Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVIII, No. 588 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY November 30, 2002

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: The man in the 100-gallon hat; Murphy returns; the art of dying; border patrol for Hutchinson; growth potential; a pioneer’s passing.
Backfire: California A-G asks for a study on ballistic fingerprinting, but isn’t happy with the findings.
High-tech crime-fighting: New cyber-crime centers are set for Pittsburgh, Dallas.
Federal File: A roundup of criminal justice developments at the federal level.
Ain’t it grand? Virginia DNA database marks its 1,000th cold hit.
Exit ramp: W. Va. eyes early trooper retirement as a way to boost recruiting.
Man’s best friend: Crime-fighting applications for pet DNA.
Self-destruct button: Study questions old assumptions about officer suicide.
Thinking big: Small Texas town leads the pack in wireless technology.
Number-crunching: Denver sorts out first data on traffic & pedestrian contacts.
Doctor’s orders: Seeking answers to prescription painkiller abuse.
Gone in 60 seconds: Revived task force has auto thieves on the run in New Orleans.
Pushing the envelope: Mexican drug gangs advance northward.
Forum: Homeland security — safety in numbers; handling the news media.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.

Rolling out the welcome mat
Fargo police take extra steps as refugees reshape city population

     They’ve never seen snow, or known cold, or been in a city before. And, certainly, the Sudanese refugees who are trying to make new lives in Fargo, N.D., have never encountered uniformed police officers who greet them at the airport with a plan for making them an integral part of the community.

     Unlike many other cities where an influx of refugees over the past few years has overwhelmed social services and city agencies, often leading to a frustrated citizenry, Fargo has turned its status as a resettlement location into a plus, according to Police Chief Chris Magnus...

Discipline issues halt Detroit promotions

     Detroit Police Chief Jerry A. Oliver is punishing the many by focusing on the few, according to officers angry over his decision to halt the promotional process after a judge’s decision barred him from excluding candidates with disciplinary problems.

     The dispute began in November when Oliver sent a memo to personnel stating that anyone who has been the subject of a departmental action over the past three years, or who is on restricted duty, would not be selected to attend a new promotional assessment course for the rank of sergeant...

New Yorkers may be safer, but they don’t feel that way

     Chalk it up to a poor economy, the visibility of the homeless, or the terrorist threat, but New Yorkers are increasingly fearful, even as crime has fallen to some of the lowest levels seen since the 1960s.

     According to a poll conducted in October by The New York Times and CBS News, 30 percent of city dwellers queried said they felt less safe than they did four years ago. That figure is up from 21 percent in June, and from just 12 percent in August 2001...

Going ballistic over report:
Calif. study pooh-poohs gun database

     While an advocate of gun control himself, California’s Attorney General Bill Lockyer inadvertently supplied opponents with ammunition this month when a draft of a study he commissioned on the feasibility of a ballistic-fingerprint database concluded that even under optimal circumstances, such a tool would be reliable in no more than two-thirds of cases.

     The study, carried out by the attorney general’s Bureau of Forensic Sciences, was called for under legislation proposed nearly two years ago by former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, a Democrat from Sherman Oaks. Hertzberg is seeking a firm recommendation on the creation of a database from Lockyer’s office by January 2003. ..

Partners against cyber-crime:
Crime-fighting goes high-tech in Texas

     Located along one of the nation’s largest technology corridors, the University of Texas in Dallas is offering its expertise and facilities to law enforcement officers who want to improve their skills at fighting cyber-crime.

     The Digitial Forensics and Emergency Preparedness Institute will conduct research and offer for-credit course and possibly a degree program for both police as well as private sector employees...

Federal File
No “wall” on wiretaps

     In a victory for Attorney General John Ashcroft this month, a three-judge appellate panel unanimously ruled that the USA Patriot Act gave the Justice Department sweeping new powers to use wiretaps obtained for intelligence operations in criminal prosecutions of terrorists.

     Moreover, the judges from the special appeals court said there never was and never should have been a “wall” between the investigative and intelligence sides. The Justice Department was wrong, they said, when it made that part of the agency’s regulations in 1995. Constitutionally speaking, according to the ruling, the requirements for obtaining a wiretap authorization under the intelligence law are not all that different from obtaining a warrant in a criminal case. While criminal warrants require probable cause to believe the subject is involved in a crime, the intelligence surveillance law requires only a showing that there is probable cause that the subject is the agent of a foreign power...

Success is grand:
DNA database marks its 1,000th cold hit

     A Virginia law passed more than a decade ago that requires all felons, including those convicted of property crimes, to submit a biological sample to a state DNA database is perhaps the largest single factor to explain the state’s overwhelming success in making cold hits, says the director of the Virginia Division of Forensic Science, which maintains the database.

     On Nov. 13, technicians identified a potential suspect in the rape last year of a Richmond girl, breaking the 1,000 mark in cold hits, a milestone that has yet to be reached by any other state, noted Gov. Mark R. Warner...

W. Va. eyes early retirement as a way to boost recruiting

     West Virginia’s governor, other state officials and law enforcement management and labor are all behind a move to lower the retirement age of state troopers from 55 to 50 as a means of attracting more recruits.

     Even with two cadet classes of 36 each starting in January, the agency will still be 30 to 40 troopers short by the time they graduate, said Superintendent Howard Hill. To make up for attrition, Hill said he wanted to begin testing again at the beginning of the year for another two classes by late summer...

Weather forecast for DNA testing: raining cats & dogs

     With an estimated 130 million pet dogs and cats in America, prosecutors say it is little wonder that animal DNA is gaining credibility as forensic evidence, and at even a more rapid rate than it did when genetic testing was restricted to those with two legs.

     DNA analysis in pets “can be as precise or even more precise as in humans,” said Joy Halverson, a veterinarian and animal geneticist in Davis, Calif., in an interview with USA Today “We can now say, ‘Yes, that’s the victim’s dog’s blood on your jeans,’ with a probability of millions to one or higher…just as with humans.”..

New study debunks some old assumptions about cop suicides

     Despite the idea that police officers, with their high-pressure jobs and access to weapons, are more likely to commit suicide than those in other professions, a new study found that police, at least in New York City, are no more apt to kill themselves than are other New Yorkers of the same race, age and gender.

     In reviewing the death certificates of all NYPD officers who died during the 20 years covered by the study, researchers found that even when they added 22 possible suicides to the 80 deaths that had been certified as such, the rate was still not significantly higher than for other city residents...

A small Texas town thinks big when it comes to technology

     For a modest-sized town where the annual stew festival is a major community event, Sulphur Springs, Texas, is well ahead of many much larger cities when it comes to using wireless technology to aid its police force.

     A $165,000 system that the municipality funded with federal grants and some local money was installed in September. The network, from Skystream Technologies in Sherman, allows some 20 patrol officers and five investigators to tap directly into data banks at the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin. Eventually, the system will allow pictures of suspects to be sent directly to officers’ in-car laptops...

Crunching the numbers:
Denver weighs first data on police contacts

     While Denver police officers are nearly evenhanded with respect to the race of those they stop on the street, when it comes to a search, they tend to frisk minorities at a higher rate, according to the department’s first racial-profiling study.

     Released in late October, the report looks at an entire year of pedestrian and traffic contacts. It is believed to be the first in the nation to document pedestrian as well as vehicular stops...

9 states to share fed grant spurred by Oxy overdoses

     With the number of overdoses linked to the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin continuing to mount nationwide, nine states will share a $2-million federal grant to develop or enhance programs aimed at tracking the sale of the drug and other legal narcotics.

     The funding was secured as part of the Justice Department’s budget by U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, who represents Eastern and Southern Kentucky. According to a DEA report released in February, one-quarter of the 464 deaths over the past two years that have involved OxyContin occurred in Kentucky and Virginia...

New life for task force means hard times for auto thieves in the Big Easy

     An auto-theft task force that was disbanded during the mid-1990s when the city of New Orleans was battling a surge in homicides has been put back together and is yielding significant results, according to police officials.

     Earlier this year, car thefts in the Uptown and Carrolton sections had risen to 45 to 55 incidents per week. By November, they had fallen to 15 or 20 — or even lower, said police. Citywide, such incidents were down by approximately 15 percent compared to the first nine months of 2001...

Border creeps northward, as Mexican drug gangs advance

     Boldly moving their business deeper into the United States, where burgeoning Hispanic populations can provide both a work force and a market, Mexican drug traffickers are posing new problems for law enforcement agencies long used to fighting drugs along the border and in major cities.

     “The southwest border isn’t along the Rio Grande anymore,” W. Michael Furgason, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta office, told The New York Times. “It’s in Atlanta and North Carolina and Chicago and even Yonkers and New Rochelle.”...

Upcoming Events

     14-15. Managing Security Systems.Presented by the Executive Protection Institute. New York. $390.

     15-17. First-Line Supervision. Presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Sparks, Nev.