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:
Bodies in motion

     ¶ A federal judge in Illinois dissolves a federal consent decree after finding that Belleville officials had met its objectives. The decree stemmed from claims of racism involving a residency requirement that plaintiffs said excluded black applicants to the force.

     ¶ The Los Angeles Police Department wants to hire 675 new officers by the end of the fiscal year to offset the loss of 350 through retirement and resignation, for a net increase of 325 officers. City Council members, however, vote to override Mayor Jim Hahn’s veto of their $5.1-billion budget package that called for the hiring of just 400 new officers. Hahn and Chief William Bratton had wanted $17.9 million for 720 hires.

     ¶ Call-ups of military reservists and National Guardsmen decimate the ranks of the West Virginia State Police. The agency fell from approximately 559 active officers to 527.

     ¶ Legislation will make it possible for the Madison County, N.Y., Sheriff’s Department to hire applicants from five neighboring counties…. The city of Rutland, Vt., is asked by police and union officials to drop a four-year-old residency requirement that opponents claim makes it harder to recruit….

     ¶ Early-retirement buyouts, military and voluntary leaves lead to the reinstatement of 11 of the 25 Minneapolis officers who faced layoffs due to budget cuts…. Henderson, Nev., residents twice reject ballot initiatives that would have raised taxes for hiring more police….

     ¶ A widening gap between police income and expenses is blamed for the shrinking number of Michigan State Police troopers. During the past three years, the force has been reduced by 200 members…. Residents of Grove City, Minn., are angered when the City Council eliminates the town’s two-person police force in favor of a contract with Meeker County to have a deputy patrol the town….

     ¶ Budget cuts force Meigs County, Ohio, Sheriff Ralph Trussell to lay off his 13 deputies and dispatchers, and patrol the 429 square-mile jurisdiction himself.

     ¶ Overtime at the Portland, Maine, international airport earned two police supervisors more than Chief Michael Chitwood’s $89,000 salary in 2002…. It may have improved morale, but additional overtime as the Englewood, N.J., Police Department waits for new recruits cost the agency approximately $10,000 a week…Buffalo, N.Y., will save $14.3 million over the next four years with one-officer patrols; in return, officers will receive a one-time $5,000 raise, and a 3-year 1-percent raise…. Former Los Angeles police chief Bernard Parks is the only City Council member to oppose a new $80.2-million pay agreement for officers.

     ¶ Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is criticized by the International Union of Police Associations for opposing overtime for emergency personnel in the war on terrorism. Stevens said he did not know why public employees should receive overtime when responding to matters of national security.

     ¶ Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio eliminates the agency’s 13-year-old DARE program due to budget constraints.

     ¶ A half-a-dozen cases made by Harveys Lake, Pa., Officer Charles Musial between 1999 and 2002 are jeopardized because he was not certified by the state’s Municipal Police Officers’ Education & Training Commission at the time.

     ¶ Applicants for Tulsa, Okla.’s airport police force must complete an associate’s degree, the city’s Civil Service Commission rules by a vote of 2-to-1. Airport police officials contend the requirement is an obstacle to recruitment.

2003, the year in review:
Wolves in cops’ clothing

     ¶ Colorado legislators approve a measure that makes impersonating a police officer an offense punishable by up to 18 months in jail and maximum fine of $5,000. The law follows the abduction, rape and murder of Lacy Miller, a 20-year-old college student whose car was pulled over by an individual using flashing police lights. Her killer, 22-year-old Jason Clausen, was found to have three guns, a ski mask, fake badge, a police-style flashlight, handcuffs, Mace and police-style lights installed in his vehicle.

     ¶ Syracuse, N.Y. police arrest 22-year-old Jeremy Lepianka on charges of impersonating a police officer after the imposter had stopped a couple for running a red light and called 911 when they ran away. Lepianka, who told police he was a volunteer deputy with the Onandaga County Sheriff’s Department, had been posing as an officer for two years. He would stop motorists and warn them. Police found two prop guns, handcuffs and pepper spray in his home, along with an official city police patch for his uniform.

     ¶ Houston investigators find fake badges in the truck used by three men to commit a series of robberies by staging phony traffic stops…. Two home invasions that leave six men dead in Edinburg, Texas, are believed to have been perpetrated by police impersonators…. San Bernardino County, Calif., sheriff’s deputies arrest an ex-convict who allegedly targeted Mexican immigrants by posing as an officer, placing them under arrest, robbing them and threatening to call immigration…. Thieves posing as police officers stop two vehicles in southern Utah, both driven by Mexican nationals, and leave with cash and the cars.

     ¶ St. Tammany Parish, La., sheriff’s deputies responding to a 911 call arrest a police impostor after he tried to stop a motorist for a traffic violation and followed the driver home…. Madison, Wis., police arrest a man issuing fake parking tickets. The scheme was uncovered after someone called the police to report a paid ticket coming back as undeliverable…. Naples, Fla., detectives pull over a car rigged with police lights and arrest a man pretending to be an officer after he tried to scam $1,000 from a driver he had stopped.

2003, the year in review:
Crime’s ups & downs

     ¶ The cities that experienced a spike in the number of homicides in 2002, according to the preliminary Uniform Crime Reports, included Washington, D.C., which has the highest murder rate among cities of more than 500,000 population, as well as Los Angeles, Baltimore and Oakland. Crime fell in the Northeast and Midwest. Stamford, Conn., reports a 22-percent drop, and New York City a decline of 4.5 percent.

     ¶ A Bureau of Justice Statistics study finds that in the eight-year period from 1992 to 2000, the number of serious violent crimes reported to police rose from 43 percent to 49 percent. In 2000, 60 percent of robberies were reported, compared to 57 percent in 1992, and 48 percent of rapes were reported, compared to 31 percent eight years earlier. The reason given by most crime victims for not reporting the offense was that it was a “personal matter,” the study says. Seventeen percent said it was not important enough, and 14 percent said they told another authority figure, such as a school principal.

     ¶ Washington, D.C., experienced 500 fewer aggravated assaults in 2001 than was previously believed. A review of the figures entered in a database used by the Metropolitan Police Department for its submissions to the Uniform Crime Reports finds that hundreds of simple assaults had been erroneously classified as the more serious offense. While aggravated assaults that year still surged by 10.9 percent as compared to the previous year, it was not the 21.9-percent spike that had prompted the second look.

     ¶ Spurred by higher produce prices, avocado thieves in California become more brazen, in one case firing shots at grove workers before taking off with a bag of the fruit…. Statistics show that reports of cattle theft in South Dakota rose by 300 percent from 2001 to 2002.

     ¶ Oklahoma City is approaching a 10-year high in homicides, with 33-percent increase during the first half of 2003. The poor economy, gang-related activities and crimes committed by repeat offenders are cited as possible factors…. A 22-percent increase in violent crime and a 14-percent increase in property crime could be due to better reporting, say Flagstaff, Ariz., police officials…. Violent crime in Dallas dropped in 2002, but the city still had one of the highest crime rates among the nation’s biggest cities in 2002, and the highest per-capita robbery rate, with 2.9 robberies for every 1,000 residents. It also ranked among the top four in homicides, motor-vehicle thefts, assaults and thefts.