Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXX, No. 615 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY March 2004

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
“Black boxes” are changing accident probes.
Gains and losses: 2003 crime stats roll in.
No fueling: Dallas police to get natural-gas cars.
People & Places: The Big D in D-Day; Eugene gets its man; Dayton’s loss; Knapp time; sheriff’s new POST; back in action.
Another fine meth: What to do with seized drug-lab chemicals.
Fresh start: Getting your community relations house in order.
Missouri’s finest? Rogue, uncertified officers raise eyebrows.
In the courts: A roundup of reccent rulings.
Forum: Making little things mean a lot.
Mixed bag: Tulsa PD gets its first race-bias review.
Short Takes: Easy-to-digest news capsules.
Lights, camera, interrogation: Videotaping’s appeal grows.
Fringe benefit: Why Omaha likes its Compstat.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.
Time capsules: 25 years ago in LEN.

The federal well is running dry
Spending bill, Bush budget deliver bad news for aid to locals

     The federal government is not planning to be as generous to policing this year as it has been in the past, under the provisions of the massive 2004 omnibus spending bill given final approval by Congress on Jan. 22, which included deep cuts in such Justice Department programs as the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program.

     Less than two weeks later, the news got even worse, as President Bush unveiled his budget proposal for fiscal year 2005, in which some of the cuts went even deeper — in some cases, to the point of eliminating longstanding programs....

Truth in advertising? Apparently not.

     The fight waged last year in dozens of jurisdictions over whether to allow commercial advertising on patrol cars — even if it meant that those vehicles could be purchased for just $1 — seems now to be moot, since few if any of the departments received their cruisers.

     Many municipalities and criminal justice experts decried the idea of allowing police vehicles to be festooned with advertising, claiming that it would lead to diminished public respect for law enforcement. But it seemed like a boon to strapped agencies who could not lay out as much as $35,000 or more for new cars. ...

State patrol wants its CALEA approval back, but some ask ‘why?’

     The Nebraska State Patrol will seek to regain its national accreditation, which it forfeited in November in a dispute with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). However, some in academia and in law enforcement have questioned whether the expenditure of time and money that accreditation entails is still worth it for larger agencies, which may have already surpassed the standards set by the commission.

     According to Lt. David Dishong of the state patrol, CALEA disapproved of the scientific model used by the agency to determine its allocation of staff. The patrol had been using reports from its area troop commanders, but then switched to a staffing computer program from Northwestern University after a team of assessors said the previous method was not scientific enough....

Recruit screening hurt by budget shrinkage

     Without a psychologist at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy to screen new police recruits, many of the state’s smaller departments are going to have to come up with a way of screening applicants themselves, police chiefs say.

     The psychologist was one of several positions cut by the academy due to budgetary constraints, according to Sid Gaulden, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. The academy, he told Law Enforcement News, is funded entirely through a portion of the fees and fines collected around the state. In the past three years, such funding has dwindled....

What’s under your hood?
‘Black boxes’ change nature of crash probes

     As the pre-crash data recorded by “black boxes” installed in tens of millions of American cars increasingly finds its way into accident investigations and criminal court proceedings, the issue of how unbiased the information is and who owns it is becoming a matter of increasing urgency for both prosecutors and privacy advocates.

     Event Data Recorders, or E.D.R.’s, have been around since the 1970s, when General Motors became the first car manufacturer to use them. They are found in Saturns, Buicks, Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. The Ford Motor Co. began installing them in some vehicles in 2001. The Associated Press reported that an estimated 25 million cars currently have the devices....

The numbers are rolling in
Agencies tally gains & losses in 2003 crime stats

     With the start of a new year, jurisdictions from around the country have begun to report their crime totals from 2003, and the results show a mixed bag of successes and shortcomings, and no apparent shortage of credit or blame. A roundup of reports includes:

     ARIZONA — A homeless man set on fire, a mother killed outside a convenience store, and three prostitutes strangled by a serial killer were among the incidents that contributed to ratcheting Phoenix’s murder total up to its highest level ever in 2003 — 247 in a single year, according to data submitted to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. The previous record was 245, set in 2001. Officials blame the increase on human and drug smuggling. ...

No fueling: Despite concerns, Dallas moves ahead with natural-gas cars

     They have seen all the data and heard all the complaints, but Dallas officials say they are not worried that the conversion of 175 conventional gasoline-powered patrol cruisers into environmentally friendly natural-gas vehicles will hinder the department’s effectiveness.

     A contract to convert about one-fourth of the agency’s fleet was approved by the City Council in December. Mayor Laura Miller said she would not have been one of the 10 council members to vote for it were it not for the fact that a $1.89-million federal grant is paying for the cars. ...

A great big meth on their hands
Kentucky tackles problem of storing seized drug-lab chemicals

     Within one of month of receiving a $300,000 federal grant in January, the Kentucky State Police said it is already saving money on the cost of temporarily storing methamphetamine-related chemicals it confiscates after drug-lab busts.

     Kentucky is the first state in the nation to receive the funding, which was provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration for the purchase of storage containers that can hold up to 220 pounds of chemicals. The grant will also be used to help pay specially-trained vendors who will pick up the containers each week and dispose of the chemicals in accordance with federal guidelines....

Fresh start in Minneapolis:
Better police-commmunity relations eyed

     Minneapolis municipal and police officials expect that a 24-page agreement hammered out after months of federally led mediation will improve the strained relationship between community leaders and the police department.

     Among the pact’s provisions will be the creation of a 30-member team that will work with the department during high-profile misconduct allegations and host public forums to review deadly-force incidents. ...

Missouri’s finest?
Rogue & uncertified officers raise eyebrows

     Officers who are not certified carry out duties as if they were. Certified officers engage in conduct so egregious that their police authority should have been revoked.

     These and other problems are now at the heart of two separate inquiries launched by Missouri officials, prompted in part by a five-part series in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in December. Reporters found dozens of reserve officers, whose duties are supposed to be strictly limited, performing such tasks as writing traffic tickets and responding to emergencies in some of St. Louis County’s smaller, suburban jurisdictions. ...

In the courts

     When police find drugs in a vehicle, they may arrest all occupants if no one claims ownership of the contraband, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in December.

     While some criminal justice experts see the unanimous ruling as striking the correct balance between police authority and civil liberties, others say it provides law enforcement with the means to round up the innocent along with the guilty....

Tulsa PD report card on race bias is a mixed bag

     An independent auditor’s initial review of the Tulsa Police Department has found that the agency is largely meeting the demands of a consent decree that settled a racial-discrimination lawsuit, but allegations persist of insubordination toward black supervisors and insufficiencies in a potential data-collection system.

     “So far, so good,” was the finding of auditor John A. Gaberino Jr., in his report to a seven-member Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Committee. The auditor’s position was created by an agreement between the city and the plaintiffs, approved on May 12 by U.S. Chief District Judge Sven Erik Holmes, which settled a nearly decade-long class action suit brought by a group of black officers. ...

Alcohol & gasoline

     Of the 19 states where the rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities either held steady or rose from 1998 to 2002, South Carolina, Kansas and South Dakota showed the greatest increases, according to data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

     The report suggests that efforts to curb drunken driving may have reached a plateau. In 1982, there wee 26,173 alcohol-related deaths, or 60 percent of all traffic fatalities. By 1999, the proportion had fallen to 40 percent, or 16,572. But by 2002, the number had risen again, to 41 percent, or 17,419....

Lights, camera, interrogation...

     Even as some of the nation’s larger police departments are resisting calls to videotape interrogations of homicide suspects, agencies in St. Clair County, Ill., have taken it upon themselves to implement the practice more than a year before it becomes mandatory under a state death-penalty reform law.

     Last July, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill establishing pilot programs for four agencies to test audio- or videotaping of homicide suspects. All departments will be required to tape interrogations and confessions by 2005. ...

Compstat is doing more than just driving down Omaha’s crime rate

     With its new Compstat system still less than a year old, Omaha police officials aren’t quite ready to say it is solely responsible for a reduction in the city’s crime rate, but they do credit the system with boosting cooperation among the agency’s units to an extent not seen in many years.

     The system, which combines computerized crime-mapping capability with increased command accountability, was launched in July after years of planning, said Deputy Chief Don Thorson, who sets the agenda....

Upcoming Events

     15-19. Police Executive Development. Presented by the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration. Concord, N.H. $545.

     15-19. Child Abuse: Intervention, Referral, Investigation. Presented by the Delinquency Control Institute. Lake Arrowhead Lodge, Calif. $1,000....

Time capsules

     Police unionization gets a major shot in the arm when the AFL-CIO recognizes the International Union of Police Associations as its official police affiliate. The IUPA, headed by longtime New York police union leader Edward J. Kiernan, starts with a base of 40,000 members in approximately 70 locals. Kiernan says the union would not eschew strikes as a labor strategy.

     The National Safety Council reports that the nation’s motor-vehicle fatality rate rose by 5 percent in 1978, to 51,900. The increase is linked to a greater numbers of vehicles on American roads, rather than to public disregard for the national 55-mph speed limit....