Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVII, No. 549 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY February 14, 2001

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Getting the boot; leapfrogging to the top; staying home in Hawaii; an act of Providence; now you see them, now you don’t.
New hand on the tiller: Ashcroft survives Senate confirmation to become the new A-G.
Cancer problem: Oxycontin is a drug of choice for cancer patients — and substance abusers.
Keeping tabs: Tampa cops look for bad guys in the Super Bowl crowd.
Carrot & stick: Boston PD’s approach to dealing with prisoner re-entry.
Time for change: NY gov pushes overhaul of harsh drug laws.
Fingertip control: Hand-held DNA test kit will soon be ready for British cops.
Feeding the fire: Racism fuels most hate crimes.
Heavenly help: Arming police with the power of prayer.
Forum: What real police leadership entails.
Change of heart: NYC mayor gives civilian board power to prosecute police misconduct.
Murder in mind: Two rogue cops were targeting a fellow officer.
A sharper edge: Fatal stabbings are a problem in Boston.

Testing, 1, 2, 3
Milwaukee PD finally ready to add psych screening of recruits

      Pending approval by a federal judge, the Milwaukee Police Department expects to implement its first ever psychological screening component to its entrance requirement this year.
      Milwaukee’s use of screening tools that are used routinely in numerous other cities had been thwarted by a 1975 court order which mandated that minorities account for 40 percent of newly hired officers and females 20 percent. “There were people in the department who wanted to [implement psychological screening], but because of this ongoing litigation, we wanted to make sure we resolved all issues,” Joseph Czarnezki, executive director of the city’s Fire and Police Commission, told Law Enforcement News. “We didn’t want to add additional components to the process that could lead to litigation.”..

When ex-cons come home to the ’hood, will police be ready?

      By significantly reducing rehabilitation programs inside prison walls to fund the incarceration boom of the past decade, states and the Federal government have created a massive cohort of parolees with needs far greater than those of newly released prisoners in the past — and raised questions as to how well prepared police agencies are to handle the re-entry of so many offenders into the community.
      According to a recent Department of Justice study by Joan Petersilia, professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California-Irvine, state prisons released nearly 600,000 inmates, including juvenile offenders, in 1999 — nearly the same number that were admitted to facilities that year. That figure is also nearly triple the number of prisoners released in 1980...

Information, please: News media & police squabble over records access

      When it comes to the news appetites of local media outlets, police records are a basic food group. Thus it may have come as no surprise that the availability of such records — or the lack thereof — was a source of recent friction between the press and police in Durham, N.C., over a weekday-only policy for releasing crime records, and in the East Valley part of the greater Phoenix area, where Arizona’s largest newspaper has complained that search-warrant affidavits are increasingly being kept off limits by authorities.
      While Durham Police Chief Theresa Chambers said she was open to alternatives, the department is standing firmly behind a decision made in February to distribute field officers’ arrest and incident reports only between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. New reports had previously been available twice a day, seven days a week, and often shortly after an incident occurred...

A new hand on Justice’s tiller
Ashcroft survives Senate scrutiny to become nation’s new top lawman

      While he has opposed tighter federal gun-control measures throughout his career, newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has chosen as one of his first initiatives a plan to intensify Richmond, Va.’s much-copied Project Exile program, which requires federal involvement in gun violations that meet certain criteria.
      The plan would have the support of both the National Rifle Association and gun-control advocates, who have cautiously praised Project Exile while being among the most vociferous opponents of Ashcroft’s nomination. A former governor, state attorney general and U.S. senator from Missouri, Ashcroft won a bitter Senate confirmation battle on Feb. 1 by a vote of 58-42, drawn largely along party lines...

Appalachian headache:
Prescription cancer drug is narcotic of choice

      Just as America’s heartland has intractable problems with methamphetamine, now the eastern regions of Appalachia appear bedeviled by a substance known as OxyContin. The powerful narcotic, which is usually prescribed for cancer patients, has pushed aside marijuana, cocaine and other narcotics as the drug of choice for addicts and teenage abusers, according to law enforcement officials in dozens of rural areas from Maine to West Virginia.
      The active ingredient in OxyContin is a morphine-like substance called oxycodone, also found in the prescription drugs Percodan and Tylox. But unlike those, which need to be taken in repeated dosages, OxyContin is in a time-release formula that is effective for up to 12 hours. Experts say, however, that addicts can achieve an intensely pure high by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting them. A telltale piece of paraphernalia among adolescent users is a pill crusher sold by drug stores to help elderly people swallow their medication, said Capt. Minor Allen of the Hazard, Ky., Police Department...

Eye in the sky:
Tampa PD keeps tabs on Super Bowl

      What right of privacy do you have when you’re one of tens of thousands of people attending one of the biggest sporting events of the year in an open stadium? The answer depends on whether you ask the police or civil liberties activists in Tampa, Fla., where a sophisticated surveillance system was used last month to compare the faces of spectators at the Super Bowl with a data base of known criminals.
      According to police officials, the computer scanning equipment used at Raymond James Stadium as well as in the Ybor City entertainment district made 19 matches, but none of those had committed crimes that warranted arrest...

The carrot & the stick
Boston PD’s partnership approach to prisoner re-entry

      We will help you make the transition from prison to freedom, but if you return to a life of crime, we will come down on you like a ton of bricks. That’s the message Boston law enforcement authorities are trying to get across to offenders through a post-prison re-entry project that provides a variety of services to literally hundreds of inmates returning to the city each month.
      As in most localities, the number of offenders returning to Boston each month is staggering. Communities absorb nearly 3,000 inmates a year from the Suffolk County House of Corrections, the local jail. At least half of those are on some type of probationary status, with 20 percent serving six months or less. The city also receives another 700 felons annually from prisons throughout the state. “What we’re seeing is a revolving door with guys going in and coming out,” said Police Supt. Paul Joyce..

Rethinking 1970s-style toughness:
NY’s harsh drug laws get a second look

      New York Gov. George Pataki’s proposed rewriting of the state’s harsh, Rockefeller-era drug laws has riled prosecutors, who maintain that lessening the stringent sentences prescribed by the 1973 mandatory drug-sentencing laws would deprive them of perhaps their most potent weapon against dealers.
      Pataki unveiled a plan in January that calls for shorter mandatory terms for offenders serving some of the longest sentences, as well as a treatment option for nonviolent repeat offenders. The proposal would also return some sentencing discretion to judges. Right now, prosecutors can use the threat of lengthy prison terms to force some prisoners into treatment and make plea bargains with others...

FBI: Racism is the hate that’s driving most bias-related crime

      Racism fueled more than twice as many hate crimes in 1999 as did any other type of prejudice, including ones based on religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity, according to statistics released in February by the FBI.
      Of the 7,876 bias-motivated criminal incidents reported by police for that year, race accounted for 4,295, or 54.5 percent. Murders attributed to racial prejudice also reached a five-year high in 1999, accounting for nine of all 17 reported, said the survey. Bias based on sexual orientation or ethnicity accounted for three deaths each, while two were motivated by religious prejudice. Whites, the report said, were responsible for 10 of the homicides, blacks five, and individuals of unknown race were accountable for two...

DNA testing is almost at hand

      A hand-held DNA testing kit that could be carried and operated by patrol officers will become a reality within the next few years, according to Britain’s Forensic Science Service, which informed Parliament in December that research into such a device was well advanced.
      The apparatus would be linked to a national data base that already holds nearly a million genetic samples from those convicted of offenses carrying a prison sentence. Prime Minister Tony Blair announced last year that extra funding would be made available to expand the data base in Birmingham to include samples from the nation’s entire “active criminal population,” which is estimated to be about 3 million...

Arming police with the power of prayer

      Say a little prayer for the officers of DuPage County, Ill., urged a local Roman Catholic deacon this month, whose nonprofit organization, DuPage Ministries, has developed a program whereby individuals or religious groups “adopt” officers and pray for their safety in the line of duty.
      The Adopt-a-Cop Prayer Partners program was the brainchild of Deacon Ron Yurcus, a Glen Ellyn-based chaplain for the Illinois State Police. Anonymous and free to any officer in the county, the organization will send newsletters and postcards that notify personnel if their department has decided to participate...

NYC civilian review panel to prosecute misconduct cases

      Civil libertarians and public officials have praised a proposal by New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani that would place responsibility for prosecuting police misconduct in the hands of the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.
      The proposal represents a sharp turnaround for Giuliani, who has generally been a stern critic of civilian oversight of the police...

Rogue cops had an eye for murder

      Despite similarities to an earlier scandal at the same precinct, New York police officials and federal prosecutors maintained last month that a plot to murder a fellow cop conceived by two officers from the city’s notorious 77th Precinct did not indicate the type of widespread corruption that led to the indictment of 13 officers in 1986.
      Nevertheless, the accusations made in the case of former officers Anthony Trotman and Jamil Jordan are among the most serious leveled in recent years...

Homicides in Boston take on a sharper edge

      Nationally lauded for its efforts to prevent gang- and gun-related violence, Boston police now seem to have a new problem on their hands — fatal stabbings. Since the beginning of the year, seven of 11 homicides were committed with a knife, compared to just two committed with firearms.
      “It’s literally like January 1 came, and everyone put their guns away and started pulling out knives,” said one police source quoted by The Boston Globe. “And the thing about stabbings is, when you’re stabbing someone, you’re looking right at the guy. They’re practically breathing on you. That’s a cold heart.”..