Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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Federal appeals court stops NYPD unions' bid to halt Mayor de Blasio's stop-and-frisk deal
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the settlement deal for the stop-and-frisk case be hammered out in a lower court. Police unions were looking to intervene in the deal struck between Mayor de Blasio and the plaintiffs of the case, saying the stop-and-frisk reforms would harm their reputation.
By Dareh Gregorian AND Rich Schapiro — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
A federal appeals court Friday dealt a blow to the NYPD unions' bid to appeal mandated reforms of stop-and-frisk.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the unions' attempt to intervene in the deal struck between Mayor de Blasio and the plaintiffs, who allege they were unjustly stopped because of their race.
The unions wanted to continue to appeal because they say the reforms will harm their reputation.
The latest ruling mandated that the case be returned to a lower court for 45 days to cement a settlement deal.
But there is a silver lining for the unions — the appellate division said they should be involved in the final negotiations before a deal is finalized.
"We are pleased that the circuit court confirmed that our intervention motion should be heard prior to any settlement, and we look forward to pressing the police officers' concerns before the district court," said lawyer Steven Engel, who represents the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
The case now lands in the hands of Manhattan Federal Court Judge Analisa Torres, who replaced Judge Shira Scheindlin after an appeals court booted her off the case.
The city Law Department said: "The Court of Appeals recognized the City's interest in resolving the case, which we now intend to do in the District Court."
Civil rights groups welcomed the ruling.
"We are gratified that the Court of Appeals has accepted the parties' proposed framework for resolving this case," said the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the class-action suit. "Now that the litigation has largely concluded, we look forward to working with affected communities and the City toward achieving lasting reforms to the NYPD's stop and frisk practices."
The ruling comes six months after Scheindlin ruled that aspects of stop-and-frisk were unconstitutional.
Scheindlin ordered a raft of reforms, including the hiring of a federal monitor.
Not long after taking office, de Blasio announced that the city would end its battle over stop-and-frisk.
Since that Jan. 30th declaration, the city asked to withdraw the appeal, saying it would cause unnecessary delay and hurt its chances of finalizing a settlement.
But police unions countered that the appeal should go forward to help repair the reputation of the nation's largest police force.
"Our mission has always been to gain a seat at the table in order to protect our members' rights and reputations," said PBA President Pat Lynch.
"We look forward to representing those interests and our hope is that the court will recognize the importance of having the police officers' voices heard in the process of addressing the issues raised in this litigation."
The New York Civil Liberties Union cheered the decision.
"This ruling removes the last hurdle to a settlement of the stop-and-frisk litigation, and we can now all move forward with the reform process," said associate legal director Chris Dunn.
Stop-and-frisk case going back to Manhattan judge
By Rich Calder — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
The de Blasio administration scored a big win in the city's stop-and-frisk case on Friday when a federal appeals panel passed it back to a Manhattan judge — potentially fast-tracking an anticipated settlement deal between the new mayor and plaintiffs, and snubbing city police unions in the process.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mayor de Blasio by agreeing to move the controversial case back to Judge Analisa Torres, who was assigned the case in November after the same panel booted Judge Shira Scheindlin off it while also questioning her impartiality.
The new mayor had asked the panel to formerly withdraw the city's appeal made by the Bloomberg administration late last year and move the case back to Torres in the hopes of soon reaching a settlement with the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, the appellate panel opted not to rule on a request made by the city's police unions to let them intervene in the case in the hopes of blocking a settlement. The unions had claimed in legal papers two weeks ago that they "are fighting to participate in this appeal to protect their reputations and to avoid . . . unwarranted burdens."
But the panel said Torres should decide whether the unions could continue the fight to block NYPD stop-and-frisk tactics from being overhauled.
"While there is authority for granting such a motion, it is generally preferable that the decision be made by the district court," the panel wrote in a 12-page ruling.
"Moreover, the district court is better positioned to deal with the complexities that might arise during multi-faceted settlement negotiations in which a variety of interests must be accommodated," added the panel.
Patrick Lynch, president for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the union is hopeful Torres "will recognize the importance of having the police officers' voices heard in the process of addressing the issues raised in this litigation."
Scheindlin in August had ruled stop-and-frisk illegally targeted minorities, and ordered sweeping reforms, including appointment of an outside monitor.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed an appeal shortly before leaving office, objecting to having an outside monitor micromanage cops and potentially halt strategies that led to historic crime reductions.
De Blasio has said he wants NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to implement changes to make searches constitutional and noted that a new inspector general will regularly review policing.
David Lerner, a spokesman for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the plaintiffs are "gratified" that the appellate panel "accepted the parties' proposed framework for resolving this case."
NYC stop-and-frisk cases back in district court
By ZACHARY R. DOWDY — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'New York Newsday' / Melville, L.I.
A federal appellate court panel bounced the landmark stop-and-frisk lawsuits against New York City back into a lower court Friday so the matter can be resolved.
The transfer was expected since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city would drop its appeal to two district court rulings last year that the city's police had discriminated against and violated the constitutional rights of its citizens in applying the street-level surveillance and interrogation tactic.
City attorneys, seeking a settlement of the two lawsuits, Ligon v. City of New York and Floyd v. City of New York, requested the case be moved back to district court for 45 days, and the court of appeals obliged.
"The city believes that such a resolution is possible and desirable, and that the public interest strongly favors this result," read the nine-page decision. "Accordingly, the city's motion is hereby granted."
Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which brought one of the cases on behalf of the plaintiffs, said, "This ruling removes the last hurdle to a settlement of the stop-and-frisk litigation, and we can now all move forward with the reform process."
Nicholas Paolucci, spokesman for the city's law department, said, "The Court of Appeals recognized the city's interest in resolving the case, which we now intend to do in the district court."
The decision also shifted into district court a request by police unions, specifically the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Detectives Endowment Association, the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the Captains' Endowment Association, to play a role in any settlement.
The decision said the unions opposed the transfer and "contend that they should be granted leave to intervene and, if necessary, continue the appeal to protect collective bargaining interests and to contest findings by the District Court the unions believe to be unwarranted."
PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said: "Our mission has always been to gain a seat at the table in order to protect our members' rights and reputations. We look forward to representing those interests and our hope is that the court will recognize the importance of having the police officer's voices heard in the process of addressing the issues raised in this litigation."
NYPD stop-and-frisk case returned to lower court
By LARRY NEUMEISTER (The Associated Press) — Friday, February 21st, 2014; 7:13 p.m. EST
NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal appeals court returned litigation over the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy to a lower court Friday for a potential settlement between civil liberties groups and the city.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also refused to let police unions replace the city to continue the appeal over a judge's finding that police sometimes discriminate against minorities with the crime reduction tactic.
The appeals court's decision was issued weeks after the city withdrew its challenge to a court-appointed monitor and other steps in order to rewrite the stop-and-frisk policy, with new Mayor Bill de Blasio saying the city wanted to ensure there was no discrimination.
In a statement, the city's law department said: "The court of appeals recognized the city's interest in resolving the case, which we now intend to do in the district court."
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the decision "clears away the last hurdle to our being able to move forward with the de Blasio administration to settle the litigation and start the important task of reforming stop-and-frisk."
He added: "With this ruling, the appeals court has made clear that it does not intend to stand in the way of this reform process."
Police unions had asked to take over the appeal, saying the finding of discrimination by U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin unfairly tainted the 35,000-person police force, the nation's largest. Scheindlin was removed from the case last year after the appeals court said she ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges by misapplying a ruling that allowed her to take the case and by giving media interviews during a trial last year.
The appeals court refused to let the unions replace the city and continue the appeal. The court said the unions could try to intervene in place of the city before a district judge first and then could appeal any rejection.
In its decision, the 2nd Circuit said the appropriateness of letting police unions continue the appeal "could well bear on settlement negotiations." It said the lower court was "better positioned to deal with the complexities that might arise during multifaceted settlement negotiations in which a variety of interests must be accommodated."
The ruling seemed to sit well with the police unions.
"Our mission has always been to gain a seat at the table in order to protect our members' rights and reputations," said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
Stop and frisk has been around for decades, but recorded stops increased dramatically in the past decade to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. To make a stop, police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred, a standard lower than the probable cause needed to justify an arrest. Only about 10 percent of the stops result in arrests or summonses, and weapons are found about 2 percent of the time.
Baher Azmy, legal director of the civil liberties group Center for Constitutional Rights, which had argued on behalf of those challenging the stop-and-frisk tactics, said the 2nd Circuit's action meant that the litigation "has largely concluded."
"We look forward to working with affected communities and the city toward achieving lasting reforms to the NYPD's stop and frisk practices," he said. "This city will be a better place for it."
Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.
Another Step on the Path to Settling Frisk Cases
By BENJAMIN WEISERFEB — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Times'
A federal appeals panel in Manhattan cleared the way on Friday for the lawsuits challenging the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices to be sent back to a lower-court judge, a step toward negotiating a final settlement in the longstanding legal dispute.
The city and the plaintiffs had sought to have the case sent back to the United States District Court, where they were seeking approval of a deal that would essentially put in place changes ordered by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin last summer, including the appointment of a monitor.
Several police unions that criticized Judge Scheindlin's decision had opposed returning the case to the trial court. They sought to intervene and wanted the appeals court to decide the appeal of Judge Scheindlin's ruling by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in January that he would seek a broad settlement.
But in its ruling Friday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said it was preferable for the unions' motion to be handled in District Court, "particularly because the appropriateness of intervention and the form it takes could well bear on settlement negotiations."
The panel, comprising Judges John M. Walker Jr., José A. Cabranes and Barrington D. Parker Jr., ordered the case sent to a lower court judge to supervise settlement discussions "among such concerned or interested parties" as the judge "deems appropriate, and resolving the motions to intervene."
Judge Analisa Torres has been assigned to the cases in District Court, and the panel said she could hold hearings, if necessary.
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said, "Our mission has always been to gain a seat at the table in order to protect our members' rights and reputations."
The city's Law Department said the appeals panel had "recognized the city's interest in resolving the case, which we now intend to do in the District Court."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs — people who had been stopped by the police — said they saw the ruling as significant, and a signal that the appeals court would not stand in the way of the de Blasio administration's decision to settle the cases and make needed changes.
NYPD Chief Kevin Ward now Police Commissioner Bill Bratton's chief of staff
After Hurricane Sandy, he oversaw the department's response in Staten Island, including rescue operations, relief efforts, and collaborations with federal, state, and city agencies, according to the NYPD.
By Rocco Parascandola AND Thomas Tracy — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton finally has his right-hand man.
The NYPD's top cop named Chief Kevin Ward the department's new chief of staff on Friday.
"As chief of staff, Chief Ward will aid in many of my collaborative strategies to help streamline areas of the department," Bratton said in a statement. "His years of experience with the NYPD and educational background make him an essential member of the leadership team."
Ward is a 30-year NYPD cop with experience in the patrol, detective, internal affairs and organized crime and control bureaus.
After Hurricane Sandy, he oversaw the department's response in Staten Island, including rescue operations, relief efforts, and collaborations with federal, state, and city agencies, according to an NYPD spokesman.
His most recent posting was as commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens South.
Bratton also announced Chief Thomas Chan will oversee traffic safety as head of the Transportation Bureau. One priority will be to help Mayor de Blasio achieve his "Vision Zero" initiative to cut traffic deaths, and part of the plan is expanded enforcement against dangerous moving violations like speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians.
"He will help further shape the department's focus on street safety and traffic issues," Bratton said.
The announcements follow a major shakeup in the NYPD's upper echelon.
Earlier this week, Bratton named Assistant Chief Joseph Reznick to be chief of the Internal Affairs Bureau and Assistant Chief Robert Boyce to be chief of detectives.
In addition, John Bilich, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for operations, resigned to take a job as chief investigator for Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson.
Last week, Bratton held separate meetings with the now-former Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski and now-former Chief of Internal Affairs Charles Campisi, informing them that the "department is moving in another direction," one source said.
Bratton names veteran cops to top NYPD spots
By Matt McNulty — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
Police Commissioner Bratton has named a pair of veteran cops to top spots in the department, he announced Friday.
Thomas Chan – who joined the force in 1982 and began his patrol in Morningside Heights – was assigned as chief of transportation.
Bratton also appointed Kevin Ward as his new chief of staff.
A 30-year veteran of the police force, Ward had previously commanded the 9th and 17th precincts in Manhattan.
NYPD's surveillance of Muslims will still be challenged in New York lawsuit
The lawyers criticized a ruling in a similar case in New Jersey that found surveillance was not a civil rights violation.
By LARRY NEUMEISTER (The Associated Press) — Friday, February 21st, 2014; 6:32 p.m. EST
NOTE: See the New Jersey section of the newsletter for yesterday's ruling on NYPD Muslim surveillance in New Jersey, the ACLU and Al Jazeera America. - Mike
NEW YORK (AP) -- Attorneys for critics of the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims said Friday there's no reason to slow their pursuit of a Brooklyn federal lawsuit challenging the practice after a similar case was dismissed in New Jersey.
"I'm not worried," said lawyer Hina Shamsi with the American Civil Liberties Union. She added that the decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, N.J., "by no means" meant it was more likely that the Brooklyn case would be dismissed.
For one, Shamsi said, New York City has not asked to dismiss the lawsuit. It was filed last year following a series of articles by The Associated Press based partly on confidential NYPD documents that showed how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups in New York and elsewhere.
Martini ruled that the NYPD's work in New Jersey was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil rights violation, and said the city was not to blame because a news agency "covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization." The AP declined to comment Friday. Lawyers for plaintiffs have promised to appeal.
In the Brooklyn case, Shamsi said issues were being worked out as to how the police department will share information ordered by the judge to be turned over, including materials related to the plaintiffs, specific NYPD investigations and information about intelligence activities that the plaintiff will need to prove its claim of discrimination.
Shamsi said she hopes new Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration "will look with a fresh eye at policies and practices that stigmatize New Yorkers on the basis of their religion and cause harm to their personal and professional lives and religious practices."
She said that after the lawsuit was filed, lawyers "set forth a set of really inflammatory and false allegations that increased our plaintiffs' concerns that their surveillance was unjustified and ongoing and discriminatory."
Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said lawyers working on the Brooklyn case intend to show evidence that the stigma left on the Muslim community by the NYPD surveillance is created by the police department's practices.
"So we disagree with that conclusion of the New Jersey district court," he said.
City lawyers Friday said only that the Brooklyn case is in the early stages of evidence-gathering.
Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.
The Traffic Nazi Sphincter Muscle Puts Responsibility On His NYPD Security Detail
NYC mayor faces flap over SUV speeding video
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and TOM HAYS (The Associated Press) — Friday, February 21st, 2014; 7:11 p.m. EST
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio faced more questions Friday about why his official vehicles were videotaped breaking traffic laws only two days after he rolled out a sweeping traffic safety plan.
De Blasio deferred to the New York Police Department when met by reporters Friday morning on his way to the gym. The mayor's cars are typically driven by members of his security detail, made up of NYPD detectives.
"The NYPD provides security protocol for the drivers. Talk to them about that," he said.
After his weekly meeting with the mayor on Friday, Police Commissioner William Bratton downplayed the video, saying that the drivers have special training to make decisions based on security needs and won't face any questioning.
"I'm not overly concerned by what I saw," Bratton said.
Asked if the mayor can tell his drivers to slow down, the commissioner responded, "He could raise it, but the security concerns would override any of his concerns."
De Blasio cited Bratton's comments later Friday, saying, "Commissioner Bratton addressed the topic of my security detail earlier today. I am very comfortable with what Commissioner Bratton said and I refer you to his comments."
Despite having said earlier that he would address the apparent speeding, De Blasio refused to answer reporters' shouted questions about the matter.
The mayor was in the front passenger seat of the lead SUV of a two-vehicle caravan on Thursday that was captured on video speeding, running through a pair of stop signs and not signaling when changing lanes. The footage, which aired on WCBS-TV, was taken as de Blasio returned to City Hall after a news conference in Queens.
The video emerged two days after de Blasio released the "Vision Zero" plan, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities. The plan proposed reducing the citywide speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, installing more red light and speed enforcement cameras, detailing more NYPD officers to enforce speeding violations and toughening penalties for speeding.
"We're very serious about `Vision Zero,' de Blasio said. "We're going to keep moving forward with it."
NYPD Decides Whether Motorcade Speeds, de Blasio Says
By Henry Goldman — Friday, February 21st, 2014; 6:07 p.m. 'Bloomberg News' / New York, NY
Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose SUV was caught on video speeding and ignoring stop signs two days after he demanded that drivers obey traffic laws, said the New York Police Department was responsible for the vehicle's operation.
"The NYPD provides security protocol for the drivers; talk to them about that," de Blasio, who took office last month, told reporters outside his Brooklyn home this morning. He said he would answer questions about the incident at a news conference this afternoon.
WCBS-TV in New York broadcast video yesterday showing the mayor's two-vehicle caravan speeding through an icy residential area of the city's Queens borough and running past two stop signs while en route to City Hall after a news conference about filling potholes. Two days earlier, de Blasio personally vowed to abide by a 63-point program that included reducing speed limits and enforcing laws to eliminate traffic deaths.
William Bratton, de Blasio's appointed police commissioner, said the mayor didn't flout the law, and that he wouldn't review the police detail's judgment.
Disobeying motor-vehicle regulations is "not a privilege" of the office, Bratton told reporters today after emerging from a City Hall meeting with de Blasio. "He's the mayor of the city of New York and his security is paramount."
De Blasio met with reporters at City Hall this evening to deliver a statement endorsing Bratton's comments. He declined to take questions.
"I have great respect for NYPD's security training and protocol; I'm committed obviously to traffic safety and safe streets in NYC," de Blasio said. "I'm very comfortable with what Commissioner Bratton said."
De Blasio, 52, is New York's first Democratic mayor in 20 years. He won election in November by the largest margin for a non-incumbent in city history after decrying income inequality, pledging an open administration and promising that his actions as mayor would conform to his words.
The WCBS camera crew reported that the mayor's motorcade was traveling 40 miles per hour where the speed limit was 30 mph, and later exceeded the limit in a 45 mph zone. The vehicles also changed lanes without using directional signals, according to the video.
"We've put a very bold plan before you and we want the public to know we're holding ourselves to this standard -- and we intend to achieve these goals," he said at a Feb. 18 press conference announcing his traffic-safety plan.
The plan would reduce the citywide speed limit by 5 mph to 25 mph to cut down on accidents that kill more than 250 people and seriously injure 4,000 each year in the most populous U.S. city.
De Blasio also proposed increasing speed and red-light monitoring cameras, harsher penalties for traffic-law breakers and adding highway-unit police to catch violators. Parts of the plan would need approval from lawmakers in Albany, the state capital.
Earlier this month, de Blasio drew criticism for calling the NYPD about the arrest of a political ally, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, who was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested on an outstanding warrant stemming from his actions during a pro-immigration demonstration last year.
The bishop was later released on a desk appearance ticket instead of spending a night in jail. De Blasio said he acted appropriately and Bratton backed him up, saying the mayor may call anyone he wants.
NYPD Commish Bill Bratton Defends Mayor's Speeding Detail After Huddling With Hizzoner
The NYPD leadfoot who drives around Mayor de Blasio won't be questioned for brazenly flouting traffic rules, and will remain behind the wheel for the foreseeable future, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Friday.
BY Jennifer Fermino — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
Bratton said this morning he watched the video of the detail speeding and blowing through stop signs on Thursday, and wasn't "overly concerned by what I saw."
"They were moving with the traffic flow, which they're trained to do," said Bratton. "You get up on the Grand Central Parkway, if that's going 55 mph, you go 55 miles per hour. In terms of the [stop sign] issue, when you're traveling in convoy, the second vehicle, its principal function is to stay with the first vehicle."
He spoke after leaving a two-hour meeting with Mayor de Blasio in City Hall on Friday. The meeting, a day after de Blasio's detail was busted breaking traffic rules by a camera-toting CBS 2 news crew, was planned prior to the report.
The normally affable Bratton got testy when a reporter asked if this was a case of cops breaking the law to enforce the law, something he once said officers abusing the NYPD stop and frisk policy were guilty of.
"Let's get real," he said. "Security issues are going to be paramount. We have the obligation to provide security, protect the life of the protectee. And that's where the officers are basically instructed and trained to make decisions, to basically provide that balance."
When asked how de Blasio's security was being protected by breaking traffic laws, he said, "We weren't there. That's why we train them to make the decisions. We're not sitting in the driver's seat."
He said he would not question the driver about the incident, which came just two days after de Blasio announced a slew of street safety initiatives designed to lower the number of people killed in car accidents.
"There will be no follow up of what occurred yesterday. The vehicles moved continually throughout the city. In terms of what I saw in that video, [it] did not raise significant concerns for me. We are not going to be questioning those officers as to the decisions they made," he said.
"They make these decisions all the time, every day, as they are attempting to provide security."
It's the second embarrassing incident involving de Blasio and the NYPD in just over two weeks. The mayor was criticized for calling a deputy chief after his friend Bishop Orlando Findlayter was arrested on Feb. 10.
De Blasio said he wasn't trying to pull strings for Findlayter, but critics - including Controller Scott Stringer - said it was inappropriate for the mayor to be personally calling cops to discuss arrests. Findlayter was let go soon after the call, but cops say the decision was made before the mayor got involved.
Bratton on the 'real' rules for driving a mayor
By Azi Paybarah — Friday, February 21st, 2014; 3:03 p.m. 'Capital New York' / New York, NY
Police commissioner Bill Bratton said he would not question the police officer assigned to drive Mayor Bill de Blasio who was filmed yesterday driving over the speed limit, changing lanes without signaling and ignoring two stop signs.
"I am not overly concerned with what I saw," Bratton told reporters as he left City Hall after his regularly scheduled meeting with the mayor.
CBS yesterday aired footage showing the mayor's motorcade speeding and changing lanes without signaling on the Grand Central Parkway, and ignoring two stop signs. The incident comes just days after the mayor announced plans to reduce speeds on most city streets, and to increase enforcement of traffic rules in order to decrease pedestrian fatalities.
"The officers assigned to the security detail have dual concerns," Bratton said.
One is security and the other, he said, is "traffic conditions. And they are constantly evaluating and making decisions."
"They were moving with the traffic flow, which they're trained to do," Bratton said of the mayor's motorcade. "If you get up on the Grand Central Parkway and that's going 55 miles per hour, you go 55 miles per hour."
As for the stop sign, Bratton said the second car in a motorcade like the one the mayor travels in needs to stay close to the lead vehicle.
"It's principal function is to stay with the first vehicle," he said.
Asked whether de Blasio had set up a double standard for obeying traffic rules, Bratton said, "He's the mayor of New York and his security is paramount. It's the same as the president of the United States, the governor or, for that matter, the security that's provided to me. I'm sorry. That's the way it is."
I asked Bratton if the motorcade's exception to the some traffic rules violates the mantra he's told his officers, which is that you "can't break the law in order to enforce" it.
"It is not," Bratton said. "Let's get real. Let's get real. Security issues are going to be paramount."
He went on to say, "We are not going to be questioning those officers as to the decisions they made. They make these decisions all the time, every day, as they attempt to provide security."
A television reporter asked Bratton if the officer filmed yesterday will continue driving the mayor.
Bratton said, "certainly," and walked away.
De Blasio jaywalks as he preaches road safety
By Kevin Fasick — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
He talks the talk — but won't walk the walk.
Mayor de Blasio, who has been lecturing about pedestrian safety since he stepped foot in City Hall, strolled across a Brooklyn street against the light Friday in a blatant jaywalking violation.
Hizzoner was gabbing on his old-school flip-phone as he slowly made his way across 11th Street on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope — and his NYPD detail faithfully jaywalked with him.
A Post reporter caught the foot faux pas on video a day after de Blasio's SUV was filmed blowing through two stop signs in Queens and twice going 15 mph over the speed limit.
A prickly de Blasio went for the walk after punting questions about his lead-footed detail to the NYPD, saying the maneuvers were a matter of police "security protocols."
"Guys, listen, you need to talk to the NYPD. They can tell you about the security protocols that the drivers observe," he said just before setting out on his morning walk to the gym.
De Blasio and his police posse walked down 11th Street from his house and jaywalked as they turned onto Sixth Avenue, ignoring the solid-red Don't Walk warning at around 7:25 a.m.
He decided to have the SUV pick him up for the return trip rather than walk back home.
At an afternoon press conference, de Blasio refused to take questions about the jaywalking or his laundry list of moving violations in Queens.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton wasn't bothered by the mayor's speeding, stop-sign blowing convoy.
"The video did not raise significant concerns," he said Friday, adding that de Blasio doesn't really have a say in how his detail gets him from place to place.
"Security is the responsibility of the New York City Police Department. It's not the responsibility of the mayor," he said.
"I'm not overly concerned about what I saw, in the sense that the speed issue was raised — they were moving with the traffic flow, which they're trained to do," Bratton said. "You get up on the Grand Central Parkway, if that's going 55 miles an hour, you go 55 miles an hour.''
As for the stop signs, which both cars rolled through without braking, Bratton said, "When you're traveling in a convoy, the second vehicle's principal function is to stay with the first vehicle. "
Even if the mayor saw something he was concerned about, or of possible danger to pedestrians, Bratton said, "He could raise [the concern], but quite frankly the security concerns would override any of his concerns."
The top cop said he hasn't talked to de Blasio's chauffeurs about their driving. "I'm not going to ask them. There will be no follow up with what occurred yesterday," he said.
De Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, reminded his drivers to follow the rules of the road and made a vow not to speed through the streets with lights and sirens unless he was rushing to an "enormous emergency."
The new mayor has made pedestrian safety a key objective of his administration. On Tuesday, he laid out a sweeping "Vision Zero" initiative to end traffic deaths that includes lowering the city speed limit to 25 mph.
The NYPD released a statement Thursday night saying its officers were following protocol, but has refused to elaborate or give specific protocol examples.
"As a general rule and for very good reason, we don't discuss security procedures, security levels, numbers of security people, things they do in traffic to provide security," added John Miller, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence.
"These decisions are made by the operator of the vehicle and by the supervisor of the security detail based on the conditions present."
Bratton also wouldn't say what "conditions" might have been present during de Blasio's wild ride.
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post' Editorial:
Memo to Bill de Blasio: You're the mayor — not the king. Perhaps you should act that way.
Alas, that hasn't been the case for the past two months. Surrounded by political sycophants and seeing his 3-1 electoral win over Joe Lhota as a mandate (though 81 percent of registered voters failed to back him), he seems to think he can do whatever he likes. We're not just talking about driving over the speed limit, as his car was caught doing this week, two days after he called for lower limits and vowed to hold "ourselves to this standard." (And never mind that the very next day The Post caught him jaywalking.)
Consider that in just the past few weeks, we've seen that de Blasio:
• Personally placed a late-night call to the NYPD following the arrest of a political pal, Bishop Orlando Findlayter.
• Is allowing his police department to withhold the bishop's arrest report.
• Has barred the press from a number of speaking engagements.
• Omitted a speech to pro-Israel AIPAC from his public schedule.
• Held secret meetings with members of the Obama administration.
• Insists on taxing the wealthy for pre-K, even though Gov. Cuomo offered to give him state aid to fund it instead.
• Refuses to answer questions he finds inconvenient.
It's starting to look like an imperial mayoralty. De Blasio has created an image of an official for whom the rules of accountability don't apply, one who seems to have contempt for the public, the press and anyone who disagrees with him.
Nor does he fear pushback even from fellow elected officials in the city. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James are both mute on the Findlayter episode, for example. (Would former Public Advocate Warren Wilhelm, er, Bill de Blasio have been so silent about then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg?)
None of this bodes well for the city. It could be a long four years.
40th Precinct P.P.O. Asar Sanad Doing Her Best to Kiss the Job Goodbye
Bronx man charged with beating girlfriend released after cop admits to lying about witnessing incident
Officer Asar Sanad, 29, said in a sworn statement she saw Jose Garcia punch Carmen Rivera repeatedly in front of her E. 142nd St. building. She has since admitted that Garcia had already been placed under arrest by the time she arrived.
By Rocco Parascandola — Friday, February 21st, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
A Bronx man charged with beating his girlfriend was able to walk away from the rap scot-free after a cop admitted she lied when she claimed she witnessed the alleged assault.
Officer Asar Sanad, 29, surrendered Thursday and was arraigned on charges that could get her sacked because she is a rookie on probationary status, authorities said.
Sanad was accused of making false statements in paperwork associated with a "hand-off arrest" — in which one cop makes the collar, but another handles the paperwork and gets credit for the bust. In a properly executed hand-off arrest, the officer will make it clear a second officer witnessed the events if that is the case. Sanad did not make that distinction, sources say.
Sanad was working out of the 40th Precinct in the Bronx on Feb. 15, 2013, when Jose Garcia, then 56, allegedly beat Carmen Rivera in front of her building on E. 142nd St. Garcia was charged with misdemeanor assault. In the criminal complaint, Sanad said in a sworn statement she saw Garcia grab Rivera's shoulder then repeatedly punch her in the face.
In August, she admitted to the DA's office that by the time she arrived, Garcia was already under arrest.
Charges against Garcia were dismissed in October.
Sanad was released without bail after being arraigned on charges of making a false written statement and other counts.
With Edgar Sandoval
Man accused of assault walks — because cop 'lied' in paperwork
By Dana Sauchelli — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
This domestic violence arrest has gone topsy-turvy.
A two-year NYPD officer is facing possible jail, and a South Bronx man accused of repeatedly punching his girlfriend in the face has gone free — all because the cop made a critical error in writing up the arrest.
Officer Asar Sanad, 29, turned herself in to Bronx prosecutors on Thursday and is charged with lying on the arrest paperwork by claiming she personally witnessed Jose Garcia punching a woman on Feb. 15 in an apartment on 142nd Street.
In fact, it had been two other cops who witnessed the alleged assault, as Sanad should have noted in helping draft the criminal complaint. Instead, she stated that she herself saw Garcia grab the woman on her shoulder and then strike the woman in the face "multiple times with a closed fist."
The Bronx DA's office attempted to prosecute Garcia's domestic violence case — but when they uncovered Sanad's name switch, they dropped the case against Garcia in October, and opened a case against the cop.
Sanad is charged with three misdemeanors that could cost her job and put her in jail for up to a year: making a punishable false written statement, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing. She is suspended without pay, NYPD officials said.
"When all the facts are known, this will be seen to be an honest mistake and nothing more," Sanad's lawyer, Steven Worth, told The Post. "This cop had nothing to gain from this."
The two officers who did witness the alleged assault have always been available to testify regarding the incident, and their names were simply left off the complaint by mistake, Worth said.
"She's a probie cop," the lawyer added, referring to Sanad's status as a probationary officer. "This was merely a training issue, not intentional wrongdoing," he said.
Additional reporting by Laura Italiano
73 Pct. Police Officers Christopher Oliver and Shazad Shigri
Internal affairs to probe cops who sideswiped SUV
By Philip Messing and Josh Saul — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
NYPD internal affairs will investigate the two cops who sideswiped a parked SUV and allegedly accused the man sitting inside of hitting their vehicle before arresting him for unlicensed driving, police sources said Friday.
"The case has been referred to IAB," a senior police official said.
Robert Jackson, 31, was sitting in his girlfriend's Ford Excursion with the engine off outside his Brownsville home in April 2013 when a police car scraped his gal pal's ride. Cops then got out and accused Jackson of hitting them, the maintenance worker said in a Brooklyn Supreme Court lawsuit.
"I just wanted them to fix the damage and apologize, but it didn't turn out that way," Jackson told The Post. "They were trying to cover it up."
NYPD cops Christopher Oliver and Shazad Shigri arrested Jackson for destruction of city property, his suit claims – but the cops only officially charged him with unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle because he has a suspended license.
When Oliver and Shigri filled out an incident report they said they struck the SUV – and neither cop was questioned or disciplined after the accident, a police source said.
Surveillance footage shot from a neighbor's home clearly shows Jackson was parked when the NYPD car plowed into him – and the video also disproves something Oliver said after the collision.
"[Oliver] went to the driver's side door of [Jackson's] vehicle and observed the door open and the keys in the ignition," reads the criminal complaint that charges Jackson with unlicensed operation.
The surveillance footage, however, shows Jackson closing the door and nowhere in the footage does Oliver approach the door.
Ret. Police Officer Glenn Lieberman Turns Down One to Three in the Slammer
Ex-NYPD cop involved in disability scam refuses to take plea deal
Glenn Lieberman, the former NYPD cop who was part of a massive disability scam, refused an offer prosecutors gave him for one to three years in prison and the payment of $175,000. Lieberman's attorney, Gerald McMahon, insists the ex-cop is innocent.
By Shayna Jacobs — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
An ex-cop who became the face of an alleged massive disability scam involving former city cops and firefighters refuses to take any plea deal that includes prison time, his lawyer told the Daily News on Friday.
Prosecutors offered Glenn Lieberman one to three years in prison if he pleads to grand larceny and agrees to pay full restitution of over $175,000.
"He's an innocent guy. Why would I take a plea and have him get jail and pay back the money?" said his attorney Gerald McMahon.
A picture of the 48-year-old Florida resident riding a Jet Ski while flashing two middle fingers was on the front page of The News the day after the January bust.
Prosecutors have said he and about 100 others were involved in the decades-long operation where they claimed stress-related disabilities.
Caesar, battle-tested U.S. Army service dog, to be first military service dog to join NYPD
Caesar, a four-year-old German Shepherd, recently completed his third overseas combat tour with the U.S. Army. His new assignment will have him patrol NYC subways
By Rocco Parascandola — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
Caesar is an NYPD original.
The four-year-old German Shepherd just got back from his third overseas combat tour with the U.S. Army, and now he's about to become the first military service dog to find a second career with the nation's largest police force.
He'll be given a new name, go through training, and then, as part of the NYPD's Transit K-9 Unit, he'll hit the subways with his new handler, Officer Juan Rodriguez, working routine patrol and counterterrorism duties. Rodriguez is himself an Army vet with two overseas tours under his belt.
"I look at it as, I'm giving a veteran a job," said Sgt. Randy Brenner, training supervisor for the K-9 Unit. "Their sole purpose is working. Ever day to them is a great day as long as they're working. They're excited to work."
Brenner struck up a relationship through a friend with a Pentagon official involved in the Army's K-9 program. They reached a deal to allow the NYPD to use military dogs for police work once they've finished serving their country.
The NYPD would normally spend up to $8,000 to purchase a dog to undergo training, but the city will be spared that cost under the arrangement with the military.
Brenner said he and other officers travelled to North Carolina to see Caesar and other dogs at a K-9 facility that trains dogs for the military.
Brenner said the stress and noise of the battlefield provide great training for a dog to work in the subways.
He said he knew Caesar was cut out for the job when he ran him through a series of drills in a haunted house amusement near the K-9 facility and the battle-tested veteran didn't spook.
"I want to test the dog in an environment the dog has never seen before," Brenner said. "If the dog's not affected ... and he's not disturbed by any environmental factors, to me, he's the best dog."
NYPD adopts first veteran dog
By Dana Sauchelli — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
The NYPD was looking for a few good dogs — and found Cesar.
The 4-year-old German Shepherd is the first veteran military dog to be adopted by the department.
Cesar served three tours of duty and was among 50 fellow vets at a North Carolina facility which makes former GI dogs available for law enforcement agencies, officials said Friday.
Randy Brenner, head of training of the Transit Crime Unit, tested Cesar by giving him tasks in stressful situations, including a visit to a home used as a "haunted house" at Halloween time in North Carolina.
Military dogs are good for police work because "they love to work," Brenner said.
"Every day is a good day as long as they work," he said.
And they can handle the demands of the job.
"They are already used to working in stressful situations," Brenner said.
Doctors checked Cesar and found no sign of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
By adopting Cesar, the NYPD is saving the $6,000 to $8,000 it would spend to train an inexperienced dog.
"We are saving the city money as well as saving a dog," an NYPD spokesman said.
And Brenner added, "We are giving a veteran a job."
NYPD to translate domestic complaints after family murder
By Larry Celona — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Post'
NYPD brass on Friday sent a message to all personnel saying that reports of domestic violence written in foreign languages must be immediately translated to protect potential victims, sources said.
The new policy came just days after The Post revealed that cops never translated a domestic incident report written in Spanish by Deisy Garcia in which she said her husband would kill her and their two daughters — which he was later accused of doing.
"After the story in The Post, they want to make sure it doesn't happen again," a law-enforcement source said.
The directive was faxed and e-mailed to all precincts and other NYPD facilities, where it will be posted on bulletin boards and read at roll calls over several days, the source said.
"Any officer who takes a report, they have to come back and give it to the desk officer, and if it's written in a foreign language, they'll ask around the precinct for someone who speaks it, and if there is no one they have to call operations to locate one," the source said. "That way they'll know if any immediate action needs to be taken."
Garcia made a report in Spanish last May 30, detailing her fears about her violent husband, Miguel Mejia-Ramos.
Months later, on Jan. 18, Mejia-Ramos butchered Garcia and her baby girls — Daniela, 2, and Yoselin, 1 — in their Queens apartment, police said. He was captured in Texas.
Allegations Made Against NYPD Det. Eric Patino
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto Ordered NYPD Detective to Arrest Aide's Rival: Lawsuit
Accused of Threats, Intimidation in N.Y. Civil Suit
By Josh Nathan-Kazis — Friday, February 21st, 2014 'The Jewish Daily Forward' / New York, NY
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto ordered a New York City police officer to arrest his top aide's business rival, according to allegations in a civil complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on February 19.
The officer, Detective Eric Patino, allegedly said he would release the rival, an Israeli businessman named Tomer Shohat, if Shohat gave him a computer containing information he had gathered on alleged misconduct by Ben Zion Suky, Pinto's right-hand man.
Pinto, a powerful Israeli rabbi, is at the center of an unrelated scandal that's made headlines in Israel in recent weeks. Haaretz reported on February 21 that authorities are preparing to indict Pinto on charges of bribing and threatening Israeli police.
The New York civil suit stems from a conflict over a Manhattan apartment building at 440 West 41st Street that was owned, in part, by a company controlled by Suky. The Forward reported in 2011 that Suky was a former pornography distributor with multiple legal entanglements related to his real estate investments.
The defendants have yet to file a response to the allegations. They do not appear to have obtained representation in the matter. Ben Zion Suky did not respond to a message left on his voicemail. Eric Patino could not be reached at a listed number. The phone at Pinto's New York synagogue appeared to be off the hook. The NYPD also did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Shohat's attorney, David Jaroslawicz, said that Shohat, 31, is a former Israel hedge fund manager tasked with recovering a $10.5 million investment that he and others had made in the 440 West 41st Street building.
According to Shohat's complaint, the company that owned the building, Metro Apartments, had failed to make payments on loans extended by Shohat's group. Shohat suspected that funds were being misappropriated, so he traveled to the United States from Israel to inspect Metro's books. Upon arrival, Shohat allegedly discovered that Suky was misappropriating company funds and mismanaging the property.
Shohat allegedly brought his findings to Pinto, who asked Shohat not to report them to the police. Later, according to the complaint, Pinto and Suky threatened to have Shohat injured or to have him arrested by Patino if he continued to investigate irregularities at the building.
When Shohat continued his investigation and reported his findings to the Metro board, he was allegedly threatened again, this time by Pinto's brother, Menachem Pinto, who is also a defendant in the suit. Suky then accused Shohat of theft and, according to complaint, Pinto and Suky "arranged for…Patino to arrest [Shohat] and charge him with crimes he had not committed."
Shohat was arrested February 21, 2013. According to the complaint, Patino first told Shohat he would be let go if they could eat lunch together and talk. Later, after Shohat's attorney had come and gone, Patino allegedly told Shohat that he would let him go if he gave Patino his computer, which contained data about the Metro Apartments investigation.
Following the arrest, Patino filed a felony complaint against Shohat accusing him of stealing $15,000 from a locked petty cash container at 440 West 41st Street. The D.A.'s office filed a motion to dismiss the charges in April.
Patino works both as an NYPD detective and a real estate agent with a commercial real estate brokerage called the Azad Propety Group, according to his LinkedIn profile. Azad Property Group does not have a listed phone number.
The Forward reported in March 2011 on questions about the management of Pinto's U.S. charities, including the fact that Pinto's $6.5 million Manhattan townhouse was under foreclosure. In December 2011, the Forward reported that Pinto's charity had spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury travel and jewelry. Those expenditures included a $75,000 bill for a stay at a fancy Buenos Aires hotel.
The New York Times published a story in December 2011 painting Pinto as the victim of a "bizarre embezzlement and extortion plot" and reported that the FBI and the US Attorney's office were investigating former Pinto associates in connection to the alleged extortion.
One of those former associates, and Israeli national named Ofer Biton, has since pled guilty to visa fraud. Biton is reportedly under investigation in connection to money he raised from Pinto supporters for the 2010 congressional campaign of Staten Island congressman Michael Grimm.
Still, more than two years later, no charges have been filed in the embezzlement plot described in the Times story.
Instead, it is Pinto and his associates who have been the subject of a handful of criminal inquiries.
On February 12, Haaretz reported that Israeli officials were on the brink of indicting Abraham Israel, the founder of a Pinto-linked charity, for mismanaging the charity. Though the charity claimed in financial statements to distribute 33 million NIS annually, investigators found that it distributed just 6 million NIS each year.
Meanwhile, Pinto himself is about to be indicted for threatening and attempting to bribe Israeli police officers, according to the Feburary 21 Haaretz report. An Israeli police document obtained by Haaretz accuses Pinto of obstructing an investigation into the charity run by Abraham Israel and attempting to bribe senior Israeli police officials.
In October 2012, Pinto and his wife were placed under house arrest in connection to the same bribery case.
New Comptroller Stands by Handling of a Wrongful Conviction Case
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The New York Times'
The city comptroller's decision to pay $6.4 million to a man wrongfully convicted of murder before he even filed a lawsuit marked a sharp break with past practice and could have ramifications for similar cases, lawyers who specialize in wrongful convictions said.
The decision to negotiate a settlement with David Ranta, who was imprisoned for 23 years after being framed by a rogue detective, without involving the city's Law Department has no precedent in recent history, city officials and lawyers said.
Most high-profile allegations of wrongdoing by the police or prosecutors take years to litigate. Previous city comptrollers have left it up to the corporation counsel's office to fight those battles in state and federal court, or to negotiate a settlement. It is generally a war of attrition.
But the newly elected comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, took a different approach in dealing with Mr. Ranta, whose conviction was thrown out by a judge after it came to light that a Brooklyn detective, Louis Scarcella, had directed a witness to identify him.
Since Mr. Ranta was freed last year, the Brooklyn district attorney's office has formed a special unit to review about 50 other murder cases that Mr. Scarcella handled. More exonerations and suits against the city are expected. Mr. Ranta's ordeal became a campaign issue that helped the new district attorney in Brooklyn, Kenneth P. Thompson, defeat the incumbent, Charles J. Hynes.
"We felt the claim had a lot of viability and a strong factor is that the district attorney's office developed the Conviction Integrity Unit because of this case," Mr. Stringer said in an interview. "That was unusual. That was a unique set of circumstances."
The City Charter gives the comptroller the power to settle claims against the city before a suit is filed and gives the office final say over all legal settlements the Law Department reaches.
In practice, however, few suits involving multimillion-dollar claims are settled by the comptroller's office before litigation starts, and most of those are minor personal injury suits. In the fiscal year that ended last June, for instance, the comptroller's office settled 1,941 claims before a suit was filed. None of those settlements approached $1 million, aides to Mr. Stringer said.
Mr. Stringer said that the Ranta settlement would save the city money in the long run by avoiding the legal fees associated with a protracted court fight and skirting the risk of a lucrative jury award. But he also said it was the moral thing to do. Even Mr. Hynes had supported Mr. Ranta's motion to vacate his guilty verdict.
"You can't put a dollar amount on being wrongfully accused and sitting in a jail cell for 23 years," Mr. Stringer said. "This man deserved a fair and equitable settlement, sooner rather than later, to live his life in the years he had left."
The city's corporation counsel, Zachary W. Carter, had no comment on the comptroller's decision, according to his spokesman, Nicholas Paolucci.
But a former corporation counsel, Victor A. Kovner, said Mr. Stringer's move was unwise. For starters, it sets a standard for others convicted as a result of Mr. Scarcella's questionable police work who are likely to sue.
"It's a great mistake of the comptroller's office to act without the participation of the Law Department," said Mr. Kovner, a lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine. "It deprives the city of the protection of two independent offices. The analysis of exposure is best performed by lawyers that are trained to do so and they are in the Law Department."
Mr. Stringer, however, said he believed it was in the public's interest for his office to be more aggressive about settling suits before they reach court than his predecessors' offices were. "We think we can be very helpful on the prelitigation phase of a number of these cases," he said.
Some former lawyers for the city agreed.
"It's smart for the city," said Gabriel P. Harvis, a former assistant corporation counsel. "The cost of defending these cases can be millions and millions on their own."
Lawyers who specialize in wrongful conviction cases said the $6.4 million payment to Mr. Ranta was in line with other city settlements reached after litigation. For instance, in 2012, the city paid $7.5 million to Carlos Morillo, a Dominican man who spent 20 years in prison before his murder conviction was set aside.
Had Mr. Ranta prevailed at a trial, however, a jury might have given him a larger award. Similar plaintiffs have received as much as $500,000 for each year they spent in prison from juries in federal court, and as much as $200,000 for each year of imprisonment from state courts. But those proceedings often take four or five years.
"What this signals is a new interest in considering what a just result might be," said Joel B. Rudin, who has represented several people in wrongful conviction cases.
Ronald L. Kuby, a lawyer representing seven people who say they were framed by Mr. Scarcella, said the previous comptroller, John C. Liu, never tried to settle a major police misconduct case. And the Law Department of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration, under Michael A. Cardozo, was notorious for dragging out those court battles, an agonizing prospect for people who have already waited years in prison for a day in court.
"I have been litigating against the city for 30 years and I have never had a case settled directly by the comptroller," he said. "The city is saying if we do wrong, we will do our best to make it right."
NY/NJ PAPD P.B.A.
Police Union Implicated in Bridgegate Owed Hundreds of Jobs to Christie
By Mark J. Magyar — Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 'NJSpotLight.Com' / Montclair, NJ
Gov. Chris Christie won the loyalty of the Port Authority police union whose actions are under investigation in Bridgegate by guaranteeing that its rank-and-file would be in charge of security at the new Freedom Tower and by pushing a Port Authority police expansion that added hundreds of union jobs and dues-paying members.
Now the police union and its leaders are under investigation by both the Legislature and the Port Authority for enforcing the George Washington Bridge lane closures, telling disgruntled motorists to call Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to make sure he knew the lane closures were aimed at him, and backing up the Christie administration's cover story that the closures were part of a legitimate traffic study.
The police union's enthusiastic role in the Bridgegate lane closures -- which were ordered by Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly in apparent political retaliation against Sokolich for not endorsing Christie for reelection -- came nearly eight months after the Republican governor won the endorsement of the Port Authority Patromen's Benevolent Association President Paul Nunziato and his then-1,300 member union.
The Port Authority union's loyalty to Christie is easy to understand, said Martin Robins, director emeritus of Rutgers University's Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center: "The union had a very focused interest in this: jobs and dues. And that's what Christie gave them."
The Port Authority police force, most of whom are represented by Nunziato's union, increased in size from 1,500 when Christie took office to 1,700 when Nunziato's union endorsed him last January and will go up to 2,000 by the end of this year.
Nunziato publicly praised Port Authority Chairman David Samson, Christie's highest-ranking appointee at the bistate agency, for providing critical support for the police department expansion at a promotions ceremony in Jersey City on October 8, just a month after the Bridgegate lane closures.
Nunziato failed to respond Sunday night and yesterday to a series of -mailed questions about the Christie endorsement, his union's role in Bridgegate, and Port Authority staffing issues. Robert Egbert, the Port Authority PBA's public relations officer, and other officials were unavailable for comment at the PBA offices yesterday. "It's a police holiday," the PBA official answering the phone explained.
Robins noted that "it costs a lot to add 300 to 500 jobs. The more money you spend on operating expenses, the less you can spend on new projects. And these are not inexpensive jobs. The average Port Authority police officer makes north of $100,000."
The Citizens Budget Commission, a New York City watchdog group, reported 14 months ago that average salaries for Port Authority rank-and-file police officers hit $108,157 in their sixth year and rise to $117,884 in their 25th year, not including ample overtime, pensions, and health benefits. Port Authority police, unlike their counterparts in New Jersey, do not contribute to their health insurance costs, the CBC report noted, and the cost of benefits adds 50 percent to base salaries.
The most senior Port Authority police earned average pay of $83.99 an hour -- 57 percent more than the $53.36 average hourly wage of the New Jersey State Police officer and 43 percent more than the $58.86 earned by New York City's police.
It was Christie who guaranteed that the higher-paid Port Authority police, not New York City police, would patrol the new Freedom Tower a cost that is ultimately borne by tollpayers on the GWB, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the Bayonne and Goethals bridges and the Outerbridge crossing; by travelers at the Port Authority's three airports; and by shippers, and ultimately consumers, using the Port of New York and New Jersey.
That's what Christie told Nunziato and his union when he spoke to hundreds of Port Authority police jammed into a ballroom at the Newark Airport Hilton to give him their endorsement on January 22, 2013, more than nine months before the election.
"As I stand here this morning, let's make one thing perfectly clear: Given all I've learned over the years, all the ways that we've worked together, never, not ever on my watch, will there be any other police force who will patrol the new World Trade Center other than the Port Authority police," Christie vowed.
Christie's veto authority over Port Authority decisions gave him the power to keep his promise to unilaterally block efforts to allow the New York City Police Department patrol the new Freedom Tower, ending what Nunziato said had been a "looming issue" since 2008.
Furthermore, Christie made it clear that he would insist that Port Authority police patrol the perimeters of Newark, Kennedy, and LaGuardia airports, siding with Nunziato and his union against Port Authority professionals who had been seeking to fully replace foot patrols with sophisticated electronic monitoring technology they believed would be both more efficient and less costly.
"Three short years ago our agency was replacing boots on the ground with technology. We all know that technology can enhance law enforcement, but it cannot replace police officers," Nunziato told NJTV.
"He stood shoulder to shoulder with me and my members on all our security issues. We think he's a strong leader," he said, explaining why his union broke its streak of electing three Democratic gubernatorial candidates in a row to back Christie.
The Port Authority police union's backing was the second major labor endorsement Christie lined up as part of his campaign to convince national Republican leaders that he could pull in votes from organized labor and other traditional Democratic constituencies, such as African-Americans and Hispanics, if he ran for the White House in 2016. The first major union endorsement came the month before from the Laborers International Union of North America led by Ray Pocino, whom Christie had appointed to the boards of both the Port Authority and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
The pledges to preserve Port Authority police jurisdiction over the new Freedom Tower and to maintain "boots on the ground" at the three airports increased the number of officers that would be needed as part of the reorganization plan being implemented by Joseph Dunne, the Port Authority's chief security officer, which will add 10 new deputy chiefs and an array of other supervisory promotions.
The ceremony at which Nunziato praised Samson and Dunne was held to mark the promotions of 54 Port Authority police officers. In addition, 200 new Port Authority police cadets graduated in December and another 300 started their police academy training in January -- the two largest classes in the history of the force -- which is expected to push the ranks of the Port Authority Police Department over 2,100 before attrition reduces it to the preferred size of 2,000.
The involvement of the Port Authority police union in the lane closures has been an issue almost from the beginning, when reporters discovered that Sokolich, the Fort Lee mayor, had complained that Port Authority police were telling motorists that the lane closures were his fault.
But there is also a question about whether the Port Authority police union's leaders played a role in the initial cover-up of the reason for the lane closures, Robins, a former high-ranking New Jersey state transportation official, noted.
Coming up with the Closures
During his November 25 testimony before the Assembly Transportation Committee, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, Christie's top political lieutenant at the Port Authority, testified that Nunziato and PBA Treasurer Michael DeFillipis, whom Baroni identified as "the delegate that worked at the George Washington Bridge," came up with the idea to test whether closing off two of three toll lanes heading into the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee would improve traffic flow from Route 80.
Nine days later, Nunziato backed up Baroni's story, telling reporters outside a Port Authority board meeting that he was the one who suggested the idea for the traffic study to Wildstein.
Speaking to reporters, Nunziato shrugged off complaints from Fort Lee officials that they had not been notified of the lane closures that would clog streets for four days in a town that already suffered from bridge traffic tie-ups, insisting that Port Authority police had not communicated with Fort Lee authorities in the 26 years he had been on the force.
He dismissed complaints by Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye that the unauthorized lane closures -- which Wildstein and Port Authority police had intentionally kept hidden from Foye for four days -- violated federal and state laws, characterizing Foye's contention as "a load of garbage." He ridiculed the idea that the lane closures were political retaliation aimed at Sokolich.
Nunziato concluded that the battle over the lane closures was just the latest chapter in a political rivalry between New Jersey and New York over control of the Port Authority – a contest he compared to the Sharks and the Jets in "West Side Story" -- and made it clear his loyalties lay with New Jersey.
If Baroni and Nunziato thought their assertions would put an end to the controversy over the lane closures, they were wrong: Just over a month after Nunziato's impromptu press conference, their cover story that the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic study suggested by the Port Authority exploded when Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly's infamous August 13 "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email to Wildstein surfaced in the emails that Wildstein had turned over under subpoena to the Assembly Transportation Committee.
Further, Nunziato, who said he had spoken to Wildstein hundreds of times over the preceding several years, provided no documents or emails to back his story in his response to a subpoena from the same committee. In fact, Nunziato turned over no documents related to Bridgegate at all.
Nunziato has made no further comment since December 4 on the assertions that he and Baroni made, and it is unclear whether he provided any additional documents in response to the new Joint Select Committee on Investigation's subpoena.
Scrutiny of the Port Authority police union was further heightened this weekend when MSNBC's Steven Kornacki discovered that the "Chip" who drove Wildstein to the George Washington Bridge to view the traffic tie-ups on September 9, the morning of the closure, was none other than Port Authority Police Lt. Thomas "Chip" Michaels, who is the brother of Christie senior campaign adviser Jeff Michaels and who coached Christie's son in a youth hockey league a few years ago. The Christies and the Michaels are lifelong friends who grew up together in Livingston.
"The Governor has never had any conversations with either Jeff or Chip Michaels on this topic," Christie spokesman Keven Roberts said yesterday.
But the disclosure of the Michaels connection renewed speculation about what Wildstein was referring to when he said that "evidence exists" that Christie knew about the lane closures earlier than he admitted.
Christie said at his marathon January 9th news conference at which he announced the firings of Kelly and former campaign manager Bill Stepien and that he had no idea that the GWB lane closures were not part of a legitimate traffic study until the day before.
Christie later said on New Jersey 101.5 FM on February 3 that he asked his chief of staff and chief counsel to look into the lane closures on October 1 after the Wall Street Journal disclosed that Foye said he believed federal and state laws might have been broken by the closures, which Wildstein and Port Authority police union officials kept hidden from Foye and other Port Authority higher-ups appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, rather than Christie.
What Chief of Staff Kevin O'Dowd and Chief Counsel Charlie McKenna found, whether they talked to Baroni, Wildstein or Nunziato, and what they reported to Christie should turn up in the latest round of legislative committee subpoenas.
Judge dismisses lawsuit against NYPD for surveillance of Muslim Americans
Finds community monitoring in New Jersey is a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil-rights violation
By Unnamed Author(s) — Friday, February 21st, 2014; 9:15 p.m. 'Al Jazeera America' / New York, NY
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that the New York Police Department's (NYPD) surveillance of Muslim Americans in New Jersey was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil-rights violation.
In a decision filed in federal court in Newark, N.J., U.S. District Judge William Martini dismissed a lawsuit brought in 2012 by eight Muslims who alleged the NYPD's surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin and race. The suit accused the department of spying on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools in New Jersey since 2002.
Martini said he was not convinced the plaintiffs were targeted solely because of their religion. "The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies," he wrote.
The judge added: "The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself."
Farhaj Hassan, a plaintiff in the case and a U.S. soldier who served in Iraq, said he was disappointed by the ruling.
"I have dedicated my career to serving my country, and this just feels like a slap in the face — all because of the way I pray," he said.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and the California-based civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, which represented the plaintiffs, also called the decision troubling.
"In addition to willfully ignoring the harm that our innocent clients suffered from the NYPD's illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD's blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court's decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion," CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy said.
Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, helped mount a similar lawsuit against NYPD and New York officials together with the New York American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of five plaintiffs – including community members, mosques and charities.
Thursday's "decision legalizes discrimination," Sarsour told Al Jazeera, calling the decision "absurd" and "outrageous."
"It's almost like reading The Onion," she added.
However, Sarsour said her lawsuit is ongoing and will continue unhindered.
"We're still fighting. The fight has just begun," she said.
The lawsuits followed a series of stories by The Associated Press based on confidential NYPD documents that revealed how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups in New York and elsewhere.
Martini faulted the AP for its use of the documents.
"The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization," he wrote. "Thus the injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the city."
The AP declined to comment on the ruling.
The city's legal department also declined comment. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had been staunch supporters of the surveillance programs, saying they were needed to protect the city from terrorist attacks.
A similar lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn is still pending.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press
ACLU-NJ Statement on Judge's Decision to Dismiss NYPD Surveillance Lawsuit
February 21, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, email@example.com
NEWARK – U.S. district Judge William Martini on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. The lawsuit, Hassan v. City of New York, was filed in 2012 by eight Muslim residents who alleged the NYPD's surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin and race.
The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the California-based civil rights organization Muslim Advocates represented the plaintiffs.
The following is a statement from Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU-NJ, about the decision:
"The ACLU-NJ is highly disappointed in yesterday's ruling by Judge Martini dismissing a challenge brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates against the New York City Police Department's surveillance program targeting Muslims living in New Jersey. For years, the NYPD conducted secret intelligence gathering activities in New Jersey targeting Muslim community members based on their religious beliefs. The New Jersey public was kept in the dark during these investigations, which targeted New Jersey residents who engaged in no wrongdoing. The ACLU-NJ disagrees with Judge Martini's decision and will support the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates as they appeal this decision."
Data Shows More Guns "Mistakenly" Showing Up At Airports
By Chris Coffey — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'NBC Chicago News' / Chicago, IL
Air travelers caught with guns in their carry-on bags at O'Hare and Midway International Airports appear to be forgetful of what they packed, according to police reports obtained by NBC 5 Investigates.
Federal guidelines allow travelers to only transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage.
Transportation Security Administration and Chicago Police Department records show 51 travelers were caught at O'Hare and Midway security checkpoints for attempting to board a plane with a firearm between 2012 and the end of 2013. Authorities said 35 of the guns were loaded and 12 were chambered.
Are they honest mistakes? Police reports show those arrested on the felony charge often tell arresting officers they "forgot the gun was in (their) bags."
A further analysis of federal, city and county records shows more than half of the arrestees whose cases have concluded in the Cook County court system since 2012 either plea to misdemeanors or get their cases dropped.
State Senator Donne Trotter was charged with a felony attempt to board an aircraft with a weapon at O'Hare in 2012. He told police officers he'd forgotten the weapon was in a garment bag he uses for work with a security firm. Trotter later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct.
Josephine Coleman, 25, is in the early stages of her court case after she was charged with a felony for attempting to board an aircraft with a gun at Midway in late December. Coleman reportedly was on her way to a flight when authorities found a 9-millimeter handgun with seven live rounds in her carry-on bag, according to the police report.
The report also said Coleman told police "I didn't know the gun was in there. I'm in the military and I have a FOID card."
Coleman and her attorney both declined to comment on the case.
The Cook County State's Attorney's office would not respond to our repeated requests for comment regarding their prosecutions of airport gun arrests.
The executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, Richard Pearson, said they ought to consider changing the law.
"It's almost always an honest mistake," Pearson said. "It should probably be a misdemeanor fine that goes against you."
The number of guns confiscated from passengers trying to board planes in the U.S. jumped 20% in 2013 to 1,828, according to TSA data analyzed by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative.
"Whether people forget or they think because they have a concealed weapons permit they can go on the plane, they get to the security line and it's found," said Scott Anderson, who leads interactive strategy for the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative.
The TSA said it cannot speculate on the reason more and more travelers seem to be bringing firearms to security checkpoints.
"We applaud our workforce for their ongoing vigilance and keen screening abilities that are credited for keeping these deadly weapons off of aircraft," said TSA spokesperson Ann Davis.
The Medill analysis shows airports in Atlanta, Dallas and Houston led the nation in the number of gun confiscations. Georgia and Texas are states considered to have more tolerant gun laws.
Gun owners in Illinois are now allowed to apply for concealed carry permits after a state law went into effect in January.
"You have to wonder in Illinois in a year or two, as more people are carrying weapons, if O'Hare and Midway start going up as well," said Anderson.
Pearson said it's possible more guns would be seized at security checkpoints because concealed carry is so new to Illinois.
"I think people need to learn to be careful about that," Pearson said.
The TSA reports weekly weapons seizures on its blog. Items including knives, stun guns, grenades and a bazooka-like weapon have been confiscated from travelers across the country.
Chicago police new computer to predict crimes
The Chicago Police Department wants to turn the idea of predicting and preventing crimes from a bold science-fiction concept to a scary law-enforcement reality. The program is part of a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Justice. The Voice of Russia talked to Hanni Fakhoury, former federal public defender, current Staff Attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation focusing on criminal law, privacy and advocacy.
By Yevgeniy Sukhoy — Friday, February 21st, 2014 'The Voice of Russia' / Moscow, Russia
According to the Chicago Police Department Commander Jonathan Lewin, "this program will inform police offices around the country and worldwide on how best to utilize predictive policing to solve problems".
In 2009 the National Institute of Justice handed out millions to police department to build crime predictive programs. The idea is to use such algorithms that would compile a list of individuals most likely to commit a crime.
The department database records phoned incidents and locations where crimes occur frequently to create maps with the so-called 'hotspots' for criminal activity. It also keeps track of everyone arrested or convicted of a crime, and employs a formula to identify the 400 most dangerous people in the city. Part of the program includes sending officers to warn potential violators that they are being watched and to stay out of trouble.
A full report on the program won't be published until 2016. However, concerns over privacy and profiling are already being raised.
Electronic equipment and programming may be vulnerable to hackers. How it can be prevented in this case?
There are some real worries about this type of software, this type of predictive policing that is an algorithm to determine who is guilty or who is likely to commit a crime and who isn't likely to commit a crime. There should be some real skepticism about it, about whether these sorts of programs are effective and whether they just end up perpetuating stereotypes of who is likely to commit a crime and who isn't.
In your opinion, will the program result in lawsuits on privacy violations?
It could. It is going to be very interesting to see who ends up on a particular list, who shouldn't belong on the list and, perhaps, someone who is on the list, who feels that he shouldn't be on the list, and who gets harassed by the police may want to sue. I'm not entirely sure, but there are some real concerns about how the list gets created and the implications of being on that list.
And what reaction from the public do you expect? I mean, obviously, if we are talking about 400 people in some city, it is obviously not the majority. So, how did think the majority will react to that?
Well, you're right. It is certainly not a huge number of people on this list, to begin with. But I think that as the Chicago Police Department uses this, I think other police departments are going to start to use this type of model as well. And as that spreads, I think you're likely to see some outspoken concern, especially because it's not clear how the list is generated and who is maintaining it, and who gets on it, and how you can get off of it. And those are all really valid concerns.
And then, I think for the larger public the real worry is going to come when someone gets a visit by the police who feel that they haven't done anything wrong, or haven't committed a crime. It is at that point when I think we are going to start seeing some more kind of outspoken criticism about it.
So, could you clarify your point of view, are you against this program? Is the problem of this program because it is raw and not very well worked through? Or you think that the trend itself is wrong?
You know, I don't necessarily have a problem with the idea in theory. It is just a matter of how it gets implemented and being transparent about how it gets implemented. And right now, at least in the Chicago scenario, they are not being very transparent about how they are generating the list and how the algorithm is created. And that's what the real issue is.
Perhaps, there is a way to kind of come up with predictive policing procedures that take into account the privacy concerns, that are based on good science, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with that. It is just that right now there are a lot of unknown answers to questions and there needs to be more information before we can say that this works conclusively.
So, you think that it should be somehow better developed before they implement it, correct?
Yes, exactly. I mean, I know the Chicago program is a pilot program and it is a test, but I think they have to be really clear and transparent about what they are doing. And also, there needs to be a lot more studying and criticism, and purview, and present minds looking at this to determine whether this works as implemented or not.
And you think this period of time, which is declared, until 2016 is obviously not enough?
I'm not really sure. It's really depends on what the results of the study are. And if the police department will open up its research methods and its methodology, and its statistics, so that people can have a better sense of what is going on in order to assess the validity of the program.
Earlier you've mentioned that there is a possibility that this program could be spread on other states. So, are other states likely to join this program?
I think so. I mean, maybe not in this specific contours of this hit list in Chicago. But in terms of the trend of predictive policing, it is certainly picking up in major cities in the United States. And there's already been talk of the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department thinking about implementing some forms of predictive policing.
Again, the technology is going to enable and encourage police departments to take on these sorts of programs, so I think this type of policing is here to stay and it is just a matter of refining it to make sure privacy concerns are addressed.
Law enforcement data collection concerns most Minnesotans
The latest Minnesota Poll finds 63 percent in state are at least "somewhat" worried.
By ABBY SIMONS — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The Minneapolis Star Tribune' / Minneapolis, MN
The amount of personal information the state and law enforcement agencies collect on average citizens is becoming an increasing concern to a strong majority of Minnesotans, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
More than 60 percent of adults said they worry about the data being collected and their ability to maintain a level of personal privacy. Of those, more than a fourth said they were "very concerned," while 37 percent said they were somewhat concerned. Another 36 percent said they either were not too concerned or not concerned at all.
"I think there are some things that are pertinent for law enforcement to have and some things that I don't see are any of their business," said Jodi Denzer, a 35-year-old banker from St. Paul Park.
There is a sizable gender gap on privacy concerns, with 70 percent of men saying they are either very or somewhat concerned about growing data gathering, compared with 56 percent of women.
Those most concerned about personal privacy are Minnesotans who don't identify with any political party. More of them — 36 percent — said they were very concerned, the highest of any demographic group surveyed. An equal number said they were somewhat concerned. Democrats tend to be less concerned about law enforcement collection data than any other political group, with only 14 percent of Democrats saying they are very concerned. Among Republicans, 34 percent said they were very concerned, while nearly a third of Independents said they have serious privacy concerns.
The poll surveyed 800 Minnesota adults between Feb. 10 and 12 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Three-fourths were reached through a land line, one fourth by cellphone.
Leonard Peterson, 66, a retired statistician from Maplewood who generally leans DFL, said he's "not especially" concerned about the issue.
"I don't think they over-collect," he said. "In some ways they might, but in general, I don't think they're intrusively collecting information about people."
Younger people, not surprisingly, are the least concerned about privacy. But they're also not that far behind everyone else. Among those 18 to 34 years of age, 57 percent worry about privacy either a lot or somewhat. That's just a little less than those aged 35 to 49, where 61 percent are either very or somewhat concerned.
Lawmakers to tackle privacy
With near-daily revelations about the scope and depth of data collection here and nationally, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers is taking a keener look at data collection with an eye toward reining in high-tech snooping. Worries have been fed by recent, well-documented incidents of law enforcement officers and state employees who snooped into drivers' license data without cause.
Even legal methods are getting scrutiny, like license plate-reading technology that can track vehicle locations, Global Positioning System tracking devices, and cellphone exploitation devices with names like "Kingfish," that surreptitiously collect and store the information of cellphone users in a given area.
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, and Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, have drafted a bill that would require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before tracking a cellphone's location, with exceptions for certain emergencies.
Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul and chair of the House Civil Law Committee, said it's likely other bills will be drafted to regulate law enforcement data, including how long license plate reader data are stored.
"I think it's huge, I think it's absolutely huge," Lesch said of the poll results. "The people who are going to have the biggest problem with this are the ones who are tangibly affected … but I would imagine the vast majority of that 60 percent has never been directly affected by police surveillance. So the fact that they see it as a problem is very important."
Law enforcement officials are already sounding the alarm about the consequences of restricting their ability to gather information. Some have already testified at the Capitol that data are used to catch criminals, not spy on everyday citizens, and that tying their hands could render their surveillance tools useless.
Jeff McCormick, president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, acknowledged that recent breaches of drivers' license data could trigger a backlash against those who gather information.
"It would be fair to say that police departments across the state are making sure the information we're gathering is used in the proper way," he said. "From an overall data aspect, I think law enforcement in general is very concerned about making sure we safeguard the information we have."
Lori Olson, a 55-year-old nurse from Lake Park, said she doesn't pay much attention to privacy issues.
"Frankly," Olson said, "I think people worry too much."
Can crime-fighting technology be used to secure power stations?
By Evan Halper — Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 'The Los Angeles Times' / Los Angeles, CA
With the shooters who attacked a Silicon Valley power station last April still at large and Congress increasing pressure on utilities to do more to protect such facilities, electricity companies are looking at a new security technology popular among urban police forces.
Sensors that can immediately track, within 10 meters, the location of gunfire will soon be tested at two power stations. An executive at the Bay Area firm that manufactures that technology, ShotSpotter, said public safety concerns preclude him from disclosing exactly where.
The test run comes as the FBI remains flummoxed by the shooting at the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power station near San Jose. The attack on the transformers caused considerable damage and came dangerously close to knocking out power in Silicon Valley.
Energy experts, including the former chief of the Federal Regulatory Commission, have since warned that the assault could have been a dress rehearsal for a larger attack on electricity infrastructure. A coordinated series of similar shootings, they say, has the potential to knock out power in a large part of the West for an extended time.
The ShotSpotter audio sensors can triangulate the sound of a gunshot to pinpoint its exact location and send an alert to law enforcement. The technology is used by police forces across the country, including in the city of South Gate, parts of Oakland and a large swath of Washington D.C. It costs $150,000 to $200,000 to install at a substation, plus annual monitoring costs of about $20,000.
"Guns are fired illegally and in criminal ways far more than people expect," Clark said. "Many of the people in the urban communities most afflicted are the least likely to call 911. We can correspond the shooting to an address, and then even tell law enforcement to look for the shell casings in the front yard or back yard."
Clark would not speculate about whether such technology would have enabled law enforcement to quickly nab the shooters at the Metcalf substation near San Jose, but that's the general idea. In the next month or two, he said, the company will run a series of simulations to make sure the technology can perform without interference amid the magnetic and noise interference associated with power plants.
"We know this has been a real solution in urban settings," Clark said. "We believe it can work at utilities."
As power companies continued their scramble to upgrade security operations, three members of Congress from Silicon Valley called on Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Friday to disclose more information about how his department responded to the April attack and to provide recommendations for preventing power station attacks.
"As we understand it, rolling blackouts throughout our region were narrowly averted," said the letter, signed by Democrats Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo and Mike Honda. "A larger attack is not difficult to imagine and the effects could be crippling."