Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, No. 597 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 15, 2003

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Famed sculptor makes his bones; armchair sleuth fights identity theft; back to DC for ex-Marine; city’s loss is feds’ gain; getting back into the game; friction is just fiction.
Corporal punishment: Sheriff gets in hot water over rank changes.
Chicken & egg: Iowa wrestles with whether training or hiring should come first.
A handle on hate: IACP offers bias guide.
“Ground zero” for the homeless: LA sheriff wants a full service center for street people.
No magic numbers: Police get out of the head-counting business.
The eye of the beholder: Second-guessing dogs police response to tractor standoff.
Stay in school: Tulsa will stick with college requirement for airport cops.
Going public: Utah may put its court records on the Web.
Fluid response: Rhode Island police want more leeway on DUI blood tests.
Sniff test: The feds roll out anti-bioterror advances.
Forum: Cliché policing puts the answers before the questions.
Heading for the exit: Budget gaps lead to early release for some inmates.
Oops: Police chemist says she didn’t understand blood tests she conducted.

Cause for alarm
Industry & user resistance thwarts solution to false-alarm problem

     Fierce resistance from the burglar-alarm industry — and often from the minority of community residents who own such systems — is preventing the widespread adoption of a strategy believed to be by far the most effective means of reducing false alarms, law-enforcement experts say.

     Called verified response, the strategy works by requiring alarm companies to first confirm something suspicious at an alarm site, such as an open door or window, before a patrol unit is dispatched. It has been used with extraordinary success by police in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Eugene, Ore., among a handful of other jurisdictions...

Maine police & sheriffs rip DEA over unannounced drug raids

     A dangerous lack of communication and a possible turf battle are thought by some law enforcement executives in Maine to be behind the failure of the Drug Enforcement Administration to inform them on three separate occasions recently that federal agents would be conducting major narcotics raids in their jurisdictions.

     Police chiefs and sheriffs remain skeptical of DEA assertions that in each of the incidents, the lack of notification was unintentional...

Report exposes lie detector tests that await some Ohio rape victims

     While it was never a secret, neither did dozens of Ohio police departments make it widely known that they administered polygraphs and other truth-verification tests to victims in sexual assault cases — that is, until a draft report by the state Department of Health brought the practice to light in February.

     The study, conducted by a task force created in 2002 to examine how rape cases are prosecuted, found the practice to be widespread...

Corporal punishment: Sheriff in hot water over rank changes

     When Kanawha County, W.Va., Sheriff Dave Tucker restructured the department’s ranking system in March, he was simply making the title fit the job, according to an attorney representing the sheriff’s department.

     Tucker ran into trouble when he changed the ranks of 36 officers without raises or promotional testing, and eliminated the rank of corporal. The restructuring, he said, was intended to comport with officers’ current duties...

Iowa wrestles with whether to put training before hiring

     A long-simmering battle in Iowa heated up last month between those who advocate allowing civilians to enter the police academy, and those who contend that such a move would open the profession to unworthy candidates.

     At issue is Iowa Code 80B, which authorizes the state’s academies to train only those already hired as officers. According to Sioux City Chief Joe Frisbie, that requirement costs departments too much money, and creates a public safety concern by potentially allowing untrained officers to be deployed...

IACP helps agencies get a handle on hate

     The International Association of Chiefs of Police will provide a free guide to confronting hate-motivated crimes.

     “Responding to Hate Crimes: A Police Officer’s Guide to Investigation and Prevention,” covers such issues as the legal definition of a hate crime; actions that need to be taken at the scene; best approaches for handling victims, and key indicators that such a crime has been committed...

At “ground zero” for homeless, LA sheriff eyes 24/7 service center

     Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has proposed that an open-air center be created that would provide services to the portion of the area’s homeless population that chooses to remain on the streets.

     The recommendation comes six months after the sheriff’s department convened a summit with community leaders and activists to address the issue. Calling the county the “ground zero” of homelessness, experts estimate that some 84,000 people there live outdoors or in emergency shelters each night...

No magic in these numbers

Police run afoul of rally organizers with crowd size estimates

     Counting protesters has become a touchy political issue.

     After watching the U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies run into trouble over the years when their estimates of crowd sizes at protest rallies fell short of those given by organizers, police around the country have decided to take a pass on handing out specific numbers...

In the eye of the beholder:
Second-guessing surrounds D.C. standoff

     Depending on one’s definition of success, the 47-hour negotiation that resulted in the peaceful surrender last month of a disgruntled farmer who had driven his tractor into a shallow pond on the National Mall was either a victory for the U.S. Park Police, or a dismal failure.

     The incident, which sparked a torrent of criticism of Police Chief Theresa Chambers from the media and the public, began on March 17. As the country awaited the outbreak of war with Iraq, a 50-year-old North Carolina tobacco farmer named Dwight Watson drove his John Deere tractor into the water, claiming that it was rigged with fertilizer that would explode if it got wet. He demanded that Washington be evacuated within 82 hours.

Tulsa sticks with college for airport cops

     The Civil Service Commission in Tulsa, Okla., last month voted 2-to-1 against a request by airport police officials that it waive an associate’s degree requirement for applicants.

     Said commission member John Fischer: “I honestly believe that this is not the solution. Just lowering the [degree] requirement will just lower the quality of the security force when everybody would like to see the qualities improved. I’m just wondering if we’re not looking for trouble.”...

Going public:
Utah court records may find a home on the Web

     Public court documents have traditionally existed in a state of “practical obscurity” by virtue of the need to visit the local court house to obtain access to them. But that veil may soon be stripped away in Utah should officials there decide to place all such records on the Internet.

     Last month, a 14-member committee on privacy and public court records convened by the Utah Supreme Court launched a year-long project that will explore the issue. The committee, which will solicit testimony from the public, consists of court employees or judges, attorneys and law professors who will hold nine meetings throughout 2003...

Right of first refusal:
R.I. police want more leeway on DUI tests

     Rhode Island law enforcement authorities want the same authority to extract blood and urine samples from some drunken-driving suspects as police in 16 other states now have.

     Last month, officials from the State Police and several local agencies testified before the House Judiciary Committee in support of legislation that was previously passed by the Senate. The bill would allow the tests of “blood, breath or urine” if officers have probable cause to believe the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and caused a death.

Sniff test:
Feds roll out anti-bioterror advances

     Two new bioterrorism-warning systems, one of which has been quietly in development since Sept. 11, 2001, were unveiled recently by federal officials.

     The first will monitor the air for deadly pathogens by upgrading the function of some 3,000 air-quality monitoring stations already set up around the country by the Environmental Protection Agency. The stations will send samples of a tissue-like paper to the closest of 120 laboratories associated with the Centers for Disease Control. Results will be made available within 24 hours, or in some cases, as little as 12 hours...

No vacancy:
Budget gaps lead to early prison releases

     It won’t be popular, Washington state lawmakers concede, but legislation that would save at least $40 million by letting thousands of inmates out of prison early, and cutting back on supervision for nonviolent offenders and those convicted of property crimes, stands a good chance of passing given present financial circumstances.

     Gov. Gary Locke came under fire last month when he issued a proposal calling for the release of 1,200 inmates and the elimination of supervision for 2,900 low-risk offenders who have completed prison time, and for 22,000 others who have finished jail time, for a total projected savings of $90 million...

Police chemist admits she’s no rocket scientist

     A Baltimore County police chemist admitted on the record that she did not understand the science behind blood tests she performed in a murder case, according to a court transcript from a pretrial hearing four months before the chemist left the agency in 1987.

     Concepcion Bacasnot’s competence was called into question last year when the Maryland Public Defender’s new Innocence Project was successful in its efforts to exonerate Bernard Webster, an inmate who had served 20 years in prison for rape. DNA evidence preserved for decades at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center showed that Webster, now 40, had not raped a 47-year-old woman in her Towson apartment...