Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVIII, No. 587 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY November 15, 2002

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: A class act; “aloha” to Chin Ho; cover for Karzai; for God & country; red hot polka; Montana road warrior; blue-blooded cop.
Awaiting the wave: Houston PD fears surge of retirements in 2004.
Palm reading: Getting the goods on criminals from their electronic organizers.
Who are those guys? A face-recognition surveillance system sits idle.
Cash on the barrel: Chicago tries bonuses as fitness incentive.
A handle on homicides: New Orleans, Kansas City reconfigure detective units.
Dispersal pattern: Seattle breaks up gang unit & other specialized squads.
No more handouts: Okla. officials sorry to see military surplus program end.
Heads-up: New systems warns cops of potential threats.
Hitting the brakes: Drag-Net unit in San Diego targets illegal street racing.
Customer consciousness: Tulsa PD to survey public perceptions.
Null & void: Voters say “no” to jury nullification.
Bad bargain: Tribal justice frustrated by an arrangement with the feds.
Escape hatch: War on terror could shrink military anti-drug role.
Forum: Defense-oriented law & a case for reversal.
Madison blues: Officials take a stand on profiling.
Endangered species: Term limits may sweep out Colorado DA’s.

Good economics, or tawdry hucksterism?
Do ads on police cars come with too high a price tag?

     Although the prospect of purchasing police vehicles for $1 apiece in return for allowing them to be used as advertising space may be tempting in the present economy, some police departments are resisting the urge, and their restraint is being applauded by a number of criminal justice experts.

     In a letter signed by 20 academicians from a variety of disciplines, including law and sociology, opponents of the trend urged business leaders “not to participate in the scheme,” which they said “would cheapen or degrade the men and women who maintain order in our communities, or would make them objects of ridicule and contempt.”...

Can’t get no satisfaction? Study says to focus on quality of public contacts

     Police departments would be better served by focusing their efforts on giving residents a positive image of their officers rather than by trying to change the quality of life in a community — something they may be far less capable of bringing about, according to a new study, which also joined the ranks of those taking aim at the “Broken Windows” theory.

     In “Satisfaction With Police – What Matters?,” funded by the National Institute of Justice, researchers reaffirmed that quality of life indeed accounts most strongly for a person’s level of such satisfaction. However, inconsistent views among individuals as to what constitutes poor neighborhood conditions tend to “limit the relevance” of using quality-of-life measures to develop policies aimed at improving satisfaction with the police...

Grades are slipping, as MADD issues 2nd DUI “report card”

     Three years ago, the nation earned a grade of only “C+” from Mothers Against Drunk Driving for states’ efforts to prevent traffic-related fatalities. In its newest report card, issued this month, MADD has lowered that grade to a “C.”

     The report grades the nation on its efforts, state by state, to combat drunk driving and underage drinking. Between 1999 and 2001, traffic fatalities involving alcohol rose by 5 percent, from 16,500 to 17,448 — a figure representing 41 percent of all deadly accidents, the report said. Progress in reducing the number of highway deaths caused by alcohol stalled between 1993 and 1999, according to the report...

Houston officials fear retirement tsunami looms

     Despite financial incentives put in place years ago to dissuade officers from retiring en masse, Houston police and city officials are concerned that the department will lose hundreds of sworn personnel in 2004.

     An internal survey of the agency found that as many as 534, a record number, plan to leave that year. If the figure is even half that, officials said, the HPD will be left facing a number of vacancies far above its annual average...

Stayed organized may prove to be criminals’ undoing

     For many individuals, leaving home without their hand-held electronic organizer is as unthinkable as forgetting their keys and wallet. That habit has not been lost on law enforcement, as agents with increasing frequency seize suspects’ Palm Pilots and other hand-held devices in the hopes of unearthing a treasure trove of useful evidence.

     In a number of recent cases, a suspect’s link to a victim, motivation or alibi has been determined by investigators reading their Palms...

Utah PD faces the facts as surveillance systems sits idle

     What had seemed like a great idea at the time in West Valley City, Utah — the installation of a facial recognition surveillance system — has since become a well-intentioned mistake, as police and city officials try to figure out what to do with the software and cameras that have sat in a storage room since before the 2002 Winter Olympics.

     “Nobody ever talked about who was going to staff [the monitors],” Assistant Chief Craig Gibson said in an interview with Law Enforcement News. “I think there were a lot of things that weren’t thought out before they started putting equipment in, like what we were going to do with it after the Olympics.”...

With fitness as the goal, Chicago cops say “Show us the money”

     Chicago police officers are finding a $250 bonus for passing a voluntary fitness exam to be only slightly more enticing than the uniform pin that the city previously offered for taking the test.

     Only about 2,600 of the force’s 13,600 members have so far taken up the fitness challenge, which is part of the union contract. Ever hopeful, however, Mayor Richard M. Daley has proposed an allocation of $2.5 million — enough to reward 10,000 officers — to fund the initiative next year...

New Orleans, Kansas City reconfigure homicide squads

     They are two different agencies, with two different sets of circumstances prompting change, but both the New Orleans and the Kansas City, Mo., police departments are revamping their homicide divisions.

     In New Orleans, police officials have shifted approximately 30 detectives back to headquarters from district command posts. The move reverses the decentralization plan implemented under former superintendent Richard Pennington, who argued that dispersing investigators throughout the city would give them better access to witnesses and informants, as well as making commanders more fully accountable for crime in their districts...

Amid rising violence, Seattle to disperse its gang unit

     The Seattle Police Department will break up its gang unit, along with other specialized squads, and distribute their investigators throughout the city’s districts as a way of enhancing the agency’s emergency-call response.

     Under a plan unveiled by Mayor Greg Nickels during a preview of his 2003 budget in September, police services will be increased, along with accountability, by making precinct captains the chiefs of their own quadrants in the city. In addition, community policing sergeants would be assigned to precincts to work on solutions to long-standing neighborhoods problems. Detectives would report to captains rather than to headquarters...

No more handouts:
Oklahoma sorry to see military surplus program end

     A federal program that provided Oklahoma law enforcement with military surplus equipment may have been a bear to administer, but it did provide a service to smaller agencies, say local and state officials, who were sorry last month to see the initiative scrapped.

     The Law Enforcement Support Office program was just too complicated, said Tom Jaworski, the director of state purchasing. Coordinating the program fell to the state because the federal government did not want to be involved with hundreds of police and sheriff’s agencies looking for vehicles, Kevlar vests and helicopters...

Ohio HP unveils system to give cops a heads-up on threats to their safety

     The Ohio State Highway Patrol has unveiled a new information system that will give its troopers, as well as county and local officers, the advantage of knowing whether or not a person they have stopped has a previous conviction for harming an officer, or has made substantiated threats against police.

     Called the Taylor Alert, such information will be disseminated through the statewide Law Enforcement Automated Data System, said Highway Patrol Lieut. Gary Lewis. LEADS provides police with driving records, criminal histories and vehicle information...

SDPD’s Drag-Net puts the brakes on street racers

     Using a variety of methods, including a delayed response aimed at inducing ripples of paranoia within the city’s illegal drag-racing community, the San Diego Police Department’s street-racing enforcement unit has been able to reduce the number of cars speeding through the city from 1,200 to just a fraction of that in the space of a year.

     The Drag-Net unit is believed to be the only one in the nation that devotes itself full-time to the problem of street racing. It was launched in 2001 with a $400,000 state grant administered through the California Office of Traffic Safety...

How are we doing? Tulsa PD wants to know

     Tackling an old objective with a new approach adapted from the retailing and marketing industries, the city of Tulsa has hired a local firm to conduct an audit of its police department, in an effort to determine what various groups think about the agency’s “brand.”

     The $71,000 survey will base its findings on interviews with members of Tulsa’s black and Hispanic communities, the general population and local media, said David Littlefield, president and CEO of Littlefield Inc., which will conduct the audit...

Going by the book:
Voters say ‘no’ to letting jurors ignore law

     South Dakota voters in November confronted the unofficial practice of jury nullification and soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have made the practice official, by a margin of better than 3-to-1.

     Constitutional Amendment A, as the measure was called, would have allowed criminal defendants to argue the merits, validity and application of the laws under which they were charged. Jurors would then have been allowed to decide whether those laws were being justly applied in individual cases...

Not much of a bargain:
Tribal justice frustrated by deal with feds

     An arrangement with the federal government that allows police of Wisconsin’s Menominee Indian Tribe to work jointly with the FBI is the same system, tribal officials say, that frustrates efforts to impose short-term detention on criminals, which they feel could have more rehabilitative value.

     Located in Kenesha, the tribe is the only one in the state that has a dual criminal justice system, and the only one that is federally recognized. After fighting to undo a 1954 agreement which disbanded the tribe in exchange for a modest amount of money and land for each member — a settlement worked out after the Menominee won a federal lawsuit — Congress restored it to its original state in 1975...

War on terror may give the military an escape hatch from anti-drug duties

     A reluctant partner in the war on drugs to begin with, the American military is now examining where to cut back its involvement so as to focus its resources on the war on terrorism, according to Defense Department memos and interviews with current and former Pentagon officials.

     In a memo this summer from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz to senior uniformed and civilian officials, the Pentagon had “carefully reviewed its existing counter-narcotics policy” because of “the changed national security environment, the corresponding shift in the department’s budget and other priorities, and evolving support requirements.” The Pentagon, said Wolfowitz, will focus on those counter-narcotics programs which can do double-duty in counter-terrorism...

Madison resolution takes a swipe at USA Patriot Act

     Police officers in Madison, Wis., will not engage in random profiling based on religion or political values, as well as on the basis of race, ethnicity or citizenship, nor will they conduct interviews with anyone based solely on an individual’s country of origin unless linked to some illegality, under the terms of a resolution passed in October by the City Council.

     “It was important to reaffirm our current policies so that the residents of the city of Madison can be assured that their First and Fourth Amendment rights will continue to be upheld,” said Alderwoman Brenda Konkel, one of the chief sponsors of the measure, which also calls on the federal government to repeal parts of the U.S.A. Patriot Act...

Career DA’s on Colo. endangered species list

     Voters’ rejection of a Colorado initiative that would have eliminated term limits for the state’s 22 district attorneys will have a destabilizing effect on the criminal justice system, prosecutors maintain.

     Colorado is the only state that has such a law. Adopted in 1994, the statute limits a district attorney’s tenure to two four-year terms. A failure by voters this month to pass Amendment A, as the initiative was known, will mean the replacement of at least 16 district attorneys by 2004. Two have already left for other prosecutorial positions, one with the Colorado attorney general, and the other with the U.S. attorney’s office, said Denver District Attorney William Ritter, a former president of the state’s district attorney’s association...