Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXXI, No. 628 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY January 2005

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
Number-crunching: Problems with crime stats in St. Louis and New Orleans. Page 1.
Throwing in the towel: FBI is about to give up on a computer upgrade effort. Page 1.
Case study in cooperation: PERF looks at Beltway Sniper case. Page 1.
Disarming development: In protest, some London bobbies refuse to carry guns. Page 4.
Short Takes: Easy-to-digest news capsules. Page 4.
Change of focus: Coalition of black groups wants more emphasis on prevention, not prison. Page 5.
Mass. appeal: Instant background checks win favor with gun buyers & sellers. Page 5.
No panacea: Maryland gun database has yet to yield results. Page 5.
People & Places: West Monroe doctrine; policing from scratch; thanks for the memory; now you see them, now you don’t. Page 6.
The LEN interview: Frederick, Md., Police Chief Kim Dine. Pages 7-9.
Forum: Kerik’s cons, and the heat of the spotlight. Page 10.

Sometimes the numbers crunch back

     Although the St. Louis Police Department erred when it made the transition from writing incident reports to writing more informal “crime memos,” there was no intent by the agency to manipulate the city’s crime statistics by undercounting more than 5,000 incidents in 2003, according to an audit-panel convened in December to investigate police crime-reporting procedures.

     That was apparently not the case in New Orleans, where five police officers were terminated and a sixth demoted last year after an investigation by the agency’s Public Integrity Bureau found they had downgraded the classification of felonies in their district to win coveted crime-reduction awards. ...

FBI throws in the towel on overdue, problem-plagued computer upgrade

     After four years and $170 million, the FBI conceded in January that a computer software system that was supposed to bring the agency’s technology up to the cutting edge will most likely be scrapped.

     Called the Virtual Case File, the software was the third component of Trilogy, a half-billion-dollar effort to overhaul the bureau’s antiquated computer system. It was no secret that the creation of the case-management system had been plagued by problems and delays, but the FBI has now given its strongest indication yet that the project would not be completed....

Working together: A case study
PERF report analyzes challenges & successes of Beltway Sniper investigation

     Although it was a singular event — killers who struck randomly from concealed locations — there is still much that law enforcement can learn about handling complex, high-profile investigations from studying the Beltway Sniper case, according to a new report by the Police Executive Research Forum.

     In “Managing a Multijurisdictional Case: Identifying Lessons Learned from the Sniper Investigation,” researchers examined the ways in which federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies overcame institutional barriers and developed ad hoc protocols for working together on a case that eventually spanned eight jurisdictions and involved more than 1,000 investigators....

Bobbies lay down their arms

     Protesting the suspensions of two of their own, more than 125 members of Scotland Yard’s specialized firearms squad handed in their “blue cards” in November, the document that authorizes their use of guns.

     The unprecedented action stemmed from a 1999 incident in which Inspector Neil Sharman and P.C. Kevin Flanagan shot and killed a man they mistakenly believed to be carrying a sawed-off shotgun. The victim, a 46-year-old painter and decorator named Harry Stanley, turned out to be carrying a Queen Ann-style table leg wrapped in plastic...

Short Takes - Arresting development

     Wisconsin law-enforcement officers made nearly twice as many arrests per capita in 2002 when compared with the national average, according to a study released in December by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

     In its report, the group found that Wisconsin recorded 8,286 arrests per 100,000 residents that year, compared to the national average of 4,839 per 100,000....

An end to run-on sentences
Coalition of black groups to focus on education, prevention

     Identifying drug abuse as a key reason why more African-American men are in prison today than attending college, a coalition of 10 black professional groups has set itself the task of reversing that trend within the next five years by calling for policies that focus on prevention and treatment rather than prison.

     By the end of 2000, 791,600 black men were in the nation’s prison system as compared to 603,032 who were enrolled in college, according to a study published two years ago by the Justice Policy Institute. Conversely, in 1980 the ratio of blacks in higher education institutions to those in prison in 1980 was 3 to 1....

Mass. appeal:
Instant background checks hit the bullseye

     By giving would-be gun purchasers and firearms stores little to complain about in terms of speed and efficiency, Massachusetts appears to have developed that rarest of birds: An electronic background-check system that has the blessing of both buyers and sellers.

     The Massachusetts Instant Record Check System is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation to have a biometric feature. A fingerprint scanner attached to a computer terminal links police departments and gun shops to a central database. Some 159 of the terminals have been installed at police departments around the state, and at four of its largest gun stores. By this coming summer, authorities would like to have it set up at all of Massachusetts’ 351 departments and all of its gun stores. ...

Md. firearms database is no crime panacea

     Collecting data on every handgun sold in the state has not helped a single criminal investigation, according to a report issued this month by the Maryland State Police.

     Since a law was adopted in 2000 that required the agency to establish a database on ballistic “fingerprints,” the state police has gathered information on more than 43,000 guns, at a cost of $2.5 million....

The LEN interview
Kim C. Dine
Police Chief of Frederick, Md.

     LAW ENFORCEMENT NEWS: In the aftermath of 9/11, many law enforcement agencies have had to incorporate a wide variety of extra duties into their schedules, particularly when the country goes into an elevated alert mode. How have the terrorist attacks affected your department?

     DINE: It is true that it has changed policing for the 17,000 some odd police agencies around the country. We all have to struggle with additional duties and responsibilities, training mandates — and most of the time without any additional funding. I took over here in 2002, with all of those thoughts of 9/11 pretty fresh in my head. We met with the command staff here, and we engaged in many in-depth discussions about what it is we should do to best prepare our agency for any kind of terrorism attack. We’re close to major cities, but we’re far enough to have a feeling that it can never happen here. It’s a nice feeling, but again, we are fairly close to major cities. Plus we have Fort Detrick right here in Frederick. ...