Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVII, No. 554 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 30, 2001

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Bush’s tough choice; okey-dokey in Holyoke; the doctor is in; stars of Bethlehem; the St. Pete beat; now you see them, now you don’t.
Vicious cycle: Diminished prospects for abused & neglected children.
Sweetening the pot: Chicago wants more cops to take assignments in public housing units.
Making tracks: DEA works with Amtrak to get the drop on rail passengers.
Spreading the word: E-mail bulletins do the job for a small department.
In the spotlight: Omaha publicizes its chronic domestic violence offenders.
Free ride? What some people will do for free medical care — get arrested.
Blowing the call: Newspaper reports a bias “killing” that never happened.
Imbalance of power: Why does Detroit have so few homicide clearances, yet plenty of arrests per case?
Turning up the HEAT: A different approach to community policing.
The color of profiling: Black cops as both victims & users of the practice.
Playing it safe: County drops “most wanted” list from its Web site.
Forum: A realistic, close-range look at nonlethal munitions gives users & manufacturers plenty to think about.

Calling the question
Election of police chiefs is a bone of contention in Louisiana

      For the vast majority of Americans, electing a local police chief would seem about as orthodox as soldiers electing their own generals. Not so in Louisiana, where a bill unanimously endorsed last month by a state Senate committee could open the doors for the city of Baton Rouge to elect its police chiefs rather than have them appointed by the mayor and council — thus becoming the 290th municipality in the state with such a system.
      Under its current city-parish form of government, the entire parish of East Baton Rouge elects the mayor, who then appoints the chief for the city of Baton Rouge. “Citizens of Baton Rouge have little to do with who their appointed chief of police is,” said Senator Cleo Fields (D.-Baton Rouge), who proposed the legislation...

Are Milwaukee cops overworked? Gun-shy? Racial profilers? No easy answers for ticket drop.

      As Milwaukee officials search for reasons that might explain a steep decline in the number of quality-of-life and traffic citations handed out by police between 1999 and 2000, the officers themselves say officials may be overlooking the simplest explanation: too much paperwork and too little overtime pay.
      A year-long study released in March by the city’s Police and Fire Commission found the total number of citations to have fallen by 50 percent, from 28,418 in December 1999 to 14,079 the following year. The number of speeding tickets dropped from 6,295 to 2,753, or by 56 percent during the 12-month period. And vehicle license tickets decreased by 42 percent, from 6,169 to 3,602...

Fit for duty? Massachusetts will finally put its police to the test

      Thousands of municipal police officers in the state of Massachusetts will soon begin taking an in-service fitness exam, under a provision of the 1987 Pension Reform Act that was on hold from its enactment until funding was fully appropriated three years ago.
      Simply known as “the standards,” they require anyone hired after Nov. 1, 1996 to undergo an ability test every two years and a medical exam every four years. Those hired before that date will be grandfathered in under the statute. Officers are given three chances to pass the standards within a calendar year or face termination...

“Cycle of violence” thesis supported by new data

      Quantifying what has always seemed just common sense about the so-called cycle of violence, a new study has found that children who have been maltreated are more prone to get into trouble with police and to commit violent offenses as both juveniles and adults.
      The results stem from the latest update of a longitudinal study by the National Institute of Justice, which followed a group of 1,575 children over a period of 25 years, comparing the arrest rates of those who had been abused or neglected with those who had not...

Chicago sweetens the deal for cops in public housing assignments

      An incentive approach previously used by Chicago police officials to sweeten the deal for officers willing to take assignments in high-crime districts is being used again to persuade sworn personnel to move to the department’s public housing unit.
      Police Superintendent Terry Hillard hopes to attract 150 officers with a package of new incentives. The housing unit is currently staffed by just 300 officers, although it is authorized to have at least 450, officials said. In an agency-wide letter issued this month, Hillard promised volunteers no graveyard shifts if they made the move, and a switch to 10-hour shifts that would provide an extra week off over a 49-day work cycle. Moreover, none of the officers would be required to work more than five days in a row...

Making tracks on drug enforcement

      Civil libertarians in New Mexico were disturbed to learn this month that Albuquerque’s local Amtrak office receives 10 percent of assets seized by federal agents who were provided with personal information on passengers by the railroad company.
      According to a report in The Albuquerque Journal, a computer link exists between the city’s Amtrak ticketing terminal and the local DEA office, which allows drug agents to sift through passenger names and itineraries, and see whether they paid in cash or credit. The information apparently helps to determine whose luggage will be screened by drug-sniffing dogs...

Cyber-notices work for small department

      E-mail bulletins sent to residents of Hinesburg, Vt., by their police department are replacing the printed flier and the old “knock at the door” as a means of getting the word out about robberies and other crimes committed in the neighborhood.
      The program was launched about two months ago, said Police Chief Chris Morrell, and since then about a half-dozen bulletins have been sent out. “We’re very much into working with the community rather than the more traditional ‘police take care of it’ routine,” he told Law Enforcement News...

Chronic spouse abusers get unwanted publicity

      Chronic domestic-violence offenders are getting a sizable dose of unwanted publicity in Omaha, where the police department is featuring the abusers’ photographs in newspaper ads as a way of combating repeat victimization and bringing down the agency’s backlog of outstanding warrants.
      Each month, 10 new pictures of domestic abusers will appear in The Omaha World-Herald, along with the names of 100 or more people with outstanding warrants, whether or not they have previous convictions. The first ads appeared on April 26 and are being run through the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council of Greater Omaha...

Free medical care proves incentive for getting arrested

      While still believed to be no more than a localized problem, concern is growing in some jurisdictions over the number of people, often with serious illnesses, who get themselves arrested so that counties will pick up the tab for their medical treatment.
      In Ouachita Parish, La., municipal police last month arrested Larry Causey for attempted robbery of a post office in West Monroe. Causey, 57, has cancer of the colon, intestines and prostate, in addition to diabetes and polycethemia, a blood condition that requires regular transfusions. While in jail, doctors put him on three types of medication and perform procedures that will determine the extent of his illness, all at county expense...

Newspaper blows the call on a bias killing that never was

      A closeted gay man, his violent death at the hands of two attackers, and the sorrow of friends and family who would not find out about the death for days due to media indifference and the victim’s secret life. It sounds more like a film script than the actual murder it was reported to be this month by The Philadelphia Inquirer — and the newspaper has since sheepishly conceded that it was just that, a would-be screenplay.
      “It was a very bad breakdown in our editing process,” said editorial page editor Chris Satullo. “Questions should have been asked that would have forced a call to the Philadelphia Police Department, which would have discovered that this incident didn’t take place.”..

Few clearances, plenty of arrests:
New look at Detroit’s handling of homicides

      The Detroit Police Department already has among the lowest homicide clearance rates of any big-city department in the nation. Now a new statistic is dogging the agency — having one of the highest arrest ratios per murder case.
      The latest source of controversy is a policy that witnesses and lawyers allege the DPD to have, which entails detaining people in homicide investigations for hours, or even days, without obtaining a court order of filing criminal charges in an effort to make them talk. The accusations came to the forefront in March when the agency was sued in federal court after allegedly holding two men without probable cause in separate 1998 slayings. The suit seeks a court order banning the “pattern and practice of arresting witnesses who may have knowledge of murders but who are not involved in the actual murders.”..

HEAT shows community policing can be more than “warm & fuzzy”

      Their town: Arlington, Texas. Their beat: Anywhere there’s crime. Their name: the Hot Spot Enforcement and Assistance Team — better known as HEAT.
      Seemingly defying those who might view a community-based approach as no more than “warm and fuzzy” policing, the four-member unit is the department’s unconventional approach to tackling repeated offenses and neighborhood community problems. For more than a year, the HEAT unit and its supervisor have been used to solve such problems as repeated car thefts from a certain location and persistent drug activity at an apartment complex. Last summer, the team helped catch a group of suspects accused of robbing several restaurants...

The color of profiling:
Study looks at black cops as both victims & users of practice

      The color of their uniforms does not immunize black police officers from being subjected to racial profiling, just as the color of their skin does not bar them from practicing it, according to a survey of 158 African American members of the Milwaukee Police Department.
      The findings gathered by two associate professors at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were presented at last year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology. David E. Barlow and Melissa Hickman Barlow sent surveys to 414 African American officers at the agency, generating a response rate of 38 percent. The respondents were 83.5 percent male and 16.5 percent female. Virtually all were over 25 years old and had been police officers for at least a year...

Playing it safe: Web site drops fugitive list

      Morris County, N.J., officials do not see themselves as having bucked a trend by removing a list of “10 Most Wanted” fugitives from a county Web site, but rather as being on the cutting edge of responsibility.
      The posting was taken down in March by County Prosecutor John Dangler’s office after a woman complained that the fugitive list was one of the hits turned up by a search engine given her boyfriend’s name. Although the man’s name and photograph had previously been removed, the search engine had apparently retained the outdated information...