Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 543 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY November 15, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Quarter-millionaire; Bratton gets the call; Houston, we have a problem; inside out; class act; Mass. appeal; now you see them, now you don’t.
Shoot? Don’t shoot. Cops get new guidance on firing at vehicles.
At their fingertips: Field trainers get help from Palm Pilot software.
Pulling the plug: SWAT training ends in death, maybe policy change.
Take a number: Lining up to review police shootings in Detroit.
Virtual pursuits: Simulator helps deputies get a grip on chases.
Beg pardon: Would-be cop gets a clean record.
Access denied: Why a local PD can’t use Indiana’s crime database.
Pluses & minuses: Florida cops are honest, proud, overworked & underpaid.
Sweetening the deal: Can bonuses lure Chicago cops to work in high-crime districts?
That does not compute: Data overload hampers Customs’ computer system.
Forum: A pure & simple solution to potential DNA contamination.
Letters to the Editor: Readers sound off.
Win some, lose some: Courts rule on police-related matters.

 
An education in crime stats
Colleges race the clock to meet accurate-data mandate

      Two years after passage of a tough new federal law aimed at improving the reporting of crimes committed on college campuses, it was down to the wire last month for thousands of schools as they tried to meet a mid-October deadline for posting crime data on a U.S. Department of Education Web site.
      The effort marks the first time such statistics have been published by the federal government and reflects an unprecedented push to establish accuracy in the documenting of offenses. Under the provisions of the Jeanne Clery Act, passed in 1998, colleges found filing false reports face a fine of $25,000 for each misreported figure...


To testify in R.I. cases, first you have to stay alive

      Rhode Island’s police, sheriffs and marshals got their first lesson in identifying and protecting vulnerable witnesses last month under a decade-old state program whose guidelines were revised in the wake of the fatal shooting of Jennifer Rivera, a 15-year-old Providence teenager killed last spring before she could testify at a murder trial.
      Some 120 local and state law enforcement officers received two days of training on Oct. 26 and 27 on new rules and procedures pertaining to witness protection that were developed by the office of state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse. The new standards call for police and prosecutors to assess the risks to a witness and provide needed protection. It also establishes the position of “witness protection coordinator” who would serve as a liaison to state and local police, said William J. Ferland, chief of the attorney general’s criminal division...


Des Moines police don’t thumb their noses at use of TV news chopper

      Des Moines police officials say they are less concerned right now about any potential conflict of interest in the agency’s occasional use of a local television station’s helicopter than they are about the craft’s rotors blowing away bits of evidence from a crime scene.
      Under an agreement with WHO-TV, the department can use the helicopter — dubbed Chopper 13 by the station — to fight crime when it is not being used to cover the news. The agency used it for the first time on Oct. 6 during the search for a missing woman...

Shoot? Don’t shoot.
Following incident, Chicago cops get new guidelines on firing at vehicles

      Chicago police officers will no longer be allowed to shoot at cars unless they are being fired upon by occupants, under a new policy handed down last month by Police Superintendent Terry Hillard.
      Agency spokesman Pat Camden said that officers confronted with an oncoming vehicle will be expected to move out of its path. “The easiest thing to do is get out of the way, first and foremost,” he told Law Enforcement News. “This is something the Superintendent has been looking at for a while and finally decided to put the changes in writing as of the 18th of October.”..

Info at their fingertips:
Field trainers have reports well in hand

      Field training officers from the Alexandria and Arlington County, Va., police departments have given two thumbs up — way up, as the film critics say — to Adore (Automated Daily Observation Report and Evaluation), a software package for evaluating recruits which they say saves them hours of overtime hand-writing reports.
      Adore, which can be accessed either through a laptop or a Palm Pilot, not only provides for computerized note-taking while FTOs are watching their trainees at work, but cuts paperwork by allowing trainers to easily compile numbers for evaluating performance in dozens of categories. Trainers can compress the equivalent of several page of notes into a file and use a keystroke to assign a numerical rating to a recruit’s performance. Information about each candidate is stored on disk which can be passed among the different FTOs with whom the recruit works...

After SWAT trainee’s death, Florida county’s not shooting blanks in seeking policy change

      A team of Sarasota, Fla., school board and local law enforcement officials will decide whether the police department’s Criminal Justice Academy needs to change its policy regarding the use of plugged barrels during training exercises, in light of the death of a county firefighter in September.
      Michael Yahraus, who was training to become a member of the Sarasota police SWAT team, was killed on Sept. 11 after he was struck in the eye with a 2-inch piece of lead that shot out of the barrel of a plugged firearm and ricocheted off of a car windshield...


In the crosshairs:
Lining up to probe deadly force in Detroit

      With the FBI launching a civil rights investigation into the shooting this summer of a deaf man armed with a rake and the mayor of Detroit inviting the Justice Department to review fatal police shootings over the past five years, any other agency seeking to probe the Detroit Police Department’s use of deadly force may have to take a number and wait its turn.
      Mayor Dennis Archer said that in an effort to appease city residents, he had requested in a Sept. 22 letter that Attorney General Janet Reno’s office scrutinize each of 40 deadly force cases since 1995. Concerns over the number of people killed by police — as well as subsequent internal investigations that cleared the overwhelming majority of officers involved — have been growing since a published report in May which found that Detroit led the nation’s major cities in fatal police shootings...


Pursuit simulation training is no ordinary crash course

      While it is no substitute for actual driving experience, a driving simulator used by the Medina County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Department has proven to be an effective means of determining how and when a pursuit should be called off.
      “The training simulator not only provided training, but it stimulated interest in our pursuit policy and caused a review of that policy through a committee which made some recommendations,” Chief Deputy Tom Miller told Law Enforcement News. “We actually found it wasn’t that bad, but we made some clarifications.”..

She begs their pardon, and gets a new chance at police career

      In a ground-breaking move last month, the Minnesota Board of Pardons removed a 13-year-old misdemeanor conviction for shoplifting from the record of a would-be police officer.
      Although the board has pardoned misdemeanors in the past, it has always been in conjunction with felonies on a person’s record, said the board’s Executive Secretary, Sherry Jacobsen. A resolution adopted in connection with the case of Holli Ellering, a 34-year-old law enforcement studies major at Inver Hills Community College, opens the way for other people seeking to have just misdemeanors erased from their records...

Access denied
Local PD shut out of Indiana crime files

      A meeting that is scheduled between the Highland, Ind., Police Department and the state police committee in charge of overseeing access to the FBI’s criminal database will determine whether a suspension of the department’s privileges in place since September will become permanent.
      The revocation of Highland’s access to the Indiana Data and Communications System (IDACS), the state’s portal into the National Crime Information Center, is believed to be the first such suspension in at least a decade. State police auditors claim that local investigators had been using the system to run checks on contractors and door-to-door solicitors in direct violation of IDACS policy, and continued to do so even after being warned...

Life is good for Pinellas cops, but could be a whole lot better

      On the plus side, police officers in Pinellas Park, Fla., show a high level of integrity, ride in a well maintained fleet and are proud of their agency. On the down side, they feel underpaid, oppressed by supervisors they believe unqualified to manage and think they are overworked, according to a recent consultant’s report.
      Focusing on questions of morale, the $51,000 study conducted by the Tallahassee-based firm MGT of America interviewed each of the agency’s 119 sworn and civilian personnel individually, and offered written questionnaires that were completed by 67 employees...

More cops wanted in high-crime districts
More cops wanted in high-crime districts

      A plan by Chicago city officials to draw veteran officers to high-crime districts — aided by the promise of a $1,000 bonus and a choice assignment after a five-year tour — has been embraced by the city’s police union, which sees the program as an enhancement for those officers it believes would stay anyway for any number of reasons.
      The proposal was made by Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration in the wake of a report by The Chicago Sun-Times last year, which found that four of the city’s most dangerous districts were patrolled largely by rookie police officers, who were then replaced by more newcomers once they gained enough seniority to transfer out...

Data problems are a custom at Customs

      The Y2K scare may be just a footnote in the history books, but computer problems of a different sort are still a headache for the U.S. Customs Service, where data overload is causing regular brownouts of the computer system at the nation’s ports of entry.
      According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal on the use of outdated equipment by federal agencies, low-tech software from the 1980s has been causing as much as one-third of the Customs Service’s network to fail each month. An agency spokesman, while acknowledging the problem, called that figure misleading. What is occurring, he told Law Enforcement News, is the occasional shutdown of a regional system when it becomes overloaded with data...

Letters: Looking back

      To the editor: I read with interest your 25th anniversary supplement (LEN, Sept. 30, 2000) and the various commentators’ perspectives on the major developments in law enforcement. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
      Top Positive Developments: 1) Educational emphasis in policing recruitment, selection and promotion. It began in the late 1970s and Larry Sherman’s 1978 effort, “The Quality of Police Education, set the tone for future changes. 2) The community policing philosophy taking hold based on various authors’ efforts, including David Bayley, Herman Goldstein, Robert Trojanowicz, etc., and the practical application by such police chiefs as Tony Bouza, Lee Brown, Willie Williams, etc. 3) Effective proactive sting-type self-initiated tests to control and minimize police corruption and misconduct — a shift to using the same methods applied against vice crime, such as undercover agents, informers and surveillance...

Around the country, police have their days in court

      For police agencies around the nation, it was a case of you win some, you lose some in terms of a number of recent state and federal court decisions affecting law enforcement.
      In Denver, the city’s North Metro Drug Task Force was given authority by a District Court judge to search a book store customer’s purchase record as part of its investigation into a meth lab. The lab had been discovered during a raid on an mobile home in Adams County last spring...