Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, No. 603 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY July 31, 2003

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Gimme a brake! Problems with Dodge cruisers.
Equal opportunity: Women are drawn to bounty hunting.
Palm pilot test: Digital fingerprinting heads to the field.
Bum rap: Why some criticize red-light crackdown.
Cuff-links: Study prompts Las Vegas use-of-force changes.
The great unveiling: Muslim woman loses suit over license photo.
People & Places: Moose moves on; funny papers; the music man; coming out; going hog wild; blue parade for charity; boilover in Benton Harbor.
Solo artist: “Officer Charlie,” the Savannah P.D.’s one-man homeless outreach unit.
Good news, bad news: Preliminary UCR has both.
Playing tag: Micro-engraving may help ID bullets.
Say what? Supreme Court hedges its bets in new Miranda ruling.
Home opener: Washington cops train as emergency foster parents.
Mopping up crime: Market niche opens for crime -scene cleanup firms.
Forum: Mueller talks turkey with the ACLU.
Double whammy: Detroit PD agrees to two consent decrees.
Criminal Justice Library: A new study in black & white.
The way things seem: In Tampa, don’t even look like a drug dealer.
The smell of success: A dose of skunk odor chases LA criminals.

Begging the question
Multifaceted answer seen to problem of aggressive panhandling

     It is unlikely, experts say, that jurisdictions will ever be able to fully eliminate panhandling from their public areas. Yet those that are willing to commit to a labor-intensive process combining legislation with educational awareness and enforcement that is sensitive to the plight of the poor and homeless appear to have the best chance of significantly reducing the problem.

     “The main law that needs to be passed in each jurisdiction is one that proscribes aggressive begging,” said Michael Scott, a consultant with the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the author of the agency’s problem-oriented policing guidebook on the issue...

As ex-cons roll back into town, some police stand ready to aid their reentry

     With roughly 600,000 convicts being released this year, and at least that many getting out of the nation’s prisons in the years ahead, federal, state and local authorities are paying greater attention to reentry programs that go much further than $50 and a bus ticket.

     There are a number of reasons why the issue has lately attracted the attention of policymakers, according Jeremy Travis, a fellow at the Urban Institute and former director of the National Institute of Justice. Chief among them, he told Law Enforcement News, is the number...

Bike patrollers help students on the road to fitness

     Bike patrol officers in Norfolk, Va., are not only fighting crime, they are also fighting fat through a community program that helps overweight teenage girls get healthier and feel better about themselves.

     Six years ago, the police department was approached by Layne Dyer, chairwoman of Norview High School’s physical education department, to head up a bicycle program. Officers who patrol that area of the city donated mountain bikes and taught a group of students about bike maintenance. They rode around the school’s track...

Stopping power:
Brake fires may ground Dodge cruisers

     The fate of 140 2004 Dodge Intrepid police vehicles that have been ordered but not yet paid for by the Memphis Police Department rests on the results of tests the agency conducted in June after reports about brake fires.

     According to David Thornton, the fleet/building maintenance manager for the department, the vehicles will be sent back if the brakes do not pass muster. The maker, he told The Commercial Appeal, will have to “eat them,” if city and department authorities do not deem the cars safe...

Equal opportunity:
Women hear the call of bounty hunting

     The job of hunting down bail jumpers is increasingly becoming one of equal opportunity for women, according to the trade association that represents the nation’s licensed bail bonds agents.

     Women now make up 50 percent of the more than 14,000 licensed bail agents in the country, said Stephen Kreimer, executive director of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, based in Washington, D.C...

Digital, wireless & pocket-sized, fingerprinting heads out to the field

     Instead of having to bring suspects to the police station to be fingerprinted, a new program in Portland, Ore., allows officers to carry with them on patrol a fingerprinting mechanism built into a device the size of a Palm Pilot.

     The devices, made by Identix Inc., capture fingerprint images and transfer them wirelessly to a central server via radio or cellular systems. The images are processed and transferred to one or more databases to search for matches. In the case of the Portland Police Bureau, the prints will be run against the FBI’s fingerprint database and the Western Identification Network, which stores information from seven states...

Red-light crackdown gets a bum rap

     An undercover sting operation aimed at catching drivers who run red lights might have outraged some homeless advocates, but the Osceola County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department defended the effort as an effective way of raising awareness about dangerous intersections.

     The sting known as “Operation Vagrant,” conducted by the sheriff’s office and the Kissimmee Police Department, was part of a two-week statewide campaign at the end of May that targeted safety violations. In the past, the sheriff’s department has dressed deputies up as construction workers or surveyors as part of Buckle-Up Florida and Click or Ticket, said Chief Jerry Geier...

Cuff-linked policy:
Traffic-stop study prompts LV use-of-force changes

     Prompted by a year-long racial profiling study that found blacks were handcuffed at more than twice the rate of whites during traffic stops, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in May implemented changes in its use-of-force policy, including restrictions on when handcuffs may be used.

     According to the report, which was released earlier this year, blacks accounted for 11 percent of all traffic stops during the 12-month period studied, yet make up just 6 percent of Nevada’s driving-age population. The findings were based on 386,000 traffic forms filled out by state and local police that asked officers to use their own observations to identify the race of the driver. They were also asked to note gender, age, the violation leading to the stop, its disposition and whether a search was involved...

Court tells Muslim woman to face up to Florida driver’s license photo requirement

     A woman who claimed that her religious beliefs would be violated if she was forced to have her driver’s license photo taken without a veil that covered everything but her eyes lost this month in court when a Florida circuit judge ordered that she would have to reveal her face.

     Sultaana Freeman, a devout Muslim, had refused an offer by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to take the picture in a private room in front of a female worker. Instead, she sued the state in 2001 after the agency revoked her license, nine months after the Sept. 11 attacks. A previous license showed only her eyes...

A Savannah officer’s epiphany on street people

     Back before he became “Officer Charlie,” the Savannah, Ga., Police Department’s one-man homeless outreach unit, Cpl. Charlie Fields, said he felt as many of his colleagues did about street people — namely, that they were nuisances who needed to be kept out of sight.

     That was in 2001. Since then, Fields has developed a program for dealing with the homeless and eliminating panhandling from Savannah’s pedestrian squares that has not only won a national downtown development award, but has caught the attention of jurisdictions as far away as San Francisco and Orlando...

Tentatively, crime dips again — for some
Preliminary UCR bears bad news for western states & cities

     While overall crime dipped slightly in 2002, the Western part of the country experienced a spike in the number of violent offenses, particularly in cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and in Tacoma, where the number of forcible rapes last year rose by a troubling 20 percent.

     The figures come from the preliminary results of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, released last month. According to the data, the nation experienced a decrease of 0.2 percent in its Crime Index from 2001. Overall violent crime, it said, fell by 1.4 percent nationwide, and the level of property crime remained the same as last year...

Tag — you’re it:
Micro-engraving may offer key to bullet ID

     If bullets can be matched to the weapon from which they were fired based on the “scratches and dings” created by the handgun, wouldn’t identification be that much more accurate if there were actual tool marks to read?

     A New Hampshire engineering firm seems to think so, and so do state law enforcement officials in California, who are looking at their technology as a potential alternative to automated ballistic imaging...

Supreme Court hedges its bets in latest Miranda ruling

     Police officers who question suspects to the point of coercion in the absence of a Miranda warning may not be sued for violating Fifth Amendment protections against compelled self-incrimination — provided that those statements are not used at trial. However, they still run the risk of being held accountable for violating the Constitution’s guarantee of due process, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently.

     The 5-3 decision produced six opinions, but no majority judgment, leaving the door wide open for the issue to be raised again. The case, Chavez v. Martinez, stems from a 1997 police shooting in Oxnard, Calif., and the subsequent questioning of the suspect, Oliverio Martinez, in his hospital bed...

In loco parentis:
Washington cops train as foster parents

     Faced nightly with the daunting task of trying to find temporary placement in the state’s overburdened foster-care system for children whose parents had been taken into custody, the Bellingham, Wash., Police Department has launched a program that provides training for its own officers to become emergency foster parents.

     Police taking kids back to their own homes when no shelter could be found was once a common practice, said Sgt. Tim Lintz, who heads the department’s Family Crimes Unit. But under state law, police are required to turn over all children suspected of being the victims of abuse or neglect to the Child Protective Services (CPS), limiting their ability to provide temporary homes...

Companies carve out market niche in crime-scene cleanup

     When a murder or suicide is committed on private property, it is up to the owner — very often the victim’s family — to get rid of the blood and gore left behind after the police leave the crime scene. It’s a messy business, but somebody has to do it, and increasingly, the job is falling to specialized cleaning services that have branched out into the biohazard field.

     There are nearly 50 companies nationwide that provide such services, with total sales of $20 million to $25 million, according to the American Bio-Recovery Association, a Washington lobbying group formed in 1996...

A study in black and white:
Daring to ask a very touchy question

     Heather MacDonald asks “Are Cops Racist?” Her answer and, I think, the answer, is “no.” MacDonald’s book raises another question: Are important political action groups invested in the image of law enforcement as racist? Her answer, and again the answer, is “yes.”

     Finally, a third question comes up again and again in this book. Are we safer —better off — if the racist image of law enforcement becomes the “truth” about all law enforcement personnel, the tactics of their agencies and the goals of the criminal justice system? MacDonald’s answer is a resounding “No!” ...

Don’t even look like you’re dealing drugs

     The Tampa Police Department is moving slowly with a new city law that allows officers to arrest individuals who seem as if they are dealing drugs — even if they are not.

     The “precursor acts to illicit drug activity” ordinance was passed unanimously in February by the City Council following complaints from business owners that drug traffic was scaring away customers. Residents had also complained that some intersections were so thick with dealers that they could not drive through. Violations carry a fine of $500 and a maximum punishment of either 60 days in jail or six months probation...

Something stinks about new crime crackdown by LA sheriff

     Skunk Shot, a repellent that reeks of concentrated skunk odor, not only repels animals but also apparently repels prostitutes, drug dealers, arsonists and other criminals that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies want to keep out of abandoned buildings and other gathering areas within the city of Compton.

     During a two-week stretch in January and February, Lt. Shaun Mathers and his unit made 30 arrests at an abandoned motel after dabbing some of the noxious-smelling gel on the armchairs and other furniture in the building. Several hours later, when the deputies returned, the flophouse was still empty...