Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVIII, No. 576 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 30, 2002

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: A leg up; down but not out; no longer the department of Parks; speaking out — in Afghanistan; now you see them, now you don’t.
On the same page: Congress weighs bill to standardize DNA colection & preservation.
Who won? Ruling on Boston PD hiring & promotions has both sides puzzled.
Strings attached: Two departments have problems with COPS grants.
Cutting its losses: Omaha PD bites the bullet on costly, overdue records system.
Going up? Spike in violence makes NYPD officials take notice.
All in the family: Marriage is out for some New Hampshire cops.
Hitting the books: In Colorado court, First Amendment trumps drug enforcement.
One head, two hats: Why town’s part-time chief may have to go.
Long-term fallout: Domestic violence cases continue to reverberate.
Whose land is it, anyway? Native American sovereignty becomes a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.
Forum: Racial profiling & anti-terror strategies; who says policing isn’t a science?
Federal File: A roundup of criminal justice activities at the federal level.
Loose nuts: Bill targets gun-wielding ex-mental patients.
LEN Supplement In this issue, Law Enforcement News introduces its readers to the broad sweep of current literature in the field of law enforcement, with an annotated bibliography of original printed materials that have been released since 2000...

High hopes
Cincinnati looks to reshape battered police-community ties

      Expectations in Cincinnati are running high this month that two agreements entered into by city officials will rebuild, if not reshape, a relationship between local law enforcement and minority residents that was badly damaged last year, capped by rioting that broke out in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting.

      The first document, a memorandum of agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice, will implement a plan that establishes new use-of-force policies; enhanced training for officers; a monitoring system, and a new mechanism for addressing citizen complaints. The second is a collaborative agreement among city officials, the ACLU of Ohio, the city’s Fraternal Order of Police and a local community group, the Cincinnati Black United Front...

Study: 1990’s gun-law changes made for better regulatory reform than crime control

      Reforms in the federal firearms licensing system that were carried out during the early 1990s were arguably more successful at bringing gun dealers into line with existing federal, state and local laws than they were at reducing the number of firearms used in crimes, according to a study published last month by the journal Criminology & Public Policy.

      In the study “Federal Legislation and Gun Markets: How Much Have Recent Reforms of the Federal Firearms Licensing System Reduced Criminal Gun Suppliers?” researcher Christopher Koper posits that only a tenuous connection exists between the nationwide decline in crime that began during the 1990s and the drop in the number of gun dealers at that time...

The fat is in the fire:
Overweight Fla. troopers risk losing bonuses

      Weight may be just one of the factors that can disqualify a Florida Highway Patrol trooper from receiving a $500 performance bonus next year, but it is the one which seems to have caused the greatest uproar among the agency’s rank and file this month.

      At issue is an “appearance” category in the FHP’s annual performance evaluation, which takes into consideration a trooper’s weight, car maintenance, and presentability, among other things. In order to receive the bonus, troopers must meet all of the standards set forth in the evaluation. Those found to need improvement in any category — not just appearance — would be ruled ineligible...

Reading from the same script:
Bill would standardize DNA collection practices

      Under legislation named for a rape victim whose attacker was captured through DNA evidence, federal lawmakers last month proposed standardizing the collection and preservation of fluid and tissue samples in sexual assaults.

      “The Debbie Smith Act,” as it is called, is being sponsored by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D.-N.Y.), Representative Mark Green (R.-Wis.) in the House, with a companion piece introduced in the Senate by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). A spokeswoman for Maloney said a hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee is expected sometime within the next few months...

And the winner is. . . anyone’s guess, in Boston court ruling on hiring & promotion

     In a controversial ruling that left both parties wondering who actually won, a federal judge last month ordered the Boston Police Department to consult him before making any future hiring and promotional decisions based on race, to see whether those decisions pass constitutional muster.

     The decision stemmed from a suit brought by eight white officers who were passed over for promotion to sergeant in favor of black officers who got the same scores on a 1996 civil service exam. U.S. District Judge William G. Young ruled that city and department officials had proved their case that the race-based promotions were justified in this instance...

Departments discover the cost of COPS grants

      A decision to buy 56 patrol cars after a 1997-98 Justice Department grant expired has landed the city of Dallas in $1.18 million worth of trouble.

      Until the city can pay the federal government back its money, another $2.9 million from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services will be put on hold, said Sheila Jerusalem, a Justice Department spokeswoman. Not only was the money spent too late, she told The Associated Press, but it was supposed to be used for projects not included in the agency’s budget...

Cutting its losses
Omaha PD decides to bite the bullet on costly, overdue records system

      Faced with a project that is years late and at least $1 million over budget, Omaha city and police officials this month finally cut their losses, dropping a contract with a computer vendor which had failed to deliver a records-management system.

      It was eight months after a 1998 deadline had passed that Omaha Police Chief Donald Carey received a letter from the president of Printrak International, the firm that bought the company originally contracted by the department to develop the RMS, Boulder, Colo.-based SCC Communications...

Going up?
Spike in violence gets NYPD’s attention

      The number of shootings and sexual assaults in New York City, which have been up since the first of the year, soared in March and April, prompting police and city officials to make significant changes to the NYPD’s Operation Gun Stop program, an initiative aimed at getting illegal handguns off the streets, and to create a new rape task force.

      Since the beginning of 2002, 63 people have been shot in the five boroughs — an increase of 26.5 percent over the same period last year, according to department statistics. That increase was fueled by an eye-popping 240-percent surge during the first week of April when 41 people were wounded by gunfire, as compared to 12 during that same period in 2001...

The marriage penalty:
N.H. cops have to choose between jobs & wedlock

      The Nashua, N.H., Police Department has no bone to pick with officers who wish to live together, or even have children together, but marriage is apparently out of the question.

      At issue is the scheduled September wedding of officers Tom Bergeron and Keely Grise. Under a policy adopted during the 1970s to avoid conflicts of interest, one of the newlyweds will have to go. The situation is the first of its kind in 15 years, said Chief Donald Gross...

Selling books trumps booking drug suspects in Colorado court battle

      In a closely-watched court battle between police who believed they were protecting citizens from drug dealers, and booksellers who contended they were protecting citizens’ rights to purchase books freely, the Colorado Supreme Court has sided unanimously with booksellers.

      Both the First Amendment and the state’s constitution, said the court, “protect an individual’s fundamental right to purchase books anonymously, free from governmental interference.”...

Are two hats better than one for town’s part-time chief?

      In a town where seemingly everyone loves their local police chief, residents of Becket, Mass., turned out full force this month to question why two selectmen would want to remove William H. Elovirta from his post.

      At issue is the two hats Elovirta wears: full-time highway superintendent, a job he has held since 1979, and part-time chief, which he has held concurrently with the highway post since 1989. Following a public outcry, Selectmen Robert W. Beckwith and John E. Murray reversed an earlier decision to sign a letter prohibiting Elovirta from engaging in any police activity while he is at his highway job. While Elovirta has never denied receiving police calls at the highway garage, he said he comes in one hour earlier and stays one hour later — without charging the town — to take care of road business...

Long-term fallout:
Domestic violence cases still reverberate

      It happened seven years ago in Tulsa, and nearly two years ago in San Francisco, when the death of a woman at the hands of a husband or boyfriend made officials stand up and take notice that existing domestic violence policies needed improvement.

      Officials from seven local agencies in Tulsa, including law enforcement, city government and victims’ advocates, met in March to sign an agreement to implement and review protocols established in 1993. The document will institutionalize a partnership that was prompted by the death that year of Margaret Cheney, 35, who was chased through a downtown parking garage and shot multiple times by her estranged husband...

Some N.M. offenders may “get out of jail free”

      Authorities in Taos, N.M., are concerned that a state judge’s ruling on the issue of sovereignty will give a “get-out-of-jail-free” card to Native Americans who commit crimes on land considered part of Indian country.

      Charges of aggravated battery were dismissed in March against Del A. Romero, 32, a member of the Taos Pueblo who was accused of severely beating a man in a parking lot. The property where the incident took place turned out to be part of a land grant given to indigenous people by Spain during the 16th century and upheld ever since, first by Mexico when it gained its independence, then by the United States when New Mexico became a territory, then a state in 1912...

Federal File

      The usual suspects
     The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data base will soon include the names of those who have never been indicted or convicted of a crime, but who are suspected of engaging in terrorist activity, under a plan by the Justice Department for sharing more information with state and local law enforcement authorities.

      The NCIC, used by more than 650,000 federal, state and local agencies, previously listed only the names of those with warrants against them. Although there were concerns about the civil liberties issues involved in placing the names of suspects into the data base, according to one Justice Department official, authorities thought it more important to know whether any alleged terrorists had made it into the country...

Loose nuts:
Gun buys by ex-mental patients targeted

      Legislation prompted by the fatal shooting last month of a priest and parishioner at a Lynbrook, N.Y., church would require states to share mental health data with federal agencies and block gun purchases by people who have been the subject of restraining orders within the previous five years.

      The bill, introduced in April by Senator Charles J. Schumer and Representative Carolyn McCarthy, both Democrats of New York, is aimed at closing a loophole in the existing federal gun laws. Under current law, states are not required to provide the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data base with information collected on those who have been involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities...