Saturday, July 20th, 2013 — Good Morning, Stay Safe
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Without Bloomberg in Charge, Police Commissioner’s Future Is Unclear
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
His right-hand man is leaving New York for a job as a university spokesman. His top commanders are retiring. The mayor who appointed him police commissioner is nearing the end of his third and final term, and his replacement may want a fresh face.
He is 71 years old and has missed most of the campaign deadlines to run for public office, leaving his own mayoral hopes unrealized. So the question hanging over Raymond W. Kelly, the commissioner, is this: What comes next for the man whose run as leader of the New York Police Department has made him a nationally recognized figure?
Guessing Mr. Kelly’s next move has never been easy. But for a man who keeps his own counsel and rarely seems unsure of himself, he seems somewhat ambivalent about what might lie ahead.
Mr. Kelly’s wife, Veronica, is said to be eagerly awaiting her husband’s departure from the long hours and endless demands of the commissioner’s job, which Mr. Kelly has held under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg since 2002.
But he appears conflicted about the prospect of leaving public life. That became clear this month when he was promoted as a possible candidate to be the next secretary of homeland security.
Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican and member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that after he spoke publicly in favor of Mr. Kelly’s candidacy, he received a thank-you call from Mr. Kelly. Mr. King said he had expected Mr. Kelly to tell him that he was not interested in the job. That did not happen.
“He asked me to keep him apprised of what’s happening,” Mr. King said. It was one of the few times that Mr. Kelly had not dismissed another post, he added.
“To me,” the representative said, “it said a lot that he didn’t say knock it off, or it’s not something I’m interested in.”
The homeland security job is not the only candidacy that Mr. Kelly has sought to keep open. For years, he has been mentioned as a likely candidate for mayor, and he never tried too hard to stamp out the rumors.
But as the speculation about a mayoral bid finally began subsiding within the last year, Mr. Kelly continued to toy with the idea privately.
At lunch with a Republican campaign strategist, he came prepared to discuss particulars. “He pulled out a little notebook and had 50 questions he wanted me to answer,” the consultant, Ed Rollins, recalled about the meeting that took place in the last year. “What type of chance I thought he had? Is it too late? Can he raise the money?”
Mr. Kelly’s willingness to entertain the notion of a bid for mayor persisted well into June, as the state chairman of the Republican Party, Edward F. Cox, sought to draw him into the race.
Earlier this month, at a party in Southampton, Mr. Kelly managed to leave some partygoers with the impression that he had not entirely ruled out a mayoral bid, according to a person who attended the party.
Mr. Kelly has served as police commissioner longer than anyone else, leading the agency as the city confronted terrorism threats and drove violent crime down.
There is little evidence to suggest Mr. Kelly is slowing down under the demands of the job. News conferences and City Council hearings appear to leave him rejuvenated and energized, rather than tired.
In New York City, it has been a tradition for mayors to pick their own commissioners. Even if he were asked to stay on by Mr. Bloomberg’s successor, it is not clear that he would want to; the next mayor is likely to seek more control over the Police Department, rather than give Mr. Kelly the autonomy that Mr. Bloomberg did.
It is not clear how likely a candidate Mr. Kelly is for the homeland security post.
President Obama wondered aloud about Mr. Kelly’s current job satisfaction. “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is,” the president said recently in a television interview. “But if he’s not, I’d want to know about it,” Mr. Obama said, adding that Mr. Kelly would be “very well qualified” for the job.
But praising Mr. Kelly does not mean that he is prepared to nominate him. Indeed, the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics as well as its aggressive surveillance practices in Muslim communities could raise concerns within Mr. Obama’s own party.
Officials in the Obama administration played down the president’s comment this week and said no decision was imminent.
Still, Mr. Kelly would not have trouble finding new work.
“Ray Kelly has the luxury of knowing he can go out and make a million dollars for himself at any time and he would be highly sought out from the private sector,” Representative King said, “and that would be for a job with a lot less work.”
Ray Kelly Might Be Next To Leave NYPD
By Murray Weiss (DNAinfo.Com) — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Huffington Post’ / New York, NY
NEW YORK CITY -- Is Ray Kelly already heading out the NYPD door?
The police commissioner's longtime confidant Paul Browne has exited the NYPD, where he served as the top spokesman for the past decade, to work for the University of Notre Dame, and longtime NYPD observers believe the top cop, who is a candidate to become the next head of Homeland Security, won't be far behind.
"Paul Browne was his body man, his double, making sure doors open when he walks through," a source explained. "They were so close that this is a clear indication Kelly is not staying, and the abruptness of it and obviously hiring two people for short time says it all."
Another source said Kelly is expected to transfer Deputy Chief Brian Burke, the head of the commissioner's personal detail, to the Intelligence Division, which deals directly with Homeland Security.
Browne's departure was uncharacteristically announced by City Hall, which also disclosed that John McCarthy, a mayoral spokesman who once worked for Browne, was going to be his successor as Deputy Commissioner for Public Information.
Never has the DCPI position been announced by the Mayor's Office, which also indicates City Hall knows Kelly likely has his eyes on another job.
Kelly, meanwhile, named Valerie Salembier, a former magazine editor who presently chairs the NYPD-friendly New York Police Foundation, to be McCarthy's assistant commissioner.
Salembier's appointment can be viewed as Kelly thanking her for years of financially supporting the NYPD in general and Kelly's image and his pet projects in particular, notably shelling out $1 million a year to post detectives in a dozen foreign cities so Kelly can receive oversees terror insights from them rather than the feds.
With Browne gone, and Kelly now doling out end-of-term jobs to close friends, insiders believe Kelly's halfway out the revolving doors of Police Headquarters.
He would jump at replacing outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, sources said. No one should think Sen. Charles Schumer put Kelly's name forward to President Obama without first getting the green light from Kelly.
Here's another guess on my part: If Obama does not take Kelly to Washington, then Kelly goes to the News Corporation where, coincidentally, his son, Greg, works.
At Fox-TV's parent company, Kelly could do on-camera analysis on national and international law enforcement issues, which would satisfy his obvious pleasure at being in front of the cameras and in the limelight. And, at the News Corp, he could also serve as a private consultant to the larger Rupert Murdoch international media company, advising on a range of security and related matters.
Joel Klein, former Justice Department official who served as Bloomberg education chancellor, already works there. Why not Kelly?
As for Browne, "On The Inside" learned Wednesday he was heading to Notre Dame. He asked DNAinfo New York to hold the story until he could alert the Notre Dame president about the possible story, claiming a story might jeopardize his new gig.
But instead of getting back to DNAInfo as promised by Thursday morning, his departure was announced by City Hall.
Browne planned on leaving Kelly years ago, but when Bloomberg overturned term limits and won a third term, Kelly asked him to stay, even though he was facing some health issues at the time. Now Browne is going his own way.
Look for Kelly to do the same, insiders say.
Mixed Signals From Washington on NYC Policing
By Kathleen Horan — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘WNYC News’ / New York, NY
President Barack Obama weighed in on the Trayvon Martin case and the problem of racial profiling in the country during a surprise address on Friday. In New York, the debate about profiling has centered around Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Critics of the NYPD say during his tenure, blacks and Latinos have been unjustly targeted though excessive use of stop and frisk, a tactic Kelly has strenuously defended.
The Obama administration this week both praised Kelly and criticized his policies. Obama said Kelly was well qualified to head the Department of Homeland Security — calling him "one of the best there is" in law enforcement.
But a day earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder described the city's stop and frisk record as "outrageous" — citing it as an example of racial profiling by police.
The mixed messages come at a time when Mayor Michael Bloomberg is poised to veto a bill that would expand the definition of racial profiling and as a court decision is expected in the federal lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk.
What's the Upside for Obama in a Ray Kelly DHS Nomination?
By Philip Bump — Friday, July 19th, 2013 ‘The Atlantic Wire’ / Washington, DC
When Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York first proposed the idea last week that New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly might make a good director of the U.S Department of Homeland Security, the response from the left was dismissive, as though the idea of tapping the architect of New York's broadly disparaged stop-and-frisk program was a non-starter. Since then, the proposal apparently has become more likely, including a report Friday morning that Kelly has begun to transition away from day-to-day work at the NYPD. Many liberals can and have articulated why they think Kelly shouldn't be nominated by Obama to DHS. Few, including Schumer, have made convincing arguments about why he should.
DNAInfo, using sources in the NYPD, reports that Kelly may be planning his transition out of the department. A top Kelly aide, Paul Browne, recently left to work for Notre Dame. "With Browne gone, and Kelly now doling out end-of-term jobs to close friends," the site's Murray Weiss writes, "insiders believe Kelly's halfway out the revolving doors of Police Headquarters." With the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's term this year, Kelly's position as commissioner was hardly a secure one. But the timing may be suggestive.
Critics of Kelly are clear about where they don't want him to go. The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in The Times Friday, puts the argument succinctly, focusing on Kelly's embrace of stop-and-frisk. Under that policy, the police department has been encouraged to use often-specious rationales to approach and search people at will. Since data collection on those stops began—following a judge's order—about 80 percent of the stops have been of people of color. Nearly 90 percent of those stopped weren't then arrested for any crime. A civil suit against the NYPD, due to be decided imminently, is likely to find vast violations of New Yorkers' civil rights. The issue is controversial enough that no Democrats running for mayor are willing to enthusiastically embrace the program.
Kelly’s name has been floated by New York politicians of both parties as the ideal replacement for Janet Napolitano, who resigned last week. The president responded by calling Kelly “well-qualified” and an “outstanding leader in New York.” He sounded a pitch for bringing the commissioner into the White House’s fold. …
There are some other things that the president should want to know about. Chief among them would be how his laudatory words for Kelly square with the commissioner’s practices and with the president’s deepest commitments.
That argument is echoed widely on the left. Mother Jones quoted a number of organization—particularly those that advocate for people of color—excoriating the idea. The Nation's Katrina vandenHeuvel agreed with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who indicated that Kelly would be a "poor choice" for the position. Vice did him one better, suggesting that Kelly "sounds like a nightmare." MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted that fans of his show had launched a White House petition opposing the idea. (It has so far been signed 272 times.)
Despite the comments from the president quoted by Coates, it's not entirely clear how realistically Obama is considering the Kelly proposal. In his own excoriation of the Kelly idea, The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf quotes the president at more length:
We've had an outstanding leader in Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security. It's a tough job. It's one of the toughest jobs in Washington. She's done an extraordinary job. We're sorry to see her go. But you know, we're going to have a bunch of strong candidates. Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is. But if he's not I'd want to know about it. 'Cause you know, obviously he'd be very well qualified for the job.
Obama's comments, while laudatory, do seem to have an air of what Gothamist calls "banal praise to smooth things over." Gothamist—and most other critiques of a Kelly appointment—note that the president's administration has even recently critiqued Kelly's police force. In June, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that the Department of Justice would be willing to appoint a monitor to oversee any changes that might be mandated after the conclusion of the stop-and-frisk civil suit.
The bigger question is why Obama would nominate Kelly in the first place. When Obama offered Janet Napolitano, the outgoing DHS head who will become president of the University of California system, the message was clear: DHS will be tough on border security. Napolitano had been governor of Arizona, giving her credibility on the issue. That was in 2008, when border security was a more important political issue. What message does a Kelly pick send?
One of the first examinations of that issue came from John Avlon at the Daily Beast. His argument came down to the idea that appointing Kelly would help Democrats maintain an air of toughness on security issues—hardly an unimpeachable suggestion.
Avlon also suggests that Kelly brings a sense of authority on issues of terrorism. If so, it's not clear how he earned it. Under Kelly, the NYPD's track record of terror investigations has earned some strong criticism. The department initiated its own aggressive, multi-state undercover operations in the wake of 9/11, which a subsequent report determined had resulted in precisely zero leads. Kelly does have experience working with federal agents on terrorism, it's true—including the CIA, which embedded off-duty agents with the force a decade ago.
Flirting with a Kelly nomination right now may pay some indirect benefits for the president. It serves as a tacit response to criticism of the Department of Justice's investigation of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Kelly would also be one of the few white males in Obama's second-term Cabinet.
Obama's been in a similar position with his ostensible allies on the left before. In 2008, he considered nominating John Brennan to run the CIA. In the wake of massive criticism of the pick from liberals angry about the nominee's embrace of Bush-era torture programs, Brennan withdrew. The liberals won.
For a while. Earlier this year, at the beginning of his second term, Obama nominated Brennan for the same position. The main opposition came from Rand Paul, Republican senator from Kentucky. Brennan was approved 63-34.
Ray Kelly's Dalliance With The Islamophobic Fringes
By Ali Gharib — Friday, July 19th, 2013; 2:00 p.m. ‘Newsweek's Daily Beast’
President Obama's suggestion that he'd consider New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly as a replacement for outgoing Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano was sure to raise hackles on the left. The top NYPD official's last decade of policing New York's streets had coincided with the use of profiling on two fronts: the so-called stop-and-frisk program, which in overwhelming disproportion targeted young black and Latino men for questioning on the streets, and the many purported transgressions of the police department's Intelligence squad, which targeted Muslims, sometimes on basis solely of their religion, for scrutiny. In an op-ed for the New York Times today, Ta-Nehisi Coates took aim at both of foci of criticism: those programs are "why it is hard to comprehend the thinking that compelled the president, in a week like this, to flirt with the possibility of inviting the New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, the proprietor of the largest local racial profiling operation in the country, into his cabinet," Coates wrote.
Stop-and-frisk and the Intelligence Unit certainly deserve the lion's share of attention: both are far-reaching programs that cast a wary eye on huge numbers of New Yorkers, in the former case implicitly on the basis of race and in the latter explicitly because of religion. But there's an incident from the past few years that showed a deeper side of Kelly's brushes with the Isalmophobic fringes: his participation in and department's poor and repeatedly misleading involvement with the film "The Third Jihad." Kelly appeared in an exclusive interview for the film, which was shown widely during police trainings—both facts his department falsely denied and which he has never forthrightly dealt with.
"The Third Jihad" was produced by a shadowy non-profit called the Clarion Fund, which now calls itself the Clarion Project. Founded in the mid-2000s, Clarion's best known for producing films that portray Islam in a negative light and implicitly advocate for hawkish policies like going to war with Iran. (Clarion also runs a website.) Spearheaded by an Israeli-Canadian and closely linked with an Israeli-based Orthodox evangelist group called Aish Hatorah—which the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg described as "Jewish extremists"—Clarion's advisers include a who's who of America's most prominent Islamophobes, including Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes, as well as lesser-known anti-Muslim activists like Harold Rhode. (It's "Iranium" documentary was written and directed by an ideological Israeli settler in the West Bank.)
In 2009, Clarion released "The Third Jihad," the second of its three feature length documentaries, which purports to outline the threat to the U.S. by an insidious Muslim Brotherhood takeover plot. Enter the NYPD, and it's deception about the film. In a front page story, the New York Times reported last January:
In January 2011, when news broke that the department had used the film in training, a top police official denied it, then said it had been mistakenly screened “a couple of times” for a few officers.
A year later, police documents obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Law reveal a different reality: “The Third Jihad,” which includes an interview with Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, was shown, according to internal police reports, “on a continuous loop” for between three months and one year of training.
In the Times story, a top aide to Kelly, Paul Browne, denied that the commissioner had sat down with the filmmakers and instead said they "lifted the clip from an old interview." But a follow-up story the next day, the Times revealed that Kelly's aide had misled the paper about both his and commissioner's role in the film:
On Tuesday, the film’s producer, Raphael Shore, e-mailed The Times and provided a date and time for their 90-minute interview with the commissioner at Police Headquarters on March 19, 2007. Told of this e-mail, Mr. Browne revised his account. “He’s right,” Mr. Browne said Tuesday of the producer. “In fact, I recommended in February 2007 that Commissioner Kelly be interviewed.”
In an e-mail, Mr. Browne said that when he first saw the film in 2011, he assumed the commissioner’s interview was taken from old clips, even though the film referred to Mr. Kelly as an “interviewee.” He did not offer an explanation as to why he and the commissioner, on Tuesday, remembered so much of their decision.
The Police Department’s admission suggests a closer relationship between it and the provocative film, which has drawn angry condemnation from Muslim and civil rights groups, than officials had previously acknowledged.
Browne told the Times, on the second go 'round, that Kelly admonished the film. “Commissioner Kelly told me today that the video was objectionable,” Brown said, “and that he should not have agreed to the interview five years ago, when I recommended it." (Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who stood by Kelly on issues of stop-and-frisk and spying on Muslims, denounced the film and the NYPD's involvement with it, telling the Times that someone "exercised some terrible judgment" and that there would be an investigation.)
Kelly's admonition of the film through an aide‚ years after the fact, doesn't go down well. "Mr. Kelly should apologize for the film," the Times editorial board wrote last January, "and he should make clear that his department does not tolerate such noxious and dangerous stereotyping."
Just as there's something amiss in President Obama announcing through an aide a policy of escalation in Syria, there remains something miffing about Kelly pushing off dealing with the film and the NYPD's involvement on an aide, never addressing the matter himself. With Kelly's name prominently floated for the Homeland Security job, the public—as well as the administration and its critics—should add "The Third Jihad" episode to the questions about whether or not Kelly is fit for the gig.
Sergeants Benevolent Association Riles Christine Quinn
A Police Union Criticizes Quinn Over an Ambulance Call
By THOMAS KAPLAN — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
A police union criticized Christine C. Quinn on Friday for her decision to call the police commissioner when an ambulance did not arrive promptly to tend to a young woman who had collapsed at a news conference in Brooklyn this week.
The union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, paid to run a full-page advertisement in The New York Post and The Daily News that accused Ms. Quinn, the City Council speaker and a leading Democratic candidate for mayor, of using her position to seek special treatment.
The sergeants’ union, which has 13,000 members, is unhappy with Ms. Quinn over her support of a measure to create an inspector general for the Police Department. In the advertisement, the union tried to connect the ambulance episode to that issue; it suggested that the money to finance the new office could pay for new ambulances, and perhaps even “to purchase an extra ambulance to handle personal favors for Speaker Quinn.”
Fire officials said an ambulance did not respond with great swiftness because the call had been categorized — properly, they said — as less than an urgent priority. The president of the sergeants’ union, Edward D. Mullins, said Ms. Quinn showed hypocrisy by calling the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, instead of allowing the authorities to follow their standard procedures.
“She talks about an outside monitor, an inspector general to oversee Commissioner Kelly and his policies, and she just arbitrarily picks up a cellphone and circumvents all the policies that were in place,” Mr. Mullins said in an interview on Friday.
Mike Morey, a spokesman for Ms. Quinn’s campaign, dismissed the ads as “a political attack by opponents of an inspector general for the N.Y.P.D.”
“It wouldn’t matter whether Chris Quinn was speaker of the City Council or a schoolteacher, she would always use every resource she could to help someone in need, as would most New Yorkers,” Mr. Morey said.
The sergeants’ union was part of a coalition, the United Uniformed Workers of New York, that voted in May to endorse William C. Thompson Jr. He is a former city comptroller who, like Ms. Quinn, is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor.
Mr. Mullins said it was quite likely that the sergeants’ union would make its own endorsement closer to the Sept. 10 primary. Among the Republican candidates, he praised John A. Catsimatidis, the supermarket and oil magnate, saying his business experience would make him a good leader for the city.
Among the Democrats, he singled out Mr. Thompson as well as Anthony D. Weiner, the former congressman, whose candidacy has thus far not won support from labor unions.
“Both of them are honest guys,” Mr. Mullins said. “You can sit and agree to disagree, and there’s nothing more that you can ask for. You get a straight answer from either one of them.”
The Villiage Voice Shows Its Love for ‘Fatty McFibber’
NYPD Spokesperson and Bald-Faced Liar Paul Browne Finally Steps Down
By Tessa Stuart — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Villiage Voice’ / Manhattan
A year and a half after the Voice published a story, "Spinning Out of Control," about him, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne is finally stepping down. His last day will be August 19. Hurrah! Let's take a look back at Browne's sparkling record.
There was that spectacularly offensive Muslim horror film that the Voice's Tom Robbins reported was part of NYPD's officer training program.
According to Browne, it was a "wacky movie" accidentally screened for department recruits "a couple of times when officers were filling out paperwork before the actual coursework began." That clip of Ray Kelly? Oh, it was "from an old interview."
It was later revealed, of course, that the film was not only shown to more than 1,400 officers ... but Ray Kelly appeared in it at Browne's personal recommendation.
Then there were the four separate lies the Voice's Harry Siegel caught Browne in mere months later:
On September 5, two black public officials at the West Indian Day Parade were bullied and handcuffed by police officers who refused to let them walk into a function at the Brooklyn Museum. Browne told reporters that the officers acted after "a crowd formed and an unknown individual punched a police captain on the scene." He denied that the men had been arrested. One of the men, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, called that account "a bald-faced lie" and mocked Browne's "ghost puncher," about whom nothing has been heard since.
Just off of the parade route, 56-year-old grandmother Denise Gay was caught in the crossfire as eight police officers traded fire with career criminal Leroy Webster. Browne initially told reporters that three witnesses, including Gay's daughter, had told police that Webster or the man Webster had shot earlier had fired the fatal shot. But the daughter, Tashmaya Gay, denied having said that, telling the Post that "the cops killed my mother," and "there's no way in hell" the fatal bullet could have been fired by Webster.
A few days later, a plainclothes detective in Inwood arresting a suspected pot dealer shot and killed 43-year-old grandfather John Collado. According to Browne, the undercover officer had clearly identified himself, yet Collado, who belonged to a pro-cop Facebook group and wasn't involved in the drug buy, nonetheless put the detective in a choke hold. "The cops who responded described [the detective] as barely conscious," Browne said. "He was nearly choked out, and his limbs were numb." But the family's lawyer, Patrick Brackley, told reporters that he has seen surveillance video showing that the detective hadn't identified himself, and that while Collado was trying to break up what he thought was just a fight between his neighbor and a stranger, he was not choking the detective.
Then, last week, the pepper spraying of nonviolent Occupy Wall Street protesters by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna quickly became a national story--in large part because of Browne's hotly disputed version of the events. Browne contended that the spray was used "sparingly" and "after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier--something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video." Other videos of the incident then surfaced and showed no such confrontation and no warning at all from Bologna and his using the spray again a few seconds later.
And, oh! There are so many more! In fact, we here at Runnin' Scared encourage you to just peruse our entire Paul Browne archive. Why not; it's the freakin' weekend, right?
FDNY firefighter admits to making bogus 911 calls, stealing from firehouses
Firefighter Joseph Keene copped to making the calls so his colleagues would be sent into the field, giving him time to steal money out of firehouse locker rooms — a grand total of about $2,000.
By Thomas Tracy , Joe Kemp AND Daniel Beekman — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
A city firefighter called 911 with bogus reports so his FDNY colleagues would be sent to the rescue, giving him ample time to sneak into empty firehouses and steal cash, authorities said Friday.
Joseph Keene, 34, admitted to betraying his FDNY brethren when investigators caught up with him Thursday, authorities said.
And he did it all for a grand total of about $2,000.
The sneaky firefighter used his cell phone to call in false 911 reports on three occasions - and stole cash from four different firehouses in Queens and Staten Island, according to a probe by the city Department of Investigation. He also filched from an FDNY facility on Randalls Island, investigators said.
Keene was arraigned Friday on charges of burglary, grand larceny, false reporting and other counts, the Queens district attorney’s office said.
He was ordered held on $5,000 bail and was expected to post it Friday evening.
No one answered the door at his Hicksville, L.I., home Friday night, but the lights were on. Keene faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
“It is surprising that a firefighter would both call in fake 911 calls and steal money from colleagues,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement Friday.
“To do so at this time, when there is a heightened need and demand for units to be responding to legitimate calls to people in need, is especially outrageous,” she added.
In two instances, Keene called 911 to report an odor of gasoline, knowing the call would send firefighters rushing out of a firehouse nearby, authorities said. In another case, he reported a transformer was sparking, investigators found.
Authorities believe that his double-crossing netted him a total of between $1,890 and $2,060, according to the DOI.
His lawyer said the accused firefighter is currently assigned to a firehouse in the Bronx and has worked for the FDNY for six years. He makes $76,488 annually. Upon his arrest, Keene was suspended without pay for 30 days, said his lawyer, Robert Gallo. FDNY officials confirmed the suspension.
“He intends to vigorously defend himself. Any admissions he made will be litigated in court. They were made without counsel present,” Gallo said. Keene could also face Staten Island charges.
His alleged spree began on May 29, with a 911 call reporting a gasoline stench at the corner of Forrest and Veltman Aves. on Staten Island. Ladder 83 responded, but the report was unfounded and investigators determined the call was made from a phone registered to Keene.
The 911 system showed the phone was close by the Ladder 83/Engine 163 firehouse. Keene has admitted that while on duty he entered the firehouse and stole $150 to $200, the DOI said.
He is accused of working the trick again on June 2, when a caller alerted 911 to a transformer sparking near Victory Blvd. and Forrest Ave. Keene slipped into the responding firehouse, Ladder 80/Engine 157, and made off with $400 to $500, investigators said.
“Right now these are just accusations,” a Staten Island firefighter said, giving his FDNY brother the benefit of the doubt.
Keene allegedly phoned in a third report on June 11, lying about a gas smell at Jamaica Ave. and Little Neck Parkway to pinch $1,200 from the Engine 251 firehouse in Glen Oaks, Queens.
Finally, he stole $100 from Engine 263/Ladder 117 in Astoria, Queens, while the units were at a fire, and he took about $40 to $60 the same day from the Randalls Island facility, authorities said.
Keene accessed Engine 263/Ladder 117 without signing the logbook, the DOI noted. A firefighter who saw Keene assumed he was planning to use the gym. “You’re supposed to present [an ID] when you come in,” he said.
With Jennifer Cunningham
New York's Brazen: Firefighter charged in thefts from Staten Island firehouses
By Kiawana Rich — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Staten Island Advance’ / Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- It's the ultimate betrayal: A New York City firefighter making bogus 911 calls so he can steal cash from his Bravest brothers while they're out chasing wild geese reports.
Firefighter Joseph Keene stands accused of pulling the ruse at firehouses on Staten Island and in Queens and at the FDNY facility on Randall's Island.
Keene, 34, a resident of Hicksville, L.I., who's assigned to Engine Co. 75 in the Bronx, was arraigned Friday in Queens Criminal Court.
He is charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree; two counts of burglary in the third degree; one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree; falsely reporting an incident in the second degree; petty larceny and falsifying business records in the second degree.
The investigation is ongoing, according to the city Department of Investigation (DOI), which issued a report Friday regarding Keene's alleged crimes. The city agency is working in conjunction with the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation and the NYPD.
"It is surprising that a firefighter would both call in fake 911 calls and steal money from colleagues," said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in a statement.
"To do so at this time, when there is a heightened need and demand for units to be responding to legitimate calls to people in need, is especially outrageous. This individual is not representative of the members of the New York City Fire Department who serve the city with such distinction."
Keene was interviewed this week by DOI and detectives at the NYPD Squad at DOI, during which time he reportedly admitted to the crimes.
According to the report, between May and July 2013 Keene made several false 911 phone calls that forced an FDNY response, allowing him to enter the affected firehouses and steal firefighters' money and other valuables.
On May 29, Keene allegedly made a 911 call reporting a smell of gas in the vicinity of Forest and Veltman avenues in Port Richmond. The call led nearby Ladder Co. 83/Engine Co. 163 to respond. During that time, Keene, who not assigned to the firehouse, allegedly entered and stole between $150 and $200.
Then, on or about June 2, Keene's alleged report of a transformer sparking at Forest Avenue and Victory Boulevard in Sunnyside rousted Ladder Co. 80/Engine Co. 157. While firefighters were out, Keene, not assigned to this firehouse either, allegedly entered the premises and stole between $400 and $500.
In both instances, the calls were determined to be unfounded. The investigation determined that the calls came from a cell phone near the firehouse; it was determined the calls came from a number registered to Keene's cell phone.
On June 11, 2013, Keene allegedly reported a gas odor at Jamaica Avenue and Little Neck Parkway, leading Engine Co. 251 in Queens to respond. Keene, who was not assigned to this firehouse, allegedly entered and stole approximately $1,200. In this instance, video surveillance showed a man who authorities identify as Keene entering and exiting in a vehicle that was registered in his name. The call was also determined to be unfounded.
On July 17, 2013, Keene reported for work at the FDNY facility at Randall's Island, where he allegedly stole between $40 and $60 from an employees' locker area.
Later that day, Keene entered Engine Co. 263/Ladder Co. 117 in Queens, while units responded to a Bronx fire. Keene gained entry unchallenged into the firehouse; no one asked him for identification and he was not required to sign into the Housewatch logbook. Once inside, Keene allegedly stole $100. A witness identified Keene as entering the firehouse that day.
The Island crimes are being referred to the district attorney's office. DOI is also referring the matter to the FDNY.
Keene has been a firefighter since March 2007; upon his arrest, he was suspended by the FDNY.
He is being held on $7,500 bail. He due back in court on Aug. 2.
Rise of the Warrior Cop
Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?
By RADLEY BALKO — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
On Jan. 4 of last year, a local narcotics strike force conducted a raid on the Ogden, Utah, home of Matthew David Stewart at 8:40 p.m. The 12 officers were acting on a tip from Mr. Stewart's former girlfriend, who said that he was growing marijuana in his basement. Mr. Stewart awoke, naked, to the sound of a battering ram taking down his door. Thinking that he was being invaded by criminals, as he later claimed, he grabbed his 9-millimeter Beretta pistol.
The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.
The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart's basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart's father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.
Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.
The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.
The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to "clear" a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.
The country's first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.
The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.
A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education's SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.
The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.
Americans have long been wary of using the military for domestic policing. Concerns about potential abuse date back to the creation of the Constitution, when the founders worried about standing armies and the intimidation of the people at large by an overzealous executive, who might choose to follow the unhappy precedents set by Europe's emperors and monarchs.
The idea for the first SWAT team in Los Angeles arose during the domestic strife and civil unrest of the mid-1960s. Daryl Gates, then an inspector with the Los Angeles Police Department, had grown frustrated with his department's inability to respond effectively to incidents like the 1965 Watts riots. So his thoughts turned to the military. He was drawn in particular to Marine Special Forces and began to envision an elite group of police officers who could respond in a similar manner to dangerous domestic disturbances.
Mr. Gates initially had difficulty getting his idea accepted. Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker thought the concept risked a breach in the divide between the military and law enforcement. But with the arrival of a new chief, Thomas Reddin, in 1966, Mr. Gates got the green light to start training a unit. By 1969, his SWAT team was ready for its maiden raid against a holdout cell of the Black Panthers.
At about the same time, President Richard Nixon was declaring war on drugs. Among the new, tough-minded law-enforcement measures included in this campaign was the no-knock raid—a policy that allowed drug cops to break into homes without the traditional knock and announcement. After fierce debate, Congress passed a bill authorizing no-knock raids for federal narcotics agents in 1970.
Over the next several years, stories emerged of federal agents breaking down the doors of private homes (often without a warrant) and terrorizing innocent citizens and families. Congress repealed the no-knock law in 1974, but the policy would soon make a comeback (without congressional authorization).
During the Reagan administration, SWAT-team methods converged with the drug war. By the end of the 1980s, joint task forces brought together police officers and soldiers for drug interdiction. National Guard helicopters and U-2 spy planes flew the California skies in search of marijuana plants. When suspects were identified, battle-clad troops from the National Guard, the DEA and other federal and local law enforcement agencies would swoop in to eradicate the plants and capture the people growing them.
Advocates of these tactics said that drug dealers were acquiring ever bigger weapons and the police needed to stay a step ahead in the arms race. There were indeed a few high-profile incidents in which police were outgunned, but no data exist suggesting that it was a widespread problem. A study done in 1991 by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute found that less than one-eighth of 1% of homicides in the U.S. were committed with a military-grade weapon. Subsequent studies by the Justice Department in 1995 and the National Institute for Justice in 2004 came to similar conclusions: The overwhelming majority of serious crimes are committed with handguns, and not particularly powerful ones.
The new century brought the war on terror and, with it, new rationales and new resources for militarizing police forces. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants since its creation in 2002, with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers. In 2011 alone, a Pentagon program for bolstering the capabilities of local law enforcement gave away $500 million of equipment, an all-time high.
The past decade also has seen an alarming degree of mission creep for U.S. SWAT teams. When the craze for poker kicked into high gear, a number of police departments responded by deploying SWAT teams to raid games in garages, basements and VFW halls where illegal gambling was suspected. According to news reports and conversations with poker organizations, there have been dozens of these raids, in cities such as Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Dallas.
In 2006, 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, Va., SWAT officer. The investigation began when an undercover detective overheard Mr. Culosi wagering on college football games with some buddies at a bar. The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident. Mr. Culosi's family suspects the officer saw Mr. Culosi reaching for his cellphone and thought he had a gun.
Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.
Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.
In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn't a suspect in the investigation.
What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.
Consider today's police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.
If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, "Whatever I need to do to get home safe." It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer's last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, "I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world."
The motivation of the average American cop should not focus on just making it to the end of his shift. The LAPD may have given us the first SWAT team, but its motto is still exactly the right ideal for American police officers: To protect and serve.
SWAT teams have their place, of course, but they should be saved for those relatively rare situations when police-initiated violence is the only hope to prevent the loss of life. They certainly have no place as modern-day vice squads.
Many longtime and retired law-enforcement officers have told me of their worry that the trend toward militarization is too far gone. Those who think there is still a chance at reform tend to embrace the idea of community policing, an approach that depends more on civil society than on brute force.
In this very different view of policing, cops walk beats, interact with citizens and consider themselves part of the neighborhoods they patrol—and therefore have a stake in those communities. It's all about a baton-twirling "Officer Friendly" rather than a Taser-toting RoboCop.
Mr. Balko is the author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," published this month by Public Affairs.
F.B.I. (Boston Office)
Ex-Gangster Says Whitey Bulger Killed to Protect FBI Link
Stephen Flemmi Says His Girlfriend Was Strangled After She Learned of Connection
By JON KAMP — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
BOSTON—Admitted former gangster Stephen Flemmi said Friday that his alleged longtime criminal partner, James "Whitey" Bulger, was so concerned about protecting his secret relationship with a federal agent that he strangled Mr. Flemmi's girlfriend after she learned of the connection.
"He said he wanted to kill her," Mr. Flemmi said of Debra Davis, who was killed in 1981 at age 26. Mr. Flemmi was testifying for the second day in the long-anticipated trial of Mr. Bulger, alleged to be one of the city's most notorious gangland figures.
"I couldn't do it," Mr. Flemmi said twice. "He said, 'I'll take care of it.' He grabbed her around the throat and strangled her."
After Ms. Davis was killed in an empty South Boston house and her lifeless body was taken to the basement, Mr. Bulger went upstairs to lie down, Mr. Flemmi said. "I just cleaned up and did what I had to do," he said.
Prosecutors say the men were once inseparable, but they hadn't seen each other in nearly two decades before Mr. Flemmi first took the stand Thursday. Mr. Bulger has pleaded not guilty to a 32-count racketeering indictment that claims he played a role in 19 murders and led a criminal organization that controlled extortion, drug dealing and loan sharking throughout Boston from the 1970s through the mid-1990s.
The government alleges Mr. Bulger was an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was aided by his corrupt handler. Mr. Bulger has vehemently denied cooperating with the FBI.
Mr. Flemmi, nicknamed "the Rifleman," pleaded guilty in 2003 to participating in 10 murders, including Ms. Davis and his own stepdaughter. His deal spared him the death penalty, and he is serving a life sentence in an undisclosed location.
Mr. Flemmi said the gangsters maintained a fund with $50,000 to $250,000 to buy equipment and bribe law enforcement. He has said that both he and Mr. Bulger were FBI informants, mostly passing along tips about the Italian Mafia. Mr. Bulger also gave his handler a diamond ring and an Alcatraz belt buckle, Mr. Flemmi said.
But, Mr. Flemmi said, the relationship went both ways: He alleged five agents and one supervisor accepted cash, and some passed along information about investigations and other inside tips.
The supervisor has admitted to taking payoffs. Four of the agents, now retired, have denied accepting bribes from Mr. Bulger. His FBI handler, John Connolly, was convicted of racketeering but has long maintained his innocence. The FBI declined to comment Friday on the allegations.
Mr. Flemmi said his alleged partner decided to kill Ms. Davis after Mr. Flemmi accidentally told her about their relationship with Mr. Connolly, whom he said accepted more than $230,000 during the association. Mr. Flemmi said Mr. Bulger was concerned about her lack of discretion and worried she would jeopardize the relationship with Mr. Connolly.
Mr. Connolly served 10 years in federal prison for warning Mr. Bulger in 1994 about his pending indictment, prompting Mr. Bulger to flee until he was captured in 2011. The former agent is serving a state prison sentence for his connection to a Miami murder.
F.B.I. (Milwaukee Office)
Milwaukee FBI Chief under criminal investigation
By Meghan Dwyer — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘Fox News’ / Milwaukee, WI
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — A federal lawsuit filed by a disabled veteran from Oak Creek claims the FBI is discriminating against disabled veterans, and the Milwaukee FBI Chief is caught in the middle of the controversy.
Thirty-year-old Justin Slaby spent three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the summer of 2004, during a training accident, his left hand was destroyed by a grenade.
He left the army soon thereafter, and set his sights on becoming an FBI agent. Court records show the FBI hired him, despite his injury — and he managed to pass all physical exams with a prosthetic hand.
When Slaby got to Quantico, though, his hopes were dashed. Slaby says instead of being welcomed, he was mocked. Instructors said things like, “What’s next, guys in wheelchairs?”
An FBI firearms instructor stuck by Slaby’s side and said he was qualified because he could shoot a gun with his dominant hand.
Regardless, Slaby was kicked out of the Academy — and he filed a federal lawsuit against the government for discrimination. That’s when Milwaukee FBI Chief Theresa Carlson allegedly got involved. She’s accused of trying to influence testimony in the case.
Slaby’s lawyers argue Carlson tried to convince a witness in the case to perjure himself, saying it would be in his best interest to “come down on the side of the government.”
Carlson is also accused of saying Slaby would never be an FBI agent because of his disability — and he should just be happy with the jobs he’s already been offered. She warned Slaby was ruining his reputation by bringing a lawsuit against the FBI — and he would never be allowed back in the Academy.
In a rare move, a federal judge sanctioned the government on Thursday, July 18th — and called Carlson’s conduct “wholly inappropriate.”
Lawyers for the government said Carlson was just giving her personal opinion on the case — not discriminating against Slaby.
A spokesperson for the FBI said Carlson has been reassigned to a temporary duty assignment in Washington, D.C. She is currently being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General for witness tampering and other allegations relating to Slaby’s discharge from the FBI Academy.
Slaby’s lawyer, Kathy Butler, says the FBI has forbid Slaby from talking to the media.
“There are a lot of servicemen and women returning from these two wars who deserve to be judged for their abilities, not their disabilities,” Butler says. She anticipates more information about what Carlson said to potential witnesses will come out at trial.
Cops knocking on doors of potential shooters, victims
BY FRANK MAIN — Friday, July 19th, 2013; ‘The Chicago Sun-Times’ / Chicago, IL
Working from a list of people deemed most likely to become shooters or victims, a Chicago Police commander is expected to start knocking on their doors Friday and deliver letters warning them not to commit any violent crimes.
The “custom notifications” are a pilot program in the Austin District on the West Side. Austin District Cmdr. Barbara West plans to deliver letters to 20 people on a so-called “heat list,” officials said.
The heat list stems from work by Andrew Papachristos, a Yale University professor who studied murders between 2005 and 2010 on the West Side. He found 70 percent of the killings were in a social network of 1,600 people out of a total population of 80,000.
The citywide social network of violence includes more than 16,000 people, police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. The department narrowed that list to more than 400 “hot people” most likely to commit shootings or become victims — or 20 people per police district.
The letters will warn those on the list that they will face the most serious charges possible if they’re arrested for a violent crime.
“The custom notifications are the next step in the evolution of putting those guys on notice that they have the highest propensity for homicide,” McCarthy said. “We’re saying, ‘We know who you are, we know what you do and your chance of dying in a homicide is much greater than John Q. Citizen.’ ”
As the program evolves, the department plans to identify “influentials” such as a coach or pastor who can come to the door with the police to help deliver the message. The influentials can direct the “hot person” in a positive direction, officials said.
The department also plans to use the custom notifications in special situations such as flare-ups of violence. When police believe someone is likely to commit a retaliatory shooting, they might deliver a letter to him at home, said Debra Kirby, chief of the department’s Bureau of Organizational Development.
“We are looking to reach out and touch those individuals who are responsible for the violence in the city,” Kirby said.
Gang violence — including a spike in murders — put Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the national spotlight last year.
McCarthy says his gang violence reduction strategy is now fully in place. This year through Thursday, murder was down 26 percent, shootings — both fatal and nonfatal — were down 24 percent and overall crime was down 15 percent compared to the same period of 2012, according to the department.
The custom notification program is an extension of the gang “call-ins” the department has held since 2010. Former Police Supt. Jody Weis, following a model developed in Boston, arranged meetings between gang members and law enforcement authorities.
In the call-ins, which have continued under McCarthy, gang members are warned that any future murders tied to their gang will result in a police war on the entire gang — “group accountability.” Families of crime victims, pastors and community leaders also speak to the gang members about the damage they do to their neighborhoods.
David Kennedy, director of the Center for Criminal Control at John Jay College of New York, helped design the group call-ins — as well as the new custom notification program, which was previously introduced in High Point, N.C.
West Side police commander paying home visits to warn gangbangers
Face-to-face meetings a new tack in effort to quell violence
By Jeremy Gorner — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Chicago Tribune’ / Chicago, IL
The commander of a West Side police district plans to knock on the doors of the most dangerous gangbangers to issue warnings to stop the violence.
The effort by Austin District Cmdr. Barbara West comes as Chicago police try to quell gang violence with both innovative ideas and more traditional methods such as paying hundreds of officers to work overtime on their days off.
West told reporters she and an undisclosed community leader planned on Friday to begin going to the homes of about two dozen individuals who have been singled out on the department's "heat list" as those most likely to commit violence and to fall victim to violence themselves.
West, the first police commander to take on this assignment, said she plans to talk for a few minutes at each household and drop off a letter warning the targets that police will seek the most serious punishment possible against them if their criminal behavior persists. If the target isn't home, West said she would relay the message to a relative.
"At this point we're putting them on notice that if you commit these crimes, we will follow you and prosecute you to the fullest," she told reporters Friday at the Austin District police station.
The department declined to let reporters tag along for West's first face-to-face meetings Friday and declined to release a copy of the letter to be delivered.
The strategy is based on research by Andrew Papachristos, a sociology professor at Yale University who conducted a study on the West Side several years ago that showed that much of the violence involved a relatively small number of victims and offenders.
A computer analysis showed a little more than 400 people across the city — including about 25 in the Austin District — are the most at-risk from among more than 16,000 offenders. There can be many reasons for making the list, including lengthy arrest records, the serious nature of the offenses and whether they have been shooting victims themselves.
In her home visits, West said she will remind the 25 individuals of their often extensive rap sheets and warn that if they continue with their risky lifestyles, they will likely end up dead or in prison.
"Hey, this is your past," she said she might tell them. "Take a look at it very hard. ...You could be faced with something that you weren't expecting," she said.
When asked whether other officers would back her up when she delivered the ominous messages to the gangbangers, West made it clear that she is confident that her 19 years on the job have taught her how to take care of herself.
"We'll see. ... We have to take each incident as it comes," she said.
In a year in which homicides and shootings have dropped sharply below bloody year-earlier totals, West's Austin District has been struggling to contain the violence. Through July 14, homicides have risen in the district to 15, up from 13 a year earlier and 7 in 2011 at that point.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he expects the department's 21 other commanders to go door-to-door with the "heat list" targets in their districts as well, but he laid out no timetable for when that will happen.
McCarthy said he is hopeful of finding some gangbangers ready to leave the criminal lifestyle behind. As an incentive, they plan to offer help finding jobs and providing medical care and other services. They also said local clergy would help try to encourage them to change their lives.
"You never know who's going to listen," McCarthy said. "Some of them may, some of them may not. But at the end of the day, we're trying."
Legislature repeals bill to limit feds’ law powers
Ban on federal agents enforcing laws raised constitutional issues.
By Brian Maffly — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The Salt Lake Tribune’ / Salt Lake City, UT
Faced with a likely legal defeat over a bill’s constitutionality, the Utah Legislature on Wednesday repealed a measure limiting federal land agencies’ law enforcement powers.
HB155 sponsor Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, sought the repeal "on advice of counsel" after U.S. District Judge David Nuffer issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law’s implementation.
"We need to learn from this experience so we won’t make this mistake in the future," said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, one of the few House members who had voted against the bill earlier this year. "There are better ways to resolve these issues than to pass a bill that we will have to repeal and litigate in court later on."
Dubbed "the sheriffs’ bill," HB155 would have barred Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service officers from enforcing state laws, imposing criminal penalties on them for "impersonating a peace officer" if they detained or ticketed someone for speeding, fishing without a license and other violations that are not specifically prohibited under federal law.
Backed by the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, Noel claimed BLM rangers and Forest Service forest protection officers harass citizens and step on the law-enforcement priorities of local authorities, who are accountable to voters.
But on Wednesday he conceded that a better way to resolve these issues is to build better relationships between local law enforcement and federal agencies.
Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, put it this way: "When you find yourself riding a dead horse, the best option is to dismount."
Noel joked back, saying his horse might be down, but it will rise again.
But Democrats who had raised doubts about HB155’s constitutional muster during this year’s general session, which adjourned in March, did not find much humor.
"It seems that what we’ve done is imprudently pass legislation that now [has] been revealed [in court] to be fatally flawed," said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. He was troubled that the Legislature would "backpedal" on the measure only after the court issued an injunction, but before it could issue a final ruling.
The U.S. Justice Department sued in May and successfully argued in pre-trial proceedings that HB155 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. After a June 28 hearing, Nuffer agreed the bill "creates irreparable harm to the constitutional order."
In court, the bill’s defenders argued it was intended to curb alleged abuses, but they could not identify a specific example of a federal officer improperly "assimilating" a state law.
HB155, opposed by only a handful of Democrats, was just one of several bills and resolution the Utah Legislature passed in the past two years designed to reduce federal influence on the state’s public lands.
"Our citizens are getting sick and tired of bills and laws that don’t stand up in court," said Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay. "I know there are things we need to fight for. There are many that are frivolous that our citizens are paying for."
"The state of Utah has not expended anything on legal fees. To say this cost the state a certain amount is certainly not true," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. "There is a process. If we believe a judge is making a wrong decision we can appeal that."
Wednesday’s repeal vote was unanimous in the House, but three Senate Republicans voted no.
Surveillance Court Renews Order for Phone Call Data
By SCOTT SHANE — Saturday, July 20th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved a new order for collection of bulk data on phone calls in the United States, allowing the National Security Agency to continue a practice that has been criticized by some members of Congress and the public.
In a statement Friday, the office of the director of national intelligence announced that the court, which operates largely in secret, had permitted the N.S.A. to continue to collect phone logs, which do not include the actual contents of the calls.
The original order disclosed last month by Edward J. Snowden, an N.S.A. contractor, expired Friday.