Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 517 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY September 15, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Order on the court; 60 seconds of fame; no laughing matter; Little Rock legacy.
A fungus among us: The potential side-effects of a plan to wipe out Florida’s pot crop.
Corporate support: High-tech firms help police target cyber-crime.
The right to privacy: Protecting officers by keeping their names out of property records.
No mere oversight: Louisville considers independent civilian review panel.
The cost of secession: Can a neighborhood afford to pull out over police concerns?
They’ve got crime’s number: Victim survey confirms crime drop.
Jewelry for cons: Spouse abusers to get electronic bracelets.
Take it easy: Civilians are more lenient than cops in disciplinary matters.
New LAPD watchdog: Ex-Federal prosecutor is named inspector general.
You are what you eat: NYPD orders cops to watch out for hidden drugs in everyday foods.
Open-door policy: Detroit PD gets aggressive in rooting out corruption.
Forum: Millennium chaos & some thoughts for law enforcement.
Digital hand-holding: Oregon agencies link their data bases.
Upcoming Events: Opportunities for professional development.

"We’re not gonna take it"
Study dispels stereotype of minorities & tolerance for juvenile misbehavior

     A study released recently by the National Institute of Justice delivers a body blow to stereotypes about the tolerance of minority groups for anti-social behavior by young people, finding that it is the social and economic status of a neighborhood, and not its racial or ethnic makeup, that is a key contributor to a community’s subculture of violence.
     An ongoing research project funded by NIJ, the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, examined the racial and ethnic differences in attitudes toward social deviance in 343 urban communities in Chicago. The resulting study, “Attitudes Toward Crime, Police, and the Law: Individual and Neighborhood Differences,” found a significantly lower level of tolerance for anti-social behavior among black and Latino residents than among whites...

Learning to share: Maryland is first to join NIJ tech-info resource network

     A technology task force being created by the State of Maryland will serve as part of a U.S. Department of Justice project aimed at pulling together the technological resources of law enforcement agencies nationwide, including DoJ, under the umbrella of a national, criminal justice technology data base.
     Paul Kendall, general counsel for the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, said that the planned National Integration Resource Center will act as a portal for bringing to the field ideas and strategies from around the country, as well as eliminating redundancies and helping to facilitate the development of integrated criminal justice systems encompassing law enforcement, corrections and the courts...

Building a bridge to the community can begin with a better-handled traffic stop

     Within the first several seconds of a traffic stop, motorists expect to be told why they have been pulled over, while police expect to be told the driver’s name. And both expect the other to yield.
     This was identified as a primary cause of tension between law enforcement and minority motorists by the National Conference for Community and Justice, Western New York Region, and the Law Enforcement and Diversity Team (LEAD), a coalition of police departments and citizens groups in the Erie County area who came together four years ago after a traffic accident caused the town of Cheektowaga to be branded racist by the national press...

A fungus among us
A new plan to wipe out domestic pot crops may be a dangerous Trojan horse

     In theory, the use of a soil-borne fungus to eradicate Florida’s marijuana crop sounds like a workable plan. But environmentalists are urging state and drug enforcement officials to proceed with caution when using a substance that, given Florida’s tropical climate, could potentially affect a variety of agricultural crops.
     The fungus called Fusarium oxysporum was engineered specifically to attack plants like marijuana, but is otherwise harmless, according to the Montana company that developed it. “Is it safe and does it work?” asked Jim McDonough, head of Florida’s Office of Drug Control. “I’ve heard some of the top scientists in the country say, ‘Yes.’...

Public-private partnership:
High-tech firms aid police in cyber-crime

     Pilferage, heists, industrial espionage and piracy cost the nation’s most powerful high-tech companies some $3 billion last year. The response of these corporate giants? Subsidize budget-hungry local police departments to go after cyber-thieves with the same gusto usually reserved for violent criminals.
     However, the practice is not earning universal applause, with concerns being raised in some corners of the law enforcement community that companies such as Motorola, Intel, and Dell Computer are buying justice and that some police departments are skirting an ethical line...

Durham acts to guard cops’ privacy

     Concerned that vengeful criminals will be easily able to find police officers’ addresses on the city’s new Internet Web site, Durham, N.C., Police Chief Theresa Chambers has persuaded City Council members to develop a plan that would limit property searches by owner’s name.
      During the past two years, three officers have been threatened in their homes by people angry over having been arrested, argued Chambers before a Council work session in July. City Manager Lamont Ewell added that others could be hunted down on the Web, as well, including those being stalked, jurors and victims of domestic violence...

Is the current system broken?

Louisville eyes civilian review board

     Despite a promised veto by Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong, the city’s Board of Aldermen has gone ahead and scheduled a series of hearings to explore the possibility of creating an independent civilian review panel with subpoena and investigative powers to monitor complaints against police.
     Three hearings spaced over a period of three months were ordered by the Board’s affirmative-action committee in June. The announcement was hailed by community leaders who contend that it is time for the city to listen to citizen concerns in an official way...

The price of going it alone
Police funding a factor in neighborhood’s proposed secession

     Residents of Louisville’s predominantly African American West End community, concerned that they do not get the same service from local police as other parts of the city do, have proposed seceding and forming their own municipality with its own law enforcement agency — although funding questions may short-circuit the secession movement.
     Police issues were the major concern that sparked the movement, according to one of its leaders, the Rev. Louis Coleman. The idea to form another city surfaced after a coroner’s jury voted 4-2 that two white police officers were justified in shooting an unarmed black teen-ager whom they believed was endangering their lives. The two dissenting votes came from the jury’s only minority members...

Evidence keeps piling up:
BJS victim survey confirms crime drop

     As if anyone in the law enforcement community needed more convincing, findings from the National Crime Victimization Survey released in July show the nation’s crime rate has fallen to its lowest level since the Department of Justice began keeping track of the statistics in 1973.
     There were few if any surprises to be found in the NCVS, with many of the statistics appearing to mirror those of the FBI’s preliminary Uniform Crime Report released earlier this summer. Jack Levin, director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Boston’s Northeastern University, said the NCVS is further proof that the decrease in crime is not a “short-term blip” on the radar screen, but rather a long-term trend...

New jewelry for NYC domestic-violence offenders: electronic monitoring bracelets

     Used for the last several years to monitor the whereabouts of defendants released on bail, electronic bracelets are now being put to use for the same purpose on the ankles of domestic-violence offenders in New York City.
     Since May, five convicted domestic abusers have been wearing the bracelets and five more are expected to be fitted shortly for the devices, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said in July at a City Hall news conference with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and Probation Commissioner Raul Russi to introduce the new program...

Throwing the book at ‘em?
Civilians more lenient in cop discipline

     When civilians were first given the opportunity to serve on the Los Angeles Police Department’s disciplinary review boards, there were initial fears that their judgment would come down more harshly on officers accused of misconduct, particularly in matters of racism and excessive force. Those concerns were apparently misplaced, according to a new study by the LAPD, which found that civilians are in fact more apt to be lenient to officers than are the police officials they serve with on the boards.
     The study, which was released in June, found that in 25 cases where minority opinions were offered by civilians, all but one were more favorable to officers, said Cmdr. James S. McMurray, who has studied all the disciplinary hearings since 1995, the year civilians were first allowed to participate...

Ex-Federal prosecutor gets the call as the LAPD’s new top watchdog

     Nine months after the resignation of the Los Angeles’ Police Commission’s first inspector general under circumstances that revealed a bitter power struggle between her and top officials of the commission, the board has selected a replacement who will carry out oversight of the city’s Police Department within a framework created by the passage of a new city charter.
     A nationwide search ended with the appointment in June of Jeffrey C. Eglash, a former Federal prosecutor in charge of the public corruption and government fraud section of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles. As a prosecutor with that office since 1987, Eglash was involved in the convictions of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies for the theft and sale of confiscated drugs. He is considered to have strong analytical and investigative skills, as well as being politically astute — a quality that some feel may be crucial for the sensitive post to which he has been named...

Watch what you eat: NYPD tries to clear up drug-test loopholes

     Many police officers have long known that a poppy-seed bagel can produce a false positive result for opiates on a urinalysis drug test, or that false positives for other illegal substances can be generated by certain herbal teas or over-the-counter medicines. Now, however, New York City’s police union contends that Police Department officials are trying to turn cops into chemists, with the implementation of a new drug policy that bans the use of many commercial products that may contain illegal drugs or their derivatives.
     Topping the list of goods that officers may not use or ingest are those containing hemp oil, the only substance specifically named in the policy. Though legal, hemp oil can still contain enough traces of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, to cause people to fail drug tests...

With FBI’s help, Detroit PD gets aggressive in unearthing corruption

     A year-long investigation by the FBI into reports that a small group of Detroit police officers were shaking down or protecting drug dealers was spurred into high gear in July after Federal agents began interviewing all 170 officers in the city’s 5th Precinct, one of a handful of station houses where major corruption cases have been uncovered in recent years.
     U.S. Attorney Saul Green said the probe was initiated about a year ago to investigate allegations that a small group of officers — as few as six — may have been involved in such activities as burglarizing the homes of drug dealers, robbing them and collecting protection money from drug gangs...

In Oregon, agencies hope data-sharing can work wonders

     While using a shared computer data base to measure results is nothing new to the private sector, it is still considered cutting edge when used in the criminal justice field. Multnomah County, Ore., is one of the localities that has decided to give the cutting edge a try by expanding an eight-month-old computer system that links four law enforcement agencies to include the state court system. Advocates of the plan hope not only to increase efficiency, but to be able to ascertain what sentences are most effective for different types of criminals and pinpoint emerging crime trends.
     “We have a crowding problem in jails,” Tom G. Simpson, information services manager for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office, told The New York Times. “Can we better manage the jail system by knowing better who is coming in the door? It can help us make better fiscal and release decisions.” ...