Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, Nos. 611, 612 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY December 15/31, 2003

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In this issue:
DNA sometimes makes for bad-fitting genes.

Alarming developments.

Wheel-y big news.

Drunk as a skunk.

Another fine meth.

Stirring the pot.

Violence is all in the family.

Sex meets violence.

When good cops go bad.

Looking for warm bodies.

Wolves in cops’ clothing.

Crime’s ups & downs.

A few good anti-crime ideas.

Research looks for answers.

Facing up to profiling.

Order in the court.

Banking on ill-gotten gains.

Taking advantage of high-tech advances.

Changes at the top.

That’s just too weird.

Justice by the numbers.

2003, the year in review:
When violence is all in the family

     ¶ Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, 44, shoots his 35-year-old wife, Crystal, in the head on April 27 and then turns his gun on himself. In the aftermath, documents filed just days earlier in the couple’s divorce proceedings reveal allegations of physical abuse. Brame is accused by his wife of having threatened her with a gun, choked her, and obsessively trying to control her life. The release of a psychologist’s report from 1981 also raises questions about Brame’s mental stability. Tests used by the department to screen applicants indicated a tendency by Brame to exaggerate to the point of deception, and notes from friends and acquaintances found him to be anti-social. Brame was also accused of rape in 1987 while a patrol officer. The murder-suicide ultimately leads to the paid administrative leave of City Manager Ray Corpuz, the man who appointed Brame chief. Even when Crystal Brame publicly stated that she had been abused, Corpuz continued to defend the chief, calling him a “trusted insider.” City Council members vote unanimously to develop a domestic violence policy.

     ¶ With one in five murders in 2001 found to be the result of domestic violence, the Milwaukee Police Department launches a family violence prevention program. The initiative calls for 120 officers to participate in two 16-hour sessions aimed at changing their views of the offense and introducing them to the use of DNA testing in such cases. Eleven officers will be assigned to see oversee domestic abuse investigations.

     ¶ The San Diego Regional Training Center hosts a free three-day course on crisis negotiation and domestic violence taught by victim’s advocates, prosecutors, hostage negotiators and family abuse experts. California police and training instructors say that as many as three-quarters of hostage and barricade situations have their roots in domestic violence. The class focuses on the “specific dynamics” of abusive relationships, characteristics of batterers, and the legacy of violence within families. Another class being developed deals with officers as offenders and victims of domestic abuse. An emphasis is placed on stalking, strangulation and dominant, aggressive behavior.

     ¶ Twenty percent of all nonfatal violence against females age 12 or older in 2001 was committed by an intimate partner, a study reports…. After no murder-suicides from 1999 to 2002, Richmond, Va., has two within the first three months of this year, resulting in the deaths of six people…Four San Antonio officers are wounded and a suspect is killed during an altercation at a Denny’s restaurant that began when the man entered the premises with his girlfriend to confront a perceived rival.

2003, the year in review:
Sex meets violence

     ¶ Investigators in the Green River serial murder case unearth human remains in the Washington cities of Kent, Snoqualmie and Enumclaw. The bones at one site are identified as those of 16-year-old Pammy Annette Avent, who went missing in 1983. On Nov. 5, Gary Leon Ridgway, a 54-year-old truck painter who had been the prime suspect for the past few years and was linked by DNA evidence to some of the killings in September 2001, pleads guilty to strangling 48 young women as the Green River killer. The plea bargain allows Ridgway to avoid the death penalty, and also ends a consuming 21-year quest for King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, who first began probing the Green River murders as a young detective.

     ¶ Operation Predator, a child-pornography initiative launched by the Department of Homeland Security, results in the arrests of more than 1,000 child predators and sex offenders during a three-month period.

     ¶ A program called SOLV, for Sex Offender Location Verifier, reduces the non-compliance rate of convicted sex offenders living in Rapid City, S.D., and Pennington County from 27 percent in 2002 to just 5 percent last year. The initiative calls for volunteers from both jurisdictions’ law enforcement agencies to take responsibility for four or five offenders each.

     ¶ Derrick Todd Lee, a 35-year-old black man, is arrested in May following a nearly yearlong search for the killer responsible for a string of six murders in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., areas. Despite an earlier tip that had pointed to Lee, investigators didn’t follow up on the information because they believed, on the basis of witness reports, that they should be looking for a white man driving a white truck. Genetic evidence later determined that the killer was likely to be black. Lee was not tested as part of a DNA dragnet in which more than 1,200 men had their mouths swabbed to provide tissue samples for analysis.

     ¶ After undergoing an extensive overhaul, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit clears 66 percent of rape cases, the highest percentage among the nation’s 10 largest cities. The unit also moves into a new $2-million facility, begins performing DNA tests in each rape case and increases its ranks by 23 new members, including detectives and supervisory personnel.

     ¶ Ohio police chiefs defend their practice of administering lie-detector tests to victims of sexual assaults as another investigative tool. Polygraphs and voice-stress analyzers are used on a voluntary basis, they say, in cases where they could help establish the guilt or identity of an offender — as well as when the veracity of a victim’s story is at issue. The practice was brought to light in a report released by the state Department of Health.

     ¶ A national database that uses image-comparison software will help investigators distinguish real victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation from virtual victims created by a computer.

     ¶ A survey by the nonprofit group Parents for Megan’s Law finds that at any given time nearly one-quarter of the nation’s convicted sex offenders cannot be located because they failed to register with local law enforcement as required by law. The states with the worst rate of compliance are found to be Tennessee and Oklahoma, with non-compliance rates of up to 50 percent. Florida has the lowest rate of non-compliance at 4.7 percent.

     ¶ San Bernardino County enforces new safeguards after two employees of a company used to transport corpses are accused of sexually assaulting the body of a dead 4-year-old…. Anyone arrested for any felony or sex-related misdemeanor must submit a DNA sample under a bill unanimously passed by the Louisiana state Senate…. Nevada will get a sex-predator Internet listing…An amendment to New York’s Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000 will include, among other changes, the creation of a crime called forcible touching…. Lawmakers in Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Utah beef up penalties for high-tech peeping.

2003, the year in review:
Good cops gone bad

     ¶ Texas Gov. Rick Perry pardons 35 people from the Panhandle town of Tulia who were rounded up in a now-discredited drug sting. Nearly 46 residents, 39 of them black, were arrested during early morning raids on July 23, 1999. The charges were based solely on the word of a Swisher County deputy sheriff, Tom Coleman, who was working for a regional narcotics task force. Coleman now faces perjury charges, and District Attorney Terry McEachern may be sanctioned for possible misconduct by the State Bar of Texas. Two of those arrested, Tonya White and Zuri Bosset, have filed suit in federal court against the 26 counties and four cities involved in the task force.

     ¶ A federal judge in Pennsylvania orders the unsealing of some 1,000 pages of previously confidential internal affairs records containing the names of 13 state troopers who had been disciplined for sexual misconduct. Summaries of the allegations against the officers included sex with teenage girls; the assault and molestation of a suspect while in custody; homosexual rape, and the gang rape of a female who was also injected with an “unknown substance.”

     ¶ While conceding that the witnesses gave her pause, a U.S. District Court magistrate orders three Detroit police officers detained on charges of stealing money and drugs from suspects during illegal searches. The witnesses against officers Troy Bradley, William Melendez and Matthew Zani include a convicted drug dealer with 10 aliases, and an FBI informant who worked as a handyman in two buildings co-owned by Bradley. All told, 17 officers are accused of conspiring to violate suspects’ constitutional rights.

     ¶ Four former Miami police officers are convicted on conspiracy charges stemming from four shootings in the 1990s that left three men dead and one wounded. Former officers Jorge Castello, 34, Jesus Aguero, 40, and Arturo Beuiristain, 42, are convicted of conspiracy for planting a handgun on a homeless man in a 1997 incident. Oscar Ronda, 41, another former officer, was convicted of obstruction of justice for trying to cover up the crime. The convictions follow by one month a report by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division which stated that the department needs to establish clearer guidelines for the use of force.

     ¶ Chicago police officers Edgar I. Placencio and Ruben Oliveras, both veteran officers, become the first in the jurisdiction to be charged with failing to report criminal misconduct by fellow officers. The prosecution stems from the investigation of Joseph Miedzianowski, a former officer who was sentenced to life in prison for running a criminal enterprise that transported cocaine from Miami to Chicago. Placencio pleads guilty to a felony civil rights violation, and Oliveras to a misdemeanor civil rights charge.