Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 527 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY February 14, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Psyched out; Phil ’er up; crowding the exits at Justice; calling off the search.
Some welcome home: Denver chief’s summary ouster.
A mistake or not: Experts say a British DNA miscue isn’t likely to happen here.
Holding back the tide: The NYPD tries to forestall a wave of 20-year retirees.
All there in black & white: Two court rulings take a dim view of race as a factor in promotions.
Open-door policy: Citizens’ committee to swap ideas with Portland chief.
Who’s packing? Tulsa authorities launch Exile-type crackdown on illegal handguns.
Forum: No justice, no peace; the hidden costs of crime.
The latest twist: How a rotation policy had Baltimore PD spinning its wheels.
Unblinking eye: In-car video cameras prove more boon than burden for NJ troopers.
Trouble in the air: Hackers are jamming up police frequencies in California.

The strong arm of the law
Steroid-using cops — a problem for policing?

      Little if any formal research exists on the abuse of illegal anabolic steroids by police, but in light of the dangerous side effects of such drugs and the recent recurrence of cases involving officers allegedly selling and using the substances, some observers suggest that the issue may be ripe for examination by the law enforcement community.
      The most recent incident took place in January, when the mayor of Naugatuck, Conn., ordered the city’s entire 50-member police department — including the chief — to undergo steroid testing after one officer allegedly sold the muscle-building substance to another officer...

ATF tightens screws on illicit gun sales with gun- & bullet-tracing databases

      Technology that affords instant access to a computer database holding records on millions of guns used in crimes will provide local police and federal investigators with a crucial shortcut for tracing the origin of a particular firearm, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which developed the system as part of its widening role in the crackdown on illicit gun sales.
      The White House and the Treasury Department last month announced that the ATF would begin its most aggressive campaign in decades to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. In addition to the new gun-tracing system, called Online LEAD, ATF’s Integrated Ballistics Information System (IBIS) has also been chosen as the nation’s dominant bullet-tracing system, ending its competition with the FBI which has its own database of digital cartridge images called Drugfire. [See LEN, Oct. 15, 1999.]..

Delaware SP reveals secrets of its success in minority recruiting

      With an aggressive marketing campaign that drew in enough minorities to make up roughly one-quarter of all applicants last year, the Delaware State Police has turned around the image held of it by some critics as an agency that did not try hard enough to recruit African American and female candidates.
      Of the 27 rookies who graduated from the 70th academy class in December, six were women and five were minority men. It was the second class to graduate from the State Police academy that was less than 60 percent white males. Of the total of 365 applicants for that class, 93 were members of a minority group...

Welcome back — now start packing
Denver chief, summoned home from conference, gets the ax

      When Denver’s beleaguered police chief, Tom Sanchez, arrived in Honolulu in early February for a major city chiefs’ conference, presumably he was given a lei. When he got back, he was given the ax.
      City officials summoned Sanchez home early from the conference, which the chief attended with three of his top commanders, and within a matter of hours told Sanchez that his 18-month tenure was over...

When is a mistake not a mistake?
Experts say British DNA miscue can’t happen here

      Faith in the infallibility of DNA testing took a hard knock in January when British authorities revealed that a one-in-37-million chance of a mistaken identification had occurred after forensic scientists at the nation’s DNA database correctly matched evidence collected at a burglary scene to the genetic profile of a suspect who, it turned out, could not have committed the crime.
      The incident, which was disclosed at a meeting with members of the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence, is believed to mark the first time a national DNA database has made a false match linking genetic evidence to an innocent individual. While the information has sent tremors through the criminal justice communities in both the United States and Britain, American forensics experts contend that the chances of a similar event occurring here are slim...

NYPD facing a flood of 20-and-out retirees

      Awarding bonuses and other financial incentives to New York City police officers who have hit the 20-year retirement mark may not be enough to keep them on the job and head off a potential mass exodus in 2004, according to police union officials, who cited frustration with the strain of having to constantly show reductions in crime as the primary reason that many will leave the force as soon as they are eligible.
      While only 1,500 of the department’s 40,000 sworn members will be eligible for retirement this year, that figure could swell in four years to nearly 11,000, or more than one in four. The number is already beginning to climb, with 888 officers retiring in 1999 compared with 617 in 1998...

The skin game:
Dim view taken of race as promotion factor

      The promotion of black police officers over whites in order to level a playing field made uneven by past discrimination is no longer an acceptable solution, courts in Memphis, Tenn., and Boston ruled recently.
      In the aftermath of a Suffolk Superior Court decision in December that upheld an earlier ruling by the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans stated that his department will no longer skip over white officers with higher civil service test scores to advance minority officers with lower scores to meet affirmative action goals...

Portland chief opens the door to broad-based community input

      In an effort to better understand the community he and his officers serve, Portland, Me., Police Chief Michael Chitwood has formed a citizens’ committee that will bounce around ideas with him about police operations during informal, twice-monthly sessions that began in January.
      Called the Citizens Advisory Board, the group is an extension of a community policing initiative the Portland Police Department established in 1994. Over the past five years, it has led to the creation of community policing centers with civilian coordinators and officers assigned to specific neighborhoods. Each of the eight members who make up the board were recommended by the department’s community policing staff...

Illegal handguns catch the eye of Tulsa authorities

      In what appears to be yet another spinoff of Richmond, Va.’s Project Exile, the criminal justice community in Tulsa, Okla., has developed its own cross-jurisdictional program to crack down on possession of illegal handguns.
      Called Project SAFE — for Special Action Firearms Enforcement — the effort brings together Tulsa’s municipal police, the Tulsa County sheriff’s department and district attorney’s office, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma...

Murder as an agent of reform:
Balto PD struggles to curb homicide total

      A Baltimore Police Department policy requiring reassignment of personnel every three to four years — once praised as a means of boosting the career potential of minority and female officers by moving them into prestigious units — has proved to be a disaster for the agency’s homicide closure rate, according to municipal and police officials.
      The policy was eliminated on Dec. 8, just one day after Mayor Martin O’Malley took office, in just one of a series of measures undertaken by elected officials frustrated by the city’s seemingly intractable murder rate...

As NJSP plans new changes, in-car video proves its worth

      Rather than a watchful eye à la Big Brother, an expansion of the New Jersey State Police’s in-car video surveillance system that was installed last year to monitor traffic stops may yet turn out to be a boon for troopers.
      In presenting a plan by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s administration to end discrimination by NJSP troopers, the agency’s new superintendent, Col. Carson Dunbar Jr., stated in January that the agency would be outfitting all its patrol units with video cameras. More than half the vehicles were so equipped in 1999...

Unauthorized access:
Hackers bedevil California police airwaves

      Police emergency frequencies used to be sacrosanct, but no more. Emboldened and abetted by new technology, hackers interrupted emergency networks across Southern California last year with hundreds of bogus calls that could easily have led to tragedy.
      While new communications systems include security features aimed at keeping hackers off the airwaves, many law enforcement agencies use less cutting-edge equipment. Police officials said they are virtually helpless when their channels are disrupted because they cannot override phony broadcasts without cutting off some officers’ access to the frequency. Authorities fear it is just a matter of time before such a breach occurs at the wrong moment, putting an officer in danger...