alcoholics who panhandled from pedestrians and stirred up fights in the neighborhood’s many taverns. Today, the area has been slowly turned around, due largely to the work of a community policing team that developed and applied a five-step process — and have now won a prestigious national award for their efforts.
      The Police Executive Research Forum, which presents the annual Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing selected the Green Bay team from a pool of 76 nominations submitted by agencies in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. Among the factors for choosing the winner were the development of clear and realistic goals, in-depth analysis of the problem, the use of effective evaluation criteria and the involvement of citizens and community resources in solving the problem...


PD goes it alone in charting reforms

      By rejecting recommendations made by the Camden County, N.J., prosecutor’s office earlier this year on resolving troubling issues of misconduct in the Haddonfield Police Department, local officials have left the municipality wide open to three multimillion-dollar lawsuits and an FBI investigation into anti-Semitic conduct in the agency, critics have charged.
      The prosecutor’s report, issued in April following a five-month probe of the 24-member department, indicated that the agency was out of control and suggested that borough commissioners Gene Kain, Tish Colombi and Ted Dorn reorganize their government so that Dorn, who is public safety director, could not run the police department. The study also recommended that a police chief from outside the department be appointed...