Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 509 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 15, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Lured back as chief; forward-looking dean; youth shall be served; a change of habitat; No. 2 no longer.
Seizure behind the wheel: A no-nonsense approach to confiscating DWI drivers’ vehicles.
Search me: Supreme Court expands the limits of traffic-stop searches.
Who are you? Identity theft is becoming a big-time headache for victims and law enforcement.
The color of policing: Is the New Jersey SP overly tough on minority troopers?
Hit ’em where they live: Promotional credit for city residency gets scaled back in New York.
Eyes in the sky: Satellite-based system keeps closer tabs on parolees.
Forum: The effects of irresponsible civilian complaints — the more things change. . .
Privacy rules: Court upholds confidentiality of police personnel files in misconduct case.
Realty reality: Megan’s Law listings on the Internet affect real estate transactions.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.

Putting the hobbles on perp walks?
Courts look askance at police playing to the media

     The “perp walk,” a law enforcement tradition in which suspects are paraded before the hungry eyes of the news media, may be about to take its last few steps, depending on the outcome of a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
     In recent years, the concept of the perp walk has evolved from the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald being escorted on his fatal walk through a Dallas police garage to a practice that now includes media ride-alongs with police and standard television fare such as the show “Cops” and other reality-based programs...

Getting a handle on racial profiling before calls for data collection take hold

     With the controversy over alleged racial profiling by New Jersey State Police troopers having expanded to include scrutiny of the patrol practices of other police departments across the country, law enforcement organizations have pushed the profiling issue to the top of their agendas, coming out with their own preemptive proposals for eliminating bias that may exist during traffic stops before official calls for data collection can be implemented.
     In a speech to the National Press Club in April, Attorney General Janet Reno came out strongly for gathering racial background information from motorists during traffic stops — a policy that even some police groups concede will help determine whether officers are targeting racial minorities. Reno stated she also plans to include questions about police behavior in the annual National Crime Victimization Survey...

Louisville proves its mettle in readiness for biochem terrorism

     Should terrorists stage a chemical or biological attack on the urban United States anytime soon, perhaps the safest place in the country to be is Louisville, according to the FBI, which set up a model task force there last year to prepare for such a contingency.
     The Louisville-Jefferson County Crisis Group was put to the test last October, proving itself able to deliver a swift and coordinated response when area abortion clinics received threatening letters purportedly containing deadly anthrax bacteria, said FBI Special Agent K.D. Lane...

A seizure at the wheel for drunk drivers
NYC sets an aggressive pace in seizing cars of DWIs

     New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s confidence in a tough new policy that calls for confiscating the vehicles of drunk drivers has been rewarded with a win over civil libertarians in the first legal challenge to the ordinance.
     A Manhattan Supreme Court judge in March rejected an argument by the New York Civil Liberties Union that one driver should have his car returned because he suffered “irreparable” harm after having it confiscated when police began enforcing the law on the night of Feb. 21...

High Court pushes the envelope on limits of traffic-stop searches

     Police officers have the authority to search all containers in an automobile — even those belonging to a passenger — if they have reason to believe they contain contraband, the U.S. Supreme Court said April 5 in a 6-3 decision applauded by police and lambasted by defense attorneys.
     The ruling stems from a 1995 case in which a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer stopped David Young for speeding and driving with a faulty brake light. Young, who had a syringe in his pocket, was ordered out of the car, as was his passenger, Sandra Houghton. He admitted to using drugs. The officer searched Houghton’s purse and found another syringe filled with methamphetamine...

“Identity complex”

ID theft may be lucrative for perps, but a horror for unsuspecting victims

     While robbing a bank may only net a thief about $2,500, a new breed of criminality that has grown in tandem with the world’s reliance on computers — identity theft — can result in credit card charges of $20,000 to $30,000 against unsuspecting victims, with the proceeds going to perpetrators who often face little or no punishment.
     Identity thieves steal financial and other personal information from mailboxes, get credit reports by posing as landlords and even hire homeless people to go “dumpster diving” into trash bins to retrieve discarded credit card bills and receipts...

Is the NJSP setting the bar higher for black troopers?

     In a new twist to the ongoing storm of controversy surrounding the New Jersey State Police, statistics released in March by the state Attorney General’s Office revealed that a disproportionate number of minority troopers were refused re-enlistment by the agency between 1987 and 1995.
     Figures from those years, the most recent in which graduates from the State Police Academy were eligible to be considered for re-enlistment, showed minorities accounting for 14 of 25, or 56 percent, of those whom the State Police decline to retain. During that same period, minorities accounted for a high of 32 percent of the academy graduates in the 1988 class, and a low of 6 percent of graduates in 1995...

Hitting cops where they live:

NYPD residency plan gets trimmed back

     New York City police officials in April announced a scaled-back plan to increase the racial diversity of its upper ranks by adding a 2.5-point residency credit for city dwellers on the sergeants’ promotional exam.
     The plan comes at a time when the City Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee has voted to approve a resolution urging the state Legislature to require police to live within city limits. The killing of Amadou Diallo in February by four plainclothes officers has led to a “renewed cry for police officers to live within the city so they can be more sensitive to issues in our community,” said the committee’s chairwoman, Lucy Cruz, whose Bronx district was the site of the incident...

Think globally, act locally: Eyes in the sky keeps closer tabs on parolees

     Originally designed to guide nuclear missiles, a system of 24 Defense Department satellites orbiting 12,500 miles above the Earth are now being used in nine states to keep a “Big Brother”-like eye on parolees and probationers.
     “It’s bullets to plowshares,” said Jack Lamb, president and CEO of Advanced Business Sciences Inc., an Omaha-based firm that developed the ComTrak monitoring system. So far, 100 people, ranging from sex offenders in Chicago to juvenile delinquents in New Jersey, are under surveillance at a cost of $12.50 per day...

Keeping the lid on:

Privacy of police personnel files upheld

     An attempt by two upstate New York newspapers to compel the Schenectady Police Department to release the names of 18 officers involved in rowdy mischief-making was defeated in April when the state’s highest court ruled that the confidentiality of police personnel records was protected.
     The ruling stemmed from a 1997 incident in which officers on a bus chartered for a bachelor party pelted a civilian’s car with eggs. Attorneys for The Albany Times-Union and The Schenectady Daily Gazette filed a Freedom of Information request seeking the records, arguing that their release would not be used in connection with any pending litigation...

Megan’s Law listings rocking real estate

     As the posting of convicted sex offenders’ addresses on the Internet in many states has made the public increasingly aware of the presence of felons in their neighborhoods, it has had the unforeseen effect of scaring off potential home buyers and making it difficult for homeowners in those areas to sell their houses even in a booming market, according to real estate experts.
     At issue is whether real estate agents are under any obligation to tell prospective buyers about the presence of convicted sex offenders in the neighborhood. The dilemma was illustrated in a recent case in East Hartford, Conn., in which young parents tried to withdraw after signing a contract for a house once they discovered that a convicted sex offender lived nearby...