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:
Anti-crime strategies & tactics run the gamut

     ¶ The New York City Police Department uses its greenest rookies to saturate targeted neighborhoods as part of a high-visibility crackdown on minor offenses in those areas.

     ¶ Police in Raleigh initiate a “shaming” strategy that calls for posting photographs of prostitutes’ customers on the department’s Web site, and on a local cable station…. A similar program in Denver has been so effective that it has run out of “cast members,” police say.

     ¶ Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen master, Buddhist monk and peace activist, is recruited by the Madison, Wis., Police Department to help its members deal with stress.

     ¶ Where fences, gates and barbed wire fail, Skunk Shot, a vile-smelling spray, prevails in Los Angeles County, where deputies use it to keep prostitutes, drug dealers and other undesirables out of abandoned buildings.

     ¶ Law enforcement officers in Springfield and Sangamon County, Ill., become the first in the state to undergo the Memphis Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team course…. The Las Vegas Metro Police support a bill that would allocate funds for the establishment of a mental health court. Department figures show that over a 17-year period, 25 mentally ill people have racked up a total of more than 8,000 arrests.

     ¶ The Justice Department questions whether a crackdown on minor offenses that followed the stabbing of a Cincinnati police officer was fair, since 31 citations for spitting were issued in certain inner-city neighborhoods.

     ¶ Officials in Kootenai County, Idaho, sign a cross-deputization agreement with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to increase the number of officers available in emergencies…. A cross-deputization agreement between the Fort Peck Tribes and law enforcement officials in Roosevelt County, Mont., is named as a semifinalist for the 2002 Innovations in American Government Awards.

     ¶ A $12,000 Browning M2 belt-fed machine gun is purchased by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio as part of a broad counterterrorism plan. The weapon will be mounted on the department’s armored personnel carrier.

     ¶ New York City officers surge en masse into certain subway stations as part of a successful strategy to reduce crime underground. Felonies fall to 1,276 from January through May as compared to 1,503 during the same period in 2002.

     ¶ A $33,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by a saxophone player who was arrested twice for performing in Philadelphia’s subway system prompts transit police to discard that policy.

     ¶ Gang warfare is the focus of a Chicago police redeployment strategy aimed at stanching an 11-percent increase in the city’s homicide during the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2002…. Two-person gang units are created in Santa Paula, Calif…. Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton names a citywide gang czar as part of an overhaul of the department’s gang-enforcement strategy. Gang Impact Teams will work out of each of the agency’s 18 stations, and Community Impact Action Teams will help guide officers.

     ¶ The Sarasota County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department launches a pilot program that has deputies enforcing code violations.

     ¶ With a study finding that one-third of all bodega robberies and 45 percent of those committed at gunpoint are occurring in just 10 of New York City’s police precincts, a pilot program is launched in which video cameras and panic buttons are installed in the Hispanic grocery stores.

     ¶ The Baltimore Police Department asks the City Council for permission to issue civil citations for petty crimes rather than make arrests.

     ¶ Cities struggle to craft laws that will allow police to curb panhandling in public areas without violating constitutional guarantees of free speech. Savannah, Ga., is considered by many to have a model policy. The jurisdiction makes numerous resources available to the needy and homeless through a state-mandated agency; police then “woo” the needy to the agency.

     ¶ The New York City Police Department drops its practice of asking those arrested during the Feb. 15 anti-war demonstration about their political activities. A police spokesman said the agency will continue to ask protesters what organizations they belong to, but will retain the information in the form of a tally that does not list names.

     ¶ The Hernando County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department launches its own Compstat-type program called Starcom, which divides the jurisdiction into three divisions, each with its own complement of officers.

     ¶ A special part in each of New York City’s five Criminal Courts will be reserved for repeat quality-of-life offenders. The court will prosecute those arrested under Operation Spotlight, a police department initiative that cracked down on the small percentage of offenders who commit the majority of non-felony crimes.

     ¶ The crime-fighting television show “America’s Most Wanted” celebrates its 16th year on the air.

     ¶ A program that gives specially-assigned Milwaukee County deputies authority to conduct consent searches for minor infractions under a gun-violence initiative is criticized by a coalition of community groups, who claim racial profiling is being practiced.

     ¶ An Atlanta municipal judge rules that people can only be arrested for being in public parks after a warning has been issued. The decision results in the dismissal of a number of pending criminal cases.

     ¶ A 40-member combined SWAT team in North Dakota will include police from Bismarck and Mandan, and sheriff’s deputies from Burleigh and Morton counties.

     ¶ A DeKalb County, Ga., law allows police to cite a home as a public nuisance if illegal activity is conducted there, and have it demolished if owners fail to comply with ordinances.

     ¶ A handout card created by a partnership of police and business owners at a Kansas City strip mall lists rules that teens must follow or risk getting arrested for trespassing.

     ¶ Jackson, Miss., Mayor Harvey Johnson and Police Chief Robert Moore meet with members of the city’s community policing task force for training at the Gulf States Regional Community Policing Institute as part of a five-point plan to fight crime.

     ¶ Video cameras are mounted on poles and lamp posts in Chicago’s high-crime areas under an initiative called “Operation Disruption.”

     ¶ South Carolina bus drivers help law enforcement officials in a number of agencies, including Charleston, by reporting accidents, crimes and events.

     ¶ Under a new city ordinance, Anchorage landlords who use their properties for criminal activities will be charged $500 if police have to answer calls at those locations residence more than eight times in a year.

     ¶ A successful lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union results in a temporary restraining order preventing Los Angeles police from conducting sweeps of the city’s Skid Row without “reasonable suspicion.”

     ¶ Officers from the Dane County, Wis., Narcotics and Gang Task Force and the Madison Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Safety Team are redeployed to create community policing teams in each of the city’s five districts.

     ¶ Lake Mead, Nev., implants computer-ID chips into some cactuses to thwart thieves who are plundering the nation’s Southwest for the valuable succulent plants.

     ¶ The Portland, Ore., Police Bureau’s community policing effort hits a snag when only a handful of officers agree to have their pictures posted on the agency’s Web site. Those who refuse say it would hinder their undercover work and place them in unnecessary danger.

     ¶ Each of the 11 assistant district attorneys in the Cook County, Ill., narcotics felony trial unit will be assigned to a police district identified as having heavy drug traffic, as part of a program called ROGUES, for Repeat Offender Geographic Urban Enforcement Strategies.

2003, the year in review:
Researching for answers

     ¶ The threshold to decide to shoot blacks appears to be set lower than it is for whites, according to researchers in Colorado and in Washington, who concluded in two separate studies that unconscious bias instilled by the news media, advertising and other factors leads to racial prejudice. Studies included video and virtual-reality games in which participants were asked to make on-the-spot decisions about whether black or white male characters were armed. In both studies, African-American men were more likely to be shot in error, and participants were less likely to distinguish objects when they were held by blacks.

     ¶ Residents’ perception of disorder in their neighborhood, and informal contact with police, had more of a bearing on a community’s opinion of local law enforcement than did demographic characteristics or the role of the media, according to a study that examined four of the Los Angeles Police Department’s 18 geographic areas.

     ¶ A study funded by the MacArthur Foundation finds that a significant portion of juvenile defendants under the age of 16 are not competent to stand trial. It recommends that states either find a way to compensate for this, or reconsider the minimum age at which youngsters can be tried as adults.

     ¶ Televised aggression can lead to violent behavior later in life — such as domestic violence — even if the viewer does not act out in childhood, according to researchers from the University of Michigan. The programs “Starsky and Hutch,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and Roadrunner cartoons were deemed extremely violent by researchers.

     ¶ New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia are awarded federal grants to collect information on violent deaths for a proposed National Violent Death Reporting System.

     ¶ A National Institute of Justice study finds that a subject’s demeanor and level of resistance, rather than his race, play a greater role in determining when police will use force. Younger officers, male officers and Hispanic officers in the study tended to use force more often than did their older or female counterparts. The study also reports that force is most often used against male suspects.

     ¶ Supervisors whose solutions to police-related problems contained a moral dimension are viewed as a cut above their peers, according to a study by researchers in Maryland who looked at a small cohort of Baltimore sergeants. Another distinguishing factor is the use of sick days. Apparently, those considered top supervisors took fewer of them, perhaps indicating a greater investment in the job, the study notes.