Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, Nos. 599, 600 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY May 15/31, 2003

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Eye-opener in Chicago; heading home; horse trading; Wearing out; a CLEAR favorite; King gives up throne; uncertain exit.
Not-so-Smart case: Salt Lake police faulted for kidnap investigation.
Amber Alert: Bush signs child-protection bill.
Wise up: Report says law enforcement is slow to adopt “smarter” policing.
Over there: U.S. cops wanted for post-war duty in Iraq.
Questions & answers: Seeking to reverse a 3-year climb in DWI deaths.
Second thoughts: Court reverses itself on trooper lawsuits.
Opportunity knocks: Hostage negotiation meets domestic violence, and training is born.
Getting tough: Following a brutal murder, Colorado tries to put the squeeze on police impersonators.
Rocky roads: Lawsuits against gun industry face obstacles, while Bush backs renewed assault-weapon ban.
Hail, seizure: County speeds the pace of civil forfeiture.
Forum: The blue plague of policing; requiem for a warrior.
Click it or...: Fears of racial profiling are said to thwart seat-belt laws.

Two shots echo in Tacoma
Blame game erupts as “unfit” chief kills wife & self

     As a picture now emerges of David Brame as a troubled and violent man who rose through the ranks to become police chief of Tacoma despite being deemed psychologically unfit to join the force, residents are demanding to know which of their municipal officials knew about his problems and how far back that knowledge went.

     The tempest now enveloping Tacoma erupted on April 26 in the parking lot of a local shopping center, when Brame, 44, shot his wife in the head and then killed himself. Crystal Brame, 35, died a week later on May 3. The couple had been going through a rancorous divorce. Just days before the incident, in divorce filings, Crystal Brame publicly stated that her husband had threatened her with a gun, choked her, and obsessively tried to control her life. Brame, for his part, had accused his wife of physically and verbally abusing him...

Amid the fallout from anti-war protests, police harvest a few object lessons

     Just a few months after anti-war demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the country, officials in New York, San Francisco and other jurisdictions where huge rallies were held are now dealing with the fallout from actions taken by law enforcement agencies on those days.

     One of the agencies to come under the heaviest fire has been the New York City Police Department. A 25-percent increase in allegations of officer misconduct during the first three months of 2003 has been attributed to the massive anti-war demonstration held in front of the United Nations complex on Feb. 15. Some 60 complaints focused on the rally, and eight more were received in April by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) stemming from subsequent protests...

CrimeWeb alert system quickly outgrows its humble Texas roots

     When a child is missing, or an Alzheimer’s patient wanders away, police departments can now communicate rapidly with the local citizenry as well as with their counterparts hundreds of miles away by using a relatively new program that distributes email alerts to its members.

     Called CrimeWeb.Net, the system is the brainchild of a Mesquite, Texas, police captain, who first developed the concept while at the FBI Academy in 1997. Although Mesquite was the first law enforcement agency to go online with the program in August 2002, it has quickly expanded to 27 agencies in five states...

Smart, the victim not the investigation:
Police under scrutiny over kidnap case

     Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said last month that he would ask City Council members to reconsider their decision to support a review by an independent commission only of the police investigation in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case, and not the handling of four murders nearly two decades ago, of which all but one remain unsolved.

     Anderson appointed the commission days after 15-year-old Smart was recovered, apparently unharmed, on March 12. The panel will look into whether law enforcement fully investigated her abduction, or whether they became fixated on one particular suspect who was later found to have had nothing to do with the crime...

Amber Alert closer to going nationwide as Bush signs child-protection bill

     Under a comprehensive child-abduction statute signed last month by President Bush, the government will provide matching grants to states and communities for the expansion of the Amber Alert network, as well as increase penalties for crimes involving children.

     “It is important to expand the Amber Alert systems so police and sheriff departments gain thousands or even millions of allies in the search for missing children,” said Bush during the bill-signing ceremony on April 30. “Every person who would think of abducting a child can know that a wide net will be cast. They may be found by a police cruiser or by the car right next to them on a highway. These criminals can know that any driver they pass could be the one that spots them and brings them to justice.” ...

Report says law enforcement is slow to wise up to “policing smarter”

     The law enforcement community has yet to fully subscribe to the notion that policing “smarter” is better than policing “more,” according to a study released in April by the Police Foundation, which examined the advance of problem analysis within local departments.

     Broader in scope than problem solving, problem analysis, explained the study, is the gathering of data from a variety of sources in an effort to discern the causes of specific offenses. While beat officers may use limited analysis to reduce calls for service at a particular location — for example, identifying an ongoing dispute between two neighbors as the reason for repeated calls from a trailer park — problem analysis would dig deeper, perhaps seeking to evaluate residents’ perceptions, it said...

Iraq duty beckons US cops

     The State Department is in the first stages of recruiting seasoned law enforcement officers from around the country as part of a mission to help rebuild and train police forces in Iraq.

     The Department of Justice has reportedly sent a 26-member assessment team to Baghdad to join the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in determining what type of officers will be needed and where in Iraq they will be assigned...

Putting the cork back in the bottle:
Answers sought for climb in DWI deaths

     With alcohol-related traffic fatalities on the rise for the third straight year after a decade of declines, a variety of measures that include everything from goggles that simulate drunkenness to tougher laws aimed at hard-core drunken drivers are being sought by lawmakers, government agencies and advocacy groups.

     Traffic deaths overall rose in 2002 to their highest levels since 1990, to 42,850 from 42,116 the year before, according to preliminary statistics released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those, 17,970 were related to alcohol, representing a 3-percent increase over the same period in 2001. And while mandatory seatbelt and safety seat laws resulted in fewer children dying in car crashes, the deaths of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 increased by nearly 6 percent...

Having second thoughts, court bars troopers from suing for legal expenses

     While local police can recoup legal expenses by suing their municipality if they have successfully defended themselves in a criminal proceeding, state police officers cannot, according to a controversial new ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

     The 4-3 decision, which was handed down in March, reverses a unanimous ruling issued by a five-justice panel just 16 months earlier in the case of a former state trooper, Alex Martinez, who was accused in 1998 of propositioning a female motorist...

In California, crisis begets opportunity:
Domestic abuse meets hostage negotiation

     The recognition by California police and training instructors that as many as three-quarters of hostage and barricade situations may have their roots in domestic violence has led to the development of two cutting-edge classes — one aimed at giving negotiators insight into the psychology of both domestic abusers and their victims, and the other at handling investigations that involve fellow officers who may be a party to such offenses.

     “It’s a new approach to crisis negotiations or hostage negotiations,” said Lt. Gary Gregson, commander of the Sacramento Police Department’s hostage negotiations team, in an interview with Law Enforcement News. “We have recognized over the course of time as negotiators, and with the assistance of the FBI and its database and information collection project, that a vast majority of the…critical incidents are really either the direct result of a domestic violence incident, or has some foundation in domestic violence.” ...

Colorado gets tough — and hopes to get tougher — on police impersonators

     For Colorado lawmakers, increasing the penalty for police impersonation to a Class 1 misdemeanor was just the start. During the next session, they hope to make the crime a felony and to put laws on the books that will regulate ownership of law enforcement equipment and paraphernalia.

     As of May 1, impersonating a police officer in Colorado became punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000. The previous punishment was a one-year sentence and a $1,000 fine...

The road gets a little rockier for suits against gun industry

     Legislation which, by all accounts, stands a strong chance of being passed could put an abrupt end to dozens of pending cases brought by individuals and jurisdictions around the nation against firearms manufacturers.

     In February, plaintiffs had found what they hoped would be a smoking gun, so to speak — a former chief lobbyist for the gun industry. Robert A. Ricker, a former executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, filed a scathing affidavit in California Superior Court in which he said the industry had actively shunned taking any constructive measures that could have helped reduce the problem of unscrupulous dealers selling their product to criminals...

The law giveth, and the law taketh away:
County quickens the pace of civil forfeiture

     The speed with which drunken drivers and drug offenders in Minnesota can be separated from their property under the state’s administrative forfeiture laws has been sharply accelerated under an initiative launched last month by the Stearns County Attorney’s Office, which permits law enforcement to begin the process itself.

     According to County Attorney Janelle Kendall, the decision was prompted by the need to get the ball rolling on these cases. Civil forfeitures took up to a year or more when they had to be initiated by her office, and were subject to attorney review. Now, the process can begin almost immediately...

Profiling fears said to thwart seat-belt laws

     While traffic safety experts contend that lives are saved by laws that allow police to stop cars based solely on the grounds that motorists are not buckled up, fears of racial profiling and of government interference have thwarted efforts to expand primary seat-belt laws from beyond the current total of just 19 states, they say.

     According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states that pass these laws can expect an increase of 8 percentage points in seat belt usage. At present, approximately 75 percent of Americans buckle up. If everyone wore seat belts, NHTSA officials say, as many as 9,200 road deaths — nearly one-third of the nation’s annual 31,000 traffic fatalities — could be prevented...