Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 542 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY October 31, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: McCaffrey eyes the exit; art imitates life; Sherman rules; in like Flynn; down by the Riverside; tales of 2 cities; a quick study.
End of the line? With crime dropping yet again, criminologists wonder if the upturn is just around the corner.
Partners against crime: Public & private entities tackle the problems of low-income housing.
Who’s who: If these homeless have their hands out, they’re likely to get fingerprinted.
New life: The LAPD revives a popular community-policing program.
Bum rap: Law enforcement finds a new reason not to like rap artists — and vice versa.
Biting the bullet: LA accepts a consent decree for police reform.
Like they never left: Serial killers may be less notorious, but they’re still part of the crime scene.
Some good news: Monitors sees progress toward reform by NJ State Police.
Number-crunching: What do the civilian complaint data mean in Columbus?
Career-killers: LA police union sues over letters in cops’ personnel files.
Criminal Justice Library: Two thumbs up for this “Command Performance.”

Speaking in tongues
English-only isn’t enough for many police agencies

      A decade ago, some Midwestern law enforcement agencies might have needed a bilingual officer on only a handful of occasions in the course of a year. Now, however, on the heels of a boom in the region’s Hispanic population, those departments are scrambling to fill positions with officers fluent in Spanish while at the same time trying to teach basic language skills to existing personnel.
      According to preliminary findings from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population grew nationwide by 39 percent between the years 1990 and 1999, but its growth in some Midwestern states has been significantly higher...

Police suspend distribution of free gun locks after they prove defective

      Amid reports by police departments in two Tennessee cities that gun locks distributed free of charge sprang open after being jostled, a number of other law enforcement agencies have suspended the initiative and warned residents to maintain the same firearms safety procedures they had before using the devices.
      The problems with the devices, which looks like miniature bicycle cable locks, first surfaced in Knoxville and Chattanooga. A Knoxville officer found the locks opened when bounced in his hand. The trait was found to be common after testing some 3,000 locks the department planned to distribute...

Pressed for applicants, NYPD waives two-year college standard

      The initial response has been mixed to a decision by New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to waive the agency’s college requirement in order to increase the size of the applicant pool.
      The decision, announced Sept. 27 by Kerik, would make eligible nearly half of the city’s 5,000 traffic agents and school safety officers by allowing them to substitute two years of work experience for the 60 college credits that the department has required since 1995. A waiver already exists for those with two years of military training...

End of the line nearing for crime reductions?

      The nation’s crime rate continued its downward spiral for an eighth straight year in 1999, with a 7-percent decrease over the previous year’s figures, but criminologists warn that the relatively small dip in the murder rates of major cities is an indication that the days of record-setting reductions may be coming to an end.
      According to the FBI’s preliminary Uniform Crime Reports for 1999, released in October, serious crime in the United States is at its lowest point in 21 years. Decreases of 8 percent from 1998 to 1999 were recorded for both murder and robbery, with aggravated assault figures falling by 6 percent. Last year, said the report, the number of violent crimes was 20 percent below 1995 figures and 21 percent below those of 1990...

Police & partners tackle safety concerns in low-income housing

      The Arlington, Tex., Police Department has no illusions about turning low-income apartment complexes into top-dollar dwellings, but by pulling together a consortium of regulatory agencies and private businesses, it is hoping to make the city’s multi-family buildings safer for residents and less of a drain on law enforcement resources.
      Modeled on the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program in Mesa, Ariz., the initiative that Arlington authorities plan to roll out in January calls for a collaborative effort from the managers and managing agents of some 600 complexes, law enforcement, housing code enforcement and the city attorney’s office to establish standards and then stick to them...

Homeless have their hands out — to be fingerprinted

      The homeless population in Riverside County, Calif., will be fingerprinted beginning in November under a voluntary program aimed at creating a database of case histories for use by the area’s social service agencies.
      Law enforcement can only obtain access to the data by a judge’s order, but that fact hasn’t prevented the plan from drawing criticism from civil libertarians. “How voluntary could this possibly be?” asked Dan Tokaji, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles. “When you have someone in a position of power requesting information from a needy person, there is inherent coercion...

New life for popular LA program

      A well-liked community-policing program that had been shelved by the Los Angeles Police Department was dusted off and given new life in October when Police Chief Bernard Parks and Mayor Richard Riordan announced that the 168 members of the Senior Lead Officer (SLO) program would be redeployed to handle quality-of-life issues.
      The SLO initiative was popular with Neighborhood Watch and other community safety groups since it gave them direct, daily contact with one high-ranking officer. But in February 1999, the program’s personnel were reassigned to regular crime patrol...

Naming names:
Law enforcement, rap square off again

      Federal drug enforcement officials were disturbed this month by the release of a rap song by a record promoter under investigation for drug trafficking, in which the singer names federal agents and speaks of killing informants and derailing drug investigations.
      On the CD “Last of a Dying Breed,” rap artist Brad “Scarface” Jordan boasts: “Can’t be stopped. Not even by a badge. Schumacher’s been chasin’ me. Tryin’ to set me up. Bustin’ down my street. Lockin’ up my dog, to see if he can catch me. But I don’t sell no dope…(expletive) the DEA.”..

Less notorious, maybe, but. . .
Serial killers are still part of the crime scene

      Just because few serial killers in recent years have achieved the notoriety of a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy does not mean that such offenders, who both captivate and terrify the public, have disappeared from the landscape. In recent months, police from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Anchorage, Alaska, arrested a number of suspects they believe responsible for multiple deaths — in some cases stretching back years.
      Still other accused serial murderers who are already in custody faced new rounds of court proceedings in September and October...

LA bites the bullet on consent decree to avoid Justice Department lawsuit

      Faced with the prospect of a divisive lawsuit by the Justice Department on one hand, and enough City Council votes to override a mayoral veto on the other, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Police Commissioner Bernard Parks withdrew their opposition last month to a federal consent decree that would compel the type of broad police reforms that have eluded city and department officials for the past decade.
      Riordan rescinded his threatened veto on the condition that control of the agency remain with local authorities, that paperwork for officers be minimized and that the agreement run out after five years unless extended by the Justice Department. That cleared the way for a City Council vote of 10-to-2 on Sept. 19 to accept the reform package in principle...

A dose of good news for NJ State Police First report by monitors see progress toward reform

      High expectations held by New Jersey state officials were met this month when independent monitors described in glowing terms the progress made so far by the State Police in implementing reforms ordered under a 1999 federal consent decree.
      In its 123-page report to federal Judge Mary L. Cooper issued on Oct. 6, a court-appointed team commended the agency for its exceptional commitment to what the panel called “doing it right.” The first in an anticipated 12 reports to be made during the five-year agreement, the report found the state had in place 87 of 97 reforms. Even where the state police fell short, in the areas of computerized traffic-stop data and new training, the monitoring team presented the state’s failure in a positive light...

Columbus crunches the numbers:
Why do so few officers log so many complaints?

      Not surprisingly, supporters and critics of the Columbus, Ohio, Division of Police last month drew different meanings from an analysis of records which found that just a small number of officers logged the most complaints between 1995 and 1999.
      The documents, which were released following a Sept. 20 ruling by the state Supreme Court, showed a dozen officers generating at least 10 complaints each. By contrast, 93 percent of the agency’s 1,700 sworn members drew four or fewer complaints during that same period, based on complaints in which officers were named. More than 600 officers logged no complaints...

Credibility questions can be a career-killer for LAPD cops

      The Los Angeles Police Department has called “grossly inaccurate” an allegation by the city’s police union that Chief Bernard Parks is violating officers’ rights to due process with the issuance of so-called Brady letters that result in demotions and reassignments.
      In a federal lawsuit filed Oct. 12, the Los Angeles Police Protective League charged that department management was using the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Brady v. Maryland to punish officers who were the subject of past or pending disciplinary action. Under the ruling, prosecutors must give defense attorneys any information — including an officer’s disciplinary history — that might impeach his or her credibility as a witness...

Two thumbs up for ‘Command Performance’

      For the last 20 years, you prepared to become the chief of police. You went to college and sat in the library with a stack of research materials on sunny weekends. You volunteered for all the work that no one else wanted or the bosses could find no one else to do. You attended many weekend community meetings and gave up time with your family and friends while your peers left the office at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, not to be seen again until 8:00 AM Monday. Your supervisors promoted and rewarded you for your efforts.
      Now the chief has retired and the department’s officers recognize you as the hands-down choice for appointment to chief of police. Unexpectedly, the city manager, with whom you have a great rapport, announces there will be a nationwide search for the new chief. You are stunned, and now you must compete for the job...

PERF volume has something to offer for current or aspiring chiefs, even rank and file

      Aspiring and current police chiefs should strongly consider adding “Command Performance – Career Guide for Police Executives” to their career management reading list. Authors William Kirchoff, Charloette Lansinger and James Burack did a fantastic job by covering a wide range of aspects to assist a police chief applicant in pursuit of a position and at the same time preparing those who someday wish to lead an agency.
      Police chief positions are highly competitive and subject to more frequent turnover than one might imagine — many chiefs spend less than five years at the helm — so chiefs must be knowledgeable of the skill sets that will assist them to obtain their position or prepare them for their next leadership role. “Command Performance” provides insightful and valuable information aimed at assisting career police executives. It is presented in a systematic way that allows the reader to grasp the information in progressive succession...