Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 514 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY June 30, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: East Orange color clash; out with the old; the right to bear arts; riding into the sunset.
By their own hands: Police suicide rate climbs, and agencies seek answers.
Trouble on the line: Problem-solving gives way to finger-pointing in NYC 911 snafus.
Not-so-petty cash: Memphis tightens use of undercover drug fund.
Do-it-yourself approach: Phoenix-area police tire of delays in rape exams.
In the lurch: High-tech company folds, leaving behind a high-tech mess for Louisiana PD.
At your fingertips Microchip puts DNA evidence analysis as close as your cruiser.
Forum: Police critics need the “blue wall of silence”; hats off to the Police Corps.
Federal File: A roundup of criminal justice developments at the Federal level.
Looking askance: For some jurisdictions, racial profiling is driving the police agenda.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.

6 months to go. Are you ready for Y2K?
Police agencies gear up — for computer-driven hype, panic, even calamity

By Jennifer Nislow
(First of two parts.)

     No lights. No telephones. No heat. No gas for the car. And all in the middle of a Midwestern winter.
     While nearly every police department has dealt with the fear and uncertainty that localized technological breakdowns can create among the public, what is facing the public-safety sector at the end of this year is something completely different: the so-called Millennium Bug, a computer meltdown with the potential for causing all of these and a host of other crises to occur all at once, overwhelming law enforcement and setting the stage for a public safety catastrophe. It would be comparable perhaps to a power blackout, a blizzard and a tornado striking at the same time...

School anti-drug programs may be good, but no panacea

     School-based prevention programs may not be the “silver bullet” that will reduce the country’s consumption of cocaine, but if administered on a nationwide basis may be a cost-effective safeguard against future waves of drug abuse, according to a new research study.
     The study, “An Ounce of Prevention, A Pound of Uncertainty,” which was released in May by Rand’s Drug Policy Research Center, found that lifetime use of cocaine can be reduced by 2 percent to 11 percent over decades with a nationwide prevention program. Moreover, a program that would cover all 3.75 million children who reach the seventh grade in any one year would cost just 1.5 percent of the $40 billion spent annually on drug control, or about $550 million...

Lucky 7: Crime decrease continues

     Serious crime continued its downward spiral for the seventh consecutive year in 1998, according to preliminary figures from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Violent and property crimes each fell by 7 percent last year — the largest annual decrease since 1992.
     There is no single explanation for the continuing trend, said Attorney General Janet Reno, but she credited the Clinton Administration’s anti-crime efforts. “It’s a combination of many factors, including more police officers, common-sense laws requiring background checks on gun purchasers, community policing, legislation banning assault weapons, practical partnerships between law enforcement and the communities they serve, more crime prevention programs and a host of effective, comprehensive crime strategies,” she told the Associated Press...

By their own hands:

PD’s grope for answers to cop suicide

     When police officers commit suicide they are not mourned publicly as are their colleagues who have been killed in the line of duty. Yet many experts believe that the strikingly high number of officers who take their own lives each year are often pushed to the edge by the stresses of the job and trying to meet their own unrealistically high expectations of success.
     A study of the nation’s largest police departments cited by USA Today in June found that while 36 New York City police officers have been killed on duty since 1985, 87 have committed suicide during that same period. With a national suicide rate of 12 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the NYPD’s suicide rate of 15.5 per 100,000 is nearly 30 percent higher than what is found in the general population.

Solving NYPD 911 snafus turns into an exercise in fingerpointing

     Intermittent service delays over the past few months in New York City’s E-911 system are confounding technicians and infuriating city officials, at least one of whom has raised questions about the Police Department’s ability to run the sophisticated operation
     The latest power blackout occurred on May 25 when emergency service to the Bronx was knocked out between the hours of 3:35 P.M. and 4:15 P.M. Police could not say whether anyone had been denied emergency aid as a result...

No more doughnuts from drug fund

     A Memphis police fund intended to be used to finance undercover drug buys and pay confidential informants will remain in place, but the loose way in which the money was being allocated will be tightened up, according to the city’s chief administrative officer, who installed new rules in May to keep the cash from being spent on frivolous items.
     The $80,000 fund, administered by the Organized Crime Unit and financed with drug forfeitures, had become an inflated petty cash fund used to purchase everything from out-of-town travel to doughnuts, reported The Memphis Commercial Appeal, which examined 5,000 cash transactions made from the fund since 1996...

The do-it-yourself approach:
Phoenix area tired of delays in rape exams

     With an increasing number of hospitals either unable or unwilling to perform time-consuming forensic rape examinations, the Maricopa County, Ariz., Attorney’s Office has proposed that victims of sexual assaults who are not injured no longer be taken to area emergency rooms, but rather to one of three centers in Mesa, Glendale or Phoenix, where the exams will be administered by specially-trained nurses
     Authorities believe the centers will fill a crucial gap that has widened over time...

As high-tech company folds, PD waits for its data system

     The Kenner, La., Police Department may not have its silent dispatch capability yet, but the other components of its mobile data system are finally on-line after years of problems that culminated in May with the filing of a lawsuit against the Virginia high-tech company hired to install the equipment.
     The agency sued PSI Inc., of Fairfax, Va., in Federal court for damages and additional costs after the software firm shut its doors in January, leaving the department without use of the software and hardware it had been in the process of installing for the past year. Some $950,000 of a $1.3-million contract had already been paid to the firm, which has since re-formed under a subsidiary called Synergetics Systems, also named in the suit...

DNA evidence analysis may be as close as your cruiser

     A DNA microchip that was created to help identify people at risk for diseases such as breast cancer, with the ability to determine genetic markers within just minutes, will soon be put to use by law enforcement, according to the National Institute of Justice.
     The “Forensic DNA Chip,” will enable police to use DNA information at the scene of the crime instead of waiting weeks for laboratory analysis. At a cost of $10 to $15, the chip will extract DNA from biological evidence placed into an attached well and sealed with tamper-proof evidence tape. It will identify the genetic codes and relay those markers to a computer screen in the investigator’s car. A national data bank linked to the computer will search for possible identification of an offender whose DNA is on file...

Looking for ‘quality car stops’:
Racial profiling still drives police agenda

     If police agencies and national law enforcement leadership organizations continue to resist calls for the collection of racial and ethnic data during traffic stops as a means of identifying racial profiling practices, then state lawmakers are going to see that the choice is taken out of their hands.
     Due in part to reports by civil libertarians and government agencies on the disproportionate number of blacks motorists pulled over as compared with anyone else, state legislatures, including those in Pennsylvania and Ohio, are proposing bills that mirror the measure introduced earlier this year in Congress by Representative John Conyers (D.-Mich.). The legislation would require law enforcement to collect information about the race and ethnicity of all motorists stopped for traffic violations...