Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, No. 613 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY January 2004

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Brame blame: Searing report finds troubles aplenty in Tacoma P.D.
Compstat consequences? “Cooking the books” costs five cops their jobs.
Say what? Denver P.D. ends “insensitive” phonetic transcriptions.
Crash aftermath: Who should investigate pursuit-related crashes?
Learning to dust: Little Rock P.D. stretches its ’print capabilities.
“A nightmare”: New H.P.D. lab debacle.
View from the top: Summit planned to look at internal affairs.
Defective squad: Finding fault with police body armor.
Color-bind: Concern over device that can change traffic lights.
Candid camera: Police racism videotaped.
People & Places: Over for Olson; banner effort; cops put on notice; St. Paul secret is out; back to school; explosive cases.
Food for thought: Lunchtime program looks at domestic violence.
LEN Interview: Renae Griggs, founder of the National Police Family Violence Prevention Project.
Short Takes: Easy-to-swallow news bites.
Forum: Killers & victims in a suicide-by-cop.

Brame blame
Tacoma report points to troubled chief, agency

     As yet another investigation into the troubled Tacoma Police Department gets underway, details released from the probe concluded in November by state investigators describe a police chief coming apart at the seams and an agency whose command staff alternately protected him and tried to call attention to his deterioration.

     Chief David Brame shot and killed his estranged wife Crystal, and then turned the gun on himself, in a parking lot last April 26. In the aftermath, Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald A. Horne requested that the state Attorney General’s Office review the TPD...

Compstat consequences?
5 axed over bad stats

     A routine inspection last summer that uncovered an unusually high number of crimes which police in New Orleans’ 1st District improperly downgraded to less serious offenses has snowballed into a scandal that led to the dismissal of five veteran officers in October for allegedly cooking their jurisdiction’s books.

     Police Superintendent Edwin Compass fired the 1st District’s commander, Capt. Norvel Orazio, a 29-year veteran who won crime reduction awards in 2002 and 2003. According to an internal audit that scrutinized 690 reports from July 2002 until last May, 42 percent were wrongly downgraded from major crimes that should have been reported to the FBI for inclusion in the Uniform Crime Reports. Another 17 percent were questionable, said investigators from the department’s Public Integrity Bureau...

What did the Denver witness say? Don’t aks.

     The Denver Police Department has dropped its practice of having agency transcribers spell phonetically those words mispronounced by witnesses, after the policy was made public in October by a local newspaper columnist.

     Transcripts of interviews with a witness in the fatal police shooting last July of Paul Childs, a developmentally disabled 15-year-old, included words such as “ask,” “something,” “police,” and “hysterical” that were transcribed as “aks,” “sumpin’,” “poh-lice,” and “hyxsterical.” The transcripts and videotapes had been made available to the public after District Attorney Bill Ritter chose not to charge Officer James Turney in the shooting...

Resifting the wreckage of pursuit-related crashes

     Under a reinterpretation of a 1994 law, the South Carolina Highway Patrol has established a new policy requiring that an outside agency investigate all crashes resulting from high-speed police chases, not just those in which a cruiser was actually hit.

     Agency officials had long argued that the statute called for investigators to examine only those accidents in which a cruiser came in contact with another car or property. The opinion ran contrary to those of the state attorney general’s office, and lawmakers, including former senator Larry Richter, who wrote the original law...

Someday their ’prints will come:
Little Rock cops are learning how to dust

     A pilot program launched this year that has taught more than 70 Little Rock, Ark., patrol officers how to collect, preserve and store fingerprints is not only stretching the agency’s forensic capabilities, but providing it with some good public relations, as well.

     While the department’s seven crime-scene investigators gathered fingerprints at the scenes of homicides, robberies and other violent crimes, they were too few in number to be sent to every burglary, said Sgt. Terry Hastings, a department spokesman. Officers would advise victims to stay away from surfaces that could be dusted for prints until technicians were sent out in a day or so...

Houston PD harvests new crime-lab troubles, as toxicology unit is closed

     After a senior forensic analyst failed to pass a competency test, Houston police officials in October shut down a second division of the department’s troubled crime lab in less than a year.

     Acting Chief Joe Breshears closed the toxicology section after Pauline Louie, a 28-year veteran, made three errors on one portion of an exam administered as part of the lab’s effort to earn accreditation...

Summit planned to provide the big picture on internal affairs

     Recognizing internal affairs as one of the last areas of law enforcement to remain untouched by the type of innovations that have revolutionized crime fighting and analysis in recent years, the Los Angeles Police Department is using a federal grant of $414,000 to convene a summit on the issue.

     “Every chief spends a considerable amount of time on the problem,” Police Chief William Bratton wrote in his grant request. “Every city has a history of problematic incidents, and most communities have concerns over the process used by their respective department to investigate and manage police misconduct allegations.”...

Once protective, now defective?
States, feds up in arms over shortcomings in police body armor

     Data showing that the fabric used in some police body armor could lose as much as 20 percent of its strength after just two years has led to a flurry of lawsuits by states against the manufacturer.

     Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly filed suit in November against Second Chance Body Armor Inc. of Central Lake, Mich., asking that a judge halt the sale of its vests in the state, and that the company replace defective products or return officers’ money...

Red light, green light, 1-2-3. . .
Signal-changing device raises concerns

     Before fantasy becomes reality for some motorists, traffic engineers in Minnesota would like state lawmakers to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for individuals to possess an electronic device used by emergency vehicles to turn traffic lights from red to green.

     The mechanism is called a mobile infrared transmitter, or MIRT. About the size of a dashboard-mounted radar detector, it is the trigger device in what are called traffic preemption systems. The MIRT interacts with a receiving device mounted on a stoplight, and can change the light from a range of about 1,500 feet...

Candid-camera reporting on racism leaves Brit police little to smile about

     Footage shot by an undercover reporter for the BBC during a seven-month investigation that showed British police recruits praising Adolf Hitler, wearing Ku Klux Klan masks, and espousing racist threats led to the resignations, suspensions and dismissals of nearly a dozen officers in October.

     Called “The Secret Policeman,” the television documentary filmed a class of 120 recruits at the Bruche National Training Center in Warrington, Cheshire. Mark Daly, a 28-year-old reporter, underwent a nine-month training course and was serving as a probationary officer with the Greater Manchester Police when he shot the footage using a pinhole camera in his uniform and his car...

Food for thought, fuel for action
“Lunch and Learn” lecture series raises domestic-violence awareness in Charlotte

     A 12-session lecture series aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence was launched in November by Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police, prosecutors and victims’ advocates.

     During the first nine months of last year, the number of domestic violence calls rose 14 percent from the same period in 2002, according to police statistics. Of the seven suspects charged with killing their partners during the first nine months of 2003, four had been charged previously with violent or drug-related crimes...

The LEN interview
Renae Griggs
Founding Director of the National Police Family Violence Prevention Project

     LAW ENFORCEMENT NEWS: The Tacoma, Wash., tragedy last April, in which Chief David Brame killed his estranged wife before taking his own life, forced the issue of domestic violence by cops graphically into the public consciousness. Is this an issue that warrants being labeled “policing’s dirty little secret”?

     GRIGGS: I don’t really know if policing has purposely kept this behind closed doors, or if this is a profound cultural issue that perpetuates itself because we as cops don’t want to recognize that there’s a potential for us to be as violent as the people we arrest on the street. By that I mean, if I’m having to discern everyday on the street who’s a bad guy and who’s a good guy, who’s a friend and who’s a foe, it takes a lot of time, energy and effort, day in and day out. I really can’t afford to be able to do that with my colleagues. At some point I have to be able to assume that because we wear the same badge and the same uniform, we’re also at the same consciousness. So if you’re not a bad guy — ‘cause I’m not a bad guy — I have to be able to trust you. So I don’t necessarily see my colleagues with the same lens that I’m using when I deal with people on the street. It’s probably partially true that this is a dirty little secret that the police culture has kept behind closed doors, but I think it’s a bit more complicated that...

Think green

     Foliage is traditionally viewed by law enforcement as cover for criminal acts, but arborists at Virginia’s Blue Ridge Community College in Weyer’s Cave are teaching police that greenery can be used as an effective means of crime prevention.

     The strategy known as called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED, teaches that use of such thorny shrubs as holly and barberry can dissuade peeping toms and burglars when planted under windows. Other, non-horticultural tactics include the use of sodium lights to thwart drug dealers by making it difficult to distinguish money when counting out bills, and reinforcing the ownership of a space through signs and fences...