Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXX, No. 621 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY July 2004

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Reasons to smile: The 2003 UCR offers plenty.
No blinking: A new set of eyes for investigators.
A nose for contraband: On the job with the Beagle Brigade.
Sketchy profile? Promising yet troubling new DNA technique.
Promoting trouble: Staff crisis at the FBI.
Shots fired: Making it easier to track their origin.
Candid camera: Nefarious uses for cell phones.
People & Places: Cleared for takeoff; worldly wise; repeat performance; unwelcome spotlight; long-term thinking; ready for a closeup in Big D; Baltimore no-hitter; family affair.
Short Takes: Easy-to-digest news capsules.
Alien encounters: Immigration enforcement beckons Va. troopers.
The LEN Interview: Pittsburgh Police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr.
Criminal Justice Library: Powerful truths in “Kill Zone”
Criminal Justice Library: How Compstat changed the landscape.
Forum: The chronology of a gun; a thankless but important research task.
Oh, give me a home: Sheriff’s web site lets buyers know if a house was once a meth lab.

A sinus of the times
Drug stores ordered to restrict key meth ingredient

     Time has run out for Oklahoma’s pharmacies and retail outlets to comply with legislation that bans over-the-counter sales of cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine — by putting their inventory under lock and key, or in the case of groceries and convenience stores, getting it off the shelves entirely.

     The law, which was signed into law on April 6, is aimed at choking off the supply of the drug that is the key ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Under the new law, pseudoephedrine is now a Schedule V drug in Oklahoma, or one which does not require a prescription but cannot be sold without proper identification and a signature. While both Iowa and Missouri have similar laws, Oklahoma’s is the only one that restricts its sale to pharmacies. ...

Cops get an extra set of eyes

     It’s a device to make a film student jealous.

     “The Detective” is a video system that can analyze crime-scene tapes taken from several different angles. It can slow them down, splice and clarify images, magnify them, put the same camera angles together, and basically, watch an incident unfold from beginning to end as if it were a movie....

Why are mayors & chiefs smiling? 2003 UCR offers plenty of reasons

     New York City’s crime rate for 2003 sat comfortably between those of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Fremont, Calif., at 211th out of 230 cities with populations of more than 100,000, according to the preliminary statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

     UCR data, based on the reporting of nearly 12,000 agencies, showed a nationwide decrease of 3.2 percent in violent crime as compared to 2002. Aggravated assault showed the steepest decline, falling by 4.1 percent. Forcible rape and robbery both dropped by 1.9 percent. ...

Legal beagles sniff out edible contraband

     They’re cute and friendly, but when it comes to food, never underestimate the tenacity of a beagle, say inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who use the hounds at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to sniff out contraband plants, vegetables, meat and other items smuggled in from overseas.

     O’Hare’s Beagle Brigade was launched in 1988 and modeled after a similar agriculture detector dog program begun four years earlier in Los Angeles. It was integrated into the Department of Homeland Security in March when the U.S. Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization, Agriculture Inspection, Public Health, and Fish and Wildlife were merged under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection....

A sketchy profile?
New DNA technique breeds hope & concern

     A new tool to help police crack burglaries and other crimes where it’s tough to make an arrest? It sounds great, but forensic experts and some federal investigators are skeptical of a new technique called low copy DNA analysis that uses far fewer cells’ worth of genetic material to create a profile.

     Instead of the 150 or so cells needed for conventional genetic testing, low copy analysis makes it possible to use specimens gathered from smudged fingerprints, skin cells left inside a ski mask, and other samples previously considered too small for collection. ...

Washington, we have a problem:
Promotion system spells staff crisis for FBI

     The FBI is undergoing a crisis in staffing, according to current and former officials who say that a failed promotional system has resulted in dozens of key positions being left vacant, and hundreds of agents in supervisory positions who have little actual authority.

     The situation took a turn for the worse in May after a court found a promotional system devised by an outside firm to be flawed, but the problem has been ongoing for more than a decade. ...

Shots fired? It’s no mystery as to source

     To say that the trees are listening is no poetic whimsy, but rather a description of a new technology that is helping police in Franklin County, Ohio, locate precisely where a gunshot originated.

     The gadget is called SpotShotter and was developed by a Mountain View, Calif., firm of the same name. It works by affixing acoustic sensors to trees, telephone poles and structures. When a gunshot is detected, SpotShotter calculates the position from which the gun was fired, and sends the data over phone lines to a central server accessible to law-enforcement agencies, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. ...

Candid camera that’s nothing to smile about

     They have proven themselves as a great crime-fighting tool, but cell phone cameras can also be used to commit outrageous invasions of privacy — something that is not yet a crime, but soon will be if federal lawmakers have their way.

     Twenty states have already enacted laws making it illegal to videotape someone secretly, but some are trying to modify those to include snapping photos with a cell phone. ...

Short Takes: Easy-to-digest news capsules.

     More than a dozen suburban police departments in the Chicago area will participate in a program aimed at teaching officers how to become fitness trainers in their own agencies.

     The initiative was launched by the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, a group that manages liability claims for a number of jurisdictions. It hopes to establish fitness testing standards for it...

Alien encounters:
Immigration duties beckon Va. troopers

     If all goes as planned, the Virginia State Police will train some 30 troopers in immigration enforcement over the coming months after becoming the third state law-enforcement agency since Sept. 11, 2001, to receive such authority from the Department of Homeland Security.

     The state agency was still negotiating in May with the federal government for a Memorandum of Understanding. ...

The LEN interview
Robert W. McNeilly Jr.
Police Chief of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau

     LAW ENFORCEMENT NEWS: In recent years, the city of Pittsburgh has been in the grip of severe budget constraints. How is the situation affecting the Police Bureau? Do you have any idea of how bad things can get at this point, or how long the situation might last?

     McNEILLY: No, I don’t know, because there are a couple of different groups looking at the city’s finances right now. We have the Oversight Board that is reviewing all of the finances. And we also have people from Act 47 who are reviewing all the finances, and I guess they will be making recommendations within the next coming months....

Learning experience:
Powerful, enlightening truths in “Kill Zone”

     No other person, police executive or otherwise, has had more experience with police shootings than have I. Dating back to the early 60’s, I have been involved in either the investigation or the review of LAPD officer-involved shootings. I even go back to the time when a young lawyer by the name of Johnny Cochran first came to the public’s attention. Johnny represented the Deadwyler family in what was at the time a very controversial police shooting, sensationalized by the electronic and print media. It was the first time that a coroner’s inquest was televised. Johnny lost the case, because of the very detailed police investigation, which was honest and forthright in assessing the facts regarding the shooting. It turned out to be an accidental shooting, precipitated in large part by the erratic actions of Deadwyler. I played a significant role in the investigation of that shooting.

     From 1968 to 1992 I reviewed every Los Angeles police shooting and/or major use of force. Whenever a Los Angeles police officer discharged his firearm a detailed investigation is conducted. I reviewed them all for over 24 years....

Got a revolution:
How Compstat changed the landscape

     No other program in law enforcement has had as profound an effect on how the police do their job and how they are held accountable for their performance as Compstat, the New York City Police Department’s revolutionary crime-fighting system. Vincent Henry, a retired NYPD sergeant with a Ph.D. in criminal justice, does a fine job in his book “The Compstat Paradigm,” exploring the roots and origins of Compstat, its effect on the New York City Police Department, and its residual impact on other police agencies nationwide.

     This reviewer has read similar texts concerning Compstat: William Bratton’s “Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic,” and Jack Maple’s: “The Crime Fighter: Putting The Bad Guys Out of Business.” Both texts are well written and effectively address major issues in policing, but Henry’s text serves as the starting point, the brick and mortar for the creation of a process that has dramatically changed the way police function...

Was that house once a meth lab? Sheriff’s web site offers help to buyers

     The Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department has launched a new Web site that lists all of the locations of methamphetamine labs busted in the jurisdiction’s unincorporated areas, as a way of helping potential home buyers and renters.

     According to experts, residue left by production of the drug can sicken residents even years later. Said Sheriff Jim Alderden, potential house buyers have the right to know if their home was the site of “toxic waste dump.”...