Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXX, No. 619 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY June 2004

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Speaking in tongues: Phoenix tries Arabic language training.
A strangler returns: Wichita hopes new clues will break case.
Before & after: Photos may be key when executing search warrants.
In the swim: Water skills are less crucial than diversity.
Getting along: The growing appeal of sharing ideas & resources.
People & Places: Vive la France; Berry nice; ballot boxing; gender bender; Fagan’s fadeout.
Short Takes: News in easy-to-swallow capsule form.
Courtside seats: Recent rulings from state courts.
Too much of a good thing: Is medical privacy law backfiring?
Going public: Sheriff makes his budgetary case in print.
Off the hook: DoJ closes the book on two Louisiana agencies.
Criminal Justice Library: The competing needs of liberty & order.
Other Voices: Editorial views from the nation’s newspapers.
Time Capsules: Events of 25 years ago.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.

Caution urged in analyzing traffic-stop data for race bias

     With so many different benchmarks to use when analyzing traffic stop data, which one is the best? All and none, so long as the results are reported responsibly, according to a new guidebook by the Police Executive Research Forum that explores the strengths and weaknesses of five different baselines.

     In “By the Numbers: A Guide for Analyzing Race Data from Vehicle Stops,” researchers posit that few jurisdictions have been able to properly analyze their results. Some are ill-equipped for the task, they say, while others have been misinformed about what needs to be done. ...

Disparity doesn’t mean bias

     Despite a disparity between the percentage of licensed African-American drivers in North Carolina and number of traffic citations they received in 2000, researchers from the University of North Carolina found no evidence of systemic bias on the part of the state Highway Patrol.

     The study, released earlier this year, showed that blacks accounted for 21.2 percent of all licensed drivers in the state that year. Though they received 24.9 percent of all citations, the disparity was not enough to suggest racial profiling, the study said....

Language-skills training takes a Middle Eastern turn in Phoenix

     Along with Spanish, Vietnamese and even American Sign Language, Arabic has been added to the language and culture classes that the Phoenix Police Department encourages its officers to take.

     In March, the department sent 60 officers to the course that teaches basic commands, greetings and medical terms. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, an estimated 6,200 Phoenix residents speak Arabic at home, and city employees who work in the field have reported meeting many who are not proficient in English....

The return of a strangler:
Wichita police hope new clues lead to killer

     It might not sound like much to go on, but a photocopy of a driver’s license and some pictures might contain the clues that will finally lead detectives in Wichita, Kan., to the identity of a serial killer whose reign of terror began two decades ago and appeared to have ended 12 years later..

     The murders by the man called the BTK Strangler, which is said to be an acronym for “Bind, Torture, Kill,” began in 1974 and when they stopped, seven people had been either stabbed or strangled. ...

In executing search warrants, before & after pictures may be worth 1,000 words

     Police in Roanoke, Va., will take “before” and “after” shots of homes where they have executed search warrants, under a new policy aimed at disproving claims that officers ransacked residences.

     “It’s much like the cameras in the cars,” Police Chief Joe Gaskins told The Roanoke Times & World News. “It certainly gives a measure of confidence to the citizens that we’re going to do the right thing and it validates that the officers go in and do the right thing, so it’s a win-win situation for the officers and the community.” ...

Recruitment isn’t going swimmingly
Department dumps water-skills standard in interest of diversity

     Having a diverse police force is more important than having one that knows how to swim, according to North Miami, Fla., officials, who agreed in April to suspend for one year a prerequisite that some believed was hindering minority recruitment.

     For the past three decades, the department has required that applicants be able to swim 150 feet without stopping, wearing a full uniform except for their shoes. The problem is that many, if not most, of the African Americans and Haitian Americans the agency sought to attract have never developed that skill....

Plays well with others:
Sharing ideas, resources has growing appeal

     Criminals generally know no geographic or jurisdictional boundaries and now, in some regions of the country, neither will the law enforcement agencies charged with apprehending them.

     Police and sheriff’s departments in Midwestern and New England states are sharing information, personnel and strategies in an effort to give the public more comprehensive protection from crime....

Car 54, where are you?

     Along with the ability to file reports, look up criminal histories and watch live dispatch entries from their cars, police officers in Sandy, Utah, can now see the locations of their own cruisers and those of other active duty personnel on their vehicles’ computer screens.

     The Auto Vehicle Locator (AVL), a global positioning system, was installed last year as part of a $70,000 technology upgrade of the department’s fleet that was paid for with a federal grant. It allows officers at command posts and in vehicles to track the location of any patrol vehicle....

In the courts: Parents, FOI, tickets & tongues

     Police should not be the ones to suggest that parents or guardians leave the room while the interrogation of a minor is being conducted, the New Jersey Supreme Court has warned.

     The caution was given as part of a ruling that upheld, in this instance, the confession of a juvenile involved in a sexual assault case. The boy was 12 when he allegedly committed sexual assaults on three girls in Gloucester County in January 2002....

Too much of a good thing?
Med privacy law has consequences for cops

     Leaders of the union representing New York State Police troopers are speaking out about a policy that allows agency officials access to troopers’ medical records, which are constitutionally protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

     Enacted in 1996 by Congress and implemented in April 2003, HIPAA, as it is known, places broad restrictions on access to patient information — to the extent that some police investigations are being hampered by the medical privacy law....

The issue that won’t go away:
Nationwide, profiling concerns still rankle

     Police departments in Massachusetts may use up to $500 in community policing funds to counter the findings of a study by Northeastern University which found wide discrepancies in stops of black and white drivers in some cities.

     State Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn approved the request by 29 police chiefs, who claimed that the study’s findings maligned their departments....

DoJ lets two Louisiana agencies off the hook

     The U.S. Justice Department recently cleared one Louisiana police department of civil rights violations in the death of an unarmed black man, and closed an eight-year investigation into alleged brutality at another agency.

     In Shreveport, a yearlong investigation into the death of 25-year-old Marquise Hudspeth found that police had committed no federal crime. ...

A delicate balance:
The competing needs of liberty & order

     The 18th century philosopher David Hume wrote in his “Essay on the Origin of Government” that “liberty is the perfection of civil society, but still authority must be acknowledged essential to its very existence....” But when liberty went awry, Hume believed that society would necessarily select authority over liberty for the sake of stability under the rule of law. Authoritarian rule enforced by a policing or military body is a common reaction to anarchy. Many if not most authoritarian governments and laws in world history arose because of disorder within or threats from without. The ancient Romans, realizing a need for extreme authority in times of great crisis, wrote the temporary office of dictator into their constitution. The Romans did not foresee the corruption of this constitutional office by Julius Caesar and his descendants. When civility breaks down, when legal foundations and institutions are weak, society usually reverts on a long-term basis to draconian law and a tyrant to impose or restore order.

     America has been fortunate in that it has achieved a certain balance between liberty and order. In trying times, such as the Civil War, World War II, and the period after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we have allowed the government to impose extreme law enforcement measures. When the crisis passes we usually revert to our more liberty-conscious way of life in reaction to the infringement on our freedoms. We need only think of the rapid passage and then revocation of the Alien and Sedition Acts, passed under President John Adams in the face of the French Revolutionary threat in the 1790s. The history of policing in America illustrates well the country’s need for order balanced against its thirst for personal liberty. In order to keep this balance, it does us well to study the lessons of history. ...

Other Voices
A National ID

     The very idea of a national identity card has always rankled Americans across the political spectrum. It conjures images of totalitarianism. But in most European countries, people carry national ID’s as a matter of course. And pressure is mounting in America for some kind of security card. It’s time for Congress to begin a serious discussion of how to create a workable national identification system without infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans. Driver’s licenses are well on their way to becoming ‘’de facto’’ national ID’s. Their inappropriateness is one of the most compelling reasons for a national identification card. The states have wildly different standards for determining whether applicants for driver’s licenses really are who they say they are, making them only minimally reliable for security purposes. And turning driver’s licenses into identification cards undermines their original purpose — to make certain that drivers are qualified to handle a car or truck. The very rational argument in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses — that it would encourage them to learn to drive safely and to obtain insurance — is undermined if the licenses are also used to demonstrate that a person is not a security risk. The concept of a national ID card…presents a host of possible problems, not all of them related to civil liberties. Almost any identification card that can be created can be counterfeited, and a fake supersecurity pass would present more dangers than a fake driver’s license. If ever there was a good subject for a study commission, this is it. Congress or President Bush should get the best minds, the experts on security, civil liberties and technology, to start wrestling with the most nettlesome issues in this debate. How, for instance, would government agencies ensure that documents submitted to obtain an ID card — like birth certificates or driver’s licenses — were not forged? How could access to the central database be limited and protected against misuse, particularly by law enforcement? A card might help Americans move through airports more easily or even cash checks more rapidly. But it would probably have to be voluntary. That also means the police must not be allowed to harass those who choose not to have it. If we’re going to move to a national identification card, we can’t afford to do it badly. Now is the time to figure out how to create a card that helps identify people but doesn’t rob them of their civil liberties in the process.

     The New York Times, May 31, 2004...

Time Capsules

     U.S. Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti suggests that “some form of mild marijuana” might be legalized in order to stanch the enormous profits being reaped by a “hoodlum drug society.” While Civiletti stressed that he still favors stronger enforcement of illegal trafficking in the drug, his suggestion regarding limited legalization gets no better than a lukewarm reaction from other federal officials, including DEA Administrator Peter Bensinger and Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano, who say they will continue to support restrictive marijuana policies, even in cases involving medical use....


Upcoming Events

     12. Chemical & Biological Terrorism for Security Professionals. Presented by the S2 Institute. Clearwater, Fla.

     12-14. “Master Street Narc” Course. Presented by Investigators Drug School. Houston....