Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 — Good Morning, Stay Safe
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Stop-and-Frisk Recap: Things Getting Heated at City Hall
By Graham Rayman — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Villiage Voice’ / Manhattan
Well, things are certainly getting interesting over at City Hall over stop-and-frisk. Here's a recap: First, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's signature tactic gets a federal trial in the class-action case Floyd v. City of New York. The city leaks a report critical of the judge in the case, alleging she's biased.
The Justice Department then signals it might get involved overseeing the stop-and-frisk program. Then the City Council passes bills aimed at creating an inspector general over the NYPD and reforming stop-and-frisk.
Mayor Bloomberg vows to veto those bills. He has argued that the race of people stopped mirrors the race of suspects. The problem with Bloomberg's argument is that a much higher percentage of stops based on much more vague reasons, such as the ever popular "furtive gesture." For example, in the first quarter of 2013, "furtive gesture" stops totaled more than 50,000, and "person in high crime area" was the reason for more than 60,000 stops, while "fits description of suspect" totaled just 17,000.
Bloomberg kicked his rhetoric up a notch when he said Friday that the statistics show that police "stop whites too much and minorities too little." This remark earned a predictable storm of outrage from various sectors, including the Democratic mayoral candidates.
On Sunday, Bloomberg defended himself, blaming the mayoral campaign, and saying, "The numbers are the numbers, and the numbers clearly show that the stops are generally proportionate with suspects' descriptions and for years now critics have been trying to argue that minorities are stopped disproportionately. If you look at the crime numbers, that is just not true. The numbers don't lie."
Again, the numbers show that suspect's description is one of the least cited reasons for a stop.
On Monday, it was reported that Bloomberg would use his money to fund political campaigns against council members who supported the stop-and-frisk bills and the creation of the inspector general over the police department.
Once again, our inboxes were flooded with denunciations:
From Communities United For Police Reform: "Since Mayor Bloomberg can't make a credible argument as to why the city should continue racially profiling New Yorkers, he's now seeking to sow fear and spread around his billions of dollars to threaten council members and buy their votes. The Community Safety Act bills that the Council passed with veto-proof majorities will advance both the civil rights and safety of New Yorkers. We're confident council members will see through this cynical effort by the Mayor to use his extraordinary wealth for his own political gain at the expense of everyday New Yorkers."
Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu: "Mayor Bloomberg's outrageous attempt to buy votes and subvert democracy will not work this time. He can throw as much money at this issue as he wants, but the Council has rightly determined that discriminatory police tactics have no place in New York City. Stop and frisk is especially destructive, and the Mayor's rhetoric based on flawed logic is verging on the absurd."
From here, one wonders whether Bloomberg and Kelly are fighting back so stubbornly on stop-and-frisk because they're concerned about their legacy. After all, they could be known as the first mayor and first police commissioner on whose watch the NYPD got both a federal monitor and an inspector general.
Bloomberg’s Money May Prove Useless to Fight Stop-and-Frisk Legislation
By Kristen Meriwether — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Epoch Times’ / New York, NY
NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg has money to spend this election season, and he is taking notes as to who opposed him on the stop-and-frisk legislation, eyeing up which Council member he can get to rescind their vote. Controversial legislation, which would prohibit biased-based profiling, passed in the wee hours of June 27, with just enough votes to override the mayor’s veto.
Following a report in The New York Post that his super PAC, Independent USA, would try and influence local elections, the mayor beat around the bush on Monday as to what exactly he would do.
“We should all support candidates we agree with,” the mayor said at a press conference in the Bronx on July 1. “We will see what I am going to do.”
The mayor said he had an obligation to tell people about the impact of the bills, and that he would talk about it during election season. Through donations to his super PAC, he can fund ads in favor or against candidates without regard to donation limits, as long as he does not donate directly.
The mayor, a self-made billionaire, may have a seemingly-endless war chest, but considering the slate of local races this year, his attempt at changing the outcomes of local elections based on this issue may fall flat.
The mayor only has a shot at overriding Intro 1080, which would expand the categories of bias-based profiling, as well as allow individuals to sue the state if they feel they are profiled. The Council has the minimum votes needed—34—to override the mayor’s veto. A second bill supporting oversight of the NYPD passed with 40 votes.
If the mayor can get a single Council member to flip from aye to nay, his veto would stick.
“There may be a handful of races he could influence. What he has going in his favor is, it does not take too many votes to turn a primary,” said Bruce Berg, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “The question is, do you have two viable candidates, and do they disagree on this issue?”
It does not appear Bloomberg would find a viable candidate in the Council races that he could support. Of the 34 Council members who voted in favor of Intro 1080, 23 are up for reelection, according to DecideNYC.com, which keeps tabs on all the local races. Seven of those races are unopposed.
Of the opposed races, only three are deemed highly competitive: Council member Inez Dickens, who is facing Vince Morgan in Harlem; Council member Steve Levin in Brooklyn, who is facing attacks from Stephen Pierson who has tied Levin to disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez; Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito in District 8 (whose new district lines created quite the fury), who faces a tough primary with seven opponents.
Mark-Viverito, who is Latina, and Dickens, who is African American, spoke passionately in favor of the bills at the Council hearing on June 26, and are very unlikely to turn over their votes even with pressure.
Levin, who is white, is a highly popular council member. His alleged ties to Lopez may do some damage, but not nearly the amount of damage switching his vote would bring.
Five council members are running for other local positions. Council members Gale Brewer, Robert Jackson, and Jessica Lappin are all facing Julie Menin, Chair of Community Board 1, for Manhattan Borough President. It is highly unlikely Bloomberg would be able to leverage any of the candidates against each other, considering they all voted the same way.
Council member Latitia James is running a tight race for Public Advocate with Senator Daniel Squadron, who is leading in the fundraising, and Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. James, who is African American, has been an outspoken critic of stop-and-frisk and a sponsor of Intro 1080. It would be unlikely she would change her vote at this point.
Queens Borough President is the lone race that pits an opponent and supporter of Intro 1080 against each other. Peter Vallone Jr., Chair of the Public Safety Committee, would not let Intro. 1080 out of his committee for a vote, saying the lawsuits would bankrupt the city. The Council went around him, issuing a motion to discharge the bill, which led to the vote on June 26. He voted against both bills.
Vallone will face fellow Council member Leroy Comrie Jr. in a five-person primary, which includes Senator Tony Avella. Comrie, who is African American, is a sponsor on Intro 1080, and is unlikely to flip his vote to ease political pressure in a tight election.
Bloomberg’s super PAC spent $8.2 million on the 2012 Federal elections, according to data from opensecrets.org. Independence USA championed against NRA supporters and helped backers of marriage equality and education reform. The group, solely funded by Bloomberg, racked up 19 victories on election night with only seven losses, according to The Daily News.
The fact that Bloomberg is trying these tactics to get what he wants at the local level is not surprising to some experts.
“When you have been successful in the past with these kinds of tactics, you are likely to try them again,” said Steve Brams, professor of politics at NYU. “It is a question of being seen as too blatant and actually causes a counter reaction.”
Stop-and-frisk has become a polarizing topic in New York City, with stops topping nearly 700,000 in 2010, most of them of minorities. The two bills passed by the Council aim to reform the practice.
The mayor, along with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, have been adamantly against the bills. On June 28 on his weekly radio show, Bloomberg claimed more minorities should have been stopped, causing an uproar.
Bloomberg’s ads against gun advocates, especially shortly after the shooting in Newtown Conn. in which 20 children and 6 adults were shot to death, may have worked in swaying elections, but in New York City, that may prove less effective.
“The people who hear a Bloomberg PAC commercial and turn it off have probably already made up their minds anyway,” said Berg. He said it could have an impact on someone who wasn’t going to vote to get them to the polls.
“The opposition is likely to make a ruckus about this, and in the eyes of the public it would be viewed as demeaning and not the way politics should be run,” said Brams. “It could cause a lot of consternation and maybe even work against the mayor.”
Fury over mayor’s vow to support fri$k backers
By YOAV GONEN — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
Supporters of a bill that could curtail the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk rang alarm bells yesterday over Mayor Bloomberg’s vow to tap his deep pockets to defeat the measure.
Bloomberg confirmed he’ll only back City Council candidates who oppose the so-called racial-profiling bill, which opens the door to lawsuits by those who feel they were wrongly profiled by police.
“I make no bones about it. I’m telling you I’m going to support those candidates,” Bloomberg said. “Some of these things are life-and-death issues.”
Bloomberg needs to get just one council member to switch sides in order to kill the legislation once he vetoes it and the council undertakes an override vote.
Mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he’s concerned about Hizzoner’s money threat.
“If this is about the highest bidder, Michael Bloomberg wins every time,” de Blasio said. “If this is about the will of the people, we win every time.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn also expressed concern about Bloomberg’s personal financial might.
“People are free to lobby, advocate with council members,” Quinn said. “[But] I don’t think money should be involved in lobbying council members.” The bill, along with another that creates an Inspector General to review the NYPD, was introduced amid complaints that the stop-and-frisk tactic unfairly targets minorities.
De Blasio Claims Quinn Supports Mayor's Fight Against Stop-And-Frisk Bills
By: Bobby Cuza — Monday, July 1st, 2013; 9:16 p.m. ‘NY 1 News’ / New York
(Edited for brevity and NYPD pertinence)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's aggressive position on stop-and-frisk continued to make waves on the campaign trail Monday, as Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio seized on the issue and used it as an attack line against his rival, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
First came Mayor Michael Bloomberg's provocative comments Friday that the NYPD stops whites too much and minorities too little. Then came news that the mayor is willing to spend some of his vast fortune to oppose City Council members who disagree with him on stop-and-frisk.
"They are going to put our police officers at risk and they are going to put the public at risk. And I've got an obligation to tell people that," Bloomberg said.
On Monday, Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio teed off on the mayor.
"He's going to use his wealth and his power to once again try and undermine the democratic process," said de Blasio.
Specifically at issue are two City Council bills passed last week. One creates an NYPD Inspector General, the other makes it easier to sue for bias-based profiling.
The mayor hopes to change enough council members' minds so they cannot override his vetoes. Like the mayor, City Council Speaker and Democratic mayoral candidate Christine Quinn opposes the racial profiling bill but says she would not help him lobby against it.
"I am not working with him on that," Quinn said.
"That's one of the greatest contradictions I've heard in a long time. She says she won't help him to pull more votes his way. But she’ll keep voting against it," de Blasio answered. "Speaker Quinn, once again, is the mayor's best friend and ally in this process."
Quinn, for her part, said money should not be involved in lobbying members, and is confident the council will override both mayoral vetoes.
But de Blasio, who has lagged in the polls, appears to see an opening. Monday, he also slammed opponents Anthony Weiner and William Thompson for not supporting both bills.
Police Unions Pressure ‘Swing’ Council Members
Mayor Vows to Veto Profiling and IG Bills, But Can He Prevent Override?
By MARK TOOR — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
After winning City Council passage of bills that would create an Inspector General for and institute new rules against profiling by the Police Department, sponsors turned their attention to ensuring that they could override the promised mayoral vetoes.
The IG bill passed 40-11 and the profiling bill cleared by 34 to 17. “I will veto this harmful legislation and continue to make our case to Council Members over the coming days and weeks,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement shortly after passage.
‘A Fight for Your Life’
He underscored his goal at a news conference later in the day, saying, “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.” Because the profiling bill has only 34 votes—the minimum needed to override a mayoral veto— the Mayor’s Office believes it has a better chance at sustaining that veto. Police unions also geared up for a fight.
He’ll Keep Lobbying
Supporters of the bills acknowledged that Mr. Bloomberg—who had personally made calls to try to sway some of them—will redouble pressure on Council Members. Mr. Bloomberg has 30 days to veto the bill and the Council has another 30 days to try for an override.
“There’s always worries” about keeping enough votes to sustain an override, co-sponsor Jumaane Williams told THE CHIEF-LEADER before a rally outside City Hall at noon on June 27, less than 10 hours after the bills were passed. “I’ve been saying we’re taking this one step at a time.”
At the rally, Mr. Williams invited Mr. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to “sit with us instead of continuing to put out misinformation about the bill...Please come to the table with us.” The bills were introduced after the pair had rejected several such invitations to discuss community concerns about whether implementation of the stop, question and frisk program was too aggressive.
The Reverend Al Sharpton echoed Mr. Williams’ call for discussions. “This is not about who beats who, this is about a better city for everyone,” he said.
Unions’ Political Payback
Law-enforcement unions criticized the Council for passing the bills, and most said they would withdraw endorsements of any Council Members who voted to approve the profiling bill.
The Inspector General bill was also controversial, with the Mayor and other opponents saying that an IG would compete with the Police Commissioner’s authority, would discourage outside agencies from working with the NYPD on terrorism, and would blur the lines of command, confusing officers in the street. But the profiling bill has drawn more heat in the past few weeks.
Opponents say it will prohibit officers from using demographic factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, immigration or homeless status or other categories. It would allow people whom officers stop, question and frisk to drag them into court and make them prove the stop wasn’t based on bias. The constant concern over being second-guessed would discourage officers from acting decisively, its foes contend. And police unions fear officers will be on the hook for legal fees.
Supporters of the bill, who hope it would bar officers from stopping someone simply because he or she is black or Latino or transgender or a member of another protected class, say those concerns are incorrect or overblown. Mr. Williams has offered to withdraw the profiling bill if anyone could point out to him the specific language that would bar police from using demographic identifiers, but Mr. Bloomberg declined to address his challenge.
PBA: We’ll Target You
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said his organization will work against the re-election of any incumbent who voted for either bill. “In the event the mayoral veto is overridden, we intend to target certain of these pro-crime Council Members for defeat in the upcoming election, supporting their opponents to the greatest extent possible within the legal framework of our political system. No Council Member who puts this city at risk will have a free ride in the next election.”
Mr. Williams said at the City Hall rally that during the rounds of rewrites the bill went through, “we took into account revisions suggested by the PBA.”
Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said in an interview that the SBA will not endorse anyone who voted for the profiling bill. “If they want to earn back a relationship with the SBA, they need to sit down with us and have conversations about what this bill would do,” he said.
He was particularly angry at Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who did not schedule a vote on the bill until after she launched her mayoral campaign. “This is purely political pandering by Christine Quinn,” he said.
Mr. Mullins said he would advise his members not to stop anyone unless they witness something themselves to justify the stop. “It’s not worth being sued for doing God’s work,” he said. “The bill doesn’t just tie the hands of the NYPD, it makes the people of New York City victims on a general basis.”
‘Unworthy of Support’
Referring to the profiling bill, Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, said, “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.”
The profiling law “defies common sense and places all of New York City in danger,” said Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association. “No matter how well intentioned the members of the City Council may be, their action today in passing [it] is quite simply wrong.”
Mr. Richter said that the CEA had voted to endorse four incumbent Council Members—Mark Weprin, Inez Dickens, Mathieu Eugene and Sara Gonzalez—but was holding back on announcing that because they had voted in favor of the profiling bill. “Should these candidates change their position as reflected on the future vote to override the Mayor’s expected veto, the CEA will back these candidates,” he said in an e-mail.
“Shootings are at record lows,” Mr. Kelly said after a press conference at Police Headquarters. “Some people apparently are not satisfied with that. We’re going to see what this all means if the Mayor’s veto is not sustained.”
In contrast with the dark picture painted by opponents of the bills, their supporters believed they would bring a new era of policing to the city.
“We can have safety and can have police accountability at the exact same time,” Mr. Williams said during the Council debate on the bills, which passed shortly before 2:30 a.m.
‘Won’t Fear Good Guys’
NAACP National President Benjamin T. Jealous referred at the City Hall rally to the anguish and outrage overly-aggressive stop-and-frisks have caused in minority communities. If the bill becomes law, he said, “all of our children only have to fear the bad guys. They don’t have to fear the good guys, too.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, one of six Democrats running for Mayor, said before the rally that he thinks both bills can “repair the relationship between police and the community, which was really strained by stop-and-frisk.” He said Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly “have outdone themselves in fear-mongering.”
“The Mayor presents a false choice when he argues that New Yorkers have only two options—higher crime or discriminatory profiling,” said City Comptroller John C. Liu, another mayoral candidate. “I have every confidence that we can keep people safe without violating basic rights.”
“These measures will improve the lives of New Yorkers, bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the NYPD, and strengthen relations between police officers and the communities they serve,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the city over what it calls an “out-of-control” stop-and-frisk program. Other class-action suits targeting the program as unconstitutional are working their way through the courts.
Two Images in Mirror
Councilman Brad Lander, who co-sponsored the bill with Mr. Williams, said that in lobbying Council Members against the bill, “the Mayor asked us to look in the mirror, think about what you see and whether you can live with yourself.”
He compared that with a request by Mr. Williams during Council debate that members who were not black and Latino imagine themselves as part of those groups and how stop-and-frisk would affect them. Looking in the mirror, “you can see something to fear or see a coalition as beautiful and diverse as New York City,” Mr. Lander said.
During the debate, several Council Members described being stopped and frisked when they were young men. Donovan Richards Jr. said he had felt “dehumanized...I was scared. Today, I’m not scared...I have a chance to do something about it.”
“Today, we are striking a blow against a practice which has become a perverse rite of passage for all young men of color in the City of New York,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, who is running for Public Advocate. “It will do nothing to handcuff or prevent the Police Department from ensuring that all of us are safe.”
Ms. Quinn, who got heat from opponents for expediting the Council vote on the bills, said she would vote for the IG bill but not for the profiling bill because she felt it would give judges too much power over police operations. The bill would not permit plaintiffs to seek financial damages but would allow them to request a court order stopping a practice they felt resulted in profiling.
Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. opposed the profiling bill so strongly that he refused to bring it to a vote in his Public Safety Committee, forcing its sponsors to file a discharge petition to go around him. The bill, he said in the debate, “will give every person subject to any police policy an automatic right to sue without any allegation of wrongdoing.”
“It will achieve the ultimate goal of this bill, to put judges in charge of the NYPD,” he said. “Every police policy is in jeopardy here, not just stop and frisk...When the courts are in charge, we will become Chicago, we will become Detroit. Crime will soar, murder will rise, children will die, and there is no greater civil-rights violation than that. And no, it’s not fear-mongering if it’s true.”
PBA Gunning For City Council Members Who Supported Community Safety Act
BY Jennifer Fermino — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
The battle to sway City Council members to flip their votes on two controversial NYPD oversight measures will begin in earnest tomorrow on the Upper East Side.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association will blanket Council members Daniel Garodnick's and Jessica Lappin's districts with leaflets that claim the bills they voted for will have a “chilling effect” on the NYPD.
The fliers — which will be handed out at the 77th Street subway station during the morning rush hour — feature photos of the two Dems under an all caps headline that read “They Didn’t Vote in Your Best Interest!”
“[Garodnick and Lappin] will make policing and your neighborhood more dangerous,” the flier reads.
Those two lawmakers were targeted because they represent “pro-law enforcement, conservative” districts, said a source.
They will also face the voters come November.
Lappin — whose district includes parts Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island — is running for Manhattan borough president, while Garodnick is up for reelection for his district. He reps part of the Upper East Side, as well as Midtown East and Stuyvesant Town.
“If they think this kind of special interest bullying is going to work with me, they picked the wrong legislator,” Lappin said.
It’s the first volley in what’s expected to be the most brutal, behind-the-scenes arm-twisting campaign since the battle to overturn the term limits law.
Both of the bills — known collectively as the Community Safety Act — passed by narrow margins.
Particularly vulnerable is the bill that would allow citizens to sue the NYPD in state court for racial profiling.
That bill passed by just 34 votes — the exact number needed to overturn Mayor Bloomberg’s promised veto.
The loss of one vote would kill the bill.
The other bill — which would install an NYPD inspector general to oversee the department — passed by 40 votes.
Bloomberg — no stranger to using his wealth to pressure lawmakers to act — said on Monday that he was open to anything to stop the measures.
“These things are life and death issues ... They're going to put our police officers at risk,” he said
Detectives revoke endorsement of Gonzalez
By Unnamed Author(s) — Monday, July 1st, 2013; 2:00 p.m. ‘The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’ / Brooklyn
Michael Palladino, president of the 17,000 member union, said he and his members were shocked by Gonzalez’s vote to create an inspector general to monitor the New York Police Department and by her vote to make it easier for citizens to file lawsuits against the NYPD if they believe they have been racially profiled by cops. “We were shocked and disappointed by her vote in favor of both bills, but particularly the bias profiling bill, which we believe is bad for public safety and bad for the people we represent, who day after day, risk their lives to keep this city safe. This bill creates a presumption that the police are in the wrong,” Palladino told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Monday.
“That’s why we took the unprecedented step of revoking our endorsement,” Palladino said.
Gonzalez (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) is running for her third and final term in the council. The DEA had endorsed her earlier this year.
Palladino, whose union represents both active and retired police detectives, said he and his members cannot support a lawmaker who actively works against them. “Not only have we revoked our endorsement of her, we will also be actively contacting our members in her council district to inform them as to why we are no longer supporting her and to urge them not to vote for her,” he said.
The fallout from the council’s votes is likely to continue. The DEA has also withdrawn its endorsements of council members Mathieu Eugene (D-Kensington), Mark Weprin (D-Queens Village), Dan Garodnick (D-Upper East Side), and Inez Dickens (D-Central Harlem) for the same reason, Palladino said.
The profiling bill, which was approved by the council on June 26 by a 34-17 vote, is designed to curb the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy in the wake of mounting complaints from civil rights advocates that minorities are disproportionately targeted and searched by cops. Thirty-four is the exact number of votes needed to override the veto that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has threatened against the legislation. Palladino said the union will be working to convince council members to switch their votes on the bill so that an override effort fails.
The bill to create the position of an inspector general to monitor the NYPD was also approved by the council on June 26, but by a wider margin, 40-11.
On Monday, Gonzalez issued a statement on the non-endorsement. “I proudly cast my vote in favor of two landmark pieces of legislation that will make New York City safer, and protect the civil liberties of the men and women I represent as an elected official. These bills passed that night with a veto-proof majority, and I believe we can and will be able to override a Mayoral veto,” she said.
Gonzalez stated that while she was disappointed that the DEA has withdrawn its endorsement, she felt strongly about the bills.
“I have tremendous respect and admiration for Mr. Palladino, the DEA, and all of the members of the NYPD who protect our communities. These professionals provide a vital service to our communities. With that being said, the best interest of my constituents is my only concern. This legislation will make the communities I have lived in all my life, raised my family in, and served for decades as a public health advocate, community board chair, and councilwoman, safer and fairer. I am proud to have voted for them, and will proudly cast my vote to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto,” Gonzalez said.
‘Profiling’ Measure Imposes Tough Legal Burden
Law Professor: Council ‘Stop’ Bill Will Discourage Police From Acting
By MARK TOOR — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
As the bill prohibiting police profiling moved toward passage by the City Council last week, deep divisions remained about how it could affect day-to-day policing.
Mayor Bloomberg, who has promised to veto the bill, maintains that it would bar officers from using demographic descriptions such as race, ethnicity, age, gender and disability to describe suspects. Police unions say it would expose individual officers to lawsuits by people who believe they were stopped because of profiling rather than suspicion of criminal activity.
Backers: Red Herrings
Proponents of the bill, including co-sponsors Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, dismiss those criticisms, saying it makes clear that officers can use race or any other descriptive categories in describing suspects. They also say that in order to win a claim for legal fees, a plaintiff would have to prove an officer acted with discriminatory intent.
THE CHIEF-LEADER asked an attorney independent of the debate, James A. Cohen, an Associate Professor at Fordham University School of Law, to analyze the bill with those issues in mind.
“This legislation totally ties the police officer’s hands,” he said in an interview. “...It’s absurd. What guidance does the officer have [besides demographic descriptions] when she decides to make some inquiries?”
“I am not a law-and-order guy,” said Mr. Cohen, a former Federal public defender who is part of the clinical faculty that works with students on actual cases. “I do mostly criminal-defense work.” Sometimes when his clients “get jammed up it’s the result of the police overstepping,” he said. But, he added, “I don’t know how this is workable at all.”
He presented a hypothetical case of a black man in a red sweater who uses a cane. Say the man hit Mr. Cohen over the head with the cane and took his wallet. “What am I looking for?” he asked. “Can I even look for a cane?”
The nuances of the reality of street policing “are not captured at all in this bill,” he said. It “eliminates the use of reasonable discretion in the exercise of the police function...It makes it very hard for the police officer to do the job.”
Proponents of the bill argue that like the existing anti-profiling law, the bill says demographic criteria cannot be the sole factor for a police stop.
But Mr. Cohen agreed with the unions that the bill would discourage police officers from taking action. “It’s not good for the Police Department or the community,” he said.
The bill was part of a package introduced to curb what opponents see as the NYPD’s overly aggressive use of its stop, question and frisk policy. Stop-and-frisks rose steadily to 685,000 in 2011 before dropping back to 534,000 last year amid strong criticism of the program.
“Even given the controversy over the stop-and-frisk policy, the bill goes too far,” Mr. Cohen said. “...The Police Department needs to do something to reduce the image that it targets young black men,” but this bill is not the solution. “When you go overboard—as I think the Police Department does—that just makes the suspicion that it’s race-based that much stronger.”
Liable for Attorney Fees
On the issue of costs to police officers, he noted that the bill would not allow monetary damages to be assessed, but that courts could order defendants to pay attorney’s fees if they lose the case. If the city declines to indemnify an officer, he or she is responsible for any damages and legal fees a case may incur. Recently, the city has declined to indemnify a handful of officers who officials believe broke department rules.
The bill’s supporters have said they envision most of the cases being brought on behalf of a plaintiff by nonprofit groups such as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Nonprofit legal fees are bigger than those of lawyers in an office on the corner,” he said.
The legal-fees provision “could be a big hit in incentivizing a group of lawyers who now have no monetary incentive to bring stop-and-frisk cases,” he said.
The bill would require the city to prove that a policy or practice challenged by a defendant “bears a significant relationship to advancing a significant law-enforcement objective.” Mr. Cohen said, “I would not like to have to bear that burden.”
Ripe for Suits by Men
He agreed with Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., a staunch opponent of the bill, that men of any race could sue under the bill’s theory of disparate impact—which would outlaw practices that disproportionately affect a segment of the population even if no discrimination is intended—because a far greater percentage of men is stopped than women.
The bill was introduced after Mr. Bloomberg refused for more than a year to meet with lawmakers and community leaders who objected to the way the NYPD was running its stop-and-frisk program. “If Mayor Bloomberg had been more communication-friendly, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened,” Mr. Cohen said.
Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College, said the debate is “unnecessarily divisive,” especially with the end of Mr. Bloomberg’s term only six months away. “The whole thing is ugly to behold,” he said. “It has spun out of control...It’s really harmful to the fabric of the city if you keep this conversation going.”
The message at this point, he said, really should be, “The city can be safe and the cops can be decent.”
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Times’ Editorial:
Mr. Bloomberg’s Logic
If Mayor Michael Bloomberg was trying to stem the criticism of his constitutionally suspect stop-and-frisk policy over the weekend, he took a rather strange approach with his loopy logic and discredited arguments. Speaking on his weekly radio program, Mr. Bloomberg dismissed the idea that the policy, under which hundreds of thousands of mainly minority citizens are stopped on the streets every year, is racially imbalanced because it singles out people based on race.
Focusing on murders, Mr. Bloomberg said those crimes are mainly committed by minority residents and that witnesses identify the suspects that way. “In that case, incidentally, I think, we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little,” the mayor said. “It’s exactly the reverse of what they say.”
The very idea that white people are being stopped on the streets too often is laughable. But that’s not where the problems with the mayor’s argument end.
The homicide part of it is also problematic. Mr. Bloomberg has often credited stop-and-frisk with bringing the murder rate to an all-time low. But if crime and street stops were strongly related, the murder rate would have gone up last year, when stops went down by about 20 percent.
Furthermore, many of the stops made by the department have been found by some prosecutors and a federal court to be unlawful; the officers did not have grounds for reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan has yet to rule in the case of Floyd v. City of New York, whose plaintiffs charge the city with racial discrimination. But she laid out the legal deficiencies of the program last year after examining the data from nearly three million stops by the department, about 85 percent of them involving blacks and Hispanics.
In at least 170,000 cases, the judge noted, the reasons given by the police officers for making the stops were insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion, rendering the stops unlawful. In tens of thousands of cases, officers gave no reason other than “furtive movement,” a description so vague as to be meaningless. In other cases, officers gave no other reason besides “high crime area,” even when this was not the case. And, in more than a half-million stops, according to court documents, officers “listed no coherent suspected crime.”
When city lawyers tried to argue that so many minority residents are stopped because they commit more crime, Judge Scheindlin called the argument “worrisome” and wondered if it might lead officers to single out people based on race. She further described the argument as circular: The fact that the stops reflected similar percentages as the crime suspect data, she noted, could show that the officers were influenced by awareness of the trends reflected in those data.
While raging against the stop-and-frisk program’s critics on his radio broadcast, the mayor argued that those critics needed to brush up on math and logic. The same could be said of His Honor.
Hazardous Remedy For Bulls in a China Shop
By RICHARD STEIER — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
In talking with police-union officials and one former ranking NYPD official about the “Bias-Based Profiling” bill prior to its passage by the City Council early on the morning of June 27, two common themes emerged: they said it would make it more difficult for cops to do their jobs, and that Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly deserved a good portion of the blame for why it had come to this.
Those remarks stood in sharp contrast to the united front presented June 24 at Police Headquarters when the heads of the five police unions and two District Attorneys and one legendary former one joined Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly in a press conference to marshal opposition to the measure. The Mayor said they were “urging the New York City Council not to threaten all that we’ve achieved in making New York the safest big city in the nation.”
‘Past Inaction is Why We’re Here’
They warned that the profiling bill would trigger an avalanche of lawsuits that Mr. Kelly said would “tie police officers up in endless depositions when they should be on patrol.”
During the City Council vote that began shortly before midnight last Wednesday and ended just shy of 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Bronx Council Member Oliver Koppell questioned the alarm bells being set off over the prospect of endless litigation. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin and a possible Justice Department monitor already loom over the NYPD regardless of the profiling bill’s fate, he pointed out, precisely “because we didn’t deal with stop-and-frisk appropriately.”
Mr. Koppell was among those voting for that bill and another one to create an Inspector General to oversee Police Department practices. Yet his sentiment wasn’t terribly different from those expressed by others who regard the profiling bill as harmful to good policing and spoke conditioned on anonymity.
“Regardless of the changes in the language [from the original profiling bill], it’s gonna put police officers in a defensive position,” one of them said. “Once a cop gets called in to defend himself against a claim of biased policing, it’s going to change the way he’s going to do his job.”
On the other hand, he added, “Kelly initiated this problem by sending inexperienced cops into neighborhoods and telling them, ‘Bring me back 20 ‘250s,’" referring to the number used for stop-and-frisk forms. The problem was compounded in 2011, the year stop-and-frisks blew up to 685,000, when two different Operation Impact units were operating simultaneously, deploying recent graduates of the Police Academy.
‘Reaction to Lack of Resources’
“Operation Impact was the typical management reaction to a lack of resources,” this man said, referring to the reduction in the size of the police force by more than 6,000 since Mr. Bloomberg took office. What no one in the administration seemed to anticipate was the backlash created when a blitz that looked to use intimidation to compensate for the shortage of troops sent the number of minority residents stopped for no discernible reason skyrocketing.
The former top NYPD official questioned the timing of the Council bills, pointing out that Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly “are leaving” and will probably will be gone from office by the time any lawsuits they bring if the bill becomes law have been decided. But, he remarked, the two men “went over the top on the other side claiming that blood is going to be running in the street and you’ll have gangs suing the city.”
The reality is much less lurid, though nonetheless harmful, he said. The profiling bill was amended to eliminate one of the most-troublesome aspects of it that would have given organizations the right to sue the Police Department on behalf of individuals in cases where it is alleged that stop-and-frisks have the effect of a disparate impact on minorities. The bill’s prime sponsors, Council Members Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, had pointed out repeatedly that disparate-impact claims could be blunted if the NYPD showed a legitimate law-enforcement reason for targeting a community because of a high crime rate, but the ex-police official said that would not have deterred groups with a strident political bent that were less careful about picking their spots than the New York Civil Liberties Union from bringing numerous court cases. While their clients could not collect damages, he noted, there would be a potential bonanza in legal fees for successful suits, and that problem was reduced but not eliminated by the deletion of the original language.
‘A Major Impact on Policing’
“This is going to have a major impact, if it becomes law, on the way policing is done in the city,” he maintained. “The court system is gonna be clogged with suits.”
The most frustrating thing about that prospect, he said, is that “the bottom line is there are enough existing remedies in state and Federal law to make this law irrelevant. All this bill does is create a cause of action. The NYPD has become a political football, and it’s going to handcuff whoever the next Mayor and Police Commissioner are.”
But on the other hand, he said, it was hard to ignore the genuine anger the stop-and-frisk program has generated in minority communities in recent years. “When people complain, it’s usually not about the stop, it’s about the way they’re treated after the stop,” he said.
He cited the Giuliani-era motto, “Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect,” which is still inscribed on patrol cars but too often hasn’t been featured in police conduct during the stops. It’s impossible to know how much the lack of courtesy reported by those stopped is a normal consequence of attitudes that develop in patrolling troubled neighborhoods, how much of it is the result of cops feeling put upon by their bosses to bring back quotas and transferring the frustration downward to those they stop, and how much of it is a lack of priority given at the department’s upper levels to communicating the importance of handling the stops respectfully.
The Bad Lieutenant
But a hint was given six weeks ago by the Daily News in an expose of cops who had crossed the line often enough to have been the target of lawsuits that produced settlements of $1.5 million involving a single Brooklyn North narcotics unit. It was headed by Lieut. Daniel Sbarra, and the May 19 story detailed abuses including he and a colleague repeatedly calling a barbershop owner “nigger” during a traffic stop after dragging him from his car.
City attorneys were sufficiently appalled by Mr. Sbarra’s behavior that they refused to represent him in a civil suit, forcing him to pay $1,000 out of his own pocket. Yet Commissioner Kelly overturned his conviction in a departmental trial and allowed him to be promoted, despite his having racked up 30 civilian complaints and been docked 20 days’ pay as the result of an Internal Affairs Bureau probe. The mere fact that Mr. Sbarra had his badge number obscured by black tape during his confrontation with the barber would suggest that he had gone rogue and was a terrible choice for a promotion.
The News editorial page, which has often shown greater sympathy to Mr. Kelly and the NYPD than the paper’s news coverage suggests is deserved, questioned his judgment in promoting Mr. Sbarra but added that he appeared to have been “operating partly in the dark because the NYPD’s personnel files did not then include an officer’s history of generating lawsuits,” which it now does. Given Mr. Kelly’s reputation for micromanaging the department, the sense is that he didn’t examine that factor because he hadn’t considered it important. The question is why, and whether the change was made only because of the growing pressure on the NYPD as the precipitous rise in stop-and-frisks provoked a clamor that emanated not only from the affected communities but the City Council, the media, and the Federal court system.
‘Machete’ Follows Bludgeon
During the Council debate early last Thursday morning, the Bloomberg administration’s staunchest ally on the issue, Public Safety Committee Chairman Peter Vallone Jr., warned that if the profiling bill became law, rather than bringing reform with a scalpel, “a machete will hack away at every possible” policing method, sidestepping the fact that the NYPD had used the same kind of heavy-handed approach when it imposed the quota for stops that led to officers concerning themselves with quantity rather than quality.
He did note, however, the impact after the Council received the final 2011 stop-and-frisk numbers in the spring of 2012 and emphasis was shifted to “quality” stops, meaning those that would actually meet the legal requirement that there be reasonable suspicion that someone had just committed a crime or might be about to, before they could be detained.
“We prevailed upon the NYPD to cut back on stop-and-frisks by one-third,” he said. Even though stops for the first quarter of 2012 had exceeded the record-setting pace for 2011, the department completed the year with 151,000 fewer stops, and during the first quarter of this year they fell further.
An Unacknowledged Reform
There is a success story there, one that becomes especially impressive given the decline in murders that has coincided, with that trend also in a positive direction so far in 2013. Yet it has rarely been mentioned, never mind emphasized, by the Bloomberg administration, even though the reduced stop numbers would seem to offer a compelling case that the NYPD does not need a Federal monitor or sweeping directives from Judge Scheindlin to clean up its act; that it has been capable of making the needed adjustments on its own.
The only plausible reason that it hasn’t trumpeted the cure it appears to have found for this self-inflicted fever that finally broke last spring is that it would require acknowledging the errors in judgment that created the climate that has remained charged even as the numbers have fallen so sharply. Mr. Bloomberg has been obsessed with his legacy going back at least as far as midway through his second term. Mr. Kelly, who believed he never got the credit he deserved for beginning the downward slide in crime during the last two years of the Dinkins administration—one that accelerated during the Giuliani administration but was helped along at least as much by an increase of more than 15 percent in the police force and the greater efficiency produced when the Housing and Transit Police Departments were consolidated into the NYPD as it was by innovative tactics from the top of the agency—understandably wants to be remembered as one of the finest Police Commissioners this city has ever had. It’s hard to see, however, how an unwillingness to admit their miscalculations—and Mr. Bloomberg’s biggest one may be his refusal to hire more cops at a point when continuing to try to do more with less clearly carried a steep price in community relations—would help them over the long term.
A Councilman Disrespected
If there was a single stop that came to symbolize the controversy, it was the less-conventional one involving Councilman Williams and Kirsten John Foy, then an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, during the West Indian Day Parade in September 2011. They were heading for a reception at the Brooklyn Museum and had passed through two police checkpoints uneventfully before they were stopped by cops at a third one. Mr. Foy’s boss had been allowed through just a short time before that, but Mr. Williams was detained even after he displayed his City Council badge. After he and Mr. Foy objected, he later told reporters, police commanders “pushed me and that’s when the shoving started. I was actually handcuffed while I was on the phone with a Chief...trying to explain what’s going on.”
Mr. Bloomberg attempted to brush it off as “a misunderstanding.” Mr. Williams argued that it was a symptom of a deeper problem that he said was encountered by people of color throughout the city, most of whom lacked his power and visibility to be able to gain redress without being arrested on dubious charges.
He described as “a bald-faced lie” an NYPD account that cops had reacted to him only after another black man had punched a Police Captain. Mr. Foy was roughed up to a greater degree by cops, who pulled him to the ground and piled onto him.
And Disrespected Again
Councilman Williams pressed Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly to meet with him and others to hear their grievances in detail and said he was rebuffed, prompting him to put together the bills to create an IG and expand the ban on profiling in tandem with Mr. Lander.
Standing inside City Hall late last Wednesday night waiting for the Council to begin the meeting at which it would vote on the bills along with the city budget, he denied that the encounter outside the Brooklyn Museum and the Bloomberg administration’s handling of its aftermath had been the catalyst that produced the potential changes.
“This wasn’t about me,” he said. “I was able to use it to highlight an issue that was important to me for a long time before that.”
Shortly before midnight, addressing his colleagues in the packed Council Chambers, he said “the vast majority of people I know who are going to vote against” the profiling bill did not represent communities afflicted with gun violence which therefore needed a strong police presence but were not willing to accept an oppressive one. He criticized what he called a “paternalistic” approach taken by those insisting these kind of changes were not needed and that “we know better than you even though you are living it.”
An ‘Embarrassing’ Display
One Council Member who heard what he was saying was Mark Weprin of Queens. He is the son of the late Speaker of the Assembly and therefore steeped in the establishment politics of his borough’s Democratic organization, and might have seemed particularly susceptible to the entreaties made by Mr. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson to Council Members in the days leading up to the vote. His own encounters with the police growing up had been respectful and pleasant, Mr. Weprin said, but 70 percent of those who live in his district are people of color, and in numerous conversations he had discovered that their experience was “completely different. It is embarrassing...
They should grow up feeling like we are feeling: that the police are on their side.”
The rhetoric sometimes ran florid on both sides of the issue. The Council Member Most Likely to Incite, Charles Barron, spoke of “police out of control,” and said combined with tough economic conditions, that had created a climate in which “revolution” was a possibility.
Mr. Vallone countered by warning that if the changes were adopted, more people would die and the city would slouch toward the lawlessness plaguing Chicago or Detroit.
Another critic of the bills, Council Republican leader Jim Oddo, served up a vision of the future that offered an oblique reference to the belief that Mayor Bloomberg has kept a lid on some of the outrage caused by policing policies by making charitable contributions to organizations as a kind of pacifying strategy. “I don’t minimize the difficulties between certain communities and the NYPD,” the Staten Island Councilman said, but added he expected next year “the professional police-bashers to come back” once “the money disappeared.”
Fitting the Definition
Mr. Lander pointed to the stop-and-frisk statistics themselves as evidence of why the bill he co-sponsored with Mr. Williams was needed. “Ninety percent [of those stopped] haven’t even done anything wrong,” he said. “That’s profiling.” At the same time, he continued, the bill was phrased in such a way as to diminish the chances of frivolous lawsuits going anywhere. “Plaintiffs must meet a very high threshold to even file a case,” he said.
That point was echoed by Dan Garodnick, who said, “People sue for things all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be successful in doing so.”
Vincent Gentile spoke of videotapes of police stops that had been played during Council hearings and said, “I saw and heard the degree of incivility that occurs” on the part of cops, but he voted no on the profiling bill, saying he believed the Council had prodded the NYPD into modifying its procedures so that such behavior was no longer common.
But his fellow Brooklyn representative, Diana Reyna, contended there was no reason to be complacent given the declining stop numbers because “a dialogue would never have taken place had these bills not come to the floor.”
A Negotiating Overture
The less-volatile of the bills, creating an Inspector General, was passed by a 40-11 count, making it unlikely that Mr. Bloomberg could sway enough votes to avert an override once he vetoes it. The profiling bill, however, squeaked through with the minimum 34 votes necessary for an override. Given the power Mr. Bloomberg’s money has provided him during his 12 years as Mayor, it is very much within the realm of possibility that a single Council Member might be persuaded to have a change of heart over the course of the summer, which may explain why it was Mr. Williams, even in his moment of triumph, speaking early that afternoon about having the Mayor and Mr. Kelly “sit with us...Please come to the table with us.”
Even if he fails to make an offer some Council Member can’t refuse, Mr. Bloomberg can pin his hopes on a court challenge. The former NYPD official said, though, that he might have an easier time having the IG bill thrown out on the grounds that it contravenes the powers conferred upon the Mayor, the city Investigation Commissioner and the Police Commissioner under the City Charter.
But for those who believe that stop-and-frisk is a necessary and important tactic if it’s handled right—which means within the law rather than making things up in the name of padding statistics or setting a tone aimed at discouraging the knuckleheads in a community without regard to whether law-abiding citizens suffer it as well—the chance that the profiling bill survives his onslaughts should be reason enough for the Mayor to finally take Mr. Williams’s offer to sit down and see whether the gap between them can be bridged.
Strength isn’t always about hanging tough. One of Rudy Giuliani’s moments of moral cowardice occurred when a Deputy Mayor, Rudy Washington, came to him in tears because of the frequency with which he was being stopped by cops because as a black man driving an expensive car he became a target for the administration’s overly-aggressive policing tactics. Mr. Giuliani had shown the heart of a lion at times in his career, but confronted by a situation that required him to look seriously at the excesses wrought by his policing strategies, he wimped out to the max: rather than reconsidering, he had a letter drawn up for Mr. Washington to present to any cops who pulled him over for driving while black.
If Mr. Bloomberg has the strength to admit the unintended consequences of wrongheaded policies and seek a compromise that protects police prerogatives but acknowledges the damage done by their misapplication, it may not pile up legacy points, but it will show that he’s got enough character to gracefully yield to reason in the best interests of the city.
Editorial: Stop and Think, Mayor
By RICHARD STEIER — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
Brian Cashman may have missed it, but Alex Rodriguez was not the only controversial, past-his-prime star to foolishly stir the pot last week.
To say that Mayor Bloomberg wasn’t thinking carefully when he made the comment during his WOR-AM radio show last Friday morning that cops “disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little” may miss the point: he wasn’t thinking at all. At a time when he is seeking to change the mind of at least one City Council Member who last week voted for an anti-profiling bill that sources more objective than the Mayor believe could present real problems for policing in the future, the last thing Mr. Bloomberg should have been doing was making a polarizing statement in the name of candor.
The anti-profiling bill passed the Council last week with enough votes to potentially override a mayoral veto because in recent years there has been an explosion in the number of stop-and-frisks done by cops, followed by an uproar in the minority community. There is a Federal court case, in which a decision is pending, alleging that the NYPD violated the Constitutional rights of minority citizens in making some of the stops; the Judge in that case has already stated she saw evidence of such violations in a related case that is also before her.
The Mayor’s braying about minorities benefitting from a kind of benign neglect in terms of stops because a slightly smaller percentage of them are stopped compared to the percentage who are described as crime suspects shows the fallacy of relying too heavily on statistics to make cases that won’t hold up under close scrutiny. The anger in the minority community stems from other factors: principally cases in which residents and their children have been stopped, sometimes multiple times, without any justification, and the rough treatment they have sometimes received from the cops who stopped them.
There have been no similar complaints emanating in large numbers from white residents, and with good reason. They have been victims of this rough treatment far less often, and have been stopped less arbitrarily. The frequency with which the only result of the stops of minorities has been a citation for marijuana possession—often on improper grounds—should be an embarrassment in a city in which whites are known to use the drug at least as often as blacks. As we’ve noted before, we’d welcome a comparison if stop-and-frisk—which exists primarily to take guns off the street—were extended to deal with other quality-of-life crimes by having cops suddenly flood such bar-heavy areas as the Upper East Side, Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and Bayside in Queens with the same zeal. Let’s see how long that would last.
Even as the Mayor has used statistics to obfuscate reality, he has assiduously avoided citing statistics that could actually support his case that the anti-profiling bill isn’t necessary. Undoubtedly influenced by the pressure his administration has been feeling over the last 15 months from the Federal court cases and the Council outcry, in addition to neighborhood protests, stop-and-frisks have been scaled back dramatically, falling by 151,000 last year from the 685,000 conducted during 2011. Not only hasn’t the safety of the city teetered on the brink as a result, as the Mayor had been predicting, but murders reached a record low last year and are on pace to drop off another 25 percent this year.
There is the possibility that his veto will stand up; a second option should he choose to pursue it has been offered to him by one of the prime sponsors of the bill, Jumaane Williams: sit down and work out a compromise both sides can live with.
But Mr. Bloomberg, who early in his tenure was applauded for lowering the racial temperature that had been jacked up under Rudy Giuliani, is doing no one any favors when he mindlessly lashes out as he did last week on his radio show. Rather than invoke Mr. Cashman’s rude rejoinder to A-Rod, we’ll instead paraphrase Archie Bunker: when you can’t think of anything constructive to say, stifle yourself, Meathead.
Buffoonery: NYPD Communications Div. ICAD System
Bombshell emails show officials knew 911 was 'losing' calls before Ariel Russo's death
A 'lost call' happens when transmissions from the NYPD to EMS fail to reach the intended recipient. The head of computer programming for EMS wrote that several 'lost calls' happen each day, sometimes preventing a response.
By Juan Gonzalez — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Less than 24 hours after the death of little Ariel Russo in a car accident on the upper West Side, EMS supervisors began an exchange of bombshell emails about repeated “lost calls” from the city’s new 911 system.
The emails obtained by the Daily News show for the first time that high-ranking officials knew the extent of the problems with the $88 million system very early on — just days after the system was launched and before 4-year-old Ariel died.
Lt. Carl Nunziata, an overnight shift boss, sent the first email on June 5. It was at 5:51 a.m. and addressed to Carla Murphy, the head of computer programming for EMS.
“Last night we had a couple of jobs I would like for you to look at,” the email began.
Nunziata said a call came from the NYPD to EMS as a “lost call.” Another call came in for an emotionally disturbed person and inexplicably had no address attached to it.
“Why are these jobs coming in this way?” a perplexed Nunziata asked. “And what are we suppose(sic) to do with these type jobs?”
The startling reply from Murphy came just after 10 a.m. on June 6. Some of the brass already knew.
“[Deputy Fire] Chief Napoli reported the problem to me several days ago and I provided a list of incidents where this had occurred over 3 days for Intergraph to resolve,” Murphy wrote.
A flurry of “lost calls” were “happening to about 1/4 [to] 1/3 of incidents transmitted from NYPD ICAD,” she said.
ICAD is the acronym for the new computer system built by Intergraph Corp. It is used by 911 operators to assign police and to transmit details of emergency calls to EMS and FDNY dispatch centers in downtown Brooklyn.
Given that 911 operators process an average of 3,000 ambulance calls a day, the Murphy email raises the possibility that the number of lost calls may have been in the hundreds or thousands.
A “lost” message, according to fire officials and Intergraph’s own manual, occurs when transmissions from NYPD to EMS fail to reach the intended recipient, usually because of a break in a computer link, or because of a garbled transmission.
“We get several of these a day . . . which may not have sufficient information for responding units to find the incident,” Murphy wrote, copying several top brass.
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’ Editorial:
Still waiting for answers
New revelations about the city's 911 dispatch system demand a clear, complete explanation from the Bloomberg administration
Three weeks ago, the Daily News asked a simple question — “How safe are we?” — after our Juan Gonzalez discovered that the city’s new 911 emergency call system was plagued with problems.
This was after he earlier found that four-year-old Ariel Russo was made to wait an unacceptable, critical 4 minutes, 18 seconds for an ambulance to be sent rushing her way.
Ariel, who had been hit by an SUV, died. And in the days since, adding insult to her horrible injuries has been the city’s defensive, incomplete answers to successive revelations raising serious questions about emergency dispatch.
The Bloomberg administration still has a long way to go to answer — especially in light of an explosive new report in Tuesday’s News. It is imperative that Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, who to date have sought to conduct the investigation internally, hand the reins over to a trusted outsider: the city’s Department of Investigation.
In today’s News, Gonzalez uncovers documentary evidence that from a third to a fourth of the calls passed from 911 intake operators to EMS dispatchers are designated “lost.”
This isn’t our assessment; it’s that of professionals who are intimately familiar with the system. Here’s the timeline:
On May 29, the revamped 911 network debuts.
On June 4, Russo is run down and dies. While we don’t know if timely aid would have saved her life, we do know that the city failed her and her family by delaying help.
In the early hours of June 5, an EMS supervisor, Lt. Carl Nunziata, writes to the service’s head of computer programming, Carla Murphy, and cc’s FDNY brass. Nunziata explains that several jobs from the overnight shift were labeled “lost.”
The next day, Murphy writes back to all parties, saying that “lost calls” was “happening to about 1/4 [to] 1/3 of incidents.”
The explanation now from the FDNY and City Hall is that is that, well, “lost” doesn’t mean “lost.” It just means “pending.”
The new system, they claim, is so fast that information is sent through as is entered in — before all data fields are filled. This, they say, is a feature, not a bug. Partial transmissions are dubbed “lost calls” until a precise address is assigned, sometimes just seconds later.
Question: Is this true?
Question: If so, why didn’t supervisor Nunziata and computer chief Murphy know this?
Question: How widespread was — and still is — this confusion in EMS and FDNY?
Question: Why does nobody in City Hall seem capable of giving a complete, clear, consistent explanation of what actually went wrong?
We know this much: Nearly a month ago, the call about Russo came in from a police officer to a 911 operator, who passed the call to a relay operator. Inside the new 911 center, for three minutes, no action was taken. After that lag, all screens were supposed to flash. Again, nothing happened — this time for another minute and 18 seconds.
The city has insisted from the start: The only problem was human error.
Highly unlikely. Cassano’s probers are taking statements under oath, and no one so far has said they saw the flash.
What the people deserve is the truth. Getting it so far from the Bloomberg administration has been like pulling teeth.
Call an outside professional. Call in the Department of Investigation.
Staten Island's New 121 Precinct
NYPD's Newest Precinct House Switches Things Up
By: Amanda Farinacci — Monday, July 1st, 2013; 1:18 p.m. ‘NY 1 News’ / New York
It's been talked about for decades and construction has taken a little more than four years, but finally a new station house for Staten Island's fourth police precinct is up and running. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
The lights are on, the doors are open, and a flag waves outside the new command center for Staten Island's fourth police precinct. The new 121 station house opened for business Monday morning -- the first new police station in the city in more than 20 years.
"It's finally done. Hopefully it'll make the neighborhood a lot safer," said one Graniteville resident.
The new 121st precinct was created to lower response times on a borough that up to now had just three precincts covering some 62 square miles.
Residents have been asking for another precinct for decades.
The 121 is carved out of northern sections of the borough, once part of the 120th and the 122nd precincts.
"It really divided the borough into quadrants so it really helps with response times," said Staten Island Borough Commander Chief Kevin Ward.
One-hundred sixty officers - most of them Staten Islanders - have been assigned to the new precinct. NY1's cameras weren't allowed inside Monday but the station was given an exclusive tour when the 47,000 square foot building was still under construction.
The facility is environmentally friendly, with solar panels and plenty of natural light. The building is also spacious and airy, and features state-of-the-art technology.
"We have a very large lobby desk to accommodate all the functions; it's particularly large - much larger than any other one, so that they'll be ample room. Most of the other, older precincts you'll see the lobby desks it's a very tight working space," said Barbara Spandorf of the city's Department of Design and Construction.
Unlike any other station house in the city, the detective squad in the new 121 is on the first floor.
"Most precincts it's on the second floor and that was for a couple reasons. Prisoner security was one, because now prisoners who are gonna be interviewed by detectives don't have to travel upstairs and also that the detectives are right there," Ward said.
A temporary station house opened to bridge miles between precincts while the 121 was under construction is already in the process of being closed.
All police matters formerly handled there will now be handled at the new building.
Ret. Bklyn. North Homi Det. Louis Scarcella
Panel to Review Up to 50 Trial Convictions Involving a Discredited Brooklyn Detective
By FRANCES ROBLES — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
A panel of former prosecutors, professors and retired judges has been appointed to review as many as 50 trial convictions involving a detective whose work may have sent innocent men to prison, Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, announced on Monday.
The review panel, which includes some of the most respected members of New York City’s legal community and several of Mr. Hynes’s closest friends, drew fire from a lawyer who represents several of those convicted.
Robert G. M. Keating, an adjunct law professor at Pace University who is chairman of the mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, will lead the panel. In his 1990 book about the Howard Beach murder case, Mr. Hynes called Mr. Keating one of his “closest friends,” who jogged three miles daily with him.
The group also includes Joseph Bellacosa, a retired member of the New York State Court of Appeals and former dean at St. John’s University School of Law. Mr. Hynes and Mr. Bellacosa are godfathers to each other’s children, and Mr. Hynes was an usher at the former judge’s wedding some 50 years ago, according to the judge’s official biography posted on a court Web site.
Another member, Patricia L. Gatling, chairwoman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, was Mr. Hynes’s first assistant district attorney for major narcotics investigations.
“It just seems like politics as usual,” said Pierre Sussman, whose client David Ranta was exonerated in March after questions were raised about the work of Louis Scarcella, a former Brooklyn North homicide detective who investigated the case.
Brooklyn prosecutors have asked a judge to dismiss a murder charge against Mr. Ranta, a former printer who served 23 years for the killing of a rabbi shot in a botched robbery. While holding out the possibility that Mr. Ranta participated in the crime, Mr. Hynes’s Conviction Integrity Unit acknowledged that Mr. Scarcella’s work was riddled with errors.
Mr. Scarcella failed to pursue a lead of another viable suspect, let jailhouse informants out to visit their girlfriends, and is believed to have told witnesses whom to choose in a lineup, the unit’s investigation found.
The district attorney opened a review of 40 criminal cases involving 50 defendants after The New York Times found, among other things, that several of the detective’s murder cases used the same witness, a crack-addicted prostitute.
Many of Mr. Scarcella’s cases dated from Mr. Hynes’s predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, but his office for many years had fended off inmates’ appeals.
Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes, said prosecutors would present the panel only with cases that appear problematic, along with prosecutors’ recommendations. He acknowledged that some critics might question the panelists’ ties to Mr. Hynes, but called them “esteemed individuals with the highest integrity.”
“The district attorney bears the responsibility of making the final decision on the cases,” Mr. Schmetterer said.
Mr. Sussman, who represents several people whose cases are under review, had several objections. First, he said, only those cases selected by prosecutors will be forwarded to the panel. And the panel itself, he said, is too stacked with former prosecutors and should have included more defense and appellate lawyers.
Mr. Bellacosa said his long friendship with Mr. Hynes would not affect his decisions on the panel, and added that as a member of the state’s highest court, he spent nearly 15 years reviewing his good friend’s work.
“We have through all of the years been very direct with one another. We have been very frank to say, ‘You’re really off base here,’ ” Mr. Bellacosa said. “The task is to lend an independent examination as to the process and to give it checks and balances: ‘Does this pass the smell test?’ ”
Other panelists include: Barbara Jones, a former federal judge and prosecutor; Roderick C. Lankler, a former special prosecutor; Susan Herman, an associate professor at Pace University; Steven M. Cohen, a former chief adviser to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo; Bruce Green, a Fordham law professor; Laura Brevetti, a former federal prosecutor and Patrolman’s Benevolent Association lawyer; William C. Thompson Sr., a former appellate judge and father of the mayoral candidate; John Walsh, a retired judge and former police prosecutor; and Telesforo (Ted) Del Valle Jr., a defense lawyer.
The DA’s dozen
12 to review ‘bad bust’ cop’s cases
By JOSH SAUL — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
The Brooklyn district attorney yesterday named 12 people to a panel that will review more than three dozen murder cases involving tainted ex-NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella.
The group will be led by former administrative judge and Pace Law School professor Robert Keating, and includes former state Sen. William Thompson.
Under review are 40 convictions involving 50 defendants Scarcella investigated in the 1980s and ’90s.
Scarcella’s tactics were called into question after the exoneration last March of a Brooklyn man whom he had helped convict in 1991 of a rabbi’s murder.
Alleged improprieties in Scarcella’s investigation led a judge to free David Ranta after he’d spent 23 years in prison.
Scarcella is accused of routinely browbeating witnesses and railroading suspects, including Ranta, to land convictions.
A newspaper reviewed his cases and discovered, among other things, that a number of the written confessions he had gotten out of defendants all began the same way.
In addition to Keating and Thompson, the legal experts set to review Scarcella’s murder cases include retired Judges Barbara Jones, Joseph Bellacosa and John Walsh; lawyers Steven Cohen, Laura Brevetti, Roderick C. Lankler and Telesforo Del Valle; and professors Susan Herman of Pace Law School and Bruce Green of Fordham University School of Law.
Patricia Gatling, current head of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, will round out the group.
Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes called the panelists well-qualified for the task.
“I want to thank the members of this review panel for agreeing to volunteer their valuable time for this important matter,” he said.
“Each member brings with them a wealth of legal knowledge, practical experience and exceptional judgment that will be vital as we dissect old homicide cases.”
Scarcella retired from the Brooklyn North Homicide Squad in 1999. He has denied any wrongdoing.
When Hynes announced in May that he was forming an independent panel to review Scarcella’s cases, the ex-cop told The Post, “I welcome it. I will cooperate with them.
“But it saddens me I’m being treated this way. I’m angry. I’m standing up for myself because it’s the truthful thing to do.”
Homi of Detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin
Second Death Penalty Trial Starts for Killer Of Two Detectives
By MARK TOOR — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
The trial that will determine whether Ronell Wilson is executed for murdering two undercover Detectives during a firearms sting began last week, with Federal prosecutors depicting him as a calculating killer without mercy or remorse and his defense attorneys contending that his life of crime stemmed from a horrific childhood.
“The defendant’s crimes are inexcusable,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James McGovern said during his opening statement in Brooklyn Federal Court. “For his crimes, he’s earned the ultimate punishment. We ask that you impose justice.”
‘Mom Misshaped His Soul’
A defense lawyer, Richard Jasper Jr., argued that the jurors should consider Mr. Wilson’s early life as a mitigating factor. “The people who raised this defendant shaped and misshaped his soul,” he said. “He didn’t have a mother who baked cookies—she was baking crack.”
Mr. Jasper argued that the only alternative to the death penalty, life in prison without parole, “is strong, cold, harsh punishment.”
Mr. Wilson, 31, was convicted in 2007 of shooting the two Detectives, Rodney Andrews, 34, and James Nemorin, 36, in the back of the head on the evening of March 10, 2003 as they sat in the front seat of a car on a dead-end street in Staten Island. They had expected to buy a Tech-9 submachine gun from Mr. Wilson in return for $1,200.
Between them, the Detectives left five children, all under 13. Their widows and children were in the courtroom for opening statements June 24.
The jury that convicted Mr. Wilson conducted a penalty hearing that resulted in a death sentence, the first such use of it in New York in 56 years. But in 2010, an appeals panel overturned the sentence—while keeping the conviction intact—after deciding that prosecutors had overreached during closing arguments in contending that Mr. Wilson had not shown remorse.
‘Not Mentally Retarded’
The case was returned to U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who presided over the original trial. In February of this year, Judge Garaufis rejected an attempt by Mr. Wilson’s lawyers to exempt him from the death penalty on the grounds of mental retardation. “Wilson is not mentally retarded,” the Judge ruled.
“If they had the power to empanel the same jury again, I know they would get the death penalty again,” Detectives Endowment Association President Michael J. Palladino said in 2010. The new jury would not have the opportunity to see “the ruthless demeanor Wilson exhibited,” he said, noting that as he was led away following sentencing, Mr. Wilson turned to the slain Detectives’ wives and stuck out his tongue.
Sudden and Brutal
The new jury did hear from Mr. Wilson’s accomplice, Jesse Jacobus, who agreed to testify against the shooter in return for a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison. Mr. Jacobus was in the back seat of the car when Mr. Wilson shot the Detectives.
Mr. Jacobus said he was talking with Detective Andrews when Mr. Wilson, without warning, drew a pistol and shot the officer in the back of the head, then demanded money from Detective Nemorin, who “said, ‘I got a family, don’t shoot me!’ After that, Ronell just shot him in the back of the head.”
“I asked ‘Why did you do that?’’’ Mr. Jacobus continued. “He told me he didn’t give a f—-about nobody.”
Mr. Jacobus, who grew up with Mr. Wilson in the Stapleton housing project, testified that when they met in prison Mr. Wilson asked him to be sure to describe their childhood privations. But Mr. Jacobus took issue with a defense lawyer’s suggestion that Mr. Wilson’s childhood was responsible for his crimes.
“It still doesn’t cause you to commit murders,” he said. “I chose to live a certain lifestyle not because of that. I chose to run the streets and do crimes.”
Ret. Sergeant Francisco Flores
Retired NYPD from Staten Island sentenced on N.J. federal drug conviction
By Frank Donnelly — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Staten Island Advance’ / Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A retired NYPD sergeant from West Brighton has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $5,000 for a federal drug conviction in New Jersey.
Francisco Flores, 50, previously pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to conspiracy to distribute at least 500 grams of cocaine (just over a pound).
The U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey said Flores and three Brooklyn men ventured to the Garden State on Aug. 12, 2009, with almost $100,000 in cash to buy nearly seven pounds of cocaine, which they intended to resell.
Flores, who had $500 in a box in his Nissan, initially claimed he had driven to Elizabeth to buy a motorcycle, authorities said. However, his story didn't pan out, said officials.
Authorities found $75,000 in a bag a co-defendant had removed from his own car at a gas station and another $22,500 inside the vehicle.
Another defendant's car contained an open hydraulic compartment, or "trap," behind the rear passenger seat. Authorities said drug traffickers often use such compartments to transport narcotics and cash.
Flores' co-defendants also pleaded guilty to drug charges and have been sentenced, online federal court records show.
A former Brooklyn resident, Flores spent 20 years as a police officer in that borough before retiring a number of years ago, authorities said.
Besides prison time, he is subject to two years' post-release supervision.
MTA’s bridge and tunnel officers letting DWIs slide due to cutbacks: sources
By REBECCA HARSHBARGER — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
Cautious drivers might want to steer clear of MTA bridges and tunnels.
Tipsy motorists are being given a free pass when they get pulled over on some of the crossings — because cuts have left police without enough manpower to arrest them, multiple law-enforcement sources told The Post.
Cops with the MTA’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority got a verbal mandate to ease up from their supervisors this year, sources said.
They were told the agency was severely restricting overtime, even though most cops and sergeants must put in extra hours to process an arrest, sources said.
“The agency is pressuring our sergeants, who, in turn, are forcing bridge and tunnel officers to cut law-breakers because the agency won’t pay overtime,” said one veteran bridge-and-tunnel cop.
“It’s crazy, because we have to let people go that we normally would arrest and confiscate their vehicle.”
Since late 2012, the MTA has reduced patrols on the Henry Hudson, Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges because of manpower cuts, sources said.
That makes it difficult to process arrests, because TBTA rules mandate that an officer and sergeant have to be present, sources said.
As a result, cops are being told to overlook drivers who appear to have had only a few drinks — and they are discouraged from running checks on license plates, which could lead to arrests, sources said.
“It’s frustrating because we are paid to protect the public, but, in effect, we are being told to look the other way,” another officer said.
“There’s nothing we can do, nothing they can do because their orders are coming from the top. I have a guy I should be arresting, but I have to let him go because my shift ends in 45 minutes. It’s frustrating for everybody when we’re being forced not to do our jobs.”
Arrests have dropped significantly at the agency in the past 10 years, stats show.
There was high of about 1,800 collars in 2005. By 2012, there were 550, the lowest in the past 10 years.
“There is absolutely no directive in place to reduce arrests,” said MTA spokeswoman Judie Glave. “Any Bridges and Tunnels employee who would let an intoxicated or impaired driver through a TBTA toll plaza or checkpoint would be subject to disciplinary action.”
She said overall arrests are down because drivers know the TBTA has an aggressive DWI-enforcement program.
The TBTA, one source noted, is racking up DWI collars at the same pace as last year, with bridge-and- tunnel cops making 146 busts so far this year, up just one from the same period last year.
New Jersey (Bar Fight Between Rutherford Police Captain & Hasbrouck Heights Police Lieutenant)
N.J. Supreme Court: Evidence backs firing of Hasbrouck Heights police officer after bar fight
BY ANTHONY CAMPISI — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Bergen Record’ / Hackensack, N.J.
Hasbrouck Heights had enough evidence to fire a police lieutenant accused of getting into a bar fight with the chief of another police department, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The unanimous ruling overturns a pair of lower-court rulings that reinstated Lt. Kelly Ruroede to the force after the March 2008 incident and clears the way for his dismissal.
Ruroede had previously been ordered reinstated with back pay by Superior Court Judge Estala M. De La Cruz in Hackensack, who ruled in 2010 that the borough relied on hearsay testimony in dismissing him and said that Ruroede’s rights had been violated because he hadn’t had an attorney with him the last day of his disciplinary hearing.
She ordered Ruroede be given a new hearing and be placed on inactive status while his case was decided.
Yet the justices disagreed, ruling that Ruroede willingly participated in the disciplinary hearing without his lawyer present and that the borough followed the rules in deciding to fire him.
“The Borough’s proofs were sufficient to prove the charges by a preponderance of the evidence, and the charges support the termination of his employment as a police officer,” the unsigned decision reads.
Dominick J. Bratti, the borough’s attorney, had argued that De La Cruz’s decision, which was upheld by an appellate panel, overstepped her authority. He also had said that Ruroede wasn’t qualified to serve as a police officer, pointing to a court order, issued in a separate domestic violence case against him, that prohibits him from owning a gun.
“We’re pleased with the decision,” Bratti said Monday. “It had always felt that it had acted properly.”
Yet Ruroede’s attorney, Albert H. Wunsch III, said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the decision, noting that Ruroede suffers from a brain injury that had kept him from active duty, and arguing he wasn’t competent to represent himself at a hearing.
“A guy who was mentally unfit to be a police officer… was mentally fit enough to be his own lawyer,” Wunsch said. “How ironic is that?”
The case stems from a March 2008 bar fight with Capt. George Egbert, an acting police chief of Rutherford.
Ruruoede told a hearing officer investigating the incident that Egbert made a derogatory remark about a female friend of his. Egbert said Ruroede brandished a gun during the ensuing fight.
The hearing officer recommended that Habrouck Heights dismiss Ruroede, saying a psychological analyst found that he is “at risk of over-aggressive expressions and over-aggressive behaviors.”
The Borough Council voted to fire Ruroede in early 2009.
Ruroede was on medical leave during the incident, and Wunsch said he was planning on retiring. The dismissal, he said, lowered Ruroede’s pension.
Superior Court Judge Lisa A. Firko of Hackensack found in a separate 2010 domestic violence case that Ruroede posed a danger and was unfit to possess a weapon.
Justice Barry T. Albin didn’t participate in the six-justice decision.
More Ears on the Wire
By Ted Gest — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The John Jay College of Criminal Justice Crime & Justice News’ / Washington, DC
Federal and state wiretaps were used 24 percent more in 2012 than they were in 2011, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts’ annual Wiretap Report.
Judges approved a total of 3,395 orders authorizing the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications in 2012, up from 2,732 in 2011.
Each year, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts reports to Congress the number of applications for orders authorizing or approving wiretaps.
During 2012, 97 percent of all wiretaps were authorized for “portable devices,” a category that includes cell phones and includes the monitoring of text messages.
Investigations into illegal drugs were cited in 87 percent of all applications in 2012.
As of December 31, 2012, a total of 3,743 persons had been arrested (up 6 percent from 2011), and 455 persons had been convicted (down 2 percent from 2011).
Read the full report HERE. http://www.uscourts.gov/Statistics/WiretapReports/wiretap-report-2012.aspx#sa1
Violence against Park Police on the rise
Advocacy group finds increasing assaults on police, other employees in national parks, refuges
By Erin Cox — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Baltimore Sun’ / Baltimore, MD
In the years Officer Gary Hatch has patrolled the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, he's been kicked in the shins, pushed and tangled in an extended fistfight that bloodied his nose.
It's a record Hatch laments.
"I was involved in like six or seven really good fights last year," said Hatch, vice chairman of the U.S. Park Police Fraternal Order of Police. "I tased a guy twice."
Assaults and violence Park Police, rangers and other employees at national parks, forests and wildlife refuges is on the rise, according to a group that represents federal workers.
Data compiled by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, found a 43 percent jump in violent incidents against the Park Police alone in 2012. The 100 recorded cases were the most since the advocacy group, began tracking such data in 1995.
Before then, PEER executive director Jeff Ruch says, the problem was largely overlooked by the agencies that oversee the Park Police, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ruch says PEER publishes the data to get the agencies to pay attention.
"That puts more pressure on the agency than anything," he said. "Most of the agencies did not even track this."
Park Police spokesman Lt. Mark Reaves said the agency is taking the report seriously, and Department of Interior Officials, which oversee several of the agencies mentioned in the study, are reviewing it.
"I think that's where we start," Reaves said.
Park Police officers patrol the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and several other sites in Maryland. The agency has jurisdiction on all National Park Service land; Maryland is home to 17 national parks and many more park service sites, including Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Western Maryland and Assateague National Seashore on the Eastern Shore.
The PEER study found a 12 percent increase in acts of violence in national parks. The first was the Jan. 1, 2012, shooting death of Mount Rainier National Park ranger Margaret Anderson, 34, who was killed while trying to stop a fleeing suspect.
Anderson had worked at the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Maryland.
Explanations for the increase in violence differs from agency to agency, Ruch said. Employees have told PEER that the problem stems in part from a growing use of public lands for meth labs and marijuana plantations.
The Park Police is largely an urban force, patrolling national parkland in Washington, New York and San Francisco. But like park rangers, they patrol with just one officer per car, according to union chairman Ian Glick said.
"When you have fewer officers who are visible, people who are on the fence about acting out violently tend to get more comfortable with the idea of fighting," Glick said. "If it's one against one, if you will, people who are apt to fight are more likely to fight."
Some of the increase against Park Police in 2012 is attributable to the Occupy DC demonstrations, Glick said, but still represent a rise in assaults. Only the most serious incidents — those in which someone was charged — were reported in the public information requests that were given to PEER.
"A lot of times we don't charge people because it doesn't fit the qualifications of being an assault," said Glick, who has been in law enforcement for 23 years. "There's almost a cultural expectation that officers are going to get hit by someone. Anyone who has been on [the force] for five years or more has been assaulted once or twice. I had a guy try to push another officer into traffic on the BW Parkway."
Of the 100 violent incidents against the U.S. Park Police in 2012, 98 were in D.C. or Virginia. Only one was from Maryland, where a driver stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated got into a fight with the officer.
"There's definitely a lot more attitude of defiance," said Hatch, the union vice chairman. "You pull people over, and they say, 'Yeah, what?'
"Or you go to put them in handcuffs, and they want fight you."
Just How Reliable and Widespread is FBI Facial Recognition Technology? EFF Sues To Find Out.
By J.D. Tuccille — Monday, July 1st, 2013; 7:33 p.m. EDT ‘Reason.Com’
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been happily touting its Next Generation Identification technology — within limits. That is, the feds are happy to boast on their Website about their "multi-million dollar contract" with Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions to implement state of the art biometric systems to go "beyond fingerprints," but they're not so eager to go beyond marketing happy talk. So, after waiting a year on three Freedom of Information Act requests intended to reveal just what the feds are up to, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing to make the FBI cough up the goods.
Since early 2011, EFF has been closely following the FBI's work to build out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database, which would replace and expand upon the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The new program will include multiple biometric identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos, and voice data, and that information will be shared with other agencies at the local, state, federal and international levels. The face recognition component is set to launch in 2014.
"NGI will result in a massive expansion of government data collection for both criminal and noncriminal purposes," says EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch, who testified before the U.S. Senate on the privacy implications of facial recognition technology in July of last year. "Biometrics programs present critical threats to civil liberties and privacy. Face-recognition technology is among the most alarming new developments, because Americans cannot easily take precautions against the covert, remote, and mass capture of their images."
Specifically, EFF wants to know about "agreements and discussions between the FBI and various state agencies regarding the face-recognition program; records addressing the reliability of face-recognition technology; and documentation of the FBI's plan to merge civilian and criminal records in a single repository. EFF is also seeking disclosure of the total number of face-recognition capable records currently in the FBI's database, as well as the proposed number at deployment."
Facial recognition technology has been something of a law-enforcement holy grail in recent years, with lots of money spent and lots of attempted implementations, but spotty and unreliable delivery. Post Boston bombings, with surveillance cameras a hot topic, the possibility of linking those cameras to facial recognition technology is irresistible — especially since government agencies already have massive databases of face shots sorted by name.
What databases? Why, drivers license records, of course. The Washington Post reported last month that 26 states allow driver's license records to be scanned with facial recognition software, making for more than 120 million searchable mugshots. Despite the nominal 2014 target date, odds are good that many, if not all, of those states are using some implementation of FBI technology, since NextGov reported in 2011 that the FBI was launching "a nationwide facial recognition service in select states" based on the Next Generation Identification program. Two years later, that program is certainly more widespread.
With surveillance cameras proliferating around the country, traffic cameras being repurposed for wider duties, and the resulting snapshots being compared to existing databases covering half the adult population, it just might be worth knowing how widespread the FBI program has become, and how accurate its matches are, when your face is being compared to those of suspected criminals and terrorists.
F.B.I. - Boston: Bribery and Betrayal
At Bulger trial, ex-agent apologizes for killing
By DENISE LAVOIE (The Associated Press) — Monday, July 1st, 2013; 6:50 p.m. EDT
BOSTON (AP) -- A former FBI agent who admitted taking payoffs from James "Whitey" Bulger offered a tearful apology Monday to the family of one of Bulger's alleged murder victims, but the man's widow said his words "didn't mean anything."
The apology came as John Morris was being cross-examined by a defense lawyer at Bulger's racketeering trial. Bulger, 83, is charged with participating in 19 murders in the 1970s and '80s while he allegedly led the notorious Winter Hill Gang.
Morris testified that he told fellow FBI agent John Connolly that Edward "Brian" Halloran had given authorities information about a murder Bulger's gang was suspected of committing. At the time, both Morris and Connolly - his subordinate - had corrupt relationships with Bulger, who he said was a longtime FBI informant at the same time he was committing a litany of crimes.
Prosecutors say Halloran and Michael Donahue - an innocent bystander who had offered Halloran a ride home - were killed in 1982 after Connolly leaked the information to Bulger. Bulger is accused of opening fire on the car as the two men left a Boston restaurant.
Disgraced former FBI agent apologizes to family of Whitey Bulger victim; admits passing on information that allegedly led to two murders
By Milton J. Valencia and Shelley Murphy — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Boston Globe’ / Boston, MA
Disgraced former FBI agent John Morris grew emotional on the stand in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger today as he looked at the family of one of the gangster’s alleged murder victims and apologized for what he has acknowledged could have been his “indirect” role in the killing.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t pray that God gives you blessing and comfort for the pain,” Morris said to the Donahue family, seated in the front row.
“I do want to express my sincere apology for things I did, and I didn’t do,” he said. “I do not ask for forgiveness — that’s too much. But I do acknowledge it publicly.”
Michael Donahue’s widow, Patricia, sat in the front row of the courtroom, looking shaken. Her son Michael had his arm around her shoulders. Her two other sons, Shawn and Tom, sat behind them.
The elder Michael Donahue was an innocent bystander who was giving Bulger associate Brian Halloran a ride home in 1982 when Bulger allegedly sprayed their car with bullets, killing them both. Morris acknowledged that he had passed along the information that apparently triggered the attack: that Halloran was cooperating with authorities investigating a murder in which Bulger allegedly played a role.
Patricia Donahue said she believed Morris was sincere in his apology.
“I think he does live with a lot of guilt, and that’s his punishment,” Donahue said. But she also said she only believed Morris apologized because Brennan “put him on the spot.” She said it marked the first time anyone in the FBI had ever apologized to her for her husband’s slaying.
“I don’t forgive it,” she said. “Their ‘sorries’ come too late.”
In other dramatic testimony today, the defense suggested during cross-examination that Morris had asked Bulger to kill his wife while he was in the middle of a divorce. Morris vehemently denied it.
“Did you ask Mr. Bulger to do something about your wife?” defense attorney Henry Brennan asked.
“Absolutely not,” Morris said.
“Do you remember Mr. Bulger telling you he’d have nothing to do with it?”
“Absolutely not,” Morris said. “There was no such conversation.”
Donahue and Halloran were allegedly killed after Bulger learned from his corrupt FBI handler, John J. Connolly Jr., that Halloran had begun cooperating with authorities investigating a murder in Oklahoma in which Bulger was allegedly involved.
Morris, a supervisor in the FBI at the time investigating organized crime, acknowledged that he learned from two agents that Halloran was cooperating, and they asked him if Halloran was trustworthy. He said he was not.
He said he then passed the information about Halloran’s cooperation along to Connolly in a conversation, later realizing it could ultimately get back to Bulger.
“It was spontaneous. It just happened, and I wish it hadn’t,” he said.
But Bulger’s lawyer, Henry Brennan, argued, “You knew if the information got out, you knew that could lead to danger.”
“You knew when you were giving Mr. Connolly this information, you knew you were signing Mr. Halloran’s death warrant,” Brennan said.
Morris denied the suggestion.
The former FBI agent, now 68, retired in 1995, the same year Bulger and Flemmi were first indicted. He is testifying for the third day that Bulger was an informant who was allowed to carry out crimes while being protected by the FBI. He also acknowledged that he received gifts and $7,000 in cash from Bulger. He says he regrets his corruption. He has been testifying under an agreement that gives him immunity from prosecution for his crimes.
Bulger’s lawyers argue that Bulger was not an informant and was actually paying corrupt agents for information. The defense suggested in the cross-examination of Morris that Connolly was fabricating information and putting it in Bulger’s file, to make it look like the gangster was providing information.
Morris has acknowledged that FBI agents were encouraged at the time to cultivate high-level informants to glean information about the Mafia.
Bulger, 83, faces a sweeping federal racketeering indictment charging him, among other things, with playing a role in 19 murders during his decades-long reign of terror in Boston’s underworld. His legend grew when he eluded a worldwide manhunt for 16 years before his capture in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
During Bulger’s criminal rise, his brother, William M. Bulger, ascended himself to become one of the most powerful politicians in the state as president of the state Senate. The James Bulger saga has inspired numerous books, TV shows, and movies.
Also today, US District Court Judge Denise Casper denied a defense request that they be allowed to comment on the evidence and witnesses to reporters, a request Bulger’s lawyers argued was needed to fully defend him since Bulger is subject of harsh attacks in the media by relatives of the people he allegedly killed.
“Even as counsel may have a duty to respond to unfavorable coverage in the media prior to jury selection to ensure that the jury who is seated is impartial and not tainted by coverage, the need to do so after the jury is seated is greatly lessened,’’ Casper wrote.
She added, “the need for effective assistance of counsel at this juncture of the case is in the courtroom and not the courthouse steps. There is nothing about adherence to [a federal court rule banning out-of-court comments] that prevents counsel from doing what they have been doing since the start of trial — defending Bulger before the jury seated in this case.’’
Also today, jurors heard from Joseph E. Tower, 59, of Florida, who in the 1980s had been a member of a band who played at local clubs, including Triple O’s in South Boston, Bulger’s home base.
Tower, a South Boston native, was also a drug dealer at the time, and he testified that he hired James “Whitey” Bulger’s crew to protect his enterprise from other criminals who were ripping off drug dealers.
Tower told jurors that he met with Bulger directly and that Bulger assigned one of his cohorts, Billy Shea, to partner with Tower and protect the business.
“You will not be bothered,” Bulger allegedly told him.
In exchange, they made regular payments worth thousands of dollars to Bulger.
In testimony that drew a laugh from Bulger, Tower said he came to learn of Bulger’s worth when Tower’s brother had a problem with outsiders who owed him money and essentially kidnapped him, threatening more violence.
Tower contacted Bulger, and soon thereafter his brother was released.
“That’s the kind of protection you were looking for when you aligned yourself with Mr. Bulger?” Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly asked.
Tower agreed that it was.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Chicago, Illinois (Garry Francis McCarthy)
Chicago murders down in first six months of 2013
BY FRANK MAIN — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘The Chicago Sun-Times’ / Chicago, IL
Several high-profile killings have put Chicago violence in the national spotlight this year, but murders and shootings were actually down in the city for the first six months of 2013 compared with the same periods of the previous two years, police said Monday.
The January killing of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old shot to death a week after performing at events at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, cemented Chicago’s national reputation as a killing field. The HBO show “Vice” even described the city as “Chiraq” in a recent episode, pointing to a “frightening uptick in shootings and gang violence.”
But the police department countered Monday that murders were down 29 percent this year through the end of June compared with the same period of 2012 — and were down 2 percent compared with the first six months of 2011.
Chicago’s six-month murder tally hasn’t been lower since 1965, according to the department.
Shootings — fatal and non-fatal — were down 25 percent compared with 2012 and 18 percent down compared with 2011, according to the police.
Overall crime was down 14 percent compared with the first six months of 2012 and 23 percent down compared with the same period of 2011.
Feds urge fireworks sellers to watch for suspicious buyers
By Donna Leinwand Leger — Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 ‘USA Today’
A federal task force says that fireworks sellers should keep a close eye out for suspicious people buying fireworks.
As the frenzy for fireworks peaks in the run-up to Independence Day, a federal task force is warning fireworks retailers to keep watch for suspicious purchasers.
The National Explosives Task Force issued an industry advisory Thursday warning that consumer fireworks are a "common component used in improvised explosive devices." It advised retailers to look for possible signs of suspicious activity, including customers who ask about how to take apart or modify the fireworks or who seek to purchase commercial-grade fireworks.
The advisory comes in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 250 on April 15. In an indictment made public Thursday, a grand jury charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with detonating bombs made from pressure cookers, low-explosive powder and shrapnel at the marathon. The indictment says his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, purchased 48 mortars containing 8 pounds of low-explosive powder from Phantom Fireworks, a retail store in Seabrook, N.H., on Feb. 6.
This is the second time in recent years that fireworks have been used in a terror plot. Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who confessed to a failed attempt to bomb Times Square in 2010, purchased fireworks from a Phantom store in Matamoros, Pa.
But the use of fireworks for nefarious acts has not dampened demand among consumers or prompted backlash from state or federal regulators. Last year, consumers purchased more than 185 million pounds of fireworks, according to data from the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission.
All but four states — Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey — allow the sale of some types of fireworks or sparklers. No state has tightened restrictions on fireworks since the bombing, says Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group based in Bethesda, Md.
Now is peak fireworks season: 90% of everyday consumer pyrotechnics is sold between April 15 to July 15, Heckman says.
"I think most Americans realize that bad things can be made out of many common materials," Heckman said.
Consumer fireworks individually do not mass detonate because they contain low levels of explosive mixed with other chemicals to make the firework colorful, says Phantom CEO Bruce Zoldan. The Boston bombers, using a technique recommended by al-Qaeda, appear to have cut open the pyrotechnics to remove the powder and put it in the pressure cooker, Zoldan said.
"It's possible to get enough powder together to do something, but there are easier ways to do that," Zoldan said.
The industry, which is tightly regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state authorities, is willing to work on ways to prevent products from being used improperly or assist law enforcement when needed, Zoldan said.
Phantom Fireworks maintains a database of customers for marketing so the company was able to identify Tsarnaev's purchase, Zoldan said.
"I think the industry will have to gather together and come up with something that will protect the industry's interests by working hand in hand with Homeland Security," he said. "If we're selling a product that's capable of being dissected, then we as an industry will have to get together to do what's right."
The industry has taken such steps before, he said. Decades ago, the industry created and funded the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory to safety test products to prevent fireworks-related injuries, he said.
"Now we need to make a proactive effort to help monitor individuals who might come in to buy fireworks for not honorable reasons," Zoldan said. "We help Americans celebrate America's birthday. We're not going to let criminals ruin that."