Friday, June 14th, 2013 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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Violent Felonies: Despite What Bloomberg & Kelly Say, New York Far >From Safest City
FBI crime stats mixed for NYC
By ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘New York Newsday’ / Melville, L.I.
The latest FBI crime statistics for 2012 give New York City a mixed view, showing that it has the second lowest murder rate among major U.S. cities but is in the middle for all violent offenses.
For years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly have used the relatively modest FBI crime statistics -- particularly the low murder rate -- as proof that New York has become the safest big city in the country. Bloomberg and Kelly have pointed to the statistics as justification for controversial police tactics and policies, notably the stop, question and frisk actions.
But a look inside the numbers, according to crime experts, creates a more realistic and not so rosy picture of violent offenses citywide. "Violent" crimes are defined by the FBI as not only murders but also rape, robbery and felonious assault.
The violent-crime rate in the city is likely worse because of the underreporting of rape and felony assault, said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. "I would say for sure that you are not seeing" a complete reporting of crimes by victims, he said.
Some violent crimes, particularly rape, go unreported, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.
"There is still pressure on victims where they know the assailant, particularly a family member, not to report" rapes and their numbers "may be higher, we suspect it is," Browne said.
Among U.S. cities of 1 million population, New York City's homicide rate of 5.05 per 100,000 is bested by San Diego's rate of 3.51. However, when the FBI combines murder with other violent crime, the city's rating changes to 639.31 per 100,000, between Philadelphia's high rate of 1,160.79 per 100,000 and San Antonio's low of 503.11 per 100,000.
City robberies have "dropped like a stone" in recent decades, but the number is still high compared to other large cities, said Franklin Zimring, professor of law at UC Berkeley School of Law, who has written at length about crime prevention.
Robberies in the city rose almost 2 percent last year to 20,144, according to the FBI.
A Bloomberg spokesman Thursday said the city was the safest "big" city in the country.
FBI officials cautioned against drawing comparisons among cities because of "the unique conditions that affect each law enforcement jurisdiction."
Each crime is given the same statistical weight, be it a murder or a cellphone theft, which can make comparisons difficult, said Andrew Karmen, a professor at John Jay.
"It raises all sorts of problems because we could never rate all crimes vis-...-vis one another; we could never agree on a weighting system," Karmen said.
The FBI data did reveal some unqualified good news for the city. When all violent crimes are combined with property crimes, New York does have the lowest crime rate at 2,361.59 per 100,000 population. The next-best major city is Los Angeles, which had a rate of 2,750.32 per 100,000.
The big story is still the murder rate, Zimring said. "For a city of its size and diversity, New York City's homicide experience is very close to Guinness Book of World Records, certainly by American standards, and it just keeps going lower," he said.
Question and Frisk Search
U.S. Backs Monitor for NYPD If Ruling Goes Against the City
By Mark Hamblett — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Law Journal’ / New York, NY
The U.S. Justice Department has weighed in with its opinion that a court monitor for the New York City Police Department would help implement reform should Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin find the city liable for systematic violations of the Fourth Amendment through its stop, question and frisk anti-crime policing strategy.
In a statement of interest filed with Scheindlin on Wednesday, the department said it would support a decision by the judge to appoint a monitor to ensure compliance with any reform of police practices ordered by her.
"The experience of the United States in enforcing police reform injunctions teaches that the appointment of an independent monitor is a critically important asset to the court, the parties and the community in cases involving patterns or practices of unlawful conduct by law enforcement officials," says the statement from the department's Civil Rights Division.
The Justice Department's involvement has been sought for several years by civil rights lawyers who claim the NYPD has a top-down policy of stopping, questioning and frisking tens of thousands of people each year without reasonable suspicion they are engaged in criminal activity, and that officers disproportionately target young black and Hispanic men.
"It is high time the City of New York and its police department stop their obstinate noncompliance with the law and accept that the kind of significant change necessary to fix the problems with the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices will require outside monitoring," plaintiffs lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Covington & Burling and Beldock Levine & Hoffman said in a statement.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have vehemently opposed a monitor. They say appointing one would interfere with NYPD operations and hamstring officers by stripping them of an effective crime-fighting tool.
They are also trying to fend off two bills before the City Council: one would restrict the stop-and-frisk technique; the other would install an inspector general to oversee the NYPD.
A City Hall spokesman issued a statement crediting the "exceptional professionalism of the NYPD."
"Their work in cutting crime to record lows and taking illegal guns off the streets has saved thousands of lives," the spokesman said.
Scheindlin is now writing an opinion on the issue of liability in Floyd v. City of New York, 08 Civ. 1034, after a 10-week bench trial that ended in May and included testimony on what remedies should be ordered if there is a finding of liability.
During the trial, Scheindlin said the efficacy of stop, question and frisk was not the point of the litigation—the question before her was whether police conduct complied with the Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), and its progeny.
Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union is the lead lawyer in a companion case in which Scheindlin has already issued a preliminary injunction ordering the police to cease suspicionless stops of people entering and leaving buildings in the Bronx whose owners allow patrols on their property under the Trespass Affidavit Program. But Scheindlin later stayed her ruling in Ligon v. City of New York, 12 Civ. 2274, pending appeal and combined consideration of remedies in that case with those in Floyd.
"I don't want to speculate as to why the government is changing its position but it's a welcome change," Dunn said in an interview. "For years we have been trying to get the Justice Department involved in the stop-and-frisk controversy so we are thrilled that it now has arrived on the scene. And while it is disappointing that it took the federal government so long to get here, its arrival is a game changer because DOJ is the one player the NYPD truly fears."
In Floyd, the city argued at trial that the individual plaintiffs who testified about their own encounters with police, just a handful of the hundreds of thousands of people who are stopped, showed both that police are abiding by the Constitution's requirement of reasonable suspicion and are color-blind when they make stops.
The 21-page statement of interest filed by the Justice Department states the government "would have preferred to file this brief" only after a finding of liability, but the judge elected to consider remedies simultaneously with trial evidence.
Statements of interest are commonly issued by the Justice Department in civil rights cases where plaintiffs are seeking institutional reforms. The one filed Wednesday was authored by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin and signed by Jonathan Smith, chief of the Civil Rights Division.
The statement said a finding that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices are unlawful would trigger Scheindlin's "wide discretion" to enter injunctive relief, including the appointment of a monitor.
The Justice Department attorneys write that, despite ample precedent to the contrary, "the City maintains that the Court's discretion to fashion injunctive relief is narrow given that the misconduct Plaintiffs allege occurs within a law enforcement context.
"However, adequately remedying ongoing constitutional violations is no less urgent or appropriate in the policing context—and given their deep involvement with the criminal justice system, courts are perhaps better equipped to fashion injunctive relief in this context than in cases involving other public institutions."
The statement cites the Justice Department's own history of seeking remedial measures in police misconduct cases, including consent decrees involving "systematic deficiencies in the way officers conduct stops and searches" in Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Detroit and Pittsburgh, but it does not raise the possibility of direct engagement in the Floyd action.
The Justice Department "cannot be expected to remedy every pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct" in police cases, so it was leaving it up to the private litigants here.
The brief also states that the judge's power to "fashion injunctive relief is not at odds with robust efforts to protect the public."
In fact, the attorneys state, "reform through a court-ordered process improves public confidence, makes officers' jobs safer and increases the ability of the department to fight crime."
They also echo a central argument made by the plaintiffs' team, led by Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Jonathan Moore of Beldock Levine, when it says "unlawfully aggressive police tactics" actually hurt the cause of public safety.
"Officers can only police safely and effectively if they maintain the trust and cooperation of the communities within which they work" but that trust and cooperation are "damaged when officers routinely fail to respect the rule of law," they state.
City: Leave NYPD Alone
The parties in Floyd on Wednesday submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to Scheindlin as well as post-trial memoranda.
The plaintiffs' memo insists a monitor is critical because of the NYPD's failure to abide by the terms of settlement in a case filed in 1999, Daniels v. City of New York.
But the city's memo, signed by Heidi Grossman, deputy chief of the Law Department's Special Federal Litigation Division, says the NYPD followed through on its obligations under Daniels and it is in compliance with the Constitution. Scheindlin, as well as the City Council, Grossman says, should stay out of it.
"Instead of being a pawn for the varying interests of the other branches of government, NYPD should be left to investigate and fight crime it alone is expert in doing in this metropolis, and continues to be accountable for any legal errors through individual lawsuits for damages—not by a structural injunction crafted in a courtroom, far from the realities of everyday policing," Grossman states.
Obama, in surprise move, wades into NYPD 'stop and frisk' lawsuit
A federal judge is poised to rule soon on the constitutionality of the NYPD's controversial 'stop and frisk' policy. The Obama administration this week said nothing on that point, but it did state its preferred remedy if the city loses the case.
By Harry Bruinius — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Christian Science Monitor’
New York -- The New York Police Department's controversial "stop and frisk" policy received a kick in the shins this week, when the Obama administration took the unusual step of outlining its preferred remedy in the event a federal judge examining the NYPD tactic rules it to be unconstitutional.
The US Department of Justice told the court, in a surprise last-minute filing, that it would prefer an independent monitor to help ensure changes, should the city of New York lose this case.
The government filed its “statement of interest,” however, somewhat reluctantly. It would have preferred to weigh in “if, and only if,” the statement said, the court had already found the NYPD’s tactics violate the Constitution. But the judge in the case, Shira Scheindlin, had consolidated the so-called liability and remedy phases of the trial, requiring all interested parties to submit their briefs before she makes her decision, expected this summer.
The Justice Department (DOJ) offered no opinion on the constitutionality of this crime-fighting tactic, which allows any New York City police officer to stop, question, and frisk a person for weapons if the officer reasonably suspects that person is engaged in a criminal activity. But it did zero in on the most contentious of the remedies sought by the private citizens who brought the class-action lawsuit: the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee changes in the NYPD.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have each bristled at the suggestion of an independent monitor throughout the course of the 2-1/2-month trial, which ended in May. They cite the "stop and frisk" policy as instrumental in driving down the city's crime rate.
“We think that a monitor would be even more disruptive than an IG,” responded Mayor Bloomberg on Thursday, also referring to a separate City Council proposal to appoint an inspector general for the NYPD. “It just makes no sense whatsoever, when lives are on the line, to try to change the rules and hamper the police department from doing their job.... They comply with the law. We are 100 percent confident in that,” he said Thursday at a press conference in Queens.
But the trial did not go well for the city, some observers believe. The Justice Department’s last-minute filing may indicate that it, too, feels it must weigh in at this late stage because the city will probably lose the case.
“The whole thing is unusual,” says Randolph McLaughlin, a New York-based civil rights attorney and a Pace Law School professor who has represented plaintiffs in police misconduct cases for more than 15 years. “I mean, if the DOJ doesn’t feel there’s a likelihood that the case will go for the plaintiffs, then why get involved? Why alienate the city of New York and the NYPD?
“I would have to believe, knowing some of the lawyers who practice in the US Attorney’s office, that they’ve been monitoring this case closely, and I do think they’re reading the same tea leaves I’m reading, and they believe or have a feeling or suspicion that the case is not going well for the city,” Mr. McLaughlin says.
In a few other major US cities – such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston – police have used the stop and frisk tactic, but none has seen the controversy surrounding it that has embroiled New York.
Earlier this year, Judge Scheindlin found that an element of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Police had been routinely stopping people outside private apartment buildings in the Bronx, under the suspicion they were trespassing. In this case, she wrote in her finding for the plaintiffs, the evidence “strengthens the conclusion that the NYPD’s inaccurate training has taught officers the following lesson: Stop and question first, develop reasonable suspicion later.”
Scheindlin will also be ruling on whether the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics illegally target minorities. In 2012, police made 533,042 stops under the program, and roughly 87 percent were of blacks or Hispanics. In the vast majority of these stops – about 9 in 10 – those stopped walked away without being arrested or even ticketed.
If she again finds these tactics unconstitutional – and she continues to seem skeptical of crucial parts of the city’s defense – she could order another injunction, or order specific changes to the tactics, or even consider other remedies, such as equipping officers with body-worn cameras, a possibility she found intriguing during the trial.
Despite its reluctance to get involved in the question of the constitutionality of "stop and frisk," the Justice Department says it strongly favors an independent monitor.
“The implementation of an injunction to address structural deficiencies in a law enforcement agency where those deficiencies contribute to a pattern of constitutional violations is a complex and difficult task,” the statement argued. “A monitor provides the independence and expertise necessary to conduct the objective, credible analysis upon which a court can rely to determine whether its order is being implemented, and that gives the parties and the community confidence in the reform process.”
More Scrutiny for NYPD
Backers Say Inspector General Is Needed Even if Federal Judge Appoints a Monitor
By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL and SEAN GARDINER — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
Top supporters of the proposal to create an inspector general for the New York Police Department said Thursday they will move forward with legislation to establish the position, after the Justice Department voiced support for a federal judge to appoint a monitor to oversee the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who backs the inspector-general proposal, said the council will approve the legislation in the coming weeks, which means it is possible the nation's largest and most storied police department could have both a court-ordered monitor and an inspector general imposed upon it in the future.
A federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, is to decide in the coming months whether the Police Department has violated New Yorkers' constitutional rights by stopping and frisking mostly black and Hispanic men. If she decides there are violations, a court-appointed monitor is one of the remedies she is considering imposing on the department.
Depending on the extent of the judge's order, the monitor could review current and new stop-and-frisk policies, observe and make recommendations about current training and help develop new training curriculum.
"We think that a monitor would be even more disruptive than an IG," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who opposes both possibilities. "This is just a terrible idea and it's not needed."
He was responding Thursday to a statement of interest filed by the Justice Department late Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan that said a court-appointed monitor "improves public confidence, makes officers' jobs safer, and increases the ability of the department to fight crime." The agency didn't take a position on whether the Police Department is misusing the stop-and-frisk tactic.
Ms. Quinn, who is considered the front-runner to succeed Mr. Bloomberg as mayor, said the possibility of a court-ordered monitor will have no impact on the council's decision to create an inspector general.
"I really believe that having monitoring of the police in New York City is a very good idea," she said. "That's the way we can stay the safest big city in America, but do it in conjunction with communities and overcome some of the tensions that have developed as a result of stop and frisk."
Siding with Mr. Bloomberg, mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, a Republican, said both a court-appointed monitor and an inspector general would be damaging. "Any attempts to give authority over the NYPD to an independent monitor is ill-conceived, dangerous and will put New Yorkers lives at risk," he said. "The NYPD is already one of the most closely scrutinized police departments in the country and this recommendation by the Justice Department is simply reckless."
According to the Justice Department, court-appointed monitors are currently in place overseeing reform measures for police departments in Seattle, Detroit, the Virgin Islands and East Haven, Conn. In the past the Los Angeles Police Department and Pittsburgh Police Department also had monitors.
The NYPD has never had a monitor appointed by a federal court judge, though the city's Fire Department currently does as a part of a lawsuit claiming discriminatory hiring practices.
In Los Angeles, for nearly a decade beginning in 2000, there was a court-appointed monitor and an inspector general. The monitor described the inspector general in its final report "as a full partner," according to the Justice Department's filing.
Los Angeles's Office of Inspector General is empowered to audit, investigate and oversee the LAPD's internal disciplinary process. It doesn't have the broader powers proposed for the New York City inspector general under the pending bill to "conduct independent reviews of the department's policies, practices, programs and operations."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a support of the inspector-general proposal and a Democratic mayoral hopeful, said the prospect of a court monitor represents a "clarion call to New York City to get its act together."
"We need to take the bull by the horns and say to the federal government right now: We are taking appropriate measures, you don't need to put a monitor in place," he added. "We will fix our own situation."
Since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002, there have been more than five million street stops in which officers have questioned people about suspected criminal activity, a recent study found, with about 55% of them also getting frisked.
While just 52% of the city's population is black or Hispanic, those groups make up 82% of those stopped. Nearly 90% of those stopped were released without being charged with a crime.
City and police officials claim the stops are in proportion to the crime-suspect data and that the practice has helped drive down crime. But the polarizing practice has spawned three class-action lawsuits that are currently before Judge Scheindlin.
—Alison Fox contributed to this article.
Opinion: Pro & Con
Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’ Editorial:
A Loud Message to the N.Y.P.D.
After years of sitting on the sidelines, the United States Justice Department has finally made itself heard in the federal civil rights lawsuit by New Yorkers who say the Police Department has been illegally detaining hundreds of thousands of people on the streets each year based not on suspicious behavior but on race.
In a statement filed in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, the Justice Department did not take a stand on the case, on which Judge Shira Scheindlin has yet to rule, but strongly endorsed the idea of enlisting an independent monitor to oversee Police Department reform in the event that she finds the stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional. That put the federal government squarely behind an idea that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have fought tooth and nail.
The city has argued that adding oversight would make it more difficult for police officers to do their jobs. The Justice Department responded that “reform through a court-ordered process improves public confidence, makes officers’ jobs safer, and increases the ability of the department to fight crime.” Federal officials reject what they describe as the city’s assertion that the “court’s authority to issue injunctive relief in this case is limited.”
The filing notes that courts have long required injunctive relief to correct unconstitutional conduct and that the courts’ authority to appoint monitors is well established. In addition, it said, “the experience of the United States in enforcing police reform injunctions teaches that the appointment of an independent monitor is a critically important asset to the court, the parties, and the community in cases involving patterns or practices of unlawful conduct.”
The monitors save costs by sparing judges from having to micromanage reforms and also bolster public confidence. Furthermore, Justice Department officials said, they have provided “invaluable service” in overseeing vital police reforms in cities large and small, including Seattle, Detroit and East Haven, Conn.
In another message that the city should take to heart, the Justice Department said “unlawfully aggressive police tactics are not only unnecessary for effective policing, but are in fact detrimental to the mission of crime reduction. Officers can only police safely and effectively if they maintain the trust and cooperation of the communities within which they work, but the public’s trust and willingness to cooperate with the police are damaged when officers routinely fail to respect the rule of law.”
The evidence in the Justice Department filing is not just persuasive but indisputable. Should Judge Scheindlin rule that reforms are necessary, a court-ordered monitor is clearly the way to go.
Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’ Editorial:
Holder lets down Justice
The DOJ's eleventh-hour entry into the stop-and-frisk lawsuit betrays the attorney general's bias
In the clear light of day, the Justice Department entered the stop-and-frisk lawsuit in the dead of night with a brief that was an expression of ideology built on distorted facts.
The huge giveaway: Attorney General Eric Holder relied in the document he submitted to Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin on a study by a law professor who was the key expert witness for the civil rights activists challenging the NYPD.
They put Columbia University Prof. Jeffrey Fagan on the stand to spout statistical mumbo-jumbo as proof that the NYPD was unconstitutionally stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking thousands of people.
In his “Statement of Interest,” Holder followed up by pointing Scheindlin to a paper co-authored by Fagan as support for appointing a monitor to oversee the NYPD in the event she holds it guilty of wholesale constitutional violations.
Hello, hand, meet glove.
Justice’s rapturous endorsement of a monitor gave its opening pronouncement of taking “no position” about the constitutionality of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s program the feel of a small-type warning on a drug label — necessary, but nothing demanding attention.
Then, Holder was wholly disingenuous in blaming Scheindlin for forcing Justice to declare how the NYPD should be fixed before she rules on whether, in her opinion, it needs to be fixed.
True enough, while putting stop-and-frisk on trial, Scheindlin took the revealing step of requiring the civil rights lawyers and the NYPD to propose remedies for constitutional wrongs that she has yet to establish. This was the equivalent of a judge presiding over a murder trial and holding a sentencing hearing before the jury reaches a verdict.
Holder weighed in with his sentencing recommendation — a monitor — on Scheindlin’s agenda-driven schedule. But he was under no obligation to do so, especially considering that he’d had no involvement in the lawsuit for the five years, four months and 12 days the case was pending.
What he told Scheindlin was clearly designed to make her feel warm and fuzzy about sending stop-and-frisk down the tubes and into the hands of a monitor. And it was all a crock.
As evidence for the wildly preposterous contention that a monitor could even reduce crime and make cops safer, Holder cited Justice’s experiences with monitors in other cities. But his comparisons were not apples and apples, or even apples and oranges. He presented something more like subways and whipped cream.
In every city cited — Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans and more — the Justice Department conducted intensive investigations. Here, the suit was brought by activists with extreme views on establishing racially motivated police abuses.
In every case, Justice looked into horrendous misconduct by rogue cops. In Seattle, for example, the feds found a “subset of officers who use force improperly,” including “impact weapons, such as batons and flashlights,” and “excessive force on subjects who are already restrained.”
Here, there’s no charge of excessive force. There can’t be such an accusation, considering that last year a total of 36 out of 33,497 cops fired their weapons intentionally during confrontations.
Here, there are no rogue cops in question. Here, stop-and-frisk is a deliberate crimefighting tool sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Cops may stop individuals when there is a reasonable suspicion of criminality and frisk if there is a reasonable fear that a suspect has a weapon.
The activists who were given free rein by Scheindlin argue that cops stop large numbers of people without cause. They based their lawsuit on the stories of a paltry 12 witnesses who described 19 incidents, some of which were clearly justified, some of which were matters of police judgment.
Never would the Justice Department have called for a police monitor had an investigation of its own turned up such wispy evidence. But that’s what Holder did in putting his thumb on the scale in a matter of critical importance to public safety in New York. Shame.
Kelly Still Silent On Justice Department Filing
Reactions to Holder and a possible outside monitor for the NYPD
By Azi Paybarah — Thursday, June 13th, 2013 ‘Capital New York’ / New York, NY
COMMENT: Kelly, with his humongous ego, up to this point has totally overplayed his hand in the news media - alienating many. I don't think he ever saw this coming. His ego blinded him. However - do not kid yourself - he's doing everything he can behind the scenes to sink this Justice Department oversight idea. - Mike Bosak
Some critics of the city's stop-and-frisk program are cheering the U.S. Department of Justice's statement of interest conditionally supporting an outside monitor to oversee the New York Police Department.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, a frequent department critic and a leading sponsor of legislation to create an inspector general to watch over city police, wrote on Facebook that Holder's move "is a great step for New Yorkers who seek better policing and safer streets."
Holder's announcement comes as the public awaits a decision from Manhattan federal judge Shira Scheindlin in the federal class-action lawsuit over the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics, and only applies if Scheindlin finds that the practice violates the law.
Also in the coming weeks, the New York City Council is expected to pass a law creating a new inspector general position within the city's Department of Investigation.
Lawyers who brought the stop-and-frisk suit released a statement last night declaring Holder's move as routine and necessary.
"The D.O.J. has put in place similar agreements with other cases alleging widespread unconstitutional policing practices," said the lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights. "It is high time the City of New York and its police department stop their obstinate non-compliance with the law and accept that the kind of significant change necessary to fix the problems with the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices will require outside monitoring."
Not all critics agree an outside monitor is needed to fix the NYPD.
The default position among the Democratic mayoral candidates, for example, has been to criticize the NYPD's current use of stop-and-frisk, though a number of them are loath to cede any control of the police department to a new, outside entity, whether it's a court-appointed monitor or a newly created inspector general.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn both support creating an inspector general. Former city comptroller Bill Thompson wants an inspector general within the department answering to the commissioner, effectively giving the commissioner the power to police himself. The current city comptroller, John Liu, former congressman Anthony Weiner, and former councilman Sal Albnaese oppose it outright. So do the Republican mayoral candidates.
Reaction to Holder's announcement hewed closely to the mayoral candidates' positions on the inspector general bill.
De Blasio said in a statement this afternoon that Holder's move "urgently underscores the need for fundamental reform of policing in this city. We need to finally pass legislation to ban racial profiling and create an independent inspector general for the NYPD."
Liu, in a statement, said "the possibility of an independent monitor for the NYPD’s stop and frisk program should be a sobering wake-up call for Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly," and called for a community policing strategy.
Thompson, in a statement, also blamed Bloomberg and Kelly, who he said "have stubbornly refused to abandon their abuse of stop and frisk in an unconstitutional manner that targets people for no other reason than the color of their skin."
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota said in a statement, "Any attempts to give authority over the NYPD to an independent monitor is ill-conceived, dangerous and will put New Yorkers lives at risk."
Lhota went on to say, "If anything, it's DOJ that needs an independent monitor given its warped understanding of the 1st amendment in allowing interference with the freedom of the press in taping reporters' phone and email conversations and the 4th amendment in allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on all Americans."
Professor Frank Zimring of the University of California at Berkley, who wrote two books about the NYPD, told me Holder's move was "curious and complicated."
In an email, Zimring wrote, "DOJ has power to start litigation and didn't in NYC. Now it may be trying to edge out the NGOs who did act."
Former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton said he worked with an inspector general when he led the Los Angeles Police Department, and that creating one here was "not necessary" and "it will not add anything" other than cosmetic reassurances to the public.
Speaking on NY1 News last night, Bratton said he achieved dramatic crime reductions in L.A. and scoffed at the notion it was because of the I.G., an assertion, he said, was made City Council Speaker and Democratic mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.
"I think I know a little something about why crime went down in Los Angeles," Bratton said "and believe me, the inspector general had nothing to do with the reduction in crime. So, using that as one of the rationales for why we should have one here is, well, has no foundation."
Bloomberg Calls Court Monitor for Police a ‘Terrible Idea’
By J. DAVID GOODMAN — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Thursday criticized recommendations by the Justice Department in the federal suit over the stop-and-frisk tactic, calling its embrace of a court-appointed monitor for the New York Police Department, should the city lose the case, a “terrible idea.”
The mayor did not address the Justice Department’s late entry into the federal civil rights trial or directly refer to its brief, filed in Federal District Court late on Wednesday.
Instead, speaking to reporters in Queens, Mr. Bloomberg took aim at the idea that an independent monitor would be the most effective means of carrying out any court-ordered changes, if the court finds civil rights violations by the Police Department.
“We think that a monitor would be even more disruptive than an I.G.,” Mr. Bloomberg said, referring to his administration’s opposition to a bill before the City Council to create an inspector general to review police policies.
The Justice Department, in its brief, was careful not to take a position on matters of fact in the case, Floyd v. City of New York, and offered only an opinion on remedies the court might pursue if Judge Shira A. Scheindlin finds constitutional violations stemming from the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices.
Court-ordered monitors were a “critically important asset” to address constitutional concerns with other cities’ police departments, the Justice Department lawyers wrote, saying they did not see any reason that, if violations were found, such a monitor would not work in New York.
But Mr. Bloomberg said on Thursday that when “monitors were forced on Philadelphia, where crime had come down, then crime went up.”
He added, referring to the Justice Department’s arguments in favor of a monitor, “I don’t know what experience they have in the streets of New York City.”
Throughout the trial, the mayor has said federal court intervention in the policing of the city, which has seen historic violent crime lows during his administration, could put New Yorkers at risk.
He declined to discuss any possible conversations he may have had with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. before his department’s filing in the case. “We have discussions all the time with lots of people,” he said.
A decision on the case is expected in the coming months.
David W. Chen contributed reporting.
Bloomberg: NYPD federal monitor ‘a terrible idea’ that ‘makes no sense whatsoever’
Officials weigh in after Attorney General Eric Holder said he would support the proposal if stop-and-frisk was declared unconstitutional.
By Tina Moore , Thomas Tracy AND Larry McShane — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Mayor Bloomberg ripped Attorney General Eric Holder’s support of an independent monitor for the NYPD, declaring Thursday that such a move was “a terrible idea.”
The mayor, in his first public comments since the Department of Justice filed court papers on its position, cited the city’s dramatic reductions in murder and crime as proof that such oversight was unnecessary.
The NYPD’s crime-fighting experience was “paid in blood,” Bloomberg declared. “It’s pretty hard to argue we don’t know what we’re doing.”
Bringing in an outside monitor would “hamper the police department from doing their job,” the mayor said. “It’s a terrible idea that’s not needed.”
The Justice Department, in a Wednesday filing that served as a slap at Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, said it would support an independent monitor for the NYPD.
The appointment of an outside watchdog is contingent on a possible finding in a pending federal lawsuit that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional.
The Justice Department’s position was first reported Wednesday on the Daily News website.
Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin, who presided over a two-month trial in the class action suit, has yet to issue a decision in the case. The timetable for her ruling remained unclear.
Critics said the stop-and-frisk approach unfairly targeted minorities, particularly young blacks and Latinos. Two whistle-blowing cops also said the NYPD had a monthly quota on both stops and arrests.
The mayor and his police commissioner were reportedly outraged by Holder’s decision, but made no public statements on Wednesday.
Bloomberg, without mentioning Holder, unloaded Thursday with his pointed remarks.
“It just makes no sense whatsoever when lives are on the line to try to change the police department,” the mayor said.
City Council member Peter Vallone, unlike the mayor, took direct aim at Holder.
“Perhaps he should get his own house in order before he starts worrying about New York City,” said Vallone. “The last idea Eric Holder had for New York City was to have a civil terrorist trial here in Manhattan.”
Citing the recent spate of Obama administration woes, Vallone advised Holder to “worry about the problems he has right now and stay out of New York City.”
Kelly has yet to address the filing by the Justice Department, which cited monitors previously ordered in cities like Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
Bloomberg said the crime increased when a monitor was appointed in Philadelphia.
Mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio said the NYPD could use both a monitor and an inspector general and that the city should stop fighting the possible oversight.
“This is not a news flash,” he said Thursday. “This has been developing for a long, long time. We should act immediately to show good faith to the federal government.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton joined the chorus of NYPD critics hailing the move by Holder.
The longtime activist’s National Action Network issued a statement saying it “salutes the Department of Justice” for going public with its backing of a monitor.
Bloomberg slams Obama administration call for stop-frisk monitor on NYPD
By SALLY GOLDENBERG — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
Mayor Bloomberg slammed the Obama administration yesterday for its support of a federally appointed monitor to oversee the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, saying it was playing with lives.
The mayor, who has steadfastly defended the practice as a crucial crime-fighting tool, teed off on the feds for intervening in an explosive court case that could force the NYPD to make sweeping changes to its patrol strategy.
“It just makes no sense whatsoever, when lives are on the line, to try to change the rules and hamper the Police Department from doing their job,” he said.
“We think that a monitor would be even more disruptive than an IG,” the mayor continued, referring to the City Council’s plan to install another police overseer, this time an inspector general.
“This is just a terrible idea, and it’s not needed. Monitors were forced on Philadelphia, where crime had come down, and then crime went up.”
Stats show the number of homicides rose from 307 to 353 in the 12-month period after the implementation of a monitor in 2011 in Philadelphia. The monitor was put in place after a lawsuit was settled over stop-and-frisk.
“When you have an organization where it’s life and death, you have to have clear responsibility, clear chains of command with no ambiguity whatsoever,” the mayor fumed.
He did not say whether he had directly spoken to Attorney General Eric Holder in recent weeks, and he ducked a question asking him to criticize President Obama.
Justice Department Civil Rights Division lawyers filed papers in Manhattan federal court late Wednesday night suggesting a monitor be appointed if the NYPD is found to have illegally targeted minorities during stops of potential suspects.
The practice is being challenged by a dozen minority plaintiffs in a case that required 10 weeks of testimony. A decision could take months.
Meanwhile, the major Democratic candidates vying to replace Bloomberg came out in support of a monitor.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn also is pushing for an inspector general.
“There really isn’t any reason why the NYPD is one of the only city agencies that doesn’t have that kind of monitoring,” she said.
Bill Thompson blamed Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for getting Washington involved.
“The federal government is now threatening to intervene in New York City policing for a simple reason: The mayor and commissioner have stubbornly refused to abandon their abuse of stop-and-frisk in an unconstitutional manner,” Thompson said.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said the issue “urgently underscores the need for fundamental reform of policing in this city.”
Bloomberg Hates Eric Holder's NYPD Federal Monitor, Calls It a "Terrible Idea"
By John Surico — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Villiage Voice’ / Manhattan
It comes as no surprise that controversy would ride the coattails of the news yesterday that Attorney General Eric Holder may suggest a federal monitor over the NYPD should stop-and-frisk be deemed unconstitutional in Floyd v. New York. Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly freaked out in a teleconference with Holder the other day when they heard about the Justice Department's proposal. And yesterday, at an unrelated press conference, the mayor made his opposition to the proposal absolutely, 100 percent clear.
Contrary to an inspector general--a City Council proposal in the Community Safety Act currently making its way through the legislature--a federal monitor would act as a measure of checks and balances for the municipal law enforcement agency. It would ensure that the boys in blue were respecting federal guidelines of civil rights in the wake of stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance controversies while the IG would simply be a watchman over police action and behavior.
By doing so, Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights of this nature who first phoned City Hall about the plans, argued that the monitor would "[improve] public confidence, [make] officers' jobs safer, and [increase] the ability of the department to fight crime. Bloomberg doesn't think so.
"We think that a monitor would be even more disruptive than an IG," the mayor said. "It's just a terrible idea and it's not needed. ... It just makes no sense whatsoever, when lives are on the line, to try to change the rules and hamper the police department from doing their job." For justification, Bloomberg, as per usual in his defense, pointed to low crime rates as evidence that the NYPD was doing just fine without oversight.
Yes, of course, crime rates have dropped way below Giuliani levels and the city is way safer off than it was in 2001--with migrations into once-crime-ridden areas like Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, it's hard to argue otherwise at this point. But that's not the issue here (and let's save the gentrification talk for another time).
The federal monitor isn't following statistics of success; it came from the last decade of controversy plaguing the NYPD. While crime has dropped tremendously, attention toward stop-and-frisk has increased to the point that the practice has found itself in federal court to determine whether or not the constitution allows for such a practice to exist in 2013. The specifically targeted surveillance of the Muslim community in a post-9/11 environment has also garnered lawsuits from the Justice Department based on its legality. And let us never forget the NYPD tapes exposed by fellow Voice scribe Graham Rayman.
So the focus here shouldn't be on track record, Mr. Mayor. To say "it just makes no sense whatsoever" disregards the notion that civil rights under Kelly's police force has seen a lot of shit over the past decade. People are questioning whether your seemingly unchecked police force is "phenomenally managed" and if its practices comply with the law, as you're "100 percent sure" they do. In a democracy, that discussion should be welcomed and, with a matter as important to our lives as law and order, encouraged.
Staten Island's 121st Precinct stationhouse fully operational by July, official says
By Mark D. Stein — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Staten Island Advance’ / Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The NYPD's 121st Precinct stationhouse will be fully operational at the start of next month, the commanding officer told attendees at a Community Board 1 meeting earlier this week.
Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson told the full board 160 police officers will work out of the Richmond Avenue location, and a majority of them will come from Staten Island when the site opens July 1. About a third of them will be newly assigned officers from other boroughs. Hurson said the NYPD has started to move into the Graniteville hub.
The 121st Precinct will encompass the neighborhoods of Graniteville, Travis, Bulls Head and New Springville.
Its boundaries are expected to be: On the north, the Kill Van Kull at the northern boundary for Community District 1; on the south, Arthur Kill Road, Richmond Avenue, Richmond Creek, Fresh Kills and Little Fresh Kills in Community District 2; on the east, Jewett Avenue in Community District 2, as well as Manor Road, Brielle and Rockland avenues, and Forest Hill and Richmond Hill roads; and on the west, the Arthur Kill at the western boundaries for Community Districts 1 and 2. Officers will patrol the privately owned Arlington Terrace Apartments in Mariners Harbor.
The facility's main entrance is to be located on Richmond across from the ShopRite plaza. The bulk of the state-of-the-art facility was erected on a parcel of vacant land located between Baron Hirsch and Hillside cemeteries and Wilcox Street.
The borough's fourth precinct cost $65.5 million to construct. The two-story building is being hailed as the city's first "green" precinct; it will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards, as previously reported by the Advance.
It will have a 108-slot parking lot on the premises, and will use 25 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a comparable building. Construction began on the site four years ago.
Hurson was named commander in January. He held the same position at the 94th Precinct, in Brooklyn's Greenpoint section. A veteran of the NYPD for 19 years, he worked in the department's Office of Management, Analysis and Planning before taking control of the 94th Precinct in November 2010.
While at the helm of the precinct, the Brooklyn native focused on something common here on Staten Island: Speeding motorists.
Travis resident Gene Guerra, head of the neighborhood's civic association, said having a new police hub dedicated to the community will make a difference. The neighborhood is currently under the 122nd Precinct's satellite location across from the Staten Island Mall, which is expected to be dismantled.
"The patrol should increase in this area and others nearby. That should be great," said Guerra.
-- Advance reporter Virginia Sherry contributed to this report
‘Lesbo Love’ Baby Battle: 1st Pct. Sergeant Regina Debellis
Ma sues over cop ‘harass’
By JESSICA SIMEONE — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
The Manhattan woman who won custody of her domestic partner’s biological daughter in a landmark court decision is suing the city over an NYPD cop’s campaign of harassment on behalf of the scorned mom, The Post has learned.
Sgt. Regina Debellis, of Manhattan’s First Precinct, has been showing up at Allison Scollar’s home without a warrant and traumatizing her 6-year-old daughter in an attempt by Brook Altman to get the kid back, court papers charge.
“What am I going to do, call the cops on the cops?” Scollar told The Post.
Altman, a TV producer, wants to overturn a judge’s October decision that awarded Scollar custody.
Debellis filed a complaint with the Administration for Children’s Services on May 6, claiming that the girl was a “child at imminent risk.”
ACS found the child to be “healthy, well-nourished and well cared for,” according to the court papers.
In a complaint filed with NYPD Internal Affairs, Scollar says Debellis has a “personal interest” in her case.
A judge on May 24 said, “This is getting way out of hand. This child is suffering. It’s not at the hands of one but both, and all because it takes two to tango.”
NYPD Communications Division
NYC forced to release full report on 911 failures during Christmas 2010 blizzard
Fire unions prevailed as an appeals court forced the Bloomberg administration to release a complete version of a report commissioned after the city’s botched response to the 2010 Christmas blizzard. A copy obtained by the Daily News was highly critical of the NYPD for its “monopolistic” control of the 911 system, and revealed a “dysfunctional relationship” in how 911 operates.
By Tina Moore , Erin Durkin AND Ginger Adams Otis — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
New York City has finally released the full version of an independent report on the Bloomberg administration’s overhaul of the 911 system — after nearly two years of fighting in the courts.
The city’s fire unions prevailed in an Appellate Division order that forced the Bloomberg administration to release a complete version of a report commissioned after the city’s botched response to the 2010 Christmas blizzard.
A copy obtained by the Daily News was highly critical of the NYPD for its “monopolistic” control of the 911 system, and revealed a “dysfunctional relationship” in how 911 operates.
“Currently NYPD has sole ownership of the 911 system ... with the perspective that 911 is more for supporting NYPD operations than a life-saving system that should be equally shared with the FDNY/EMS,” the report said.
The city Law Department dismissed the findings as “old news” already revealed in an earlier, shorter version of the study.
“The city produced the final report in May 2012,” a spokesperson said.
Bloomberg’s long-delayed 911 overhaul has been plagued by computer glitches and a lack of training for its users, consultants found, as costs ballooned from $1.3 billion to $2 billion for the massive project.
Late last month, the city rolled out new software known as ICAD that was supposed to improve emergency dispatching — but it got off to a rocky start when the system crashed.
Dispatcher unions say the system’s behind a four-minute delay in sending an ambulance to an emergency call June 4. The call was for Ariel Russo, 4, who was killed when an unlicensed 17-year-old driver hit her.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that an FDNY investigation showed a lone EMS worker was to blame for the lag.
“It was not a software thing. That’s just ginned up by unions who don’t like the fact that we have combined all of the call takers together,” Bloomberg said.
But at least one mayoral hopeful said he’d abandon the new system if elected.
“It appears as if it is the technology in a lot of ways that’s failed,” William Thompson said in a speech on emergency preparedness at a Coney Island senior center.
Former NYPD Executive Protection Det. Leopold McLean Going to Jail
Former bodyguard to Mayor Bloomberg sentenced to 7 years in love-triangle shooting
By CHRISTINA CARREGA — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
A veteran NYPD detective, once assigned to protect the mayor and his family, got seven years in the slammer yesterday for shooting his girlfriend’s former beau in the buttocks.
Convicted shooter Leopold McLean, 49, also got a verbal spanking from the judge for the boneheaded, career-ending attack.
“I don’t know what caused this situation to happen — it could have been fear, frustration, arrogance or stupidity — but as a citizen you forgot your common sense,” Queens Supreme Court Justice James Griffin told the 19-year cop as the judge sentenced him for attempted murder and two counts of reckless endangerment.
McLean had just dropped off Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter Georgina at home after a Knicks game in November 2010 when he pulled up to girlfriend Assia Winfield’s Jamaica home and spotted LePaul Gammons outside.
McLean opened fire with his service weapon and hit Gammons twice in the buttocks and back as the targeted man ran away.
McLean and Winfield called 911, saying Gammons had broken into her house and had a knife. But the detective didn’t mention that he had fired at Gammons.
“Common sense would have told you to take Assia Winfield into her house, call police, tell them what happened, what Gammons looked like, what direction he went in, that he was armed with a knife, and all vital information for your fellow officers,” Griffin scolded McLean.
“You suffer more than most defendants. Your career as an officer is over.”
McLean’s victim, however, sympathized with the shamed cop.
“A woman played both of us, with the outcome of this man trying to kill me!” Gammons, 48, told the judge at the hearing.
Gammons — who is doing time at Rikers Island for a forgery conviction and came to court in handcuffs — was violating a protection order the night he showed up at Winfield’s home.
Addressing McLean yesterday, he said, “Lee, I’m sorry this happened to you. This is a sad situation on both parts.”
But Gammons chided his onetime rival for “keeping quiet” about the shooting.
“What if he actually killed me?” Gammons asked.
“He should feel bad for McLean — it’s because of [Gammons’] actions we are here,” McLean’s lawyer, Stephen Worth, told the judge, noting that McLean had been two months shy of earning his 20-year pension.
At trial, Winfield admitted that, while she was dating McLean, she filed complaints against Gammons but then continued to call him, visited him in jail and accepted two cars he bought for her adult daughter.
He is no longer dating Winfield and she didn’t attend the sentencing.
Bklyn D.A.O.: Alleged Serial Flaking by Ret. Bklyn. N. Homi Det. Louis Scarcella
Brooklyn DA’s rival wants Scarcella questionable conviction cases revealed
Detective Louis Scarcella’s tactics — which allegedly included forced or fabricated confessions and repeatedly using the same witness — are being scrutinized by the DA’s conviction integrity unit. A spokesman said the prosecutor’s office was looking into about 40 cases involving some 50 defendants.
By Oren Yaniv — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
A challenger to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes wants the top prosecutor to identify 50 cases under review by his office after questions arose regarding the conduct of homicide detective Louis Scarcella.
The retired NYPD detective’s tactics — which allegedly included forced or fabricated confessions and repeatedly using the same witness — are being scrutinized by the DA’s conviction integrity unit.
“There is no excuse for the District Attorney to keep secret these questionable murder convictions, including the 50 cases that he says are being reviewed,” said former prosecutor Kenneth Thompson, who’s vying for Hynes’ seat in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
A DA spokesman said the office was looking into about 40 cases involving some 50 defendants.
“It’s a confidential investigation,” spokesman Jerry Schmetterer said.
The News learned of four men who were told their cases are being reviewed, two of them currently out on parole.
“If you ask me, it’s just sitting there,” said one of the former inmates, adding that his alibi witnesses — but nobody else — has been interviewed in relation to his case.
The integrity unit in March exonerated David Ranta, who spent 23 years in prison, putting the microscope on other convictions involving Scarcella.
The detective, who handled the most homicides in Brooklyn during the 1990s, maintains he never framed anyone.
Five confessions taken by NY cop have similarities; suspects say ‘You got it right; I was there’
By Debra Cassens Weiss — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The ABA Journal’ / (American Bar Association) New York, NY
Five confessions elicited by Brooklyn detective Louis Scarcella all began with similar language: “You got it right” and/or “I was there.”
One of the defendants who used that language is David Ranta, who was released after serving 23 years in prison when the Brooklyn District Attorney's office concluded there were flaws in the case, the New York Times reports. The DA's office conceded that Scarcella coached a witness viewing a lineup, ignored another suspect, and let witnesses leave jail to smoke crack and visit prostitutes, the New York Times reported in a story last month.
Another defendant confessed with that wording was Jabbar Washington, who remains in prison for a 1995 slaying. Washington testified at his trial that Scarcella grabbed his neck and testicles and forced him to sign the confession. Witnesses couldn’t identify Washington and he had an alibi; he was convicted largely on the strength of the confession, the Times says.
The Brooklyn District Attorney is now reviewing Scarcella’s trial convictions. Scarcella, now retired, says that inmates want to use him as a “get-of-of-jail-free key” since Ranta’s exoneration. “I will say this again,” he told the Times. “I have never fabricated a confession in my life.”
New York State
Cuomo Pot Push Likely Dead
Democrats Say Decriminalization Could Curb Arrests of Minority Youth
By MARA GAY — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
ALBANY—Gov. Andrew Cuomo came under fire Thursday from black and Hispanic Democrats who said he wasn't doing enough to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, a proposal they said could help curb arrests of minority youth.
Mr. Cuomo first proposed making the possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana a violation for which police officers issue a summons instead of making an arrest. It was billed as the governor's attempt to address the fallout over the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk tactic, which critics say has led to soaring rates of marijuana arrests for minorities.
Mr. Cuomo failed to reach a deal last year with Senate Republicans who opposed the measure. He again pushed for a slightly different bill, decriminalizing possession of less than 15 grams, during budget negotiations in March but lost. The issue now appears dead again for this year, lawmakers said.
The inability to seal the deal has upset some minority and liberal Democrats, who say the governor has used his influence to strike bargains on other tough issues like same-sex marriage, Medicaid and Indian casinos.
"Anything the governor has ever wanted he's gotten," said state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, an African-American Democrat from Mount Vernon. "Now this is a major issue for the lives of young men in communities of color. I'm not happy that this has not seen the level of promise that's usual for [Mr. Cuomo]."
Mr. Cuomo's aides said that was unfair, and said the governor is behind the measure. "Gov. Cuomo has been and continues to be a leader on this issue," said spokesman Matt Wing.
At a Capitol news conference here, a group of minority lawmakers and other supporters also called on Senate leaders to allow a vote on the legislation.
"It might be on life support but it's not completely dead yet," said Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat and the chairman of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus who introduced the legislation.
Senate Republicans share power with a breakaway group of four so-called independent Democrats. Both sides must agree for a bill to be voted on.
Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said he wasn't sure if the bill would see a vote.
"It has not been something that we've been focused on," he said. "We've been focused on the need to create private sector jobs in New York, to cut taxes and to pass a strong women's equality agenda."
Officers can stop, question and sometimes frisk people on the street when they have reasonable suspicion of a crime. In New York City, for example, where the stop-and-frisk policing policy has helped push the number of arrests for marijuana possession to more than 50,000 a year.
Blacks in Brooklyn and Manhattan are nine times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union from federal crime data.
Some say the governor initially pushed hard to bring the bill to a vote but shied away when it became unclear whether Democrats had the votes to pass it through the Senate.
"The last time we tried to advance the governor's proposal to reform stop-and-frisk in New York City, Senate Democrats refused to support it," said Eric Soufer, a spokesman for the Independent Democratic Conference.
Senate Democrats disputed Mr. Soufer's assertion.
For Mr. Cuomo, the decriminalization push earned him plaudits, initially, from his Democratic base. In January, as he toured the state, Mr. Cuomo received standing ovations as he promised to change the law.
"These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It's not fair. It's not right. It must end. And it must end now," Mr. Cuomo said his state of the state speech in January.
The legislation passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly last month, but in recent weeks, the governor has stopped speaking publicly about the issue, pushing hard on other signature pieces of his agenda instead, like the Women's Equality Act and election law changes.
The Most Dangerous Cities in America
By Unnamed Author(s) — Thursday, June 13th, 2013; 3:05 p.m. ‘24/7 Wall Street.Com’ / New York, NY
After falling for five consecutive years, the number of violent crimes across the United States rose by 1.2% in 2012. Based on data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the increase was even greater in some of America’s largest cities. In 2012, for the third year in a row, Flint, Michigan had the highest violent crime rate in the country.
According to the FBI, violent crime includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In some cases, the cities with the highest violent crime rate, including Flint and Oakland, had high rates in all four categories. However, most of the most violent cities tend to do very poorly only in a few categories. Based on the FBI Uniform Crime Report, these are the 10 most dangerous cities in America.
Click here to see the 10 most dangerous cities
Crime in these cities is typically not limited to just violent crime. Three cities — Birmingham, St. Louis and Oakland — were among the 10 worst cities in the nation for both violent crime and property crime. In some of the most dangerous cities, specific types of property crime were especially common. Flint and Cleveland had among the highest burglary rates, while Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis had among the highest rates of vehicle theft.
The economies of many of the most dangerous cities have been in bad shape for years, in some cases long before the Great Recession. The populations of many of the most dangerous cities declined, leaving behind highly impoverished urban centers. The loss of economic diversity, explained John Roman, senior fellow at the Urban institute, only serves to exacerbate crime in cities like Detroit, Flint, Cleveland and St. Louis.
In fact, all the 10 most dangerous cities had poverty rates above the national rate of 15.9% in 2011. In half of these cities, more than 30% of the population lived in poverty. Detroit and Flint had poverty rates of more than 40%. “It is very clear that poverty in particular is associated with higher crime rates,” explained Roman.
However, the relationship between the two is less certain. It is “very difficult to say whether crime makes places poorer, or poverty causes more crime,” Roman noted.
In many of the nation’s most dangerous cities, unemployment is also extremely high. Seven of the 10 cities with the highest levels of violent crime had unemployment rates above 10% in 2012, much higher than the national unemployment rate of 8.1% that year. In two cities, Detroit and Stockton, the unemployment rate was more than 18% last year.
Low educational attainment also goes hand-in-hand with high crime rates. In all of the 10 most dangerous cities, the percentage of adults with a high school diploma was below the 86% national average. In five of these metro areas, the percentage of adults with a diploma was below 80%.
On its website, the FBI instructs readers to avoid comparing city violence because rankings tend to be simplistic and ignore factors that influence crime, as well as the different ways crimes are measured and reported. For this reason, Roman cautioned against directly comparing cities based on their individual crime rates. However, because the cities with the highest and lowest violent crime rates have remained consistent for many years, he believes comparing city ranks was useful.
Based on the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 U.S. cities with populations of 100,000 or more with the highest rates of violent crime per 100,000 residents. Using estimated populations and crime incidents from the FBI, which measures incidents of eight types of violent and nonviolent crime for 2012, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the incidence of the four types of violent crime per 100,000 persons for that year: murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In addition to crime data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed median income and poverty rates for these cities from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2011, the most recent available year. We also included average 2012 unemployment rates for these cities from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
6 months after Newtown: Rush of gun laws, mixed results
By Greg Toppo — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
In the six months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, lawmakers in four key states have approved significant restrictions on access to firearms. But elsewhere in the USA, the picture is far from clear.
A USA TODAY analysis of the 86 state gun laws passed since Dec. 14 shows that states have both tightened and loosened access to guns. Lawmakers in many states used the spotlight the shootings created to broaden both who can carry a gun and where they can carry it. States including Colorado and Maryland tightened access to guns, Arkansas and Mississippi eased restrictions, and many other states issued rules whose impact could be debated either way.
In the U.S. Senate, lawmakers on April 17 blocked a proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases.
The attack by gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six staff members at the Newtown, Conn., school. Since then, the national death toll from guns has topped 5,000, according to a crowd sourced data initiative by online magazine Slate and the Twitter feed @gundeaths.
There are about 13,000 to 14,000 murder and non-negligent manslaughter victims each year, based on FBI data. In each of the past five years, guns have been used in roughly two-thirds of all homicides. That means about 5,000 deaths in the first six months of the year is typical.
The incidents since Newtown include 10 mass shootings that killed 44 people. The most recent came last week at Santa Monica College in California, in which a gunman killed five people. The FBI defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people die, not including the perpetrator.
Four people — including the gunman — died in a murder-suicide shooting Thursday in St. Louis.
The Sandy Hook shootings came less than five months after a midnight attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., killed 12 people and jump-started a national conversation on guns and mental health. Legislators in Connecticut, Colorado, New York and Maryland responded quickly: Proposals in three states limited access to the kinds of military-style weapons or ammunition used in the shootings. In New York, new legislation forced owners to register these weapons for the first time. All four governors signed the bills into law.
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, says Connecticut and New York already had strong gun laws. But Maryland and Colorado took much bigger steps post-Newtown: Maryland strengthened a "toothless" gun-dealer licensing system and for the first time this October will require Marylanders to tell police if their guns are lost or stolen. In Colorado, a new universal background check is "an important milestone," Webster says.
Both states, he says, approved measures "to keep guns from dangerous people. That's what I think is most significant since Newtown."
Takirra Winfield, a spokeswoman for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, says there was " a sense of urgency to do this and get this done."
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, says the four states are post-Sandy Hook outliers that "got it wrong" in protecting citizens from gun violence. "The rest of the country is looking at this from a more pragmatic view," he says. "They're looking at it from a standpoint as to what really works."
That includes measures such as Arkansas' Church Protection Act, which prohibits churches or other places of worship from "determining who may carry a concealed handgun" inside, or a Mississippi law that drops the concealed-carry age from 21 to 18 for soldiers and veterans. In all, 30 governors have signed weapons measures since Newtown, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
President Obama met Thursday with relatives of the Sandy Hook victims to thank them for urging Congress to pass new gun laws.
Contributing: Meghan Hoyer, David Jackson, Associated Press
Democrats Quietly Renew Push for Gun Measures
By JONATHAN WEISMAN — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House renewed their push for gun legislation on Thursday, just months after it was defeated in the Senate, amid delicate talks on a new background-check measure that advocates hope could change enough votes from no to yes.
But those negotiations met a warning from Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, who said he would not accept any bill that is substantially weaker than the one defeated in April.
“The bill that passes the Senate must have background checks, and not a watered-down version of background checks,” Mr. Reid declared in the Capitol, flanked by the families of Newtown, Conn., school shooting victims.
Those families also visited President Obama on Thursday at the White House and Speaker John A. Boehner.
Quiet talks between Senators Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, and Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, officially do not exist. Both senators voted no in April, and aides to both deny the existence of negotiations or legislation.
“There are no talks,” said Jeff Grappone, a spokesman for Ms. Ayotte. “There is no legislation. She stands by her vote.”
But other senators are openly acknowledging and encouraging the effort and say the talks are building momentum. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said a new version of the gun bill would most likely enhance prosecutions of those who violate existing gun laws and further clarify that new legislation would not and could not lead to a national database of guns or gun ownership.
Other Democrats said the defeated background check measure, written by Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, would probably be amended to exempt more rural sales and person-to-person sales from mandatory checks.
“We have to give them a credible and commendable way to change their votes,” Mr. Blumenthal said of a handful of senators who could be persuaded, starting with Mr. Begich and Ms. Ayotte. Such modifications do not have to weaken the bill substantially, he added.“Sometimes clarification can have the appearance of change,” he said.
Six months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the emotions of the gun issue are still raw. Jillian Soto, whose older sister was one of the teachers killed in Newtown, told lawmakers, “America has not forgotten.”
Americans remain broadly supportive of legislation that expands background checks on gun purchases but are skeptical that such a bill will pass. A New York Times/CBS News poll released this month found that 69 percent support passage of a measure to expand such checks, but 56 percent say that significant change to gun policy is not likely this year.
But while Democratic leaders insisted Thursday that passage of a tough gun bill was inevitable, the numbers are daunting. Advocates of expanded gun background checks need five senators to change their votes, and a sixth vote if New Jersey’s newly appointed Republican senator, Jeffrey S. Chiesa, is opposed.
Senators pressing forward believe that if Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Begich could strike an accord, they could bring along Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, and possibly Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona.
But on Thursday Ms. Heitkamp, Mr. Flake and Mr. Baucus either avoided the question about changing their votes or said they had no intention of doing so.
“I’ve had a lot of these conversations,” Mr. Toomey said. “I’m not aware of any real movement on the part of people who opposed it last time.”
Democrats are also divided over how to pressure members of their own caucus to get behind a new push.
Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, praised what he called “the political infrastructure” emerging to push gun control, and said “members who voted no are not real excited about having to face hundreds of thousands of dollars of ads” from groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which was founded by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.
But Democratic leaders are increasingly vocal in their admonitions against Mr. Bloomberg’s attacks on Democrats who voted no in April.
Mr. Reid said Thursday that he spoke to the mayor this week to impress on him that “to have Republicans control the Senate is a sure sign we will never, ever get anything done.”
Mr. Reid was not sure that message had gotten through.
“He’s kind of a free spirit, and a very rich one,” he said.
'Whitey' Bulger's defense hits corrupt police agencies
At 'Whitey" Bulger's trial, prosecutors work to keep the focus on Bulger, not the misdeeds of the FBI and the Justice Department.
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
BOSTON – Whenever state police investigators tried to gather evidence against Boston gangsters in the 1980s, their targets always seemed to know when to hush up because their conversations were being recorded.
That was no coincidence, according to testimony given Thursday in day two of the federal trial of Mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger. Thomas Foley, retired head of the Massachusetts State Police, said his investigations were consistently undercut by a Federal Bureau of Investigation and a U.S. Department of Justice that had no inclination to reign in Bulger or his top brass.
The FBI "put a higher priority on protecting their informants than they did actually looking at public safety," Foley said.
Foley's comments came as Bulger attorney Hank Brennan aggressively pursued a strategy, laid out in Wednesday's opening statements, of linking the prosecution's case to a flawed process and a time when corrupt agencies had run amok.
At times it seemed unclear who was on trial – the FBI, the infamous Winter Hill Gang or Bulger.
Prosecutors brought to the stand two state police investigators, Foley and former detective Thomas Long, and asked them to identify a raft of evidence. Foley examined dozens of weapons, from illegal knives to automatic machine guns with serial numbers removed, which his teams had found in searches tied to Bulger's gang.
They also found masks, silencers and suppressors designed to make gunshots go unnoticed, and other apparent tools of the gangster trade, such as brass knuckles and handcuffs. But when Bulger attorney Hank Brenna asked if lab analyses had found Bulger's DNA on any of the guns, Foley answered no.
Then Brennan pressed further, asking pointed questions about how far Foley had gone to fulfill requests from star witness John Martorano, who refused to testify against friends suspected or murder, namely Pat Nee and Howard Winter.
"Mr. Foley, did you make any efforts to take the information Mr. Martorano gave you and try to develop a case against Mr. Winter and Mr. Nee?" Brennan asked.
"We were working on this (Bulger) case, which was taxing us for years, Mr. Brennan," Foley said. "If I were to send my people off on every case that we ever got a lead on, this case would have never been completed. And the reality of it was, this was the more serious crime."
Bulger faces 32 counts in a sweeping indictment that charges him with participating in 19 murders during the 1970s and '80s, as well as racketeering, extortion, money laundering and firearm violations. Prosecutors portrayed him to jurors as a "hands-on killer" who got filthy rich running illegal businesses and extorting payments from bookies, drug dealers and others who threatened his domain.
The defendant's lawyers are doing all they can to raise questions about the credibility of government witnesses and of the corruption-tainted agencies that negotiated deals with them.
"The defense is arguing these are sweetheart deals" with witnesses who now can't be trusted, said David Frank, managing editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, a newspaper covering the state's legal scene. "The defense is trying to establish that … law enforcement crossed the line in their relationships with organized crime, [and] that was happening with many of these key witnesses."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, are trying to make sure the trial remains focused on Bulger's past, not the FBI or the Justice Department. Assistant U.S Attorney Fred Wyshak showed video of Bulger associating with Irish and Italian mobsters.
But in cross examinations, Foley kept coming back to commenting on the FBI, where he said corrupt relationships were "preventing law enforcement from doing their investigations."
RICO law used to crack down on gang accused in cop shootings
BY FRANK MAIN AND RUMMANA HUSSAIN — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Chicago Sun-Times’ / Chicago, IL
The leaders of a West Side gang accused of ruthlessly enforcing a “no-snitch” code — and shooting two Chicago Police officers in the head in 2011 — were arrested Thursday in a massive roundup under a new state racketeering law.
The Black Souls are accused of at least six murders, kidnapping, gunrunning and drug dealing. The investigation, called Operation .40-Cal, began in October after the gang allegedly killed a West Side man who complained to the police about illegal activity on his block.
Authorities said the gang is among the most difficult to infiltrate because the leaders use murders to keep witnesses from testifying against them.
Secret recordings earlier this year captured reputed Black Souls chief Cornel “Corn” Dawson saying he held meetings with younger Black Souls to warn them not to cooperate with the police — and was worried he was under investigation for murder, prosecutors said.
“These leaders tend to insulate themselves and this law helps law enforcement penetrate the veil of secrecy,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
Dawson, 38, was among the 41 reputed members charged in Operation .40-Cal.
“This gives us a larger net in order to attack the entire gang,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who appeared with McCarthy and the FBI at a news conference.
The racketeering case accuses the gang of at least six killings dating to 1999. The June 24, 2002, murder of Charles Watson highlights the gang’s use of violence as a disciplinary tool, authorities said.
A member of the Black Souls had accused two lower-ranking members of the gang of stealing money and drugs, authorities said. The two members were beaten and one of them, Watson, died.
Watson was buried upside-down in a yard on the West Side — a killing the gang used over the years to reinforce obedience in the ranks, authorities said.
One Black Souls member allegedly told police that Watson’s murder was an example of the gang’s motto: “Death before dishonor.”
“If you rat out somebody or tell on somebody . . . you’ll die,” the member allegedly said in a statement to police.
The racketeering case also included the 1999 murder of Darryl Green. Two reputed Black Souls members — Kevin Mitchell and Dimeyon Cole — were among those charged Sunday with first-degree murder in his death.
They allegedly abducted Green at gunpoint from a west suburban beeper company he owned with his brother. They sought a ransom before driving Green to Gary, Ind., and shooting him.
The racketeering case also accuses the gang of being involved in the shooting of two Chicago Police officers on July 28, 2011.
The officers, Ruben Del Valle and Jeffrey Friedlieb, were patrolling the West Side when they attempted to stop Black Souls members for drug dealing, prosecutors said.
One suspect, Alvis Holley, allegedly fired a shot that grazed Del Valle in the head and another shot that struck his arm. Then Holley shot Friedlieb in the head and the bullet lodged behind his ear, where it still remains, prosecutors said.
Both officers survived their wounds. Holley is in the Cook County Jail on attempted murder charges, records show.
Operation .40-Cal was the first time Cook County prosecutors have used last year’s state Street Gang RICO law to go after a gang. The law allows prosecutors to combine different gang crimes into a single case to dismantle their organizations and hold gang leaders accountable when they commit crimes or others carry them out. RICO — or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization — charges have long been used in federal court to nab mobsters and gangsters.
The Black Souls charged in the case face charges ranging from narcotics-dealing to murder. Twenty-three of them have been charged with racketeering conspiracy, which carries a sentence of seven to 30 years in prison. Those charged with murder could receive life in prison.
The gang allegedly reaped as much as $11 million a year, primarily through hand-to-hand heroin deals near Madison and Pulaski, prosecutors said.
The investigation began after Claude Snulligan was fatally shot in the head with a .40-caliber bullet on Oct. 20. Earlier that year, members of the Black Souls had allegedly beaten and robbed Snulligan because he called the police about selling drugs in front of his home.
Ty Odum, the gang’s reputed second-in-command, was among those Snulligan identified as his attackers, prosecutors said. The gang allegedly tried to bribe Snulligan to drop the robbery case against Odum. An informant told police that he heard Dawson, the Black Souls chief, later ordered Snulligan’s killing.
The Black Souls are among several gangs that have been targeted in the past by Chicago Police under a “group accountability” strategy that holds an entire gang responsible when a single member commits a murder.
New Orleans, Louisiana
After months of talks, city, Department of Justice still can't agree on NOPD consent decree monitor
By Naomi Martin — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘NOLA.com / The Times-Picayune’ / New Orleans, LA
In a meeting that was postponed four times beyond its originally scheduled date of April 30, representatives of the city of New Orleans and the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that they still cannot agree on a team to oversee implementation of a federal consent decree mandating sweeping changes in the New Orleans Police Department.
It will now be up to U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan to determine which of the two finalist firms will be awarded the contract that's worth more than $7 million. The chosen firm will be responsible for reporting to Morgan and enforcing compliance of the consent decree -- estimated to cost $55 million over five years -- which takes aim at alleged racial profiling and excessive use of force, among a litany of other constitutional policing issues.
At a meeting Thursday afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the city proposed a compromise team led by their favored firm, Hillard Heintze of Chicago, but including four outside members of other firms, including two from the Justice Department's pick, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton of Washington, D.C.
Bowing somewhat to pressure from critics who have alleged favoritism involving two potential Hillard Heintze community partners being closely aligned with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the city said it would not allow Tulane criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf or pastor Charles Southall to be involved in the hybrid team. Both men have denied any bias.
The Justice Department rejected the city's proposal immediately. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin Jr. said the team was inadequate because the Hillard Heintze officials had never served as monitors before. Hillard Heintze's co-founder is Terry Hillard, a retired Chicago Police Department superintendent.
"If you don't realize the importance of having monitoring and civil-rights experience that speaks to the judgment of those who are organizing that team," Austin said. "The bottom line is he (Hillard) has never monitored a police department before. Being a chief of a very large police department is very different from being a monitor of a police department."
Several community members voiced anger at the selection committee -- made up of four city representatives and four DOJ officials -- for what they saw as backroom discussions and stalling.
"I truly hope y'all find a way to work this out, but please include the community," said Robert Goodman Jr., whose brother, Ronald Goodman, was fatally shot in 2006 by New Orleans police during a standoff in Algiers.
Austin said the Justice Department had proposed three compromise teams to the city, but all three had been rejected.
Hillard has been accused of failing to investigate credible allegations that cops had tortured numerous African-American criminal suspects before he became Chicago police chief. As a consequence, Hillard was named as a defendant in five federal cases involving police torture and wrongful convictions. Three of those cases were settled for about $17 million total, while two remain pending, according to a letter from a prominent civil rights lawyer in Chicago, which local civil rights attorney Mary Howell filed into the court record, along with her own articulating "serious concerns" with the firm. In court filings, Hillard has argued against the allegations.
Critics of Sheppard Mullin have pointed to the fact that the firm has not yet identified any local partners.
Detroit, Michigan (Drug Raid Gone Horribly Wrong)
Jury urged to convict Detroit cop in death of girl
BY ED WHITE (The Associated Press) — Thursday, June 13th, 2013; 6:10 p.m. EDT
DETROIT — A Detroit police officer charged in the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl acknowledged Thursday that he's trained to keep his finger off the trigger, but he insisted the split-second tragedy began when the victim's grandmother grabbed his weapon during a risky midnight raid.
Joseph Weekley, charged with involuntary manslaughter, testified in his own defense on the eighth day of trial, telling jurors that he remains "devastated and depressed" over the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was shot in the head while she slept on a couch in May 2010.
"I was pretty messed up at the time. I shot a kid. ... To be involved, even to this day, you can't explain it. It's horrible," Weekley said.
He was the first officer in as police stormed a house to capture a man suspecting of killing a teenager outside a corner store less than 48 hours earlier. A stun grenade was thrown through a window, emitting smoke, bright light and vibrations to confuse people inside.
Weekley said he heard a noise, "like somebody's out of breath," from under a pile of laundry and blankets on a couch near the doorway.
He said a woman later identified as Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, emerged.
"She hit it in a downward motion," Weekley said of his submachine gun. "As she hits it down, I start to pull it back. I hear the shot."
Nonetheless, he said he didn't even feel a recoil in the weapon and first believed the shot came from elsewhere in the house. Later in closing arguments, prosecutor Rob Moran all but called Weekley a liar.
He said Jones would have had to rise from the couch after the grenade was detonated and interfere with the officer in just seconds.
"It didn't happen," Moran said. "It did not happen." Weekley, a member of an elite police unit, is accused of failing to control his gun.
Defense attorney Steve Fishman said it simply was a tragic accident, not a crime.
The jury will have options Friday: involuntary manslaughter, a felony; a misdemeanor weapons charge; or not guilty of any crime.
"All he had to do was keep his finger off the trigger," Moran said.
Earlier in the trial, another officer said Detroit police are trained to push a person away if someone grabs their gun or move the weapon in the shape of a "J'' to keep control. The officer also testified that police aren't trained to pull the trigger under those circumstances.
"He may be a good police officer. He may be a good father. He may be a good person," the prosecutor said of Weekley. "It does not matter. ... Because of his conduct, Aiyana Jones is dead."
Moran mocked Weekley's Special Response Team — "best of the best' — for failing to recognize there were kids inside the house as they walked past toys on the front lawn.
Fishman, however, told jurors that Mertilla Jones' denial of any struggle with Weekley has no credibility. He reminded them that Aiyana's grandmother had accused police of intentionally killing the girl.
"An accident occurred. A gun was discharged. It wasn't intentional, but Joe Weekley was not careless, reckless or negligent," Fishman said.
Weekley turned toward the jury as he explained what happened in the wee hours on Lillibridge Street, even crouching on the floor to demonstrate his position before rushing through the door. He kept his emotions in check, except for a brief moment when his attorney asked the officer about his two daughters, who were close in age to Aiyana.
He paused, looked at the ceiling, took a deep breath and ran his tongue back and forth under his lower lip. He had been with the girls at a park when he got a call to report to duty on a spring Saturday, hours before the fatal raid.
The raid was recorded for a police reality TV show, "The First 48," and some video was used at trial.
Immigration Enforcement / Illegal Aliens
House debates deputizing police as immigration agents
Democrats raised concerns over whether states can check citizenship without racial profiling.
By Mary Orndorff Troyan — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
WASHINGTON — A Republican proposal to deputize local police as immigration agents would improve public safety, law enforcement officials said Thursday.
But Democrats said it would reopen the fractious debate over whether states can be trusted to investigate a person's citizenship status without engaging in racial profiling.
Those contrasting opinions were the focus of a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday about the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act sponsored by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
Gowdy's bill is one of several House Republican proposals designed to create a stricter version of immigration reform than a bill under debate in the Senate.
Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, endorsed Gowdy's bill as protection against a repeat of the 1986 immigration law that granted legal status to 3 million illegal immigrants but failed to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Not only does the bill strengthen immigration enforcement by giving the federal government the tools it needs to enforce our laws, but it also ensures that where the federal government fails to act, states can pick up the slack," said Goodlatte.
Gowdy's bill would permit states to pass their own immigration laws and would give money to local law enforcement for extra training and resources they would need to prosecute immigration violations. It would punish cities or counties that refuse to help enforce federal immigration law by denying them federal law enforcement grants.
"I've worked with state and local prosecutors and state and local law enforcement, and if you're good enough to do homicide cases, then I trust you to do immigration cases," said Gowdy. "And it's a shame that somebody else doesn't."
Gowdy's bill, introduced last week, has reignited the debate over how much power states should have in identifying people in the country illegally. Arizona and a handful of other states have empowered local police and sheriffs to investigate citizenship status, but the U.S. Supreme Court determined last year that immigration policy is primarily a federal responsibility.
Gowdy's proposal is on a fast track and is scheduled for a committee vote next week.
Randy Krantz, the commonwealth's attorney in Bedford County, Va., praised provisions in Gowdy's bill that would make it easier to deport illegal immigrants with a record of driving under the influence. Krantz cited three Virginia cases in the last six years in which illegal immigrants with prior DUI convictions caused serious car accidents that killed two people and injured one.
He said Gowdy's bill would have made those immigrants eligible for deportation after their initial convictions.
"In order to confront the dangers associated with illegal immigrants who are repeat offenders and harm innocent Americans and the criminal justice system, local authorities must be allowed to act," said Krantz.
Republicans called several witnesses who shared dramatic stories of family members killed by illegal immigrants in gun crimes or DUI accidents.
Jamiel Shaw of Los Angeles said the illegal immigrant convicted of murdering his 17-year-old son, Jamiel Shaw Jr., in 2008 had been released from jail the day before after serving time for assault and battery on a police officer.
"He is now in San Quentin on death row waiting for his execution and my son's body is now in the Inglewood mortuary in Inglewood waiting for justice," said Shaw, his voice cracking.
Shaw said he supports provisions in Gowdy's bill that would allow deportation of illegal immigrants who are members of a criminal gang.
Democrats noted that not all of the 11 million people in the country illegally are violent criminals, but they agreed that those who have committed violent crimes should be deported.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, took issue with a provision of Gowdy's bill that he said would increase penalties for immigration violations. A similar proposal in 2005 sparked widespread protests.
"This puts undocumented immigrants all around the country in even greater danger," said Conyers.
After the hearing, Gowdy said his bill would add new penalties for immigrants who violate the terms of their entry into the U.S. — such as someone who takes a job despite having a non-work visa — but would not change penalties for crossing the border illegally.
An attorney for the National Immigration Law Center testified against Gowdy's proposal.
Expanding the role of state and local law enforcement in immigration enforcement would "create an environment of rampant racial profiling and unlawful discrimination and breed distrust of law enforcement, which decreases public safety," said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with the nonpartisan organization that advocates for low-income immigrants and their families.
The legislation also would expand the federal program that allows local law enforcement to enter cooperative agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. Gowdy's bill would bar the Department of Homeland Security from refusing requests to enter such agreements.
The bill would cost taxpayers. In addition to the grants to local and state law enforcement, it calls for increasing space used to detain illegal immigrants and would add 2,500 ICE detention enforcement officers, 60 ICE attorneys, 5,000 deportation officers, and 700 support staff.
Other parts of the bill would deny changes to someone's immigration status until background and security checks are complete, expand the visa security program, and provide body armor and weapons to ICE immigration enforcement agents and deportation officers.
Ariz. sheriff suspends immigrant patrols - for now
Court hearing to further define immigration efforts by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
By JJ Hensley [Arizona Republic] — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
PHOENIX -- A federal court ruling that found that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office engaged in racial profiling has managed to do what Sheriff Joe Arpaio's critics have sought to do for years.
The agency no longer patrols the county looking for undocumented immigrants, and Arpaio's work-site enforcement raids have come to an end — at least for now.
A hearing scheduled in U.S. District Court on Friday will help determine exactly how Arpaio's agency trains its deputies and enforces laws in the future.
But, for now, the ruling has forced the Sheriff's Office to not only alter its approach to immigration enforcement but also change the way the agency describes its work. For the past three weeks, deputies who encountered undocumented immigrants have rescued the border crossers as part of a humanitarian effort instead of arresting them on illegal-immigration charges.
"I'm in a Catch-22 here," Arpaio said. "I would have to lean toward saving the lives of the people here illegally in the desert. I can't call ICE anymore."
The ruling prohibits deputies from calling federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents if they encounter a suspected undocumented immigrant who has not violated a state law. Arpaio said that ruling leaves deputies with few options when they encounter immigrants who indicate they have recently crossed the border without authorization.
Many saw the lengthy and detailed opinion that Judge Murray Snow issued on May 24 as a thorough rebuke of the sheriff's immigration-enforcement tactics, which were based in part on the notion that local police have the inherent authority to enforce federal immigration law.
Snow gave each side in the long-running civil-rights case six distinct areas to consider before Friday's hearing, with many of Snow's questions focused on areas of education and training, data collection and record retention.
The Sheriff's Office generally agrees with the need for increased training and education, said the agency's attorney, Tim Casey, and to having policies dedicated to addressing racial profiling.
The challenge could be on who conducts that training and education and who gets to approve the sheriff's policies before they are enacted.
But it is the person who will be appointed to oversee implementation of whatever remedies Snow orders who will likely cause the biggest rift between Arpaio's camp and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, who represent the plaintiffs.
Casey said the Sheriff's Office will oppose a court-appointed monitor because anyone with oversight of Arpaio would compromise the sheriff's constitutional powers.
"We have to protect the constitutional rights of the people, and we have to protect the constitutional establishment of the state office," Casey said.
And to the ACLU, a monitor is absolutely necessary to improve the public's confidence that the agency will fully address the problems Snow identified.
A new approach
Arpaio on Thursday downplayed the effect Snow's ruling has had on sheriff's operations, stating repeatedly that the agency is still in the business of enforcing state laws, even if deputies no longer have the authority to contact ICE agents.
But hours earlier, a scene played out in a remote area between Casa Grande and Gila Bend that might surprise longtime observers of the sheriff's immigration-enforcement efforts.
Deputies were trying to intercept drug loads in the well-known smuggling corridor when they spotted a Hispanic man walking alongside Interstate 8 at about 5 a.m. and immediately responded to the area. Ivan Ibarra Garcia, 26, told deputies he had been walking through the desert for six days with six other men.
When deputies lifted Ibarra Garcia's shirt, they noticed red marks on his back that they said were similar to what investigators see when people have been hiking through the desert bearing loads of pot. Smugglers frequently have couriers backpack the loads through the desert and drop them near highways, where waiting vehicles quickly pick up the drugs.
But Ibarra Garcia had no drugs, only a cellphone, three forms of ID and the clothes on his back.
With no evidence that Ibarra Garcia had violated a state law, the deputies did not detain him. Instead, they presented him with a choice: walk back into the desert with all the water he could carry or get a ride to Gila Bend where he could discuss his immigration status with a Border Patrol agent.
Ibarra Garcia chose the ride to Gila Bend where he waited outside a sheriff's substation until a Border Patrol agent met him and took the Mexicali resident into custody.
"It's more of a welfare check right now," said Deputy Brandon Uptain, who led the squad Thursday morning's patrol. "I don't want to send him back into the desert because I don't want him to die."
Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan said that approach is no different from the one that deputies took before the Snow ruling.
But if Border Patrol agents were not in a position to respond quickly, or Ibarra Garcia chose not to get a ride back to Gila Bend, he would have walked away because of Snow's prohibition on contacting ICE.
"The judge is not permitting us to do that any longer, which is in conflict with how every other law-enforcement agency in the state is doing business," Sheridan said.
F.B.I. Changes Course on Information Sharing
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
F.B.I. officials acknowledged Thursday that in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings they had changed procedures for sharing information about people who have been investigated for links to extremists. Under the new procedures, all case agents will be alerted when a person who is in one of the government’s databases travels, regardless of whether an investigation of the person is still open. Previously, only the heads of local terrorism task forces were alerted about such travel. In the aftermath of the bombings, it was not clear whether an agent who had investigated one of the bombers in 2011 had been informed that he had traveled to Russia. F.B.I. officials have said that if the agent had been informed, it probably would not have led the agent to reopen the investigation.
Secret Court Ruling Put Tech Companies in Data Bind
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
SAN FRANCISCO — In a secret court in Washington, Yahoo’s top lawyers made their case. The government had sought help in spying on certain foreign users, without a warrant, and Yahoo had refused, saying the broad requests were unconstitutional.
The judges disagreed. That left Yahoo two choices: Hand over the data or break the law.
So Yahoo became part of the National Security Agency’s secret Internet surveillance program, Prism, according to leaked N.S.A. documents, as did seven other Internet companies.
Like almost all the actions of the secret court, which operates under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the details of its disagreement with Yahoo were never made public beyond a heavily redacted court order, one of the few public documents ever to emerge from the court. The name of the company had not been revealed until now. Yahoo’s involvement was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the proceedings. Yahoo declined to comment.
But the decision has had lasting repercussions for the dozens of companies that store troves of their users’ personal information and receive these national security requests — it puts them on notice that they need not even try to test their legality. And despite the murky details, the case offers a glimpse of the push and pull among tech companies and the intelligence and law enforcement agencies that try to tap into the reams of personal data stored on their servers.
It also highlights a paradox of Silicon Valley: while tech companies eagerly vacuum up user data to track their users and sell ever more targeted ads, many also have a libertarian streak ingrained in their corporate cultures that resists sharing that data with the government.
“Even though they have an awful reputation on consumer privacy issues, when it comes to government privacy, they generally tend to put their users first,” said Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst studying technological surveillance at the American Civil Liberties Union. “There’s this libertarian, pro-civil liberties vein that runs through the tech companies.”
Lawyers who handle national security requests for tech companies say they rarely fight in court, but frequently push back privately by negotiating with the government, even if they ultimately have to comply. In addition to Yahoo, which fought disclosures under FISA, other companies, including Google, Twitter, smaller communications providers and a group of librarians, have fought in court elements of National Security Letters, which the F.B.I. uses to secretly collect information about Americans. Last year, the government issued more than 1,850 FISA requests and 15,000 National Security Letters.
“The tech companies try to pick their battles,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at American University who has challenged government counterterrorism surveillance. “Behind the scenes, different tech companies show different degrees of cooperativeness or pugnaciousness.”
But Mr. Vladeck added that even if a company resisted, “that may not be enough, because any pushback is secret and at the end of the day, even the most well-intentioned companies are not going to be standing in the shoes of their customers.”
FISA requests can be as broad as seeking court approval to ask a company to turn over information about the online activities of people in a certain country. Between 2008 and 2012, only two of 8,591 applications were rejected, according to data gathered by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit research center in Washington. Without obtaining court approval, intelligence agents can then add more specific requests — like names of individuals and additional Internet services to track — every day for a year.
National Security Letters are limited to the name, address, length of service and toll billing records of a service’s subscribers.
Because national security requests ban recipients from even acknowledging their existence, it is difficult to know exactly how, and how often, the companies cooperate or resist. Small companies are more likely to take the government to court, lawyers said, because they have fewer government relationships and customers, and fewer disincentives to rock the boat. One of the few known challenges to a National Security Letter, for instance, came from a small Internet provider in New York, the Calyx Internet Access Corporation.
The Yahoo ruling, from 2008, shows the company argued that the order violated its users’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The court called that worry “overblown.”
“Notwithstanding the parade of horribles trotted out by the petitioner, it has presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse,” the court said, adding that the government’s “efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts.”
One of the most notable challenges to a National Security Letter came from an unidentified electronic communications service provider in San Francisco. In 2011, the company was presented with a letter from the F.B.I., asking for account information of a subscriber for an investigation into “international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
The company went to court. In March, a Federal District Court judge, Susan Illston, ruled the information request unconstitutional, along with the gag order. The case is under appeal, which is why the company cannot be named.
Google filed a challenge this year against 19 National Security Letters in the same federal court, and in May, Judge Illston ruled against the company. Google was not identified in the case, but its involvement was confirmed by a person briefed on the case.
In 2011, Twitter successfully challenged a silence order on a National Security Letter related to WikiLeaks members.
Other companies are asking for permission to talk about national security requests. Google negotiated with Justice officials to publish the number of letters they received, and were allowed to say they each received between zero and 999 last year, as did Microsoft. The companies, along with Facebook and Twitter, said Tuesday that the government should give them more freedom to disclose national security requests.
The companies comply with a vast majority of non-secret requests, including subpoenas and search warrants, by providing at least some of the data.
For many of the requests to tech companies, the government relies on a 2008 amendment to FISA. Even though the FISA court requires so-called minimization procedures to limit incidental eavesdropping on people not in the original order, including Americans, the scale of electronic communication is so vast that such information — say, on an e-mail string — is often picked up, lawyers say.
Last year, the FISA court said the minimization rules were unconstitutional, and on Wednesday, ruled that it had no objection to sharing that opinion publicly. It is now up to a federal court.
Nicole Perlroth and Somini Sengupta contributed reporting from San Francisco.
NSA surveillance 101: What US intelligence agencies are doing, what they know
Civil Libertarians have long worried that pursuing terrorists via database-driven surveillance could lead to a serious incursion into Americans’ rights. It became clear this month that US intelligence agencies are gathering massive amounts of US telephone calling data and social media data on both foreigners and citizens. Government officials say the programs do not target Americans or “data mine” their private communications. They defend the effort as vital to fighting terrorism. But the American Civil Liberties Union calls it “one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched.”
By Mark Clayton — Friday, June 14th, 2013 ‘The Christian Science Monitor’
Here are seven questions and answers about what is known so far.
Whose phone and Internet communications are being monitored by the government, exactly?
Most, if not all, phone numbers and other data associated with calls carried by major US phone companies – but not the contents of the call itself – are being collected, including those of many Americans, leaked documents indicate. In April, a subsidiary of Verizon was ordered to send to the National Security Agency (NSA) “on an ongoing daily basis” through July the “telephony metadata” or communications logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” according to a four-page “top secret” order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court signed by a federal judge. The document was leaked to The Guardian, a London newspaper that received the leaked document, and to The Washington Post.
Under a separate program called PRISM, major chunks of social media data ascribed to foreign users are being shared with the US government by Internet companies, although it’s not clear how much or how tightly circumscribed that collection is.
What is phone-record data-mining, and how does it work?
Telephone metadata includes the phone number of the caller and the person called, as well as other data like the identifier number for international cellphone users, calling card numbers, the time the call was made, and its duration and location. Permission to listen to a phone call requires a separate order, US officials say. But the process allows the metadata to be searched for links to bad actors.
For instance, a phone number plucked from a terrorist’s laptop computer could be compared with phone metadata already stored, and perhaps provide new leads. In a process called “contact chaining,” other numbers associated with that phone number could be tracked in the database to discover other associations. Warrants might then be sought for wiretaps on those phones.
What is PRISM?
Terrorists know that communicating by phone is dangerous for them. So they have shifted to the Internet. Thus, the NSA now hunts for terrorist threats hidden in the flood of social media data, leaked documents show.
PRISM (for Planning tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management) collects digital photos, stored data, file transfers, e-mail, chat services, videos, and video conferencing from nine Internet companies, according to a “top secret” NSA document describing the program and posted on the Washington Post website. By law, the program is confined to “foreign targets located outside the United States,” says a statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Internet data have been provided under a government order by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple, according to the leaked NSA document. While the telephone metadata program was widely known in Congress, PRISM’s existence seemed to take many lawmakers by surprise.
How much oversight exists?
Congressional intelligence committees in the House and Senate are regularly briefed on intelligence programs, including PRISM and the telephone metadata program, US officials say. But while President Obama said that “every member” of Congress has been briefed, it appears that it is primarily members of the intelligence committees who knew about them.
Additional oversight comes from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court, which orders companies to share data and is overseen by several federal judges. FISA court opinions and reports are given to Congress semi-annually. Also, the inspectors general of various agencies may review their agencies’ compliance with the law. Critics say that far more oversight is needed.
What other safeguards do critics want?
The NSA says it has in place “minimization procedures” in cases where data of US residents are “incidentally intercepted.” But some in Congress are calling for more scrutiny of intelligence programs by both Congress and the courts. Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon is leading a growing call for public hearings into surveillance programs. Others want to beef up day-to-day oversight of them.
Embarrassed Internet companies are calling for more transparency, too. Gag orders currently prevent them from describing what they give the government. Google has requested the right to report the numbers and scope of the national security data requests it receives. Likewise, Facebook says it wants to “include information about the size and scope of national security requests we receive.” Microsoft issued a similar statement as did Yahoo!
So, what do the feds have on me?
Nobody knows except the government. It seems plausible that phone call records – the metadata of Americans’ calls – may be sitting in an NSA database. It’s possible that social media data posted on the Web are in a NSA database, too. But until Google and others can reveal what kinds of data were given to the government, we won’t know.
What will happen to Edward Snowden, the admitted leaker?
A federal criminal investigation is reportedly under way, and Mr. Snowden could be charged with violating the federal Espionage Act. But Snowden, who is reported to be in Hong Kong, appears likely to resist extradition to the United States. Once the US makes such a request to Hong Kong, Snowden can then apply for asylum with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees there, Hong Kong legal experts say. Some countries, including Russia, are reportedly considering offering him