Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 515,516 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY June/August, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: NYPD fear factor; filling in in Hartford; Noble calling; breaking new spiritual ground; bureau boss.
Heading for the exits: New Orleans quit in frustration over promotional logjam.
Two-pronged success: NYPD commanders’ formula for cutting crime while keeping civilian complaints down.
Hard rain: DC firing range stays closed after shells rain on surrounding neighborhood in training exercise.
The tape doesn’t lie: Seattle PD apologizes over videotaping a news conference staged by police critics.
We have an emergency: Dallas changes policy to bring down response times.
Van go: Another accident is linked to a Minneapolis police van’s abrupt acceleration.
Forum: America’s drug czar says toughness alone won’t break the cycle of drugs & crime.
An ounce of protection: Will Congress come to the aid of young witnesses?
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.

Getting ready for Y2Kaos
Other than IACP & PERF reports, little police-specific information exists

By Jennifer Nislow
(Second of two parts.)

     What would your department do if disaster struck — not your ordinary garden-variety disaster like civil unrest, a power outage or a dire weather emergency, but more like a combination of all these and more? If you’re like most police agencies, dealing with the so-called Y2K computer problem, which some observers have likened to the ultimate worst-case disaster scenario, could mean that you’re pretty much on your own.
     With the exception of reports from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Executive Research Forum, little has been written about the Y2K issue that is aimed specifically at law enforcement. To fill in the gap, a number of agencies are adopting the guidelines for natural disasters prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They are also relying on their own knowledge of their communities to give direction to their efforts...

Study finds police keeping their customers satisfied

     There is clearly some disparity between the degree of satisfaction felt by white and black Americans toward their local police departments, but a study released in June by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that overall, some 85 percent of residents queried in a 12-city survey reported they were well served by the men and women who police their neighborhoods.
     “Criminal Victimization and Perceptions of Community Safety in 12 Cities, 1998, is the result of surveys conducted in Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Los Angeles; Madison, Wis.; New York; San Diego; Savannah, Ga.; Spokane, Wash.; Springfield, Mass.; Tucson, Ariz., and Washington, D.C. According to BJS, the study is the first in 20 years that seeks to gather national data on victimization and community policing at the city level...

Seeking answers, casting blame over CIncinnati recruits’ academic failings

     What do you do with police recruits who can’t pass the academic portion of academy training? Simpel — er, simple: You fire them.
     While the cause-and-effect connection may seem simple enough in the case of two Cincinnati recruits who washed out of the Police Department’s 22-week training program even after taking final exams a second time, the repercussions of the episode have been anything but, with a move to upgrade the police academy’s academic requirements and a proposal by a city councilman to require a writing sample as part of the application process...

Where is everyone going?
Disillusioned by promotional logjam, recently hired New Orleans cops head for the exits

     Hit hard by the twin scourges of attrition and dismissals, within the space of a year the New Orleans Police Department has seen its record number of backlogged applicants and increased number of newly hired officers dwindle to the point where the city’s Mayor and Police Chief have lifted a seven-month hiring freeze and made room for some 130 recruits at the now-dormant Police Academy.
     Departmental strength has fallen from a high of 1,682 officers at the peak of the agency’s hiring spree to 1,636 in June. What is most troubling, however, is that a statistical analysis of the NOPD’s personnel shows that of the 170 officers who have left the department since Jan. 1, 1998, nearly half were new officers with less than two years in uniform. Sixty-five — or 38 percent — were recruits who had not yet graduated from the academy, and the other 11 percent, or 19, had less than two years on the job...

Crime goes down, so do civilian complaints:

NYPD bosses have their cake & eat it

     By attaching real consequences to the type of uncivil behavior by officers that can result in civilian complaints, two New York City police commanders have significantly increased community satisfaction with the force in their Bronx precincts while still maintaining drastic decreases in reported crime in the troubled neighborhoods.
     According to a study by the Vera Institute, a nonprofit organization which studies criminal justice issues, the number of complaints against officers at the 42nd and 44th Precincts in the crime-ridden South Bronx community once known as “Fort Apache” has dropped by an impressive 67 percent since 1996. Last year, just 44 complaints were lodged against sworn personnel there, down from 67 in 1997...

DC firing range stays closed after shells rain on neighborhood

     The District of Columbia Police Department’s firing range at the Lorton Correctional Complex in Fairfax County, Va., remains closed for live fire after a training exercise on May 24 sprayed the surrounding residential neighborhood with gunfire.
     Fairfax police believe that more than 240 rounds were fired during a drill in which a D.C. police sergeant instructed eight county officers, the U.S. Capitol police, Defensive Protective Services and Andrews Air Force Base Security in a “fallen officer” exercise. As the officers lay on their backs, shooting 9mm. ammunition into the air, some 12 to 15 shots accidentally showered the neighborhood of Newington Commons...

Closing up shop:

Justices say ‘no dice’ to Chicago anti-gang law

     As the U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its 1998-99 term last month, a majority of the Justices advised the City of Chicago to look for alternative methods of dispersing groups of gang members, striking down a controversial anti-loitering ordinance believed by police and community members to have substantially brought down the number of gang-related homicides in the city.
     It was one of several rulings on criminal justice-related issues made by the Court at the end of the session in June. Other cases decided by the Justices included an appeal by a group of Maine probation officers who sought to sue their state in state court for violation of Federal labor laws regarding overtime pay; a higher standard of evidence for the conviction of drug kingpins, and witness leniency in exchange for testimony...

Tale of the tape: Seattle PD in mea culpa over video incident

     Denying that it was engaged in spying, the Seattle Police Department has described its surreptitious videotaping of a news conference on police abuse held by the city’s minority leaders as a misunderstanding that it would seek to rectify with an apology from Chief Norm Stamper and the destruction of the contested tape.
     Community leaders, including local chapters of the NAACP, the Urban League, the ACLU and El Centro de la Raza, among others, were outraged to find that a meeting held in June to announce a series of public hearings into allegations of police brutality and misconduct had been taped by a civilian member of the SPD...

Policy & practice: Dallas switches gears to rein in response times

     Dallas police officials hope to get emergency response times in the city back to within a goal range by reversing a 911 dispatch policy implemented last year and reassigning a greater number of patrol officers to respond to calls.
     Through May 18 of this year, compared with the same period in 1998, response times for all calls rose by 48 percent. Police response to emergency calls went from 7.33 minutes to 8.09, an increase of more than 10 percent. For prompt response, including calls for major accidents, robberies and urgent situations, it took police 14.92 minutes to arrive at the scene, compared with 12.50 minutes in 1998, or 19.36 percent longer...

Another Minneapolis police van shows unexpected get-up-and-go

     The sudden acceleration of a Minneapolis police detox van in June may shed new light on why another of the agency’s vans unexpectedly took off last December, plowing into a holiday parade crowd and killing two people and injuring 11 others.
     While officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the State Patrol lay much of the blame for last year’s accident on the inadvertent disabling of the van’s shift-lock mechanism, police officials said the mechanism, which prevents a vehicle from being shifted out of “Park” unless the brake is depressed, was not the cause of the most recent incident...

An ounce of protection for young witnesses

     Hoping to fill a gap in the justice system while at the same time encourage the testimony of juvenile witnesses to crimes, legislation has been proposed in Congress that would establish a Justice Department grant program to provide safe houses and other services for teen-agers threatened with retribution.
     The Protecting Young Witnesses Act of 1999, sponsored by Representative Michael Capuano (D.-Mass.), would create a three-year grant program with an appropriation of $15 million for each fiscal year from 2000 to 2002. The bill would give state and local criminal justice authorities the ability to develop juvenile witness assistance programs tailored to their communities, including the creation of safe houses, counseling services and tutoring systems...