Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVIII, No. 585 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY October 15, 2002

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: The plot thickens; a man of action; chief’s birthday greetings; no glass ceiling in Albany; sources of concern; innovative, but nothing radical.
Off the hook: Federal safety agency clears Ford in Crown Vic crashes.
Not going postal: State police will no longer take crime stats through the mail — only Internet.
Up in smoke: Waco PD eases policy on applicants’ pot-use history.
The 411 on 311: Austin likes its nonemergency phone line.
Heading for the exits: Hartford cops see red over sensitivity training.
New look: Neighborhood watch group adds to its post-9/11 mission.
A third alternative: Court programs target mentally ill defendants.
Let us spray: Buffalo to change policy over pepper spray misuse.
Last roll call: 2001 was a deadly year for police chiefs.
Denver blackout: Groups still see red over edited intelligence files.
Forum: More school resource officers, fewer Nintendos.
Criminal Justice Library: Lessons from 400 years’ experience as police executives; why good cops go wrong.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.investigations.

Bulletproof? Not exactly.
NYPD, Point Blank settle over vest penetration by .357 Magnum

     A Long Island, N.Y., manufacturer of police and military body armor has agreed to replace 1,000 of the New York City Police Department’s bullet-resistant vests, after a field test held at the NYPD’s shooting range showed penetration of the vests by a .357 Magnum round.

     The agreement settles a dispute that has been simmering for months between the NYPD and Point Blank Body Armor Co. A probe of the vests’ effectiveness was launched during the summer after one officer noticed that his body armor seemed to lose some resiliency after it became wrinkled. While the vests stopped some high-caliber bullets, it did not stop all. Tests by an independent laboratory yielded the same results...

Drug seizures, budgets hit a brick wall in Utah

     A 20-month old referendum aimed at curbing asset forfeiture has effectively put the brakes on all drug seizures in Utah and severely affected law enforcement budgets statewide, according to state and police officials, who are launching their own legislation to counteract some of the damage they said has been wrought by Initiative B.

     The initiative was passed by an overwhelming 69 percent of voters in November 2000. Billionaire financier George Soros was one of three businessmen whose donations to the referendum got it on the ballot and helped get it approved. Officials say a $650,000 campaign duped residents into believing they were voting to protect the rights of property owners...

Bratton takes his show to Hollywood

     After leading the New York City police in the mid-1990s and ushering in a period the city still enjoys, wherein residents expect crime to remain at low levels, former commissioner William Bratton has come back for a second act, this time leading a personnel-starved, demoralized Los Angeles Police Department.

     Bratton, 54, was the choice of Mayor James K. Hahn, who selected him from a list of finalists that also included former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, who also served as Bratton’s second-in-command in New York, and Oxnard, Calif., Chief Art Lopez, a 27-year veteran of the LAPD. The City Council confirmed Bratton’s appointment on Oct. 11 by a vote of 14 to 1; he will be sworn in on Oct. 28...

Crown Vic is off the hook — for now

     Just days before the completion of a government investigation of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor sedan, which found no evidence that a safety-related defect was the cause of fires following rear-impact collisions, the Ford Motor Company this month agreed to pay for the installation of shields around the gas tanks of some 350,000 cruisers nationwide.

     The Crown Victoria has been blamed for the deaths of at least 11 officers across the country over the past two decades, and has been the subject of a number of lawsuits in several states [see LEN, Sept. 15, 2002], including Arizona, where three law enforcement officers have died in fiery crashes since 1998...

Not going postal in Pennsylvania:
Internet is the only way to send crime stats

     Pennsylvania’s police agencies can save their postage stamps, because the State Police will no longer be accepting crime statistics for the Uniform Crime Reports via any means other than the Internet.

     “It’s the change in business,” Sgt. Mike Troxell, of the State Police’s research and development unit, said in an interview with Law Enforcement News. “Internet accessibility is out there, there are free Internet services available, there are various federal grant programs, and some federal programs that offer access through 800 numbers to law enforcement agencies.”...

Strapped for personnel, Waco PD eases policy on applicants’ pot-use history

     Concerned that it was overlooking otherwise qualified candidates, the Waco, Texas, Police Department has softened its policy toward applicants who have recently smoked pot.

     The same move has been taken by dozens of state, local and even federal agencies that have found it difficult to find candidates who had not tried marijuana. In fact, a survey of departments by the Waco force found its initial policy of eliminating anyone who tried the drug more than 50 times to be stricter than that of other jurisdictions, said Sgt. Sherri Swinson...

Austin finds a lot to like about its 311

     Implemented the week following Sept. 11, 2001, Austin’s 311 non-emergency phone system has far exceeded the police department’s expectations by reducing the number of calls to its overburdened 911 center by more than 30 percent in its first year of operation, according to the agency’s technical service manager.

     As had been the experience of many other cities that developed a non-emergency system, more than half the calls coming in to 911 were related to just about everything other than law enforcement. Ed Harris, who runs the Austin Police Department’s Technical Services Bureau, estimated that as much as 60 percent of 911 calls were not emergencies...

‘Sensitivity’ training has cops heading for the exits

     Five white members of the Hartford, Conn., Police Department recently walked out of a sensitivity-training session mandated by the city to improve community relations, claiming that the instructor was anti-American, anti-police and anti-white.

     The Aug. 28 training was conducted by a local group called the Center for Conflict Transformation, which was created in 2000 when racial strife in the wake of a police shooting that year threatened to tear Hartford apart. The instructor, Margaret Steinegger-Keyser, is a black South African who has lived in the United States for four years. Her work in conflict resolution has received kudos from police agencies and city officials...

Neighborhood watch group takes on a post-9/11 look

     A neighborhood watch group in Stafford County, Va., is expanding its mission to include suspicious behavior that might suggest terrorist activity, in the hopes of thwarting it before it can start.

     The idea for the Homeland Security Neighborhood Watch was developed by Sheriff Charles E. Jett and his staff after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year. Some 100 families who live near railroads, airports, schools and other key areas will participate in the program after undergoing an hour of training with the sheriff’s department. The instruction will prepare residents for noting license-plate numbers, directions of travel and descriptions...

Buffalo tries to take the sting out of pepper spray misuse

     Five years after a noncriminal federal investigation was launched into the misuse of pepper spray by Buffalo, N.Y., police officers, the department and the city’s police union signed an agreement in September with the Justice Department that mandates the implementation of new policies.

     Under the terms of the agreement, the police department will ensure that comprehensive internal investigations of citizen complaints of brutality are conducted, revise its use-of-force policies and supervisory review of incidents. The department is also required to maintain cameras in prisoner processing areas and, whenever possible, videotape the use of pepper spray in the cellblock. Such tapes will be kept for three years. In addition, both parties will jointly select an independent monitor who will issue public reports on the department’s progress in implementing the changes...

Mental health courts are catching on like crazy

     Kings County, N.Y., joined a growing number of jurisdictions nationwide this month when it extended to mentally ill criminal defendants a third alternative to either prison or the streets — treatment.

     The Brooklyn Mental Health Court, as it is known, had been operating as a pilot program since March before its official opening on Oct. 1. It is one of the few courts in the nation that will handle non-violent felony cases in addition to misdemeanors...

Cop deaths plunged to a 30-year low, but 2001 was a lethal year for chiefs

     While the number of police officers killed in the line of duty fell to its lowest figure in more than 30 years during the first six months of this year, 2001 proved to be an unusually deadly year for police chiefs, and assaults on the nation’s park rangers have also been on the rise.

     Thirty of the 68 federal, state and local officers killed between January and June of this year were shot, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Twenty-one died in car accidents, and four succumbed to job-related illnesses. Others were killed after being stabbed, or drowning, or in an explosion during a training exercise. One officer was beaten to death...

Rocky Mountain blackout:
Furor mounts over Denver intelligence files

     Activist groups who were furious with the Denver Police Department for maintaining files on them were not assuaged last month when they finally got a chance to review their dossiers, only to find that many of the names and much of the information had been blacked out or redacted.

     The surveillance was conducted by the department’s Intelligence Unit between 1954 and this year. In March, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a class-action suit against the city after discovering the existence of the 3,200 files, claiming that police spied on citizens who were not engaged in criminal activity...

One you may have missed:
Why do good cops go wrong?

     Newspaper headlines often include drug dealing, violence, corruption and perjury. Today, these terms are sometimes linked not only with criminals, but with the police. Ethics courses, line-officer accountability and performance evaluations are supposed to cure these evils. But do they?

     What is it that makes a cop a cop? In 1973, Milton Rokeach reported on a survey he had conducted to study the “value differences between the police and citizens.” All of the police surveyed had a similar moral standard, which also differed quite radically from the standards of the citizens surveyed. This wasn’t very surprising. The unexpected result from the survey was that cops who had been on the police force for 30 years had the same values as those who had just joined the force. The authors define those values as noble cause, which is “a profound moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live.”...

Upcoming events

     18. Use of Force Instructor Certification Course. Presented by the National Criminal Justice Training Council. New York City area. $495.

     18-19. Managing the New Breed: Generation X in Law Enforcement. Presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Sandy, Utah. $385.