Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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NYPD $$ Lawyer Lotto $$ Bonanza
Misconduct claims against NYPD soar 22% between 2011 and 2012: report
Claims against police were up 7% — from 8,941 in fiscal year 2011 to 9,570 in fiscal year 2012 — but a report released by Controller John Liu’s office said accusations against NYPD officers of improper conduct, false arrests and using excessive force rose 22%, while they were down an average of 19% for other city agencies.
By Rocco Parascandola — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Legal claims accusing NYPD cops of improper conduct, such as false arrest and excessive force, shot up 22 percent last year, even as claims against other city agencies dropped an average of 19 percent, according to a new report released Tuesday by the city controller.
"The growing number of new claims against the NYPD will cost taxpayers more money, and is a measure of public frustration with the agency,'' said Controller John Liu, who released the report analyzing claims in fiscal year 2012.
Overall claims against police were up 7 percent —from 8,941 in fiscal year 2011 to 9,570 in fiscal year 2012. Claims alleging misconduct, however, were up 22 percent.
The Daily News last month reported that the NYPD has no formal way to monitor and track cops named in multiple lawsuits.
One team of Brooklyn North Narcotics cops had been sued nearly 60 times, with the city paying out more than $1.5 million in settlements.
The NYPD and the city's Law Department had no comment on Liu's report.
The Law Department has said settlements don't mean cops did anything wrong.
And police have said many suits are filed by criminals looking to for a quick payoff and that city lawyers are too quick to settle cases.
Allegation: NYPD Crime Scene Unit Ignored Bioterrorism Protocol
City Bucked Protocol with Ricin Letter, Sources Say
By Murray Weiss — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘DNAinfo New York.Com News’ / New York, NY
MANHATTAN — City agencies, led by the NYPD, ignored their own bioterrorism protocols while investigating a threatening letter sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and didn't realize it was laced with potentially deadly Ricin for days, DNAinfo New York has learned.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is supposed to examine all suspected toxic materials. But, when a letter containing an oily orange substance arrived May 24 at a city mail center on Gold Street, it was never brought to the DOH to be tested.
Instead, sources said, the NYPD “bigfooted” city and federal health and law enforcement agencies at the crime scene and, rather than taking the toxic letter directly to the DOH lab as required, it was taken to the police department's own forensic crime lab.
The DOH lab has the broadest expertise in examining an array of substances, while the NYPD lab is generally used to perform narcotics and ballistics tests. It is unclear if the NYPD tried to determine the exact nature of the orange substance that accompanied the letter, which also contained an angry message threatening Bloomberg over his strong anti-gun positions.
“[The city] did not know they had a dangerous substance on their hands,” a law enforcement source said.
It was not until four days later — after a similar letter was received at Bloomberg’s Washington-based anti-gun lobbying group and was tested at an appropriate local lab — that authorities in New York fully realized the danger.
“It was only then that authorities said we better take a better look at the letter in New York,” the source said.
The NYPD turned the tainted letter over to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York last Tuesday. Federal agents then drove the letter to the U.S. Department of Defense National Bioforensic Analysis Center in Maryland for analysis the following morning.
The military lab quickly identified the substance as Ricin, a potentially deadly substance made from castor beans.
The protocols requiring the DOH to be the lead in testing hazardous substances were established following a nearly deadly anthrax attack a decade ago.
Under the category entitled "Responding To A Suspected Bioterrorist," the Health Department's website says “if a bioterrorism agent is suspected” there will be “proper specimen collection and packaging to transport to the NYC DOHMH Public Health Laboratory for reference lab testing.”
A Health Department spokeswoman initially referred all questions to the NYPD, but later issued a statement acknowledging that the agency was not involved in testing the Ricin letter.
In the DOH statement, the spokeswoman said an initial test on the letter was done by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. But the DEP only tested whether any toxic materials were emitted into the air, sources said, not the mysterious substance itself.
The DEP's test came back negative.
"Initial testing was conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection, and the decision was made in coordination with federal authorities to have the sample tested for final results at the federal laboratory in Maryland," the spokeswoman said.
"This was done for two reasons: 1) A sample of this size can only be tested a limited number of times so it is not diluted. 2) Final confirmatory testing of high probability specimens such as this is always performed at this laboratory."
After the letter was discovered, a host of law enforcement officers from several city, state and federal law enforcement agencies responded, but the NYPD made sure it took complete control, according to sources familiar to the incident.
"The NYPD made sure no one but them was in charge," another source said.
NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit cops suited up in their safety gear and handled the letter, police said. Even so, three officers became contaminated and later developed symptoms, primarily diarrhea, related to Ricin exposure.
The NYPD did not answer a request for comment, but Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended the NYPD's handling of the incident at an unrelated press conference.
"They were doing everything they’re supposed to do," Kelly said, referring to the ESU cops.
In Washington, meanwhile, Mark Glaze, the director of Bloomberg's group Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns in Washington, also received a letter similar to the one received by Bloomberg.
That threatening letter was sent directly a federal laboratory that tests hazardous substances and was determined to contain Ricin.
A third Ricin-tainted letter was sent to President Barack Obama at the White House.
Meanwhile, federal agents continue to probe whether a Texas ex-Army veteran is responsible for the Ricin-laced letter-writing campaign that threatened Bloomberg and Obama for trying to restrict gun buyers’ access to weapons.
103 Precinct P.O. Clifford Rigaud
The NYPD Goes After Another Cop Who Secretly Recorded His Boss
By Graham Rayman — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The Villiage Voice’ / Manhattan
In the years since New York Police Department Officer Adrian Schoolcraft emerged with secretly recorded evidence of misconduct in a Brooklyn precinct, other cops have been inspired to follow in his footsteps, capturing their commanders pressuring them to hit illegal quotas.
The NYPD has long denied that it's compelled officers to reach certain figures for arrests, stop-and-frisks, and summonses. But the recordings proved that officers faced the threat of bad assignments, transfers, or other punishment if they didn't make their numbers.
Schoolcraft's tapes played in dramatic fashion in the recent landmark stop-and-frisk trial, which could lead to a federal monitor overseeing the NYPD. Two Bronx officers also made similar recordings, as did an unnamed supervisor, who caught his bosses profanely complaining about cops who didn't make their quotas.
Now comes patrolman Clifford Rigaud, an 11-year veteran who secretly taped his commander in South Jamaica's 103rd Precinct pressuring him to write 15 summonses a month.
Like Schoolcraft, Rigaud claims he was a hard-working officer. He once ran into a burning building on Hillside Avenue to make sure the tenants were out, and earned a commendation for intervening in an armed robbery.
Rigaud claims that when he resisted quota pressure, his bosses began to squeeze him, using a series of administrative rules and unwritten tactics. He was fired last week after he filed a lawsuit and a series of complaints charging supervisors with discrimination. To Rigaud, it looked like the ultimate retaliation.
"I tried to go through the chain of command instead of talking to the media, because I have five children to support, but that did not work out at all," he says. "This department will come after you for everything they got. Schoolcraft's fear of the NYPD is correct, and even worse than he thinks."
Rigaud's lawyer, Stephen Drummond, says the department offered paper-thin justification to get rid of a veteran officer. Rigaud was fired for not showing up for psychiatric evaluation during his suspension—though officers are routinely allowed to tend to such issues after they return to work.
The speed of his removal seemed suspect, since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly habitually takes months, even years, to decide the fate of cops accused of much greater offenses like fraud, drug trafficking, or the beating of suspects. "Here again we see Rigaud being treated differently," Drummond says.
Police spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to repeated interview requests.
Rigaud graduated from the academy in 2002. He partnered for years with Officer Michelle Alexander, who recently retired.
"He was well-liked on the street by the people in the community," Alexander says. "He didn't take shortcuts. If you needed to be stop and searched, you were, but if you didn't do anything, you weren't. He used his discretion, but the bosses were only interested in numbers, and that's where he would bump heads with them."
When Rigaud arrived at the 103rd at the end of 2005, he soon ran afoul of Lieutenant Jason Margolis, his tour commander.
Rigaud claims his bosses retaliated against him for low quota numbers by assigning him to public pool duty, forcing him to work alone on foot patrol in dangerous neighborhoods, and yanking him to provide extra security in tourist areas like Times Square.
At one point, he was ordered to return early from vacationing in Florida to work security at One Police Plaza, which has its own full-time security unit. And after the Haitian-American Rigaud volunteered to assist in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Haiti in 2010, he was told by one of his bosses, "You know how Haitians are, they're going to shoot each other," according to his lawsuit.
Rigaud, a Muslim, was also criticized for growing a beard, which he thought would make it easier for him to interact with the Muslim community. He claims he was ordered to shave and told, "I hope you don't plan to blow up anything."
At the end of 2009, Rigaud's sergeant had given him a 4.0 out of 5 on his evaluation, but Margolis overruled the score, pushing it down to a 3.0. The sergeant was upset and gave Rigaud a copy of the higher evaluation, later saying that she "had no problems with his arrest activity."
A few months later, he got into an argument with Margolis, a spat common to any precinct. But the department demanded that Rigaud see a psychiatrist.
In March 2010, it came to a head. With a digital recorder rolling, Rigaud met with precinct Commander Charles McEvoy. The ensuing conversation—despite the NYPD's claims to the contrary—showed how quotas still dominated the force's day-to-day activities.
Rigaud argued that Margolis' lower evaluation was retaliatory and unfair, since he was responding to a lot of calls that didn't necessarily end in arrests. "Me and him have been having issues since the day I got here," says Rigaud on the tape. "That's not what I deserve.
"I deserve a 4.0 because of the work I put in. Look at the amount of jobs I carry. Look at the summonses I put in. Something's totally wrong. I go from a 4.0 to a 3.0? Come on. That's pure retaliation."
"If you feel that way, Cliff, you're certainly entitled to feel that way, " McEvoy responds.
"Yes, I do feel that way," says Rigaud,
McEvoy makes it clear that numbers are everything in the NYPD. "In the police department in 2010, a lot of what you're evaluated on is by an activity by numbers," he says. "I always tell them personally everything's all about numbers, numbers, numbers."
He upbraids Rigaud for having no stop-and-frisks and just two arrests for the year, though Rigaud was assigned to long stretches of security and paperwork duty where arrests are rare. "What I look for in a month is one collar a month," he says.
McEvoy claims he's not establishing quotas, and then does so anyway. "I don't really put a number on things. But if the number citywide and in the precinct is 15 summonses, then 15 summonses," he says.
He goes on to say he wants an arrest a month, noting that this has been a requirement throughout his 20-year career. "Let's say it was the rule."
In the end, McEvoy sided with Margolis' evaluation.
As for Rigaud, he's looking at years of litigation, when he would rather be patrolling the streets. "It's been nothing but a nightmare," he says.
4-year-old girl dies on upper West Side after car fleeing cops jumps curb
Ariel Russo died Tuesday after she and her 55-year-old grandmother were pinned at 8:15 a.m. by a vehicle on Amsterdam Ave. near W. 97th St. The suspect has been charged with manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter.
By Joe Kemp AND Thomas Tracy — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
An unlicensed teen fleeing a traffic stop jumped a curb and slammed his parents’ SUV into a 4-year-old girl on the upper West Side Tuesday, killing the helpless child and injuring her grandmother, officials said.
Later Tuesday, about 6:50 p.m., an 8-year-old boy survived being hit by a Jeep in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, after darting into the street, witnesses and police sources said.
In the fatal crash, cop sources say Ariel Russo and her grandmother Katie Gutierrez, 55, were walking down W. 97th St. near Amsterdam Ave. around 8:15 a.m. when a 2000 Nissan Frontier driven by Franklin Reyes, 17, barreled into them.
Ariel was on her way to her prekindergarten class. Reyes, a student at the upper West Side’s St. Agnes Boys High School, was driving his parents’ SUV without their permission, the sources said.
The vehicle hit Ariel, pinning her against Ozen Asian Fusion restaurant’s security shutters.
The teen then threw the Nissan into reverse and ran over Gutierrez and struck a parked car, sources said. Reyes only had a learner’s permit on him — not a driver’s license, officials said.
Paramedics rushed Ariel and her grandmother to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, but doctors were unable to save the pre-schooler. The little girl’s mother, Sofia, was too distraught to speak to reporters at the hospital. Other relatives were stunned.
“It’s terrible,” said one family member, who would only identify herself as Ali. “She was an angel.”
“It was a big surprise,” Ariel’s stunned grandfather Paolo Russo said Tuesday. “It was a terrible thing, everyone is very sad.”
Ariel’s grandmother is expected to survive.
Sources said Reyes suffered a panic attack and was rushed to Mount Sinai Medical Center with difficulty breathing. He was later charged with manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter.
Minutes before the crash, cops spotted the Chelsea teen making a wide right turn from Columbus Ave. onto W. 89th St. The officers pulled him over for driving erratically and were approaching the vehicle when Reyes hit the gas.
“As the officers get up to the driver-and-passenger-side doors, he takes off,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.
Reyes turned onto Amsterdam Ave. and was traveling 34 mph when he lost control of the SUV as he made a left onto W. 97th St.
“The cops were right behind him,” said one police source. “They pulled him right out of the car a few moments after the impact and put the handcuffs on.”
Reyes was supposed to be driving with a licensed adult. Investigators believe he panicked after cops found him driving alone. Drugs and alcohol didn’t play a role in the accident, police said.
“I guess he was just scared,” said Reyes’ neighbor June Lacaya, 41, adding: “He’s a good kid. I think it’s an accident.
The child hit in Brooklyn, in front of 735 Gates Ave., suffered head and leg trauma but was in stable condition Tuesday night, police sources said.
The driver, who was visibly upset after the accident, slammed on the brakes but couldn’t avoid striking the victim, witnesses said.
“The kid was bending down between the cars tying his shoe and he just ran out,” the driver said.
With Casey Tolan, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, Chelsia Rose Marcius and Kerry Burke
Girl, 4, Is Fatally Struck By a Car Fleeing the Police
By J. DAVID GOODMAN and MARC SANTORA — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The pursuit began at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday with a routine traffic stop on an Upper West Side street, quickly escalating when the 17-year-old driver, who the police said did not have a valid license, chose to flee as officers approached.
Eight blocks and roughly 30 seconds later, it came to an abrupt and tragic end.
The police said the teenage driver, Franklin Reyes, lost control of his S.U.V. at Amsterdam Avenue and 97th Street, fatally striking a 4-year-old girl, Ariel Russo, as she walked on the sidewalk with her grandmother, who was injured in the crash.
The police arrested Mr. Reyes on charges of manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. He had borrowed his family’s vehicle without permission, the authorities said, and was driving with only a learner’s permit, which requires an adult in the car.
Alcohol or drugs did not appear to have played a role in the morning crash, and investigators said the driver’s inexperience may have been a key factor.
At the time of the chase, the neighborhood’s sidewalks teem with children. At the corner of 97th Street, students were arriving at De La Salle Academy, a private middle school on the block.
Nearby, two officers pulled over the S.U.V., a Nissan Frontier, for reckless driving on 89th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, the police said.
The officers exited their patrol car and approached the S.U.V., but just as they reached the side of the vehicle, the driver sped off north on Amsterdam, according to Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
The officers jumped back in their car and gave chase.
“The police were trying to stop him,” said Nancy Caviera, who watched the crash unfold from across the street.
The Police Department’s guidelines instruct officers to call off a chase if the risk involved in continuing is greater than the danger posed to the public in letting the person get away.
The speed of the pursuit up Amsterdam Avenue was not immediately known. The driver lost control of his vehicle while trying to turn left onto 97th Street at an estimated 34 miles per hour, the authorities said.
The S.U.V. pinned the victims against the security gate of a corner restaurant, the police said. As the driver reversed in an attempt to get away, he may have struck one or both of the victims again, the police said. He crashed into a parked car on the other side of the street, they said.
Steven Davis, 28, who lives on the corner where the accident occurred, ran outside when he heard the grinding sound of the crash. The paramedics had yet to arrive, he said, so, having trained as a volunteer emergency medical technician, he knelt beside the girl to see if she was alive.
“I felt a pulse on the girl,” he said. He could see her chest rising, giving him hope. The grandmother was able to talk, he said.
“It took way too long to get an ambulance here,” Mr. Davis said. Fire Department officials said an ambulance arrived at 8:23, eight minutes after the accident.
Outside St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, the girl’s grandfather, Paolo Russo, 71, shook his head in disbelief as he spoke softly in Spanish to reporters. Mr. Russo said other relatives were sitting with Ariel’s body. Her parents had another child, a son about 3 years old, he said.
“It was a terrible thing,” he said. “Everyone is very sad.”
At the Russos’ apartment building on Amsterdam Avenue, neighbors recalled Ariel as an adorable little girl.
“She was always dressed like a princess in nice dresses,” said Cozyella Coe, 73, the Russos’ next-door neighbor. “Beautiful little girl, didn’t even have a chance.”
At the building on West 21st Street where the Reyes family lives, neighbors were equally unbelieving that Mr. Reyes could be involved in such a violent vehicle crash. “It boggles the mind to even know he was behind the wheel,” said one neighbor, who gave her name only as Marie.
She said Mr. Reyes lived with his mother and three sisters, adding: “He’s very polite. He holds the door. He says hello.”
Daniel Krieger and Fausto Pinto contributed reporting.
Girl, 4, killed as fleeing teen jumps curb in SUV
By JAMIE SCHRAM, LORENA MONGELLI, ELIZABETH HAGEN and DAN MACLEOD — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
A gutless teen sped away from cops to avoid a ticket for driving alone with a learner’s permit — and fatally struck a 4-year-old girl just steps from her Upper West Side school yesterday, law-enforcement sources said.
Franklin Reyes, 17, was pulled over on West 89th Street at around 8:15 a.m., then allegedly took off as officers approached his SUV and led them on a chase up Amsterdam Avenue.
He jumped the curb at West 97th Street and slammed into Ariel Russo and her grandmother Katia Gutierrez, 58, as they stood helplessly on the sidewalk, which was packed with parents taking their children to school.
“I saw a little girl wearing a skirt face up on the sidewalk. Blood was gushing from her mouth,” said Severiano Rivera, 63. “She didn’t look good, she wasn’t moving. Her grandmother was next to her, face down.”
Ariel, who attended pre-K at the Holy Name School, was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s Hospital. Gutierrez was in stable condition.
Cops initially pulled over Reyes for illegally crossing several lanes to make the turn from Columbus Avenue onto 89th Street.
The officers walked up to both sides of the black Nissan SUV, and Reyes bolted up Amsterdam, cops said.
He later told police he was using his family’s car without permission to get to St. Agnes Boys HS on West End Avenue, and fled because he only has a learner’s permit and was supposed to have a licensed driver with him.
Reyes turned onto West 97th Street at 34 mph, sources said, jumping the curb and pinning the girl and her grandma against the gate of an Asian restaurant.
He then backed up and hit a parked car, cops said, and was arrested at the scene.
Witness Steven Davis, 28, and a nurse rushed to the girl’s side.
“When I felt the pulse, I had a little bit of hope,” Davis said. “About a minute after I got there, she let out like a big breath . . . She was motionless.”
At the hospital, Ariel’s relatives were inconsolable.
“Last night, I saw her dancing in a video and this morning I get a phone call that she’s dead,” said her grandfather, Paolo Russo, 71. “I think she died instantly. She was dead when I got to the hospital.”
He said the entire family is “devastated.”
“They’re crying,” Russo said. “You can imagine how they’re doing. This is a tragedy, and we’re all really sad. We have a lot of pain for this little girl. She was walking with her grandmother to school. Imagine — she died right here on the sidewalk.”
Ariel’s neighbors and her classmates’ parents remembered her as a happy girl who loved her grandmother and always carried around a well-worn doll.
“She had this ugly doll, bald-headed, no hair, and I kept telling the grandmother, ‘Well why does she like that doll?’ ” said one mom at the Holy Name School.
In a letter to parents, the principal said there would be grief counselors available, and administrators planned a prayer service.
Maria Rodriguez, 71, who works for the tenants association at little Ariel’s building on Amsterdam Avenue, said the child lived with her parents, brother and grandmother.
“She’s beautiful. She had beautiful, curly hair. She loved ice cream and her brother used to try to tell her what to do,” she said.
“These are our neighbors. We feel so bad for them.”
A picture of the girl was posted outside the apartment building in a memorial adorned with candles and a teddy bear.
“They are a beautiful family,” said one woman who has lived in the building for 49 years. “She was a doll, an angel, I’ve been crying all day.”
Reyes, who was wearing a Saint Agnes polo shirt, claimed he didn’t remember anything about the accident because he hit his head, sources said.
He was briefly treated at Mount Sinai Hospital and was facing manslaughter and vehicular-manslaughter charges.
“When I came out, cops had the guy on the ground,” said Hector Rosario, 59, who works in the cafeteria at Ariel’s school. “Then everything started coming together that the girl comes from this school.
“The girl was pinned between the gate and the floor, right underneath. And the woman was laying about three or four feet from her. But the girl wasn’t moving when I saw. She wasn’t moving at all.”
Parents were traumatized by the gut-wrenching scene.
“Any other day we would have been standing right there,” said Elizabeth Mahon, 25, a mother of two who witnessed the crash.
“I was on vacation this weekend and forgot her diapers at home. [I] walked out the door, walked right back in, and that put us like 30 seconds later than where we would have been. That could have been us.”
Last night, Reyes was at the 24th Precinct Station House in Manhattan where his lawyer, Martin Schmukler, called Ariel’s death an accident and said the young man should have never been behind the wheel.
“It’s one of these tragic situations,” Schmukler said.
“It’s purely an accident. He shouldn’t have been driving — simple as that.”
Additional reporting by Larry Celona, Amber Sutherland, Yasmine Phillips and Rebecca Harshbarger
23 Precinct: Shot Fired by Members of the Service / Skell Unlikely
Man with metal chain shot, pepper-sprayed after attacking bystander in Harlem: cops
The suspect randomly terrorized people with a thick, 3-foot chain near E. 103rd St. around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, the NYPD said. He was repeatedly told to drop his weapon before he was struck by police in the abdomen, sources said.
By Rocco Parascandola AND Shane Dixon Kavanaugh — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Cops shot a chain-wielding maniac in Harlem after he attacked at least one person with the length of heavy metal and then tried to bash an officer Tuesday night, police sources said.
The suspect was terrorizing bystanders with the thick, 3-foot chain near E. 103rd St. around 7:45 p.m. when officers responded, sources said.
He “appeared to be randomly striking people with the chain,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. “One person was hit and a second one may have been struck.”
A uniformed officer chased the chainiac into a women’s clothing store and repeatedly ordered the miscreant to drop his weapon, cop sources said.
The suspect refused and tried to bash the cop, the sources said. When he came within five feet, the cop shot him in the abdomen, police said.
But the gunshot wound merely hobbled the lunatic, who got up off the ground, sources. This time the officer had backup and another cop blasted the man with pepper spray. Twice.
Finally, a pack of police officers had to rush the suspect to detain him.
“They physically grapple with him and take him into custody,” Browne said.
He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was in stable condition late Tuesday night, authorities said.
With Chelsia Rose Marcius
Police Shoot Chain-Wielding Man in East Harlem
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
A police officer shot and wounded a man who law enforcement authorities said had hit at least one person with a chain in East Harlem on Tuesday evening.
The man, who was not immediately identified, was spotted swinging a chain at about 7:45 p.m. near a women’s clothing store at 1870 Third Avenue near 102nd Street, the police said in a statement.
After the man hit at least one bystander with the chain, he lunged at a uniformed police officer near the entrance of the store, the police said. The man came within five feet of the officer and swung the chain at him, ignoring the officer’s request to put the weapon down.
The officer fired once, hitting the man in the abdomen and knocking him down, the police said. After being shot, the police said, the man got to his feet and, still armed with the chain, lunged again at the officer.
“The suspect was sprayed twice with pepper spray to no apparent effect, and was finally restrained by additional responding officers who surrounded him, brought him to the store floor, disarmed him and took him into custody,” the police statement said.
The man was taken to a hospital, and by 12:30 a.m., he was listed in stable condition, the police said. He had no identification and his fingerprints did not appear in a police database.
Police Shoot, Injure Man In East Harlem Chain Attack
By Unnamed Author(s) — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘NY 1 News’
A police officer shot a man in the torso Tuesday evening as he was wielding a bicycle chain in the East Harlem section of Manhattan.
The shooting happened in the vicinity of 103rd Street and Third Avenue.
According to police, officers asked the man to drop the chain, but he did not comply.
The man hit at least one person with the chain, according to police.
Fire officials say they transported the man who was shot to St. Luke's Hospital at approximately 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.
He is said to be in serious but stable condition.
Police say the responding officer was transported to a local hospital for tinnitus, or ringing in his ears.
2013 NYPD Medal Day Awards
The Police Department Will Conduct The Annual Department Medal Day Ceremony On Tuesday, June 11, 2013 At 1100 Hours. The Event Will Take Place On The Plaza Of Police Headquarters, One Police Plaza.
In The Event Of Inclement Weather, The Ceremony Will Take Place Inside The Auditorium Of One Police Plaza
RANK NAME COMMAND
1. DET FERMIN ARCHER WARRANT SEC.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL
RANK NAME COMMAND
1. CAPT DENNIS MORALES EMER SERV UNIT
2. LT CHRISTOPHER PUPO 41 PCT
3. SGT GARRETT DANZA COMM. DIV.
4. DET ALICK HERRMANN 100 PCT. PDU
5. PO DENIS MCLARNEY BKLN COURT SECTION
MEDAL OF HONOR
RANK NAME COMMAND
1. DET IVAN MARCANO IOAS
POLICE COMBAT CROSS
RANK NAME COMMAND
1. CAPT NORMAN GRANDSTAFF PBBN
2. LT SETH LYNCH 46 PCT
3. SGT CRAIG BIER WARRANT SEC. 918757
4. SGT ROBERT BRACERO 113 PCT 924973
5. SGT KEVIN BRENNAN INTEL- CIS 938113
6. SGT DARYL MELHADO 25 PCT 940464
7. SGT MICHAEL MILLER 81 PCT 921596
8. SGT MOURAD MOURAD PBBS 936055
9. DET KEVIN HERLIHY WARRANT SEC 905448
10. DET DANIEL MALLICK 77 SQUAD 935017
11. DET RALPH SHERLOCK FIREARMS SUPP. DIV. 898869
12. DET ANDRO STAMBUK 19 SQUAD 929208
13. PO KATHLEEN CORREA BSTF 942849
14. PO KEVIN DESORMEAU QUEEN GANG 941653
15. PO THOMAS DUNNE WARRANT SEC. 936530
16. PO BRIAN GROVES PSA 4
17. PO FRANCISCO JACQUEZ PSA 1
18. PO STEVEN RICCA 105 PCT 933249
19. PO THOMAS RICHARDS IOAS 927410
20. PO JOSE RIERA PSA 5
21. PO MICHAEL SINNER 102 PCT
22. LT (RET) JAMES COSGROVE Retired
23. DET (RET) DANIEL ALTIERI Retired
MEDAL FOR VALOR
RANK NAME COMMAND
1. LT PATRICK BROWN 23 SQUAD
2. SGT ANTHONY GULOTTA PBBN
3. SGT JAVIER RODRIGUEZ 113 PCT
4. DET FREDRIC DAUGHTRY 63 SQUAD
5. DET ALEXANDER GRANDSTAFF 81 SQUAD
6. DET VITO NICOLETTA 75 SQUAD
7. PO ARVID FLORES 43 PCT
8. PO JASON JACKSON 75 PCT
9. PO ZAHID MEHMOOD 71 SQUAD
10. PO PAUL MERTENS DBBX
11. PO PETER NAUGHTON PBQN
12. PO RICHARD PENGEL 25 SQUAD
13. PO DANIEL TRIONE 75 PCT
Plastic key on sale at Amazon.com promises cheap, easy freedom from law enforcement handcuffs
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued an internal alert in May about plastic handcuff keys, which go for $10.50 apiece.
By Lee Barnathan , Rocco Parascandola AND Stephen Rex Brown — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
It's the key that can set criminals free — and it sells for a measly $10.50.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued an internal alert in May about plastic handcuff keys for sale on Amazon.com that perps can attach to a zipper in case they need to spring themselves from the bracelets of the law.
The “Covert Hide Out Handcuff Key” is covered by a small plastic sleeve and looks like any other small lanyard attached to a jacket zipper.
“This handcuff universal key will be there for you when you need it most,” reads the description on Amazon. “Since the key is attached to its cord, it will not become lost even during the most demanding situations.”
In the internal NYPD memo issued May 23, cops were urged to be extra careful when transporting cuffed prisoners.
Law enforcement experts say the plastic keys present particular alarm because they can pass through metal detectors. That could allow prisoners to escape from all manner of custody — jails, courthouses or during transport. Al Nasseri, a manager at Uniform Warehouse, a distributor of law enforcement equipment, hadn’t heard of the universal plastic keys. And he wondered about the wisdom of selling them.
“It must be a new fad,” said Nasseri, whose company only sells to customers who verify they’re law enforcement. “It’s scary, it really is. I hope they’re looking into it.”
Nasseri was also unsettled by the fact that anyone could buy the key from Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. Company officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“I don’t know how Amazon goes about selling this,” Nasseri said. “We have everything documented and only deal with police or security.”
But the plastic key isn’t a surefire ticket to freedom, judging by online product reviews.
“What a joke,” read one review. “Can’t get it out when you need to and (it) bends. Then you get the crap kicked out of you by the po po.”
An NYPD source said that no officers have recovered the plastic key ... yet. An officer sounded the alarm on the key after seeing it online, the source added.
Efforts to reach the maker of the key, which is listed as ASR Tactical, were unsuccessful. A domain name for the company belonged to a 37-year-old man from Laguna Beach, Calif. He denied having anything to do with the business, and was stunned to hear the concealed key was being sold in ASR Tactical’s name.
“I don’t manufacture anything; I don’t sell anything,” he said, adding he bought the domain three years ago but wasn’t using it.
He then called the police on a reporter hoping to speak with him outside his home.
When the Laguna Beach PD arrived, it was equally stunned by the availability of the plastic handcuff key.
“Where can I get a copy of this?” asked the officer, pointing to a printout of the Amazon posting.
The cop then jotted down information on the key and left.
Judge Throws Out Verdict in Police Brutality Case
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
When Sean Thomas sued three New York City police officers in 2009, claiming they had used excessive force against him, he appeared to have a strong case. After his arrest the previous year during a dispute with his girlfriend at her home in the Bronx, he was handcuffed, wrapped in a restraint blanket, strapped to a stretcher and taken to the hospital where he was involuntarily sedated, according to court documents. He was never charged with any crime.
A federal jury ruled in his favor, and last July, a judge awarded him $450,000 in damages — thanks in part to testimony given by his girlfriend, Letitia Marrow.
But in an order released on Tuesday, a judge threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial. It seems that just days before Ms. Marrow had appeared in court, Mr. Thomas signed a written agreement promising to give her 20 percent of any damages he received if she testified on his behalf.
“Marrow was the key witness on the issue before the jury of whether the defendants had probable cause to arrest Thomas,” the judge, Andrew L. Carter Jr. of the United States District Court in Manhattan, wrote in his decision, which was dated May 20. He added: “Her testimony was high-stakes for both Thomas’s case and her own wallet.”
Under New York law, it is not permitted to pay a witness in exchange for favorable testimony, Judge Carter wrote. The agreement was signed and notarized on June 30, 2012, three days before Ms. Marrow testified and backed up Mr. Thomas’s version of the events.
The episode might never have come to light had Mr. Thomas honored his deal with Ms. Marrow. Instead, according to court documents, he refused to give Ms. Marrow her share of the damages, and she sued.
On Nov. 19, 2012, less than a month after the damages were awarded, David Zelman, one of Mr. Thomas’s lawyers, sent a letter to Judge Carter, telling him that he had recently learned of the agreement.
In a subsequent court hearing, Mr. Thomas admitted to promising Ms. Marrow money to testify, but said she forced him to do so.
“She said, ‘If you don’t sign this, I’m not going to court,’ ” Mr. Thomas said, according to court documents.
Mr. Zelman and Mr. Thomas’s other lawyer, Ryan Asher, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night, nor could Mr. Thomas or Ms. Marrow, who court documents indicate is representing herself. It was not immediately clear when the new trial would begin.
A video camera on every cop
On-body recording devices will make things better for police -- and better for people who get stopped and frisked
By Scott Greenwood AND Tom Streicher — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
Near the conclusion of the recent class-action trial over the New York Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning and frisking people, Judge Shira Scheindlin declared herself “intrigued” by the concept of putting wearable cameras on officers, saying “it seems it would solve a lot of problems.”
These cameras, the judge suggested, could monitor interactions between cops and citizens, especially minority-group members alleged to be mistreated by the stop-and-frisk policy.
Whatever your opinion of the lawsuit, Scheindlin has hit upon an excellent idea. In fact, rather than waiting for courts or legislators to impose this technology, then grousing about the top-down nature of such an order, the NYPD should embrace and deploy it on its own volition — and soon.
On-body recording systems, as they’re known, are better for law enforcement professionals, better for civil libertarians and better for those who complain of police abuse. They should be rolled out not just in a limited pilot, but broadly.
Begin with this undeniable fact: Thanks to smartphones and pervasive surveillance technology like the Ring of Steel in lower Manhattan, cameras are already in millions of pockets and on thousands of street corners. As recently as last week, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly argued for more closed-circuit “smart cameras,” capable of alerting cops to the presence of suspicious packages, to be installed. “In my opinion, you can’t have enough of them,” said the commissioner about cameras.
All this means, like it or not, that countless police-community interactions are already captured on some combination of government, third-party or bystander photography or video.
The one missing piece? Video and audio capability on officers themselves, with the ability to capture complex, unfolding situations from their point of view, where — for the purpose of judging the appropriateness of police actions and the potential criminal behavior of a suspect — it matters most.
For years, it was the stuff of science fiction to imagine unobtrusive, relatively inexpensive devices on every cop. Not anymore. Civilians are starting to wear Google Glass, and there are similar, rugged, high-quality police cameras that law enforcement can wear around the clock.
Here’s how they typically work. Police wear glasses with an attached camera that captures what’s in their field of vision. And every time they initiate an interaction with a member of the public, they start capturing images and sound.
That information then gets uploaded to a central computer system or a secure cloud, where it can be reviewed by superiors — or, in the case of a dispute about a particular interaction, by a judge or jury.
Do details need to be worked out? Yes. When a police officer is in a private space, like an apartment, it’s important that he or she not upload video to YouTube or release it to the press in violation of the suspect’s privacy.
And surely, civil liberties controls will have to be put in place when on-body police cameras are capable of using face-recognition technology, a la “RoboCop” or “Terminator.”
But for now, cameras on cops are invaluable. In Albuquerque, N.M., more than 1,000 cops are outfitted with the devices. Salt Lake City, Seattle, Phoenix and Oakland, Calif., are trying the technology, too.
Imagine how this could change the stop-and-frisk conversation in New York.
If officers misuse force or interact with the public in an illegal or discourteous manner, the authorities will have the minute-by-minute account of what happened — allowing police supervisors and accountability proponents to provide oversight. And rather than seeing it from a subjective or odd angle, it’ll be from the single most important perspective: the cop’s.
More importantly, the use of on-cop cameras would decrease even the possibility of misconduct on the part of both officers and those they interact with, because everyone will know that the truth will be recorded. Games of “he said, he said” will be a thing of the past.
In the first controlled study of the impact of these cameras in Rialto, Calif., researchers found that they reduced complaints about officers dramatically — and cut down the use of police force.
This results in fewer lawsuits, decreased liability to taxpayers, a better relationship with the community and restored legitimacy for the police. The officers of the NYPD — and the people of New York — deserve no less.
Greenwood is a constitutional lawyer. Streicher is former police chief of Cincinnati. They were adversaries in litigation from 2001-08 by the ACLU and community groups against the Cincinnati police force.
Former Brooklyn South Task Force P.O. Ali Oklu (68 Pct. Organized Crime Crew)
Facing Years in Jail, Officer in Gun Scheme Has Regrets
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
Police Officer Ali Oklu said it began in 2010 with a phone call from a fellow officer: “Hey, you want a side job?”
At the time, he lived at home with his two elderly parents, helping to support them through his position with the New York Police Department, which he joined three years earlier. He remembered saying yes.
He often wonders what might have happened had he turned down the offer.
“I would have had a great career and a good future,” he said in a recent phone call. “I’d be studying for the sergeant’s exam right now.”
But, as a federal judge told him at his sentencing on conspiracy charges in April, “you threw it all away.”
Mr. Oklu is to report to prison on Wednesday to begin a 46-month sentence, in part because of accepting that “side job”: transporting an array of contraband — including untaxed cigarettes and guns — at the direction of undercover F.B.I. agents. The resulting arrests were ultimately hailed as one of the largest corruption cases involving city police officers in years.
The case developed out of a sting operation against one officer in particular, William Masso, who was selling duty-free items that he received from a confidential informer. Mr. Masso decided to bring other officers into the scheme. Mr. Masso invited along a younger officer, Eddie Goris, who worked in the same South Brooklyn station house. And Mr. Goris called up Mr. Oklu, a friend and colleague whom he knew from their assignments in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Mr. Oklu said that other officers initially told him that he would be helping a rich casino owner transport slot machines between casinos. But soon he was ferrying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of untaxed cigarettes. In one instance, the group of officers was led to believe they were engaged in a theft as they removed cases of cigarettes from two trucks outside a warehouse, prosecutors said.
In all, Mr. Oklu received $35,000 for his part, which he said he used to pay bills. The judge, William Pauley III, zeroed in on the fact that the money also allowed him to lease a fancy car.
Mr. Oklu, Judge Pauley said, cared less about keeping the city safe than “tooling around in your Mercedes convertible.”
Things soon escalated.
On Sept. 22, 2011, as Mr. Oklu and other officers were loading cartons of cigarettes into a rented van at a warehouse in New Jersey, the group’s ringleader, Mr. Masso, was changing the dimensions of the case.
In a nearby room, two undercover agents presented Mr. Masso with a duffel bag and a roller suitcase. Inside were some 20 firearms, which Mr. Masso delivered to another undercover agent in New York.
The government surreptitiously filmed the episode. The video, which Mr. Oklu provided, showed the two undercover officers making a show of explaining to Mr. Masso how the serial numbers of the firearms have all been defaced, a crime in itself. Mr. Masso could be seen smiling, awkwardly leaning against the desk.
As the guns are loaded into the back of Mr. Masso’s truck, Mr. Oklu comes by; the video shows him peering into the back of the truck.
In interviews, Mr. Oklu minimized his involvement, saying he assumed the slot machines and cigarettes he transported were legal because he trusted that the other officers with him would not get him involved in any trouble. He underscored that he had never been in trouble before.
“I was just the driver; I wasn’t making any deals,” he said, adding that the other officers with him excluded him from the details of the scheme. (When he pleaded guilty in court in December, he characterized his involvement differently, saying he knew what he was doing was illegal.)
He admitted that he saw some of the guns, but in an interview, he said that he believed they were Mr. Masso’s personal firearms and that he had no knowledge of the gunrunning scheme. (Prosecutors have said that an undercover officer had mentioned to Mr. Oklu that day that they would be transporting guns, in addition to the usual cigarettes.)
Mr. Oklu characterizes himself as a victim of circumstance and of government entrapment, saying he was lured into a false sense of security by his fellow officers, and tempted by the riches offered by the undercover agents.
On his cellphone, he still has pictures of a mussel dish and dessert brownie smothered in ice cream that the undercover agents treated him to at a restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
“I took those photos because I never ate like that before. I’d never been to a place like that,” he said.
He gave away his pet parrot to a friend the other week, but has taken few other steps to prepare for his prison term. “I still don’t believe it,” he said, “and I don’t know what to expect when I get there.”
Assistant Chief Bill Bonacum Dead (Knapp Commission Fame)
William T. Bonacum
By Unnamed Author(s) — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘PhillyBurbs.com’ Obituaries
William Thomas 'Bill' Bonacum of Doylestown passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 12, 2013 at Clare Bridge of Dublin. He was 89.
Born in Astoria, Queens, N.Y., he was the son of the late William A. and Margaret (Haffey) Bonacum. He graduated from William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens.
Bill enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942 and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters on the U.S.S. Arkansas. He was honorably discharged in January 1946. He re-enlisted for the Korean War and served from April 1951 through Jan. 1953 until his second honorable discharge.
He joined the New York City Police Department in June of 1953, after placing first in his class of 6,000 candidates. During his 21-year career with the NYPD, Bill rose from Patrolman to the position of Assistant Chief Inspector - one of the top 20 positions in a force of over 30,000 uniformed officers. His last two assignments within the police department were to lead the Narcotics and Traffic Divisions. Some of his accomplishments in running the NYPD Narcotics Division were recognized by former NYPD Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy in his book, Commissioner, A View from the Top of American Law Enforcement.
During his police career, Bill graduated suma cum laude from John Jay College with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. He then received a Masters Degree in Public Administration, also from John Jay College.
Following his career with the NYPD, Bill worked for the State of New York as a Deputy Commissioner in the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. He moved to Virginia to become the Planning Commissioner for the Virginia State Police. He returned to New York as an Inspector General for the New York State DOT. This was followed by the appointment to Inspector General, Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. He retired in 2007.
Bill raised his family on Long Island, N.Y., where he enjoyed spending time with them on or around the water. Common family activities were fishing, sailing or going to Jones Beach for a day of swimming.
He is survived by his children, Joan Most of Clifton, N.J., Linda (John Toner) of Ocala, Fla., Ernest Bonacum (Cheryl) of Concord, Calif., Diane Pearson of Honey Brook, Pa. and Peter Bonacum (Holly) of Buckingham. He is also survived by a step-daughter, Gretchen Beckhorn of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; four grandchildren, David Most of Massachusetts, Karen Most of New Jersey, Christopher Sparke of New York and Kristin Bonacum of Buckingham; and by his brother, James Bonacum of Oneonta, N.Y. Also surviving is his former spouse, Mary Hart of Hawthorne, N.J.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 24 years, Rosemarie (Beckhorn) Bonacum of Midlothian, Va., and by his daughter, Patricia (Bonacum) Gibson of Peoria, Ill.
Bill was laid to rest in Washington Crossing National Cemetery, Newtown.
New Jersey gun laws don't curb violence in Camden
Gun law changes sought in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., wouldn't address the plague of gun violence in Camden, N.J., where poverty and crime feed an enduring and bloody cycle.
By Yamiche Alcindor — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
CAMDEN, N.J. — Anderson Baker lives in a state with a litany of gun regulations. But no law stopped him from becoming a teenage drug dealer who could easily acquire, and use, his weapon of choice.
The national debate in the wake of the Newtown elementary school massacre has centered on the legislative approach to reducing gun violence: rein in assault rifles, downsize magazine clips, expand background checks and review mental health protocols. Baker says these types of measures would do little to stem violence that for decades has plagued this small city in the shadow of Philadelphia's skyline.
Dozens of frustrated city leaders, residents, law enforcement officials and other experts interviewed by USA TODAY echo the conclusion that the blood running in Camden's streets isn't just about gun laws.
"I wanted to shoot people because that's what I saw growing up," said Baker, 20, a Camden native who spent four years in jail after being involved in several shootings. "When I was younger, I would see my boys and cousins going into jail and when they got out, all the girls wanted them. So, I wanted to go to jail. I wanted to be like America's Most Wanted. I wanted my name to be known on the streets."
Baker, a convicted felon and former gang member, said this mentality is alive and well in the streets of Camden, which statistics confirm is one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the USA.
Census records show that 42.5% of the city's 77,000 residents were living in poverty in 2011. Camden's murder rate — 61 per 100,000 people — was about 12 times the U.S. and New Jersey rates. Sixty-seven homicides were recorded in the city last year, breaking a grim record of 58 set in 1995.
It is against this backdrop that dozens of residents, city officials and other lawmakers in Camden shared their modest goal: prevent another record-breaking, crime-ridden year. Almost to a person, the focus was not on gun laws but on long-standing issues that fed Baker's struggles: a failing education system, a dearth of jobs and a street culture that rewards and even encourages criminal behavior.
"We need to not just try to prevent the next Newtown but look at what is haunting the people in the densely populated, poorest sections of our country," said Camden County Chief of Police Scott Thomson. "You have this paradox in that New Jersey has arguably the toughest gun laws in the nation yet has a city within it that has gun violence at Third World country rates."
Thomson has been an officer for two decades and served as Camden's police chief for five years before being sworn into his new position a month ago. He said Camden's problems go deeper than New Jersey's laws and points to the social problems of the city.
Camden's school district has the second-lowest graduation rate in New Jersey, declining enrollment and at least three schools among the state's worst performers. This spring, state officials moved to take over Camden's schools.
The city's law enforcement has also gone through substantial changes, adopting a county policing model that Thomson and Camden Mayor Dana Redd said will allow more officers to tackle crime and deter violence — such as the new phenomenon of daylight shootings.
Camden suffers with more people passing their days without work or even real prospects for a job. While the nation's unemployment rate — 7.5% — has been on a steady, if slow, decline, 12.8% of Camden is still unemployed.
WHAT ISN'T WORKING
If people want to talk about guns, Thomson pointed out that desperate people on the streets can easily work around the many gun laws in place.
In a 2011 report, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates stricter gun laws, considered New Jersey the state with the second strongest gun laws in America. New Jersey topped the list because among other things, the state requires permits to purchase any handgun, a special identification card to purchase long guns, and background checks in issuing permits. It requires firearms dealers to be licensed and prohibits the possession and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.
"All these laws do is retard law-abiding people in New Jersey from having guns to protect themselves," said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, a non-profit group based in Bellevue, Wash., that supports lessening gun regulations. He said authorities should focus on arresting criminals rather than toughening laws because such changes only create a demand for illegal weapons that criminals sell.
One problem, Thomson said, is that New Jersey borders Pennsylvania, a state with laxer gun laws. He pointed out another problem without borders: People determined to arm themselves and carry out violence often find a way.
Which is why many in New Jersey shrug at the well-intended but often fruitless efforts by lawmakers in states such as Maryland and Connecticut who pass sweeping laws aimed at curbing gun violence. Sometimes, they argue, it's about changing a mindset rather than just the laws.
"For those of us in urban centers, it behooves us to weigh in and make sure issues of urban America are also being discussed in states where these gun laws are being proposed," Redd said.
At first glance, Camden looks like an abandoned urban center. Boarded homes, rusted street signs and pocked roads tell a story of a struggling city. For some, it's also the familiar story of inner-city America and a type of violence — which often leaves young black and Latino men dead — that gets little attention and few congressional hearings.
For Baker, whose mother had her first of four children at age 13, it's home.
Though he grew up without a father, Baker had plenty of men — often imprisoned uncles, cousins and neighborhood drug dealers — whom he admired. As a youngster, he was bullied and had behavior problems that led him to be bounced around schools and alternative programs.
Baker said his decisions to start selling drugs at 13, join the Bloods gang at 15 and carry out dozens of shootings were about manhood and making a name for himself the only way he knew how.
"It's about beef," Baker said. "It's about territory. It's about who can make the most money and have the biggest block."
This brash teenager didn't need gun shows or shops, nor was he slowed by background checks or waiting periods or reams of documentation. Baker secured his weapons of choice by borrowing guns from family and friends. In each instance, he was never encumbered by New Jersey's tough-as-nails laws.
THIS ISN'T NEWTOWN
Last year's massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., changed the conversation America had been having about gun laws and safety in our streets. Suddenly, the laws Baker and his compatriots had been easily circumventing were getting a second look. Assault rifles and magazine clip limits were back on the table. Universal background checks were pushed. Yet in Camden — where most shooters use illegal handguns and a dwindling police force gave rise to open-air drug markets — the solutions being proposed had no connection to the reality on the ground, officials say.
The city needs a holistic solution that gets to the heart of why people such as Baker turn to violence in the first place, they say. Other cities with higher profiles know this inner-city plague. Indeed, Chicago and Baltimore ache like Camden, with fairly strong gun laws but murder rates among the highest in the nation.
Thomson said 98% of crimes in Camden are not committed by assault weapons. The city's greatest problem is the proliferation of illegal firearms, such as criminals' weapon of choice in most shootings: semiautomatic 9mm handguns.
It's the kind of weapon Baker and other members of the Bloods, a gang that has chapters around the country, would carry.
Baker said he never attempted to get a permit and never had a background check when he got his guns.
"Gun laws to people in Camden are like saying you'll get a ticket if you jaywalk," Baker said. "It means nothing. Most politicians don't get that."
Most criminals are stealing guns, buying them from straw purchasers or tapping states with more lax gun laws such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, Thomson said.
In Pennsylvania, no permit is required to buy guns in stores or at gun shows, and there's no limit to the number of firearms a person can purchase at one time. Instead, the state requires a permit to carry weapons openly or concealed outside of a home.
"Pennsylvania is one of the states where there is just a glut of firearms," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. "You don't have to travel too far to get your hand on a gun here."
Ramsey, who wants stronger gun laws, acknowledged that his city's weapons often make their way into Camden.
Edison police chief seeks outside monitor, citing mayor's 'political interference'
By Mark Mueller — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The Newark Star-Ledger’ / Newark, NJ
In a renewed eruption of tensions over control of the Edison police force, Chief Thomas Bryan has asked the Middlesex County prosecutor to appoint a monitor in the department to help him fend off what he termed rampant political interference from Mayor Antonia Ricigliano.
Bryan’s request, made in a three-page letter to Acting Prosecutor Andrew Carey, marks a rare, if not unprecedented, invitation from a police chief for outside oversight.
It also signals the extent of the gridlock and dysfunction in Edison, where rival political factions have been locked in a bitter war for several years.
"Since the mayor took office, her administration has repeatedly and vehemently obstructed my ability to implement reform initiatives, instead choosing to pander to political supporters ... and allowing those individuals to continue to conduct themselves in an unprofessional and downright malicious manner," Bryan wrote.
A monitor, Bryan added, could prevent Ricigliano from making political promotions in the waning days of her first term and could help counter the "negative organizational cultural elements within the Edison Police Department." Ricigliano is running for re-election in November.
Bryan’s letter, dated May 30, came just days after the mayor wrote her own letter to Carey, who recently replaced Bruce Kaplan as prosecutor. Ricigliano, citing a failure of leadership in the department, requested a meeting with Carey in the wake of the latest high-profile arrest of an Edison officer.
Michael Dotro, a 10-year veteran, was charged with five counts of attempted murder May 23 for allegedly setting fire to the home of Edison police Capt. Mark Anderko.
Anderko and his family escaped unharmed. Dotro remains in the Middlesex County jail in lieu of $5 million cash bail.
The Star-Ledger reported earlier this week that Bryan, with Anderko at his side, recently ordered Dotro to undergo a psychological evaluation after receiving his 11th excessive force complaint in a decade. Separately, Dotro had been accused of harassing a female clerk and beating up an elderly neighbor in Manalapan.
An additional case of misconduct emerged over the weekend, when Edison officer Alan Varady, 51, was found drinking beer at a barbecue while on duty. He was charged with driving under the influence Monday night. Varady was immediately suspended with pay.
Ricigliano did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
On Monday, when commenting about the arrest of Dotro and the suspension of Varady, she told The Star-Ledger the continuing episodes of misconduct show the "system is not working." As public safety director, she said, she also wanted monthly reports from Bryan on officer behavior.
The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, which backs Bryan, lashed out at the mayor Tuesday, accusing her of meddling in the department’s daily operations and "coddling" officers — even those accused of wrongdoing — who have backed her politically.
"Something does need to be done immediately. The mayor needs to let the chief run the department, and she can’t interfere every time the chief disciplines somebody," said Raymond Hayducka, the group’s president and the police chief in South Brunswick.
"It’s no secret that every time police officers disagree with something the chief does, they run right to the mayor, and she entertains them," Hayducka added. "You cannot run a police department in that fashion."
Vito Gagliardi, an attorney for the chiefs’ association, said state intervention in the police department would be "helpful" in insulating Bryan from political interference, allowing the chief to provide "reward for good behavior and accountability for bad behavior."
In response to a two-part Star-Ledger series about the department in December, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office increased oversight of Edison’s internal affairs unit. But both the state and county have shown no interest in taking over the department altogether.
Carey, the prosecutor, said in a statement Tuesday the increased monitoring of internal affairs "has resulted in positive and beneficial results." He also confirmed he would be meeting this week with Ricigliano to discuss "relevant issues."
"However," he added, "as the mayor is well aware, her office is not allowed to get involved in the day-to-day operation of the Edison Police Department."
ACLU study: Pot arrests more likely for blacks
By SUZANNE GAMBOA (The Associated Press) — Tuesday, June 4th, 2013; 3:42 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Black people are arrested for possessing marijuana at a higher rate than white people, even though marijuana use by both races is about the same, the American Civil Liberties Union reports in a new study.
The ACLU's analysis of federal crime data, released Tuesday, found marijuana arrest rates for black people were 3.73 times greater than those for white people nationally in 2010. In some counties, the arrest rate was 10 to 30 times greater for blacks. In two Alabama counties, 100 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession were black, the ACLU said.
When it comes to marijuana use, about 14 percent of black people and 12 percent of white people reported in 2010 that they had used the drug during the previous year, according to data that the ACLU obtained from the National Drug Health Survey, a Health and Human Services publication. Among younger people ages 18-25, use was greater among whites.
An overall increase in marijuana possession arrests from 2001 to 2010 is largely attributable to drastic increases in arrests of black people, the ACLU said.
Blacks were arrested at a rate of 537 per 100,000 people nationally in 2001. In 2010, their arrest rate rose to 716 per 100,000. The 2001 number for white people was 191 per 100,00 and rose to 192 per 100,000 in 2010, the ACLU said. Despite the disparate rates, far more whites were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, 460,808 compared to blacks, 286,117.
Ezekiel Edwards, lead author of the ACLU study, attributed the disparate arrest rates to racial profiling by police seeking to pad their arrest numbers with "low-level" arrests in "certain communities that they have kind of labeled as problematic."
"While this country moves in some ways in a more progressive direction on marijuana policy in a lot of places, in other places, people are getting handcuffed, jailed and getting criminal records at racially disparate rates all around the country," Edwards said.
Police simply operate from the standpoint that "the use of marijuana is a crime," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
"We will try to educate our membership, to the extent the statistics are valid, to be aware (that) people other than blacks are smoking marijuana and to arrest them too," said Pasco, who had not yet seen the ACLU report.
Arthur Burnett Sr., a retired judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, said his 40 years on the bench showed him that police concentrate their numbers in black communities. It's easier to catch people with marijuana in communities where there are "open-air" drug markets, rather than looking in homes, basements or country clubs, said Burnett. He is the CEO of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition based in Washington.
Burnett said some black defendants, distrustful of authorities, may lash out, use profanities or be rebellious - behavior that makes it more likely that an officer will make an arrest. Burnett said his coalition supports forming a commission to look at scientific evidence on the effect of marijuana use and "over-criminalization" of it.
The commission would determine whether to treat marijuana like tobacco, in which people are warned about consequences of its use. It would also examine the harshness of penalties for using pot.
"We don't need to treat it like heroin and cocaine," Burnett said.
The ACLU supports legalization of marijuana and regulation through taxation and licensing. It also supports eliminating criminal and civil penalties for marijuana possession. If those two options are not possible, the ACLU supports punishment for marijuana possession with only civil penalties, which is often referred to as decriminalizing marijuana possession.
The unequal arrests rates are not confined to a single region of the U.S. or in urban areas with larger black populations, the ACLU said. That discrepancy is found throughout the country, regardless of the size of the black population of the location and at all income levels, the data shows.
For example, in Morgan County, Ala., where African Americans represent 12 percent of the population and Pike County, Alabama, where 37 percent of the population is black, all those arrested for marijuana possession were black, the ACLU found.
African Americans living in counties with the highest median household incomes, $85,000 to $115,000, are two to eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. In counties with median household incomes of $22,000 to $30,000, the arrest rate for blacks is 1.5 times to five the rate as for whites, the report said.
The largest disparities were found in: Iowa, where blacks were 8.34 times more likely to be arrested than whites; Washington, D.C., 8.05 times greater; Minnesota, 7.81 times; Illinois, 7.56; Wisconsin, 5.98; Kentucky, 5.95 and Pennsylvania, 5.19 times greater.
Blacks face these greater chances for arrest for marijuana possession at a time when Colorado and Washington have legalized adult possession of small amounts of nonmedical marijuana, while a number of states and Washington, D.C. allow medical marijuana. Federal law still prohibits its use. Some states and some cities have eased punishments for possession of smaller amounts.
The findings are hardly surprising to the African American community.
Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, said arrest disparities like those for marijuana possession have led to mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans, which in turn, has become the new Jim Crow, referring to laws that sanctioned racial segregation in schools and public facilities.
"Any arrest, even for marijuana, is a blot on someone's record and an impediment to future jobs and opportunities," Jealous said. "For these reasons, a number of NAACP state conferences (chapters) have supported the decriminalization of marijuana."
U.S. Supremes Decision on DNA Collection
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘USA Today’ Editorial:
Collecting DNA needs high standard: Our view
Collecting DNA from people arrested for violent crimes sometimes leads to a big payoff for the police. That's what happened in Maryland in 2009, when DNA taken from a man arrested on assault charges, for threatening people with a shotgun, matched DNA collected six years earlier in an unsolved rape case.
Thanks to the DNA match, Alonzo King was convicted of that 2003 rape and sentenced to life without parole. On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction, saying it was fine for police to collect DNA from anyone arrested for a "serious offense," such as assault, rape, murder, armed robbery or burglary.
On its face, this case looks like a slam dunk. A guy is booked on a serious charge, and a quick, minimally intrusive DNA test shows he's implicated in a far more serious crime that has been unsolved for years. Who could object?
The fact that the Supreme Court split 5-4, in an unusual ideological mix, in deciding the case should be a clue that it's not so simple.
Collecting DNA is a deeply personal "search" that can reveal far more than a fingerprint or a mug shot. More important, testing people who have been arrested for one crime to see whether they're guilty of some other crime is the sort of suspicionless search that violates one of the most significant protections the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution.
Enraged by the British practice of using vague "general warrants" to justify intrusions into Americans' homes, the Founders said authorities could conduct searches only when they had probable cause to believe a crime was committed and, in most cases, had a warrant from a judge.
Imagine a slightly different context in the modern era: You're arrested for a non-violent crime, such as bouncing a check or letting your dog off the leash in a national park. But instead of collecting DNA, authorities use your arrest as a reason to rummage through your home, with no warrant, for evidence of other crimes. Under current law, the home search would be prohibited, but the principle is the same.
That's why the Supreme Court's majority, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, turned itself into a pretzel claiming that collecting DNA has nothing to do with checking for other crimes but everything to do with identifying arrestees.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia demolished Kennedy's logic, noting that authorities never even checked King's DNA to identify him. They knew who he was. Instead, they tested his DNA against a database of unsolved crimes.
Scalia warned of a slippery slope that could lead to the Transportation Security Administration swabbing every air traveler. But with robust safeguards, that needn't happen.
Going forward, states would do well to limit DNA tests to people who've been convicted, or at the very least to those arrested for sharply defined major violent offenses. Better yet, the court would use some future case to tighten the rules on who can be tested.
Those limits would help the nation strike an appropriate balance between crime-solving and Fourth Amendment privacy rights. And people like King could still be linked to cold cases, if authorities are a little bit more patient.
- - -
OPPOSING VIEW: Use science to catch criminals
DNA ruling the right call
Collection upon arrest solves crimes, saves lives.
By Craig Steckler — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that taking DNA samples from arrestees is a reasonable police procedure consistent with the Fourth Amendment. This was the right call. The decision validates an incredibly important and effective law enforcement investigative tool that has allowed police to solve cases, catch the guilty, free the innocent and save lives.
Many in the law enforcement community, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, have long been proponents of post-arrest DNA sampling. So far, 28 states and the federal government are doing just that.
Why is this so important?
DNA collection offers police an efficient, non-invasive way to accurately identify individuals under arrest. Like fingerprints, DNA is compared against an electronic database of known criminals and unsolved crimes.
As the court noted, the only difference between DNA analysis and the use of fingerprint databases is the unparalleled accuracy that DNA provides. Every day, DNA analysis helps investigators solve crimes that would otherwise go unsolved. For example, in 2003 in New Mexico, Katie Sepich was raped, strangled to death and set on fire. A DNA profile developed from under her fingernails was entered into the DNA database. A DNA database hit was made to a man convicted of other crimes in 2006. If the DNA sample had been taken on arrest, this horrific crime could have been solved years earlier.
Questions have been raised regarding privacy and the information contained in a DNA profile. A DNA profile can tell gender, but the rest of the profile is literally a set of numbers, and each profile is coded. There is no physical or medical information in a DNA profile.
Personal information is not stored in the database, and you cannot search the database by name. One set of coded numbers is entered and searched against other coded sets of numbers to determine whether there is a match between two profiles.
Science has given us the ability to uniquely identify individuals, and the Supreme Court has properly ruled that, like fingerprinting, DNA collection is a valid investigative tool.
We owe it to the many victims of crimes to utilize this science to apprehend the guilty, reduce wrongful arrests and convictions, and make our communities safer places to work and play.
Craig Steckler is president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Analysis: Obama poised to make mark on the judiciary
By Richard Wolf and David Jackson — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
NOTE: See next article - Mike
WASHINGTON — President Obama's simultaneous nominations of three judges to fill the nation's most powerful appellate court signals a new chapter in a political battle that's been raging for more than a quarter century.
It has taken Obama well into his fifth year in office to bring the federal judiciary essentially back to even: There are nearly as many judges nominated by Democratic presidents as there are Republican nominees on the bench.
Now the president is poised to make his mark on the federal district and appeals courts in much the same way Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush did — something even his liberal allies lament he has failed to do since 2009.
"This is the first signal that the Obama administration is getting serious or is stepping up its game when it comes to judicial nominations," said Jonathan Adler, a Case Western Reserve University law professor and conservative legal commentator. "It has been fair to say that Obama did not make lower-court nominees a priority up until now."
But for Obama to succeed, he must overcome Republican opposition that has grown more defiant over the years, since Democrats first began blocking Reagan nominees in the late 1980s.
Both sides cite statistics for every stage of the process to make their case: vacancies, nominations, delays, filibusters, confirmations and judicial caseloads. "The longer you go with these things, the more statistics there are to throw around," said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor.
What's clear is the partisan trend. When George W. Bush left office, nearly six in 10 federal judges were Republican nominees. Now the GOP edge is 51%-49%; Obama has 3½ years remaining to tilt the courts his way.
"We're clearly at a tipping point in the federal courts, which is why the Republicans are putting up such a fight," said Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. "For many years, the Republicans have had an ideological edge in the courts, particularly in some key circuits. Since President Obama's election, that edge is slowly but surely being eroded."
Still, liberal and conservative advocacy groups agree that recent GOP presidents have taken more of an active interest in turning the federal courts in their direction. "The Republicans nominate and appoint more conservative people than Democrats nominate and appoint liberal people," says University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias.
What's less clear is which presidents have been treated more unfairly by their opponents during the Senate confirmation process. That has become a blizzard of data, as the White House cites longer delays for Obama's nominees and Republicans complain about longer appeals-court filibusters under Bush than President Clinton.
Obama's nominations Tuesday of Georgetown law professor Nina Pillard, appellate litigator Patricia Millett and federal District Judge Robert Wilkins focused attention on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that serves as a frequent springboard to the Supreme Court.
The appeals court reviews administration regulations and executive orders and handles controversial issues ranging from the environment to national security — often, in recent years, to the chagrin of the White House.
It has been the scene of bitter nomination battles in the past. Both Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan were blocked, though Roberts eventually won confirmation. Democrats blocked two Bush nominees, Miguel Estrada and Peter Keisler. Republicans blocked Obama's first nominee, Caitlin Halligan of New York, before confirming Sri Srinivasan last month.
The three new nominations, unveiled Tuesday in a grand Rose Garden ceremony befitting a Supreme Court nominee, opened up another statistical battle. The White House argued it simply was seeking to fill three vacancies on the 11-seat court, now operating with eight active judges and six retired "senior" judges.
"Imagine if a third of the seats on the highest court — the Supreme Court — were empty," Obama said Tuesday. "We would rightly consider that a judicial crisis."
Republicans called it an effort to "pack" a court that has fewer pending cases per judge than all but two of the 11 other circuit courts, and far fewer filed cases per three-judge panel than any appeals court. By contrast, 33 other district and appellate courts across the nation have caseload problems that qualify as "judicial emergencies" by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
"The question (is) whether this circuit court, which is apparently less busy than all but one circuit court in the nation, needs to have a full complement of judges," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
The Judicial Conference of the United States, headed by Chief Justice Roberts, wants them filled — along with the D.C. Circuit. That's where Obama has decided to make his fight.
"He's playing for the long term here," Hellman said. "He sees his legacy as being decided to some substantial extent by the D.C. Circuit."
Appellate Court Nominee: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Obama nominee behind `driving while black' case
By NEDRA PICKLER (The Associated Press) — Tuesday, June 4th, 2013; 5:10 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge President Barack Obama wants to promote to the appellate bench successfully sued the Maryland State Police for racial profiling after his family was pulled over and searched for drugs while driving back from a funeral.
The 1992 search has been at the center of two decades of litigation that's become known as the "driving while black" case. U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins has shown an unyielding effort to combat racial profiling in drug stops through three subsequent lawsuits, the final one ultimately decided just this year.
Wilkins, whom Obama nominated Tuesday to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has said his family's roadside detention for an eventual search by a drug-sniffing dog was a "humiliating and degrading experience" and he's been determined to use the courts to prevent it from happening to others.
The Wilkins stop came on May 8, 1992, during an all-night road trip home from his grandfather's funeral in Chicago. His cousin Scott El-Amin was driving in their rented Cadillac, and his uncle and his uncle's wife were also in the car. Wilkins has said they were hurrying because they were all due at work in the morning - Wilkins, then a public defender in Washington, had a court appearance scheduled.
The family was stopped by a trooper who said they were going 60 mph in a 40 mph zone, and El-Amin was cited for speeding. They declined the trooper's request to search their car and were told as a consequence they would have to wait for a canine search. As Wilkins tells it, the officer mentioned something about "problems with rental cars coming up and down the highway with drugs."
Wilkins said he identified himself as a public defender and cited Supreme Court precedent that they could not be held for a dog search without a reasonable suspicion they were carrying drugs. But Wilkins said the family was made to stand in the rain while the German shepherd sniffed over the car and found nothing, while the delay caused him to miss his court appearance, according to an account he provided at a 2009 world conference on racism held at the United Nations in Switzerland.
"It is hard to describe the frustration and pain you feel when people presume you to be guilty for no good reason and you know that you are innocent," Wilkins said in remarks prepared for delivery at the conference.
Wilkins noted the stop came the same week as the Los Angeles riots in response to the police beating of Rodney King. "This was a time when black people all over the United States were asking themselves whether the country was making tangible progress in fighting racial discrimination and whether the country's vaunted legal system was truly equipped and able to right these wrongs. We decided to take legal action," he said.
Wilkins said they uncovered a Maryland State Police criminal intelligence report that notified troopers of crack cocaine coming through the mountainous region of western Maryland, with traffickers who were predominantly black and traveling early in the morning or late at night in rental cars with Virginia registration.
"Well, we fit the profile to a tee," Wilkins said. "We were traveling on I-68, early in the morning, in a Virginia rental car. And, my cousin and I, the front seat passengers, were young black males. The only problem was that we were not dangerous, armed drug traffickers. It should not be suspicious to travel on the highway early in the morning in a Virginia rental car. And it should not be suspicious to be black."
Their suit was settled was settled in 1995. The Maryland State Police paid $50,000 to the four family members, $46,000 in attorney fees and banned racial profiling in drug stops. It required record keeping for all traffic stops with a narcotics dog, monitoring by a federal judge, training for troopers on the new policy and discipline for those who violated it.
Wilkins said his family began to monitor Maryland State Police data and immediately saw a disturbing trend - 70-75 percent of those searched on Interstate 95 were black, even though only blacks made up only 17 percent of drivers traveling there. Wilkins said they filed another suit - this time a class action on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and all minority motorists targeted for stops. After several years of negotiation, a second settlement was reached in 2003 requiring enhanced trooper training, a new process to handle racial profiling complaints and more oversight of the agency's handling of it.
Wilkins said although he believed both settlements resulted in improvements, the agency's own data continued to show vast disparities in the number of stops and searches of minority motorists and that complaints of racial profiling were not being taken seriously. Police investigations found no merit in any of almost 100 complaints of racial profiling that were filed.
Maryland's highest court ruled in January that the police must release the investigation files, over the state's objection that the documents were personnel records that were exempt from public disclosure. The department was able to black out officers' names to protect their identity.
Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said the agency maintains that it doesn't engage in racial profiling. He said they have implemented all the requirements of the court settlement and have gone further, including by distributing brochures at each traffic stop explaining the complaint process and installing cameras in patrol vehicles that are monitored by supervisors.
"We maintain a very strong policy against using race against any police action," Shipley said. And he added that the agency congratulates Wilkins on his nomination and wishes him all the best.
Blue Campaign by DHS aims to combat human trafficking
A new federal program aims to bring the horror of human trafficking to the public eye
By Yamiche Alcindor — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘USA Today’
WASHINGTON -- Starting Wednesday, the federal government will take new steps to highlight the horrors of human trafficking and help victims of the often hidden crime.
Through an initiative dubbed the Blue Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security is launching a new website, logo, and mission statement as well as distributing thousands of new posters, tip sheets and public service announcements about trafficking.
The refreshed efforts, part of broad federal push to deal with trafficking, will help more victims be identified, federal officials say. Meanwhile, some trafficking advocates and researchers warn that such a campaign needs to be focused on evidence-based techniques and that clear measures must be used to evaluate its success.
"It is such an insidious crime that is often not recognized enough," Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told USA TODAY. "We want to bring it out of the shadows, go after the perpetrators, and we want to make sure the victims are taken care of."
Human trafficking, as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, can be the recruitment, transportation or harboring of people by means of force, deception or coercion. Victims, often mentally and physically abused, can be forced into prostitution, unfair working conditions or other exploitative situations.
In September, President Obama announced several new initiatives aimed at ending trafficking nationwide, including the first-ever assessment of the problem in this country.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, told USA TODAY that the federal officials are committed to circumventing traditional government bureaucracy, enhancing data collection, funding trafficking initiatives and making the public more aware.
"We really think by raising everybody's awareness that you will see this isn't something that's isolated in certain parts of the country," she said. "Everyone has role to play."
Napolitano said she first got interested in trafficking as a prosecutor several years ago. When she became head of Homeland Security, she began working with agency resources to aggressively investigate and support prosecutions of the crime.
Her department investigates human trafficking, arrests suspects, and trains law enforcement officials. It also processes immigration relief services through special visas for victims. In fiscal year 2012, the agency's investigative arms -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations -- initiated 894 cases, got 381 convictions and seized assets of more than $1 million.
In 2010, her department created the Blue Campaign to combine the agency's efforts to, among other things, raise public awareness, initiate criminal investigations, and train law enforcement officers to recognize the signs of trafficking. Wednesday, the campaign was being relaunched with a new mission statement that says it will aim for more collaboration with government officials, law enforcement, private organizations, and other partners.
As part of the efforts, the department, using funds already in its fiscal year 2013 budget, spent $300,000 on three general awareness posters and six public service announcements. The posters feature the Blue Campaign website address, dhs.gov/bluecampaign, and headlines that illustrate the problem can hit working class and affluent neighborhoods. They read: "What good is a time card, when his freedom is clocked out?" and "Some prisons have metal bars, and some have picket fences."
Flyers include the department's tip line, 866-347-2423. They instruct people to know potential trafficking signs such a person who works long or unusual hours, who shows signs of mental or physical abuse or a child traveling with someone who does not seem to be their real parent or guardian. The sheets, which have categories for labor, control, living conditions, travel, and medical indicators, tell people to report tips and know the resources in their area.
"We are trying to make it as clear and straightforward as possible," Napolitano said.
Her department also spends $11 million of its $39.1 billion budget on support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's efforts in countering human trafficking and human smuggling. Officials say that is just some of the resources they put toward trafficking initiatives.
Still, some like Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, say the government must make sure it's spending its funds wisely and on efforts that will really curtail the problem.
"Increasing citizen awareness is helpful but that has pretty much been a substantial part to combating human trafficking since 2000," said Mehlman-Orozco, executive director of the Justitia Institute, a non-profit group focused on researching human trafficking, immigration, and social justice. "We are seeing a disconnect between laws in the books and laws in action. We need research to see whether the laws are as effective as they should be."
She believes that though the number of prosecutions of trafficking have risen, they are nowhere near where they would need to be to adequately address cases. To fix that, research must be done to assess the problem, determine what other variables often come with human trafficking, and develop evidence-based ways to provide victim services, Mehlman-Orozco said.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lt. Karen Hughes has been overseeing human trafficking investigations in southern Nevada since 2007 and said the federal government has done a great job in the past year of energizing and training officers and first responders. She and 50 others went through a two-hour homeland security training last month.
"Local law enforcement are now starting to feel support at a federal level to make more coordinated approaches to bring about awareness and hopefully prevention," she said.
To make sure the efforts really work though, DHS should also have some specific benchmarks for determining whether the renewed Blue Campaign is successful, said David Abramowitz, director of Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, coalition of non-profits working to end trafficking.
"I think where commitment on trainings are followed through, it will be a question of whether there's a significant increase in the number of tips they get," Abramowitz said.
Napolitano said department plans to closely assess the success of the newest Blue Campaign by looking at the number of calls they get into their tip line, the number of victims identified, the number of law enforcement officials trained as well as the number of investigations and prosecutions initiated after the campaign. Official will also measure how often the public service announcements were played and how much traffic the new website gets.
Napolitano added that the department still has challenges it faces, including dealing with foreign nationals and governments who may have sovereignty over land in the United States but are suspected of trafficking. Still, she and her department remained determined to look for new ways to fight the often gruesome crime.
"So often at DHS our role is to play defense," Napolitano said. "We protect critical infrastructure. We help secure cybernetworks. We prevent illegal crossings at the border. On human trafficking, we can go on offense and use the tools and the capabilities of this department."
Jury sees video of Detroit cop raid when girl shot
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Tuesday, June 4th, 2013; 4:17 p.m. EDT
DETROIT (AP) -- Jurors in the trial of a Detroit police officer charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 7-year-old girl watched a video Tuesday of the police raid that led to the fatal shooting.
The shot that killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones in 2010 could be heard on the video, which was recorded by a crew from "The First 48," a reality TV show on A&E Networks. Officer Joseph Weekley's gun fired and struck the girl in the head while she slept on a couch.
Someone shouts "police!" on the video. A stun grenade used to confuse people inside the house briefly lights up the scene.
Weekley was the first officer through the door. His attorney said the officer accidentally fired a submachine gun when Aiyana's grandmother reached for the weapon. Prosecutors, however, said there was no struggle and that Weekley simply was negligent in how he handled the gun.
Homicide investigator LaTonya Brooks testified that detectives didn't want the TV crew at the scene. Defense attorney Steve Fishman said police department officials never asked officers if they wanted cameras following them with people asking "dumb questions."
"That's additional pressure to doing a pressure-filled, difficult job, wouldn't you agree?" Fishman said.
"I agree," Brooks said.
After Aiyana's death, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing barred reality TV shows from shadowing police. "The First 48" focuses on critical early stages of homicide investigations.
Houston police chief testifies against fired officer accused of beating teen suspect
Videotaped beating sickening
By JUAN A. LOZANO (The Associated Press) — Tuesday, June 4th, 2013; 10:56 p.m. EDT
HOUSTON (AP) -- Houston's police chief told jurors on Tuesday that the 2010 videotaped beating of a black teen burglary suspect made him "sick to my stomach" and gave the police department a "black eye."
Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. testified that fired officer Drew Ryser - one of four officers who were indicted in the case - mistreated the teen during his arrest and failed to follow proper procedures.
Ryser, 32, is on trial this week on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
"It made me sick to my stomach because it was an egregious use of force and the men and women of the Houston police department are better than that ... they did not deserve that type of black eye," McClelland told special prosecutor Jonathan Munier.
Ryser's attorneys have said the ex-officer was following textbook procedures to arrest a suspect he had been told might have been armed.
In video footage from a security camera that caught the March 2010 beating, then-15-year-old Chad Holley is seen falling to the ground after trying to hurdle a police squad car. He's then surrounded by at least five officers, some of whom appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs. Police said that Holley and three others had tried to run away after burglarizing a home.
Holley's beating prompted fierce public criticism of Houston's police department by community activists, who called it an example of police brutality against minorities.
McClelland said that in seeing the video footage, he was disturbed that Holley, who had given up, offered "no active resistance and the force that was being used against him was excessive and unnecessary."
McClelland told jurors that if Ryser and the other officers believed Holley might have been armed, proper procedure would have called for one officer to draw his weapon on the teen and for another officer to then handcuff him.
But while questioning McClelland, Lisa Andrews, one of Ryser's attorneys, tried to suggest to jurors that the scene was very chaotic, with Holley and other suspects running in different directions, and that such a "perfect scenario way" of arresting Holley was not possible.
"If the other officers committed to go hands on to handcuff (Holley), it would not be prudent for other officers to pull a weapon," Andrews said.
McClelland disagreed on describing the arrest scene as chaotic, instead calling it "challenging."
Andrews also tried to suggest to jurors that the video did show Holley resisting efforts to handcuff him.
McClelland was expected to continue testifying on Wednesday. The trial, being heard by a six-person jury, is expected to last about a week.
Two other former officers charged in the case pleaded no contest and were sentenced in April to two years of probation as part of plea agreements. A fourth ex-officer was acquitted in May 2012. All the fired officers indicted in the case were charged with misdemeanors.
Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010 and placed on probation. Last year, Holley, now 19, was arrested on another burglary charge, and a judge sentenced him in April to six months in jail and seven years of probation. Holley, dressed in an orange prison uniform, has been briefly brought into the courtroom at various times during the trial so that he can be identified by different witnesses.
Los Angeles, California
Review: Firing of ex-LAPD officer Dorner justified
By TAMI ABDOLLAH (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013; 8:55 a.m. EDT
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An internal review by the Los Angeles Police Department concluded that rogue ex-officer Christopher Dorner was justifiably fired, a lawyer who reviewed the findings told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Civil rights attorney Connie Rice said the lengthy examination found no basis for allegations of racism and bias that Dorner made in a manifesto vowing revenge on his former colleagues and their families.
Authorities said Dorner killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during a weeklong rampage in February that involved a massive manhunt and ended with his apparent suicide in a mountain cabin following a gun battle with police.
The findings, which are expected to be made public this month at a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting, concluded that Dorner had a history of embellishing stories, misperceiving slights and making bogus complaints against his fellow officers, Rice said.
He took more than twice as long as most officers to complete his training, was nearly incomprehensible during the hearing over his firing, and only filed a complaint against his training officer when he learned she gave him a bad performance review, Rice said.
The department said in a statement the review had not been finalized.
"Any comments or conclusions about the contents of the review are premature," it said. "The LAPD will announce the review once finalized."
Police Commission President Andrea Ordin said the report still needed to go to the inspector general for review and then to the Police Commission.
Chief Charlie Beck ordered the review as Dorner was on the run after being accused of killing the daughter of his former union lawyer and her fiance and releasing the manifesto saying he would get even for being unfairly fired because he was black.
Rice, a longtime department watchdog and frequent critic, was allowed to review the findings.
"The firing was justified and his allegations are completely unfounded," said Rice, who spent two weeks reviewing the findings. "This guy needed to go. And the question was, even if he needed to go, did the LAPD get rid of him in a way that was illegitimate? And the answer for me was no."
The roughly 40-page report relied on about 80 documents, including 900 pages of transcripts from the Board of Rights hearing that concluded Dorner lied when he claimed a training officer had brutally kicked a mentally ill man during an arrest. He was fired for making a false report and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with the department during a 2010 appeal.
The internal LAPD review conducted by Gerry Chaleff, the department's special assistant for constitutional policing, also re-examined at least 10 complaints Dorner officially lodged with the department while he was an officer, Rice said.
In his manifesto, Dorner said the LAPD had tarnished his reputation, ruined the former Navy reserve's military career, and destroyed his life.
"He raised all that racism stuff in my mind because he knew he'd get a rise out of them," Rice said. "He did everything he could to hurt the department."
The department is also conducting a review of the overall discipline system and will also review the cases of a handful of former officers who have since formally requested reviews of their firings.
Rice said she spoke with many black officers in the department who said that though the department still had issues with racism, it had changed a great deal over the past decades.
"Just because racism didn't play a leading role in what happened to Dorner doesn't mean the LAPD is now an inter-racial nirvana," Rice said. "It does still have serious problems like every department does and we shouldn't forget that."
Immigration Enforcement / Illegal Aliens
Lawsuit challenges US deportation procedures
By ELLIOT SPAGAT (The Associated Press) — Tuesday, June 4th, 2013; 8:43 p.m. EDT
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. government Tuesday over the way Mexicans accused of living in the country illegally agree to be sent home, claiming the so-called voluntary departures are actually coerced.
The federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles alleges immigration authorities in Southern California routinely steer Mexican immigrants away from insisting on an appearance before an immigration judge. They are told they face months in jail while their cases are decided and are falsely informed that they can easily arrange legal status once they're back in Mexico, the lawsuit alleges.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol offer voluntary departures to some immigrants without criminal records, sparing them the possibility of stiffer penalties under formal deportation orders. Voluntary departures prohibit immigrants from re-entering the U.S. for up to 10 years.
The lawsuit by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other department officials names seven Mexican men and women who allege they were misled, including Samuel Nava, who came to the U.S. on a tourist visa in 2003 but didn't leave.
Police pulled over Nava east of San Diego in 2011 for driving with a broken license-plate light and turned him over to the Border Patrol, which offered a voluntary departure. The ACLU said Nava could have asked a judge for legal status because he was married to a U.S. citizen, but he accepted the offer and now cannot return to the U.S. for 10 years.
"(The Border Patrol agents) told me the easiest thing to do was just sign the forms," Nava told a San Diego news conference through a video connection to La Paz, Mexico.
Peter Boogaard, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said he wouldn't comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, asks that authorities revamp their procedures to fully explain the consequences of agreeing to leave the country and to avoid trying to persuade immigrants to take the offers.
Amnesty Int'l: Disappearances in Mexico a 'crisis'
By MARK STEVENSON (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013; 12:17 a.m. EDT
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- The number of unsolved disappearances in Mexico constitutes a national scandal and a human rights crisis, Amnesty International said Tuesday, citing what it called a systematic failure by police and prosecutors to investigate thousands of cases that have piled up since 2006.
Rupert Knox, Amnesty's Mexico investigator, said relatives are often forced to search for missing loved ones themselves, sometimes at considerable risk.
Adding insult to injury, Knox said police and prosecutors often don't even bother to use the information that relatives dig up. Instead, police routinely assume that the missing are caught up in Mexico's drug cartel conflicts.
"They are stigmatized, they are treated with disdain, and the typical thing is to say the victims were members of criminal gangs," Knox said. "That is a demonstration of the negligence that has allowed this problem to grow into a national scandal and a human rights crisis."
The federal government says some 26,000 people have been reported missing since the government launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006, though officials have said the true number is probably lower, because some people reported missing have since been found or accounted for but never taken off the list.
Brenda Rangel is the sister of Hector Rangel, who disappeared along with two friends in 2009 after being stopped by police for a traffic violation and was never seen again. She is sure her brother wasn't involved in criminal activity. A young businessman, he had gone to the northern state of Coahuila, which is a hotbed of the Zetas drug gang, to collect a payment from a client.
Rangel says her brother last called to say he was in police custody, and she said the family has given authorities the number of the squad car, and even the names of the policemen involved in the detention. But she said prosecutors told her the officers were fired from the local police force in Monclova, Coahuila, and couldn't be located. In Mexico, it is not uncommon for local policemen to work for drug gangs.
Nearing the fourth year in her brother's disappearance, that kind of shrugging response is driving Rangel and her family to desperation, and into danger, since they can't let it rest.
"We have received death threats," she said, adding: "I have run risks, I have gone into safe houses, I have had to disguise myself in different ways to look for my brother."
One by one, other parents and siblings of missing Mexicans stood up and recounted their horror stories: cases in which authorities themselves, police or the military, appear to have been involved in the disappearances.
Mexico's government announced last week that it is creating a special unit to search for missing people. But the unit has only 12 federal investigators and a group of federal police agents to cover all the cases.
Knox said such agencies have been tried before in Mexico but have accomplished little, in part because they have lacked the resources, manpower and authority to really perform their task.
"The authorities have always seen them (the special units) as a way to reduce public pressure and blow off steam," Knox said.
While Rangel and the other victims' families maintain faith that their loved ones are still alive, perhaps subjected to forced labor by the drug cartels, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has received information on 15,921 unidentified bodies that have passed through morgues in Mexico, some of which could belong to the missing.
A recent case in Mexico City has highlighted the difficulties surrounded cases of suspected disappearances.
On May 26, a group of young people disappeared from a Mexico City after-hours bar just off the city's main Reforma boulevard, a block and a half from the U.S. Embassy. Relatives had initially indicated 11 people were missing, but authorities raised the number of 12 Tuesday night.
The young people were from the rough-and-tumble Tepito neighborhood and their disappearance only came to light after their parents and other Tepito residents held a protest that blocked a major road. Media reports later said that the fathers of two of the missing young men were suspected former Tepito crime bosses currently doing time in prison.
A witness who said he escaped from the abduction said the young people were taken away by gunmen in masks after partying through the night at the bar. Prosecutors said Tuesday night that surveillance video was found showing the young people entering the bar, but wouldn't say if there was footage showing them leaving or being abducted.
The witness who reported the kidnapping can no longer be found. The bar's owner also is missing, but prosecutors said Tuesday night that two waiters and a woman had been detained in the case.
The families have put up missing-person posters with photos of their loved ones throughout the area, and say that almost 10 days later they still have not come home.
Workplace Violence a/k/a/ Brutal and Evil Muslim Terrorism
Fort Hood Suspect Says Rampage Was to Defend Afghan Taliban Leaders
By MANNY FERNANDEZ — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
KILLEEN, Tex. — Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people, told a judge on Tuesday that he believed he was defending the lives of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan from American military personnel when he went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood here in November 2009.
Major Hasan’s remarks were the first public explanation about the motive for one of the deadliest mass shootings at an American military base. His comments came a day after the judge granted his request to release his court-appointed military lawyers so that he could represent himself.
On Monday, one of Major Hasan’s first legal maneuvers had been to ask the judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, for a three-month delay in his trial, scheduled to begin on July 1. His primary reason in asking for the delay was to change his defense to a “defense of others.” At a new hearing on Tuesday, Colonel Osborn asked him pointedly whom he was defending.
“The leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban,” he said, specifically naming Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder of the Islamic insurgent group.
His comments, delivered in a soft, matter-of-fact tone, stunned many in the courtroom. Seated in the gallery behind him were Army soldiers, military police officers and relatives of some of his victims. Colonel Osborn then asked him to explain his defense, and Major Hasan asked for a recess to gather his thoughts.
When the hearing resumed a few minutes later, the judge again asked him to explain the facts supporting his defense, and he said he preferred to submit his thoughts in written form. “I don’t want to brainstorm in front of the court,” he told her.
But the judge pressed him further. When she asked if he was defending one person or a group of people, he said it was the group of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, including Mullah Omar. The judge asked him to explain the connection between the Taliban leaders and the people he is accused of murdering and attempting to murder.
“They’re part of the United States military,” he said.
The judge delayed the start of jury selection, which had been set to begin on Wednesday, to give Major Hasan one day to find the legal authority to apply such a defense to his case. He was ordered to submit a brief to the judge by Wednesday morning, and Army prosecutors were asked to submit their own brief in response. Colonel Osborn did not rule on whether to grant Major Hasan’s request for a delay, but instead set another hearing for Wednesday afternoon to further discuss the “defense of others” issue.
The “defense of others” strategy requires a criminal defendant to prove that he was compelled to use force against an aggressor to protect a person or a group from being harmed or killed by that aggressor. In this case, Major Hasan is claiming that he was protecting Taliban leaders from death by using deadly force against Fort Hood military personnel deploying to Afghanistan.
The defense is not typically used in military trials, and Colonel Osborn seemed to question whether Major Hasan had any facts or evidence to support such a defense.
Military legal experts called his theory ludicrous and said it fell outside the legal parameters of “defense of others” cases. They said that those with a legitimate “defense of others” case must prove that the people being protected were victims of unlawful force and were facing an immediate threat or danger. Those two elements do not apply to the Fort Hood shooting, they said, because Taliban leaders were lawful objects of attack and faced no immediate threat from anyone at Fort Hood that day.
“I think the defense in this context makes no sense at all,” said Richard Rosen, the director of the Center for Military Law and Policy at the Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock. “These people were unarmed. They were thousands of miles from the battlefield,” he said. “If the Taliban leadership were present at the time of the shooting, I suppose then you might be able to raise the defense, but even then I think it would not fly.”
On Tuesday, two of Major Hasan’s former lawyers sat at the defense table with him, and a third sat behind him. The judge had ordered them to remain as standby counsel, and Major Hasan frequently asked questions of his former lead lawyer, Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe, throughout the hearing.
Major Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 others at the Fort Hood base on Nov. 5, 2009. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
His role in the attack has never been in dispute, and much of the courtroom activity at his pretrial hearings in recent months has centered on procedural matters. In the past, he had offered to plead guilty to the charges. Military law prohibits defendants charged in capital punishment cases from pleading guilty, and it was unlikely that Army prosecutors would drop their pursuit of the death penalty in order for him to plead guilty.
Report Says T.S.A. Screening Is Not Objective
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT — Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The Transportation Security Administration has little evidence that an airport passenger screening program, which some employees believe is a magnet for racial profiling and has cost taxpayers nearly one billion dollars, screens passengers objectively, according to a report by the inspector general for the Homeland Security Department.
The T.S.A.’s “behavioral detection program” is supposed to rely on security officers who pull aside passengers who exhibit what are considered telltale signs of terrorists for additional screening and questioning. It is illegal to screen passengers because of their nationality, race, ethnicity or religion.
According to the report, the T.S.A. has not assessed the effectiveness of the program, which has 2,800 employees and does not have a comprehensive training program. The T.S.A. cannot “show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion,” the report said.
As a result of the T.S.A.’s ineffective oversight of the program, it “cannot ensure that passengers at U.S. airports are screened objectively,” the report said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the T.S.A. said it had accepted six recommendations from the report about its strategic planning.
“Behavior analyses techniques add an additional layer of unseen security measures for the safety of all passengers that begins prior to arriving at the checkpoint,” the statement said.
The report, scheduled for release this week, was provided to The New York Times by a senior government official. The official did so on the condition of anonymity because it had not yet been made public.
The program has been under scrutiny for years. In 2010, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that the program, which began in 2003, was started without first determining its potential effectiveness.
As recently as 2011, reports emerged that the program was being used to profile passengers at airports in Newark and Hawaii.
In August, The Times reported that more than 30 officers at Logan International Airport in Boston had said that the program was being used to profile passengers like Hispanics traveling to Florida or blacks wearing baseball caps backward.
The officers said that such passengers were being profiled by the officers in response to demands from managers who believed that stopping and questioning them would turn up drugs, outstanding arrest warrants or immigration problems.
The managers wanted to generate arrests so they could justify the program, the officers said, adding that officers who made arrests were more likely to be promoted. The Homeland Security Department said then that its inspector general was investigating the matter, although the coming report does not address the program at Logan Airport.
In a written statement, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said that the report “deals yet another blow to T.S.A.’s efforts to implement a behavioral detection screening program.”
Mr. Thompson added that he would be offering an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill this week that would “prevent any more taxpayer dollars from being spent on this failed and misguided effort.”