Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 528 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY February 29, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Warming up to Southern California; O’Connell’s back; honoring a Texas-sized sacrifice; family time.
Immunization booster: NJ court acts to protect cops who intervene in domestic violence cases.
Tickets, please: Personal-service mandate is foiling photo radar in Denver area.
Size doesn’t matter: Palm-sized handguns are banned in Oakland.
Thinking backwards: “Reverse 911” calling gets the job done in Maine.
Why wait? Newport News trains cops to act in a crisis without waiting for the SWAT team.
No loitering: Annapolis creates its first “drug-loitering-free zone.”
Get with the programs: Free software from DoJ agencies.
Does your sidearm measure up? NIJ finds six that don’t.
Forum: It’s what’s up front that counts with community policing.
Criminal Justice Library: Transforming agencies through transforming leadership.
Bright idea: Shining a light on underage drinking.
In the clear: Special prosecutor clears white Hartford cop in shooting of black teen.

Secrets of success
Study weighs factors that can boost homicide clearance rates

      Police practices and procedures when investigating a murder — and not the circumstances of the crime — can have the greater impact on whether the case gets closed, according to a National Institute of Justice study that provides a rare look into the factors that help determine homicide clearance rates.
      The report, “An Analysis of Variables Affecting the Clearance of Homicides: A Multistate Study,” examined the percentage of murders that end in arrest in four unidentified major American cities, collecting a wide range of data on 800 cases. Despite plummeting homicide clearance rates around the nation during the past 30 years — from 94 percent in 1961 to 67 percent in 1996 — the level in individual departments has remained stable, the study found...

One hurdle down, three more looming, as 4 NY cops are cleared in Diallo shooting

      The trial judge may have declared “case closed” after an Albany jury voted this month to acquit four New York City police officers charged with the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo, but in fact the case may be far from over. Still to come are an internal investigation of the officers by the NYPD, a wrongful-death suit by the victim’s family, and a review by Federal prosecutors of whether the officers violated Diallo’s civil rights.
      Citing the “public clamor” that had preceded the trial, the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division had ordered the case moved to Albany County where, on Feb. 25, after a four-week trial, a panel of eight white and four black jurors found Officers Kenneth Boss, 28, Sean Carroll, 37, Edward McMellon, 27, and Richard Murphy, 27, not guilty of all charges ranging from second-degree murder to reckless endangerment...

Do you get what you pay for? San Diego volunteers show it ain’t necessarily so

      Reducing crime is not a task the San Diego Police Department specifically assigns to its massive volunteer work force, but you won’t hear top agency brass complaining about that particular side effect, either.
      A quarterly report to the City Council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee this month showed overall crime down by 9 percent — the 10th straight year of declining figures, achieved despite a 35.7-percent rise in the city’s murder rate compared to 1998. San Diego’s violent crime rate alone dropped by 15.3 percent last year. With a total crime index of 39.81, a combination of reported violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents, the city reached its lowest level of offenses committed since 1967...

An ounce of protection:
Cops covered for intervening in domestic violence

      Law enforcement agencies and victims’ advocates alike are breathing easier since the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision, restoring qualified immunity for police officers who intervene in domestic violence disputes.
      In Wildoner v. The Borough of Ramsey, which was decided on Jan. 31, the justices held that sworn personnel could not be sued as long as they acted in a reasonable manner in the course of performing their job. The decision stemmed from a 1993 case involving two Ramsey police officers, Kane Zuhone and Brian O’Donahue, who responded to a call made by a concerned neighbor who had overheard loud, abusive language coming from the apartment of Arthur and Cecilia Wildoner, including a threat by Wildoner to throw a knife at his wife...

Personal service & photo radar

      The Arapahoe County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department has come up short on available staff to serve residents caught speeding in Denver with photo-radar tickets, leaving authorities unable to throw much weight behind the threat of making motorists pay more if they insist on a hand-delivery by deputies.
      Under a state law aimed at giving citizens the right to “face their accuser,” the $40 tickets must be served personally within 90 days of the alleged violation or they are invalid. While most people pay when they receive the notice by mail — which threatens higher fines and a visit by officers — others are taking advantage of the loophole...

Too small to be legal: Oakland breaks new ground in banning palm-sized guns

      They’re small, they’re deadly, and in at least one California city — so far — palm-sized handguns are illegal.
      In February, Oakland became the first municipality in the nation to outlaw guns smaller than 6¾ inches long and 4½ inches tall. The ordinance, introduced by Councilman Henry Chang, was unanimously approved by City Council members who also voted in favor of a law prohibiting minors and felons from entering gun shops...

Forward thinking, in reverse:
“Reverse 911” shows its worth in Maine

      When suspects from a violent burglary attempt in Portland, Me., fled into the woods of the nearby town of Scarborough, police there were able to notify residents within minutes, using a reverse 911 system that may soon be duplicated at law enforcement agencies around the state.
      Reverse 911 technology, which uses a computerized database to make dozens of phone calls at once, is used by police departments in a number of United States cities, but Scarborough is the only locality in Maine that provides the service...

Prompted by Columbine:
Police learn to act without waiting for SWAT

      Just as Newport News, Va., police officers who roll up to a house on fire with victims trapped inside would not wait for the fire department before taking action, neither will they wait any longer for the police SWAT team in the event of an active shooting if there is a chance they can stop the deadly behavior themselves.
      Haunted by last year’s massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., the Newport News Police Department completed a two-month Rapid Deployment Training program in December in which each of its 392 sworn personnel were taught how to function immediately as coordinated teams without waiting for a supervisor or assault team — which can take as long as 30 minutes to arrive — in the event of a Columbine-type emergency...

ACLU says “Not so fast” to Annapolis no-loitering zone
Effort to clean up public housing complex to land in court

      The American Civil Liberties Union in February made good its threat to sue the City of Annapolis, Md., and its Police Department over the enforcement of a new drug-loitering-free zone law in an apartment complex owned by the municipal housing authority.
      Under the ordinance passed by the City Council last Oct. 11, police can order “known” drug users — anyone convicted of a drug offense over the past seven years or on probation - to leave the area. They are allowed to disperse those individuals if they engage in drug activity or behave in a manner which suggests it, such as repeatedly engaging in conversations with passers-by or cars, or making hand signals associated with drug activity. Residents of the buildings must apply at City Hall for “drug loitering-free-zone” status, a provision that was added in response to public clamor for such an option...

DoJ to local agencies: Get with the program(s)

      A pair of new software programs that can aid local police agencies in assessing the effectiveness of their community policing programs and the sense of well-being in the communities they patrol are being made available for free by the Justice Department.
      One program, the “Community Policing Beat Book,” was released in January by the National Institute of Justice. It provides crime mapping software which can be accessed in the field on a laptop or in-car computer. The program allows officers to access electronic maps of the community that can display information on land use, demographics, businesses and landmarks, as well as crime-incident sites...

Does your sidearm measure up? (6 don’t)

      Six of 23 models of autoloading pistol that were submitted by manufacturers for evaluation under a voluntary federal program have failed to meet the minimum performance standards required for a law enforcement sidearm.
      New and reissued models are assessed under the National Institute of Justice Standard-0112.03, which addresses new pistol design, caliber, headspace and the procedure for testing. The evaluations are conducted under the auspices of NIJ’s National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center. To comply with the standard, two samples of a pistol model must meet all requirements defined in the standard...

Changing organizations, changing people
A master’s-level course in “transforming leadership”

      Today, community policing and problem ownership strategies are the dominant operational themes of most police departments. We have countless texts, journal articles and practical stories about these initiatives being implemented throughout policing and the entire criminal justice system. Implementing community policing and problem ownership concepts is also a prominent theme of Terry Anderson’s, “Every Officer Is A Leader,” the thesis of which is that police, justice and public safety agencies should first build the “leadership organization” and then build the “learning organization,” which consists of community policing and problem ownership strategies.
      In what is clearly one of the book’s strong points, Anderson demonstrates how concepts of transforming leadership work well in the entire public safety system. He examines businesses and CEOs that use the transforming-leadership strategies and evaluates them as examples for others to build on. You can utilize Anderson’s concepts whether you are a private sector or public service employee...

Shining some light on underage drinking

      Police in Texas are experimenting with new flashlights that can perform double-duty as alcohol-detection devices, as part of a pilot program aimed at better enforcement of the state’s zero-tolerance underage drinking law.
      The flashlights, which cost $450 a piece, contain an electrochemical sensor which can determine the presence of alcohol from within 10 inches. When a button is pressed, an air sample is sucked in through a hole at the top of the device. Within 20 seconds, results are shown on a colored bar graph which rates blood-alcohol levels from green, for 0.01 percent, to red (0.12 percent)...

Special prosecutor clears Hartford officer in shooting of black teen

      A special prosecutor appointed by Connecticut officials to investigate the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white, Hartford police officer last April concluded this month that the shooting was justified because the patrolman feared for his life when he saw what appeared to be a gun in the hand of one of the suspects.
      According to a 208-page report issued by New London state’s attorney Kevin Kane, Officer Robert Allen found himself in a situation that was “tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving” after chasing four robbery suspects he believed were armed during the early morning hours of April 13...