Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXXI, No. 631 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 2005

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Budget bomb: End nears for COPS office.
No sanctuary: Four shootings leave a trail of dead.
Behind the scenes: The NYPD’s counterterrorism analysts.
Connecting the dots: DHS ops center looks for the big picture.
Access denied: Tribal police shut out of Calif. database.
Numbers racket: Seeing red over profiling data.
How cheesy: Police react to “Who’s a Rat” Web site.
Time Capsules: 25 years ago in LEN.
People & Places: A legend returns; stepping down; a big head; homegrown PC; man of the moment; it’s not the money; evolving vision.
Short Takes: Easy-to-digest news capsules.
Shock therapy: IACP offers Taser-use guidelines.
Baked ham: Taser testing planned for pigs.
Homeland insecurity: Terrorists’ easy access to gun purchases.
Missing the target: Appeals court tosses FBI ballistics test.
Forum: Police are not the cause of violence; the dutiful heart.
It’s a stretch: Chief makes limited budget go further.

 
Giving identification the finger
Questions surround accuracy of digital fingerprint images

     The pattern of ridges and whorls that make anindividual’s fingerprints unique can, when captured as adigital image, be inadvertently altered by the very softwarepolice use to enhance details that may have been lostduring the digitizing process, according to experts.

     Most law-enforcement agencies today have moved onfrom rolling an arrestee’s inked fingers on an index card towhat is called a live scan. The subject places his or herclean hands on a computer screen and an optical scannercaptures the prints, sending them instantly to state andfederal databases for storage and comparison. Over thepast 10 years, the number of digitized prints sent to theFBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint IdentificationSystem (IAFIS) database in Clarksburg, W.Va., has grownfrom a handful to more than 80 percent of the total....


A touch of evil
Prof’s index plumbs the depths of depravity

     For centuries, the nature of evil hasbeen a subject for discourse and debateamong theologians and philosophers. Thenet result, in the estimation of a psychia-trist at Columbia University in New York,has been a discussion that “talks about itin abstract and not very useful ways —and often in very confusing and inappro-priate ways.

     ”Now, says Dr. Michael H. Stone, “theball is our hands to say something useful”about evil, a term that he believes properlydescribes the type of savagery committedby the Ted Bundys and the John WayneGacys of the world....


Budget bombshell:
FY 2006 could spell doom for COPS funding

     Statements by the White House describing the Justice Department’s COPS program as “nonperforming” and unable to “effectively demonstrate” an impact on reducing crime added insult to injury in February, when state and local law-enforcement leaders learned that the proposed FY2006 budget makes deep and possibly fatal cuts to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and its grants.

     In his $2.57-trillion budget, President Bush proposes cutting funding for the COPS office from the $499 million it received this year to $22 million in 2006. Another $635 million cut in federal grants would eliminate the program’s Community Oriented Policing Services Grants and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants. Overall, the Justice Department stands to lose nine programs worth $1.5 billion....


No sanctuary from spree of shootings

     In the span of just a few weeks, in locations as ostensibly safe as a church, a high school, a courtroom and the home of a federal judge, four gunmen shot and killed more than 20 people in separate incidents from late February to mid-March.

     Among the victims were a judge and several law enforcement officers....


For the NYPD, only the best will do:
Behind the scenes, analysts lead the way

     They speak at least five languages among them, have taught at Ivy League schools, and hold a variety of advanced degrees. But instead of working in the far more lucrative private sector, these highly-trained civilians are key players in the New York City Police Department’s counterterrorism efforts.

     The NYPD’s counterterrorism analyst program, conceived late in 2001 by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, is considered the first of its kind in the nation. Terrorism experts say that the analysts hired by the NYPD are as skilled as any in the federal government. ...


DHS Ops Center focuses on “incidents” while keeping an eye on the big picture

     Connecting the dots in the war on terrorism is the mission of staffers at a two-year-old Homeland Security Operations Center that collects and analyzes data received from local police, private individuals and federal agents.

     The HSOC is located in a residential neighborhood five miles from the White House. Information gathered by its staff on a round-the-clock basis will feed directly into the National Counterterrorism Center being set up in Northern Virginia....


Tribal police want their fair share of access to California LE database

     California’s tribal police chiefs are charging that discrimination lies behind the state’s refusal to allow their departments to access either state or federal law-enforcement databases.

     According to Stan Kephart, police chief of the Cabazon tribe and member of the California Tribal Police Chiefs Association, tribal police are the only federal entities in the state that are not allowed into the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) — the gateway to the National Crime Information Center....


Numbers racket:
Texas cops see red over racial profiling data

     The racial profiling law in Texas should be modified to exempt those situations in which police have no discretion over whom they come in contact with, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said last month, after releasing statistics that showed blacks being stopped at higher rates than either whites or Hispanics.

     The Houston Police Department was one of a number of agencies in Texas that, pursuant to a 2001 state law, issued reports during February and March showing the racial breakdown of people stopped and searched last year. Under the law, all departments must submit such data each year to their local governments by March 1....


To police, “Rat” Web site is nothing but cheesy

     While its disclaimer states that information posted on the “Who’s a Rat” Web site should be used for entertainment purposes only, state and federal law enforcement agencies find nothing amusing about a site that provides profiles of nearly 800 alleged informants and undercover officers.

     The site was launched last August by Sean Bucci, a 31-year-old Boston man who is awaiting trial on federal charges of marijuana conspiracy. It allows users from around the globe to post the names, ages, location, occupation and any other pertinent information about law-enforcement agents and suspected informants. “Who’s a Rat” also posts photographs, past illegal activity and criminal records. ...


Time Capsules

     Safety Officers’ Benefits Act that would provide death benefits to the survivors of federal law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty. Federal officers were not included in the original 1976 law.

     The FBI reports that the 105 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States in 1979, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. Firearms were used in 95 percent of the slayings....


Short Takes

     A radio-frequency security system used in more than 150 million new Fords, Toyotas and Nissans could be cracked by thieves using a “relatively inexpensive” electronic tool, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

     The system, developed by Texas Instruments, uses a transponder chip embedded in the car key and a reader inside the vehicle. Even if the key is inserted into the ignition, the car will not start if the reader does not recognize the transponder....


Chief concerns:
IACP weighs in with Taser-use guidelines

     A nine-step protocol for the safe deployment of stun guns, released last month by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, will provide a framework for agencies who want to develop their own plan for using the non-lethal weapon, according to the organization.

     The timing of its report, “Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology: A Nine Step Strategy for Effective Deployment,” seemingly reflects the profession’s growing wariness of the Taser. Many if not most in law enforcement continue to maintain that it leaves little lasting harm to subjects, but it is getting harder to ignore reports — some by police themselves — that the Taser has caused significant injury....


Animal-rights group rips plan to try Taser on pigs

     As if Taser International, the nation’s leading stun-gun manufacturer, didn’t already have enough critics nipping at its heels, it will now have animal rights activists to contend with, after researchers at the University of Wisconsin have announced plans to conduct the first independent study on the effects of the Taser on pigs’ hearts.

     “If the hypothesis is correct that Tasers do not electrocute the heart, then why are people dying in custody after they have been shot with Tasers?” asked John Webster, a professor emeritus of biomedical engineering who will conduct the two-year study....


Homeland insecurity:
Nothing stopped terrorists from buying guns

     With nothing to disqualify them, dozens of suspected terrorists who appeared on FBI watch lists were approved to purchase firearms during a nine-month period in 2004, according to a Congressional investigation that has prompted the bureau to re-examine current legislation that allows such applicants to slip through.

     Investigators from the Government Accountability Office found that of 44 terrorist suspects who sought clearance to buy or carry a gun, 35 were approved between Feb. 3 and June 20, 2004. Another 14 applied in the four months after the official inquiry had ended. Of those, only two were disqualified. In all, 47 of 58 applications were approved, investigators found....


Appeals court says 30-year-old FBI ballistics test fails to hit the bullseye

     The integrity of the criminal justice system would be “ill-served” if a ballistics test used by the FBI to match bullets to crimes be allowed to stand, a New Jersey appeals court ruled last month, ordering a new trial for a defendant convicted in 1997 with evidence drawn from the technique known as data chaining.

     Michael S. Behn was sentenced to life in prison for the 1995 slaying of a South River coin dealer. The court’s reversal of his conviction is believed to be the first in the nation based on a challenge to the bureau’s forensic process....


eBay-savvy chief makes budget-dollar go further

     When his $88,000 budget won’t cover the bill, an enterprising police chief in Donegal, Pa., goes searching for laptops, patrol cars and other big-ticket items on the Internet, where he buys them for a fraction of what they would otherwise cost.

     There are very few things that Ethan Ward will pay full price for. These may include body armor, radios and sirens. But for most everything else his three-man department needs, Ward looks on eBay. ...