Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, No. 598 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY April 30, 2003

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Putting his mettle to the pedals; a chief’s model policy; up for the game; a pioneer’s passing; PERF says ‘hail to the chief.’Putting his mettle to the pedals; a chief’s model policy; up for the game; a pioneer’s passing; PERF says ‘hail to the chief.’
Mind games: ‘Brain fingerprinting’ gets court OK.
Old West meets the new: Help from an unlikely source for a sheriff’s posse.
School’s out: A tuition-aid program for cops may be in peril.
Bargaining agents: FOP gives top priority to right-to-unionize legislation.
Crimes against nature: Special units tackle cactus thefts.
Selective enforcement: Giving a neighboring chief a break gets cop in hot water.
In the crosshairs: Las Vegas officials say the FBI kept them in the dark about terror threats.
Talk of the town: NYPD hostage unit marks 30 years of success.
Back to school: Kentucky doubles dispatcher training.
Learning to share: State & tribe focus on repeat DUI problem.
Heating things up: Border Patrol seeks to curb deaths in the desert.
Good news, bad news: FBI gets new intel chief — and new spy scandal.
Forum: What Marines & a sheriff’s tactical unit can learn from each other.
Paper chase: Pennsylvania cop is found to lack a key ingredient.
Cracks in the wall: The price of staying quiet about fellow cops’ drug conspiracy.

Can you hear me now?
Communications interoperability gauged in new report

     Overall improvement in communications interoperability among public safety agencies has been steady over the past year — and in some jurisdictions, nothing short of dramatic — yet experts predict that it will still be a long time before the nation sees the type of communication between police, fire and emergency medical services that only money and bandwidth, both of which are in short supply, can provide.

     Interoperability, or the ability of agencies to communicate via a single, wireless communication system, was considered a problem by law enforcement even before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Columbine High School massacre and other natural or man-made disasters thrust the issue into the spotlight...

Timoney’s Miami welcome includes DoJ critique of policies & procedures

     After conducting a top-to-bottom, unit-by-unit review of the Miami Police Department prior to his taking command, the city’s new chief, John Timoney, said there were not many surprises to be found when a Department of Justice report landed in his lap last month.

     An assessment by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division came to many of the same conclusions about the police department that he had — namely that, at the very least, clearer guidelines on the use of force needed to be established, Timoney told Law Enforcement News...

NYPD logs on to online property auction site

     Cameras, Rolex watches, shoes, umbrellas and myriad other goods large and small seized or otherwise acquired by the nation’s largest police force will now be auctioned off eBay-style on a Web site that already provides the same service to nearly 200 other law enforcement agencies across the country.

     Called, the site caters to the Internet shopper — a group that the New York City Police Department hopes to tantalize with its expanding warehouses of merchandise...

“Brain fingerprinting” gets court OK

     In a case that overturned, on constitutional grounds, the conviction of a man who served 24 years in prison for the murder of a retired police officer, the Iowa Supreme Court also let stand a lower court’s ruling as to the admissibility of “brain fingerprinting,” a technique that reads patterns of brain activity to determine whether a suspect is storing knowledge of a crime.

     The case involved a 44-year-old inmate, Terry Harrington, who was convicted in 1978 of fatally shooting John Schweer, a former Council Bluffs police captain who worked as a security guard for a local car dealership. Two years ago, people working on Harrington’s bid for freedom uncovered police reports pointing to another suspect, which had been withheld by prosecutors. Defense attorneys were also never informed that a key witness had recanted...

Old West meets new, as posse gets help from ‘gunfighters’

     In a case of the Old West helping the new, a volunteer mounted patrol formed by the Riverside County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department and an actor’s troupe worked together last month on scenarios involving the type of situations the Temecula Valley Sheriff’s Posse might encounter during the special events for which it serves as law enforcement’s eyes and ears.

     The posse began working with the troupe known as the Old Town Temecula Gunfighters two years ago...

Tuition aid program for sergeants seen in peril

     Proposed cuts to a tuition reimbursement program that benefits Anne Arundel County, Md., police officers could limit the number of sworn personnel who pursue higher education in the future, the union that represents the county’s sergeants warned this month.

     The county stopped accepting applications for the tuition program in February when it reached its $80,000 limit, said personnel officer Mark Atkisson. At present, three sergeants are participating in the initiative for the fiscal year ending June 30. On July 1, the program will be renewed, but it may only have $70,000 to spend due to fiscal constraints...

FOP tries again to win passage of collective-bargaining bill

     The National Fraternal Order of Police has given top priority to winning passage of a bill that would give police the right to participate in collective bargaining by forming or joining a union, said officials last month.

     Known as the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2003,” the legislation is being sponsored by Senator Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.), chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts...

Special units tackle spike in cactus thefts

     The word vulnerable might not be one that immediately comes to mind when describing the cactuses of the Southwest’s deserts, yet thefts of the plants have become so rampant that police in Arizona, Texas and three other Western states have formed units to specifically crackdown on the crime.

     The black market for ocotillo, saguaro, hedgehog and barrel cactuses, fueled primarily by desert landscaping, exceeds $20 million a year in Arizona, where theft of a plant worth more than $500 is considered a felony...

Selective enforcement, like disciplinary action, proves a chief concern

     When a rookie makes an error in judgment — short of a grievous one — the trick is to apply corrective measures to make a better officer, not a bitter one, explained Hudson, Wis., Police Chief Richard Trende after he recently ordered disciplinary action against a member of his force who had given preferential treatment to the chief of a neighboring jurisdiction.

     Officer James Van Dusen stopped North Hudson Police Chief Brian Aichele on Feb. 16 for speeding and suspicion of drunken driving. Aichele was driving 45 to 50 mph in a 25-mph zone. Suspecting that the chief may also have been intoxicated, Van Dusen contacted his supervisor. Although he was told to take enforcement action and conduct a field-sobriety test, Van Dusen only administered a preliminary breath test, which is not admissible in court. Aichele registered a blood-alcohol level of .12, making him legally drunk...

Las Vegas cops say FBI kept them in the dark

     In yet another case in which local law enforcement believes it was kept in the dark by its federal counterparts, Las Vegas police and sheriff’s officials this month charged that the FBI failed to inform them that an alleged sleeper terrorist cell busted in Detroit last year may have put a target on the Nevada city’s back.

     Officials said they did not learn of a direct threat made by the defendants to destroy Las Vegas until they read an article in a local newspaper in April which said a government informant had told prosecutors that in June 2001 and August 2001 — a month before the Sept. 11 attacks — one of the men had said that Islamic extremist “brothers” were organizing a massive attack on the U.S...

30 years of talking through trouble

     Conceived three decades ago as a direct result of the murders of Israeli athletes by pro-Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiation Team is no less relevant today.

     Last month, city and police officials paid tribute to the unit on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, during a ceremony at John Jay College of Criminal Justice...

Kentucky doubles training for dispatchers

     Acting on the belief that first-responders can only be as good as the information they receive on the other end of the radio, Kentucky recently became the first state in the nation to require its emergency dispatchers to undergo an additional 80 hours of training.

     The instruction is twice as much as had previously been mandated. Previously, dispatchers had to complete two 40-hour courses to be certified: one on using the state’s Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) and the FBI’s database, and the other in basic telecommunications. They also had to undergo eight hours of additional in-service training in one or the other of the subjects each year...

State, tribe see file-sharing as answer to repeat DUI problem

     In the belief that better communication between state and tribal criminal justice authorities will reduce the number of fatal crashes caused by repeat drunk-driving offenders, New Mexico has adopted legislation permitting DWI file-sharing among both entities.

     Under the bill signed by Gov. Bill Richardson in April, each of the state’s 22 tribal governments may enter into an agreement with the government to exchange traffic records. One of the obstacles to getting repeat drunken drivers off the road is that those charged by the state have served time or paid fines in tribal courts. Tribal judges can do little to punish persistent DWI offenders because they have no authority to access state files...

Border Patrol heats up efforts to curb desert deaths

     A greater number of solar-powered rescue beacons and two encampments that will give Border Patrol agents easier access to remote areas of western Arizona’s deserts are among the measures outlined this month by agency officials, who hope to avert a repeat of last fiscal year’s record number of heat-related casualties.

     The region recorded its first death of the current fiscal year on April 13, when the body of a illegal immigrant was found on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. Last year, 85 of the 145 border crossers who perished in the desert died of heat exposure...

FBI bolsters anti-terror intelligence capability

     Through the creation of a new executive position and the establishment of a unit responsible for implementing intelligence strategies, the FBI is developing a framework that will make possible its efforts to get the most from bits of information which, when viewed in toto, could reveal terrorist threats.

      Maureen Baginski was named in April to the newly created position of executive assistant director by Director Robert Mueller. Presently the signals intelligence director at the National Security Agency, Baginski will lead the bureau’s intelligence program...

Pa. cop found lacking one critical ingredient

     He had a gun, he had a badge, but what Harveys Lake, Pa., Police Officer Charles Musial did not have when he was making arrests over the past three years was certification from the state’s Municipal Police Officers’ Education & Training Commission.

     At least a half-dozen cases involving arrests Musial made between 1999 and 2002 could now be in jeopardy, according to Mayor Richard Boice...

Officers’ silence speaks volumes, prosecutor says

     The prosecution of two Chicago cops for keeping silent about their colleagues’ participation in a scheme to steal cocaine from drug traffickers should serve as a warning to others who still believe in an unspoken code against turning in a fellow officer, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said recently.

     Edgar I. Placencio, an 11-year veteran, and Ruben Oliveras, a 16-year veteran, became the first in the jurisdiction to be charged not for financial gain, but for failing to report criminal misconduct...