Around the Nation
CONNECTICUT — The U.S. Department of Defense has given the city of Waterbury six German shepherds to train as police dogs. The dogs had gone through training but did not qualify for military use.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — A new communications system for the district’s police, EMS, and fire departments will be paid for with $31 million in federal funds. The system will be linked to local and federal public safety agencies in adjoining areas.
According to FBI statistics, the Washington metropolitan area had 90 bank robberies in 2002, up from 64 in 2001 and 54 in 2000. Some law enforcement officials say the increase is not necessarily a reflection of a sour economy but may be attributed to cyclical fluxes in the imprisonment and release of bank robbers.
MARYLAND — The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled Dec. 12 that vehicle passengers can not be searched for drugs just because a police dog smells drugs in a car. Judge Dale Cathell wrote that a passenger can not be perceived to have the same control over the contents of a vehicle as the driver.
The Maryland Transit Administration is offering free train passes to plainclothes officers who agree to watch for terrorists or other troublemakers while riding to and from work on the MARC transit system in the Washington, D. C. area. The plan is modeled on a program implemented in Virginia after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In October, the FBI warned that terrorists have considered targeting U. S. passenger trains.
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Keene police say there is a “mini epidemic” of the city’s teens abusing cold medicine to produce a hallucinogenic high. In recent months, at least four teenagers have been hospitalized for overdosing, or “robotripping,” on over-the-counter cold medicine. Officials think there may be more cases that were never reported to the police. The most dangerous of the cold medicines when abused, according to police, is Coricidin, which contains the highest amount of dextromethorphan, a chemical that produces psychedelic effects when taken in large doses.
NEW JERSEY — James L. Andros III, a 12-year veteran of the Atlantic City police force, who was fired from his job and faced with charges of murdering his wife, was exonerated Dec. 5 when an independent forensics expert found that Ellen Andros had been killed by bleeding in her coronary artery. The medical examiner had ruled the death in March 2001 a homicide — asphyxia by suffocation — in what was believed to have been a case of domestic abuse turned deadly. Andros will be reinstated as an officer and will seek the return of his daughters, who are currently living with his in-laws.
NEW YORK — The New York City Council on Dec. 4 passed two bills protecting victims of domestic violence. The first would mirror state law in redefining victims to include common-law and dating couples who have access to each other’s apartment. It also forbids shelters from turning people away who lack a police report or order of protection. The second bill would forbid anyone with a history of domestic abuse from getting a permit for a shotgun or rifle.
The New York City Police Department is seeking a new protective-gear supplier after tests found that some of the bulletproof vests supplied by Point Blank Body Armor did not stop bullets. The company agreed to replace more than 6,000 of the 20,000 vests purchased by the NYPD, but the department decided to take its business elsewhere. [See LEN, Oct. 15, 2002.]
Bobby Joe Maxwell, who is serving life in prison for two of 11 Skid Row murders in Los Angeles in the late 1970s, has been linked to the 1970 murder of a Syracuse cab driver. The case broke when New York State Police entered fingerprints collected from the slain cab driver’s vehicle into a national Automated Fingerprint Index System. A match led them to Terry Lynn Shumate of Knoxville, Tenn., who was arrested and charged with murder. Shumate told state police that he and Maxwell robbed the cab driver, Willie Joe Grant, a 31-year-old father of seven, and then killed him and dumped his body.
The state Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 12 that police must have a more specific goal for setting up roadblocks than general crime fighting. The decision came in the 1996 case of Charles Jackson, who was a passenger in a car stopped at a roadblock by the New York City Police Department’s Street Crime Unit. During the stop, officers noticed a bag of cocaine by Jackson’s feet. Jackson served four years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance.
In mid-December, New York City police had counted 53 note-job bank robberies in the previous six weeks — about triple the rate of the first 10 months of the year. Police and banking officials said that the number of nonviolent bank heists usually does surge during the holidays, but this year has been particularly busy and may be a sign of tougher economic times.
PENNSYLVANIA — Paxtang borough Police Chief Suzanne Elhajj has been suspended without pay for hiding her husband’s theft of two of her guns to trade on the street for crack cocaine. An investigation revealed that Theodore Elhajj called his wife in April 2001 to tell her he had relapsed into drug abuse and took her guns. She then took his signed statement and entered it into a national crime database and called a friend in a neighboring police department without jurisdiction. Mayor Bill Parker said that officials do not believe she had anything to do with the theft.
A 10-year veteran state trooper, Joseph Sepp, 34, was shot in the head in early November by a suspect whom police had chased after he fled a routine traffic stop. Sepp died 37 hours later. The suspect, Mark Leach, was in custody in an area hospital where he was treated for gunshot wounds suffered when other officers returned fire. Sepp was married and had three young children.
On Dec. 9, Gov. Mark S. Schweiker signed a bill that would note noncitizen status on foreigners’ drivers’ licenses and have the licenses expire at the same time as their entry visas. The measure was part of a move to bring the state in line with federal homeland-security legislation adopted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
RHODE ISLAND — The Department of Motor Vehicles has launched a new digital driver’s license system aimed at making falsification and identity theft more difficult.
ARKANSAS — Police in Little Rock have been meeting every Thursday at the Taqueria Karina Cafe where the owner’s bilingual teen-age daughter teaches them Spanish. Sgt. Randall Walker started the lessons at the restaurant because he saw them as a way to bridge the gap between the city’s Hispanic population and the police. In southwest Little Rock, there seems to have been a recent rash of robberies targeting Hispanic men, but tracking crimes against the group is difficult because many state law enforcement agencies classify Hispanics as “white” or “other.” According to the latest census figures, the state’s Hispanic population more than tripled from 1990 to 2000.
FLORIDA — Gov. Jeb Bush and the state clemency board has restored the civil rights of E. Michael Kehoe, former chief of the FBI’s violent crimes section, who was imprisoned for a year for destroying a report that criticized the bureau’s role in the 1992 fatal shooting in Ruby Ridge. State law prohibits felons from voting unless their rights are restored.
Port St. Lucie police arrested two third-graders at a local elementary school for possession of 15 small bags of marijuana on school grounds. Drug possession within 1,000 feet of school grounds is a felony. In light of the arrests, school officials are now reevaluating drug-education policies and programs. Formal drug education does not begin until fifth grade with the DARE program. Officials will now look into drug-education programs for younger children.
Lisa Barbella, 41, was in a coma suffering from undisclosed injuries after leaping from the open window of a moving St. Petersburg police cruiser. Police opened the windows because she urinated in the car after they used pepper spray on her to stop her from kicking and punching them. Barbella was arrested and charged with possession of crack cocaine, drunk driving, resisting arrest and battery on an officer. If she survives, she will also face an escape charge.
GEORGIA — A Fulton County assistant district attorney was suspended and charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly fighting with an officer at the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. Reportedly, when the officer asked Shannon Leigh Love, 30, to move her car, which was parked by a terminal, she got out of her car and ripped the officer’s badge from his clothes. Other officers helped to restrain her after a struggle ensued. Her lawyer said that Love did not know the man was an officer because he was wearing black fatigues.
LOUISIANA — Former Baton Rouge police officer Dareen Locket faces up to 20 years in prison after being convicted of raping one of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s campaign volunteers. Locket once served as a bodyguard for Nagin.
NORTH CAROLINA — In a lawsuit filed Dec. 6, the widow of Highway Patrol Trooper John Duncan Jr., who died in a car wreck while chasing a suspect, is suing the Ford Motor Company, claiming her husband’s Crown Victoria patrol cruiser had several defects. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration completed an investigation in October after the vehicles were linked to the fiery deaths of at least a dozen officers, but revealed no defects. [See LEN, Sept. 15, Oct. 15, Oct. 31, 2002.]
VIRGINIA — About 20 people found not guilty of misdemeanor charges by reason of insanity were released from state mental hospitals, where they had served an average of eight years. A new law limits the time they can spend in a mental hospital to one year. Previously, they could be held indefinitely.
State Senator Henry Marsh plans to introduce a bill that would require criminal background checks on anyone who seeks to buy a gun at a gun show. Current law requires federally-licensed gun dealers to conduct the checks but does not apply to unlicensed dealers.
The Harrisonburg Police Department has purchased new polygraph hardware that will enable police to determine, through motion sensors on a subject’s back, feet, and arms, whether they are trying to trick the system. Lt. Tom Hoover said he has seen suspects use a variety of tricks they have learned on the Internet to try and deceive a polygraph machine and produce an inconclusive result.
ILLINOIS — A divided state supreme court ruled that police who pull over motorists for traffic violations must have solid suspicions that a crime has taken place before they call in drug-sniffing dogs. The decision came in a case of a woman who was determined to have a small amount of marijuana following a traffic stop by a Fairfield officer. Dissenting judges wrote that the U. S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that dog sniffs are not searches governed by the Fourth Amendment and therefore police did not need a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
INDIANA — After discovering that such incidents were underreported, a task force has been appointed to review the state’s ability to track the deaths of children from abuse and neglect. Forty-eight such deaths have been investigated over the past four years but final tallies were not believed to have been reported accurately.
Nearly 1,000 excise police, state conservation officers and state troopers have voted to unionize, forming Local 1041, the Indiana Professional Law Enforcement Association.
According to a report by police and mental health workers, 4 out of 5 northwest Indiana residents who need drug addiction treatment do not receive it. The authors of a report sent to community leaders blame the mistaken notion that the war on drugs could by won by hiring more law enforcement personnel and building more prisons.
Michael A. Nufer, president of the Indiana Troopers Association, was fired from the union job after members complained about a statement he made in a political advertisement that questioned the qualifications of Trooper Rick Lewis, who was running for Steuben County sheriff. Lewis, who went on to win the election, said he received many complaints from troopers who felt the ad represented an attack on all troopers.
KENTUCKY — Anti-police protests in Louisville have called for the resignation of Police Chief Greg Smith and the firing of detectives Brian Luckett and Michael O’Neil, after the fatal shooting of a handcuffed black suspect in early December. The detectives, both of whom are white, said that the suspect was aggressive and lunged at O’Neil. Four people confirmed the officers’ account, Smith said. The officers have been placed on leave while the FBI conducts an investigation.
MICHIGAN — About 20 police officers and firefighters in the Detroit area have banded together to form the Metro-Detroit Police/Fire Pipes and Drums, a group that will perform for free at funerals of public safety officers killed in the line of duty. The band’s business operations head, Dearborn Police Det. Gary Marchetti, said that “our ultimate goal is to never have to play.”
An investigative report by The Detroit News has found that more than 26,000 Wayne County fugitives are at large, some of them living at the same addresses at which they were originally arrested. County prosecutor Michael Duggan said that the number of unserved warrants and walkaways has created a culture of ineffectiveness and a belief that law enforcement does not work. The investigation found several cases of fugitives living at addresses and working at jobs known to police, frequenting familiar places and even having telephones listed in their names.
The U. S. Border Patrol says that its unannounced, rotating checkpoints, which started on Nov. 12 in areas of the state known to be frequented by immigrant smugglers, are working well. Although the checkpoints haven’t caught any smugglers yet, they did lead to the arrest of at least one illegal immigrant — a Honduran who saw the checkpoint and then turned his vehicle around and tried to flee. The American Civil Liberties Union has said that it is not aware of any racial profiling complaints linked to the checkpoints.
State Police officials have questioned some 200 troopers and sergeants about using e-mail and the Internet inappropriately. The State Police director, Col. Stephen Madden, said that disseminating what would be considered highly inappropriate materials — including jokes or photographs — represents a violation of department policy, with penalties that could range from verbal reprimand to dismissal.
OHIO — A bill that would allow Ohioans to carry concealed guns is moving ahead in the state Senate. The state highway patrol is hoping that the bill would be amended to include language similar to current law, which prohibits a loaded weapon from being within reach of a vehicle’s driver or passengers. Unloaded weapons may be carried but must be in plain sight. The new bill would require sheriffs to issue permits to any state residents who pass a criminal background check and successfully complete 12 hours of firearms training.
WISCONSIN — Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur Jones has admitted that recent rhetoric aimed at Mayor John O. Norquist was divisive, but added that playing the “race card” could eventually bring about solutions to community problems. Norquist and Jones were once close political confidants but lately Norquist, who once campaigned on a pledge to cut crime in Milwaukee in half — has been unhappy with Jones’s responses to requests for better results. Jones, referring to the mayor as “Massa Norquist,” accused him of controlling the civilian Fire and Police Commission after that panel ordered the chief to develop a plan to reduce gun crime.
Although neighboring states are upgrading their 911 systems to accommodate wireless users, Wisconsin’s effort to meet a 2005 deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission remains on hold while officials from the state, wireless companies and local governments debate a plan to levy a surcharge on cellular customers to fund equipment upgrades. One proposal, based on plans in place in Indiana and Michigan, calls for a monthly surcharge of 50 cents to 70 cents and the creation of a state board to distribute funds to cellular companies and local governments that operate 911 dispatch centers.
IOWA — Dubuque residents have reportedly been receiving calls from telemarketers purporting to be local or state law-enforcement personnel soliciting cash donations. The callers promised to send bumper stickers in return for the money. A police spokesperson told the (Dubuque) Telegraph Herald that the police department is not soliciting funds.
Iowa City police are scratching their heads over the bank robber who walked into a downtown bank and gave tellers a note demanding money, then sat on a couch in the lobby to wait for police. Jerry Feick, 52, was charged with second-degree robbery and held on $13,000 bond. Although his robbery note said he had a gun, police found him unarmed.
MINNESOTA — Public safety officials and the City Council in Red Wing are weighing whether to allow the police department to have NASCAR-style advertising on its squad cars to help ease a fiscal crisis. A North Carolina company, Government Acquisitions LLC, offers new patrol cars for $1 each if the police department allows the advertising. [See LEN, Nov. 15, 2002.]
MISSOURI — St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa has ordered the city’s 1,100 police officers to wear bulletproof vests — something that was previously optional — after officers were shot at or involved in gunfights eight times in three months. While officials are not sure why so many people are suddenly shooting at the city’s police, Mokwa said that it may be due in part to police being more aggressive in problem neighborhoods or to brazen street hoods who appear capable of anything.
Dent County chief deputy sheriff Sharon Joann Barnes died after being shot on Dec. 9 when she and Sheriff Bob Wofford, who was also shot, went to a home to question a man about shootings at another residence. Earl M. Forrest II, 53, of Salem was charged with killing Barnes and two other people whose bodies were found earlier. The initial killings appeared to be drug-related as a large amount of methamphetamine found at Forrest’s home had been taken from the residence of one of the other victims. Barnes was the widow of a Salem police officer who died in 1995. Wofford, who was grazed by a bullet, was treated at a local hospital and released.
NEBRASKA — The Scotts Bluff County Merit Commission has upheld a 30-day unpaid suspension imposed on sheriff’s deputy Jeff Chitwood, after it was determined that he was speeding when his cruiser crashed into another vehicle, killing one person and paralyzing another.
Legal experts say that an unintended side effect of sex offender registration requirements is that offenders often have difficulty finding work or a place to live after their names and faces appear on registration Web sites. In turn, those who keep track of sex offenders are faced with the problem of how to register transients. The address of one homeless ex-convict, who served time for sexually assaulting a child, is listed on the Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender Registry Web as: “Transient. Living in car. Fairbury.”
A study committee has pressed local leaders to give serious attention to the possible merger of the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Although several issues have to be addressed, many residents think the merger will take place in the near future. The two governments’ 911 emergency systems have already merged and the computer systems are due to be consolidated soon.
ARIZONA — The Tuscon City Council has rescinded a policy that required background checks for private gun sales transacted at gun shows at the city’s convention center. The policy had not been enforced since the National Rifle Association and a show promoter sued. The council will research options for a new policy.
In an effort to keep smugglers from driving across the border, the federal government is considering building steel barriers in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Coronado National Memorial. Officials say that tons of drugs and tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have come through the area.
An independent audit has found that Scottsdale’s police take-home vehicle program lacks oversight. Auditors said the city should have employees track after-hours use of the vehicles, limit the miles the vehicles can be driven, and tie vehicle use to “on-call” responsibilities.
COLORADO — State Patrol Chief Col. Lonnie Westphal announced Dec. 5 that the department will begin random drug testing of troopers, communications officers and other officials. He said it was part of an effort to reinforce the public’s confidence.
On Dec. 9, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman announced the launch of two programs aimed at stemming an increase in vehicle thefts. The first, “Lock It & Stop It,” will have police work with property managers to teach them ways to reduce auto theft. A “Watch Your Car” program will allow police to stop any registered vehicle seen driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to determine whether it’s been stolen. People who register with the program will receive a decal to place on their car.
A newly released document revealed that a DNA sample was discovered almost two years after the still-unsolved death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. The evidence came to light in a deposition from Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner in a civil case involving the girl’s parents. It was not made clear where the sample came from, but Beckner said that it did not come from JonBenet’s body or clothing. He could not say how many people were compared to the sample.
NEW MEXICO — Gabriel Arias, 20, has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating or poisoning an animal, after police accused him of killing his cat, then barbecuing and eating it. Police say that he killed the animal because he wasn’t able to feed it and he was hungry.
As part of the state Department of Public Safety’s training program, about 200 city, state and federal law enforcement officers will be carrying a “threat card” that lists indicators of potential terrorist activity and a toll-free number to reach the department’s counterintelligence unit. In September, the state released its plan for homeland security, which DPS Secretary Thomas English said has already become a tool for shaping public policy.
OKLAHOMA — A federal judge has rejected the Tulsa police union’s attempt to block a proposed settlement between black officers and the city in a racial discrimination suit. The Fraternal Order of Police argued that it has veto rights over the agreement but the judge disagreed, saying that the union would have the same opportunity to present its objections during the usual process for adopting or rejecting a settlement. The union said that the settlement is at least a partial admission that police in Tulsa are racist. In the agreement, the city admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to address about 30 police department policies, including hiring and promotion procedures.
TEXAS — A state Court of Criminal Appeals has reversed a lower court ruling that had suppressed the testimony of El Paso Deputy Police Chief Cerjio Martinez, which was presented as evidence that he committed aggravated perjury in a case involving leaked police documents. The lower court suppressed the testimony because it said Martinez was not properly advised of his rights, but the appeals court ruled that “the state’s misconduct is not a license to commit perjury.”
Houston police have asked East End residents to call a temporary halt to their armed patrols in search of gang members. Residents have been resorting to vigilantism in response to a 23-percent increase in major crimes last year. Victor Trevino, a Harris County precinct constable, said that while some crimes have been on the rise, residents should rely on law enforcement to reverse the trend.
A Bandera jury has sentenced a man to life in prison for fatally shooting a friend he says took his last beer. Steven Brasher, 42, shot Willie Lawson, 39, in the head after arguing over the missing beer. Brasher claimed the shooting was an accident.
CALIFORNIA — The federal appeals court in San Francisco has upheld most aspects of a state law restricting the sale and ownership of assault weapons. The three-judge appellate panel held that the Second Amendment only protects the collective right to organize a state militia. The panel also struck down as irrational a provision in the state law that allowed retired law enforcement officers to have assault weapons.
The state supreme court on Dec. 5 unanimously upheld a law that makes it a crime for people to purposely lodge false accusations against the police. The law was enacted after a flood of complaints made against officers following the beating of Rodney King in 1991. The decision reinstates convictions against a couple who were prosecuted for falsely accusing an Oxnard officer of exposing himself to about 50 teenagers. The two were convicted but a state appeals court later reversed the conviction, citing the couple’s right to free speech. The state supreme court, however, said that free speech guarantees take a back seat to police, as false accusations could damage an officer’s credibility and waste police resources.
In response to a growth in non-emergency 911 calls in San Diego, the California Highway Patrol is increasing its San Diego County dispatching staff by nearly 20 percent, at an estimated cost of $400,000 annually. The number of calls in that area has grown from 460,000 in 1999 to 1.2 million this year. Authorities blame the increasing numbers of cell phones, as all 911 calls made from them are routed to Highway Patrol dispatchers. An estimated 60 percent of the 7.2 million 911 calls made to the Highway Patrol statewide from cell phones were either accidental or for non-emergencies.
IDAHO — In Jerome, a man was arrested for threatening a co-worker he suspected of having ties with al-Qaeda. Robert Johnson, 29, was denied bail because a judge determined that he was still a threat after police found three homemade bombs in his van.
NEVADA — The Reno City Council has adopted more than three dozen short- and long-term initiatives aimed at ridding the downtown casino district of prostitutes, drug dealers and panhandlers. The plan includes prohibiting new liquor stores, banning repeat panhandlers and alcohol violators from downtown streets, and putting a squad of retired police officers on the beat to help keep drug dealers from the area.
OREGON — Multnomah County Judge Jean Maurer threw out all evidence found in what was deemed an illegal search of Portland Police Officer Gina Hoesly’s garbage. The ruling undercuts the prosecution’s case against Hoesly, a 12-year veteran who has been charged with possessing cocaine, methamphetamine and Ecstasy. Prosecutors said that the officer abandoned her garbage by leaving it on a public sidewalk, but a city employee who wrote Portland’s trash rules testified that homeowners own their garbage until it is collected and hauled away.
WASHINGTON — The Seattle City Council is considering enacting a “don’t ask” policy that would prohibit police from asking people about their immigration status unless they’re suspected of a crime.
he state supreme court ruled Dec. 5 that arrests stemming from random checks of vehicle and drivers’ license data do not violate the privacy protections of the state constitution. Defense attorneys had argued that the constitution’s guarantees, as well as a 1990 law restricting access to licensing information, should have invalidated the arrests of three men following a license check, but the court held that such records are essentially public and that law enforcement was exempt from the 1990 law.
The Seattle City Council is considering taking advantage of a state law that gives local government the authority to restrict sales of specific types of alcohol, to ban sales of alcohol that are popular with the city’s homeless. The ban would cover an area that has become known for its chronic public inebriates. The city estimates there were more than 1,800 citations in 2000 for public drunkenness and more than 1,300 transfers in the city’s detox van in 2001. If approved by the state liquor board, three restrictions would be put on markets in the area — no sales of alcohol between 6 and 9 a.m., no high alcohol-content malted beer or fortified wine, and no off-site sales of single cans or bottles of beer.