Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXX, No. 614 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY February 2004

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Begging to differ: Police groups split on immigration role.
The Godsquad: Taking back Sin City’s streets.
Not just red flags: Benefits to early-intervention.
Stunning move: Cincy police to get Tasers.
A year later: Bratton’s L.A. honeymoon goes on.
Desk jockeys to hit the streets in Chicago.
People & Places: A new era; the knock on Norris; Hart failure; Milwaukee black out; a career of firsts; on the road.
Short Takes: Easy-to-digest news capsules.
Let it bleed: DNA sampling gets appellate review.
Fair warning: Signs of potential domestic homicide.
Time Capsules: 25 years ago in LEN.
Ratings game: Tying raises to evaluations.
None nice, all naughty: A cop’s petty-criminal target list.
Criminal Justice Library: Rethinking middle management.
Return engagement: Recidivism and the sex offender.
Forum: With information-sharing projects, ownership is everything.
Days are numbered for Milwaukee IAD.
Closer look: “Embedded” reporters in Miami.

Going ballistic
Serious flaws seen in FBI bullet-matching test

     The door may be open for hundreds, even thousands, of criminal appeals, after a study by the National Academy of Sciences found significant flaws in the technique used for decades by the FBI’s crime lab for matching bullets to crimes.

     At issue is the bureau’s practice of matching bullets by their lead content, the theory being that bullets from the same lead batch share a common chemical fingerprint. FBI Lab Director Dwight Adams requested the study by the NAS after a former metallurgist for the bureau questioned the technique’s validity...

Police groups split over expanded role in immigration enforcement

     With the battle lines forming between supporters and opponents of proposals to give local law enforcement agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, both sides can draw object lessons from the experience of state police in Florida, and more recently, in Alabama.

     The Florida Highway Patrol became the first law enforcement agency in the nation last year to cross-deputize a few dozen troopers to carry out federal immigration duties. In October, the Alabama Department of Public Safety became the second. And if Congress passes the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act, they will become just two of thousands of departments at the local, state and county level with that authority...

With God on their side, activists try to take back the streets of Sin City

     A group of Las Vegas ministers and community activists is trying to take back the streets of the city’s downtown by conducting its own police-type sting operations.

     The “Downtown God Squad,” as the group is called, has female members pose as prostitutes to snag johns. When they are approached, the women hand out religious pamphlets and a notice stating that the area is a “no drug and prostitution area.” Another volunteer snaps the john’s picture and hands out a flier that, in a play on current Las Vegas advertising, assures the person that “what happens in Las Vegas will not stay in Las Vegas.”...

More than just red flags:
New benefits to early-intervention systems

     Early intervention systems can provide the kinds of specific data that may help police supervisors pinpoint potential sources of friction between a department and the community it serves, as well as identify officers who might be practicing biased policing, according to a study by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

     In “Early Intervention Systems for Law Enforcement Agencies,” researchers found the data-based information programs to be a useful tool for attaining the goals of community policing, which demand new measures of police performance...

Following latest in-custody death, Cincy police to add Tasers to arsenal

     In a city where deadly encounters between police and minorities have erupted into civil disorder and violence before, Cincinnati was almost uncharacteristically quiet in the wake of one such incident in late November.

     Nathaniel Jones, 41, died on Nov. 30 after he attacked one of the six officers who responded to a nuisance call from a local White Castle restaurant. Since 1995, 18 black men have died in police custody in Cincinnati...

One year later, Bratton’s honeymoon in L.A. continues

     It appears that Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton will have to continue to do more, if not with less, then with the same thinly stretched force, after a plan to expand the police department by 320 officers was deferred in December by the City Council in the face of crushing budget woes.

     Bratton completed his first year of a five-year term in October with an outstanding report card from the city’s Police Commission. As one City Council member put it, the “honeymoon” with the brash Boston native continues...

Chicago desk jockeys hit the streets
Increased police presence to target open-air drug markets

     Every day for the next few months, 200 Chicago police officers — many of whom now sit behind desks — will sit in squad cars in the middle of the city’s open-air drug markets as part of a new strategy for waging war on narcotics and gangs.

     As many as 1,000 additional officers will be dispatched to the streets each week, with officers taking their turns one week out of every five at Chicago’s 100 top hot spots...

Seconds count

     Timing is everything, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, especially the time it takes to dispose of narcotics down a drain, as opposed to the time it takes to answer a knock at the door. That was the gist of a unanimous ruling in December in which the court held that police do not have to wait more than 15 to 20 seconds after knocking to break into the home of a drug suspect.

     The decision in United States v. Banks, No.02-473, restored the drug conviction of a North Las Vegas man, LaShawn L. Banks, who was in the shower when police broke down his door. The decision marks the first time that the Justices have directly addressed the issue of how long police must wait before breaking into a home, although a specific period of time was not set...

Let it bleed:
U.S. appeals court to rethink DNA ruling

     Does drawing blood from federal probationers and parolees for submission to the FBI’s DNA database violate their constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure? That question will be carefully examined by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which set aside an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel that barred the practice.

     In a 2-1 decision, the panel found that although parolees have fewer expectations of privacy, they may not be compelled to have their blood extracted without reasonable suspicion of their involvement in a crime...

Danger ahead:
Domestic homicide tipoffs may be missed

     Domestic violence investigators and victims’ advocates could be overlooking potential homicide victims if they focus only on those women who have experienced prior physical abuse, according to a new study which found that less overt elements, including controlling behavior, stalking and social isolation, were often precursors to near lethal attacks.

     Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing recruited 30 participants from among 182 women who had survived murder attempts. They had been part of a larger, 11-city project that had compared data on those women and ones who had been murdered by intimate partners, with those in violent relationships who had not had attempts made on their lives...

Time capsules

     * New York State’s controversial Rockefeller drug law, considered the nation’s toughest, withstands a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, when the justices, with just two dissenting voices, refuse to hear an appeal from two women who were sentenced to up to life in prison for selling small amounts of cocaine.

     * The oft-criticized Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the nation’s primary criminal justice funding agency, continues to operate without a permanent administrator after prominent criminal justice scholar Norval Morris withdraws from consideration for the post amid tough opposition from Senate conservatives. Morris, whose advocacy of national gun control made him a bête noire of the National Rifle Association, was the author of “The Honest Politician’s Guide to Crime Control,” which called for the elimination of criminal penalties for some so-called victimless crimes. Acting LEAA administrator Henry S. Dogin says the public should lower its expectations vis-à-vis the agency...

A ratings game:
“Pay-for-performance” plan under fire

     Police in Roanoke, Va., are seething over the city’s rejection in December of some 135 separate grievances filed the previous month to protest a performance-incentive program they claim has been unfairly applied.

     The move is the latest in an ongoing struggle between officials and the department’s rank and file over the new evaluation plan. The Pay for Performance program was established in 2001 shortly after City Manager Darlene Burcham took office, but was implemented citywide only last year. It calls for raises to be awarded on the basis of scores on employee evaluations...

Portland brass defend officer’s “hit list” of chronic petty offenders

     The Portland, Ore., Police Bureau is defending the tactics of an officer from its Central Precinct who, as part of a crime-enforcement project, created a list targeting 35 of the city’s worst petty offenders for arrest and overnight incarceration.

     Drawn up last fall by Officer Jeff Myers, the list is an effort to rid five neighborhoods of chronic offenders who repeatedly engage in car break-ins, disorderly conduct, suspected drug activity and other crimes...

Upward mobility guide:
Middle management: been there, done that

     The success of any agency depends on a fundamental consideration: the support and knowledge of an operational mid-level supervisor. For the most part, top management determines the agency’s vision, but mid-level supervisors carry out the mission of the department. An agency requires the support of operational mid-level management — without that support, an agency will lack the ability to meet its goals, to move ahead, and to foster an effective agency.

     In a serendipitous turn of the professional cards, this reviewer received Coleman’s book as a mid-level manager and, around the time of writing the review, received a promotion to upper management. This review, then, is informed by the perspectives of both mid-level and senior management...

Once a sex offender. . .
BJS study looks at likelihood of recidivism for released rapists, molesters

     Although the recidivism rate of sex offenders was still lower than that of non-sex offenders three years after being released from prison, a new study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders were more than four times as likely to be rearrested for a sex crime.

     The report, “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994,” is the first to present data on the rearrest, reconviction and reincarceration of sex offenders. Released in December, the study followed nearly two-thirds of the nation’s released sex offenders from across the United States for three years beginning in 1994. That year, 15 states released 9,691 male sex offenders, including 3,115 rapists and 4,295 child molesters...

Days may be numbered for Milwaukee IAD

     Within the first year of her administration, Milwaukee’s new police chief Nan Hegerty said, she wants to have a plan in place that would include replacing the department’s Internal Affairs Division with a board of professional standards.

     While the internal-review overhaul is perhaps the most extensive change she is proposing, Hegerty has other initiatives in mind for the police department as well. She was sworn in on Nov. 18 for a four-year term as chief, replacing Arthur Jones. [See “People & Places”]...

Embedded reporters get a closer look at protest

     Taking a page from the military’s handbook — and one he developed in Philadelphia — Miami Police Chief John Timoney conducted what is believed to be the largest “embedding” of reporters in a police operation in November during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit.

     Under the initiative, journalists from the Association Press, NBC, CNN, Fox, Reuters and The Miami Herald rode with police units. Similar to the strictures imposed by the military on coverage of the war in Iraq, the reporters had to sign releases that prevented them from disclosing the specific number of officers in a unit, the number of units deployed, equipment or unit locations. They were also required to wear riot helmets and gas masks...