Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVII, No. 551 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY March 15, 2001

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Pulling his weight; diamond setting; return of the native; comic relief; back on top; Conway, his way.
Sounds of silence: Cell-phone towers create dead zones for police.
Get it in writing: The LAPD finally spells out misconduct penalties.
That’s why they call it ‘dope’: Study looks at long-term brain damage in meth users.
History lessons: Poring over old police blotters for clues to new violence.
Playing keep-away: Tracking system for violent offenders may be going off-line.
Doing the wave: Customs Service watches as stolen cars head south.
Piqua-boo: Scaring up an easy answer to a report-writing burden.
Good news, better news: An encouraging picture of police use of force.
Marked for identification: Maryland SP to ‘fingerprint’ handguns.
School daze: Nationwide, school violence keeps erupting.
Missing link? Study challenges the ‘Broken Windows’ thesis linking crime & disorder.
Getting out of hand: Big-city chiefs assess Mardi Gras violence.
Forum: Crime by the numbers; defending ‘Broken Windows.’
High-tech help: New Mexico police get a hand in tracking missing kids.

Quick & painless? Maybe not.
Study may offer clues to suffering endured by murder victims

      When lawyers appeal to juries with descriptions of a homicide victim’s pain and suffering, they’re often speaking abstractly, with no victim available to verify the account.
      Now, however, a study by a New York forensic biologist has found that small proteins called peptides, which flood the body when injury occurs, could hold the key to measuring the level of pain and suffering endured by a victim of lethal violence in the moments before death...

Bad neighbor policy: Sometimes, there’s no one home with Officer Next Door program

      A preliminary report by investigators from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last month estimates that one in four participants of a program aimed at giving police officers a break on the purchase of a house committed some type of fraud or abuse of the system.
      Under the Officer Next Door/Teacher Next Door (OND/TND) program launched in 1997 by former President Clinton, police need only pay $500 down to buy a house at a 50-percent discount. The homes, all of which are in troubled neighborhoods, are available due to mortgage foreclosures. In return, the officers must promise to live there for three years...

Is your crime-scene work a crime? Help will soon be on the way

      Spurred by a number of assessments that have found room for improvement in the quality of evidence collection and identification, particularly at the local level, the Knoxville Police Department is spearheading a project to create a National Forensic Academy for in-service criminalists.
      “There has been a huge escalation in challenges on forensic evidence,” Police Chief Phil Keith told Law Enforcement News. “Not just the Simpson trial, which [drew] national media attention, but also the FBI lab has been challenged under the process, and several labs around the country. Law enforcement people have been focusing on the issue for some time.”..

Sounds of silence:
Cell phone towers are a police radio nightmare

      Neither the Tigard, Ore., Police Department nor a national group representing public safety communication officials are holding out much hope for the timely resolution of a problem created when telecommunications companies began buying bandwidths within the segment reserved for law enforcement.
      In Tigard, a dead zone that silences radio transmission just a few blocks from the police station has on two occasions prevented officers facing armed suspects from calling for backup, said Capt. Gary Schrader. And in Arizona, police and fire radios did not work properly for three-quarters of a mile around one cell tower in Phoenix owned by Nextel...

You can get it in writing — LAPD finally spells out penalties for officer misconduct

      Los Angeles police brass are not about to give up their discretion in the disciplining of wayward officers, but now for the first time the punishments for a wide range of infractions can be found spelled out in a 13-page Penalty Guide, which was released in March by the Los Angeles Police Department and the union representing its 9,100 rank- and-file officers.
      Last month, Mayor Richard Riordan had challenged police officials to act on the department’s sinking morale. As he nears the end of his term, the mayor has chosen to emphasize morale, community policing and recruitment. Earlier in February, he fired Police Commission president Gerald Chaleff, calling him ineffective at focusing on these issues...

This is your brain on meth: a shadow of its former self

      Even after methamphetamine addicts have stopped using the drug for at least a year, they continue to show signs of neurological damage similar to that suffered by Parkinson’s disease patients, along with extensive scarring in the area of the brain responsible for sensation and spatial perception, according to a study released this month.
      The study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, is said to be the first to directly link deficits in learning and memory to methamphetamine use. Researchers found that, on average, the level of the brain chemical dopamine, which regulates pleasure and movement, was 24-percent lower in meth addicts than in normal volunteers. Moreover, the parietal lobes of addicts were metabolically overactive. Other studies have shown a similar response when the brain suffers traumatic injury or receives high doses of radiation...

History lessons:
Old blotters offer clues to new violence

      Criminologists poring over sets of Chicago police blotters that meticulously record the details of more than 11,000 murders committed from the post-Civil War era through the 1920s believe the documents provide may offer new insights into contemporary patterns of violence.
      Last November, Leigh B. Bienen, a senior lecturer at Northwestern University Law School, invited a dozen leading criminologists to study the newly computerized information contained in the five crumbling ledgers. Three years ago, the records were restored and microfilmed by a conservator with the Illinois State Archives. With the help of graduate students, Bienen then catalogued and indexed the data, breaking it down into subsets based on names, ages, occupations, the races of perpetrators and victims, and other variables such as the circumstances of the crimes, types of weapon used, the relationship between the victim and the defendant, and more...

Keeping abusers at a safe distance may get tougher

      Supporters of a South Carolina program that uses satellite technology to warn victims of domestic and sexual violence when their attackers are near are concerned that the project’s closing in March will reduce the chances of rapid police intervention.
      The Victims Alert Project, based in Aiken, will deplete its federal grant of $350,000 on March 15. It currently tracks more than 40 accused abusers in 10 counties, including Charleston and Berkeley. “This is devastating,” said project director Kay Mixson. “What is probably going to happen is we are going to see the number of deaths increase because we have some very severe cases on this. I have no about that whatsoever.”..

Doing the wave: Customs watches as stolen cars head south

      Although the technology is in place to signal when a stolen a car is passing through the U.S.-Mexico border, Customs inspectors at the San Ysidro, Calif., crossing near San Diego complain they can do little more than wave goodbye to the 2,000 stolen vehicles that head south each year, because programs that were supposed to coordinate a federal-local response to car theft never materialized.
      The license-plate readers that were installed at 11 of the Customs Service’s 31 Southwest border crossings two years ago scan cars as they head south. They quickly run the plates through an FBI data base and emit a beep whenever they register a hit. The intended use of the $63,000 machines was to record vehicles leaving and entering the country for possible criminal investigations. But the greater potential of the devices, they said, has never been realized...

Piqua-boo: Police scare up easy answer to report-writing burden

      By hiring one civilian employee and leasing the only remote-access transcription equipment in Miami County, Ohio, the Piqua Police Department has been able to return to the streets officers who had previously spent much of their shifts writing and typing reports.
      In 1997, officers spent 500 hours on paperwork for a total of $20,700 in personnel expenses. The mobile data terminals the agency installed in cruisers in 1990 when it became part of a multijurisdictional dispatch center required that reports be filled out at headquarters. One of the department’s requirements is that paperwork be typed because of the difficulty sometimes in reading handwriting, said Deputy Chief Wayne Willcox...

Good news, better news on use of force

      First, the good news: Of more than 43 million contacts law enforcement had with the public during 1999, less than 1 percent resulted in force being used or threatened. Now the better news: In more than half of those cases, the subjects acknowledged having argued with, disobeyed or resisted police during the interaction, or had been drunk or high on drugs at the time.
      The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported this month that an estimated 43.8 million people age 16 or older had face-to-face contact with police in 1999, with about half of those involving a vehicle stop. Of the nation’s 18.1 million black licensed drivers, 12.3 percent were pulled over at least once, compared with 10.4 percent of the 143 million licensed white drivers...

Maryland SP takes on ‘ballistic fingerprinting’

      The Maryland State Police last month provided a solution to an inadvertent ban on the sale of handguns that was created by the state’s new “ballistic fingerprint” law, when the agency offered to test-fire weapons until gun makers could set up their own system for doing so over the next six months.
      Under the Responsible Gun Safety Act, passed last year by the General Assembly, gun makers must test-fire all handguns manufactured after Oct. 1, 2000, and ship the spent shell casing to gun dealers along with the weapon. The dealers then send the casing to state police who enter its distinct markings into a data base along with the purchaser’s name and the date of sale. In the event that the gun is used in a crime, the information can be used to identify the weapon...

More school violence, and new ideas for dealing with it

      Hard on the heels of the latest occurrence of lethal school violence, the International Association of Chiefs of Police in March released recommendations for preventing and responding to school violence. The “Guide for Preventing and Responding to School Violence” is based on the input of over 500 experts and 15 focus groups, including members of school boards, teachers, administrators, police and other emergency response personnel.
      The document offers a broad range of guidance for local communities, including ways to prevent student violence, threat assessment, responding during a crisis and its aftermath, and legal and legislative issues. The guide is available for viewing or downloading at the IACP’s web site,

If it’s broken, fix it
Study challenges ‘Broken Windows’ thesis on crime & disorder link

      The capacity for neighbors to trust each other and intervene on each other’s behalf for the common good plays a far greater role in the suppression of crime than do efforts to address signs of disorder, as posited in the “Broken Windows” theory, argues a study released in February by the National Institute of Justice.
      The researchers, Stephen W. Raudenbush of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, and Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, contend that disorder and crime occupy different ends of the same spectrum. Their study, “Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods — Does It Lead to Crime?” theorizes that both crime and disorder stem from poverty, the concentration of immigrants in a community, and its residential stability, three elements categorized as “neighborhood structural characteristics.” ..

Celebration turns to confrontation:
Big-city chiefs assess Mardi Gras violence

      Police who gathered this month to discuss why, despite different venues and tactics, their cities’ Mardi Gras celebrations all ended in near-riots, said what most struck them was the extreme youth of some of the arrestees and their eagerness to confront law enforcement.
      The summit meeting, coordinated by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), drew chiefs from Austin, Texas; Philadelphia; Fresno, Calif; Portland, Ore., and Seattle. In the latter city, one person was killed and 70 injured during the melee that erupted during Mardi Gras festivities on Feb. 28...

N. Mex agencies to get high-tech help in tracking missing children

      With research showing that the first two to four hours are crucial in the recovery of an abducted or missing child, New Mexico last month joined more than two dozen other states in adopting the system known as TRAK, for Technology to Recover Abducted Kids. With research showing that the first two to four hours are crucial in the recovery of an abducted or missing child, New Mexico last month joined more than two dozen other states in adopting the system known as TRAK, for Technology to Recover Abducted Kids.
      The system consists of hardware and software that allows police to create fliers with information and a high-definition photograph of the child that can be sent electronically to other law enforcement agencies and the media within minutes...