Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 536 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY June 30, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Staying close to home; chief goes back to school; Dr. SWAT; America’s oldest police sacrifice; coming in off the bench.
Lending an ear: Ga. county cops improve service to deaf residents.
Student teachers: Fort Worth high schoolers show cops how to reduce a backlog.
Talk isn’t cheap: For Orange County cops, it’s sometimes impossible via radio.
Bicoastal controversies: LAPD, NYPD are under fire for crowd-handling tactics.
Power outage: Louisville officials, police lock horns over subpoena for civilian review board.
Changing their ways: Philadelphia police get a better handle on rape cases.
Fashion police: Texas departments change their looks.
Rising in Defiance: Ohio cops see red over Fair Labor Standards.
A killer’s web: Has a task force nabbed the first Internet-based serial killer?
Mixed reviews: Outside monitor’s report says LA sheriff’s office is vulnerable to corruption.
First-response failures: Hartford police faulted for handling of medical calls.
Forum: On-again, off-again problems with police report-writing.

Show me the money!
With COPS funds at stake, two Texas PD’s do vanishing acts

      Two Texas towns, two federal grants, two diverse sets of problems leading to similar outcomes. The one common denominator is the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which will ultimately decide whether the municipalities will be on the hook for money spent on police agencies that no longer exist.
      Although the problems that plagued the towns of Lyford and Kendleton could not be more different, both accepted money from the COPS office and neither has a police department anymore. In Kendleton, a Fort Bend County town of about 600 residents, the 15-member force was disbanded by the City Council, at least temporarily, in June after a multi-agency investigation found that employees and elected officials had misused federal funds and stolen money collected from traffic fines...

Boston PD fires back at critics over its handling of hate crimes

      Police and city officials this month defended the Boston Police Department’s Community Disorders Unit against allegations that the vaunted anti-hate crime squad — a model for other such initiatives around the country — has lost its edge and is pursuing civil rights violations with less vigor than it has in years past.
      The accusations were made in a series of articles published in June by The Boston Globe, which asserted that despite a significant increase in the number of hate crimes reported in the city from 1993 to 1999, the number of criminal prosecutions resulting from investigations had plunged. Statistics cited by the paper showed a 57-percent increase in hate crimes, from 276 in 1993 to 433 last year, and a drop in the proportion of those charged criminally from 21 percent in 1993 to 9 percent in 1999 — a 56-percent decrease...

The Supremes sing out: You still have the right to remain silent

      Although the landmark ruling in Miranda v. Arizona was handed down 34 years ago by Supreme Court justices far more liberal than those who currently sit on the bench, it was that more conservative and generally law-enforcement friendly Court that last month surprised many observers when it reaffirmed a decision whose constitutional foundation it had long questioned.
      By a vote of 7-to-2 on June 27, the Court said it would not overturn a ruling that had in effect become part of the national culture, with its familiar warnings beginning with, “You have the right to remain silent.”..

Ga. county force lends an ear to deaf residents

      Although it has yet to receive a call for a sign language interpreter, the Henry County, Ga., Police Department is not waiting around for an emergency. In May, the agency launched the first initiative in the state aimed at providing interpreters on a 24-hour basis for the jurisdiction’s deaf and hearing-impaired residents.
      The proposal for the Henry County Interpretive Services Program was made by Capt. Tim Hatch, head of the agency’s uniform division. While only infrequent need is foreseen for sign language interpreters, it does not relieve the department of supplying one should the need arise, he said. Under both state law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, an interpreter is required whenever a hearing-impaired person is involved as a suspect or a witness, or if the proceeding involves a minor with hearing-impaired parents...

Orange radio system is proving itself a lemon

      After several failed attempts to debug the area’s $80-million emergency radio network, officials in Orange County, Calif., have decided to halt an ongoing expansion of the system.
      The new 800-megahertz system, which is being built by Motorola, has been operating in Irvine and Tustin since April. It replaced a 30-year-old system that was the focus of harsh criticism in 1993 when fire departments were unable to communicate effectively while fighting the devastating Laguna Beach fires...

Students teach police a few things about clearing a backlog

      Four Fort Worth high school students hired in April by the city’s police department under a statewide program have provided officers with the opportunity to get out from under a backlog of data entry while promoting maturity in the teenagers, according to police and education officials.
      Although private businesses and public agencies in Fort Worth have participated in the career education cooperative program for decades, this is the first year that the police department has used student labor...

What to do when things get out of hand
LAPD’s ‘Laker victory plan’ criticized after rioting

      As the heat rose inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 19, with the hometown Lakers on the brink of capturing the National Basketball Association title, the intensity level was also building among the more than 10,000 fans gathered outside the arena to watch the game on a large video screen.
      Shortly after the Lakers won the city’s first professional sports title in 12 years, fans on the streets showed their elation by jumping on and burning cars, including police vehicles, looting stores, tearing branches from trees and setting fire to trash cans. The riotous behavior lasted for hours, and prompted a barrage of questions regarding the police response — or lack of one — to the disorder...

Why did NYC cops stand idle while crowd mauled women?

      The New York City Police Department is no stranger to intense public scrutiny lately, and the heat only got hotter following a series of incidents that came after the June 11 Puerto Rican Day parade, when at least 47 women were robbed, groped, stripped and verbally and physically harassed in Central Park while police officers stood idly by.
      New Yorkers, the local media and even some police officials have been left to wonder what went wrong with law enforcement that Sunday afternoon...

Armstrong tactics in Louisville:
Subpoena issue muddles civilian review board debate

      Louisville officials and the city’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 6 are going to court over the adoption last month of a civilian review board ordinance that would confer on the proposed panel subpoena powers which the Board of Aldermen granted itself under the measure.
      The ordinance was passed by the board in June after it voted 8-4 to override Mayor Dave Armstrong’s earlier veto. Key among the review board’s powers would be the authority to subpoena witnesses, hire its own investigative staff and take complaints directly from the public. The board could also conduct evidentiary hearings, and while it would have no authority to recommend disciplinary action, its findings would be forwarded to the chief of police...

“God-awful” treatment of victims:
Philly cops get a better handle on rapes

      Without putting too fine a point on it, rape victims whose cases were among those written off by Philadelphia police investigators in years past were probably treated in an unprofessional, improper and “god-awful” manner, said Police Commissioner John F. Timoney in testimony this month before the City Council, in which he revealed the results of his move to reinvestigate hundreds of sex crimes dismissed since 1995.
      A review of some 2,000 cases dating back five years — the statute of limitations in rape cases — was prompted by a series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer documenting how the police department’s Special Victims Unit had for years improperly dumped as much as a third of its caseload. The dismissals were made without the knowledge of either victims or their advocates, according to the newspaper...

Summertime, and the look is casual for two Texas PD’s

      Two Texas police departments are putting a new spin on style this summer, with some officers now having the option of wearing shorts and polo-style shirts, and even beards. Wider-brimmed hats are also part of the seasonal fashion trend for some Texas cops.
      In Waco, the casual look for officers was implemented by Chief Alberto Melis who came to town about two months ago after serving as chief in Lauderhill, Fla. “From a societal and psychological point of view, it is a softer, friendlier look,” Melis told The Associated Press. “From a purely practical point of view, officers will be much more comfortable wearing these clothes when it gets hot.”..

Rising up in Defiance over fed Fair Labor Standards

      Members of the police union in Defiance, Ohio, this month joined the ranks of some two dozen other such groups across the nation that have filed federal suits in recent years in an effort to compel compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
      The 50-year-old statute, which includes all municipal employees, requires that for every hour worked in excess of 40 hours per week, time-and-a-half in overtime must be paid. Employees may also receive compensatory time off in lieu of payment at a rate of an hour and a half per hour of overtime...

Bistate task force thinks it has USA’s first Internet serial killer

      John Robinson posed first as a kindly philanthropist eager to help troubled young women out of poverty, then as “Slavemaster,” a sadomasochist seeking like-minded partners. Now, investigators assigned to a Kansas-Missouri task force believe they may have in custody the nation’s first documented serial killer to use the Internet as a means of luring victims.
      In June, investigators identified the body of Suzette Trouten, 28, during a search of properties owned or rented by the 56-year-old Robinson. Uncovered were the remains of five women — two found stuffed in barrels on a farm he owns in La Cygne, Kan., and three in some storage units rented by the suspect and his wife in Raymore, Mo...

Mixed reviews:
LASD seen vulnerable to corruption

      The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has left its Community Oriented Policing unit vulnerable to acts of malfeasance by asking members to conduct specialized activities such as undercover surveillance operations without providing them with either the substantive training required for such tasks or the necessary oversight, according to a report this month by the agency’s civilian monitor.
      Using the Los Angeles Police Department’s Ramparts scandal as a backdrop, the semi-annual report by the monitor, attorney Merrick J. Bobb, examined areas with the potential for similar problems within the county sheriff’s office...

‘First-response’ tag doesn’t suit Hartford PD

      The failure of the Hartford, Conn., Police Department — designated as the city’s first medical responder — to provide CPR or basic first aid in more than half of the cases phoned in to the 911 center in the past two years has elected officials and experts on emergency medical service urging municipal leaders to take immediate action to develop a more viable system.
      City officials, however, backed away this month from a proposal that would have shifted primary responsibility from police to firefighters at a projected cost of $1 million a year for the next seven years in raises and enhanced pension benefits. While supporting the transfer of medical duties, Mayor Michael P. Peters told The Hartford Courant, “We have to be prudent, too.”..