Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 519 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY October 15, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: A police hat in the ring; life in the fast lane; Stephens gets back in the fray; rumblings & grumblings in New Mexico.
Pre-emptive strike: Spurred by profiling furor, FHP makes plans for traffic stop data collection.
Where the action is: Some Arizona residents are fed up with being the entry-point of choice for illegal immigrants.
Mixed blessing: Retirements means understaffing — and more overtime — for Indiana cops.
Taking aim: Courts, legislators tackle new round of gun-related issues.
Breaking up that old gang:Two new approaches to gang-loitering problems.
Class acts: As a new school year begins, calls go up for tighter security.
Win-win: Louisville public housing scores with “Sober Living” units.
Forum: Community policing is a fraud.
Back to square one: Will a new Waco inquiry lay lingering questions to rest?
Upcoming Events: Opportunities for professional development.

As bullets fly, info doesn’t
FBI, ATF ammo-tracing systems can’t interact

     After three years of research, officials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believe that by the end of the year they will have nailed the problem of reconciling two competing and incompatible bullet-tracing systems, one developed by the FBI and the other by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Still, no one is making any promises.
     NIST was brought in as a neutral third party in 1996 by lawmakers and others who realized that millions of dollars were being spent on two programs that worked along parallel lines — the FBI’s Drugfire system, and ATF’s Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS). The NIST was asked to develop a standard for interoperability so that they could share information. What was quickly determined was that there was no way to write such a standard...

Study sees cause for alarm as police adopt a more paramilitary posture

     Civil liberties, constitutional norms and the well-being of citizens are being threatened by the increasingly militaristic mindset of local and state law enforcement agencies, spurred by the nation’s war on drugs and the proliferation of SWAT teams, according to a provocative new study by the Cato Institute.
     Released at the same time that the Justice Department reopened the inquiry into the 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex. [see related story, Page 9], the study, “Warrior Cops, the Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments,” found that with the encouragement of Congress, the military’s role in law enforcement activities has expanded dramatically over the past two decades. State and local police officers are being supplied with intelligence, equipment and training, spawning a culture of paramilitarism, it said...

What kind of recruits does $9 million buy?

     After a spending more than $9 million on a recruitment drive aimed at creating greater racial diversity on the force, the New York City Police Department achieved modest increases in the number of black, Hispanic and city-resident applicants, a partial victory hailed by NYPD officials but blasted by critics as too little, too late.
     The number of applicants who signed up for the written exam administered on Oct. 2 did rise from the 14,202 recorded in 1998 to a total of 15,200 this year. But that figure is still far below the more than the 21,657 people who took the test in 1997, and even further from the record of nearly 32,000 who did so in 1996...

FHP takes a tiger by the tail:
Profiling furor prompts traffic-stop data collection

      Prompted by the growing public perception that traffic stops often have more to do with motorists’ race than their driving skills, the Florida Highway Patrol has decided to get in front of the issue and implement the state’s first road-stop data collection program, beginning Jan. 1.
      FHP officials contend that while racial profiling and pulling people over for “driving while black” are not problems within the agency, it has become a nationwide issue. “Although we’ve never condoned the practice, if there is a perception out there with the public, if one person is stopped out there by the Florida Highway Patrol trooper and they feel they were stopped only because of their race, we have a problem,” Maj. Ken Howes told Law Enforcement News. “We want to take a proactive stance...

Patience runs out for those in the eye of illegal-alien storm

      Although sympathetic to the plight of Mexican migrants trying to make it across the border to better jobs on American soil, the residents of Douglas, Ariz., have taken just about all they can stand from the thousands of undocumented aliens who traipse across the land at night, one step ahead of the Border Patrol.
      With an influx of Federal agents and technology to crossings near San Diego and El Paso, Tex., the rural town of Douglas is now considered the No. 1 point of entry into the country for illegal aliens...

Retirements yield understaffing — and overtime — in Fort Wayne

      Although the Fort Wayne, Ind., Police Department is down 36 officers this year from its maximum staffing level, rank-and-file officers who are being paid time-and-a-half to fill in on shifts are not complaining.
      The personnel shortage is due primarily to retirees, said Det. Jeff Burkholder, president of the local Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Under a 1998 contract, the union was able to win retirement benefits for officers that has made leaving the department an enticement...

Stepping up to the firing line
Courts, legislators tackle a new round of gun-related issues

      As the number of municipalities poised to join in litigation against the nation’s gun manufacturers increases steadily, and schools across the country adopt a yellow-alert state of awareness in the first new school year after the Columbine High School massacre, one might argue that the times could hardly be better for gun-control proponents to push for more restrictions on the ownership and use of handguns and other firearms.
      In light of recent events, battle lines are once again forming on both sides of the gun debate. From local and state governments to Federal law enforcement and the judiciary, the people’s right to own guns is undergoing reexamination and redefinition. Among the latest developments...

Taking back the streets
Two new tacks against gang loitering

      There is more than one way to skin a cat, and, apparently, more than one way for municipalities and counties to keep gang members from taking control of public areas through loitering and other activities.
      Under threat of a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union, the City of Cicero, Ill., chose in April to withdraw an ordinance that would have given those convicted of gang-related activity 60 days to get out of town and never return. As a replacement, Cicero officials approved a law authorizing police to seize the cars of teen-agers under 17 caught driving after a curfew. The city’s curfew is in effect from 9 P.M. to 6 A.M. on weekdays and 10 P.M. to 6 A.M. on weekends. Police may also confiscate vehicles that contain materials suggesting occupants are planning to paint graffiti on town property...

School bells ring, with calls for tighter security

      When queried, students say that what is needed to reduce violence in the nation’s schools is more attentive faculty and a more nurturing atmosphere. But that “all you need is love” approach will not wash this year with either parents or school administrators, who are demanding that the presence of uniformed police officers at schools be expanded and that other safety precautions be implemented, in the wake of last April’s massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
      While there may be disagreement between teen-agers and adults as to how to avoid tragedies, studies from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private organizations released in August revealed that many students do not feel safe at school, despite evidence of a marked decrease in the amount of violence and drug use among teen-agers on and off campus...

“Sober Living” is a win-win situation

      The Housing Authority of Louisville has found that a section of public housing set aside as a drug-free living environment is as crucial for recovering addicts and alcoholics as it is popular with other residents eager to put distance between their families and those who engage in a high-risk life style.
      Sober Living, as the 66-apartment complex is called, already has a waiting list of 100 people, said Alecia Nash, a spokeswoman for the housing agency. The idea has actually been around for years. In 1975, a group of addicts in Maryland took over their halfway house after it was closed by the county and ran it themselves. The group would vote on expelling members who violated its rules against drinking and drug use...

Back to square one:
Will new inquiry lay Waco questions to rest?

      Long considered a watershed event in the rise of the country’s ultra-right wing militia movement, the steps that led to the destruction of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., in 1993 will get yet another exhaustive examination, after information surfaced in August indicating that Federal agents had indeed used pyrotechnic devices in the hours before the cult’s bunker went up in flames, killing scores of men, women and children.
      The revelations, which were reported by The Dallas Morning News after an interview with a former senior FBI official, are considered so damaging to the credibility of both Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI officials that Reno has ordered another inquiry. Some 40 agents have already been assigned to reinterview everyone who was at Waco on April 19, 1993. An independent investigation will also be conducted by retired U.S. Senator John Danforth, who is also the former attorney general of Missouri...