Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 — Good Morning, Stay Safe
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40 PDS Det. Edwin Vargas Hacks into His Fellow Detectives' E-mail Accounts
NYPD detective hacked into computers to get fellow officers' email, cell phone info: Feds
Prosecutors didn't give a motive for Edwin Vargas' alleged cyber crimes, but several NYPD sources and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the detective was looking to see who his ex-girlfriend, also a cop, was chatting with.
By Dareh Gregorian AND Ginger Adams Otis — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Daily News'
COMMENT: And the D.E.A. is defending him ?? - Mike Bosak
An NYPD detective hacked into computers to collect private email accounts and passwords of 21 fellow officers and nine other people to snoop on his ex-girlfriend, authorities said Tuesday.
Edwin Vargas, 42, of Bronxville, was charged with conspiracy to commit hacking and computer hacking — charges that could send him away for a year, the U.S. attorney's office said.
He was arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court and released on $50,000 bond. Vargas, a 20-year veteran and father of a 3-year-old boy, did not speak during the proceeding.
He was ordered not to travel outside the city beyond Westchester County or Long Island, and authorities can monitor his online activity and review his cell phone records, the judge said.
Vargas' lawyer James Moschella said his client was "shocked" by the day's events.
"He has dedicated his life to keeping the public safe and has never been in any trouble before," the lawyer said.
Prosecutors didn't give a motive for Vargas' alleged cyber crimes, but according to several NYPD sources and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the detective was looking to see who his ex-girlfriend, also a cop, was chatting with.
"I know that the allegations have to do with the fact that he went to a company to be able to hack into information that may have been related to a relationship he had with a young woman and I believe the mother of his child," said Kelly.
The detective, assigned to the 40th Precinct in the Bronx, hired a hacking service between March 2011 and October 2012 to obtain the passwords and usernames for email accounts belonging to NYPD officers, the criminal complaint says.
He paid at least $4,000 to an independent company in exchange for the passwords to at least 43 personal email accounts belonging to as many as 30 people, according to the criminal complaint filed in Southern District Court.
Vargas accessed at least one personal email account of a fellow NYPD officer, identified only as Victim 1, the complaint said. He also looked at another cop's cell phone to see who was sending him text messages, the complaint said.
Vargas also twice tapped into the federal National Crime Information Center database without authorization to look up information on two cops whose private email accounts he'd secretly obtained, authorities alleged.
Officials searching his hard drive found a list of at least 20 email addresses, along with what appears to be telephone numbers, home addresses, and vehicle information corresponding to those email addresses, as well as what appear to be the passwords for those addresses.
With Rocco Parascandola
NYPD Officer Accused of Hacking Into Other Officers' Emails
By Tamer El-Ghobashy — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The Wall Street Journal' / New York, NY
A New York Police Department detective has been charged with illegally obtaining the personal e-mail login information for at least 43 people, including 20 current and former officers, in addition to accessing a federal database without authorization, federal officials said on Tuesday.
Edwin Vargas, a 42-year-old detective assigned to the 40th Precinct in the Bronx, allegedly paid $4,010 to an internet based "e-mail hacking service" for the passwords to the e-mail accounts that belong to 30 different people, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Manhattan.
Of those people, 19 were current NYPD officers, one was a retired officer and one is a member of the NYPD's civilian administrative staff, the complaint said. In addition, he allegedly used the federal National Crime Information Center to gather information on two of the NYPD officers whose e-mail accounts he targeted, the complaint said.
Mr. Vargas' alleged motive for the spying was not disclosed by federal officials. But a law enforcement official said the alleged victims of Mr. Vargas' spying were related to his personal life and not his duties as a detective.
Mr. Vargas, of Bronxville, was taken into custody on Tuesday and was awaiting a court appearance. He could not be reached for comment. He has been charged with a single count each of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and computer hacking. Each carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, federal prosecutors said.
NYPD officials said he has been suspended with pay, which is standard procedure when members are accused of committing crimes.
"As alleged, Detective Edwin Vargas paid thousands of dollars for the ability to illegally invade the privacy of his fellow officers and others," the United States Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara said in a news release.
According to the complaint, Mr. Vargas engaged in the hack between March 2011 and October 2012 and stored the information on his NYPD computer at the Bronx stationhouse he was assigned to. He is also accused of hacking the cellular phone of one of his targets and keeping records of home addresses and vehicle information for 20 of the subjects he targeted.
NYPD Detective Accused of Hacking into Other Cops' Emails
By Shimon Prokupecz and Joe Valiquette (NBC News - New York) — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013; 12:01 p.m. EDT
An NYPD detective is accused of cyberstalking his ex-girlfriend and hacking into the emails of other cops in his precinct because he thought she was cheating on him, NBC 4 New York has learned.
Law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York that the 42-year-old Bronx detective, Edwin Vargas, was arrested Tuesday by the FBI and NYPD Internal Affairs.
Sources say Internal Affairs first began questioning Vargas about a month ago about stalking his ex-girlfriend online, and then investigators learned he had allegedly been hacking into the email accounts of other cops.
In all, he allegedly tried to spy on more than 40 email accounts, including 21 with the NYPD, sources said. He is accused of hiring email hacking services to perform the break-ins, and is suspected of engaging in the illegal activity from 2010 to 2012, spending more than $4,000 for the information.
He is also accused of inappropriately accessing the National Crime Information Center, a database run by the FBI.
Vargas is charged in federal court with one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and one count of computer hacking.
"Of all places, the police department is not a workplace where one should have to be concerned about an unscrupulous fellow employee," FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said in a statement.
Information on an attorney was not immediately available.
Vargas and the ex-girlfriend have a child together, sources said.
Bronx Officer Is Accused of Hiring E-Mail Hackers
By J. DAVID GOODMAN — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Times'
It was the sort of discovery that is usually the mark of good police work: A Bronx detective came upon an online criminal enterprise that offered — for a low price — to hack into private e-mail accounts.
But the detective was not seeking to build a case against the outfit, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday. Rather, prosecutors said, he became a client.
Using information bought from the hackers, the detective, Edwin Vargas, obtained login information for at least 43 e-mail accounts associated with 30 people, including at least 19 members of the New York Police Department in the Bronx, according to a complaint unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The reason for the digital snooping appeared to be personal, law enforcement officials said: Detective Vargas, 42, suspected a former girlfriend — also an employee of the Police Department, an official said — had started a new relationship with a fellow officer. Detective Vargas and the woman had a child together, officials said, but had broken up.
"A 20-year veteran of the Police Department, never before under suspicion for any impropriety, let alone any criminal activity," James Moschella, a lawyer for the detective's union, said of Detective Vargas, whom he represented at the arraignment. Detective Vargas was released on $50,000 bond.
"It's my understanding that some of the victims are detectives as well," said Michael J. Palladino, the head of the detectives' union. "It would be inappropriate for me to comment any further."
Prosecutors said that over the course of two years beginning in 2010, Detective Vargas contacted the e-mail hacking group multiple times and paid about $4,050 for the login information for accounts of fellow officers and some private citizens. He paid between $50 and $250 per account, according to the complaint, using a credit card or PayPal account registered to his Bronx address.
The low prices suggested that, for the hackers, the e-mail account information was not difficult to obtain.
It was not clear what was done with the information obtained. Detective Vargas is accused of gaining access to only one of the accounts for which he obtained login details. The complaint did not identify those targeted.
Prosecutors also accused the detective of accessing online records for a cellphone belonging to one of the victims.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation along with the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau. Law enforcement officials said it was during the course of a broader, continuing investigation into a Los Angeles-based e-mail hacking operation that investigators found accounts belonging to the New York police officers had been hacked. Detective Vargas, who joined the department in 1993, was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and of unlawful access to a law enforcement database.
The second charge came from what prosecutors said was an unauthorized use of a national crime database by Detective Vargas to look up information about two officers whose e-mails he had also obtained.
He did so, prosecutors said, from a Bronx precinct where he worked, though the complaint did not specify which one. Detective Vargas had worked at the 44th Precinct, where officials said some of the police officers targeted were based, but was currently assigned to the 40th Precinct.
"Of all places, the Police Department is not a workplace where one should have to be concerned about an unscrupulous fellow employee," said George Venizelos, the head of the F.B.I.'s New York office.
U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release May 21, 2013
Southern District of New York (212) 637-2600
Manhattan U.S. Attorney and FBI Assistant Director in Charge Announce Arrest of New York Police Department Detective for Computer Hacking
Alleged Victims in 19 Current NYPD Officers, a Retired Officers, and a Current Member of NYPD's Administrative Staff
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced today the arrest of Edwin Vargas, a detective with the New York City Police Department (NYPD), for computer hacking crimes. Vargas was arrested this morning outside his residence in Bronxville, New York, and will be presented in Manhattan federal court later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "As alleged, Detective Edwin Vargas paid thousands of dollars for the ability to illegally invade the privacy of his fellow officers and others. He is also alleged to have illegally obtained information about two officers from a federal database to which he had access based on his status as an NYPD detective. When law enforcement officers break the laws they are sworn to uphold, they do a disservice to their fellow officers, to the department, and to the public they serve, and it will not be tolerated."
FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said, "As alleged, the defendant illegally acquired log-in information for the e-mail accounts of dozens of people, including police department co-workers. Of all places, the police department is not a workplace where one should have to be concerned about an unscrupulous fellow employee. Unlike the e-mail accounts, the defendant didn't need to pay anyone to gain access to the NCIC database. But access is not authorization, and he had no authorization."
According to the complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
E-mail hacking services have the ability to gain unauthorized access to any e-mail account in exchange for a fee. Between March 2011 and October 2012, Vargas, an NYPD detective assigned to a precinct in the Bronx, hired an e-mail hacking service to obtain log-in credentials, such as the password and username, for certain e-mail accounts. In total, Vargas purchased at least 43 personal e-mail accounts and one cellular phone belonging to at least 30 different individuals, including 21 who are affiliated with the NYPD; of those 21, 19 are current NYPD officers, one is a retired NYPD officer, and one is on the NYPD's administrative staff.
After receiving the log-in credentials he had purchased from the e-mail hacking services, Vargas accessed at least one personal e-mail account belonging to a current NYPD officer. He also accessed an online cellular telephone account belonging to another victim. Vargas paid a total of more than $4,000 to entities associated with the e-mail hacking services.
An examination of the contents of the hard drive from Vargas' NYPD computer revealed, among other things, that the Contacts section of his Gmail account included a list of at least 20 e-mail addresses, along with what appear to be telephone numbers, home addresses, and vehicle information corresponding to those e-mail addresses, as well as what appear to be the passwords for those e-mail addresses.
Vargas also accessed the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a federal database, to obtain information about at least two NYPD officers without authorization.
The e-mail accounts of those two officers were among the e-mail accounts Vargas paid the e-mail hacking services to hack into so he could obtain log-in credentials.
* * *
Vargas, 42, of Bronxville, New York, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and one count of computer hacking. Each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI. He also thanked the NYPD and its Internal Affairs Bureau for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office's Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Rosemary Nidiry is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty
Public Support For Raymond Kelly Mayoral Run Drops Drastically; 45% Want Independent Inspector General for NYPD
New mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has less support among voters than he did last month: poll
By DAVID SEIFMAN — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Post'
Even Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would grab only 32 percent of the electorate if he decided to take a shot at running for mayor as an independent candidate not affiliated with any party.
Only a couple of issues made a stark difference to voters.
Forty-five percent said they'd be more likely to support a candidate who favored an inspector general for the NYPD, compared to 18 percent who said they'd be less likely.
Question and Frisk Search
Judicial Fixes Are Debated As Police-Stops Trial Ends
Closing Arguments Are Made in Trial Over Stop-and-Frisk
By SEAN GARDINER — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The Wall Street Journal' / New York, NY
Closing arguments Monday in the trial over the New York Police Department's polarizing practice of stopping, questioning and frisking people whom officers deem suspicious leapt ahead to fixes a federal judge could make to the policy, even though the city hadn't been found liable in the case.
The lawsuit, filed in 2008 by the Center for Constitutional Rights, has been heard in Manhattan federal court at a bench trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin. Dozens of witnesses, including people stopped on the street by the police and many NYPD officials, have testified over the past 10 weeks.
It will be up to Judge Scheindlin to decide one of the case's major issues and one debated sharply by the opposing lawyers on Monday: whether the police department should be overseen, as the plaintiffs would like, by a federal monitor to ensure it complies with any court-ordered changes to the NYPD's stop-question-and-frisk policy.
Heidi Grossman, a city attorney, told Judge Scheindlin that a monitor would have a "significantly detrimental effect" on NYPD morale and would undermine the police department's chain of command. She said the NYPD already provided sufficient training, supervision and analysis of its officers' stops and continued to work to improve stop-and-frisk oversight.
"The department must be able to work on its own to effect change," she said adding the NYPD could do so "much more quickly and effectively without a monitor."
Jonathan Moore, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, argued for a series of changes, including that the form used by officers when they make a stop incorporates "sufficient room for a narrative" detailing the reasonable suspicion for making the stops. He said it would allow supervisors and outsiders a better ability to analyze if the stops were legal.
Mr. Moore also said those who are stopped should receive a carbon copy of the form that includes the officer's name and badge number, and information about how to lodge a complaint.
"We believe that there should be a monitor with sufficient power to make sure these changes are implemented by the police department," Mr. Moore said.
When asked by Judge Scheindlin if they were in favor of police wearing body cameras as a way of ensuring that stops are legal, Mr. Moore replied, "I think it's something that should be considered," perhaps only, he added later, on a pilot basis.
The case is now in the hands of Judge Scheindlin, who has had a role in earlier fights over the police policy. A year ago, in granting class-action status to the lawsuit, she declared she had found "overwhelming evidence" the policy had led to thousands of unlawful arrests.
The policy on street stops has resulted in more than five million stops during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure. More than 85% of those stopped were black or Hispanic, and nearly 90% were released without being charged with a crime.
The city has contended that the statistics were in line with the percentages of those people suspected of offenses, and that the policy has been an important factor in the city's falling crime rate.
The lawsuit claims the policy violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which prohibits illegal searches and seizures, as well as the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which is often invoked to fight laws seen as racially discriminatory.
Arguing for the plaintiffs Monday, attorney Gretchen Hoff Varner told Judge Scheindlin that the policy "has laid siege to the black and Latino neighborhoods…making people of color afraid to leave their homes."
Based on the evidence presented at trial, Ms. Hoff Varner said it appeared "the NYPD believes race is a proxy for reasonable suspicion" to stop people.
But Ms. Grossman told the court there was "no indication of racial motivation" in any of the stop-question-and-frisk encounters testified about during the trial. She said the narratives of the 12 witnesses were "woefully lacking" in proving the center's contention that the stops violated the Constitution. "They failed to show a single constitutional violation much less a widespread pattern or practice," Ms. Grossman said.
Samuel Walker, a criminal-justice professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska who testified for the plaintiffs, said in a later interview with The Wall Street Journal that the sheer size and influence of the NYPD means that Judge Scheindlin's rulings would have national importance.
Any changes the judge orders to the NYPD's policy "will send a message to the rest of the law-enforcement community, 'you can no longer do this type of thing and if you do can be sued.' Or if the judge goes the other way then, 'you can continue to do that.' Either way, it's going to have a huge impact."
Judge's Decision Awaited in NYC Stop and Frisk Trial
By Michele Bowman — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 'Lawyer.Com'
Closing arguments wrapped up on May 20 in Floyd v. City of New York, the first trial to spotlight New York City's controversial "stop and frisk" law enforcement program, which plaintiffs say amounts to unconstitutional racial profiling.
Data Indicated Problems
Stop and frisk is a program used by the NYPD to stop, pat down, and question people who police believe are acting suspiciously. The stops peaked in 2011 at 700,000, according to ABC News, but dropped off in 2012 to 533,000.
Eighty-five to 90 percent of New Yorkers stopped under the program are black and Latino, even though these two groups make up only 52 percent of the city's population, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the plaintiffs.
An earlier lawsuit forced the city to change its street crime tactics in 2003 and submit quarterly reports concerning racial profiling; CCR says data from those reports shows that the stop and frisk program continues to violate its targets' civil rights.
The trial, which began on March 18 and took place in front of a judge and not a jury, featured arguments over how the NYPD trained officers, whether the department was using illegal arrest quotas, testimony by a department snitch who secretly recorded his instructions to stop "male blacks, 14 to 20," and protests from supervisors that officers are really stopping people for "furtive movements."
David Floyd, the named plaintiff, is a medical student in Queens. He and the other plaintiffs in the case say that they and thousands of other New Yorkers have been stopped under the program without cause, based only on the fact that they are black, according to CCR. They testified about their humiliation and abuse at the hands of the NYPD.
The city argued that stop and frisk is used primarily in high-crime areas, where more blacks and Hispanics live. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told a New York public radio station, "Ninety-six percent of the shooting victims in New York City are black or Hispanic. Crime is down in this city in the last two decades 80 percent."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg even got involved, complaining – from outside the courtroom – that the lawsuit threatened to take away "the tools [police] need to protect innocent lives," and saying the program is necessary to combat terrorism and keep guns off the streets and crime at record lows.
'High Error Rate'
"There is no race-based reason that the plaintiffs can come forward with," said a lawyer for the city during closing arguments. She also insisted that while the city uses "productivity goals," those are not the same as quotas.
But others question the effectiveness of stop and frisk. Police recovered illegal guns in only .14 percent of the stops, said one of the plaintiffs' lawyers during her closing argument. Another plaintiffs' lawyer pointed to shortcomings in training, failures of supervision, and the "deliberate indifference" of the city regarding the discipline of officers, according to CCR.
Ninety percent of stops under the program do not result in arrests – a "high error rate," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin worried aloud. She also reportedly indicated that she was interested in the idea of having police officers wear cameras. The plaintiffs want the NYPD to be monitored by an outside entity as one of their remedies. They also want the city to change the way NYPD trains and supervises its officers.
The judge said she would rule on the case promptly but couldn't promise when that would be.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Times' Editorial:
Stop-and-Frisk on Trial
Judge Shira Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, got to the heart of the problem with the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program on Monday, after hearing testimony for two months in the civil rights case, Floyd v. City of New York. The plaintiffs charge the department with illegally detaining hundreds of thousands of people on the streets each year not because of suspicious behavior but because of their race.
Judge Scheindlin noted that nearly 90 percent of the time the police found no criminal behavior and that officers almost never uncovered guns, even when they believed there was a "suspicious bulge" in the person's clothing. (Evidence introduced at trial showed that guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops and in one of every 69 stops in which officers claimed to have seen such a bulge.)
During closing arguments on Monday, the judge criticized the Police Department's "high error rate" and observed that "a lot of people are being frisked or searched on suspicion of having a gun and nobody has a gun."
Even though black and Hispanic people make up more than 85 percent of those stopped in most years, the city has denied that the stops are based on race. Yet the trial has produced voluminous evidence to the contrary, including a troubling recording secretly made earlier this year by Officer Pedro Serrano of the 40th Precinct in the South Bronx. In the recording, a superior officer is heard urging Officer Serrano to stop and, if necessary, frisk "the right people at the right time, the right location." When asked by Officer Serrano for more specifics, the superior said: "I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21."
The city has long claimed that so many minorities are stopped because they commit more crime. But when a lawyer for the city raised this explanation, the judge rightly called it "worrisome" and wondered if it might lead officers to single out people based on race instead of suspicion of criminal behavior, as the law requires.
The Bloomberg administration has lashed out at critics of the program, describing them as indifferent to street crime. The truth is that stopping hundreds of thousands of law-abiding residents — who don't need to be deterred from violent behavior — does not reduce crime. It is possible to protect public safety without running roughshod over people's constitutional rights. The next mayor would do well to understand that.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Post' Editorial:
When judges dish
For those who hope the facts and law will decide the constitutionality of the NYPD's stop-question-and-frisk program, presiding Judge Shira Scheindlin is sending the world a message: Not in my court.
Her most recent signal comes in the form of three interviews the judge granted to the AP, The New Yorker and the New York Law Journal. Even though Scheindlin doesn't directly comment on the case, it's extraordinary for a judge to give interviews that skate so close to the issues involved.
Seems the judge is sensitive about "below the belt" and "disgraceful" suggestions she's prejudged the case. She also denies she's a judicial activist. But she sure has a funny way of advancing her argument.
She rejoices, for example, when "there is no precedent that constrains you and you can really strike out and write what you think is the right answer." State judges she dismisses as too "fearful" or wanting a "promotion." And many federal judges are "more cautious than they should be."
No one would accuse Scheindlin of caution. From the start of this trial, she hasn't been shy about letting the city know how dubious she is about police judgment.
As one of her ex-law clerks told The New Yorker: "What you have to remember about the judge is that she thinks cops lie."
Which brings to mind her colleague, Judge Nicholas Garaufis. For years, Garaufis has been trying to remake the FDNY according to his own racial formulas. But he was just slapped down by a US Court of Appeals, which found that an objective observer would have reason to question "the judge's impartiality" in assessing evidence.
What would an objective observer say about Judge Scheindlin?
Does Stop-And-Frisk Work? Debating A Controversial Police Tactic
By Gene Demby — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013; 5:38 p.m. 'NPR News' / Washington, DC
A federal court is set to decide on the lawfulness of stop-and-frisk, New York City's controversial policing strategy meant to stop gun violence. The policy gives police officers wide discretion to stop, question, and in some cases, pat down people they suspect are carrying illegal guns.
But the numbers are jarring: of the 533,000 stops made last year, nearly nine in 10 were black or Latino. (There have been nearly 5 million stops in the city over the last decade.) Only about 10 percent of those stops were subsequently given summonses or arrested, and the stops yielded a total of 780 weapons.
City officials, including the Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have long argued that those numbers can be chalked up to the makeups of the neighborhoods with the most gun violence and say that the victims of gun violence are overwhelmingly black and Latino. "I can't imagine any rational person saying that the techniques are not working and that we should stop them," Bloomberg said.
But critics say that the stops violate the civil rights and essentially criminalize entire neighborhoods.
Our friends at Tell Me More are getting into the weeds of stop-and-frisk in the first of a two-part series. Today, they talk to some of the policy's vocal critics. Tomorrow, they'll speak to some of the policy's defenders inside the NYPD and elsewhere.
David Harris of the University of Pittsburgh Law School said that the policy is ineffective, if not counterproductive to policing:
Targeting them based on their racial or ethnic appearance is not a successful crime fighting strategy, despite what the Commissioner and the Mayor seem to believe. What they say is, 'See it's working!' By this method, they say, of instilling fear in people – 'We don't want people to carry their guns, that's why they do this.' So, they win either way. Targeting people based on race or ethnicity has never been shown – not in New York, not in anywhere else where this has been statistically tracked — to be the successful way to get guns, to get drugs, to get bad guys, because what you do, is you force people overall to pay an enormous cost, across an entire racial or ethnic group, for the actions of a very few people, and it also leaves out the fact that you could certainly use other methods, as other cities do, to force crime down that don't rely on this kind of very aggressive stop and frisk activity that embarrasses and humiliates, and most importantly drives people away from police.
Delores Jones Brown of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, suggested the NYPD employ different tactics that might be just as effective:
There are other policing tactics – something called "hot spots policing" that's being used by the NYPD that doesn't necessarily involve stop-and-frisk that researchers have found have in fact contributed to the crime reduction in the city. So, one of my suggestions recently has been to do more of that, and less of stop-and-frisk, because we can see a direct causal relationship between that kind of a practice – hot spots policing or something else, where we focus on the few dangerous people that can be identified individually and remove those people from the street, while leaving the law-abiding people alone.
In my view, the department is engaging in something I call "appearance profiling." And so, if they see a young Black or Latino male in certain types of clothing, like a hoodie or sagging pants, and they appear to be between certain ages, they automatically suspect them of criminality. But there's nothing criminal about being young, being Black, being Latino, being male and wearing sagging pants or a hooded sweatshirt or wearing particular colors that the police assume are gang-related.
Stop-and-frisk judge ponders body cameras
By JOHN RILEY — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 'New York Newsday' / Melville, L.I.
The judge overseeing a challenge to NYPD stop-and-frisk tactics said she was "intrigued" by the idea of requiring the police to use body cameras that would record street stops as the 10-week trial in federal court in Manhattan came to an end Monday.
"Everyone would know exactly what occurred," said U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who brought the idea up on her own and suggested a pilot project in a few precincts. "I'm intrigued. It seems it would solve a lot of problems."
The exchange occurred near the end of a long day of closing arguments in a case testing claims that police, while conducting 4.4 million stops since 2004, have repeatedly intervened without the "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity required by the Supreme Court, and have disproportionately targeted minorities. Only one in 10 people stopped is issued a summons or arrested.
Scheindlin, if she finds against the city, has been asked to order improvements in training and supervision, name a court monitor, and even have cops hand out a copy of a form documenting the stop to the target to create accountability.
The judge caught both sides by surprise by bringing up cameras, which she said a city expert mentioned were used elsewhere last week. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said it was a good idea, but a city lawyer jumped up to object that the city had no notice of the idea.
Earlier, the two sides rehashed well-rehearsed arguments during more than six hours of summations. The city said that 12 individual witnesses who claimed they were victims of 19 different baseless stops were unpersuasive, and that the low "hit rate" of stops leading to an arrest, a summons or a weapon didn't mean an officer didn't have a reasonable suspicion.
City lawyer Heidi Grossman also said the fact that 85 percent of stops targeted blacks and Hispanics was consistent with the proportion of minorities identified as crime suspects. "They failed to show a single constitutional violation, much less a widespread pattern or practice," Grossman said.
Scheindlin, who will decide the case without a jury and is widely expected to rule against the city, said she was troubled by the low success rate of the stops. "There's nine of ten with no enforcement value," she told Grossman. "That's a lot of innocent people being stopped. That's a big error rate. That's a lot of mistaken suspicion."
But Grossman responded that as stops quintupled during the past decade, the city's crime rate dropped. "If the police were only stopping innocent people, you wouldn't see the crime rate going down," she said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that illegal stops were a product of pressure for "proactive" policing from police headquarters, and pointed to testimony from two whistle-blower cops and secretly recorded tapes of roll calls at three precincts as evidence that supervisors were effectively imposing quotas for stops on patrol officers.
They said the belief that a disproportionate number of young black and Hispanic men among crime suspects justified targeting them for a disproportionate number of stops had produced lawlessness.
"The NYPD has laid siege to minority neighborhoods," said plaintiffs' attorney Gretchen Hoff Varner, "throwing the Fourth Amendment out the window and making people of color afraid to come out of their homes."
Scheindlin gave the two sides three weeks to file post-trial briefs. After that, she said, she hopes to decide the case as quickly as possible.
Expert Suggests Cameras For Police Officers To Wear On Uniforms During Stop-And-Frisk Trial
By: Dean Meminger — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013; 9:21 p.m. 'NY 1 News'
More and more police departments across the country are using video cameras when they stop citizens on the street, and the federal judge in the stop-and-frisk trial may be eyeing that practice for city officers. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Should New York City police officers wear video cameras on their uniforms to record interactions with citizens? It's something that an expert spoke about during the stop-and-frisk trial, something that caught the attention of Judge Shira Scheindlin.
Lawyers representing people who say that the stop-and-frisk program profiles young black and Latino men said cameras are worth a try.
"Let's see if it works first before you adopt it department-wide," said Jonathan Moore, an attorney for the group suing the NYPD. "Try it out in a couple of precincts. Let's see what effect it has on stop-and-frisk."
Although the police department has thousands of cameras around the city to monitor suspicious activity, city lawyers and the NYPD spokesperson don't seem supportive of officers wearing cameras, especially since civil liberty groups often complain about big brother's unblinking eye.
"I just wonder how soon we would be sued in federal court on privacy issues if we were to follow that advice," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
The company, Vievu, said it has supplied more than 3,000 police departments with body worn cameras. It's a device that officers turn on when they stop someone.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing people suing over stop-and-frisk. It said a pilot program could be monitored to see how effective the cameras might be.
"I think we do need to think about all of the pros and cons of it," said Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "It's an idea. It has some promise."
Retired NYPD Inspector Michael O'Neil is the president of MSA Security. He said if body cameras are used, it could protect officers against false claims of misconduct.
"I think it would shine a light on the great work the men and women in the New York City Police Department do every day. I think they do it, by and large, in a very professional manager." O'Neil said. "So if it is to be recorded, I think it would open up a window into how tough a police officer's job is."
It could also show if officers are breaking the law or need more training.
It remains to be seen if the judge will have anything to say about using cameras in her ruling.
NYPD $$ Lawyer Lotto Jackpot Bonanzas $$
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Daily News' Editorial:
City must stop settling suits against the NYPD just to make them disappear
And cops who are genuinely abusive to the public have to go
Active cops do the Lord's work in busting the roughest characters in the toughest neighborhoods. The work is not for the faint-hearted.
The job demands courage and unwavering dedication to protecting the public. It also requires an enormous capacity for restraint and a full commitment to guarding civil rights.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has led the NYPD to fabulous success in reducing crime. (According to the Daily News, 'It always all about Raymond – he's always the absolute greatest.' – Mike) The force has won the war and saved tens of thousands of lives, all the while displaying remarkable professionalism.
Although hosannahs are in order, too many self-styled activists slander the NYPD as trampling rights and too many Democratic mayoral candidates recklessly call for placing the department under the watch of an inspector general.
That's why Mayor Bloomberg and Kelly must establish belts-and-suspenders procedures to weed out the small minority of officers who appear to be taking abusive liberties with New Yorkers.
It is also why Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo must far more aggressively battle lawsuits that have washed over the NYPD ever since easy-pickings lawyers discovered that filing suit against the department is the ticket to a payday.
On Sunday, a Daily News investigation spotlighted the service record of Lt. Daniel Sbarra of the Brooklyn North narcotics unit. The probe revealed that Sbarra and his team had racked up almost 60 lawsuits that Cardozo's lawyers settled for more than $1.5 million.
Plaintiffs had accused Sbarra and fellow officers of illegal searches, unprovoked violence and racial profiling and slurs.
On the low end, the city paid $12,500 in a case where the team allegedly threw an innocent man against a wall and broke down his apartment door.
On the high end, the city shelled out $75,000 because Sbarra allegedly handcuffed an innocent man to a hospital bed in futile hope he'd expel purportedly swallowed drugs from his digestive tract.
In one case involving an accusation that Sbarra used the N-word in referring to a barbershop owner, city lawyers took the unusual step of refusing to defend Sbarra in court. He was required to pay $1,000 in damages out of his own pocket.
Finally, after racking up 30 civilian complaints and getting docked 20 days' pay in an Internal Affairs probe, Sbarra was promoted to lieutenant by Kelly. This was not a well-considered move.
It appears that Kelly was operating partly in the dark because the NYPD's personnel files did not then include an officer's history of generating lawsuits. The department now requests such data from Cardozo's office after a cop racks up three cases at the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
For his part, Cardozo dismisses the value of scrutinizing how often a cop is sued. He so states in a letter published on the Voice of the People page, expressing a position that runs counter to the NYPD's use of the data in determining whether an officer needs monitoring or discipline.
Additionally, Cardozo posits that his office "has undertaken a proactive and successful campaign to push meritless civil rights cases to trial." If so, the results are difficult to trumpet.
From 2007 to 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, suits against the NYPD rose from 5,707 to 8,882, while payouts doubled to $186 million. The trends should be a clarion call to Cardozo to stop writing checks so readily and to start fighting harder, as Kelly wants, to protect both the taxpayers and the NYPD's reputation.
And there's no question that tougher lawyering promises benefits. Consider the city hospital system. During the same period when NYPD settlements skyrocketed, municipal malpractice damages plunged from $159 million to $132 million.
Kelly and Cardozo need to get on the same page. They must create a database that automatically informs the NYPD of every lawsuit, including the substance of all accusations, as soon as cases are filed, enabling a commissioner to keep more systematic tabs on cops before they develop troubled histories. And jointly, they need to establish that the city is finished allowing the cops to be played for patsies in court.
Police Academy Leadership Training Section C.O. Capt. Daniel Sosnowik
NYPD captain arrested for allegedly attacking wife in front of son, 13
Capt. Daniel Sosnowik, responsible for training police administrators, threw his spouse into a door frame and then slammed the door on her arm repeatedly, police say.
By Oren Yaniv AND Thomas Tracy — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Daily News'
A Harvard-educated NYPD captain responsible for training police administrators was nabbed for attacking his wife in front of their 13-year-old son, police said Tuesday.
Capt. Daniel Sosnowik allegedly threw his spouse into a door frame during an argument in their Brooklyn home just after 11 p.m. Monday, then repeatedly slammed the door on the woman's arm, leaving her with painful bruises.
The entire attack took place in front of the couple's son, court records say.
Sosnowik was released on his own recognizance after arraignment on assault and harassment charges Tuesday. He has been suspended from the force pending the outcome of his case, officials said.
According to his LinkedIn page, Sosnowik, who makes more than $139,000 a year, led the Police Academy training program for NYPD executives and supervisors. He is also an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College.
He earned a master's of public administration degree at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Calls to his attorney were not returned.
NYPD captain arrested in alleged wife attack
By JOSH SAUL and REBECCA HARSHBARGER — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Post'
An NYPD captain was arrested early today after he repeatedly slammed a door on his wife's arm after a fight over her son walking the family dog, sources said.
Daniel Sosnowik got into an argument with his wife, 52, about 11 p.m. at their Marine Park residence over their 12-year-old boy taking out the dog late in the evening, sources said.
The victim said it was too late for him to walk the dog, and after squabbling, he told her to get out of the room, sources added.
He began shouting at her in front of their child, and pushed her between the doorway and wall, according to a Criminal Court complaint.
He then repeatedly kept shutting the door on her arm, the complaint states.
He was arrested at 5:30 a.m., and charged with two counts of assault, as well as menacing and harassment.
Sosnowik was released this afternoon without bail being set, and an order of protection was issued for his wife and child.
Sources say the captain joined the NYPD in 1984, and works at the Police Academy.
He develops training curriculum for the police department, and is the commanding officer of NYPD Leadership Training, according to his LinkedIn page.
NYPD Captain Arrested For Assault
By Christopher Robbins — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 'The Gothamist' / New York, NY
An NYPD Captain and graduate of Harvard Kennedy School of Government was arrested early this morning for assault and harassment. According to police, Captain Daniel Sosnowik was arrested around 5:30 a.m. in Brooklyn's 63rd Precinct, which abuts East Flatbush and covers Marine Park, Mill Basin and Bergen Beach. An NYPD spokeswoman declined to provide an address or details on Sosnowik's arrest, but the New York Post is reporting that Sosnowik "attacked his wife."
The Post's police sources say that the victim is not seriously injured. A representative for the Brooklyn DA's office could not immediately determine if Sosnowik has yet been arraigned.
Sosnowik has been with the NYPD since 1984. According to an excerpt Sosnowik wrote for a newsletter on leadership, he has "designed training and development curricula for NYPD supervisors, middle managers, and executives" since 2006.
According to a Harvard newsletter, Sosnowik earned a Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School in 1998. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly earned his in 1984.
Kelly and Bloomberg note a 70 percent increase in anti-gay hate crimes
By Dana Rubinstein — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013; 5:22 p.m. 'Capital New York' / New York, NY
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly informed the media today that while overall hate crimes have fallen nearly 30 percent this year, the city has seen a "significant" 70-percent surge in anti-gay hate crimes.
This time last year, there were 14 reported anti-gay hate crimes. So far this year, there have been 29.
"In the last 24 hours, there have been two additional assaults as hate crimes," said Kelly this afternoon, at a press conference at police headquarters.
At around 10:45 pm Monday, near the Bowery Mission, a 39-year old shelter resident allegedly attacked a gay man he'd known for about a month, following an evening spent drinking together.
After getting some pizza, they began discussing the fact that the victim was gay. The conversation continued on a friendly note, with the alleged assailant noting that he has some family members who were gay, too.
But then, "suddenly, according to the victim, his assailant just snapped," said Kelly.
He struck his victim multiple times in the face and head, ultimately knocking him unconscious. A security guard who witnessed the event called 911.
Police are now searching for a 39-year old suspect with more than 20 priors.
About seven hours later near Prince Street, another attack took place. Police arrested and charged two men with assault in the third degree as a hate crime.
These incidents come just a couple of days after a 32-year-old gay man named Marc Carson was shot dead in Greenwich Village.
Yesterday, Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced that the police were dedicating more resources to the west side, the site of several recent anti-gay attacks.
Today, Kelly and Bloomberg announced a further ramp-up in police presence.
The commissioner said he's not sure how to explain the recent spike.
"We'd love to be able to give you a specific reason as to why it's up," he said. "We just don't see it. I talked to very experienced investigators. They say generally speaking, there just is no pattern in these types of crimes."
One theory: "The spikes we experience from time to time may be related to increased reporting after a particularly terrible attack," said Kelly.
"It's not a good day in New York," said Bloomberg, concluding the press conference. "This is a sad day."
Retired Chief of Detectives Albert Seedman
NYPD detective who broke the mold
By PETER HELLMAN — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Post'
Do you know the name of the current NYPD chief of detectives? Probably not, unless you're a detective. The last time, and possibly the only time, a chief of detectives broke into the limelight was more than 40 years ago, during the 13-month reign of Albert Seedman, leader of the nation's second-largest investigative force after the FBI.
Seedman, nearly blind but in full possession of his canny instincts, died at 94 in Florida Friday and was buried yesterday.
A couple of factors put the shine on Al Seedman's three-star badge. For starters, he looked the part of a Big Apple detective chief: square jaw and shoulders, the piercing glint of his grey eyes, the onyx pinky ring, the ever-present cigar.
And then, there were the headline cases that came his way, one after another: The murder of Kitty Genovese, the rubouts of Mafia kingpins Joe Colombo and Joey Gallo and the destruction of a West Village townhouse that doubled as a Weatherman bomb factory were all his cases. So was the hunt for the Black Liberation Army, responsible for the murderous attacks on three different pairs of NYPD patrolmen. Under Seedman, the detective bureau broke all those cases.
In those days, the rulebook for detectives was informal. Seedman expected his operatives to work on a major case until it was solved, never mind days off, or whatever else it took to get the job done.
Though he was responsible for the big picture, Seedman was alert to tiny clues. As a young reporter, I once tagged along with him, early one morning, as he observed a murder scene at Belvedere Castle in Central Park. A gaggle of detectives was prowling around the body of a small man lying on a rock, a bullet hole between his eyes, but it was their chief who reached into a bush and plucked out a prescription-pill vial. It led to the murderer.
In April 1972, the celebrity chief of detectives abruptly quit. His resignation came the day after my cover story on him appeared in The New York Times Magazine. Seedman told me at the time that if he hadn't resigned then, he'd have been forced out by police commissioner Patrick V. Murphy. In an era when the public was frightened by street crime, Murphy wanted to elevate the status of the uniformed patrolman walking his beat. The easiest way to do that was to deglamorize the detectives. As the most glamorous detective of all, Seedman would have to go. Rather than let that happen, Seedman proactively ended his 30 year career.
I accepted that version of why Seedman retired when I co-wrote his memoir of his great cases. Then, at age 92, two years ago, Seedman belatedly revealed the real reason he stepped down. It was because of the so-called Harlem Mosque case. On the morning of April 14, 1972, a band of Black Muslims attacked a pair of patrolmen responding to a false 10-13 (officer in need of assistance) call to the mosque on West 116th Street. In the ensuing scuffle, a patrolman was mortally wounded with his own gun. Seedman raced to the scene, where 16 suspects were being held while an angry crowd gathered. But with the threat of a race riot looming, Seedman and his detectives were ordered by higher authority to abandon the mosque.
Before he left, Seedman secured a promise from Rep. Charles Rangel to deliver the suspects to the police later that day. That promise went unkept. Nobody was ever convicted of the murder of the patrolman, Phillip Cardillo. In his 30-year career, it was the only case that Seedman was never permitted to solve. In disgust, he resigned, not least because neither the mayor nor the police commissioner attended Cardillo's funeral.
Why hadn't Seedman told me the real reason he resigned when we were working on his book? His voice cracking, the old man gave his answer four decades later: "I loved the department so much that I couldn't drag it through the mud."
Peter Hellman co-authored "Chief! Great Cases from the Files of the Chief of Detectives" with Albert Seedman.
Cop union: Dalton Smith responsible for Andrea Rebello's death
By KEVIN DEUTSCH — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'New York Newsday' / Melville, L.I.
Nassau's police union president blamed the armed parolee for a Hofstra student's death and fiercely defended the officer Tuesday who shot and killed the 21-year-old woman and the gunman as he held her in a chokehold.
The officer, identified by sources as Nikolas Budimlic, shot and killed Andrea Rebello and ex-convict Dalton Smith after, police said, the parolee pointed his gun at the officer inside a Uniondale home Friday.
"We back his decision 100 percent," James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said at a news conference in Mineola. "There's only one person responsible for what happened early Friday and that's the ex-con."
The officer was treated for trauma at a hospital after the shooting and remains on sick leave, Carver said.
"There's some second-guessing going on by people who think maybe he should have stayed outside the house, but our job is to get inside there and make sure we can protect as many people as we can," Carver said.
The officer fired eight rounds after confronting Smith, 30, as the Hempstead man held Rebello in a chokehold, police said. Smith walked through an unlocked door into the rented home Rebello shared with her twin sister and two others, police said, and demanded money and jewelry. He ordered a female resident to withdraw cash from a bank.
Smith told her he would kill someone in the home if she didn't return within eight minutes, police said. While at the bank, the woman called 911.
Carver said the call was "never transmitted as a hostage situation" and that the officer believed he was responding to a robbery in progress at the California Avenue home close to Hofstra University.
The Nassau Police Department has refused Newsday's requests for copy of the 911 telephone call and an outline of the department's procedures in a hostage situation -- procedures in a guide the department says is not public record.
Similar procedural manuals for other departments, including Suffolk police, state that an officer facing a hostage situation should call for negotiators, confine the perpetrator and "maintain firearms discipline."
Nassau police said Tuesday their use of force procedure follows Article 35 of the New York State penal law. The law allows a police or peace officer to use deadly force when the officer "reasonably believes such to be necessary for self-defense" or to defend a third person from what "he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force."
Police said the proximity between Smith and the responding officer was less than 10 feet when Smith pointed a 9-mm handgun at him.
"Of course, cover and concealment is taught, but sometimes there are none to be had," Nassau police spokesman Kenneth Lack said in a statement. "Training cannot cover every aspect of a dynamic, fluid situation that police officers face."
In an audiotape from a police radio transmission alerting officers of the situation, responding officers are told the perpetrator is armed with a gun and is in an upstairs bedroom with the 911 caller's friend.
"Headquarters, where's the subject, with the complainant or at the house?" an unidentified male voice asks in response.
"We're trying to ascertain that now," the female Nassau police operator answers. Seconds later the woman adds that "the subject is in the house. He's in the top right bedroom with the complainant's friend. The subject has a silver handgun."
Two minutes after police were sent to the house, a male voice is heard on the scanner alerting officers racing to the scene that "there are hostages" there, according to the audiotape. On Tuesday, Lack said that "it does not appear" the officer knew hostages were inside when he knocked on the front door.
Police said Andrea Rebello's twin sister opened the door and screamed "he's got a gun" before escaping.
Carver, the local PBA president, said the officer "did the right thing in there."
Carver said he did not think the officer had ever fired his weapon in the line of duty before -- and agreed with his decision not to wait for backup.
"When you respond to a call you don't wait around the block for your backup to come," Carver said. "He deemed it was not appropriate to wait. If he had waited, we don't know what damage could have been done."
With William Murphy and Tania Lopez
Nassau Police Union Defends Officer in Hofstra Student Shooting
By Will James — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The Wall Street Journal' / New York, NY
The Nassau County police officers' union said Tuesday that it stands behind an officer's decision to enter a house where he accidentally shot and killed a Hofstra University student who was being held hostage last week.
"We're backing that decision 100% that he went into that house," James Carver, president of the Nassau County Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said at a news conference. "If he would've stayed outside and several people were killed inside that house, he would've been criticized for not going in the house."
The officer, whom police have not identified, was responding to a report of an armed robbery in Uniondale, N.Y., early Friday morning when he shot and killed the student, who was being used as a body shield by a gunman who was trying to escape. The officer was one of two who were first to arrive at the house.
Nassau County Police said the officer did not know that the student, 21-year-old Andrea Rebello, and two other students were being held hostage inside. "He was going there because there was a robbery that was taking place," Mr. Carver said. "He was informed there was a man with a gun and he went in there to protect others."
The officer also shot and killed the gunman, Dalton Smith, 30 years old, who police said was trying to rob the four college students who rented the house.
Mr. Carver said he believed an internal investigation would clear the officer, a 12-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department and a former New York Police Department officer, of wrongdoing.
And he said the officer was right not to wait for backup to arrive before entering the house. "He had a lot of backup that day," he said. "When you respond to a call, you don't wait around the block and wait for your backup to come."
The officer was treated for trauma at a hospital on the morning of the shooting and remains on sick leave, surrounded by family and friends, Mr. Carver said. He said the officer is a "religious man" with a "very strong family background" and children of his own.
Mr. Smith had an extensive arrest history for crimes including robbery and assault and was wanted for a parole violation, police said.
Nassau police said Mr. Smith held the four students hostage, then released one of them to withdraw money from a bank account. The hostage called 911 after leaving, and the two officers arrived minutes later.
Police said Mr. Smith was trying to back out of the house, holding Ms. Rebello in front of his body, when he pointed a gun at the officer, prompting the officer to fire. The officer fired eight shots, police said. Seven struck Mr. Smith and one hit Ms. Rebello, killing her.
New York State
Sheriffs: Cuomo asked for silence
Law officials say governor tried to quiet criticism of gun law
By Jimmy Vielkind — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 'The Albany Times Union' / Albany, NY
Albany -- The sheriffs thought they were being summoned to the Capitol to discuss ideas for changes to New York's gun control law, the SAFE Act. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told them to keep quiet.
Opposition to the new law has simmered in upstate areas since Cuomo signed the law in January. Many county sheriffs oppose it, particularly its expanded definition of banned assault weapons, and have spoken out around the state. In January, the New York State Sheriffs' Association wrote Cuomo with an analysis, and later suggested tweaks.
Cuomo invited its leaders to the Capitol last month, people briefed on the meeting said. The group included Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Peter Kehoe and Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss.
"We didn't get a response (to the analysis) from him, but we could tell after the budget was passed that none of those recommendations were taken into consideration," Moss said. "When we got there, we never got to the contents of the letter."
Instead, Cuomo pushed the sheriffs to stop publicly speaking out against the act, Moss said.
"The governor was of the opinion that the sheriffs around the state should not be interjecting their personal opinions in reference to the law," Moss said, adding that Cuomo said sheriffs can't do that and enforce the law.
One person briefed on the meeting said Cuomo threatened to remove sheriffs from office, a little-used power afforded the state's chief executive under the state constitution. Moss would not confirm this. He did say the meeting was heated at times, but overall he described it as "cordial."
Kehoe did not return calls, and Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi declined to comment. An administration official, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss a private meeting, "strongly" denied Cuomo had threatened to remove any sheriff.
Last week, the Sheriffs' Association as well as several elected sheriffs filed an amicus curiae brief supporting a federal challenge to the SAFE Act.
"We're not really protesting the law; we're protesting the methodology in which the law was forced upon the people without input of the people," said Livingston County Sheriff John York, a Republican who chairs the group's executive committee.
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard has said he "won't enforce" the act.
Cuomo has said the law will "save lives."
The law broadened the definition of banned assault weapons, increased penalties for illegal gun possession, reduced public access to gun permit information and required mental health professionals to report concerns about a gun-owning patient who posed a risk of harming himself or others. It bans any magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, and bars people from loading magazines with more than seven cartridges.
The bill was unveiled on Jan. 14 and passed through a "message of necessity" that waived a three-day waiting period. The Senate, led by a Republican-dominated coalition, passed the bill by a 43-18 vote hours after the text became public. The Democrat-dominated Assembly passed it the next day, and Cuomo signed it.
In the amicus brief, the sheriffs wrote: "Law enforcement's work is made more difficult attempting to enforce unclear laws that harm, rather than promote, public safety. The laws appear willfully blind to legitimate safety interests, and instead are tailored to impact, and negatively impact, law-abiding firearm owners."
Asked last week about the court brief, Cuomo said, "They're free to litigate — God bless America."
He did not directly say if he thought sheriffs should speak out against laws they enforce, but said, "They're politicians. They run for office, too."
On Monday, Cuomo said Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola was "not upholding the law" when he said last week he would refuse to release permit-holder information. The law allows permit holders to make their information exempt from state Freedom of Information Law disclosure if they apply and meet set criteria.
Merola, a Republican, said that sifting through the applications would take resources his office cannot spare. Instead, he will not release any pistol permit data.
"That's not for a county clerk to do on a blanket basis," Cuomo said. "You can't decide what the law is or change the law — their job is to enforce the law administratively."
Sheriffs' Response to NY SAFE Act
From: New York State Sheriffs' Association Website
• Restriction on FOIL requests about pistol permit holders. By granting citizens the option of having their names and addresses withheld from public disclosure, the new law does provide a mechanism to allow people to decide for themselves whether their personal information should be accessible to the public. We believe, however, that no one should have to explain why their personal information should remain confidential. A better procedure, we believe, is simply to exempt all this personal information from FOIL disclosure.
• Killing of emergency first responders. The new law makes killing of emergency first responders aggravated or first degree murder, enhancing penalties for this crime and requiring life without parole. First responders need this protection, evidenced all too often by attacks on them when they attempt to provide help, and in special recognition of the terrible attacks on two firefighters in Webster, NY and attacks on first responders in Jefferson County.
• Requirement of NICS checks for private sales (except between immediate family). We believe that this will ensure that responsible citizens will still be able to obtain legal firearms through private transactions, with the added assurance that private buyers are approved by the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. We remain concerned that this provision will be very difficult to enforce and will likely only affect law abiding citizens.
• Comprehensive review of mental health records before firearms permits are granted and review of records to determine if revocation of permits is required. Sheriffs believe that there is an urgent need to increase funding for mental health care. The new law imposes reporting requirements on many mental health care professionals and others who may make a determination that a person is a danger to himself or others. The law further gives needed authority to courts or others who issue firearms permits to deny permit applications or to revoke permits already issued. We believe that this issue demands a much more full and detailed discussion about how to keep guns out of the hands of such people. The Sheriffs of New York want to pursue these issues with the Governor and the State Legislature.
• Safe storage of firearms. The new law provides that guns must be safely stored if the owner lives with someone who has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, has been involuntarily committed, or is currently under an order of protection. We agree that firearms owners should have the responsibility to make sure that their weapons are safeguarded against use or access by prohibited persons, and the new law adds these protections to ensure that weapons are safely and securely stored.
• Increased penalties for illegal use of weapons. The new law adds several increased sanctions for violation of New York gun laws and creates new gun crimes which did not previously exist. These new provisions will provide added tools for law enforcement to prosecute such crimes. We further believe that the new provisions should help deter future misuse of firearms. We also suggest that the legislature consider limitations on plea bargaining for all gun crimes.
We have reviewed other provisions of the new law, and strongly believe that modifications are needed to clarify the intent of some of these new provisions and that revisions are needed to allow Sheriffs to properly enforce the law in their counties.
•Assault weapon ban and definition of assault weapons. We believe that the new definition of assault weapons is too broad, and prevents the possession of many weapons that are legitimately used for hunting, target shooting and self defense. Classifying firearms as assault weapons because of one arbitrary feature effectively deprives people the right to possess firearms which have never before been designated as assault weapons. We are convinced that only law abiding gun owners will be affected by these new provisions, while criminals will still have and use whatever weapons they want.
• Inspection of schools by state agencies. The new law transfers to state agencies the responsibility to review school safety plans. We expect that funding will be transferred to these state agencies to implement safety proposals. Sheriffs and local police provide this service in all parts of the state and can perform these duties efficiently. As the chief law enforcement officer of the county, Sheriffs are in the best position to know the security needs of schools in their own counties, and the state should help to fund these existing efforts by Sheriffs and local police departments to keep our schools safe. Because Sheriffs and local police are already deeply involved with school safety plans, have developed emergency response plans, and are familiar with structural layouts of schools in their counties, they should be included along with state counterparts in any effort to review school safety plans.
• Reduction of ammunition magazine capacity. The new law enacts reductions in the maximum capacity of gun magazines. We believe based on our years of law enforcement experience that this will not reduce gun violence. The new law will unfairly limit the ability of law‐abiding citizens to purchase firearms in New York. It bears repeating that it is our belief that the reduction of magazine capacity will not make New Yorkers or our communities safer.
•Five-year recertification of pistol permit status and registration of existing assault weapons. The new law delegates to the State Police the duty to solicit and receive updated personal information of permit holders every five years in order to maintain these permits. Further, the law requires owners of certain existing firearms now classified as assault weapons to register these with the State Police within one year. The recertification and registration conflict with Sheriffs' duties regarding issuance of pistol permits. All records should be maintained at the local, and not the state level. This information should be accessible to those who are responsible for initial investigation of permit applications. Pistol permit information should be maintained in one file at the local level, and forwarded to a statewide database for law enforcement use. It bears repeating that it is our belief that pistol permit and any registration information required by the law should be confidential and protected from FOIL disclosure.
• Sale of ammunition. The new law imposes several new provisions regarding how, and from whom, ammunition can be lawfully purchased. The law should be clarified about the use of the Internet as a vehicle for these sales, out‐of‐state sales to New York residents, and other issues. Businesses have said that they do not understand the new provisions and are concerned that they will have to cease operations.
• Law enforcement exemptions must be clarified. The new law has many provisions that might apply to law enforcement officers and there has been much confusion about whether existing law enforcement exemptions continue to apply. We understand that the Governor and Legislature have already agreed to review and modify these provisions where necessary, and the Sheriffs want to be part of the discussion to make the changes effective. Additionally, the exemptions should apply to retired police and peace officers, and to others in the employ of the Sheriff and other police agencies who perform security duties at public facilities and events.
•Method of bill passage. It is the view of the Sheriffs' Association that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to test the boundaries of a constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for those constitutional boundaries. Further, it should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty. While many of the provisions of the new law have surface appeal, it is far from certain that all, or even many, of them will have any significant effect in reducing gun violence, which is the presumed goal of all of us. Unfortunately the process used in adoption of this act did not permit the mature development of the arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government. Even those thrilled with the passage of this legislation should be concerned about the process used to secure its passage, for the next time they may find themselves the victim of that same process. Fortunately, the Governor has shown himself open to working with interested parties to address some of the problems that arose due to the hasty enactment of this law. We will work with the Governor and the Legislature on these issues.
• Sheriffs understand their Constitutional obligations and the concerns of constituents Sheriffs and other law enforcement officers are not called upon by this new legislation to go door‐to‐door to confiscate any weapons newly classified as assault weapons, and will not do so.
Sheriffs represent all the people, and we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York. Sheriffs will continue to enforce all laws of the state and will protect the rights of all citizens, including those rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York.
Is Cuomo Still Committed to Fixing New York's Broken Marijuana Possession Law?
By Gabriel Sayegh — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013; 4:45 p.m. 'The Huffington Post' / New York, NY
In January of this year, during his 2013 State of the State speech, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a bold call to stop discrimination in New York. "We are one New York, and as one New York we will not tolerate discrimination," he said. He noted the "challenge posed by the 'stop and frisk' police policies," and he cited the related marijuana arrest problem in New York. Approximately45,000 people were arrested in New York for marijuana possession in 2012, with nearly 40,000 of those arrests in New York City alone, making the Big Apple the marijuana arrest capital of the world. The governor called for immediate action: "These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It's not fair. It's not right. It must end. And it must end now."
Energized by the governor's call, community groups and legislators rallied for reform week after week in Albany and around New York. Then, in March, it appeared that sensible reform was slated to pass. But in typical Albany fashion, confusion among leadership in the capital stymied the effort.
Now, with only a month remaining in the legislative session, the governor appears MIA on reform. In a recent op-ed, Governor Cuomo alarmingly dropped marijuana arrest reform from his list of end-of-session priorities.
Unfortunately, discrimination is alive and well in New York, as marijuana possession arrests continue. These arrests are extraordinarily racially biased, as nearly 85 percent of those arrested are Black and Latino -- mostly young men -- even though government studies show that young white men use marijuana at higher rates. These arrests cost taxpayers nearly $75 million last year alone and over $600 million in the last decade, a profound waste. Since reform stalled in March, thousands more people have been needlessly arrested -- most of them Black and Latino young men -- exacting an enormous human toll, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and wasting an estimated 10,000 police hours.
New Yorkers want reform. A new poll this week found that at least 60 percent of all voters in New York support decriminalization of marijuana possession in New York -- including half of all Republicans. New Yorkers support a sensible reform currently pending in scandal-torn Albany to fix the state's broken marijuana possession laws. The proposal -- A.6716A (Camara)/S.3105A (Squadron) -- is the exact measure Governor Cuomo called for in his State of the State address. It would remove criminal penalties for possessing up to 15 grams of marijuana in public view, though smoking in public would remain a misdemeanor. The bill would help end the practice of arresting tens of thousands of young people per year for possessing marijuana in public view when police demand that someone "empty their pockets" during a stop-and-frisk encounter.
The measure enjoys broad support not just among the public but also among dozens of community organizations throughout the state, state legislators, the NYC Council, and Mayor Bloomberg. The New York Times, the Daily News, the New York Post, the Syracuse Times-Standard, and the Buffalo News are among the papers that have written editorials in support the of the reform.
Law enforcement leaders from across the state have also backed the reforms, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly; all five NYC District Attorneys (Democrat and Republican); District Attorneys from Long Island, Buffalo and Albany; and other police leaders, like the Albany Sheriff and Rochester Police Chief.
But despite this broad support, reform hasn't materialized -- maybe because the governor has stopped talking about it. In Albany, even when measures enjoy broad support, even when such measures would serve to create fairer drug laws and reduce racial disparities, even when common sense would dictate action -- the process too easily becomes entangled in the mess that is Albany, and nothing happens. And so, while Albany is preoccupied with the latest scandal, the failed drug war grinds on -- devastating low-income communities and communities of color who continue to face discrimination, while taxpayers foot the bill.
Enough is enough. On Wednesday, May 22, community groups and elected officials are gathering again in Albany to demand reform. Members of the community and the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus will hold a rally and press conference in the Capitol to demand passage of A.6716A (Camara)/S.3105A (Squadron). People who have faced police harassment and unlawful arrest will speak out. Legislators will have to explain why they've not acted. And Governor Cuomo will be asked: are you still committed to ending discrimination in New York?
Gabriel Sayegh is the director of the Drug Policy Alliance's New York Office.
3 Things You Need to Know About Sequestration and Cuts to Federal Public-Safety Programs
By Erik Stegman — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 'The Center For American Progress'
Lately it seems there is a never-ending stream of stories in the media about victims of terrible crimes, such as the three women and one of the women's daughter who were recently rescued from a home in Cleveland, Ohio, after being kidnapped and held as prisoners for a decade. Some of them were also allegedly raped repeatedly. But for victims of such crime around the country, a series of recent budget cuts—including the reckless automatic across-the-board cuts known as sequestration—are a serious threat to their recovery and ability to seek justice.
When law enforcement responds to crimes, it relies on critical federally funded programs, as well as an invaluable network of service providers who can support victims in crisis. These service providers are a vital component of our justice system, giving victims the mental, physical, and emotional support they need to get back on their feet and the resources to seek their own justice.
Congress recently sprang into action to fix inconveniences for air travelers caused by automatic spending cuts, but victims of crime are left wondering where they fit into Congress's priorities. The automatic cuts under sequestration are only the latest in a terrible trend of cuts to law-enforcement and victims services. Sequestration and related cuts in fiscal year 2013 alone will reduce or cut services to more than 955,000 victims. Automatic cuts are also threatening the U.S. Army's ability to hire 829 military and civilian sexual-assault response coordinators as a result of an epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. military.
Here are three things you need to know about how Congress is continuing to shortchange law enforcement and victims of crime through reckless deficit reduction and automatic cuts.
Cutting services for victims of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, and other crimes
Due to sequestration, 337,000 victims of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, and other crimes will lose critical support and services they receive through the Crime Victims Fund to help them recover from the heinous crimes committed against them.
Every year, the Crime Victims Fund—established under the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA—provides millions of crime victims in communities across the country with vital services in times of crisis. VOCA funds provide sexual-assault services, support for crisis intervention, assistance with the criminal-justice process, counseling, investigation and prosecution of child and elder abuse, and more. It also provides compensation to victims of crime.
Federal criminal offenders pay into the VOCA Crime Victims Fund through fines and penalties levied against them, meaning that it is budget neutral, doesn't cost taxpayers anything, and doesn't add to the national debt or deficit. But even a funding stream such as the one VOCA provides hasn't escaped Congress's reckless budget cutting: Sequestration is expected to reduce VOCA victims-service-assistance grants to states by $37.2 million, resulting in the more than 377,000 victims losing access to these services in FY 2013 alone. These grants fund services for victims of child sexual abuse (38,767 fewer served), domestic violence (178,894 fewer served), and adult sexual assault (21,363 fewer served). And the list goes on.
But it doesn't end there. Due to the irresponsible budget-cutting environment, Congress this year asked the Department of Justice, which administers these funds, to cut management and administrative expenses from the VOCA fund for the second year in a row, compounding the cuts to victims services already set to take place under sequestration. Last year was the first year Congress had ever instructed the department to cut the fund for this purpose. This cut to VOCA funding is expected to reduce the number of victims served by nearly 578,000 on top of the sequester reductions, resulting in an estimated total of 955,843 fewer victims served in FY 2013.
Congress finally passed the Violence Against Women Act and then cut its funding
Countless victims of domestic violence and sexual assault waited and waited as Congress dragged its feet for nearly two and a half years to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which provides for services and law enforcement for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Congress finally reauthorized the landmark law this year, but just as the victims thought they had finally scored a victory, sequestration slashed funding for the programs authorized under this vital law.
VAWA and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, or FVPSA, provide two of the most reliable sources of funding for domestic violence and sexual assault. At least 106,000 fewer victims are expected to receive services through these sources due to sequestration. And these cuts come at a time when a recent survey by the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that 88 percent of state domestic-violence coalitions reported an increase in demand for services and 69 percent of these coalitions reported funding decreases.
Agencies and facilities across the country serving these women are grappling with how to handle the budget cuts. Most find themselves choosing between cutting services or staff, or closing down altogether. A recent report by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 56 percent of 700 responding agencies reported that the poor economy is driving an increase in domestic violence, up from 40 percent in a similar 2010 survey.
Early estimations of the effect of sequestration are now becoming reality. In the military, which has been plagued by rising and epidemic levels of sexual assault among its ranks, the U.S. Army has reported that sequestration may hinder its ability to hire 829 military and civilian sexual-assault response coordinators. In Louisiana, an organization that provides 11 specially trained nurses who travel the area to collect DNA evidence from rape victims at hospitals may have to close its doors due to sequestration-related funding shortages. And the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association may have to eliminate sexual-assault-prevention staff from its ranks due to a lack of funds. The combined impact of sequestration on VAWA, FVPSA, and VOCA alone is crippling the critical support system upon which victims of domestic violence and sexual assault rely.
Federal funding cuts to law-enforcement programming may be virtually unfunded by 2021
These devastating cuts to victims services come on the heels of two years of drastic and unprecedented cuts to federal public-safety programming. Programs such as the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, or Byrne JAG, and the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, hiring grants are some of the vital federal sources of funding that state and local law agencies rely on for law enforcement, prosecution, crime prevention, education, corrections, and victims assistance.
A recent survey of 714 organizations, mostly local and state law-enforcement agencies, done by the National Criminal Justice Association and the Vera Institute of Justice found that over the past two years alone, federal support for criminal-justice assistance-grant programs has decreased by 43 percent. Left unchanged, the cuts mandated through sequestration could leave these vital federal programs virtually unfunded by 2021. These federal programs provide substantial funding for components of the criminal-justice system, including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which saw its funding cut by 75 percent in FY 2012, and juvenile-justice and delinquency-prevention programs, which were cut by more than 50 percent in FY 2012.
The real effects of these cuts are emerging. One respondent to the National Criminal Justice Association and the Vera Institute of Justice survey from Ohio, for example, said that, "If projected cuts in government funding proceed, we anticipate that our court advocacy program will be greatly curtailed, if not virtually eliminated. That means we will not be able to offer hands-on assistance in accompanying victims to court proceedings and in assisting clients obtain protection orders."
A law-enforcement respondent from Kentucky said that personnel and equipment needs were cut in half in FY 2012 due to funding cuts. "It's hard to estimate the devastation these cuts will make to an already horrible condition," said the respondent.
Cutbacks in funding to law-enforcement programming are on a dangerous trajectory. Through funding cuts and sequestration, Congress is asking law-enforcement agencies across the country to choose between a terrible set of options, none of which provide any comfort to victims of crimes such as sexual assault and domestic violence. These cutbacks are already hindering the ability of local criminal-justice systems to respond to crimes and provide support to victims.
Responding effectively and responsibly to crime requires an entire system of justice—one that provides adequate resources to law enforcement and victims-service agencies so that they can respond in times of crisis and help victims get back on their feet and seek justice. Unfortunately, there is nothing effective, responsible, or adequate about how Congress is treating victims of crime today. The current reckless budget-cutting environment threatens this entire system due to the immediate effects of sequestration and the further troubling trend of declining public-safety and victims-service funding.
Before boarding planes to go home on recess last month, Congress rushed to fix sequestration-related inconveniences for air travelers, but victims of crime and the law enforcement and other agencies that serve them remain dangerously shortchanged. Victims of crimes such as sexual assault and domestic violence have nowhere else to turn, and they deserve to be a priority every bit as much as air travelers do.
Ammo shortage persists, problems to continue for several months
By BRAD ZINN (The Associated Press) — Tuesday, May 21st, 2013; 10:09 p.m. EDT
STAUNTON, Va. — For five months, ammunition at Nuckols Gun Works in Staunton has been flying off the shelves.
"It doesn't matter what brand, make or model," said owner Chris Kincheloe.
Kincheloe believes that the shortage, which has most affected handgun and .22-caliber ammunition, can be traced back to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, which killed 20 children and six school staff. Gun control measures put forth by President Barack Obama following the mass killing have spurred ammo sales, he believes.
Whatever the reason, ammunition is hard to come by, and no relief is on the immediate horizon. Kincheloe said a recent letter from a manufacturer said the shortage will probably continue for another six months before production can catch up with demand.
Throw in the election of Obama — always a threat to gun enthusiasts, whether real or perceived — and the past six months have been the "busiest the industry has ever seen," Kincheloe said.
But ammunition, or lack of it, has been a theme that persists many months after last year's election and shooting. Kincheloe said ammunition prices have gone up 15 percent in the last three months and 75 percent during the past five years. Still, demand is outpacing supply.
Back in the day when ammunition was plentiful, distributors used to deliver it by the case, Kincheloe said. These days, shipments come by the box.
"Basically, the shipment I get lasts the day I get them," Kincheloe said.
The ammunition shortage is so bad that Kincheloe restricts purchases to one box per customer. If not, he said a single customer would most likely "buy every one of them."
At the Gun Shack in Verona, owner Andy Coffman said 9 mm, .38 and .22 caliber ammunition have been the hardest to keep in stock.
"For some reason, everybody's hoarding the .22," he noted. "I've never had this issue before with the .22"
Coffman said he's been able to keep some .44 and .45 caliber ammunition in stock.
As for the overall demand on ammunition, he said, "It's crazy."
However, Coffman, unlike Nuckols Gun Works, doesn't restrict ammunition purchases.
"Money is money," he said.
At Dominion Outdoors in Fishersville, which has 10,000 square feet of space, co-owner Kevin Harris said he's receiving plenty of ammunition shipments.
"We're getting a lot of ammo. It's just not staying," Harris said.
He said his store has hundreds of standing orders, meaning ammo leaves the store as soon as he gets it. "The demand is greater than we can put on the shelves," he said. "It's coming and going out the door."
Harris said not only is .22 ammo and handgun ammunition hard to come by, even hunting ammunition will come up short this fall. Harris said he recently ordered about 60 boxes of .30-30 ammunition to begin stocking up for the hunting season. Hunters, who are not known for heavy purchases of ammunition, quickly snatched up the ammo several months ahead of the hunting season.
"Which just blew my mind," Harris said.
Alas, the ammo shortage isn't being felt everywhere. Chief Jim Williams, of the Staunton Police Department, said he ran into an ammunition shortfall several years ago when wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going full throttle.
"We learned to order it far enough in advance," he said. "We're actually OK."
City gets boost in federal counterterrorism and disaster preparedness funds to $174.3 million
The boost from the Department of Homeland Security is a 15% increase over last year.
By Joseph Straw — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Daily News'
(Bloviating Politicians Edited Out)
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday awarded the city and surrounding New York suburbs $174.3 million for counterterrorism and disaster preparedness, an increase of 15% over last year.
The money will be used in various ways, including to train police, install security cameras and buy equipment.
FBI Blows Away Dagestan Skell (Tsarnaev Boston Bombing Investigation)
Officer Involved in Shooting of Man Linked to Tsarnaev
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Times'
BOSTON — A law enforcement official in Orlando, Fla., was involved in a fatal shooting during an interview with a man about his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect, according to law enforcement officials.
The man, Ibragim Todashev, was being interviewed by at least one agent from the F.B.I. at the time of the shooting.
The F.B.I.'s Tampa field office released a short statement saying that it was "currently responding to a shooting incident involving an F.B.I. special agent" that had occurred in Orlando.
"The agent encountered the suspect while conducting official duties," the statement said. "The suspect is deceased. We do not have any further details at this time."
Early on Wednesday morning, officials at the F.B.I.'s headquarters in Washington dispatched a shooting response unit to Florida to help investigators determine what had occurred, according to a law enforcement official.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the F.B.I. has sought to speak with people who knew Mr. Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, in an effort to learn how they were radicalized.
U.S. Quietly Monitors Foreigners' Departures at the Canadian Border
By ERIC LIPTON — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 'The New York Times'
WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of foreigners passing into Canada from the United States have unwittingly been a part of a grand experiment by the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on visitors who violate laws governing the length of their stay.
Long demanded by lawmakers in Congress, it is considered a critical step to developing a coherent program to curb illegal immigration, as historically about 30 percent to 40 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States arrived on tourist visas or other legal means and then never left, according to estimates by Homeland Security officials.
The pilot project with Canada, conducted from September to January, involved about a third of the traffic across the northern American border, tracking the departure of 413,222 foreigners from the United States. Starting this year, according to Congressional officials who have been briefed on the plan, the information collected at the Canadian border will be used to prevent certain foreigners who have stayed too long in the United States from returning again by revoking tourist visas or taking other steps.
The effort relies on an ingenious solution: as foreigners leave the United States to enter Canada — and their passports are checked by the border authorities there — the information is sent back to the United States and recorded as the official "exit" record. By the end of next month, the project is scheduled to be expanded to almost all land border traffic between Canada and the United States.
"The pilot was a success," said David Heyman, assistant secretary for policy at the Homeland Security Department, in a statement. "We have the ability now to identify, with a high degree of certainty, on a real-time basis, those who overstay the terms of their legal entry into the United States."
Airlines and cruise ships, relying on passenger manifests, are already mandated under law to turn over data on travelers as they leave the United States. That system has recently been improved so that entries and exits can more definitively be matched, federal officials said, although there remains a large backlog of unconfirmed exits.
The biggest weakness remains the southern border, which has the highest volume of traffic of land crossings, but still has almost no exit controls.
The Mexican authorities, Homeland Security officials said, do not reliably collect and store personal data on every person crossing the border from the United States, preventing an exchange like the one that has been established with Canada. The department has pressed the Mexican authorities to improve their data collection efforts, so such an exchange can take place.
One former Homeland Security official who had been involved in these negotiations said it was largely a matter of money.
"You could do it in a year if you had all the money you needed, or you could do it in 20 years," said Chappell Lawson, who served as director of policy and planning at Customs and Border Protection early in the Obama administration. "Tell me the amount of money and the willpower, and I can give you a number."
Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said the Mexican government was open to considering such a request by the United States.
"Mexico strongly believes that its joint efforts with the United States are critical to the safe and efficient management of the border," he said in a statement.
With the pilot program at the Canadian border, the American authorities found that in almost all cases — 97.4 percent — the passport data of departing foreigners matched up with records documenting their entry into the United States, allowing American officials to determine if they stayed longer here than allowed under the law. Officials would not say what percentage of the travelers had overstayed their visas.
Because it was an experimental project, the data in this initial phase was destroyed and was not used for any enforcement action. Individual travelers were not notified of the data exchange, although a description of it was posted on the Canadian Border Services Agency Web site.
Using the information collected from its improved system tracking foreigners as they exit, the Homeland Security Department is separately also developing a tally, country by country, of what percentage of foreign travelers violate the terms of their entry to the United States, officials said.
If the immigration bill pending in the Senate passes, that overstay information would be used to help determine which nations are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows foreigners to visit without a visa — a privilege reserved for nations whose residents do not routinely abuse the limits of American tourist visas.
The Homeland Security Department last week declined to offer any hint of what the visa overstay rates might look like, saying only that they would be made public this year.
"We want to make sure those numbers are right," said one department official, who asked not to be named, citing its policy of not speaking with reporters for attribution. "They could impact a lot of things, including international relations. It is an important milestone."
One potential weakness with the exit control system being tested with Canada is that it relies on "biographic" information, like a passport photo, name and date of birth. It does not use a fingerprint or other biometric data, which is much harder to forge, to definitively confirm that a person has left the United States.
Congress has repeatedly mandated such a biometric exit system — at land borders as well as airports — in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. But a bipartisan group of eight senators dropped that requirement in the pending immigration bill, provoking protests from Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, and other conservatives.
"This is a big, big hole in the system, and it's been going on for years and years," Mr. Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. "This is one reason American people have so little confidence in any promises we make."
Homeland Security officials, along with Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, have argued that it could cost an estimated $25 billion for the United States to build its own biometric-based exit system at airports and land borders. It would be so expensive because new border crossing stations would have to be built, instead of relying on Mexico or Canada. Arguing that the biographic network is adequate, they say that the expense is not justified.
Instead, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, with the support of some Republicans, agreed this week to mandate biometric exit systems at 10 of the nation's largest airports within two years, and the 30 largest airports for international travel within six years. But it would most likely leave the system that relies on biographic data in place at land borders.
"No system is 100 percent fail proof," Mr. Schumer said last week. "This system comes as close to any to making it work."
Even with the growing and more reliable data on travelers who have overstayed their visas, the Homeland Security Department still does not have sufficient personnel to find and deport these violators. Instead, it focuses on any that have a criminal record or a history of repeated immigration violations.
But officials said they were pleased that they were at least making progress in being able to track exits in a comprehensive way.
"The exit system today far surpasses anything we had even three years ago," Mr. Heyman said.