Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVIII, No. 580 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY June 30, 2002

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: An offer too good to refuse; goodbye to an NYPD pioneer; Capitol gain for Gainer; when policing is in the blood; now you seem them, now you don’t.
Million-dollar boner: Boston PD assessment plan lands on the scrap heap.
Having their say: Denver adds civilians to its disciplinary review board.
Stop or I’ll sue: Beanbag-related injuries are focus of a lawsuit — filed by police.
Backing down: DoJ aborts plan to have locals enforce immigration laws.
Liar, liar: It’s not what you say, but how.
First step: Better police response to mentally ill starts with dispatchers.
A smaller pie: Some Mass. agencies find there’s less community policing money to go around.
The bus stops here: Court gives wider berth to searching bus passengers.
Aggressive, or abusive: San Antonio chief wants answers on use-of-force disparities.
Deadly aim: Closer look due for Boston police shootings.
Ready to go: Last piece of the puzzle is in place for Seattle oversight system.
The grades are in: LAPD monitors hand out mixed reviews.
Once a thief... BJS study looks at recidivism.
Forum: Tackling a (literally) heavy crime problem.
Decisions, decisions: Court rulings from around the country.

In the blind spot
Study says growing problem of “driving while female” isn’t on agencies’ radar

     In the 1960’s and 70’s, there was “driving while hippie.” In the 1990s, “driving while black” became the watchword. Now, according to a preliminary report by two University of Nebraska researchers, sexual harassment of women during traffic stops by rogue police officers has become a widespread problem to which law-enforcement agencies are turning a blind eye.

     According to “Driving While Female: A National Problem in Police Misconduct,” there is a pattern of officers using their traffic enforcement powers to abuse women. The situation, in some respects, parallels the problems of racial profiling, said Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor and the study’s lead author. But a key difference, he said, is that “officers engaged in racial profiling are usually acting in accord with department crime-fighting policies.” Officers who target female drivers, he observed, “are the classic ‘rogue’ officer who are violating the law and department policy.”...

Render unto seizure: Colorado cops get short shrift in forfeiture debate

      Law enforcement agencies in Colorado will be the last in line to receive funding — if they get any at all — from civil forfeiture proceedings, under a bill signed in June by Gov. Bill Owens.

      The legislation, which was sponsored by Democratic Senator Bill Thiebaut and Republican Representative Shawn Mitchell, would allow assets to be seized only from those convicted of a felony and would be proportional to the crime. Also, the property would have to be directly linked to the offense...

When stricken cops need a shoulder to lean on, network of supporters is standing by

      If simply having a police uniform can be considered a good-luck talisman to a seriously ill officer, then having a hospital room full of blue can only be that much more of a buoy to the spirit — at least that’s what the members of the National Police Support Network believe.

      The group was launched last year by New York City police Det. Nelson Dones, a 22-year law enforcement veteran. Dones, 47, had come to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston for a bone marrow transplant in a last ditch effort to halt the progression of his Hodgkin’s disease, which after two years was at stage four, the most lethal...

Assessing the assessment. . .
Boston union wins its case on exam issue

      A performance review component of the Boston Police Department’s civil service examination was tossed out by the agency last month after protests from the superior officers union, which argued before the state’s Civil Service Commission that the test violated its collective bargaining agreement.

      The department paid $1.26 million in consulting fees to the firm of Morris & McDaniel to develop the performance review system. Police officials than spent thousands more defending it before abandoning the component just days after a report by The Boston Herald stated that a similar test had been rejected by the Colorado Court of Appeals. An appellate panel there rejected the exam last year on the grounds that it was too subjective to meet Colorado’s civil service standard...

Civilians to have their say on Denver review board

      Civilians will soon be added to Denver’s new police disciplinary review board, but not just any civilians. The 25 selected are all graduates of the department’s eight-week citizens police academy.

      Under a new disciplinary system, officers will be allowed to review the case against them before deciding whether to argue against the recommended discipline. Previously, officers could not review their cases until they were appealed...

California PD sues manufacturer over near-lethal beanbag shot

      The Huntington Beach, Calif., Police Department is suing the manufacturer of a type of beanbag round which officials contend nearly killed a suspect in 1999.

      According to the agency, James Marvin Davis suffered two broken ribs and a severed artery after being hit with three of the impact rounds produced by Defense Technologies, the nation’s largest maker of the weapon. The agency, which is being sued by Davis, claims that Defense Technologies did not adequately warn it that the bags could be dangerous...

DoJ backs down on plan to use local cops as immigration enforcers

      It was an idea that did not sit well with many, if not most, of the nation’s police chiefs, and this month Attorney General John Ashcroft withdrew his plan to use state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.

      “The Department of Justice has no plans to seek additional support from state and local law enforcement in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws beyond our narrow anti-terrorism mission,” he said. But he added that the agency will request that police “voluntarily” detain immigrants from those countries which sponsor terrorism...

Going beyond “pants on fire”
Study looks at language to find better ways for cops to spot a liar

      It’s not what you say when telling a lie, but how you say it, according to a new study from the University of Texas that looked at how the elements of language change when someone is fibbing.

      In “Lying Words: Predicting Deception from Linguistic Styles,” researchers from the university’s Austin campus analyzed five written or spoken samples taken from students, using a software program that broke the text down word-by-word. It then compared each word in the samples against a file of over 2,000 words and separated them into 72 different categories...

Critical thinking:
Handling the mentally ill starts with dispatchers

      Providing dispatchers with the tools they need to determine whether mental illness is a factor in a call for service is an essential first step in providing an appropriate police response, according to a federally-funded study released this month, which recommended dozens of policy changes in the way law enforcement and other branches of the criminal justice system handle the mentally ill as both victims and suspects.

      The report was part of the Criminal Justice-Mental Health Consensus Project, a two-year initiative led by the Council of State Governments, which brought more than 100 state and local criminal justice officials together with mental health experts...

C-OP pie gets smaller for some

      Jurisdictions in Massachusetts where state community policing funds were earmarked in advance by local lawmakers will continue to find themselves well provided for, but those that did not take such action are finding themselves being served an increasingly smaller slice of the remaining pie.

      “I don’t begrudge the communities that get earmarked; I’m sure they need the money, too,” said Pepperell Police Chief Alan Davis. “But there does need to be a re-evaluation of the system, so things can be done a little more fairly. We’re working on a bare-bones budget here.”...

The bus stops here: Court rules for cops in bus search

      When two men on a Greyhound bus consented to a search of their persons and property, police were under no obligation to advise them they had the right to refuse, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June.

      The 6-to-3 decision in United States v. Drayton, No. 01-631, reinstated the drug convictions of Christopher Drayton and Clifton Brown Jr. It reversed a federal appellate court which had held that in the cramped and “coercive” atmosphere of the bus, with three officers positioned at the front and back, the men could not have felt they had the right to refuse the search...

Aggressive, or abusive?
San Antonio chief wants answers on use of force

      Following the publication of a newspaper analysis which found that San Antonio police had dealt more harshly with minorities than they did with whites during 1999 and 2000, Police Chief Albert Ortiz has ordered his command staff to uncover the potential causes for the imbalance.

      “If it’s a problem that we have, let’s rectify it,” Ortiz said. “Let’s address it. What I have done now is directed my Internal Affairs staff, my training staff and my executive commander…to get to the bottom of these disparities.” The San Antonio Express-News examined 6,400 use-of-force incident reports filed between 1998 and 2002, and data pertaining to 84,000 arrests between 1999 and 2001. It excluded 1,000 records that contained no data on a suspect’s ethnicity, and another 1,500 where police pulled weapons as a safety measure...

Closer look at Boston shootings

      Following a string of fatal police shootings of civilians over the past 18 months, the Boston Police Department has revived an internal review board that will examine every instance in which an officer’s weapon has been discharged.

      The high-level panel, which includes legal staff, academy training instructors and agency brass, has been meeting monthly for nearly a year, according to Mary Jo Harris, the BPD’s legal adviser. Co-chaired by Supt. Paul Joyce, who heads the department’s investigative branch, and Supt. Bobbie Johnson, head of the patrol division, the panel will report directly to Commissioner Paul F. Evans...

Triple play:
Seattle oversight system is ready to go

      With the appointment last month of the members of the city’s new Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), Seattle officials put into place the last piece of a tripartite police oversight system that has been in the works since 1999.

      The three members appointed to the OPA Review Board will not have the power to investigate individual complaints, but will review decisions when a disagreement occurs between the department and its independent auditor, a mayoral appointee who reports twice a year to the City Council. The board members will also review edited copies of decisions made by the OPA, looking for trends and offering policy recommendations, and will participate in community outreach initiatives...

The grades are in:
LAPD monitors serve up mixed reviews

      While the Los Angeles Police Department was recently given an “A” by the monitor in charge of seeing that Christopher Commission recommendations are carried out, the news from the department’s other monitor, the one who observes whether the LAPD is living up to the provisions of a federal consent decree, was not quite as rosy.

      According to Jeffrey Eglash, the LAPD’s Inspector General, the department’s efforts to follow up on misconduct complaints in the decade since the Rodney King beating have been “by and large successful.” The report by Eglash is the first of its kind since the position of civilian watchdog was created in 1995. “With respect to the discipline system, I think we are doing well,” he said. “But we need to go to the next level.”...

Once a thief, always a thief, says BJS study of recidivism

      Robbers, burglars and car thieves, among other property crime offenders, had the highest recidivism rates three years after being released from prison, while convicted murderers and rapists had the lowest, according to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

      The report, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” based its findings on the prison and criminal records of 272,111 discharged inmates in 15 states. Researchers kept tabs on them through fingerprints at various points in the criminal justice system. It is the largest recidivism study ever conducted in the U.S., according to the agency...

Decisions, decisions, decisions...
Taps, tips & stops

      PRIVACY — The California Supreme Court last month ruled that since prisoners have no expectation of privacy while incarcerated, authorities may secretly and without a warrant tape-record inmates’ conversations in order to gather evidence of crimes. The court made an exception, however, for consultations with attorneys. [People v. Loyd, 27 Cal. 4th 997; 45 P.3d 296.]

      ANONYMOUS TIPS — The New Jersey Supreme Court in May reversed decisions by two lower courts when it held unanimously that a single anonymous tip was insufficient reason to detain and search drug suspects, even if the individuals consent to the search. Writing for the court, Justice Peter Verniero said: “An anonymous tip, standing alone, is rarely sufficient to establish a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Police… must verify that the tip is reliable by some independent corroborative effort.” [State v. Rodriguez, 172 N.J. 117; 796 A.2d 857.]