Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡ª ¡®God Bless America¡¯ Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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NYPD Plans Heavy Presence for July 4 Celebrations
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013; 8:26 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK ¡ª The New York Police Department is planning a heavy presence for the city's July Fourth celebrations.
NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne said Wednesday the department's entire air and sea fleets will be deployed on Thursday: That's seven helicopters and 16 boats.
He said Harbor Unit boats will help direct traffic jams after the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks 2013 show.
Browne said that before the show begins over the Hudson River, police will conduct sweeps of underground garages and surrounding streets. He said counter-terrorism officers will remove all trash cans from the viewing areas and use dogs that can detect explosives and explosive residue.
Browne said 38 mobile cameras purchased after the Boston Marathon bombing will be fixed to light poles and other areas to monitor the crowd.
NYPD Rolling Out Every High-Tech Gadget Imaginable To Keep City Safe On July 4
Commish Kelly Urges New Yorkers To Not Fire Weapons Into Air To Celebrate
By Unnamed Author(s) (CBS News - New York) ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013; 11:30 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) ¨C The city will be on high security alert this Fourth of July holiday, spending money and resources to make sure its biggest celebration is a safe one.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told CBS 2¡¯s Marcia Kramer on Wednesday there are no specific threats, but his department will be taking no chances as thousands of people converge on the city to watch the Macy¡¯s Fireworks Show.
The NYPD will be deploying every high-tech device in its arsenal and the commissioner had a message for any would-be bad guys.
¡°Our message is we have a lot of resources in place that we think are necessary to protect the event and we certainly think New York City is not the place to come,¡± Kelly said. ¡°We certainly are a city that has been successfully, in terms of terrorists, attacked twice, and 16 plots against us. We must be vigilant. We must be aware. We must devote the resources to it and that¡¯s precisely what we¡¯re doing.¡±
It was some tough talk from Kelly as the NYPD arms itself to protect the city this Independence Day holiday.
¡°We have no specific threat as I said, but any time you get a large number of people together, we always have concerns. That¡¯s what we¡¯re paid for, to be concerned about that. I believe we will do everything that we reasonably can do to protect the crowd and make it a happy and safe event,¡± Kelly said.
The Department will be deploying an amazing array of security initiatives, including police helicopters with special sensors to detect radiation on the ground. The choppers also have infrared capability and the ability to read a name tag from a mile away. For example, if officers saw a maintenance worker on Liberty Island, they¡¯d be able to read the name and radio it to see if that person is supposed to be there.
¡°We have greater capability in that regard than we¡¯ve ever had,¡± Kelly said.
There will be cops with radiation detection pagers; police cars that can detect radiation; a counter terrorism 360-degree camera car to look for suspicious packages; and radiation detecting boats that will patrol around the city since many people are expected to watch the fireworks from the water; and of course, the bomb dogs will be out in force.
¡°It¡¯s a significant investment of resources on our part, but obviously, in the post-9/11 world, we think it¡¯s necessary,¡± Kelly said.
The NYPD is reminding spectators that no large backpacks, lawn chairs, coolers or alcoholic beverages will be allowed in the viewing area.
Traffic along the banks of the Hudson will be challenging. Among the major closings will be the West Side Highway, which will be shut down between 59th and 22nd streets. Traffic on the New Jersey side will be stopped in communities with a view of the river, including Hoboken and much of Sinatra Drive, CBS 2¡äs Dave Carlin reported.
Kelly said his entire counter terrorism package will be out on Thursday, but this year there¡¯s a little something extra for all those overzealous souls who take America¡¯s birthday a little too seriously.
¡°We also have additional patrols in the boroughs because we¡¯ve had in the past, but not recently, sort of celebratory gunfire, which obviously we don¡¯t want,¡± Kelly said.
Commissioner Kelly told New Yorkers to celebrate the holiday with parties, watching the fireworks or with family get-togethers. Just don¡¯t shoot off a gun to commemorate the day.
¡°It¡¯s the type of thing we¡¯ll be looking for. We¡¯re vigilant in that regard,¡± Kelly said.
JULY 4 SECURITY CHECKLIST
Barges in the river at the following locations:
There will be four barges in the river at 24th Street, 36th Street, 49th Street and 42nd Street.
Public viewing areas include:
Northbound lanes on 12th Avenue between 22nd Street and 57th Street
North and southbound lanes of the Henry Hudson Parkway from 57th Street to 72nd Street
Selected cross streets with a view of the river 23rd, 24th, 34th and 42nd Streets.
The esplanade at Clinton Cove Park between 54th Street and 57th Street.
Pier 84 at 44th Street¡There will be four specific areas for spectators.
The NYPD in the air:
The NYPD will be deploying their entire sea and air fleet as well as a heavy counter terror response: Seven helicopters will be in the air
NYPD on the Water:
16 NYPD Harbor Unit boats will be in the water:
Boats in the harbor will deal with potential ¡°wakes¡± waves left by larger boats that can capsize smaller vessels. Boats larger than 20 meters will be anchored and boats smaller than 20 meters will be separated from the larger vessels.
The NYPD counter-terror contingent:
Prior to the event, the NYPD will conduct sweeps of underground garages as well as the streets surrounding the viewing route. All trash cans will be removed from the area.
Before and during the show cops will also use ¡°Vapor Wake Dogs¡± which can detect explosives and explosive residue on a person to along the viewing areas.
In addition to small pager sized radiation detectors, cops will have hand held detectors, as well as detectors mounted on vehicles, helicopters and on the boats.
Backpacks are banned from the viewing area and bags/handbags are subject to random inspection.
Both uniformed and plain clothes cops will be posted in the crowd, roaming and on rooftops with a view of the crowd.
There will be stepped up DWI enforcement at bridges and checkpoints
Cameras as part of the counter terror initiative:
For the first Fourth of July event, the third time ever used by the NYPD, they will deploy 38 new mobile cameras, fixed on light poles at strategic locations (see graphic) to monitor the crowd. These images can be fed back to the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative (Ring of Steel) command center as well as the Joint Operations Center at Police headquarters. The will be small, they will be unmarked and they will have a frosted globe at the bottom. They will be installed sometime tomorrow.
The Joint Operations Center will be staffed and monitored. On hand will be cops from the State Police as well as New Jersey State Police and cops from municipalities across the river.
*Note on the mobile cams ¡ª these were purchased by the NYPD in the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombing. This is only the third time these cams are being deployed. They were first used during the Five Borough Bike Tour then the Israeli day parade.
Cops will also deploy a truck that can take a 360-degree view of the route and it will be deployed before and after the crowd arrives, to scan for unattended packages and suspicious behavior. These images can be monitored by a cam operator inside the truck as it moves.
*Note ¡ª This truck will also be deployed in Coney Island to monitor large crowds like the Nathan¡¯s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Cops will also deploy their SkyWatch mobile towers to monitor the crowds.
The Community Safety Act
NYPD¡¯s Largest Union Pressuring Council Members Over Stop-and-Frisk Bills
By Kristen Meriwether ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013; 10:16 a.m. ¡®The Epoch Times¡¯ / New York, NY
NEW YORK¡ªThe Patrolman¡¯s Benevolent Association (PBA) is turning the heat up on Council members who voted in favor of two bills which aim to reform stop-and-frisk practices. They hope to sway at least one Council member to rescind a supporting vote, which would break the bill¡¯s veto-proof majority.
After two days of handing out flyers in the Council districts of Dan Garodnick, Jessica Lappin, and Mark Weprin, the labor union representing police officers launched a website Wednesday morning to allow New Yorkers to auto email all 34 Council members who voted in favor of the bills.
After filling out a first and last name and providing an email address, a click of the button will send a message to the Council members, asking each to reconsider supporting the legislation.
The PBA have been outspoken critics of Intro 1080, which will expand the bias-based profiling laws in the city, and allow New Yorkers to sue if they feel they have been profiled. The PBA is also against Intro 1079, which will create an inspector general for the NYPD.
¡°We get thousands of people visiting the website every day, and we are hoping many of them take the time to send an email to those council members,¡± said PBA spokesperson Al O¡¯Leary.
The organization, which is the largest labor union representing police officers in New York City, believes the bills will make policing tougher and the streets of New York more dangerous, views shared by Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
O¡¯Leary made no secret why the PBA targeted Garodnick, Lappin, and Weprin. ¡°The PBA believes they represent districts that are pro law enforcement and pro public safety,¡± O¡¯Leary said. ¡°Those three districts are very conservative communities.¡±
O¡¯Leary also noted the three Council members are either up for reelection, as is the case for Garodnick and Weprin, or running for another office, as is the case for Lappin, who is running for Manhattan Borough President.
¡°We wanted to choose people who would be responsive to their constituent¡¯s complaints. We don¡¯t believe they represent the best interests of their constituents on these particular votes,¡± O¡¯Leary said.
Lappin is running in a tight field for Manhattan Borough President against fellow Council members Robert Jackson and Gale Brewer (who both voted in favor of Intro 1080 and 1079), and Julie Menin, former Chair of Community Board 1.
Garodnick, who is running for his third term in Council District 4 on the Upper East Side, faces no notable opposition in the race. Campaign Finance Board (CFB) records show Helene Jnane running for District 4, however she has raised no money, has no campaign website, and has no official Twitter account.
Garodnick, a well respected member of the Council, whose name has come up as potential Speaker of the City Council when current Speaker Christine Quinn leaves office this year, has nearly $900,000 in his war chest.
Weprin, who is running for his second term in Council District 23 in Queens, does not have an opponent in the race, according to CFB records. It is believed Republican Joseph Concannon, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the State Senate, may try for a run, according to a report from Capital New York.
Outside City Hall on Thursday, Weprin said he did not know why the PBA was targeting him. ¡°I believe there is a misconception that I represent this, ¡°white district¡±, because I¡¯m a white person. I actually represent a district that is 70 percent people of color,¡± Weprin said, according to Ben Max of DecideNYC.com.
Weprin said he could not guarantee any vote other than his. ¡°Anything is possible. The Mayor is a very powerful guy, and I would never sell him short. I can only speak to this one vote, and no, I¡¯m not changing my vote,¡± Weprin said.
When asked why the PBA would try to campaign against Council members who have no opponents, O¡¯Leary said, ¡°You would have to talk to our political operatives. I am just the press guy,¡± adding, ¡°and no, you cannot talk to them.¡±
During an interview with NY1 on Tuesday night, Speaker Quinn, who voted in favor of the inspector general bill but against the biased-based profiling bill, said she did not believe any Council member would change their vote.
¡°I have been in and around the City Council for a long time, and those numbers don¡¯t change in the override votes,¡± Quinn said. ¡°People stick with their positions. People know they are voting on a bill that is going to be vetoed and they vote in a way they plan to stick with.¡±
PBA Hands Out Flyers In Queens Protesting Community Safety Act
By Unnamed Author(s) ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013; 11:45 p.m. ¡®NY 1 News¡¯ / New York
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is trying to convince lawmakers to change their vote on two controversial bills.
Union members have been passing out flyers to constituents of City Council members who supported the bills.
On Wednesday, they were in David Weprin's district in Bayside, Queens.
"He is not voting the will of the people that live here, who want safety and who want to support law enforcement and police officers and support how they do their job," said PBA President Pat Lynch. "These two bills, the IG bill and the racial profiling bill, will have a chilling effect on how police officers do their job."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to veto both bills before returning them to the City Council for an override vote.
Amsterdam News¡¯ Black Perspective
Council passes Community Safety Act
By KHORRI ATKINSON ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®The Amsterdam News¡¯ / New York, NY
¡°This is a historical first step to have a safer community and an accountable law enforcement,¡± said civil rights advocate the Rev. Al Sharpton at a press conference at City Hall on Thursday, June 28. He spoke in front of a crowd of civil rights advocates and New Yorkers who applauded the New York City Council on passing the Community Safety Act.
At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, the New York City Council passed two bills, the NYPD Oversight Act (Intro 1079) and the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill (Intro 1080), known together as the Community Safety Act. These bills work to reduce racial profiling and increase oversight of the NYPD.
Following the passage of the bills, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement saying that he would veto the legislation because both measures will prevent the NYPD from doing their work and will cause crime to increase. He later said, ¡°I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little,¡± during an interview with John Gambling on WOR 710. Although the bills have received much scrutiny from Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the Detective Endowment Association (DEA), the 51-member City Council passed the bills with enough votes to override Bloomberg¡¯s expected veto. The legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, one of the prime supporters of the bill, said, ¡°Opponents have no argument to defend bias-based profiling, so they have resorted to fabrications instead. There is absolutely nothing in this bill that would prevent police officers from using race, gender, age or other factors in suspect descriptions. It uses the same exact ¡®determinative factor¡¯ standard as the current racial profiling law.¡±
The NYPD Oversight Act will publish police reports for the public and assign a commissioner within the Department of Investigation to oversee and inspect the NYPD. The Department of Investigation currently oversees about 300 agencies, including the Fire Department, the Department of Education and the Human Resources Administration.
The End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Act makes it easier for New Yorkers to sue the NYPD if they have been racially profiled or discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, or disability and housing status.
Among the supporters was Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who said New Yorkers are one step closer to having one city. ¡°For the first time, 104 years after the NAACP was founded in New York City, our members can go to bed tonight and tell their children that if a police officer abuses them because of their skin color, there will be justice,¡± said Jealous.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, expressed her appreciation to the Council members who voted for the bill, including council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, despite her opposition to the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill.
¡°We appreciate your vote on the Inspector General Bill and your decision to put the democratic process ahead of your own personal opposition to the racial profiling bill,¡± said Lieberman.
Williams, who sponsored the legislation, told the AmNews, ¡°I wanted [Quinn] to support both bills, but I¡¯m glad that she allowed them to be voted on the floor. We won, and I¡¯m looking forward to the next level.¡±
But that next level has been met with some important questions. After voting for the Inspector General Bill, Quinn said she has concerns about the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill because of pending federal cases that involved state courts. ¡°This may not be the right time to do this,¡± said Quinn. ¡°I¡¯m worried about having too much judicial involvement.¡±
As the passage of both bills are out of the way, civil rights advocates and supporters of police reform are now paying attention to Bloomberg and Kelly, who they said have been spreading misleading information about the legislation.
According to Sharpton, some of the council members who opposed the bill were also sending misinformation to challenge those who were for it to have them change their minds.
Bloomberg sounded his alarm, which further echoed his opposition to the legislation, at a press conference on Thursday at the NYPD headquarters. Bloomberg¡¯s current plan is to have one council member switch their position to deprive the council of the 34 votes needed to override the inevitable veto, according to The New York Times. Although he declined to say how he will persuade one Council member to switch their position, Bloomberg said, ¡°This is a fight to defend your life and your kids¡¯ lives. You can rest assured that I will not give up for one minute.¡±
Councilman Erik M. Dilan, who has kept his decision private, said he had been courted heavily weeks ago by Kelly. He told The New York Times that the talk almost lasted for 45 minutes. He recalled to the Times that he later received a ¡°very pleasant¡± call from the mayor, who said that, ¡°I would love your vote. We would love your vote in the worst way.¡±
While some of the dissent has been more covert, other organizations have openly voiced their opposition to the Community Safety Act. The DEA, which represents more than 16,000 active and retired cops, has already made threats to council members who support the bill.
¡°Any legislator who supports an irresponsible bill like this is not worthy of the political support of men and woman who risk their lives behind the gold shield,¡± said Michael Palladino, president of the DEA, to the New York Post.
¡°This issue is larger than politics. Therefore, the DEA will revoke the endorsement of any and all City Council members who support this measure,¡± Palladino continued.
As of June 12, the DEA has endorsed New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York City public advocate candidate Dr. Cathy Guerriero and New York City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. Vallone is not a supporter of the bill, and it is not clear yet whether the other endorsed city officials support it or not.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen¡¯s Benevolent Association, also announced yesterday that if the bills become law, his organization will target the ¡°pro-crime council members for defeat in the upcoming election.¡±
Williams tried to win the support of all council members and dissenters on Thursday morning, asking them use their conscience.
¡°I implore you that if you [are not a] Black, Latino ¡ Muslim ¡ LGBTQ, please listen to us. We¡¯re trying to help those that are being abused,¡± said Williams. ¡°I have voted on matters that don¡¯t affect my community, some of which I don¡¯t even know about, but I listen. I am asking for the same courtesy here. Please side by us. the same way we side by you,¡± Williams added, followed by a standing ovation and whistle-blowing by supporters in the upper Chamber.
Brooklyn jury convicts gang punk of shooting NYPD cop Kevin Brennan
Luis (Baby) Ortiz was convicted of attempted murder for shooting Brennan in the head, and of murder for a January 2012 homicide; Brennan was attempting to arrest Ortiz for that slaying when he tried to kill the cop with a head shot
By Ryan Sit AND Bill Hutchinson ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Daily News¡¯
A Brooklyn jury took less than three hours Wednesday to convict a gangbanger of shooting a courageous NYPD cop in the head to evade being arrested for a New Year¡¯s Day 2012 slaying.
Luis (Baby) Ortiz maintained a cold stare as the Supreme Court panel found him guilty of murdering Shannon (Shan the Man) McKinney, 34, and of the attempted murder of Sgt. Kevin Brennan.
¡°Justice was served,¡± Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Lewis Lieberman said shortly after the verdict was announced.
The jury also found Ortiz, 23, a self-professed Latin Kings member, guilty of criminal possession of a weapon and menacing a police officer.
He faces life in prison when sentenced on July 23.
Brennan and his wife, Janet, sat in the courtroom holding hands as the jury¡¯s verdict was read.
When the jury forewoman said ¡°guilty,¡± Janet Brennan smiled as tears began to stream down her face.
The 29-year-old cop, who returned to the force after recovering from the head wound, said he¡¯ll reserve comment on the case until after Ortiz is sentenced.
McKinney¡¯s bother, Tyron Peterson, was also in the court and declined comment.
Ortiz killed McKinney on Jan. 1, 2012, the jury found, blasting him six times in broad daylight with a .38-caliber revolver in front of a Humbolt St. supermarket in East Williamsburg. McKinney was the second homicide victim in the city that year.
Brennan, who was assigned to the NYPD¡¯s Anti-Crime Unit, cornered Ortiz on Jan. 31, 2012 at the Bushwick Houses, but Baby bolted, the cop testified at the trial.
¡°He turned around on me as I was going to tackle him and then shot me in the head,¡± Brennan testified. ¡°I felt my body vibrating. I was on top of him; he got out from under me, said ¡®F--- you, die!¡¯ and ran away.¡±
Brennan spent 11 painful days in the hospital and endured a long rehabilitation that kept him out of work for a year. He suffered nerve damage and vision loss in his left eye and has recurring headaches.
NYPD Sgt. Kevin Brennan's shooter guilty of attempted murder
By MARIA ALVAREZ ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®New York Newsday¡¯ / Melville, L.I.
Brooklyn jurors Wednesday found Luis Ortiz guilty of attempted murder for firing a bullet into the head of NYPD Sgt. Kevin Brennan of Garden City Park.
Jurors took less than three hours to deliver their verdict of guilty on all 11 counts in the indictment, which included the murder of Shannon McKinney, whom Ortiz shot during a robbery on New Year's Day 2012 outside a busy supermarket.
Using the same handgun, Ortiz a month later would shoot Brennan in the head after the sergeant and other undercover police officers chased him into a Bushwick, Brooklyn, housing project apartment building on Jan. 31, 2012.
Brennan chased Ortiz, 23, up several flights of stairs before tackling him. As the two struggled, Ortiz fired his gun, hitting Brennan in the side of the head.
An emergency room surgeon testified during the trial that the bullet pressed up against Brennan's skull, which protected the brain from further injury. But it took a year of rehabilitation for Brennan, 29, to recover and return to duty. He has suffered lifelong injuries to his spinal cord, and his peripheral vision was severely impaired.
Reaction to the guilty verdict was restrained, with silent tears of emotion coming from Brennan's family and friends.
Brennan bowed his head as he listened to each guilty verdict and smiled when he heard guilty for the attempted murder charge. Tears rolled down the face of his wife, Janet, who pressed her face into her husband's shoulder.
At the defendant's table, Ortiz sat motionless as the guilty verdicts were read by the jury forewoman to the charges of murder, attempted murder, possession of a firearm and robbery.
Ortiz attempted to look at the jury during the reading but instead turned away to hide his face from newspaper photographers who were taking his picture.
Outside the courtroom, family and friends hugged prosecutor Lew Lieberman for his victory. Then Brennan embraced him.
"It was a long haul, man," Lieberman told Brennan, who smiled as he hugged the prosecutor back.
"Justice was served," Lieberman said later. "Kevin Brennan and his family are very special people."
In closing arguments earlier in the week, defense lawyer Kevin Burke tried to poke holes in the police investigation. He said, "Mr. Ortiz is a victim of a police conspiracy."
"Kevin Brennan sat on that witness stand and testified about the most terrible moment in his life," Melissa Carvajal, assistant district attorney, said in her closing arguments. "He identified Mr. Ortiz. Don't you think that he sees that face every day of his life?"
Ortiz faces 25 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 23.
Ray's Fudge Factory Fabrications ¡°It is what it is!¡±
What the CompStat audit reveals about the NYPD
Critics read between the lines of a revealing new crime data report
By Jeff Morganteen ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®The New York World¡¯ / Columbia University Journalism School, New York
On Tuesday afternoon, the New York Police Department released an outside review of the department¡¯s controversial crime statistics reporting program known as CompStat, with little advance notice. John Eterno, a retired NYPD captain and criminal justice professor who wrote a book on CompStat abuses, has a feeling why.
¡°You have to get into this report,¡± Eterno said Tuesday night. ¡°If you read the whole thing, you see a lot of alarm bells in there. That¡¯s why the report is dated on April, and the report doesn¡¯t come until the week of the Fourth of July. They¡¯re trying to just sneak this thing through.¡±
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
Eterno has a special interest in the outside review of CompStat. He and Eli Silverman, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, helped ignite criticism over the way the NYPD compiles its crime data. In 2010, they released the results of a survey in which dozens of retired police officials complained that pressure from department brass prompted widespread statistical manipulation of CompStat data, specifically by downgrading reports of serious crimes to less serious offenses.
The outside audit released this week not only confirmed that such data manipulation takes place but found several weak points in the ways the department tracks and uncovers it.
¡°A close review of the NYPD¡¯s statistics and analysis demonstrate that the misclassification of reports may have an appreciable effect on certain reported crime rates,¡± the report said.
Two former federal prosecutors turned private attorneys, David Kelley and Sharon McCarthy, conducted the review. (A third attorney, Robert Morvillo, died while the audit was underway.) Commissioner Kelly commissioned the review in early 2011 amid mounting pressure in the wake of Eterno¡¯s and Silverman¡¯s research as well as media coverage of audiotapes secretly recorded by police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who suffered retribution for his attempts to expose crime downgrades.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department would embrace the report¡¯s recommendations and adopt more stringent audit protocols. The report called for a formalized external review program of CompStat auditing measures, more accountability toward officers and supervisors behind ¡°egregious¡± reporting errors, and a more transparent reporting process regarding statistical error rates.
The report found that the department¡¯s annual crime numbers did not account for error rates among less serious offenses. And since less serious crimes could have been downgraded from serious offenses ¡ª such as a violent robbery to a larceny, or grand larceny to lost property ¡ª the annual crime statistics released by the department don¡¯t provide an accurate picture, the report stated. For example, the report found more than 2,000 more grand larcenies that could have been added to the 2009 yearly totals based on error rates from lesser crime categories such as lost property and petit larceny.
The report authors also found that the department had promised to re-train officers for ¡°egregious¡± misclassification errors but had no way of tracking such disciplinary measures. In some cases, the department conferred with prosecutors over serious reporting errors, but so far no criminal charges have been filed against any police officers.
Eterno and Silverman both expressed surprise that the report issued strong criticisms of the CompStat reporting methods, especially since the review committee did not have subpoena power and relied on information provided by the police department.
¡°It¡¯s quite revealing,¡± Silverman said. ¡°Can you imagine how more revelatory it could be if there was an outside body they actually did the auditing?¡±
While the report confirmed the department lacked enough internal controls to prevent officers from downgrading and suppressing crime reports, it went to some length to discredit a central claim from Eterno¡¯s and Silverman¡¯s work ¡ª that precinct-level commanders and their subordinates turned to data manipulation because of intense pressure from their supervisors to keep up year-to-year declines in crime. The report authors said that officers and commanders interviewed for the review all said they did not feel pressure to manipulate crime reports from superiors.
Eterno, however, notes the report authors only interviewed officers and commanders from four precincts handpicked by the police department.
¡°Lets face it, it¡¯s crafted politically to try and assuage any ill-feelings on behalf of the police department,¡± Eterno said. ¡°But if you read between the lines, there¡¯s a real problem in the police department.¡±
Here's Why The NYPD Changes Your Stolen Property To "Lost Property"
By Christopher Robbins ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®The Gothamist¡¯ / New York, NY
The NYPD's manipulation and suppression of crime statistics has been thoroughly substantiated, and yesterday an independent committee released a report that reveals serious flaws with the NYPD's system of cataloguing crime. The report [ http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/crime_reporting_review_committee_final_report_2013.pdf ], written by three former federal prosecutors, provides insight into how numbers and complaints are twisted to benefit cops and their superiors, which in turn affects the crime numbers touted by public officials at press conferences. "A close review of the NYPD's statistics and analysis demonstrate that the misclassifications of reports may have an appreciable effect on certain reported crime rates," the report states.
Crimes most susceptible to downgrading usually involve stolen property. The report states that larcenies are downgraded to "lost property," and robberies are downgraded to larcenies as the police "failed to accurately reflect the element necessary to escalate the crime from a larceny to a robbery, such as the forcible nature of the taking or the multiple perpetrators."
In one instance noted in the report, "there was a complaint report in which a desk officer scratched out the item values in order to bring the total to below the $1,000 threshold for grand larceny."
The report was completed pro bono by three former federal prosecutors, one of whom died while the report was being drafted. The remaining two attorneys, David Kelley and Sharon McCarthy, stood with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly yesterday and praised the department's auditing processes, even if they offered little insight into the report's findings.
Kelley, the attorney, called the NYPD's auditing procedures "the most robust in the country." When asked what problems the review was trying to identify and solve with the NYPD, Kelley responded, "It's not trying to solve a problem¡It's providing a window into the NYPD's processes" for the public to view.
In addition to manipulating or suppressing statistics, the report notes that one officer interviewed said he may actually inflate crime statistics at the end of the year or before a certain milestone, lest his superiors expect more of him and make him a "victim of his own success."
The report also found flaws with how the NYPD's Quality Assurance Division deals with bad numbers: "A precinct with high error rates in reported larcenies does not result in QAD placing a greater focus on larceny reporting in subsequent audits. This lack of accountability is one potential area for improvement in the audit process."
At least 800 misclassifications were found during audits of the department's crime statistics during the scope of the report (roughly from 2009 to 2011), but only 20 cases against 53 officers were pursued from 2002 to 2011. Approximately 30 were disciplined. The report notes that press coverage of the problems (notably the case of Adrian Schoolcraft in the 81st Precinct) helped deter officers from engaging in willful manipulation.
Commissioner Kelly said the department adopted "all" of the report's recommendations, which ranged from drafting actual charters for the QAD to keeping precinct-level records of when citizens request copies of their complaints (manipulation is sometimes reported by the citizen, who finds that their crime has been downgraded or mischaracterized).
The report's release comes as Kelly has been stridently opposing a City Council bill that would install an inspector general to review NYPD policy and make recommendations, much as the committee that drafted this report did.
McCarthy, the other attorney who worked on the report, told reporters yesterday of the "receptiveness of the NYPD to our suggestions¡[The NYPD] can move, they can be nimble." Great news for the NYPD's next Inspector General!
You can read the list of the committee's recommendations on page 39 of the report:
Execution of Hero Detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin
Jailhouse informer testifies against cop killer
By JOHN RILEY ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®New York Newsday¡¯ / Melville, L.I.
A jailhouse informant testified at Ronell Wilson's death penalty retrial Wednesday that the convicted double-cop killer seemed to be bragging about his crime during a discussion in a life-skills class with other inmates last year.
"He said we all know why I'm here," said Kevin Johansen, who was being held on meth trafficking charges in a federal jail unit with Wilson. "He smiled while he said it. It was strange, like he was gloating about it."
Johansen's testimony highlighted a day of multiple developments in federal court in Brooklyn, as former prison guard Nancy Gonzalez of Huntington Station pleaded guilty to conceiving a child with Wilson in jail last year, while a widow and daughter of the two slain NYPD cops made emotional appearances.
"I hope one day, I can be as brave as him by helping to make a difference in life," wrote Sarah, now 12 and living in Bellmore. "I will always love and admire him because he is my dad and my hero."MaryAnn Andrews sobbed describing how the killing of Det. Rodney Andrews "ruined" her family, leaving her and one son still in therapy 10 years later. Sarah Nemorin, who was a toddler when Det. James Nemorin of Baldwin Harbor was killed, riveted jurors with a school essay about the father she never knew.
Wilson, 31, was convicted in 2006 of executing Nemorin and Andrews, of Middle Village, Queens, during an undercover gun buy in 2003. But an appeals court overturned his death sentence and ordered a new trial on the penalty. He will get life in prison if jurors don't unanimously agree on death.
Gonzalez, 29, had Wilson's baby, Justus, in March. She faces 10 to 16 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines after admitting to having sex with Wilson last summer while supervising him as a guard in a "special needs" unit of the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
After pleading at a brief hearing before a magistrate, Gonzalez said she was "relieved" and hoped she won't get jail time. Her attorney, Anthony Ricco, said she has been subpoenaed by both sides in the Wilson death trial to testify about both his misbehavior and his fatherhood.
Ricco said Gonzalez regretted the affair, but still felt "love" for Wilson and hopes he isn't executed. "Love is an emotion, not always tied to factors we can point to," he said.
Johansen, testifying earlier at Wilson's trial, said he first tipped off authorities to the Gonzalez affair after observing the two "socializing" for hours and then later seeing Wilson exposed as Gonzalez left his cell.
He said the sex incident was part of a pattern in which Wilson had free rein in their 30-inmate unit -- serving as the "head orderly," dominating use of the TV, computer and phone on the floor, and intimidating others with homophobic remarks.
Prosecutors claim Wilson, a Bloods gang leader, would be a danger if imprisoned for life.
"I didn't want to be in conflict with him," Johansen testified.
New York¡¯s Cops are Not as Tolerant of Bikers as Citibike Proponents Would Have You Believe
By Elise Taylorwith and Jacob Osterhout ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®Vanity Fair Magazine¡¯ / New York, NY
Citi Bike, New York City¡¯s fledgling bike-share program, has been quite the hot topic in the media since it began operations on May 27. The New York Times said it was a ¡°rousing success¡± if ¡°judged by the numbers¡± (over one million miles have been traveled as of June 26), while the New York Post sneered over its glaring technical issues, and Wall Street Journal editorial-board member Dorothy Rabinowitz declared that New York is now a city ¡°whose best neighborhoods are absolutely begrimed . . . by these blazing blue Citi Bank bikes.¡± (She also called members of the Bloomberg administration ¡°totalitarians.¡±) Meanwhile, Al Roker rode a Citi Bike into the Today Show studio.
Yet, while the media has tirelessly debated the merits of Citi Bike, an important question has been left unanswered: What is the city¡¯s police response to the bike program? With more and more bicyclists now hitting the roads, what reactions (and citations) are coming from the men in blue?
Tickets for biking violations can range from $50 (for riding on the sidewalk) to $275 (for running a red light). The ticketing is up to the individual officer on duty, and a police source says there is no particular mandate to target bikers¡ªeven after the launch of the Citi Bike program. One officer even explained to VF Daily that citing bicycles is often complicated, as their riders are frequently argumentative, ignorant of the laws, and sometimes don¡¯t even recognize that a cop is trying to pull them over. She added that almost every day she witnesses cyclists almost get into accidents with cars or pedestrians crossing the road.
As use of Citi Bikes continues to grow, confrontations between bikers and police are inevitable. Gothamist reported earlier this week that an officer in the N.Y.P.D.¡¯s Ninth Precinct said he was ¡°absolutely¡± targeting bicyclists. He pulled over a Citi Bike rider for running a red light, and after the rider began to argue, the officer said, ¡°I'm not trying to pick on you, this is for safety. You shouldn't even be riding a bike in New York.¡±
Recent reports from Fox 5 News say that there has been a noticeable spike in tickets for bicycling violations. Since Citi Bike launched, a month ago, police have issued 510 tickets in Brooklyn¡ªonly 282 were issued during the same period in 2012, meaning that cycling tickets in the borough are up 81 percent. In Manhattan, police have issued 484 tickets this month, up nearly 7 percent since this time last year.
Vanity Fair photography producer Ron Beinner also recently had his own run-in with the bike law. Riding along the 8th Avenue bike path heading north to Times Square, Beinner was pedaling alongside a dozen or so commuters, many on Citi Bikes. At about 21st Street, ¡°a man in head-to-toe blue appeared, left hand on hip, right hand out,¡± explains Beinner. ¡°He was in the far crosswalk. He took up the entire lane and took us all by surprise, capturing as many of us as his broad shoulders and outstretched arm could corral. He insisted I was speeding, and that everyone behind me had run the red light.¡±
Beinner got a $50 ticket for speeding, but others got $275 tickets for running a red light. ¡°One of my compatriots was furious, stomping and spewing expletives and demanding an explanation. ¡®Quotas . . . yada yada . . . Don¡¯t the N.Y.P.D. have better things to do?¡¯¡± Beinner said. ¡°Our officer explained calmly that the fine of $275 for running a red light [is] for both bicycles and cars. He continued to tell us that the N.Y.P.D. officers were on a ¡®mission to prevent bicycle-pedestrian incidents.¡¯ ¡°
Beinner¡¯s isn¡¯t the only story of Citi Bikers feeling unfairly ticketed. ¡°NYPD gave me a ¡®driving ticket¡¯ on my first ever Citi-bike ride this a.m. So lame. Going 2 mph on cobblestones up a 1-way on Mercer St in SoHo,¡± one rider lamented on Twitter. Another sniped, ¡°Pretty clear from today's NYPD cyclists ticket blitz that it's about revenue & harassment. Protecting pedestrians doesn't factor in at all.¡±
It may be too early to tell the N.Y.P.D.¡¯s response to Citi Bike as a whole, but one thing is clear: some cops are not as tolerant of bicycles as you might think.
Question and Frisk Search (The Politics)
City Hall candidates cite The News' stop-and-frisk analysis as evidence of Bloomberg's 'faulty' logic
Uproar over Mayor Bloomberg's comments that 'whites are stopped too much' flared up again on Wednesday after The News found whites account for 9.7% of stops, while making up 13.8% of crime suspects.
By Erin Durkin AND Jennifer Fermino ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Daily News¡¯
The uproar over Mayor Bloomberg's comments that whites are stopped too much flared up again on Wednesday, after a Daily News analysis found the opposite was true.
With stop and frisk - and its heavy-handed application in minority communities ¡ª at the forefront of the mayor's race, nearly all of the City Hall candidates used The News' story to launch a new round of attacks on the mayor.
Bill Thompson ¡ª the only black candidate in the crowded race ¡ª said the News proved the mayor's comments were more than just "insulting."
"It was offensive and it was wrong as we saw in today's Daily News," said Thompson, at a hastily arranged a City Hall press conference touting the News finding.
"(The story) continues to highlight how off his comments were."
John Liu, the only candidate in the race who has pledged to stop using the tactic if elected, said the story is "the latest sign his unjust policy is unraveling."
Bill de Blasio said The News story exposed the mayor's "faulty" logic.
"The mayor keeps avoiding the most important statistics, the NYPD statistics that say that 90 percent of those stops are entirely innocent," de Blasio said.
The News ¡ª analyzing NYPD data ¡ª found that whites account for 9.7 percent of stops, while making up 13.8 percent of crime suspects.
Bloomberg on Friday said that whites were stopped too little compared to the number who were identified as murder suspects.
His comments ignored the fact that the majority of stops and frisks were not conducted for murder, but for non-violent crimes.
But the still simmering firestorm over Bloomberg's remarks also demonstrates how difficult it is to apply stop and frisk.
The tactic allows cops to question anyone deemed suspicious ¡ª a highly subjective label.
De Blasio said if he was mayor, he'd only allow it to be used when cops see someone who matches a suspect's description or if they are wearing gang colors.
De Blasio, Thompson and Anthony Weiner all said they would ban NYPD quotas on stops.
The department insists it doesn't use quotas, but sets "performance goals" to track officers progress in high crime areas.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she would enact legislation that would require the NYPD to audit its stop and frisk data, and hand it over to the City Council.
Bloomberg wants more Blacks and Latinos stopped
By NAYABA ARINDE ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®The Amsterdam News¡¯ / New York, NY
An ¡°own goal,¡± an ¡°unforced error¡± and a ¡°foot-in-mouth gaffe¡± are some of the terms being used to describe Mayor Michael Bloomberg¡¯s controversial remark about stop-and-frisk uttered on his radio show last Friday. He told his audience that he believed, ¡°We disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.¡±
With 685,724 people stopped in 2011 and 533,042 last year¡ª90 percent of whom were Black or Latino, and with only a 10 percent arrest rate¡ªBloomberg determined that it is the 9 percent of stopped whites who are being targeted, while the number of people of color who are stopped should be higher.
¡°His remarks are ignorant and arrogant Bull Conner-type of racism,¡± said City Councilman Charles Barron. ¡°Studies show that more whites are caught with guns than Blacks. Too bad we don¡¯t have an impeachment process, because he needs to go immediately.¡±
Jubilant over the City Council¡¯s passing of the Community Safety Act (two bills: Intro 1079, the NYPD Oversight Act, and Intro 1080, the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill) in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams had words for Bloomberg¡¯s acerbic comments.
¡°The mayor has perfectly exemplified the administration¡¯s confusion between a constitutional stop¡ªwhich we want to see practiced and which the Community Safety Act protects¡ªand blatant profiling,¡± said Williams. ¡°New Yorkers will all be safer when City Hall focuses its policies on good and lawful police work, and with a reduction in illegal stops, we can drive resources toward needed public safety enhancements like hiring more cops to put on our streets.¡±
To the affront and outrage of many a New Yorker, and in the wake of ongoing protests, a federal suit and a City Council-approved Community Safety Act, Bloomberg decided to add his incendiary comment to the conversation.
Complaining that some media outlets have criticized the figures, Bloomberg maintains that the number of people subjected to stop-and-frisk is justified because ¡°it¡¯s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murders ¡ In that case, I think, we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.¡±
As if to make his point stick, Bloomberg added, ¡°It¡¯s exactly the reverse of what they¡¯re saying. I don¡¯t know where they went to school, but they certainly didn¡¯t take a math course or a logic course.¡±
Williams retorted, ¡°I think he¡¯s taken a course in how to misuse numbers most effectively. It¡¯s obviously just ridiculous.¡±
Ironic laughter could be heard across the city in response to Bloomberg¡¯s remark, ¡°Nobody racially profiles.¡± Police numbers themselves state that almost 90 percent of all their stops are of Blacks and Latinos. Meanwhile, only 9 percent of whites were subjected to the stops, and only 7 percent were identified as murder suspects.
Critics state that contrary to what Bloomberg is saying in his own defense, there is no way that cops have stopped over 500,000 people annually under the premise that they really believe that they are all murder suspects. The NYPD¡¯s own figures state that only 10 percent of these stops have resulted in arrests.
In response to the almost universal grassroots reaction, Bloomberg said that those with a vested interest are merely ¡°fabricating outrage over an absolutely accurate comment.¡± The under-siege mayor proclaimed, ¡°What they should be outraged by is the number of minorities who are being killed and that successful police efforts that have saved minority lives are being hampered.¡±
City figures report that murders are down and have dropped 35.7 percent since Bloomberg took office in 2002; the mayor and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly determine that it is due to their use of stop-and-frisk.
¡°When it comes to policing, the police have to be able to go out and stop [and] look for those who fit the description of a witness or a victim after a crime,¡± said Bloomberg. ¡°And if you can¡¯t do that, then, you know, you just turn over the streets to the criminals literally overnight.¡±
¡°His comment was asinine,¡± said Barron. ¡°But it speaks to his attitude toward people in this city and his dismissive opinion of the legitimate discussion and protest surrounding stop-and-frisk.¡±
Nonetheless, the NYPD¡¯s 5 million-plus stops since 2002 have led to three federal class action lawsuits.
After weeks of testimony, observers and participants in the federal court case Floyd vs. the City of New York and the NYPD are anxiously awaiting the conclusion in a case where the federal government has pretty much said that it would help oversee any independent monitor appointed to watch over the Police Department. In a statement to the AmNews, Bloomberg said, ¡°Numbers show that the stops are generally proportionate with suspects¡¯ descriptions. For years now, critics have been trying to argue that minorities are stopped disproportionately¡ªand if you look at the crime numbers, it¡¯s just not true. The numbers don¡¯t lie.¡±
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio let folks know immediately that he is the only mayoral candidate in support of both City Council bills opting to appoint an inspector general over the NYPD and allow victims of racial profiling to sue the NYPD. He was among the many slamming Bloomberg¡¯s comments as ¡°outrageous¡± adding, ¡°To say that we stop ¡®too little¡¯ shows just how out of touch Bloomberg has become. We urgently need both an inspector general for the NYPD and a ban on racial profiling so that we start to heal community and police relations.¡±
De Blasio, like Williams, was proud of the 40-11 City Council vote to appoint an inspector general over the NYPD and the 34-17 vote to enable people to file state court claims of racial profiling against the police. Bloomberg said he will veto both bills as City Council members are working hard to keep the supporters they already have and get one or two more.
Saying that Bloomberg¡¯s remark was ¡°insulting,¡± mayoral candidate Bill Thompson also reiterated that he would tweak stop-and-frisk as opposed to getting rid of it. At the same time, Thompson said of Bloomberg, ¡°He basically said that if you¡¯re Black or Latino, you¡¯re automatically a murder suspect.¡±
Harbor Unit Sgt. Eduardo Dombrovschi and Det. Dylan Johnson
Quick-thinking cops save woman who jumped into the East River
By NATASHA VELEZ ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Post¡¯
Two quick thinking cops recused a 55-year-old mother of one who jumped into the East River yesterday afternoon, police said.
A good Samaritan spotted the woman in the water near East Houston Street and FDR Park and quickly called 911 just in time -- sparing her life, cops said.
She was discovered face down, foaming from the mouth and nose, unconscious and unresponsive. But by the time they got to land, she was conscious and alert, the sources said.
NYPD Harbor Unit Sgt. Eduardo Dombrovschi and Det. Dylan Johnson, who¡¯ve both been on the job about ten years, were already in the area on patrol, cops said.
Both officers dove in and cleared her airway while Sgt. Dombroshi started doing chest compressions in the water, cops said.
The woman was being treated at Beth Israel Hospital in stable condition, cops said.
NYPD Detective John Sepe, master of disguises nicknamed the ¡®Lone Ranger,¡¯ dies at 76
Sepe and his partner Detective Lou Telano, a.k.a. 'Tonto', made tabloid headlines with their many disguises, and were the inspiration for the '70s TV show 'Starsky and Hutch'
By Thomas Tracy ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Daily News¡¯
The NYPD¡¯S Lone Ranger has galloped off into the sunset.
John Sepe, a decorated retired NYPD detective who earned his nickname because of his John Wayne-like swagger and affinity for sunglasses, died Tuesday following a battle with cancer. He was 76.
Sepe, a Brooklyn native, joined the NYPD in 1962 and quickly rose to the rank of detective sergeant in the department¡¯s Homicide Division.
And the Lone Ranger found his Tonto ¡ª Detective Lou Telano.
¡°We worked plain clothes in the 60s,¡± said Telano. ¡°I had long hair, wore a head band, and looked a bit like Jay Silverheels¡± ¡ª TV¡¯s Tonto.
¡°(Sepe) was 6-foot-2 and wore sunglasses. One time we were standing in the back of court and a judge asked a defendant who brought him in and he said, ¡®Those guys, Tonto and the Lone Ranger,¡¯¡± Telano recalled.
The duo¡¯s many disguises were highlighted in city tabloids as well as the book ¡°Cop Team.¡± They were once dressed in drag to catch a crook mugging nurses in Fort Greene. They masqueraded as Orthodox Jews to investigate a rash of thefts in Crown Heights. And they sometimes drove a Good Humor truck to spy on crooks. Their story also became the inspiration for the ¡¯70s TV show ¡°Starsky and Hutch,¡± Telano said.
Yet Sepe, a Long Island widower, was able to put his ¡°cop life¡± behind him when he retired in 1989, his son John said.
¡°He opened up two video stores,¡± John, 39, explained. ¡°It didn¡¯t make him rich, but he loved the movies. He was a big John Wayne fan.¡±
Sepe is survived by seven children and 21 grandchildren.
A wake will be held at Fredrick J. Chapey & Sons West Islip Funeral Home, 1225 Montauk Highway, on Thursday and Friday.
A funeral will be held at St. Anne¡¯s Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood, L.I., at 9:45 a.m. Saturday.
Ellis Island Security
Editor's Note: Liberty for all
It's a shame the NYPD refuses to allow the National Park Service to move the long screening lines to Ellis Island.
By Unnamed Author ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®Crain's New York Business¡¯ / New York, NY
Granted, I'm not privy to NYPD counterterrorism intelligence, but something doesn't add up with the Police Department's insistence since 9/11 that visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island be screened for weapons and explosive devices in Manhattan before boarding tour boats for Lady Liberty.
The NYPD has stymied repeated efforts by the National Park Service to move the screening lines to Ellis Island, which neighbors Liberty Island and can offer a more pleasant wait for the 4 million people a year who want to get close to our most iconic national monument. (The only nice thing about the hour-plus trudge through the Battery Park metal detectors is the chance to overhear "This really sucks, Dad" in two dozen languages.)
The city's top cops quashed the latest Park Service screen dream this past spring, as political pressure grew to reopen the Statue of Liberty¡ªclosed after Superstorm Sandy flooded Liberty Island¡ªin time for the Fourth of July. That's too bad. The Park Service seems to understand its security duties at the Washington Monument, Independence Hall and other national treasures. And bad guys can do bad things with the many unscreened water taxis and cruise ships that boat by the Great Dame every day.
Consolidating the Statue of Liberty's security needs on Ellis Island also could liberate New York Harbor. The millions of visitors now funneled through one inhospitable point downtown and another in New Jersey could instead travel to a secure Ellis Island from watercraft operating all over Manhattan as well as from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island¡ªeach dock a potential hub for nearby hotels, housing and entertainment spots, each tourist trawler also serving locals with reliable waterfront commuting between boroughs.
This muddled mess, yearning to breathe free.
Blood Alcohol Testers for Those Without Badges
By MATTHEW L. WALD ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Times¡¯
Cheap microelectronics are democratizing the world of blood alcohol measuring equipment. A field once dominated by $10,000 machines owned only by police departments and requiring significant training is now filled with devices that cost as little as $30 and can hang from a key chain.
A recent proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board to drop the legal definition of drunk to 0.05 percent blood alcohol from 0.08 percent has kindled interest in the personal units, some of which are sold as smartphone accessories, app included.
The devil, of course, is in the details. Safety experts warn that a reassuring reading on one of these consumer-grade measurement devices does not guarantee someone is safe to drive, partly because impairment from alcohol varies from person to person. And manufacturers, wary of liability, don¡¯t endorse the idea, either.
These machines do offer some form of measurement beyond counting drinks, however, and they could be useful to parents trying to make sure their offspring aren¡¯t drinking.
Keith Nothacker, whose company, BACtrack, sells a so-called fuel cell unit that displays its results on an iPhone via a Bluetooth link, argues that ¡°law-abiding citizens can¡¯t possibly be expected to know the difference¡± between 0.05 blood alcohol content and 0.08 blood alcohol content without doing a test. BACtrack displays a graph that predicts blood alcohol levels in the hours to come, all the way down to zero. The device sells for $150.
Inside the hand-held, battery-powered unit is a metallic catalyst that starts a chemical reaction, breaking alcohol down into an acid and water. The reaction also gives off electricity, which is easy to measure and which the unit uses to calculate blood alcohol.
Mr. Nothacker¡¯s company describes its product as ¡°pocket-sized peace of mind,¡± but in a telephone interview he insisted that its purpose was not to assure a drinker that he or she would be under the limit if pulled over by the police. He said it was simply an ¡°an educational tool.¡±
A competitor, Alcohoot, is promising shipment in September of a $75 model using the same catalytic method that plugs into an iPhone. Alcohoot¡¯s product includes an app that displays a list of local restaurants where people can eat and sober up and a list of taxi companies.
Another type of measurement device, which typically costs $30 to $70 and is made by manufacturers including Bactrack, relies on a tin oxide semiconductor. Applying alcohol to the sensor changes its ability to conduct electricity, giving an easy indication of blood alcohol. But those sensors may go bad after three to six months. They also can be prone to giving false positives, mistaking acetone, hair spray or other common contaminants for alcohol.
The machines are all calibrated by the manufacturer using a device approved by the Transportation Department that takes in a solution with a known alcohol concentration and puffs it out in a way similar to human breath.
Bactrack recommends annual recalibration of its more expensive models, which it will do for $19.95, including prepaid return shipping.
The market for these devices varies. Most of the cheap semiconductor models are probably bought for personal use, manufacturers say. The fuel cell units are sold to drinkers for their own use as well as to employers and parents.
The testing equipment used by police, on the other hand, is usually not sold to private citizens, nor could the average person easily use them without training.
A driver pulled over by the police and subjected to a blood alcohol test back at the station will most likely blow into a device about the size of a desktop printer. Inside, an infrared light shines through a breath sample, and a sensor measures how much is absorbed; the higher the absorption, the higher the blood alcohol.
Most police departments use a model called the Intoxilyzer, made by CMI, of Owensboro, Ky. It sells for about $10,000 and its results are widely accepted in court. ¡°We have instruments, as opposed to machines,¡± said Alan C. Triggs, a CMI spokesman.
Machines like the Intoxilyzer can detect blood alcohol levels at 0.08 percent, or 0.05, or the lower levels applicable to commercial drivers, teenagers and others. But before police officers haul a driver back to the station to take the test, the officer often will stick a flashlight-shaped device through the driver¡¯s window. The light given off by this $600 mobile detector mostly serves to disguise its true purpose: an air sensor that sniffs for alcohol.
The mobile units do not get the same respect in court as the big systems seen at police stations, although their manufacturers claim that they have the same accuracy. But they do provide an officer with probable cause to order a driver out of the car for a field sobriety test or further action. The N.T.S.B., which recently called for the stricter definition of drunken driving, recommended more use of the flashlight sensors, because studies have shown that even at a sobriety checkpoint, officers often fail to spot the drunks.
J. T. Griffin, a lobbyist at the Washington office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, warned that the consumer models were sometimes used by people who wanted to skate as close to the edge as legally possible. And, he said, ¡°If the device isn¡¯t calibrated properly, it could give them the wrong reading and they might drive anyway.¡±
The devices might be accurate when new, he said, but they all require follow-up testing, and ¡°The average person isn¡¯t going to get one calibrated.¡±
¡°From our standpoint, it¡¯s not a good a good way to test¡± blood-alcohol content, Mr. Griffin said. A better idea, he added, is to pick a designated driver. And even if a person is below the legal standard for drunkenness, he said, ¡°Impairment does begin before 0.08.¡±
F.B.I. (Boston: Sleaze and Bribery)
In Twist, Bulger¡¯s Lawyer Gets Words of Gratitude From Victim¡¯s Wife
By JESS BIDGOOD ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Times¡¯
BOSTON ¡ª At the midmorning break in the trial of James (Whitey) Bulger, Patricia Donahue had a few choice words for Henry Brennan, one of the lawyers defending the crime boss against a sweeping slate of charges that include participation in the murder of her husband, Michael Donahue. She and her family approached him, and thanked him.
During the morning¡¯s testimony, Mr. Brennan had pounded away at John Morris, the former F.B.I. supervisor who pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Mr. Bulger, but who has immunity from prosecution to testify against him. Under Mr. Brennan¡¯s cross-examination, Mr. Morris described how he had learned that a Bulger associate, Edward Brian Halloran, was acting as an F.B.I. informant, and passed that information to John Connolly, Mr. Bulger¡¯s corrupt F.B.I. handler. Mr. Halloran was later gunned down in a car along with Mr. Donahue, a bystander who happened to be giving him a ride home that night.
Mr. Morris denied that he had intentionally signed a ¡°death warrant¡± for Mr. Halloran, as Mr. Brennan suggested, but at Mr. Brennan¡¯s prompting, he looked directly at Ms. Donahue and her three sons and apologized.
¡°I don¡¯t ask for your forgiveness, but I do want to express my sincere apology for things that I did and things that I didn¡¯t do,¡± Mr. Morris said with tears in his eyes. ¡°Not a day goes by that I haven¡¯t prayed that God give you blessing and comfort for the pain that you¡¯ve suffered.¡±
Explaining her surprising expression of gratitude to Mr. Bulger¡¯s lawyers, Ms. Donahue said, ¡°I was thanking him for getting Mr. Morris at least to admit that it was wrong, what he did.¡± She added, ¡°It should be the government that did that, not the defense team.¡±
Over a lengthy cross-examination, Mr. Brennan questioned Mr. Morris about an extramarital affair and his divorce, his eventual decision to leak Mr. Bulger¡¯s informant status to The Boston Globe, and the bribes and cozy social meetings he had with Mr. Bulger and his closest associate, Stephen Flemmi, while the two were being handled by Mr. Connolly.
¡°You put on an apron and you cooked him dinner, didn¡¯t you?¡± Mr. Brennan asked, referring to a meeting when, he said, Mr. Bulger gave Mr. Morris an envelope containing $5,000 in cash, which Mr. Morris said he had not wanted but had been unable to return.
¡°I don¡¯t know about the apron,¡± Mr. Morris answered, ¡°but I cooked him dinner.¡±
It was a riveting few hours that underscored the government¡¯s biggest challenge in this trial: to build a plausible case against Mr. Bulger with star witnesses, like the former hit man John Martorano and Mr. Morris, who have made sweetheart deals with the government. ¡°Many of the key witnesses, whether they¡¯re from the world of law enforcement or organized crime, have blood on their hands,¡± said David Frank, the managing editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
But the defense lost some of its thunder when Joseph Tower, 59, a former drug dealer, took the stand. Asked to identify Mr. Bulger, he jokingly craned his neck as if searching the room, and then pointed straight at him. ¡°How you doing, Jim?¡± he asked, before he cheerfully described how Mr. Bulger had driven up to his home in his blue Chevy Malibu and told Mr. Tower to work with an associate of his selling drugs. Mr. Tower went along with it, he said.
¡°Most of the customers were mine to begin with, which was slowly pulled away from me,¡± said Mr. Tower, who added that he procured and tested the drugs while Mr. Bulger¡¯s associate handled the money and, apparently, gave a cut to Mr. Bulger. ¡°He was the protection, he was the O.K.¡±
The testimony offered more detail about Mr. Bulger¡¯s suspected involvement in drug trafficking ¡ª an activity that his lawyer J. W. Carney Jr. acknowledged during opening statements, deflating Mr. Bulger¡¯s long-held claim that he was in some ways a protector of South Boston and tried to keep the city¡¯s streets safe from drugs.
¡°He kept all drugs out of Southie ¡ª except his own,¡± said Anthony Cardinale, a lawyer who has defended members of the Mafia, and who exposed Mr. Bulger¡¯s informant status. ¡°Why this guy is still professing he did good things for the community is beyond me.¡±
Florida (Sanford P.D. Uses Highest Military Ribbons for Their Medals)
Police department cancels use of military ribbons following Navy Cross recipient¡¯s phone call
By Gina Harkins ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®The Marine Times¡¯ / Springfield, VA
A Navy Cross recipient¡¯s call to a Florida police department led to a change in policy: Effective immediately, cops in Sanford will no longer wear Defense Department ribbons on their uniforms.
Capt. James McAuliffe with the police department in Sanford, Fla., told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday that they immediately suspended their current awards system and will no longer use Defense Department ribbons when honoring their police officers.
The change came as a result of a phone call made by Jeremiah Workman, a former Marine who earned the nation¡¯s second highest valor award for heroics in Iraq. Workman was watching the trial of George Zimmerman, who has been accused of second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, on TV on Monday.
That¡¯s when the former staff sergeant said he noticed a police officer from the department who testified was wearing Defense Department-issued ribbons she likely would not have rated during her reported three years in the Army. So he called the department that afternoon to ask why she was wearing them.
They told him they didn¡¯t have their own ribbons, Workman said, so they picked DoD ribbons from the local Army-Navy store and repurposed them for department use.
¡°It certainly wasn¡¯t meant to be offensive to anyone,¡± McAuliffe told Marine Corps Times. ¡°It was a matter of convenience and obviously wasn¡¯t well thought out. But it¡¯s been rectified.¡±
When the department changed their awards system about 10 years ago, McAuliffe said there wasn¡¯t a lot of access to police-specific awards. Since then, they¡¯ve found places where they can purchase awards designed for police officers, and they¡¯ll move in that direction.
Workman said the department told him on Monday that they selected ribbons like the World War II Army of Occupation Medal because they knew there weren¡¯t many veterans from that period alive so they didn¡¯t think people would notice.
¡°At the end of his explanation I thought to myself, ¡®So that makes it all better now because these guys are dead?¡¯ ¡± Workman told Marine Corps Times after the call.
¡°I¡¯m glad to see that they corrected the issue,¡± Workman said Wednesday. ¡°But how many other departments around the country are doing this?¡±
James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police in Washington, D.C., said this was the first he had heard of local police departments using military ribbons for their own purpose. Pasco, a former Army sergeant, said some departments allow veterans to wear the military ribbons they earned while serving on their police uniforms.
But this was the first time he had heard of Defense Department ribbons being re-designated for police officers, he said.
¡°I¡¯ll see officers a lot of time wearing ribbons and I¡¯ll look ¡ at them and say, ¡®Oh, he was there or he did that,¡¯ ¡± Pasco said. ¡°But apparently I can¡¯t go by that anymore.¡±
Workman said he¡¯s offering his services to assist police departments in coming up with their own awards system so they can stop relying on those earned by military personnel. Streamlining the awards for police officers would allow others across the country to recognize each other¡¯s accomplishments, just like other troops can recognize the medals they earn, he added.
But Pasco said that the issue of awards for police officers is a tricky one because they answer to their state, county or local governments.
¡°Departments might say, ¡®Well, there¡¯s only one Marine Corps, but there are 4,000 police departments,¡¯ ¡± Pasco said. ¡°Marines set their own rules and so do police departments. That would be kind of the thinking in law enforcement ¨C Marines are kind of a closed society and so are police departments.¡±
Nonetheless, Workman said spotting ribbons he found questionable just by catching some testimony on TV is good practice for the website he¡¯s launching to call out military fakers. He said he has purchased the domain PhonyMarines.com and plans to out anyone claiming to have a valor award ¡ª Bronze Star with ¡°V¡± or higher ¡ª that they didn¡¯t earn.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New NOPD tattoo ban could affect morale and recruitment, unions warn
By Naomi Martin ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune¡¯ / New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas is encouraging his officers to engage in a new kind of cover-up -- of their tattoos. To make the force look more professional, Serpas says, officers in uniform will not be allowed to have any visible tattoos starting Aug. 1.
Cops previously weren't allowed to have any tattoos that could be considered offensive. Now, officers with any type of tattoos on their arms will have to wear long-sleeved shirts; those with neck tattoos will have to cover them with makeup.
More than 100 officers will be affected by the change, according to the Police Association of New Orleans.
"As we reach temperatures close to 100 degrees on some days, it just seems like cruel and unusual punishment, just because you are proud that you served in the U.S. Navy or you put the name of your child on your arm," said Raymond Burkart III, attorney and spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police.
The new rule follows similar policies implemented by the New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore police departments, NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said.
"The absence of visible tattoos gives a more professional appearance to law enforcement officers," Braden said.
Policies at other Louisiana law enforcement agencies vary. The State Police allow troopers to have visible tattoos, but they must be small enough to be covered by a 3-by-5-inch index card. St. Tammany Sheriff's Office deputies are allowed to have tattoos as long as they're not offensive. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office currently allows deputies to have visible tattoos, but the department is drafting a new policy in the interest of "uniformity," said spokesman Col. John Fortunato.
The change comes as the NOPD is working to retain officers and recruit new ones to a department that loses about one cop every three days, according to PANO. Due to the recently reinstated domicile rule for city employees, the department is limited to hiring new cops who reside within Orleans Parish.
Burkart pointed to a 2008 Pew study that found 36 percent of adults under 25 have at least one tattoo. "You just limited your hiring options even further," he said.
In fact, in order to attract more applicants, the Vermont State Police are considering changing their policy to allow tattoos. "We're losing a lot of good applicants, especially veterans returning back from Iraq and Afghanistan," Vermont State Police Capt. David Notte told a Fox-affiliated TV news station there in a May 23 report.
In a department that has long come under fire for misconduct cases, Burkart said, the NOPD should focus on making sure officers are doing their jobs in a professional manner, not on their appearance.
"Does the person calling 911 in an emergency situation really care whether a police officer's tattoo is visible? They just want a police response and a timely one," Burkart said. "Does it matter that an officer who catches an armed robber has a tattoo? You took a dangerous criminal off the street. We have to ask ourselves: Are we prioritizing our reforms?"
The department is working to implement sweeping reforms outlined in a 492-point federal consent decree concluded last summer. The court-enforced reforms include giving cops promotional opportunities, increasing certain types of training and investigating officers' use of force through a new unit.
"With the department that has all the problems we're facing at this time -- especially morale problems -- tattoos in this day and age are pretty prevalent in law enforcement and society," said PANO attorney Eric Hessler. "It just seems that this is not the issue at this particular point."
U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement
By RON NIXON ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Times¡¯
WASHINGTON ¡ª Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.
¡°Show all mail to supv¡± ¡ª supervisor ¡ª ¡°for copying prior to going out on the street,¡± read the card. It included Mr. Pickering¡¯s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word ¡°confidential¡± was highlighted in green.
¡°It was a bit of a shock to see it,¡± said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering¡¯s mail but told him nothing else.
As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.
Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States ¡ª about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.
Together, the two programs show that postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.
The mail covers program, used to monitor Mr. Pickering, is more than a century old but is still considered a powerful tool. At the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Opening the mail would require a warrant.) The information is sent to the law enforcement agency that asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.
¡°In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,¡± said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the fraud section of the criminal division of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. ¡°Now it seems to be, ¡®Let¡¯s record everyone¡¯s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.¡¯ Essentially you¡¯ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.¡±
Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and an author, said whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy.
¡°Basically they are doing the same thing as the other programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren¡¯t reading the contents,¡± he said.
But law enforcement officials said mail covers and the automatic mail tracking program are invaluable, even in an era of smartphones and e-mail.
In a criminal complaint filed June 7 in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the F.B.I. said a postal investigator tracing the ricin letters was able to narrow the search to Shannon Guess Richardson, an actress in New Boston, Tex., by examining information from the front and back images of 60 pieces of mail scanned immediately before and after the tainted letters sent to Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg showing return addresses near her home. Ms. Richardson had originally accused her husband of mailing the letters, but investigators determined that he was at work during the time they were mailed.
In 2007, the F.B.I., the Internal Revenue Service and the local police in Charlotte, N.C., used information gleaned from the mail cover program to arrest Sallie Wamsley-Saxon and her husband, Donald, charging both with running a prostitution ring that took in $3 million over six years. Prosecutors said it was one of the largest and most successful such operations in the country. Investigators also used mail covers to help track banking activity and other businesses the couple operated under different names.
Other agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, have used mail covers to track drug smugglers and Medicare fraud.
¡°It¡¯s a treasure trove of information,¡± said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges. ¡°Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with ¡ª all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.¡±
But, he said: ¡°It can be easily abused because it¡¯s so easy to use and you don¡¯t have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form.¡±
For mail cover requests, law enforcement agencies submit a letter to the Postal Service, which can grant or deny a request without judicial review. Law enforcement officials say the Postal Service rarely denies a request. In other government surveillance programs, like wiretaps, a federal judge must sign off on the requests.
The mail cover surveillance requests are granted for about 30 days, and can be extended for up to 120 days. There are two kinds of mail covers: those related to criminal activity and those requested to protect national security. Criminal activity requests average 15,000 to 20,000 per year, said law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing them. The number of requests for antiterrorism mail covers has not been made public.
Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or in foreign intelligence cases.
Court challenges to mail covers have generally failed because judges have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for information contained on the outside of a letter. Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, in fact, have used the mail-cover court rulings to justify the N.S.A.¡¯s surveillance programs, saying the electronic monitoring amounts to the same thing as a mail cover. Congress briefly conducted hearings on mail cover programs in 1976, but has not revisited the issue.
The program has led to sporadic reports of abuse. In May 2012, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor in Arizona, was awarded nearly $1 million by a federal judge after winning a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff, known for his immigration raids, had obtained mail covers from the Postal Service to track her mail. The judge called the investigation into Ms. Wilcox politically motivated because she had been a frequent critic of Mr. Arpaio¡¯s, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps. The case is being appealed.
In the mid-1970s the Church Committee, a Senate panel that documented C.I.A. abuses, faulted a program created in the 1950s in New York that used mail covers to trace and sometimes open mail going to the Soviet Union from the United States.
A suit brought in 1973 by a high school student in New Jersey, whose letter to the Socialist Workers Party was traced by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation into the group, led to a rebuke from a federal judge.
Postal officials refused to discuss either mail covers or the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program.
Mr. Pickering says he suspects that the F.B.I. requested the mail cover to monitor his mail because a former associate said the bureau had called with questions about him. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service, the F.B.I. and other agencies, saying they were improperly withholding information.
A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Buffalo declined to comment.
Mr. Pickering said that although he was arrested two dozen times for acts of civil disobedience and convicted of a handful of misdemeanors, he was never involved in the arson attacks the Earth Liberation Front carried out. He said he became tired of focusing only on environmental activism and moved back to Buffalo to finish college, open his bookstore, Burning Books, and start a family.
¡°I¡¯m no terrorist,¡± he said. ¡°I¡¯m an activist.¡±
Mr. Pickering has written books sympathetic to the liberation front, but he said his political views and past association should not make him the target of a federal investigation. ¡°I¡¯m just a guy who runs a bookstore and has a wife and a kid,¡± he said.
Homeland Security Considering Arming Border Drones With 'Non-Lethal Weapons'
By Andrew O'Reilly ¡ª Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 ¡®Fox News Latino¡¯
Attacks by U.S. unmanned drones in the Middle East and Africa are commonplace, but it would be unheard of to see these aerial military weapons appearing over the U.S.-Mexico border.
Yet it's a possible scenario, according to a newly-unearthed document from the country's leading federal border agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
According to a Customs and Border Protection report obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the agency has considered adding weapons to its Predator drones that currently serve as the agency's eyes in the sky on the lookout for undocumented immigrants and drug trafficking coming across the border.
A section of the heavily redacted 107-page report that deals with the equipment mounted on the drones states that ¡°Additional payload upgrades could include expendables or non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize [targets of interest].¡±
The use of drones along the U.S.¡¯s borders with Canada and Mexico is nothing new as CBP currently has eight Predators in the skies along the northern and southern border with an additional two drones patrolling for drug traffickers in the Caribbean. The drones are currently unarmed and used only for surveillance purposes, but statistics show the drones only highlighting the number of people who get away and not aiding in the apprehension of criminals or migrants.
The federal border agency downplayed the report, saying it has no plans as of now to arm its drones, adding that current missions focus solely on surveillance and reporting illegal activity.
"CBP has no plans to arm its unmanned aircraft systems with non-lethal weapons or weapons of any kind," the agency said in a statement to Fox News Latino. "CBP¡¯s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) support CBP¡¯s border security mission and provide an important surveillance and reconnaissance capability for interdiction agents on the ground and on the waterways."
But the statement left the door open for a possible policy change, noting the drones have the capability to be armed: "Current UAS were designed with the ability to add new surveillance capabilities, accommodate technological developments, and ensure that our systems are equipped with the most advanced resources available."
While the CBP report does not go into any specifics on what type of ¡°non-lethal weapons¡± could be equipped on the Predators or the likelihood that they will be eventually weaponized, the mere option in and of itself raised eyebrows.
The discovery angered anti-drone activists who worry about mishaps like those in Pakistan and Yemen. A number of drone strikes in those areas have accidentally killed innocent people or mistaken their targets, leading to an uproar from the government in Islamabad and religious leaders in Sana¡¯a.
¡°This is all too reminiscent of drone use overseas, it¡¯s covert, it leads down the slippery slope toward lethal use,¡± Madea Benjamin, the founder of Global Drones Watch and the author of Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control, told Fox News Latino in an interview.
¡°If we start down this path we could be led down a path of innocent people being killed by drones along the border.¡± Benjamin added.
The use of drones along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico began several years ago. CBP currently has eight Predators in the skies along the northern and southern borders with an additional two drones patrolling the Caribbean.
The drones don't currently have weapons, just high-tech cameras used only for surveillance purposes. But critics of the use of drones for border security have used agency statistics to show the machines are not cost-effective because they lead to a relatively small number of migrant arrests and drug seizures.
Whether or not the government is seriously considering arming drones, some analysts questioned the motive for such a move. There may be some logic to it, analysts said, but it surely would come loaded with controversy.
¡°It seems pretty awful, the idea of armed drones on the border,¡± said Christopher Wilson, an associate at the Washington-based think tank the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
¡°On the other hand, the Border Patrol is an armed agency and there have been a number of incidents of violence between agents and people along the border, so non-lethal weapons might not be such a bad idea," Wilson added.
But the anti-drone activists are not buying it.
Benjamin argued that there have been many incidents when ¡°non-lethal weapons¡± such as rubber bullets have turned deadly, including in Northern Ireland and between Israeli and Palestinian forces. The CBP report, however, does not specify what type of weaponry could be mounted on the Predator drones.
¡°Any of these things can be deadly,¡± Benjamin said. ¡°This is something we have to look at and discuss before anything can be allowed to be put on these drones.¡±
It remains to be seen what the government actually does -- sometimes ideas in reports stay as just words on a page, while other times it might get the attention of an influential lawmaker that takes it on as a personal cause c¨¦l¨¨bre.
¡°Lawmakers think up a lot of ideas. Few of them make it to paper and even fewer of them are implemented,¡± Wilson said.
U.S. Border Agency Allows Others to Use Its Drones
By SOMINI SENGUPTA ¡ª Thursday, July 4th, 2013 ¡®The New York Times¡¯
As Congress considers a new immigration law that would expand the fleet of unmanned drones along the border, the agency in charge of border protection is increasingly offering the military-grade drones it already owns to domestic law enforcement agencies and has considered equipping them with ¡°nonlethal weapons,¡± according to documents recently made public.
The documents, which include flight logs over the last three years, were unearthed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
Agencies that have used the 10 Predator drones owned by the Customs and Border Protection Agency have deployed them to investigate fishing violations, search for missing persons and inspect levees along the Mississippi River, among other things.
Three years ago, the drones were used by other agencies 30 times; in 2012, that jumped to 250 times. How the agency stores and shares that data with other government agencies remains unclear.
Additionally, the agency, in a 2010 report to Congress included in the documents, raised the possibility of eventually equipping its drones with ¡°nonlethal weapons¡± to ¡°immobilize¡± people and vehicles trying to cross the border illegally. In a statement on Wednesday, the agency said it had ¡°no plans to arm its unmanned aircraft systems with nonlethal weapons or weapons of any kind.¡±
It said the drones supported the agency¡¯s border security mission and provided ¡°an important surveillance and reconnaissance capability for interdiction agents on the ground and on the waterways.¡±
The drones, the agency said, ¡°were designed with the ability to add new surveillance capabilities, accommodate technological developments, and ensure that our systems are equipped with the most advanced resources available.¡±
The specter of drones in American skies has been contentious, far more so than other common surveillance tools. Proponents of drones, including the military contractors who build many of them, say they can be useful for a variety of purposes, like monitoring crops and finding missing children, and a handful of police agencies have already bought small, lightweight unmanned vehicles that can fly for short bursts of time.
Skeptics say the use of drones raises the prospect of ubiquitous monitoring, especially by law enforcement, and several states have already proposed measures to restrict their use by police.
¡°What concerns me is the lack of clear, transparent rules for domestic drone use,¡± said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from Northern California, who recently introduced legislation to limit their use in domestic airspace. She said she was concerned about ¡°the government¡¯s increased interest in using drones for domestic surveillance and security, including the potential use of force. But the law today has weak requirements for individual privacy protection, transparency of drone use, and limitations on arming drones with weapons.¡±
Ms. Lofgren was co-sponsor of a bill in the House earlier this year that would among other things prohibit the use of firearms on drones in domestic airspace, though, not necessarily other weapons like tear gas or pellets.
The agency has used Predator drones, the same vehicles used overseas by the United States military, since 2005. Built by General Atomics, the drones weigh about 10,500 pounds and can fly for 20 hours nonstop. They are based in Arizona, Florida, North Dakota and Texas.
¡°C.B.P. needs to assure the public that it will not equip its Predators with any weapons ¡ª lethal or otherwise,¡± Jennifer Lynch wrote for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco, in a blog post on Wednesday about the documents. ¡°Without first addressing these issues, the agency ¡ª and Congress ¡ª should halt the expansion of C.B.P.¡¯s Predator drone program.¡±
The flight logs provided by the agency show that it has become increasingly generous with its unmanned aerial vehicles. They have been used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Dakota Army National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and the United States Forest Service, among others.
The use of drones by the F.B.I. came to light only two weeks ago, when its director, Robert S. Mueller III, in response to a question, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that unmanned aerial vehicles were ¡°very seldom used¡± by his agents. He went on to say the agency was developing guidelines on their appropriate use. An earlier information request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggested that the F.B.I. had at least three drones in its possession as of 2011, when that request was filed.
The border agency said that when conducting joint operations with state, local and other federal agencies, its own privacy policies governed the use of data collected by the drones and ¡°the live feed from any aircraft is encrypted and only accessible to those with specific clearance.¡±
An audit by the Department of Homeland Security last year criticized the border agency for failing to put in place enough resources to maintain its drones and coordinate their deployment. At the time, the agency recommended holding off on any further acquisitions.
Nonetheless, the border agency now stands to increase its fleet. The Senate immigration bill, passed last week, authorizes the agency to buy four additional drones, along with new radar equipment.
Other documents obtained earlier this year by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, had found that cameras attached to the Predators could distinguish between a human figure and a beast, but did not use facial recognition technology.
Privacy advocates worry about the prospect of law enforcement officials using drones to patrol particular areas for long stretches of time or to follow particular individuals without a warrant.
¡°The danger comes from dragnet surveillance,¡± is how Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, described it. He called himself mostly a champion of drone technology, but with safeguards to protect privacy.
¡°By dragnet I mean indiscriminate,¡± he said, ¡°not in a particular situation, but just to buzz around looking for suspicious activity, which is exactly what they do on border.¡±