Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVII, No. 561 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY September 15, 2001

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Fit as a fiddle: Giving deputies incentive to pass a physical.
Help is on the way: Federal funds to help clear a DNA backlog.
Talking the talk: Some cops preach gun safety without practicing it.
Warm bodies, Part 1: Denver PD may join a trend toward hiring non-citizens.
Taking action: Community cop gets his playground.
Payback time: Do federal actions on guns favor NRA over public safety?
People & Places: Nothing like a Dane; shining Knight; closer to home; vested interest; mixed reactions; Bach to basics; Mueller to head FBI, Hutchinson DEA, Bonner at Customs; no mere oversight.
They snoop to conquer: Michigan cops used data base to stalk, harass.
Moving back in: Feds reopen the Officer Next Door program.
Closed too soon: Cleared homicides may get a fresh look by cold-case squad.
Double whammy: Court OK’s federal trial for Indians after tribal court conviction.
Tangled web: Porno links sneak into PD web sites.
On hold: Undercover probes in jeopardy from Oregon bar’s ethics rule.
Warm bodies, Part 2: Depleted East St. Louis PD will have to “make do.” Plus, manpower developments from other departments.
Guilt by association: Lawsuit challenges zero-tolerance evictions in domestic violence cases.
Forum: Why not DNA testing for everyone? Why re-fund the COPS office?
Line ‘em up: Witness IDs will take on a new look in New Jersey.
Calling in the cavalry: Marshals join forces with Hartford cops.
An ounce of protection: Taking steps to save migrant lives.

A new “date which will live in infamy”
60 cops could be among the dead & missing from terrorist attacks on Trade Center, Pentagon

      In 26 years of publication, Law Enforcement News has endured transit strikes, blizzards, deaths of staff members and a variety of other troubles great and small. Nothing, however, has come as close to being a virtual “stop the presses” event as the Sept. 11 wave of terrorist attacks that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and turned one face of the Pentagon into a flaming wreck, leaving a potential death toll in the thousands and a nation shaken to its very core.
      The terrorist attacks took place almost as this issue of LEN was going to press, prompting a quick but necessary remake in order to bring readers a summary of relevant information so far. Following is a roundup of current developments...

Polls: Trade some freedom for security

      An overwhelming majority of Americans polled in the days following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon say they favored guards and metal detectors at public events, but a far smaller percentage said they would be willing to allow the government to monitor the telephone calls and e-mail messages of ordinary people.
      Polls conducted by both The New York Times and USA Today came up with similar findings. Some 85 percent of individuals said they favored passenger check-in at airports two to three hours before flights. The same number said they approved of metal detectors at every public place. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they believed identification should be required to enter office buildings and public places...

Let’s get physical:
Deputies get a boost to pass critical fitness test

      With termination as the penalty for failing to pass a physical agility course, the Hanover County, Va., Sheriff’s Department is giving its employees every opportunity over the next three years to prepare for the 2004 exam.
      According to Investigator Greg Crawford, by the fall the department will have established a standard time for completing a test that includes sprinting and the performance of a number of tasks. But it will not implement the actual fitness standard for another two years in order to give officers “as much opportunity as possible to run through the course, gain familiarity and improve their times,” he told Law Enforcement News...

States struggle to ease DNA-testing backlog

      For some states, the influx of $30 million from the federal government over the next 18 months for the analysis of 500,000 DNA samples could not come too soon.
      A bill signed in December authorizes the Department of Justice to pay for the analysis of the half-million samples. A total of as much as 1 million samples collected from criminals has yet to be tested, including 180,000 rape kits from across the country, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft...

When it comes to firearm safety, some cops don’t practice what they preach

      Although police officers publicly promote gun safety, the vast majority of those who participated in a recent study of firearm storage practices seem to hold to a “do as I say, not as I do,” approach when it came to their own weapon safety habits.
      In a study released in July, researchers from the University of North Carolina examined the practices of 207 members of an unidentified Southern law enforcement agency, nearly all of them white males. Nearly half, 44 percent, said they kept loaded, unlocked guns in their homes. Eighty percent, the study said, reported owning one or two firearms in addition to the their service weapon. Half told researchers they owned weapons in order to protect themselves and their families from vengeance-seeking criminals, while another third said they owned firearms for hunting or recreational activities....

May I see your papers, please?
Denver may add non-citizens to hiring pool

      Finding it an uphill battle to produce qualified applicants now, and faced with massive attrition in the near future, the Denver Police Department is considering widening the recruiting pool by following the lead of other law enforcement agencies and hiring non-U.S. citizens as police officers.
      In July, Chief Gerald R. Whitman sent a memorandum to the city’s Civil Service Commission asking that it examine whether Denver’s citizenship requirement should be maintained, or, if not, whether permanent resident aliens (PRAs) need to seek citizenship before they can be employed as officers. Implementing such a policy would entail a change in the city’s charter, which currently states that Denver officers must be “loyal citizens” of the United States. ...

Feds end gun-buyback effort, and some see NRA’s handiwork

      Gun control advocates are pointing to the elimination of a federal weapons buyback program in July as the latest in a recent series of actions taken by the Bush administration to roll back all such measures, in deference to the National Rifle Association and to the detriment of public safety.
      On July 23, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alerted public housing authorities that grant money could no longer be used for buying back firearms from private owners. Under the $15-million initiative launched by the Clinton administration in 1999, local police departments were given up to $500,000 to buy guns in and around public housing for a suggested price of $50. The weapons were then destroyed. The program was slashed, said officials, on the grounds that it could not prove its effectiveness in taking guns off the street...

Cop’s playground dream comes to life

      Clearwater, Fla., police Sgt. Wilton Lee Jr. can still recall what it was like growing up in the city’s Garden Avenue neighborhood, where small front yards and busy highways afforded the area’s children little room to play. And as Lee patrolled the community as supervisor of the department’s community policing team, it looked as though little had changed since he was a youngster attending the local elementary school.
      But last year, Lee found himself in the position of being able to do something about that. On his rounds, he spotted a vacant parcel of land abutting a carpet business. He thought the property would make a perfect playground...

‘Running a plate for a date. . .’
Data base misuse helps officers stalk & harass

      In a world where personal data is so readily accessible to anyone with a computer, not even police are immune to the temptation of using ill-gained information for personal use. A law enforcement data base in Michigan apparently provided dozens police, federal agents, dispatchers and security guards with enough facts about civilians and co-workers that they were able to stalk them, wreak vengeance and generally harass them.
      The abuses of Michigan’s Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) were chronicled in July by The Detroit Free Press, which ran a multi-part series on the problem. According to the newspaper, more than 90 members of law enforcement organizations over the past five years have abused the data base. Sharing information gleaned from the system is a misdemeanor offense in Michigan, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine...

Phony as a 3-dollar bill — but more realistic:
Sophisticated fake IDs are growing problem


‘Officer Next Door’ is back in business

      The federal Officer Next Door program, which offers deep discounts and other incentives to police willing to buy houses in troubled neighborhoods, is back in business after a four-month suspension, during which time corrective measures were enacted to prevent future home-buyer fraud.
      Nine felony convictions and 15 indictments involving police officers prompted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to pull the plug on the initiative on April 1. Under the terms of the program, officers who purchase the available homes at half price must agree to live in them for three years. The program is an attempt to upgrade communities by forging a greater bond between residents and law enforcement. [See LEN, March 31, 2000.]...

Were NYC murders cleared improperly?

      An unusually high rate of homicides closed by one New York City police detective during the early 1990s through “exceptional clearance” — a term used when the suspect has died or been sentenced to life imprisonment — has raised enough suspicion that investigators on the department’s cold-case squad are considering reopening more than a dozen of his cases.
      A probe launched by Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik marks the first time the agency has ever conducted a mass review of such cases. “Murder is the ultimate crime,” he told The (New York) Daily News, “and people who commit murder should understand that the NYPD will never abandon these cases until justice is served...

One good trial deserves another — if you’re an Indian

      There is no violation of the Constitutional ban on double jeopardy if an American Indian is prosecuted by the federal government after first being convicted by a tribal court for committing a crime on another tribe’s land, according to a ruling by a federal appeals court.
      At issue before the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was whether Indian tribes can exercise criminal jurisdiction over all Indians. In its ruling, handed down in June, the court found that they may under the 1990 Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), which affirms tribes’ “historical and inherent sovereign authority over non-member Indians”...

Tangled webs:
Porno links taint PDs’ Web sites

      The Houston Police Department was forced in July to fire the company that provided its Web site with its search engine, when it turned out the firm had allowed links to be made between that Internet domain and pornographic Web sites.
      Robert Hurst, a spokesman for the HPD, said the agency had become aware of the problem through a local television station. “They started putting into their search engine off of our Web site words like sex and crime and things like that,” he told Law Enforcement News. “That’s when they found out our site was linked to, shall we say, less desirable sites than a police department would want to be linked to”...

Ethics rule imperils undercover probes

      The ability of federal, state and local investigators to conduct undercover operations remains in jeopardy a year after a decision by the Oregon Supreme Court held that all attorneys, including federal prosecutors, must abide by the ethics rules of the state in which they practice.
      In 1998, the Oregon Bar Association ruled that Daniel J. Gatti, a defense attorney, had violated its rules prohibiting fraud, dishonesty, deceit and misrepresentation when he twice called a health maintenance organization he was planning to sue, posing as a doctor. The rule was backed by the state’s highest court, which then took it a step further by stating that the decision applied to federal prosecutors as well. Prior to the ruling, the justices had refused to grant an exemption for those involved in undercover investigations...

Warm bodies:
Depleted force will have to “make do”

      The East St. Louis, Ill., Police Department will have to “make do,” says Chief J.W. Cowan, until the city can hire officers to replace at least some of the roughly one-third of the force who have left in the past two years — 10 percent in just the last six months.
      Prompted by the department’s offer of early retirement packages, some 30 officers left between 1999 and 2000. The agency was left shorthanded, which in turn led to others leaving the force because they felt overworked and fearful of their safety, said Dennis Butler, president of the police union and an 11-year veteran...

Everybody out:
Suit targets wholesale domestic-violence evictions

      The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with a coalition of civil liberties groups and victims’ rights organizations, has filed a lawsuit charging that a zero-tolerance policy calling for the eviction of an entire household in the aftermath of a domestic assault is a form of sex discrimination.
      The lawsuit filed by HUD and the advocacy groups on July 10 specifically challenges the zero-tolerance policy adopted in Oregon, but it has the potential to affect policies governing subsidized housing nationwide. Protocols similar to Oregon’s have been adopted in a number of states in recent years, including California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Michigan...

The face is familiar:
Witness IDs to get a new look in NJ

      Beginning in October, all crime witnesses in the state of New Jersey will be selecting suspects by way of a new procedure which officials believe will not only increase the likelihood of a correct identification, but help significantly to reduce the number of false identifications, a problem made more visible with the emergence of DNA evidence.
      Called a sequential lineup, the procedure differs sharply from the more traditional method of showing a witness a “six-pack” an array of six photographs, or a live lineup in which all suspects are seen together. Under the new system, victims and other eyewitnesses would be shown one picture after another. Should they want another look, they would have to view all of the photos a second time, but in a new order. In a physical lineup, individuals would be presented to the witnesses one at a time...

Hartford fugitives face U.S. marshals

      United States marshals joined forces with the Hartford, Conn., Police Department in July as part of a crackdown on the city’s 5,000 fugitives and hundreds of probation violators, in the wake of a July 4 shooting that injured an 8-year-old girl.
      Takira Gaston, who is recovering from her injuries, was hit in the face by a bullet as she rode her scooter near her home. Police believe the intended target was a drug dealer involved in a turf war. The shooting, along with an increase in the number of homicides in Hartford, prompted Gov. John Rowland and other state officials to concentrate more resources on the problem...

More COPS funding won’t mean less crime

      When Senator Biden introduced his bill, he claimed: “The COPS program is a proven success. Crime has declined every year since the COPS program has been in existence and violent crime is at its lowest level in a generation.” This is simply incorrect. The nation’s violent crime rate began to decline in 1991 — three years before the program was created. Not only did COPS not start the national drop in crime, but research now indicates that since its inception, it has not helped to reduce crime.
      Analysts in the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA) found this to be the case after examining the effects of COPS grants on violent crime rates in 752 counties from 1995 to 1998. After accounting for socioeconomic factors, the COPS hiring and redeployment grants — its primary components — failed to show a statistically measurable effect in reducing violent crime rates at the county level. The CDA analysis suggests that simply bolstering funding for the COPS program will be ineffective in reducing violent crime. Based on experience, there are two reasons for this:...