Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 532 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 30, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Police K-9 is a hard bargain; 120-mile foot pursuit; hare-raising stories.
Collateral damage: Fallout from Elian Gonzalez case claims the career of Miami chief.
Enough’s enough: Prosecutors tell Feds, “Handle your own drug cases.”
Missing in action: Auditors find more cash gone from PD’s evidence room.
A cop named sue: Cleared in assault, officer takes his accusers to court.
Down on the farm: Rustling, poaching & California’s Rural Crime School.
Agony & Ecstasy: Customs Service leads the charge against growing drug fad.
Good will is priceless: Town’s police force gets a new lease on life.
High-tech hopes: Department sees advanced fingerprint device as answer to clearance concerns.
Forum: Former police lieutenant & expert witness reflects on the Diallo case.
Look, but don’t touch: Supreme Court’s new curb on luggage searches.
Ground zero: Frustrated ranchers take illegal-alien problem into their own hands.
Two-fers: Police in Michigan, Washington nab elusive serial killers.
House of horrors: Working in an NYPD station house can be hazardous to a cop’s health.

Louisville sluggers?
PD tries to get a handle on overlooked, underreported use of force

      After an investigative series published recently by The Louisville Courier-Journal raised a number of disturbing questions about how use-of force reports are processed by the city’s police department, the discretion officers now have in filling out such forms will be sharply reined in under a policy initiated this month by Acting Police Chief Greg Smith and Public Safety Director Ron Ricucci.
      Under the new guidelines, the filing of use-of-force forms will be required each time an officer charges a suspect with resisting arrest. The change could foreseeably increase more than fivefold the number of reports filed each year, from approximately 210 to as many as 1,100 a year. The department will also make greater use of an early-intervention system, Smith told the Board of Aldermen at a meeting called in April to discuss the newspaper’s findings...

Boom times for Fed law enforcement, with most growth in protecting borders

      Growth within the ranks of the Immigration and Naturalization Service between 1996 and 1998 accounts for nearly half of an 11-percent increase in the number of full-time sworn personnel employed by federal law enforcement agencies during that period, and more than half of the increase within INS can be attributed to the hiring of more Border Patrol officers, according to a report released in March by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
      Between 1996 and 1998, the number of federal law enforcement personnel rose by some 8,000 officers, to a total of 83,000. The largest hike in both number and percentage of staff was found in the INS, which swelled its ranks by 4,149 officers and grew by 33 percent. In its Border Patrol division, the number of officers rose from 5,441 in 1996 to 7,714 two years later — a hike of 42 percent...

NJSP gambles on the viability of its college-degree requirement

      Under the terms of a settlement reached last month between the NAACP and New Jersey officials, the State Police is gambling that it can recruit enough minority applicants with a four-year college degree during the next three years that it will be able to make permanent the academic requirement as an exclusive criterion for entrance into the department.
      The consent decree signed on March 1 resolves a 1996 lawsuit filed by the NAACP’s national organization and its New Jersey chapter. It calls for aggressive recruitment of black and Latino candidates; the suspension of a bachelor’s degree requirement until 2003, and a variety of tests for candidates instead of the single Law Enforcement Candidate Record...

One way or another, gone:
Elian case fallout topples Miami chief

      With this month’s seizure by federal agents of 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives’ home, the city’s government was thrown into turmoil as City Manager Donald Warshaw was fired, Police Chief William O’Brien resigned, and a new leader for the department was chosen without the support of top city administrators.
      The loss of key municipal and public safety officials began when Mayor Joe Carollo, angered that O’Brien did not notify him that the boy was to be taken away in a pre-dawn raid on April 22, ordered Warshaw to fire the police chief. Refusing, Warshaw was terminated. The 56-year-old O’Brien, a former SWAT team member who was named chief in 1998, subsequently quit...

Counties tell Feds, “Enough’s enough” with border drug cases
Outisde monitor to check compliance with consent decree

      Prosecutors in counties along the Texas-Mexico border have issued an ultimatum to the Justice Department: Reimburse us for the costly prosecution of cases involving relatively small amounts of drugs, or we will stop accepting the cases as of July 1.
      The showdown comes after years of county governments picking up the tab for prosecuting offenders caught by federal agents with 50 pounds of marijuana or less at ports of entry and immigration checkpoints. Such cases, which do not meet the weight requirement for federal prosecution, cost each county an estimated $2 million to $8 million a year...

Going, going gone: Cash, drugs vanish from Fresno PD property room

      An additional $67,000 in cash was found to be missing by Fresno, Calif., Police Department internal auditors this month, making a total of $240,000 that has seemingly disappeared from the agency’s evidence room.
      “We want to make it clear that it is not a new incident,” a department spokesman, Lieut. John Fries, told The Fresno Bee. “It’s a continuation of the examination of the records to make sure that we can account for every dollar that has been entrusted to the property room.”..

Cop, cleared in assault, now wants his own day in court

      A Little Rock police officer acquitted earlier this year of felony aggravated assault against a teenager is suing the boy’s parents for malicious prosecution, claiming they are trying to have him punished for lawful behavior and get him fired.
      In March, a Circuit Court jury found Officer Ryan McCormick, 25, innocent of charges stemming from a May 2, 1999, off-duty incident in which he pulled his weapon on a teenager who had thrown sticks and stones at his passing truck...

Poaching, rustling, horse thievery — very real problems for rural PDs

      With much of California’s landscape given over to farming and ranching, there is not as much distance as one would imagine between microchips and cow chips — even in Santa Clara County, which, despite being home to Silicon Valley, is more than two-thirds rural.
      It is for precisely that reason that, twice a year, the California Rural Crimes Task Force operates its Rural Crime School in Gilroy, a 40-hour training program for investigators that covers cattle rustling, horse thievery, deer poaching, oil and irrigation field theft and dog-fighting, among other offenses that take place on farms and range land across the state...

The agony of Ecstasy
Customs, other Feds tackle rising drug fad

      As the popularity of the psychedelic drug Ecstasy climbs to a fever pitch among the nation’s high school and college students, federal law enforcement agencies are responding in kind, significantly stepping up efforts to crack down on Ecstasy rings responsible for bringing millions of the tablets into the country from Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and other European countries.
      The New York/New Jersey area has apparently become ground zero for Ecstasy smuggling, with a quarter of all seizures of the drug taking place at Newark International Airport or John F. Kennedy International. Customs Service inspectors reported confiscating 3.5 million pills throughout the country during fiscal year 1999, compared with 750,000 the previous year. Some 1.3 million tablets were seized last year in the New York City area alone. In 1998, the number was just 48,400. Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he expected 8 million Ecstasy pills to be seized by the end of this year...

City has high-tech hopes for improving fingerprint acquisition, crime clearance

      How much is it worth to clear just one homicide? The Visalia, Calif., Police Department believes it is easily worth the $75,000 cost of its new high-tech fingerprint-recovery device.
      The device, which has been used for decades in the United Kingdom, can recover decades-old prints on such objects as plastic bags and bottles. “It’s allowing us to get into the next generation of technology,” said Assistant Police Chief Jim Nelson. “We should recover a lot more fingerprints from crime scenes,” he told The Fresno Bee...

Town’s police force is spared the ax, as savings came at too high a price

      The savings garnered if the city of Mapleton, Utah, had disbanded its police force in favor of a contract with the Utah County Sheriff’s Department: $117,000 in the first year. The rapport between the public and the town’s eight-member force: priceless.
      That message from residents was apparently heard loud and clear this month by City Council members, who bowed to the public’s wishes and voted down a proposal by Mayor Richard Young to terminate the entire force, including Police Chief Bret Barney and a pool of part-time officers, in favor of police protection provided by county law enforcement...

Don’t be too free with your hands. . .
Court slaps new curb on luggage search

      Look, but don’t touch, said the U.S. Supreme Court this month when it ruled that police can visually inspect travelers’ luggage but not squeeze or physically manipulate a bag to determine whether it contains drugs.
      The 7-2 decision in Bond v. U.S. (No. 98-9349) was a disappointment to some police organizations, coming as it did on the heels of another case in which the Court curtailed law enforcement’s authority to act on anonymous tips. It overturned the conviction of Steven Dewayne Bond, who was serving a 57-month sentence for transporting methamphetamine on a bus stopped by the Border Patrol near El Paso. An agent checking the passengers’ immigration status squeezed a canvas bag in a bin above Bond’s head. A “brick-like” shape inside the luggage led him to suspect that it contained drugs...

Alien invasion:
Frustrated ranchers take matters into their own hands

      Federal law enforcement authorities along the U.S.-Mexican border can seem to do no right in the eyes of ranchers and other property owners, some of whom are angry at the inability of Border Patrol agents to stop illegal aliens from making nightly runs across their land, while others fume at what they perceive as human rights violations perpetrated against the immigrants.
      In Douglas, Ariz., a town of 15,000 that has become leading point of entry during the past year for illegal aliens, both U.S. and Mexican authorities are concerned by the growing vigilantism of the area’s ranchers. Dozens of them in the past 12 months have taken up arms, according to law enforcement officials, leading to occasional skirmishes, threats and warning shots...

Police in two states reel in a pair of serial killers

      The capture of a suspected serial killer is a rare enough event in law enforcement; almost unheard of would be the nearly back-to-back arrests of two men in different cities suspected of two separate strings of murders. Yet, coming on the heels of the arrest this month in Detroit of a U.S. Navy sailor believed to have murdered prostitutes around the world, a married father of five in Spokane was charged in the death of one woman, and is a suspect in the murders of 18 others.
      Prosecutors in Detroit have charged the sailor, John Eric Armstrong, with five murders, and believe that he may have strangled as many as 16 to 20 women in cities from Seattle to Singapore. “We’re trying to track his career in the Navy to determine just how many bodies he left in his wake,” said Police Chief Benny Napoleon...

Working in an NYPD precinct can be hazardous to your health

      Along with wage issues, racial tensions, CompStat accountability demands and other sources of stress for New York City police officers, one can apparently add working in ancient station houses that have fallen into such disrepair that in some cases, officers’ health could be imperiled.
      The decrepit conditions of some of precincts are so extreme that the city plans to spend $5 million in 2000 and more than $40 million over the next four years to build two new station houses and renovate the 18th century carriage house that serves as the Central Park Precinct...