Friday, June 28th, 2013 — Good Morning, Stay Safe
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The Community Safety Act
Bloomberg vows to veto NYPD oversight bills, flip council votes
The City Council has approved one bill that creates a monitor for the NYPD and a second that allows New Yorkers to sue if they believe they’ve been profiled because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. Both passed with enough votes to avoid the mayor’s veto power, but Bloomy has vowed to get council members to flip on the ‘two very bad, dangerous bills.’
By Jennifer Fermino AND Erin Durkin — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Declaring that “we’ve never given up a fight,” Mayor Bloomberg vowed Thursday to sway the minds — and change the votes — of City Council members who had just approved two bills to increase oversight of the NYPD.
“This is a fight to defend your life and your kids’ lives. You can rest assured I will not give up for one minute,” Bloomberg said.
In a wearying session that did not begin until 11 p.m. Wednesday — and did not end until after 2:30 a.m. the next day — the Council approved both police oversight measures by margins large enough to withstand a mayoral veto.
One of the bills, creating an inspector general to monitor the police, was approved 40 to 11. The second bill, to allow people to sue if they believe they have been profiled by the police based on race, religion or sexual orientation, received 34 “yes” votes — the exact number needed to override a veto.
With his comments Thursday, Bloomberg made clear he would try to pressure some lawmakers to flip their positions after he vetoes the measures.
“These are two very bad, dangerous bills,” Bloomberg said.
“These are bills that will make the Police Department a lot less effective, divert their resources away from what they’re supposed to be doing, will incur an awful lot of liability costs and will keep us from finding the bad guys.”
Both bills were inspired by complaints in the black community about the aggressive use of stop-and-frisk policing. The police tactic became an issue in the mayoral race, pushing mayoral hopeful and Council Speaker Christine Quinn to allow both measures to be brought up for votes.
Advocates vowed to keep up their pressure.
“I called some members of the City Council, not to twist their arms, but to pray with them, to bend their knees, and ask them to remember their constituents that need to not be criminalized with profiling but to be protected against real criminals,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who joined civil rights leaders and Council members at City Hall Thursday afternoon to celebrate the votes.
“It was a veto-proof vote last night. There will be those who will try to pick some of the members off. There will be those that will try to come in and make them turn around,” he said. “You cannot turn around in the face of history. This is an idea whose time has come.”
While Bloomberg would face an uphill battle to sustain a veto on the racial-profiling bill, insiders were not taking the outcome for granted.
“Mike Bloomberg is a powerful man,” one Council member said. “They don’t have to flip someone. They just need them not to show up.”
Mayor’s Office Moves to Undo Bill Aimed at Police Profiling
By J. DAVID GOODMAN and MICHAEL BARBARO — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The Bloomberg administration immediately came out swinging on Thursday against a pair of bills approved by the City Council intended to oversee or curtail the Police Department, vowing to veto the measures and to do what it could to ensure that at least one of the vetoes would stand.
In separate appearances, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, sought to portray the bills — one aimed at increasing oversight of the Police Department and the other at expanding the ability to sue over racial profiling by officers — as a divisive tool that would undermine the police’s efforts to get guns off the streets and continue to lower the murder rate.
The threat of lawsuits, the city fears, could end the department’s broad use of stop-and-frisk measures, the crime-fighting tool most closely associated with the Bloomberg administration.
Behind the scenes, the mayor’s office was already strategizing how to undo the profiling bill.
Aides to the mayor, who made little attempt to hide their fury over the two bills, which are known together as the Community Safety Act, conceded there was little chance of derailing the inspector general bill, which passed by a sizable margin. But they are determined to scuttle the profiling legislation; it drew the precise number of votes required to override a veto, in what will no doubt serve as a test of Mr. Bloomberg’s political potency in the waning days of his term.
The mayor’s plan is to peel off one supporter, thus depriving the Council of the 34 votes needed to override the inevitable veto.
“People may vote for a bill and then be willing to maintain the mayor’s veto,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference. He declined to say how he might persuade one council member to switch positions, saying only: “This is a fight to defend your life and your kids’ lives. You can rest assured that I will not give up for one minute.”
With the city’s annual budget already passed, Mr. Bloomberg has lost a major tool of persuasion in his negotiations with council members. But the popular and wealthy mayor still has a sizable arsenal at his disposal, starting with the promise of his future political support, not to mention the traditional carrots and sticks that any City Hall can wield.
Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said that in its discussions with council members, the administration would make its case on the merits of the bill. “We’ve had many conversations with members in the past days and weeks, and we will continue to do so,” Mr. Wolfson said.
Those conversations before the vote were also focused on policy and did not include overt political arm-twisting, said Councilman Brad Lander, one of the bills’ sponsors. “I didn’t hear anyone say they had been offered something or threatened with something,” he said.
Even so, Mr. Lander said, it had been a challenge for members to stand firm in the face of pressure from City Hall. “They kept pushing back and pushing back and pushing back, and this is a mayor who is accustomed to being listened to,” he said.
Councilman Erik M. Dilan, who kept his decision to support both measures mostly private until he voted with the rest of the Council around 2 a.m., said he had been courted heavily by Mr. Kelly during a nearly 45-minute sit-down several weeks ago in the commissioner’s office at Police Headquarters. He said he later received a “very pleasant” call from the mayor.
“He said, ‘I would love your vote, we would love your vote in the worst way,’ ” Mr. Dilan said, recalling his conversation with Mr. Bloomberg. But the councilman said he remained less persuaded by their arguments than by the high number of police stops going on in his district, which covers some crime-prone areas of Brooklyn.
“The vote that I made was based on where my conscience is,” Mr. Dilan said. “It’s hard for that to change. But to say it’s impossible based on new information, it’s hard to say that.”
One bill, known as Intro. 1079, would create an independent inspector general to monitor and review police policy, conduct investigations and recommend changes to the department. The monitor would be part of the city’s Investigation Department alongside the inspectors general for other city agencies.
The law would go into effect on Jan. 1, leaving the matter of choosing the monitor to Mr. Bloomberg’s successor.
The other bill, Intro. 1080, would expand the definition of bias-based profiling to include age, gender, housing status and sexual orientation. It also would allow people to sue the Police Department in state court — not only for individual instances of bias, but also for policies that disproportionately affect people in any protected categories without serving a significant law enforcement goal.
But because the bill would allow potential plaintiffs to seek only intervention by the courts to force changes, and not monetary damages, it was not known yet if the measure would prompt a wave of lawsuits.
Supporters of the legislation were preparing for another round with the mayor and the challenging task of keeping a single member from bolting.
“They always just need one person,” said Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, Democrat of Brooklyn, the other sponsor of the bill. Mr. Williams said the strategy remained the same: sitting down individually with council members and going over the text of the bills.
he said. The legislation has already been a nettlesome issue in the Democratic race for mayor, especially for Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker, who has faced a growing challenge to her early front-runner status. She supported the measure creating an inspector general for the Police Department, which passed by a vote of 40 to 11, but she opposed the other, on police profiling, which passed 34 to 17. Mr. Bloomberg has 30 days to veto the bills.
At least one council member, Daniel Dromm of Queens, received a call from his local police station commander to protest the legislation ahead of the vote.
“They were deeply concerned about 250s and said they would be unable to perform them because of the profiling part of the reform,” said Councilman Dromm, referring to the police form used for street stops. “But for me, it’s the teeth of the reform; it’s the needed piece.” He voted for both bills.
Mr. Kelly said he understood that “people don’t like to be stopped,” but said the policing tool was a “something that you have to be able to do as a police officer on the streets of this city, or any other city.”
Legitimate police stops would not be curtailed under the legislation, Mr. Williams said. “The profiling bill doesn’t stop the police from stopping people,” he said. “It just stops profiling.”
Fight Looms Over Police Bill Vetoes
NYPD Would Get an Inspector General, Be Open to Racial-Profiling Lawsuits; Both Passed With Two-Thirds' Majorities
By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his allies vowed on Thursday to wage a vigorous battle to stop two police-oversight bills passed by the City Council from becoming law.
The mayor and his aides said they would lobby council members to change their minds before they vote on an override of the mayor's promised vetoes. A New York Police Department union said it wouldn't move forward with endorsements of council members who voted for the bill, and unions said they would fight any veto override.
Their effort won't be easy: The measures were approved with enough votes to override.
"This is a fight to defend your life and your kids' lives, and you can rest assured I will not give up for one minute," Mr. Bloomberg said. "These are bills that will make the police department a lot less effective, divert their resources away from what they're supposed to be doing."
Passed in the middle of the night, the bills came in response to widespread criticism of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practice, the subject of three class actions in federal court.
The council voted 40-11 to appoint an inspector general and 34-17 to allow people to file claims of racial profiling against the police in state court.
Mr. Bloomberg and police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have said the measures would jeopardize the safety of police officers and the public, reversing more than a decade of successful crime reduction.
The council needs 34 votes to override the mayor's veto, which means Mr. Bloomberg needs to convince a single council member to change positions to block the racial-profiling bill from becoming law.
The timing of the veto override could play a key role in the outcome. With many council members headed for summer vacations, it will be a challenge for the bills' supporters to set a date that guarantees all 34 backers show up.
Prior to Thursday's vote, the mayor personally lobbied a handful of council members, and his top aides talked with dozens.
"We are one away from being able to sustain a veto," said Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, referring to the racial-profiling bill. "We think it's possible to move another vote. The issue is too important to give up."
Council Member Brad Lander, a top sponsor of the bills, said he is confident that no council members will flip flop.
NYPD officers have made more than five million stops—many of which led to frisks—since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. The policy has been the target of fierce criticism because more than 85% of those stopped were either black or Latino, and nearly 90% were released without being charged.
A federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, is to decide in the coming months whether the NYPD has violated New Yorkers' constitutional rights. She is exploring the possibility of a court-appointed monitor.
The council's action on Thursday again injected stop-and-frisk as an issue into elections for mayor and City Council.
For council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democratic candidate for mayor, the issue has been especially nettlesome. She voted in favor of the inspector general bill and against the racial-profiling bill, the first piece of legislation since she became the council's leader in 2006 to be approved over her objections.
Ms. Quinn said she believes the inspector general bill will be an "enormous step forward" in increasing safety and bringing communities together. She said she doesn't share the mayor's concerns that passing the racial-profiling bill would make the city less safe, but she said she worries about having "too much judicial involvement."
The NYPD's unions opposed the bills and plan to play an active role in preventing a veto override. Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said the union wouldn't move forward with endorsements of four members who voted for the bills: Mathieu Eugene, Sara Gonzalez, Mark Weprin and Inez Dickens.
"They voted the way they did," he said. "That's not somebody we can endorse."
Mr. Richter said the union is putting together a budget for an advertising campaign that would build public pressure against an override.
Ms. Gonzalez said: "I believe my vote earlier today speaks for itself."
Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, a billionaire, pledged Thursday to contribute and raise money for candidates running against members who voted for the bills.
On Thursday, the bills stirred passions on the council floor, with a large number of council members—some who are black, some who are gay—talking about their own run-ins with the police and demanding that something be done to curb stops that they called abusive and humiliating.
"I implore you that if you have never been a young black, Latino male or female in the City of New York to please listen to us," said Council Member Jumaane Williams, the bills' lead sponsor, in an address that some of his colleagues praised as among the finest on the council floor in years.
"We can have safety and police accountability at the exact same time," Mr. Williams said, beseeching his colleagues to defer to council members whose districts are suffering from an enormous number of police stops. "If you don't live there, if you haven't been going through it, if you do not represent these areas, please side with us."
Council Member Donavan Richards of Queens, who is black, said 17 years ago, at age 13, he experienced his first stop and frisk. "It was an experience that left me shook up. It dehumanized me. It demoralized me," he said. "For many years…if a police car was in my rear-view mirror, I was scared. Today, I'm not scared. Today I'm elected and I have a chance to do something about it."
Council Member Daniel Dromm, who is openly gay, said he was arrested at age 16 on false prostitution charges. "We are sick and tired of this type of treatment by the New York City Police Department," he said, saying the council is here to demand respect from the police and "ensure that the abuses of the NYPD stop."
Punching his index finger in the air, Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican, said he was outraged by the criticisms of the NYPD. Instead of criticizing the police, he said, "we should be thanking them for a job well-done."
"I want to live in a safe city. I want to live in a city that is free from fear," he said. "I want to live in a city where my family and my neighbors aren't terrorized, not by the police officers, but by the violent criminals who ran this city for decades upon decades upon decades."
Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said the racial-profiling bill will put judges in charge of the NYPD.
"When the courts are in charge, we will become Chicago, we will become Detroit," Mr. Vallone said. "Crime will soar. Murders will rise. Children will die. And there is no greater civil rights violation than that."
Moving forward, Mr. Vallone said, it is up to the mayor and the unions to persuade members "to do the right thing."
In addition to Messrs. Vallone and Ulrich, the council members who opposed the inspector general bill include: Elizabeth Crowley of Queens; Lew Fidler of Brooklyn, James Gennaro of Queens; Vincent Gentile of Brooklyn; Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island; Peter Koo of Queens; Michael Nelson of Brooklyn; Domenic Recchia of Brooklyn; and James Oddo of Staten Island.
Each of the council members who opposed the inspector general bill also voted against the racial-profiling bill. In addition to Ms. Quinn, five others joined the opposition on this bill: David Greenfield of Brooklyn; Dan Halloran of Queens; Karen Koslowitz of Queens; Joel Rivera of the Bronx; and James Vacca of the Bronx.
In other business, the council voted 47 to 4 to override the mayor's veto requiring city employers with 20 or more workers to provide five days paid sick leave beginning April 1. The council also voted 50-1 to approve the city's $70 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning Monday.
'Anti-bias' bill would 'undermine public safety': Ray Kelly blasts City Council move to curb stop-and-frisk
By LORENA MONGELLI and SALLY GOLDENBERG — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly today harshly criticized the “anti-bias” bill passed by the City Council, predicting the measure will hamstring the department’s hugely successful crime-fighting tactics.
“It has significant potential to undermine so many of the gains that this city has achieved in the last decade,” Kelly said. “If it goes forward it certainly has the potential for undermining public safety in the city. “
Kelly called the measure, which passed earlier today, “unfortunate” and “misguided” while attending an NYPD-sponsored cricket game at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“It certainly has the potential for increasing crime and making police officers jobs much more difficult,” he said.
Kelly touted the NYPD’s efforts in bringing crime to record lows, and warned that the new laws could make life more dangerous for residents and tourists alike.
“This is going to affect everyone in the city, it’s not just going to affect the police department, so I think that the council members have [to] think about the impact across the city, think about the impact on the business community, on real estate, on tourism,” he said.
“Tourism is at a record high, crime is at record low. You have an incredibly low number of murders in this city, shootings are at record lows We are going to see what this all means if the mayor’s veto isn’t sustained.”
The bill would also make cops’ jobs tougher because they might second guess their decisions when pursuing criminal suspects, he warned.
“The thing I’m concerned about is hesitation on the part of police officers where they would react perhaps reflexively and the situation may give them pause for thought and increase the danger to them or have them not take action when they should take action. That has a potential impact on all of us,” he said.
The bill could drastically rein in the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk by making it easier for those who believe that they were unfairly profiled to file bias lawsuits. A second bill that would create the inspector general’s position to oversee the department also passed.
Kelly tempered his criticism of the City Council, which passed both bills with veto-proof majorities, suggesting that members might not fully understand the ramifications of their votes.
“ I don’t question the motives of the council members, I just believe they haven’t thought out the effects of this type of legislation,” said Kelly.
Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to veto both bills, and Kelly said the department and administration officials would continue lobbying members to not override the veto.
“Certainly the mayor’s staff will be communicating with the council members to give them as much information as we can. I think as we go forward and analyze this we’ll see that it is problematic in many ways,” he said.
He also denied activists’ claims of widespread animosity between the NYPD and the city’s minority communities
“I go to communities all the time [and] I believe we’ve never had better relationships with the communities that we serve, “ he said, adding that minorities now make up a majority of the NYPD.
“This notion that there is great hostility is the community [is not true]. I’m there on a regular basis [and] people are telling me they want us to continue these policies that you have in place because it’s made our neighborhoods much safer,” he said.
“Look at things we’ve done in the department in terms of ... the phenomenal reduction of crime, [of] life saving - no other word you could use for it - in communities of color. Down to record low murders in Brooklyn, core areas of Brooklyn that were plagued with violence,” Kelly said.
But despite the successes, Kelly said the department would work to cut the violence even further.
“One murder is way too many, one shooting is way too many,” he said.
Both bills passed the 34-vote threshold that will make them veto proof, with the profiling bill passing 34 to 17 and the IG bill passing 40-11.
The profiling bill passed without the support of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — the first time legislation has passed over her opposition in her seven-year tenure.
In one of the most heated sessions in recent years, supporters of the bills said they are a necessary step to curtail stop- and-frisk, a practice they say enables racial profiling.
“Today, we are striking a blow against a practice which has become a perverse rite of passage for all young men of color in the City of New York,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn.) “It will do nothing to handcuff or prevent the Police Department from ensuring that all of us are safe.”
Several members shared stories of being subjected to stop-and-frisk.
But Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) opposed the bills, saying, “It’s an unnecessary waste of money. Why don’t we take the money we’re going to use to establish the office of the inspector general and hire more cops?”
Bloomberg also warned that the bills would undermine the NYPD’s successful effort to slash crime.
“Last year, there was a record-low number of murders and a record-low number of shootings in our city, and this year, we’re on pace to break both of those records,” he said in a prepared statement immediately after the council votes.
“Unfortunately these dangerous pieces of legislation will only hurt our police officers’ ability to protect New Yorkers and sustain this tremendous record of accomplishment.”
The profiling bill would create a private right to sue for those who feel they were stopped and frisked simply because of their race, ethnicity, sexuality or other identifying factors rather than reasonable suspicion of a crime.
The measure would also allow people to sue the city to force changes in policies such as stop and frisk, and Kelly has warned that the department could be forced to pull the plug on video surveillance in high-crime neighborhoods and housing projects.
Quinn has said she opposes it because it would give state judges too much power over city policing.
The other measure would create an inspector general within the city Department of Investigation with subpoena power. It would prepare public reports on NYPD policy.
Additional reporting by Bob Fredericks
P.B.A. Jumps Into the Fray
Cops vow to defeat ‘profile’ pols
By KIRSTAN CONLEY and YOAV GONEN — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
A police union has declared war against the City Council members who voted for an anti-“racial profiling” bill — vowing to support their opponents in a campaign to have them all ousted from office.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association will announce today that it intends to use every means at its disposal to work for the rivals of current council members who voted for the measure, which cops believe will expose them to lawsuits.
“No council member who puts this city at risk will have a free ride in the next election,” said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch.
“We intend to target . . . council members for defeat in the upcoming election,” he said, “supporting their opponents to the greatest extent possible.”
Lynch said the unions would talk directly to voters to explain that the bill makes them less safe.
“We will reach out directly to constituents to educate them how their council members’ vote for these bills will translate into increased crime in this city,” he said.
Another union, the Detectives Endowment Association, yanked its support of Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan) and Mark Weprin (D-Queens), who are all up for re-election and in the running for powerful leadership positions in the council.
Sara Gonzalez (D-Brooklyn), who’s expected to be in a close race for her Sunset park seat, and Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn) also lost the backing of the DEA.
The legislation, which clears the way for legal action by those who claim they’ve been victims of police racial profiling, had 34 backers — the exact margin needed to overturn an expected veto by Mayor Bloomberg.
The unions are hoping their pressure will force council members to reconsider their votes when it comes time override the mayor’s opposition.
“Should these candidates change their position as reflected on the future vote to override the mayor’s expected veto, the [Captains Endowment Association] will back these candidates,” union head Roy Richter said.
None of the council members responded to requests for comment.
PBA challenges pro-NYC police oversight lawmakers
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 28th, 2013; 8:24 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK — The president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association says no New York City Council member who voted in favor of more police oversight "will have a free ride in the next election."
In a release Friday, PBA President Patrick Lynch said if the bills become law, the PBA intends to target the "pro-crime council members for defeat in the upcoming election."
The PBA represents about 50,000 active and retired NYPD officers. The PBA believes it will result in increased crime.
One of the measures would establish an inspector general with subpoena power to explore and recommend, but not force, changes to the NYPD's policies and practices. The other would give people more latitude if they believe they were stopped due to bias based on race, sexual orientation or certain other factors.
NYers cautiously optimistic about oversight bills
By COLLEEN LONG and JENNIFER PELTZ (The Associated Press) — Thursday, June 27th, 2013; 12:03 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK — Brooklyn resident Ezra Bryant has been bothered for years by the stop and frisk encounters police have with tens of thousands of people annually in his neighborhood, and he's glad city lawmakers have passed ambitious plans for more police oversight. Yet he's not sure any real change will come of them.
In what advocates hail as a potential transformation to policing in the nation's biggest city, the City Council voted early Thursday to create an outside watchdog and make it easier to bring racial profiling claims against the New York Police Department. Both measures passed with enough votes to override expected mayoral vetoes, marking a shift in the public debate and power that have set the balance between prioritizing safety and protecting civil liberties here.
Bryant, and other New Yorkers who live in areas most affected by the policies the measures aim to address, greeted the news with tempered optimism.
"I don't want the ability to sue the cops," Bryant, 46, said later Thursday. "I want change in the whole system — the police, the city, the country, how we are viewed as people. I have children. I want it to be better for them."
Bryant and others in neighborhoods where stop and frisks are most prevalent say they have felt some officers showed them disrespect and stopped them for no reason, and they question why other, whiter neighborhoods don't see the same treatment. Bryant said he doesn't know whether the measures will trickle down to the rank-and-file.
"I don't mind the cops stopping people. We have a lot of guns and a lot of drugs," said Bryant. But he said the tone of policing will be set through the chain of command, not city statutes.
"If there's a bad supervisor, there will be bad cops on the street. I'm not sure a bill changes that dynamic," said Bryant. He lives in the working-class Brownsville are, where police stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked nearly 22,150 people last year, mostly black and Hispanic men.
Citywide, about 5 million stops have been made during the past decade, mostly of minorities; arrests resulted about 10 percent of the time. The prevalence of stop and frisk was part of the impetus for the council's action, as was concern about the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims, as revealed in a series of stories by The Associated Press.
In East New York, where 24,418 people were stopped last year — the highest of any police precinct in the city — Kenny Unice said he hoped the measures passed Thursday would make officers think more about whom they stop and why. Police need reasonable suspicion to stop and question someone on the street, a standard lower than the probable cause needed to justify an arrest.
"It's good when the cops stop the right people, but not when someone is out with their children or their wife," Unice, 51, said as he walked with his grandchildren.
But other New Yorkers were wary of the changes, including Hamed Nabawy, a Muslim grocer in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill neighborhood. He attends the Al-Farooq mosque, where the NYPD placed informants and conducted surveillance from across the street, the AP stories showed.
Nabawy didn't mind that — "We have nothing to fear and nothing to hide. ... Our doors are open," he said. And, he said he's concerned about any law that would make it harder for good police officers to do their job.
"I don't remember one time they mistreated me or abused their power," he said, adding that the neighborhood is much safer than it was 30 years ago because of the police. "We can always find them when we need them."
While residents reflected on the developments Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly vowed to fight measures they say will make the city less safe. They point to all-time lows in murders and other crimes as a bellwether to show their policies work, and they say the new measures would make officers hesitant to act, drown the department in lawsuits and divert the department's attention.
"These are bills that are putting you and your family at risk," Bloomberg said after an unrelated news conference.
Kelly, at a separate event, said the legislation "has a potential for increasing crime and making police officers' jobs much more difficult."
One of the measures would establish an inspector general with subpoena power to explore and recommend, but not force, changes to the NYPD's policies and practices. The other would give people more latitude if they believe they were stopped because of bias based on race, sexual orientation or certain other factors.
Plaintiffs wouldn't necessarily have to prove that a police officer intended to discriminate. Instead, they could offer evidence that a practice such as stop and frisk affects some groups disproportionately, though police could counter that the disparity was justified to accomplish a substantial law enforcement end. The suits couldn't seek money, just court orders to change police practices.
Supporters hailed the legislation as a civil rights coup and said it would make the nation's largest police department more accountable and the public more trusting of officers.
"I thought that it was a very important step toward establishing a system of checks and balances for the NYPD," said Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, who had stayed through the night to watch the bills pass.
At a City Hall rally Thursday celebrating the measures' passage, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous characterized them as a signal chapter in the organization's campaign for civil rights.
"We have moved closer to being one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all because we have moved closer to making our greatest city one city, under God, with liberty and justice for all," Jealous said.
The measures follow decades of efforts to empower outside input on the NYPD. Efforts to establish an independent civilian complaint board in the 1960s spurred a bitter clash with a police union, which mobilized a referendum on it. Voters defeated it.
More than two decades later, private citizens were appointed to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which handles mainly misconduct claims against individual officers. A 1990s police corruption scandal spurred a recommendation for an independent board to investigate corruption; a Commission to Combat Police Corruption was established in 1995, but it lacks subpoena power.
Courts also have exercised some oversight, including through a 1985 federal court settlement that set guidelines for the NYPD's intelligence-gathering. And the City Council has weighed in before, including with a 2004 law that barred racial or religious profiling as "the determinative factor" in police actions, a measure Bloomberg signed.
Associated Press Writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.
Counterterrorism Domestic Surveillance Operations: NYPD / CIA Collaboration
Raymond Kelly defends program that allowed CIA agents to embed with the NYPD
A newly declassified report by the CIA Inspector General was critical of the arrangement, which allowed one of the CIA officials, who was on leave from the agency, to participate in domestic surveillance
By Thomas Tracy — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
The NYPD’s aggressive post-9/11 response to combating terrorism has spawned another controversy — a newly declassified CIA report that faults aspects of an NYPD-CIA collaboration that led a CIA agent to take part in domestic surveillance operations.
That official was one of four CIA agents embedded with the NYPD during parts of the decade following the 9/11 attacks, according to an executive summary of the report by the CIA Inspector General that was made public through a court action under the Freedom of Information Law.
The agent was on leave from the federal spy agency at the time, so the report by CIA Inspector General David Buckley found the official did not violate a law that bars the Central Intelligence Agency from conducting domestic spying.
The report cleared both agencies of any wrongdoing associated with the collaboration, which ended last year, but Buckley warned in a Dec. 2011 letter to then-CIA director David Petraeus that the arrangement lacked oversight and documentation.
In Buckley’s cover letter, which was made public along with an executive summary of the report, the CIA Inspector General said the arrangement had the potential to undermine the spy agency’s objective and reputation — to say nothing of the potential impact from an NYPD perspective.
“The risks associated with the agency’s relationship with the NYPD were not fully considered,” Buckley wrote.
“Given the unique sensibilities ... regarding the collection and retention of U.S. persons information, as well as the legal and regulatory limitations and requirements on CIA’s ability to provide assistance to local law enforcement, better documentation of the arrangement, practices and appropriate approvals was warranted.”
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, whose department has been criticized for its clandestine surveillance of the local Muslim community, defended the arrangement.
“We are proud of our relationship with the CIA,” Kelly said Thursday, responding to a New York Times article on the Inspector General’s report.
“No regulations were violated,” Kelly said. “We’re proud and grateful for the CIA’s support in keeping our city safe.”
The Inspector General’s report was declassified at a time when the federal government is weathering a furor over its domestic spying following leaks of National Security Agency operations. And on Wednesday the New York City Council approved a bill that would create an Inspector General to monitor the NYPD’s operations, an action motivated in part by the department’s controversial stop, question and frisk program.
The NYPD’s collaboration with the CIA appears to have begun in 2002, after David Cohen, a former CIA official, became head of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division. From the NYPD’s perspective, the program was an effort to improve the department’s counterterrorism know-how.
The first CIA agent to be assigned was dispatched as an adviser in 2002 and took a leave of absence from the CIA from 2004-2009, during which time the agent was a party to NYPD surveillance and investigations involving both “U.S. persons and non-U.S. persons.”
While on leave from the CIA, the official, according to the report, “did not consider himself an agency officer and believed he had ‘no limitations’ as far as what he could or could not do.”
Another CIA agent came the NYPD’s way in 2008, but remained on Uncle Sam’s payroll. From February through April the operative had access to NYPD daily files and investigative reports from the intelligence division. The operative told the inspector general that he believed the reports were “unfiltered” — meaning they could have contained material that was not related to foreign surveillance.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group that brought the Freedom of Information Law action, said that while the CIA operatives’ actions may not have been illegal, they “certainly skirted a line.”
“The CIA inspector general’s office found the CIA’s relationship to be very problematic on numerous levels,” said Ginger McCall, the director of the Center’s Open Government Project.
“CIA agents were engaging in practices that could qualify as domestic surveillance.”
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd told The Times the report produced no evidence of domestic spying by the CIA operatives who participated in the program.
“It should come as no surprise that, after 9/11, the C.I.A. stepped up its cooperation with law enforcement on counterterrorism issues or that some of that increased cooperation was in New York,” Boyd wrote in an email.
The CIA Inspector General began the investigation after The Associated Press published an article in 2011 that detailed the relationship between the CIA and NYPD.
Fresh questions for NYPD as CIA collaboration revealed in new report
Civil liberties groups express concern over 'deeply troubling' report that sets out surveillance of New Yorkers since 9/11
By Ryan Devereaux — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The Guardian’ / London, England
Campaigners for greater accountability at New York’s powerful police force have seized on a report that details for the first time the extent of the collaboration between the CIA and the NYPD in the years after 9/11.
The formerly-classified inspector general’s report also raises new questions over whether the spy agency’s partnership with the nation’s largest police department amounted to unofficial cover for CIA officers to operate in the US in ways that could otherwise be deemed unlawful.
The 12-page document, first described in a New York Times article published Wednesday night, contains the December 2011 findings of an investigation into the CIA’s training and support of the NYPD that included embedding four officers in the department in the decade following the September 11 attacks.
According to the report, one of the individuals engaged in surveillance operations on US soil and believed there were “no limitations” on his activities. The report said another officer was given “unfiltered” access to police reports that had nothing to do with foreign intelligence.
The partnership led to “irregular personnel practices,” devoid of “formal documentation in some important instances,” CIA inspector David B Buckley found. While the review found no agency employees in violation of the law and Buckley determined “an insufficient basis to merit a full investigation” into the partnership, the inspector general did say that the “risks associated with the agency’s relationship with NYPD were not fully considered and that there was inadequate direction and control by the agency managers responsible for the relationship.”
The inquiry was prompted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of investigative stories by the Associated Press into the NYPD’s intelligence division. David Cohen, a veteran CIA officer with no police experience, was the architect of the NYPD’s spy program and remains the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence. The AP found that under Cohen and commissioner Ray Kelly, the intelligence division has targeted over 250 mosques along the east coast, infiltrated student groups, and mapped Muslim neighborhoods for surveillance.
The NYPD has steadfastly defended its efforts, arguing that its counterterrorism operations have stopped 14 terrorist plots since September 11 (though the NYPD’s centrality and/or credibility in virtually every alleged plot has been called into question.)
“We’re proud of our relationship with CIA and its training,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Times, adding terrorists “keep coming and we keep pushing back.”
In an extended interview with the Wall Street Journal in April, Commissioner Kelly was asked if changes had been made to the NYPD’s surveillance programs in the wake of the AP series. “No,” he said.
Speaking to the Guardian Thursday, NYPD critics expressed concern over the details revealed in the IG report.
“This is deeply troubling because, at the very least, it’s clear that there was insufficient legal guidance and oversight for this relationship,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project told said. Shamsi is a lead attorney on lawsuit filed last week on behalf of several Muslim community members and organizations accusing the NYPD of unlawful surveillance.
“A key question is what information went back and forth between people even if they, at least formally, appear to have severed their relationship with the CIA,” she said. “It is very clear that there was insufficient legal guidance and oversight and that what should be a clear firewall between the CIA and local law enforcement, in terms of law enforcement and intelligence gathering, appears to be porous.”
Shamsi said “the extent to which these people who were from the CIA had access to CIA databases, operations and information while they were embedded with the NYPD” remained murky. “That’s the thing the report doesn’t address,” she said.
Faizal Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, said in an email to the Guardian that the report confirmed much of what has been reported or suspected in previous years, but expressed fear that the police department had internalized the worldview of an intelligence agency.
“We already knew that the CIA inspector general was concerned about irregularities in the assignment of CIA officers to the NYPD. The IG report shows that the concern was more serious than personnel issues, but touched on the agency’s involvement in purely domestic intelligence operations,” she said.
Patel said that “at least one CIA analyst claimed that he was given unfettered access to NYPD intelligence reports” but added “the bigger issue, in my mind, is the extent to which the CIA’s way of working influenced the NYPD’s intelligence program.”
“Brooklyn is not Baghdad,” Patel said. “All New Yorkers have a stake in the city’s safety and should be treated as partners in fighting crime and terrorism. The CIA, of course, operates in very different environments. My concern is that a mindset forged in counterinsurgency operations unduly shaped the NYPD’s intelligence operations, especially its Muslim surveillance program.”
The Freedom of Information Act that eventually resulted in the disclosure of the inspector general’s report was filed 28 March, 2012 by Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington DC-based non-partisan non-profit. The IG report shows the CIA has been dishonest in describing its relationship with the NYPD, McCall told the Guardian.
“The report indicates that the CIA was not forthright with the American public about its activities,” she said, noting that the review detailed the work of four CIA employees with the department. Prior reporting had indicated there were only two. Some of those individuals, McCall said, “did have the opportunity to participate in domestic surveillance and domestic-focused investigations.”
Attorney Jethro Eisenstein has been at the head of four-decade lawsuit accusing the NYPD of violating a set of department rules prohibiting the investigation of political activity in the absence of an indication of illegal activity. Known as Handschu, the rules were developed in response to the department’s past surveillance of radical and activist groups. The rules are now at the heart of the legal debate the NYPD’s CIA-backed surveillance of Muslim communities.
Speaking to the Guardian, Eisenstein paraphrased the CIA’s assessment of its work with the NYPD, as described in the IG report, “‘We were very sloppy in dealing with the NYPD, and maybe we got too deep in bed with them, and maybe we shouldn’t be doing that.’”
Eisentein said former CIA officer Cohen’s appointment to the department brought about a dangerous shift. “Once Cohen came aboard, the whole ethos of the place changed,” he said. “They stopped being cops. They started being an intelligence agency. As far as intelligence agencies are concerned, the more information about the more people, the better. And that’s contrary to what the Handschu rules say.”
“It’s a whole different mindset. Law enforcement is about identifying, stopping illegal activity or apprehending people who have engaged in illegal activity. It’s a totally different model from intelligence gathering,” he said. Eisentein said the shift represents “a huge danger.”
“Somebody needs to look at what’s gone on in these 12 years,” he said.
1870 ‘Tweed Charter’ Basis for Establishing the NYPD
New Election Law No Longer Has NYPD Sort, Distribute Voting Results
By: Zack Fink — Thursday, June 27th, 2013; 6:29 p.m. ‘NY 1 News’ / New York
COMMENT: Just think it took almost 144 years to undo the last vestige of the procedure that Tammany Boss William Tweed created as his justification for establishing the NYPD. - Mike Bosak
New York City will undergo some fundamental changes when it comes to this year's election cycle. Not only did Albany lawmakers authorize the limited use of old-fashioned lever machines, but the NYPD is no longer responsible for sorting and protecting results. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Heeding the concerns of the city Board Of Elections, lawmakers approved legislation allowing the use of lever machines this year to ensure that election workers can quickly tally the results if there is a runoff election following the primary.
But there was another change that may have been overshadowed by the debate over whether to bring back lever machines, and that change is how election results get reported.
"Currently, in a little-known fact, the police commissioner of the city of New York is still the source of election results, which comes from a time when that agency was considered to be a bastion to prevent corruption of those results. But in this day and age, really the Board Of Elections ought to be taking responsibility for that," said Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.
Under legislation that passed both houses, the New York City Police Department, an executive agency of the mayor, has been cut out of the reporting process. Election workers will upload the results directly to their website, making the data available immediately.
"It's been embarrassing when elections are held in New York State and counties in upstate and Long Island were able to report the results far more quickly than New York City," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union. "We think that we would be able to do it a little bit better and faster but we haven't been able to. This will allow New York City to get the election night results out before people go to bed."
Under the old system, results would go to police precincts and then be distributed to the Associated Press. Now, the AP is no longer the gatekeeper.
"The news media and then the general public will have access in real time, as the election results come in from each poll site," said Brian Kavanagh.
Orthodox Neighborhood Watch Groups [City Council Funding of Private Security] (A Must Read)
District 48: Who Watches the Watchman?
By Unnamed Author(s) [City Council Watch] — Thursday, June 27th, 2013; ‘The CityCouncilWatch.Net’ / Brooklyn
With a certain Florida neighborhood watch group so much in the news, New Yorkers might be puzzled to note that we have such groups operating here as well. And not only within gated communities either, and not necessarily privately funded. So let’s take a look at New York City’s own paramilitary, quasi-religious and City Council funded neighborhood watch groups, the founder of one of which is currently a leading candidate for City Council.
Chaim Deutsch, founder of the Flatbush Shomrim, (Hebrew for “watchers”) is hoping to succeed his boss Council Member Michael Nelson in the 48th CD, straddling Ocean Avenue and crossing Sheepshead Bay to encompass Brighton and Manhattan Beach. The Flatbush Shomrim, founded in 1991 in the immediate wake of the Crown Heights riots, is staffed primarily by Orthodox Jewish men (typically “married or divorced”) who patrol the neighborhood and ostensibly serve strictly as the “eyes and ears” for the police. There are a number of these Jewish shomrim groups throughout Brooklyn, and they operate in loose conjunction with each other.
The problem is that the shomrim, as neighborhood watchmen everywhere seem to do, sometimes get carried away with the grandeur of their own self-appointed authority. In 2011, for example, when Leiby Kletzky disappeared on his way home, his parents notified not the NYPD, but the local shomrim organization, the Brooklyn South Shomrim, which called upon the Flatbush Shomrim to help look for the child. Neither group contacted the police, although the boy’s father eventually did. Unfortunately the amateur detectives wasted precious time examining security footage and his abductor killed the boy.
The Flatbush Shomrim receives public funding, in substantial amounts. The 2014 budget earmarks $63,500 for the group in discretionary funding, from Council Members Michael Nelson, Lew Fidler, Jumaane Williams, and David Greenfield, in descending order of amounts given. The Flatbush Shomrim also possesses a $250,000 command and control van, modeled on and decorated like an NYPD vehicle, which was paid for by Council funding in 2009. The group operates in close conjunction with the local precinct, and acts much like a quasi-auxiliary force, with special jackets and flashing lights on their vehicles.
Chaim Deutsch is a Council employee, working as “chief of operations” for CM Michael Nelson. Because his boss provides so much funding to the Flatbush Shomrim, Deutsch is no longer listed as an officer of the organization in its IRS documents. But he is still closely associated with the group, and is frequently mentioned as its “leader.”
Deutsch gained a great deal of visibility during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when he participated in salvage and clean-up of Manhattan Beach and other neighborhoods. He became popularly identified with a chainsaw he carried around, blitzing fallen trees until the city ordered him to stop. He supposedly even “rescued” CM Nelson from drowning. His legitimate indefatigability and seemingly good works post-storm have raised his standing in the community, and when he announced his bid for the Council he shocked everyone with the speed of his fundraising, essentially maxing out his contributions in less than a month. As the leading non-Russian in the field, Deutsch has quickly become the odds-on favorite for the nomination, and also has support from the growing Muslim minority population in the district, with whom Deutsch has built a coalition through his years of public safety work in the area.
City Council Watch is not endorsing or gainsaying Chaim Deutsch. But we definitely think it is weird that the city, which already has a police force larger than many national armies, funds private security groups composed exclusively of Orthodox Jews to patrol public streets. As Michael Lesher, a prominent Orthodox critic of the shomrim puts it, “If the Nation of Islam were to set up a private force of Muslims, ostensibly to scour Harlem for ‘bias crimes,’ would City Council members be heaping public money into its coffers?”
Probably not. But that’s New York!
NYPD $$ Lawyer Lotto $$ Bonanza
Five Hispanic women sue NYPD over language interpreters
Case heard in Brooklyn federal court
By Claudia Torrens (The Associated Press) with Charisma L. Miller, Esq., Brooklyn Daily Eagle, contributing — Thursday, June 27th, 2013; 2:00 p.m. ‘The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’ / Brooklyn
The New York City Police Department has been sued in Brooklyn federal court for allegedly not providing a Spanish-speaking interpreter or a Spanish-speaking officer to assist in cases where the victims spoke little English.
Wendy Garcia called 911 after her boyfriend shoved her and slammed a door on her, she said. She asked for a Spanish-speaker because she spoke little English.
She was able to explain what happened to the operator, but when police arrived at her Queens home, they spoke "no Spanish, only English," and refused to get an interpreter, she said. Garcia, frustrated and crying, couldn't explain to them what happened, and she says they ended up taking information from her abuser instead. She was nearly arrested, she said, and nothing happened to him.
The 34-year-old from Guatemala is taking action. Along with four other Hispanic women, she has filed a federal lawsuit against the police for failing to bring Spanish interpreters following separate domestic violence incidents at their homes during the past two years.
"I am afraid," she told The Associated Press this week in Spanish. "I am afraid of retaliation, but I felt a necessity to speak out. My rights have been ignored," she said.
At a hearing this week in Brooklyn federal court, the city said it planned to file a motion to dismiss. Paul Browne, the chief spokesman for the NYPD, described the case as meritless and said that the NYPD has more foreign-language officers than any other department in the country.
Browne said the department has used a language service since the 1990s, at first for emergency calls made to 911 in foreign languages and more recently also in situations where an interpreter is needed in precincts and neighborhoods.
"In addition to having thousands of Spanish-speaking police officers on the job, the NYPD has recruited and enlisted members of the service in its volunteer translator program to assist the public and police in investigations and for other needs," he said. Browne's touting of the fact that many NYPD officers speak Spanish directly undercut by the facts emerging from a separate allegations against the NYPD that Spanish-speaking officers are reprimanded for speaking Spanish on the job.
“We’re a 24/7 operation,” an NYPD spokesman told the Daily News in defense of an alleged NYPD English-only policy. “We should be speaking one voice, which is English.”
The fact that law enforcement officials in the U.S. speak in Spanish has sometimes been criticized. The U.S. government banned Border Patrol agents from providing interpretation services for immigrants last year at the request of other agencies. Several activists had denounced the practice, alleging that agents used the opportunity to ask about the immigration status of people questioned.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the policy was dictated by federal law. "It's anti-discrimination laws that say that there is an English-only requirement in the workplace," Kelly said, adding that the department took no further action aside from a note in the officer's file.
It is unclear how the NYPD will reconcile its English-only policy with its assertion that Spanish-speaking officers are utilized to assist the public.
Garcia and the other women -- Yanahit Padilla, Arlet Macareno, Lina Carrion and Silvia Soriano -- say that when they were abused by their partners, they tried to request help from Spanish-speakers, but responding officers spoke only English and didn't offer interpreters.
They also accused the department of mocking and ridiculing them, and in some cases, listening only to the man's versions of the events because it was in English. The women are from Mexico, Ecuador and Guatemala.
Macareno was arrested the night that she called police, though she said her husband pushed her and she fell down a flight of stairs. Padilla also was arrested after she called the police saying her boyfriend had beaten her.
The lawsuit claims that the police refused access to an interpreter for people with limited English, contrary to city policies that say officers must offer linguistic assistance to those who need it. The suit also argues that the police department "degrades, ridicules and otherwise mistreats limited-English-proficient individuals who request interpreter services, actively demeaning them for their lack of English proficiency."
The suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money, also asks for changes in the system. It was filed on behalf of the women by Legal Services NYC. The Violence Intervention Program, an organization that helps Hispanic victims of domestic violence, is also a plaintiff in the case.
Garcia, who has lived in the U.S. for 11 years, said that the night she called 911, police listened to the English version of the events from her boyfriend. That night, it was actually her boyfriend who filed a complaint against her with the police.
"I have rights," she said. "One is the right to an interpreter. They should not have the right to humiliate people, Hispanics, who are undocumented," she said.
According to the lawsuit brought by the women, nearly 25 percent of NYC residents over the age of 5 have limited English proficiency and require the language assistance services of the police department. Browne said that the most requested languages are Mandarin and Spanish.
A spokeswoman for the city's law department said this week she expects the court will find these claims without merit, factually and legally.
Hasid cop recruit Fishel Litzman bashes NYPD's terror claim in firing over refusal to trim beard
Lawyer calls reason for ax, that a gas mask wouldn't fit properly, an "after-the-fact rationalization"
By Rocco Parascandola — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
THE LAWYER for the Hasidic NYPD recruit fired for refusing to trim his beard because of his religion says the department is now using the fear of a terrorist attack as a reason for the dismissal.
Fishel Litzman was terminated last June while still in the Police Academy. He was accused of refusing to adhere to department standards limiting beards to no more than 1 millimeter in length.
In Manhattan Federal Court Thursday, Litzman’s lawyer, Nathan Lewin, said the city has come up with an “after-the-fact rationalization” by saying facial hair would prevent him wearing a gas mask with a proper fit.
But Keri Reid McNally, representing the city, said Litzman would put himself and others at risk if he needed to wear the mask in an emergency.
Federal Judge Harold Baer is considering whether to reinstate Litzman, 39, or send the case to trial.
Megalomania Gone Wild: Tote Bags Get Kelly Free Name Recognition in New York’s Asian Communities
With Tote Bags, Police Try to Combat a ‘Blessing Scam’
By SARAH MASLIN NIR — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
COMMENT: Never let a tragedy (or crime) go to waste. In yesterday's news, we had the ‘dog and pony’ show for face time - absent the ponies of course. Today we have ‘Tote Bag Time in China Town.’ Somehow or other, it looks like all this nonsense will be coming to an end in January. - Mike Bosak
On a street corner in Flushing, Queens, on Wednesday afternoon, Ping Fan, 56, clutched a new tote bag with an unusual provenance: it was a gift from police officers who handed it to her as she strolled down Kissena Boulevard.
The bag, Ms. Fan learned, was intended to be armor of sorts.
Over the last year, New York’s Chinatowns, in Flushing and in Manhattan, have been plagued by an unusual crime known as the “blessing scam” that plays on the traditional spiritual beliefs of Chinese immigrants.
Scammers approach victims, usually elderly Chinese women, telling them they look haggard and unlucky. The solution, the women are told, is to shove all of their valuables in a sack to be blessed, and to be unsealed several days later.
But its only when the bundles are opened that the victims realize truly how unlucky they are: the sacks are invariably empty except for crushed newspaper, water bottles and rice, having been swapped for an identical bag long before. And the helpful stranger is now nowhere to be found.
(In one of the latest examples, the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Thursday announced that five people had been accused of attempting to scam a 67-year-old woman in Chinatown earlier this month.)
To combat the problem, the police have begun a multipronged awareness campaign, aimed at older people with talks at nursing homes and announcements on Chinese television programs. The latest weapon in their arsenal: a cloth shopping bag.
The bright blue bags, 1,000 of which were on hand at a booth set up by the police on a Flushing street corner on Wednesday, are emblazoned with words of warning about the crime in both Chinese characters and English. It says:
Beware of street scams!
Please call 911 if you are a victim or witness of a scam.”
It also has the Police Department logo and the name of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.
“All the Chinese people are losing money,” said Ms. Fan as she took her bag. “I need to be careful.”
The bag, said Inspector Brian Maguire of the 109th Precinct in Flushing, “is a way to let a potential perpetrator who wants to commit a crime think that, ‘Oh maybe I shouldn’t go near that person because they’re aware of this scam.’”
The police believe the thievery often goes unreported because of the embarrassment of being so stupendously duped, Inspector Maguire said.
“They play on superstitions that members of the Chinese culture have where they believe their family will be affected by bad luck, and evil spirits,” he said, adding, “We had to think outside the box.”
Mei-Yu Liu contributed reporting.
Tickets for bike riders up 7% in Manhattan, 81% in Brooklyn: NYPD
The blame is being place on Citi Bike stations, as the 12 Manhattan precincts with them reporting a jump in citations. In Brooklyn, four precincts with stations and three that neighbored them, saw tickets rise from 282 handed out to 510 during the same period year-to-year.
By Pete Donohue — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
It's a Citi Tix Blitz!
The number of tickets issued to cyclists for breaking the rules of the road has skyrocketed since the May 27 launch of Citi Bike, police statistics reveal.
In the 12 Manhattan precincts with Citi Bike stations, police issued 484 tickets to cyclists as of Sunday. That’s up 7% from the same period last year.
But in the four Brooklyn precincts with Citi Bike stations, plus three neighboring precincts, the number of tickets handed out soared from 282 to 510 — an 81% increase.
John Briar, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ran a red light riding toward the Williamsburg Bridge on Monday — and came helmet-to-helmet with a police officer also on a bicycle.
“I blew right through it,” Briar said. “I made a left turn and he was right there. He got two of us.”
Briar, 39, an executive vice president of a software company, said he understood the safety reasons for enforcing traffic rules — but he was still stung by the fine: $190.
“It’s outrageous. That’s more than most people pay for their bikes in the first place,” Briar said. “It seems excessive.”
Police could not say how many violations were committed by Citi Bike riders or cyclists using their own wheels.
But the officer who slapped Briar with the ticket told him police have ramped up their efforts with the rollout of the popular bike-rental program.
Tickets are usually handed out for running red lights, riding in the wrong direction or being on the sidewalk and wind up in the range of $25 to $190.
Citi Bike cyclists have already taken 528,000 trips — and pedaled approximately 1.28 million miles, according to NYC Bike Share, operator of the program.
The NYPD and city Department of Transportation had no comment on the statistics. One police official said officers are simply observing more infractions because there are so many more people riding bikes.
Between January and May 26 — the day before Citi Bike’s launch — enforcement was on the rise, but to a lesser extent.
The number of tickets issued to cyclists in the same seven Brooklyn precincts, compared with the same period a year earlier, was up nearly 26%, according to the NYPD.
Police could not provide the same statistics for Manhattan.
At least twice a week, police corral riders going the wrong way on South Fifth St. near Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, said Nick Jaric, who works at the nearby Landmark Bicycles shop.
“They’ll stop 10 to 15 of them, make a group, and then give them tickets one by one,” he said. “They do it a lot.”
Some cyclists said the worst offenders are tourists and novice riders trying to navigate the city on the heavy blue Citi Bike bicycles.
“I’ve seen people do the dumbest things,” bike messenger Jason Potvin, 33, said. “Going the wrong way on a one-way street. Riding in a crosswalk full of pedestrians. Riding on the sidewalk.”
Despite the increased enforcement, a poll released Thursday shows overwhelming support for the bike-share program.
A Quinnipiac poll found that 50% of registered voters support the program, 20% oppose it and 27% hadn’t heard enough about it to say.
With Jennifer Fermino
Tickets issued to all bicyclists between launch on May 27 and June 23 in Manhattan precincts below 59th St. with Citi Bike stations:
This year: 484
Same period last year: 452
Tickets issued in Brooklyn precincts with Citi Bike stations (Precincts 90, 84, 88, 79) and bordering precincts south of Atlantic Ave. (76, 78, 77):
This year: 510
Same period last year: 282
Source: Citi Bike, NYPD
Report: Suffolk authorities failed to investigate 'preventable' homicide in police custody
By ZACHARY R. DOWDY — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘New York Newsday’ / Melville, L.I.
Suffolk police, the medical examiner and the district attorney all failed to properly investigate the 2011 death of a Lindenhurst man with bipolar disorder who suffocated during a struggle with police after he did not receive his medication, a state report found.
In what the state Commission of Correction calls a "preventable" homicide, Daniel McDonnell, 40 -- in custody for a misdemeanor dispute with a neighbor -- died after First Precinct officers shot him repeatedly with a stun gun and pinned him to the floor with a riot shield when he yelled for his drugs and flooded his cell by stuffing his clothes in the toilet.
Noting inconsistencies in the versions of the event given by officers involved, the report released this week said the police department, the medical examiner and prosecutors all failed to properly investigate the May 6, 2011, death, which the medical examiner also has called a homicide.
County officials declined to comment on the report, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, because the death is the subject of a wrongful-death civil suit filed in 2011 by McDonnell's family.
Suffolk police said in a statement the department "does not comment on potential/pending litigation" and Suffolk County district attorney spokesman Robert Clifford called the report's critique of the office "inaccurate and baseless."
The commission gives a scathing assessment of how the county handled the case. "The Suffolk County Police Department failed to conduct a comprehensive internal investigation of its officers and the use of physical force that resulted in McDonnell's death," the report said. The commission also called the homicide squad's investigation "cursory and incomplete."
The Albany-based agency, which looks into deaths in jails, prisons and police lockups, criticized the Suffolk medical examiner's review. It said "the forensic investigation failed to adequately identify and examine the blunt force injuries to McDonnell . . . and failed to adequately establish and examine the events."
The commission identified "compressive asphyxia" as the cause of death and said that the manner of death was homicide.
The medical examiner's autopsy report also said McDonnell's manner of death was homicide. However, the identified cause was "sudden death following physical struggle and restraint in a person with bipolar disorder with excited delirium syndrome; hypertensive cardiovascular disease and obesity."
The commission's report noted that Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota's office "failed to conduct any investigation of this incident even though it was ruled a homicide and no investigative findings were ever brought before an independent grand jury to determine whether the use of force was justified and lawful."
The commission's report was written by physician Phyllis Harrison-Ross and recommends the police department review the actions of the supervisor, sergeants and officers involved in the death. It also recommended the medical examiner re-examine the forensic evidence and review autopsy protocol.
The Commission of Correction sets policies and standards for state correction facilities and the treatment of detainees, and can close facilities that don't comply.
Stephen Civardi of Freeport is representing McDonnell's family in a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit filed against Suffolk County in 2011.
"I'm astonished they thought they could get away with it," said Civardi, referring to what he called poor performance on the part of the three agencies. "There seems to be no concern by county officials."
Danielle McDonnell, the victim's widow, said she was "disgusted" by what police did to her husband, whose son is 11.
"I think that somebody should be held accountable," she said. "You need police. They keep people safe. But my view of the Suffolk County Police Department is one of disgust."
Her husband had been awaiting arraignment on a misdemeanor charge involving a dispute with a neighbor on May 5, 2011. Officers arrested him on a charge of violating a restraining order. He arrived at the First Precinct just before 2 p.m. on May 5, 2011, the report said.
His mother, Bridget McDonnell, tried to deliver two bottles of medication to the precinct about 3:30 p.m. Police said they did not give him the drugs because the bottles were not properly labeled, the report said. They told the mother she needed better documentation and her son would be given medication at an emergency room if he wanted it.
The report said McDonnell began screaming repeatedly at officers to give him his psychiatric medication in the early morning hours of May 6. He was told to calm down, but he continued yelling, pacing in the holding cell and then clogged the toilet with clothes, flushing it repeatedly. When he refused to comply with a police order to put his hands behind his back, officers stunned him at least twice and after the struggle began, at least nine officers became involved.
Officers told the commission they were trying to restrain McDonnell so they could take him to a hospital. They called an ambulance when he became motionless after the struggle.
Danielle McDonnell said police first told her that her husband had suffered a heart attack while in custody. She said she became suspicious when the funeral director her family hired told her that he might not be able to cover up all of the bruises on her husband's body. She later learned of the extent of the struggle that ended her husband's life.
"Danny didn't die due to an illness or a health reason or something you could actually accept," said Danielle McDonnell. " . . . I don't see a reason why any person is above being investigated or prosecuted for doing something that they shouldn't have done."
Gun background check bill, hailed as ‘national model,’ goes to Christie's desk
BY MICHAEL LINHORST — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The Bergen Record’ / Hackensack, N.J.
A gun control bill that overhauls New Jersey’s background check system and imposes new requirements on firearm sales — a centerpiece of the Democrats’ legislative agenda — now joins more than a dozen other gun bills awaiting a decision by Governor Christie.
Gun control is one of several thorny issues Christie must navigate, including gay marriage and funding for health care, as he works on a reelection campaign and positions himself on the national political scene.
Christie has 45 days to decide whether the measure should become law, but no matter what he chooses, he will disappoint a large group of people. Statewide polls show that Garden State voters have consistently supported tighter gun laws — even though New Jersey already has some of the strictest in the country.
The governor is looking for a big win in November, so he may not want to run afoul of voters who support gun control. But Christie also has national ambitions, and legislation tightening background checks will not play well in the Republican presidential primaries.
The governor has refused to say what he plans to do with the gun control legislation. “We’ll be looking at all legislative proposals and will consider them within the usual time allotted for review in the governor’s office,” Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, said on Thursday when asked what the governor thought of the bill.
Christie has yet to sign or veto any gun violence legislation sent to his desk. Among other changes, those bills would prevent people on the federal terror watch list from buying a gun; ban purchases of .50-caliber firearms and eliminate the public’s right to access firearm ownership records.
In all, there are 16 bills that deal with gun control or gun crimes awaiting Christie’s decision.
The background-check legislation, which passed the Senate, 22-16, on Thursday, would replace the current paper cards and permits needed to buy weapons with digitized cards — either embedded in gun purchasers’ driver’s licenses or issued as a separate card by the state police. It would also mandate training classes for prospective gun buyers and require people who want to buy ammunition to have a firearms ID card or permit.
The bill passed the Assembly, 43-34, with one abstention on Monday.
“This will be a model for the nation,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who sponsored the bill. “It will make existing gun laws more effective and help keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”
Gun-rights activists have already launched an online social media campaign to pressure Christie to veto the legislation.
“Let [Christie] know that you want these anti-2A bills vetoed,” the New Jersey Second Amendment Society posted on Twitter Thursday, using an abbreviation for the Second Amendment.
In April, Christie unveiled his own set of proposals aimed at gun violence — measures based on a task force report he commissioned after the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut.
His proposals focused on reducing gun trafficking and straw purchasing, two crimes he said are behind much of New Jersey’s gun violence.
Christie also said the state should make it easier to force mentally ill people into treatment before they become violent and should require the instant background check process for buying firearms include mental health records.
Christie said those proposals aim to get at the “root causes” of violence in New Jersey.
Many of his ideas were included in legislation that passed both houses. But the Democrats’ centerpiece bill — the background check overhaul — was not contained in Christie’s recommendations.
That bill is one of two that received the bulk of the public’s attention over the last six months. The other high-profile legislation, which would have limited the size of legal ammunition magazines, passed the Assembly but never came to a vote in the Senate.
The Senate passed three other gun violence bills Thursday — which all received much broader, bipartisan support.
They would impose tougher criminal penalties for people convicted of gun trafficking, impound vehicles used by traffickers and create a commission to study the causes of violence.
F.B.I. (Boston Office Bribery, Deceit, and Shameful Scheming)
'Whitey' Bulger faces off with FBI agent who went from pal to prosecution witness
By Deborah Feyerick and Kristina Sgueglia (CNN News) — Thursday, June 27th, 2013; 9:02 p.m. EDT
(CNN) -- Reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, visibly annoyed, muttered under his breath "You're a f---ing liar" Thursday as a disgraced former FBI supervisor testified that there was "no question" the Irish gangster doubled as an informant for FBI Boston.
Prosecutor Brian Kelly requested that the judge in Bulger's federal trial advise Bulger to "keep his little remarks to himself," which Judge Denise Casper advised shortly after.
Both sets of attorneys have spent a remarkable amount of time during the trial of the notorious Bulger, charged with 19 murders and in court after living in hiding for 16 years, trying to prove whether Bulger was an informant during a 15-year period. Even Judge Casper is beginning to question the importance of the issue.
During post-court discussion over motions, as the defense was attempting to further it's argument that Bulger's informant records were forged by his FBI handler, Judge Casper questioned, "How does that address that your client is not guilty of crimes here?"
Bulger's attorney J.W. Carney danced around the question and responded, "Bulger was not providing information as an informant, he was providing money so that he'd get tipped off about wire taps and search warrants."
Bulger's attorneys have been quick to admit to acts of extortion and racketeering -- charges Bulger is also facing -- to defend their client's position that he was not another "rat" from South Boston.
"Why can't both be true?" Judge Casper inquired.
"The defendant's position is (that) only one is true." Carney said. "Why would James Bulger be paying all this money to all these people if the government's theory is he got all this protection because he was providing information. Why would he keep paying everybody?"
Former FBI supervisor John Morris, an addition to the government's long list of cooperating witnesses, testified Thursday that he took bribes from Bulger in the amount of $7,000, along with a silver-plated champagne bucket and two cases of imported wine.
Morris said he asked Bulger if he could "spring" for a plane ticket for his secretary girlfriend to visit him during FBI training in Georgia, and Bulger obliged. Morris admitted to his acts of corruption in 1997 in exchange for immunity.
A sheepish, red-faced Morris, though less than six feet away from Bulger, avoided eye contact with the defendant, who glared steadily at his old confidant throughout his testimony. This is the first time the two have seen each other since they cut ties in 1991 after Morris leaked Bulger's informant status to the Boston Globe.
Morris said he first met Bulger at a dinner he hosted his Lexington, Massachusetts, home in 1978 along with Bulger's FBI handler John Connolly, whom he characterized as his "best friend."
Morris said he met Bulger and later his associate Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi eight to 10 times in various places, including Morris' home, Morris' girlfriend's apartment, a hotel, Bulger's home and even in Flemmi's mother's house for dinner. Flemmi's mother cooked. The defense has previously argued that Bulger was not treated like an informant, and thus did not believe that he was.
Morris testified that Connolly preferred to meet Bulger in "pleasant surroundings, not the type of surroundings you would meet a normal informant," like in a hotel or car. "He wanted Mr. Bulger to be comfortable," Morris said.
Morris was supervisor to rogue FBI agent Connolly, who is currently serving a 40-year sentence on second-degree murder charges for leaking the identities of witnesses cooperating against Bulger's Winter Hill Gang. Flemmi, serving a life sentence, is set to testify against Bulger later in this trial after agreeing to cooperate with the government to evade the death penalty in 1997.
All that Bulger and Flemmi wanted from their handlers in exchange for information was "a head start," as Morris described -- to be tipped off if they were going to be indicted or charged so they could flee. The pair, according to Morris, knew they were "fair game" and acknowledged that they were engaging in criminal activity and at some point they might get charged. If that happened, they didn't want their identity as informants disclosed and would rather "take the risk" Morris said.
Morris admitted to tipping his informants off to wire taps, and keeping their names out of a 1975 horse race indictment. He testified that the Mafia, or La Cosa Nostra, was the main priority of the FBI in Boston and that Bulger and his partner Flemmi were instrumental in the take-down of those mobsters. The two provided the agents with a drawing of Mafia headquarters, and that was used to take down the New England Mafia in a 1983 sting.
After being tipped off to an indictment, Bulger went on the run for 16 years and landed himself on the FBI's top 10 most wanted list before being arrested in his Santa Monica. California, home with his girlfriend in 2011.
Morris said that he signed off on reports Bulger provided to the FBI that he knew were false lies to protect himself from being implicated as the person to who leaked sensitive information that may have tipped Bulger off to witnesses that were cooperating against him. Those potential witnesses were eventually murdered, Morris said, and Bulger has been charged in their killings.
While the defense had little time to cross-examine Morris, who will be back on the stand Friday, defense attorney Hank Brennan painted Morris to be a liar, an adulterer, and a fraud. He was able to fire off a question that is likely to resound with the jury.
"You were corrupt, weren't you Mr. Morris?" Brennan queried.
"Yes," Morris exhaled after a long pause and a deep breath.
'Whitey' Bulger Trial Details FBI Corruption
By MICHELE McPHEE — Thursday, June 27th, 2013; ‘ABC News’
BOSTON -- Former FBI supervisor John Morris thought he had left his sordid relationship with James "Whitey" Bulger back in Boston along with the envelopes of money, the cases of expensive wine, the home-cooked meals he had prepared for the accused mob boss.
"I wanted to break as many ties as I could with Boston," Morris told a federal court in Boston today. He transferred to FBI headquarters at Quantico, Va., and thought it was over.
Then the phone rang one night when Morris was working late. It was 1995 and Bulger had become a fugitive from justice, tipped off to a pending indictment by Morris' FBI underling, special agent John Connolly, who was also his best friend.
In the days before he picked up the phone, Morris testified, he had received messages from a "Mr. White." But Morris never thought he would hear the voice of the accused assassin.
But it was Bulger on the phone. And he was livid. A Boston newspaper had reported that Bulger was a longtime FBI informant, and Bulger wanted Morris to have the story retracted.
"He told me he wanted me to use my Machiavellian mind to contact my sources at the Globe to get them to retract the story about him being an informant," Morris told the court. "If I didn't, he said, 'Remember the box.'"
Morris knew the reference, he said on the stand. It was about $1000 in an envelope stuffed into a wooden box that contained imported wine, among the countless bribes Morris accepted from Bulger and another FBI informant, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.
"He said if he was going to jail," Morris told the court, "I was going with him."
"Did you feel threatened after that call?" federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak asked Morris.
"Definitely," Morris he answered. In fact, the stress from the call caused Morris to go into "full cardiac arrest" a short time later.
Morris testified in the trial of Bulger, 83, who is accused of a string of crimes, including 19 murders. Testimony during the trial has stated Bulger ran a criminal enterprise with the help of corrupt FBI agents Connolly and Morris, and that Bulger was an FBI informant concerning his criminal rivals.
Morris took the stand after Bulger muttered obscenities under his breath at him, calling Morris a "f---ing liar."
The first day of Morris' testimony put a spotlight on a staggering amount of corruption in the Boston FBI field office that included cash bribes and tip-offs to wiretaps. Morris even admitted to talking about a cooperating witness against Bulger slated to go into the witness protection program who was murdered before the U.S. Marshals could move him.
"You were corrupt, weren't you Mr. Morris?" Bulger defense attorney Hank Brennan told the court.
"Yes," he replied.
But he wasn't the only FBI agent compromised. And Bulger was not the only informant who gave Morris money, he admitted on the stand.
Connolly's relationship with Bulger extended into the Massachusetts State House, Morris testified. As Bulger's informant status became critical to taking down Italian Mafia members, Connolly's stature in the bureau and on the streets of Boston, was also accelerated.
"He [Connolly] was almost showy in the way he dressed, in the way he carried himself," Morris told the court, adding that Connolly had taken to "wearing a lot of jewelry."
Connolly, Morris said, "had purchased and was refurbishing a home in South Boston." Connolly bought another house on Cape Cod and "had also acquired a good sized boat,"' Morris told the court.
"It appeared he was living beyond his means?" Wyshak asked of Connolly.
"Yes it did," he said.
Connolly had big plans, Morris said. His friendship with Bulger's brother, then Senate President William Bulger, would land him a job as the Boston police commissioner upon his retirement from the bureau and he was going to bring Morris with him as his second-in-command, he testified.
"Did you believe you would one day become the number two person in the Boston Police Department?" Wyshak asked.
"I thought it was possible," Morris answered.
Morris said Connolly's ties to the Bulger brothers could make that happen.
"He was connected to several politicians. He had a personal relationship with then-Senate president who he admired and respected," Morris told the court.
Connolly's behavior did not raise any eyebrows with the Special Agents in Charge of the Boston FBI field office, Morris told the court. In fact it was quite the opposite. FBI bosses sought Connolly's friendship, Morris testified.
"He had tremendous access across the board to everything including sports events, political figures, and actually for SACs during inspections are very judged on their contacts in the community," Morris testified.
Bulger's defense attorneys are expected to continue the cross examination of the former FBI supervisor tomorrow.
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Government Gone Too Far?)
ATF uses fake drugs, big bucks to snare suspects
ATF stings that promise loads of easy money snared 1,000 would-be criminals, a USA TODAY investigation finds. These fake drug stashes have led to hard time, begging the question: Is this 'good law enforcement' or has the government gone too far?
By Brad Heath — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. — The three men in the back seat were supposed to be ready for battle.
They were waiting for a phone call that would launch a daring and dangerous crime, sending them charging through the front door of a Mexican drug ring's stash house to steal 50 pounds or more of cocaine from three armed guards. Their plan was to disguise themselves as police officers, tie up the guards, and slip away with a half-million dollars worth of drugs. If tying them up didn't work, they'd kill them all.
Only the small army of federal agents watching them knew that it was all a lie.
There was no house. No drugs.
And the only things waiting for them when the call came were a team of camouflaged federal agents with rifles and stun grenades, and the promise of a long prison sentence for a plot to steal and re-sell non-existent cocaine.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the agency in charge of enforcing the nation's gun laws, has locked up more than 1,000 people by enticing them to rob drug stash houses that did not exist. The ploy has quietly become a key part of the ATF's crime-fighting arsenal, but also a controversial one: The stings are so aggressive and costly that some prosecutors have refused to allow them. They skirt the boundaries of entrapment, and in the past decade they have left at least seven suspects dead.
The ATF has more than quadrupled its use of such drug house operations since 2003, and officials say it intends to conduct even more as it seeks to lock up the "trigger pullers" who menace some of the most dangerous parts of inner-city America. Yet the vast scale of that effort has so far remained unknown outside the U.S. Justice Department.
To gauge its extent, USA TODAY reviewed thousands of pages of court records and agency files, plus hours of undercover recordings. Those records — many of which had never been made public — tell the story of how an ATF strategy meant to target armed and violent criminals has regularly used risky and expensive undercover stings to ensnare low-level crooks who jump at the bait of a criminal windfall.
In many cases, the records show the ATF accomplished precisely what it set out to do, arresting men outfitted with heavy weapons and body armor, and linked to repeated, and sometimes bloody, crimes. In the process, however, the agency also scooped up small-time drug dealers and even people with no criminal records at all, including Army Rangers. It has offered would-be robbers the chance to score millions of dollars of cocaine for a few hours of work. In at least one case, the ATF had to supply its supposed armed robbers with a gun.
The stings are the latest and perhaps clearest reflection of a broad shift by federal law enforcement away from solving crimes in favor of investigating people the government thinks are criminals. Such tactics are common in law enforcement's efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, but they are also becoming a staple of its fight against everyday street crime.
Critics, among them federal judges, say the ATF's operations are flawed. In an opinion last year, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago dismissed the drug-house stings as a "disreputable tactic" that creates "an increased risk of entrapment because of the potential for the extensive use of inducements and unrealistic temptations to encourage the suspects' criminal conduct."
The stings work like this: When agents identify someone they suspect is ripping off drug dealers, they send in an undercover operative posing as a disgruntled courier or security guard to pitch the idea of stealing a shipment from his bosses. The potential score is almost always more than 5 kilograms of cocaine — enough drugs to fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars on the street, or to trigger sentences of 10 years or more in prison.
When the target shows up ready to commit the robbery, he and anyone else he brings with him are arrested and charged with a raft of federal crimes, the most serious of which is conspiring to sell the non-existent cocaine.
The arrests don't come cheap. A single case can go on for months and require dozens of federal agents and local police officers.
Former ATF supervisor David Chipman, who left the agency last year, said the public deserves to know more about how the ATF is using its resources. "There are huge benefits, and there are huge downsides," he said. "Do you want police to solve crimes, or do you want them to go out and prevent crimes that haven't occurred yet? What are the things you're willing to do so that your kid doesn't get shot?"
A CRACK DEALER AND A BIG SCORE
William Alexander boasted that he was exactly the type of armed and dangerous criminal the ATF is after. He was an experienced drug robber, he told an undercover agent, and a chief of Chicago's notorious Four Corner Hustlers, who commanded 17 blocks on the city's west side and had men ready to kill at his command.
Alexander was 32 years old the afternoon in January 2011 when he first slid into the passenger seat of an undercover ATF agent's pickup in a 7-Eleven parking lot in Woodridge, Ill., one of the middle-class suburbs that sprawl out west of Chicago. Alexander, 5 feet tall, introduced himself as "Little." He was, by then, a career crack dealer and recent cosmetology school dropout, though he was also out of jail and off parole for the first time in his adult life.
And while his record was long, it hardly identified him as dangerous.
Most of the people the ATF arrested in drug-house stings last year — about 80% — already had criminal records that included at least two felony convictions before the agency targeted them. But 13% had never before been found guilty of a serious crime, and even some of those with long rap sheets had not been charged with anything that would mark them as violent.
ATF officials reject the idea that they should focus only on people with violent records. "Are we supposed to wait for him to commit a (obscenity) murder before we start to target him as a bad guy?" said Charlie Smith, the head of ATF's Special Operations Division, which is responsible for approving each sting. "Are we going to sit back and say, well, this guy doesn't have a bad record? OK, so you know, throw him back out there, let him kill somebody, then when he gets a bad record, then we're going to put him in jail?"
For all the times Alexander was arrested — court records list dozens — police never found him with a gun, and he was charged with a violent crime only once, after his girlfriend, Demonisha Winters, accused him of domestic battery. The charge was dropped a few weeks later, and Winters said in an interview that Alexander never hit her.
What he did do was sell crack, though seldom more than a gram or two at a time. When Alexander was 18, police in Kokomo, Ind., caught him trying to flush two baggies of crack down an apartment toilet. Four years after that, Chicago police arrested him with a half-gram. The next year, they caught him with 10 baggies of crack. Two years later, they caught him carrying a gram of crack and a half-gram of heroin, worth about $40, according to police reports and court files.
The ATF was about to offer him something much bigger.
The undercover agent, Andrew Karceski, introduced himself as Joe. He pulled his truck around the corner, cut the engine and flipped a switch to show Alexander a hidden compartment, called a "trap," commonly used for running drugs. "They promise you one thing, and they (obscenity), they make all the money, and I take all the (obscenity) risk," he said in an exchange captured on a blurry hidden-camera video.
"They haven't paid me in two months now, and that's (obscenity)," he said. "It's just got to a point where I got to feed my kids, too, you know what I'm saying?"
"You're (obscenity) right," Alexander replied.
Then the agent laid out the basics of his proposal: Once a month, he said, his bosses had him pick up a load of cocaine from a house in the suburbs. They used a different house every time, always with two or three men inside, always armed. But the payoff would be big: "I know there's going to be (obscenity) in there. I know that," he said, a reference to drugs. "How much I can't guarantee, but I know there's going to be big (obscenity) in there. I've never seen cash, but I don't know."
Alexander said it wouldn't be a problem. "I got guys I could just say, 'Go in there and shoot everybody.' I got guys that I'll say they're smart enough to know go in there and lay everybody down without hurting anybody. I know (obscenity) that will get it done," he said.
"We'll plan it right," he promised. "We've got enough time."
'I CALL THIS GOOD LAW ENFORCEMENT'
The ATF's drug-house stings began in Miami in the early 1990s. Drug cartels were moving huge quantities of cocaine through South Florida, creating rich targets for criminals brazen enough to try to poach the shipments. The robberies were turning into shootouts — or, worse, attacks on innocent people when the robbers got the wrong address — and ATF agents wanted a way to stop them. At first, agents actually set up fake drug houses, loaded with fake cocaine. When that led to car chases and shootings in residential neighborhoods, they adopted a fictional approach instead.
The stings proliferated over the past decade. Last year, the ATF said it arrested 208 people in drug-house operations, compared with 41 a decade earlier. Most of the operations took place in Miami, Chicago, Phoenix and a few other cities, though court records show the ATF has conducted them in at least 22 states.
At the same time, the ATF dispatched agents around the country to teach the technique to other local and federal police agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol.
As drug-house operations became more common, the agency issued a confidential order laying down the ground rules for conducting them. Officials instructed agents to make sure Justice Department lawyers would be willing to prosecute "home invasion" cases, and told them to try other techniques first, including executing search warrants. Most of the rules covered the tactical details of safely arresting the suspects.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis Police Chief Wants Drones Over City
By Ian Tuttle — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘National Review Online’
St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson does not like the word “drone,” but whatever you call them, he wants his city using them. Fox 2 St. Louis reports that Dotson has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use drones to patrol the city’s high-crime areas and to chase fleeing vehicles.
If he can get FAA authorization, Dotson only has to worry about two federal rules: Drones cannot be used for commercial purposes, and they have to fly below 400 feet. Any other rules governing their operation in the city’s skies will come from internal police guidelines.
Dotson says the plan could save the city quite a bit of cash, too. A helicopter costs upward of $2 million. A surveillance drone can be had for less than $10,000.
Los Angeles, California (Bipolar Female Prisoner D.O.A.)
Police Commission: Officer Used Unreasonable Force
By TAMI ABDOLLAH (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 28th, 2013; 7:40 a.m. EDT
LOS ANGELES -- A police officer used unreasonable force when she allegedly kicked a woman in the groin area while the woman was restrained and partially inside the backseat of a cruiser, the Los Angeles Police Commission said in a report released Thursday.
Alesia Thomas, 35, was transported to hospital and pronounced dead on July 22 -- hours after officers tracked her to her South Los Angeles home to arrest her on suspicion of child endangerment.
Ms. Thomas had abandoned her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at a police station at about 2 a.m. Police said she dropped off the children because she was a drug addict who could not care for them. Officers at the station learned the children expected their grandmother to pick them up.
An autopsy released in January found that Ms. Thomas had cocaine in her system when she went into cardiac arrest, but it also said it was unclear why Ms. Thomas died, because it was difficult to know how the struggle may have contributed. Ms. Thomas also had a history of bipolar disorder, it said.
According to the report, an officer knocked the 228-pound Ms. Thomas to the ground by sweeping her legs out from under her. Two other officers handcuffed her as they said she was resisting arrest, and at multiple points Ms. Thomas was carried by officers as they tried to lead her to a patrol car.
Ms. Thomas is described as initially "fidgety, wide eyed, sweating" according to an officer and later "incoherent and kept asking the officers to let her go and told them on several occasions to kill her," the report states.
At one point Ms. Thomas requested an ambulance, but when questioned by an officer as to why, asked for a glass of water. No ambulance was called, the report states.
Officers trying to devise a way to get her into the patrol car used a restraint device around her ankles. At one point audio captured her saying "I can't breathe" but officers said they did not hear her, according to the report.
Ms. Thomas who was sprawled across the cruiser's back seat with her legs restrained was kicking the window. An officer used profanity toward Thomas including threatening to kick her if she didn't' "knock it off," the report states. In all, the officer used her feet "seven times on three separate occasions to push or kick (Thomas) in the upper thigh, groin and abdomen area," the report states.
The officer states she did this to move Ms. Thomas into the patrol car.
Once Ms. Thomas was in the car, video from the cruiser shows her "eyes roll back" and her body roll toward the driver's seat before officers reported that she appeared unconscious. Ms. Thomas did not appear to be breathing when she was removed from the back seat. She arrived at the hospital in full cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead by a doctor there, the report states.
The commission noted the "apparent indifference" and comments made by the officer who allegedly kicked Ms. Thomas in the groin area. The commission was unable to determine whether the officer actually kicked Ms. Thomas or was just trying to use her foot to push Ms. Thomas into the car. But they determined that the decision to use her foot or leg to move Thomas into the cruiser was "ineffective and inappropriate."
The commission also found that three other officers used appropriate force but that their actions may be deemed misconduct when two officers did not request an ambulance when asked and another officer possibly made false statements to investigators. A supervisor may not have exercised proper control over the situation, according to the report.
The potential misconduct will be investigated by the department. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is also investigating the incident.
Meanwhile four of the officers are working administrative assignments at other stations and one was allowed to return to the field after her role was deemed minor, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith. The officers are not identified in the report.
The department has not released the videotape of the incident and denied a request for a copy from The Associated Press, citing the ongoing investigation.
Attorney Steven Effres, who represents Thomas' daughter, said he is still trying to obtain the video and other necessary materials to "find out the truth and details about what happened that evening."
Meth floods U.S. border crossing
By ELLIOT SPAGAT (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 28th, 2013; 4:15 a.m. EDT
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Children walk across the U.S.-Mexico border with crystal methamphetamine strapped to their backs or concealed between notebook pages. Motorists disguise liquid meth in tequila bottles, windshield washer containers and gas tanks.
The smuggling of the drug at land border crossings has jumped in recent years but especially at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry, which accounted for more than 40 percent of seizures in fiscal year 2012. That's more than three times the second-highest — five miles east — and more than five times the third-highest, in Nogales, Ariz.
The spike reflects a shift in production to Mexico after a U.S. crackdown on domestic labs and the Sinaloa cartel's new hold on the prized Tijuana-San Diego smuggling corridor.
A turf war that gripped Tijuana a few years ago with beheadings and daytime shootouts ended with the cartel coming out on top. The drugs, meanwhile, continue flowing through San Ysidro, the Western hemisphere's busiest land border crossing with an average of 40,000 cars and 25,000 pedestrians entering daily.
"This is the gem for traffickers," said Gary Hill, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego. "It's the greatest place for these guys to cross because there are so many opportunities."
Customs and Border Protection officers seized 5,566 pounds of methamphetamine at San Ysidro in the 2012 fiscal year, more than double two years earlier, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit. On the entire border, inspectors seized 13,195 pounds, also more than double.
From October 2012 through March, seizures totaled 2,169 pounds at San Ysidro and 1,730 pounds at Otay Mesa, giving San Diego 61 percent of the 6,364 pounds seized at Mexican border crossings. Much of the rest was found in Laredo, Texas; Nogales; and Calexico, Calif.
San Ysidro — unlike other busy border crossings — blends into a sprawl of 18 million people that includes Los Angeles, one of the nation's top distribution hubs. By contrast, El Paso is more than 600 miles from Dallas on a lonely highway with Border Patrol checkpoints.
Rush-hour comes weekday mornings, with thousands of motorists clogging Tijuana streets to approach 24 U.S.-bound inspection lanes on their way to school or work. Vendors weave between cars, hawking cappuccinos, burritos, newspapers and trinkets.
A $732 million expansion that has created even longer delays may offer an extra incentive for smugglers who bet that inspectors will move people quickly to avoid criticism for hampering commerce and travel, said Joe Garcia, assistant special agent in charge of ICE investigations in San Diego.
Children are caught with methamphetamine strapped to their bodies several times a week — an "alarming increase," according to Garcia. They are typically paid $50 to $200 for each trip, carrying 3 pounds on average.
Drivers, who collect up to $2,000 per trip, conceal methamphetamine in bumpers, batteries, radiators and almost any other crevice imaginable. Packaging is smothered with mustard, baby powder and laundry detergent to fool drug-sniffing dogs.
Crystals are increasingly dissolved in water, especially during the last year, making the drug more difficult to detect in giant X-ray scanners that inspectors order some motorists to drive through. The water is later boiled and often mixed with acetone, a combustible fluid used in paints that yields clear shards of methamphetamine favored by users. The drug often remains in liquid form until reaching its final distribution hub.
The government has expanded X-ray inspections of cars at the border in recent years, but increased production in Mexico and the Sinaloa cartel's presence are driving the seizures, Garcia said. "This is a new corridor for them," he said.
The U.S. government shut large methamphetamine labs during the last decade as it introduced sharp limits on chemicals used to make the drug, causing production to shift to Mexico.
The U.S. State Department said in March that the Mexican government seized 958 labs under former President Felipe Calderon from 2006 to 2012, compared with 145 under the previous administration. Mexico seized 267 labs last year, up from 227 in 2011.
As production moved to central Mexico, the Sinaloa cartel found opportunity in Tijuana in 2008 when it backed a breakaway faction of the Arellano Felix clan, named for a family that controlled the border smuggling route for two decades. Sinaloa, led by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, had long dominated nearby in eastern California and Arizona.
Tijuana registered 844 murders in 2008 in a turf war that horrified residents with castrated bodies hanging from bridges. After the Sinaloa cartel prevailed, the Mexican border city of more than 2 million people returned to relative calm, with 332 murders last year and almost no public displays of brutality.
Alfonzo "Achilles" Arzate and his younger brother Rene, known as "The Frog," have emerged as top Sinaloa operatives in Tijuana — the former known as the brains and the latter as the brawn. The elder Arzate has been mentioned on wire intercepts for drug deals as far as Chicago, Hill said.
He appears to have gained favor with the Sinaloa cartel brass after another cartel operative raided one of his warehouses in October 2010, leading to a shootout and the government seizing 134 tons of marijuana.
Methamphetamine has also turned into a scourge throughout Tijuana, becoming the most common drug offense for dealers and consumers in the last five years, said Miguel Angel Guerrero, coordinator of the Baja California state attorney general's organized crime unit.
"It has increased a lot in the city because it's cheaper than cocaine, even cheaper than marijuana," he said.
Disputes among street dealers lead to spurts of violence in Tijuana, said Guerrero, including April's murder tally of 56 bodies. But the killings pale in numbers and brutality compared to the dark days of 2008 and 2009. While president, Calderon hailed Tijuana as a success story in his war on cartels.
"The Sinaloa cartel, their presence here has been strong enough to the point that no one is pushing back," said the DEA's Hill. "They just simply want to focus on making money and moving the dope across."
Company allegedly misled government about security clearance checks
By Tom Hamburger and Zachary A. Goldfarb — Friday, June 28th, 2013 ‘The Washington Post’ / Washington, DC
Federal investigators have told lawmakers they have evidence that USIS, the contractor that screened Edward Snowden for his top-secret clearance, repeatedly misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks, according to people familiar with the matter.
The alleged transgressions are so serious that a federal watchdog indicated he plans to recommend that the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees most background checks, end ties with USIS unless it can show it is performing responsibly, the people said.
Cutting off USIS could present a major logistical quagmire for the nation’s already-jammed security clearance process. The federal government relies heavily on contractors to approve workers for some of its most sensitive jobs in defense and intelligence. Falls Church-based USIS is the largest single private provider for government background checks.
The inspector general of OPM, working with the Justice Department, is examining whether USIS failed to meet a contractual obligation that it would conduct reviews of all background checks the company performed on behalf of government agencies, the people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation has not yet been resolved.
After conducting an initial background check of a candidate for employment, USIS was required to perform a second review to make sure no important details had been missed. From 2008 through 2011, USIS allegedly skipped this second review in up to 50 percent of the cases. But it conveyed to federal officials that these reviews had, in fact, been performed.
The shortcut made it appear that USIS was more efficient than it actually was and may have triggered incentive awards for the company, the people briefed on the matter said. Investigators, who have briefed lawmakers on the allegations, think the strategy may have originated with senior executives, the people said.
Ray Howell, director of corporate communications at USIS, declined to comment on Thursday.
In a statement last week, USIS said it received a subpoena from the inspector general of OPM in January 2012. “USIS complied with that subpoena and has cooperated fully with the government’s civil investigative efforts,” the statement said. The company would not comment on the Snowden case.
It is not known whether USIS did anything improper on its 2011 background check of Snowden, the 30-year-old who leaked documents about the inner workings of the NSA and is now the subject of a global drama. He gained access to those documents after he was cleared to work at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
Last week, Patrick E. McFarland, the inspector general of OPM, said he has concerns about Snowden’s background check. “We do believe that there may be some problems,” he said.
The broader concerns about background checks are not limited to USIS. McFarland’s office has 47 open investigations into alleged wrongdoing by individuals in the background checks industry, according to a statement from the inspector general's office. Separately, since 2006, the watchdog has won convictions in 18 cases in which employees claimed to have verified information that ultimately turned out to be false or not even checked.
“There is an alarmingly insufficient level of oversight of the federal investigative-services program,” McFarland said last week in congressional testimony. “A lack of independent verification of the organization that conducts these important background investigations is a clear threat to national security.”
McFarland’s office declined to comment on the details of the investigation. “We have never indicated whether the case was criminal, civil, or administrative,” a statement from the office said.
Last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said USIS is the subject of a criminal probe as a result of a “systematic failure” to conduct background checks. She did not elaborate. A spokesperson said Thursday that the senator stands by her statement.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee, said he plans to introduce legislation within two weeks to increase oversight of the security clearance process, including giving inspectors general more power to audit funding and other aspects of the massive effort to provide 4.9 million Americans with authorized access to classified and other sensitive government information.
“I cannot believe that this is handled in such a shoddy and cavalier manner,” Tester said in an interview Thursday. “I personally believe that if you are under criminal investigation, you should be suspended from the process until it is resolved.”
Tester added: “We have spent hundreds of billions in this country trying to keep classified information classified and to keep people from outside coming in. And what we see here is that we have a problem from the inside.”
USIS, which was spun off from the federal government in the 1990s, has become the dominant player in the background checks business. It does about 45 percent of all background checks for OPM, according to congressional staffers. USIS has 7,000 employees.
USIS has been under financial pressure in recent years because of federal cutbacks and less generous contracts from the government, according to financial analysts working at Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. The firm’s parent company, Altegrity, is owned by Providence Equity Partners, a private equity firm. USIS has two main competitors, KeyPoint Government Solutions and CACI.