Friday, February 28, 2014

New Rules for New York Police in 'Frisk' Encounters (The Wall Street Journal) and Other Friday, February 28th, 2014 NYC Police Related News Articles


Friday, February 28th, 2014 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe


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New Rules for New York Police in 'Frisk' Encounters

'Seven Steps to Positive Community Interations' in Nonemergency Situations

By Pervaiz Shallwani — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The Wall Street Journal' / New York, NY



Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday introduced seven principles that he said will increase New York Police Department officers' sensitivity while interacting with the people they protect, especially while conducting the controversial street tactic known as stop and frisk.


The guidelines—named the "seven steps to positive community interactions"—are geared to nonemergency situations.


The steps include having officers give their name and rank, being patient and being aware of resources available through the NYPD and other city agencies that could help those in need.


The officers will also be instructed to "actively listen" to people they're encountering and "to make sure every encounter, whenever possible, ends on a positive note. So people know that they have been served with that respect," Mr. de Blasio said.


"We understand there is going to be situations where it's split-second decisions," said Mr. de Blasio during a news conference with police Commissioner William Bratton. "Most of what police do is more normal interactions, and we want those to be as constructive as possible."


Mr. de Blasio made changing stop and frisk one of his signature issues during his mayoral campaign. He has said that the previous administration's use of the tactic created a wedge between the police and the community. He said he hired Mr. Bratton, in part, to change that.


"We are trying to build toward something," Mr. de Blasio said. "We are trying to build toward a thorough consistent partnership between police and community in every single neighborhood of this city."


The seven points will be "one of the foundations" the department is looking to make as it overhauls the training manual used at the police academy, Mr. Bratton said.


Implementing the principles will fall to Benjamin Tucker, the new deputy commissioner of training, scheduled to take his post on Friday. Mr. Bratton has said the goal is to have new training guidelines fully in place for the next class of recruits entering the academy in summer.


The guidelines were created under former Commissioner Raymond Kelly as a part of a plan called NYPD 2020, which created a framework for future department policies and tactics, said NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis.


The steps were taught in part to recruits who graduated in December, Mr. Davis said. He said they will be fully incorporated into the 2014 training guide.


Mr. Bratton compared the policy to "verbal judo," a training tool he implemented during his first tour as the city's police commissioner in the mid-1990s. It teaches officers to be careful in language and tone they use when communicating with members of the public.


Mr. de Blasio said the principles echo his own conversations with people in communities who felt like they didn't get respect from police officers.


He said "these ideas have been around for decades," but the new focus was necessary to change the "stop-and-frisk era."


The principles, Mr. de Blasio said, apply to "pedestrian" interactions—the majority of contact the police make with residents.


The number of documented stop and frisks soared under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly, reaching nearly 700,000 before significantly dropping—to less than 150,000—in their final year. Mr. Kelly changed training in his final years and he said that contributed to the drop.




In wake of 'stop-and-frisk,' NYPD unveils new training protocol -- includes: 'Be Patient'

By JONATHAN LEMIRE  (The Associated Press)  —  Thursday, February 27th, 2014; 6:40 p.m. EST



NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The New York Police Department unveiled new, "common-sense" training protocols aimed at improving relations with communities that feel alienated by the police stop-and-frisk practice.


The seven-step guidelines, announced Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton, are remarkably simple. Their advice -- "introduce yourself," ''keep an open mind," and "be patient" -- also urges officers to try to relate with people of different backgrounds who may speak different languages and to try to end every encounter on a positive note.


The goal is to improve the level of trust between police officers and the neighborhoods they patrol, which should lead to improved morale and a new willingness for civilians to cooperate with police and provide crime-stopping tips, de Blasio said.


"That partnership is invaluable, that partnership is irreplaceable, and that partnership is what we aim to create in every neighborhood," de Blasio said.


De Blasio said he believes the NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic that allows police to question people deemed suspicious, strained relations with minorities. Critics of the practice, which the mayor has vowed to reform, believe it unfairly targets blacks and Latinos.


"We have to repair that rift," de Blasio said.


Supporters, which include ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, believe stop-and-frisk drives down crime. Its use has declined in New York in recent years even before de Blasio took office in January.


The new protocols were tested in a few precincts late last year, officials said. They will be taught to all rookies coming through the NYPD police academy and will later be disseminated to all 34,000 officers.


Bratton, who called the plan "common sense," warned that police "injure a lot of people with our language" and suggested that even veteran officers would benefit from the new guidelines. It is one of the first major policy initiatives unveiled by Bratton, who returned this year to head a police department that he led for two years under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s. Raymond Kelly was police commissioner the last 12 years.




Finest, now be kindest: NYPD respect push

By Yoav Gonen — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Post'





New NYPD recruits will soon be expected to hum a happier tune when dealing with the public, based on a positive-interaction curriculum that is being added to Police Academy training, Mayor de Blasio announced Thursday.


The seven-point program includes a number of common-sense principles that could have been penned by Miss Manners — such as: Listen attentively to people you encounter, be patient, and end all interactions on a positive note.


The "Seven Steps to Positive Community Interactions" also asks police officers, when possible, to introduce themselves and provide their name and rank.


De Blasio said the new training is part of the administration's effort to heal community and police relations in the wake of the tension he says was fostered by the overuse of stop-and-frisk.


"Those interactions weren't very positive," de Blasio said alongside NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton at the 25th Precinct in East Harlem. "A lot of times, the folks stopped had no idea why they were being stopped. A lot of times there wasn't a lot of explanation or respectful dialogue — and it dug in a sense of divide in many communities."


Bratton said he didn't know the origin of the seven steps, but referred to similar attempts in the past — both locally and nationally — to improve police interactions with the public.


He said he had even introduced something known as "verbal judo" during his 1990s stint as commissioner under Rudy Giuliani.


"We injure very few people in this city in the course of making arrests and interacting with them, but we do tend to injure a lot more people through our language," said Bratton.


"The idea is to begin to formulate new language for all of our officers that might help diffuse a situation rather than escalate it."


Cops are also asked to keep an open mind about what citizens tell them, to know what resources are available to help the public, and to make every effort to address people's needs.


De Blasio cited the public's help in nabbing a gunman who allegedly shot a cop in Brooklyn Wednesday as an example of the kind of cooperation he's seeking to foster.


He drove the point home by giving a city proclamation to Harlem good Samaritan Dale Green, who two weeks ago scared off an alleged would-be rapist and provided cops with a detailed description that led to an arrest.


"I want a city where if something goes wrong, citizens are going out of their way to tell police exactly what happened, tell them where the perpetrator is, where the weapon is, and being as quick as they can to join the police in partnership," the mayor said. "That's what we have to build here."




NYPD unveils 7-step new training protocols

By Unnamed Author(s) — Thursday, February 27th, 2014; 'WABC Eyewitness News' / New York, NY



NEW YORK (WABC) --  The New York Police Department unveiled new, "common-sense" training protocols aimed at improving relations with communities that feel alienated by the police stop-and-frisk practice.



The seven-step guidelines, announced Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton, are remarkably simple.


Step one: Whenever possible, whenever it makes sense, the officer politely introduces himself and provides name and rank.


Step two: Actively listen and attentively listen to the people they're encountering.


Step three: Keep an open mind about the information they're receiving.


Step four: Be patient with the people they are serving. Mayor de Blasio said, "We're talking about every kind of circumstance. And we know there's a difference between an urgent and an emergency circumstance and an everyday encounter. We believe it's so important for our officers to have the opportunity to hear deeply what people are telling them, including if they happen to come from a different background, a different culture, have a different first language."


Step five: Know the resources the NYPD, and other agencies, that would be available to help people with their problems.


Step six: Make every reasonable effort to address the needs of the people that have asked for help.


Step seven: Make sure every encounter, whenever possible, ends on a positive note so people know that they have been served with that respect.


The goal is to improve the level of trust between police officers and the neighborhoods they patrol, which should lead to improved morale and a new willingness for civilians to cooperate with police and provide crime-stopping tips, de Blasio said.


"That partnership is invaluable, that partnership is irreplaceable, and that partnership is what we aim to create in every neighborhood," de Blasio said.


De Blasio said he believes the NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic that allows police to question people deemed suspicious, strained relations with minorities. Critics of the practice, which the mayor has vowed to reform, believe it unfairly targets blacks and Latinos.


"We have to repair that rift," de Blasio said.


Supporters, which include ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, believe stop-and-frisk drives down crime. Its use has declined in New York in recent years even before de Blasio took office in January.


The new protocols were tested in a few precincts late last year, officials said. They will be taught to all rookies coming through the NYPD police academy and will later be disseminated to all 34,000 officers.


Bratton, who called the plan "common sense," warned that police "injure a lot of people with our language" and suggested that even veteran officers would benefit from the new guidelines. It is one of the first major policy initiatives unveiled by Bratton, who returned this year to head a police department that he led for two years under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s. Raymond Kelly was police commissioner the last 12 years.


(Some information from the Associated Press)




Mapping Crime: The NYPD Falls Behind

By Adam Wisnieski — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 'The John Jay College of Criminal Justice Crime Report' / New York, NY



The New York Police Department (NYPD)— which prides itself on its forward-thinking approach to fighting crime — has fallen behind when it comes to providing the public a glimpse at what crimes are reported in city neighborhoods.


A municipal law passed in 2013 required New York City to create an online public crime map that should be updated with data "in no case more than one month after a crime complaint has been filed."


But for most of the time since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office on January 1 — and since Police Commissioner William Bratton took the helm of the NYPD — the map has not been in compliance with the law.


After multiple unreturned requests for comment on the delay, this week the NYPD updated the map with stats through January 31.


The data lag raises questions about the mayor's pledge to deliver more transparency in government—one of the cornerstones of his election campaign.


The department's longstanding policy of releasing a limited amount of data through PDFs is not only pre-digital, but prehistoric.


Delays aside, the map—widely criticized since its launch in December for its limited information and because it will not let users download the data—is ancient compared to crime mapping in other major U.S. cities.


Of the 10 most populous cities in the United States, only Phoenix, which does not have a public interactive map, releases less information on crime data to the public than New York City.


New York is the only one of the remaining nine big cities with an interactive map that does not include dates and times of incidents. San Diego and New York are the only two cities that do not provide an identification number for each report.


Most have data fed directly into the maps on a daily basis. Thus, the crime reports are one or two days old—unlike New York's map, which includes data that is currently almost a month old.



'Bare Bones'


Noel Hidalgo, executive director of BetaNYC, a civic technology and open government group, said New York City's public safety data is, "right now, at the bare bones of what the public needs to know."


Many cities, including Chicago, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose and Indianapolis, release crime report data outside what are known as the "seven majors" (murder, rape, felony assault, burglary, robbery, grand larceny and grand larceny of a motor vehicle.)


The crime rate in New York City has been defined by these seven crimes since Bratton instituted CompStat in the mid-1990s during his first stint as commissioner. However, the new map is supposed to include more than that.


The legislation that required the NYPD to create the public crime map states that the map should include reports, "for each class of crime that is reported to the New York City Police Department, or for which an arrest was made."


In recent years, the NYPD has been under fire from critics who argue the department's reliance on CompStat's "seven majors" has created a culture of crime manipulation.


Other cities— even those that employ CompStat, such as San Francisco and Austin— have decided to release lower-level crime statistics. In contrast, New Yorkers have no open access to statistics on the alleged downgraded crimes (misdemeanor assaults, petty larcenies, criminal trespassing).


Chicago is the opposite of the Big Apple when it comes to releasing crime data to the public.


In 2011, Chicago set the bar for transparency for a major U.S. city. Shortly after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, the Chicago Police Department released 4.6 million crime incident reports dating back to 2001 and began releasing detailed crime incidents on a daily basis.


The Chicago PD releases raw data so the public, journalists and researchers can create their own maps, but they also feed that data into their own public map.


The difference between policies in Chicago and New York is clear when looking at each city's public map. In a 12-block area of Roseland in early January, Chicago's ClearMap includes 59 reported crimes. New York City would not include 41 of those types of reports on its map, including complaints of petty larceny, vandalism, simple battery, child abuse, prostitution, disorderly conduct, selling drugs, unlawful possession of a handgun, reckless firearm discharge and a violation of an order of protection.


Even the incidents that the NYPD would include on its map would not provide details such as noting that a larceny occurred in schools or public buildings, or which robberies were with handguns, and which involved a carjacking.


Mayor Emanuel said his decision to release the massive amount of data was intended to allow "community organizations to more effectively collaborate with the Chicago Police Department and better understand where crime is happening in their neighborhoods, streets and corners," according to a press release.


Three hundred miles to the east, the Detroit Police Department is trying to regain Detroit residents' trust by releasing more information on crime. In January, the Detroit PD started mapping crime reports through a third-party site,


"I think it's going to really jettison our community relations," said Chief James Craig after he spoke in Manhattan at the 9th Annual John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America in February.



NYC's Push for Data


For many transparency advocates in New York, putting more information on the map is not as important as releasing raw data in spreadsheet form.


"...[The NYPD] needs to take the seven Majors and all lower-level crime data — including address field — and publish it online in the city's open data portal in an open format where others can map it," wrote co-chair of The New York City Transparency Working Group, John Kaehny, in an e-mail.


Currently, the data fed into New York's crime map is not available to download. CompStat numbers by precinct are released on a weekly basis in PDF format.


"With all of the resources that are there, this data as presented through PDFs just doesn't make sense in the 21st century," said Hidalgo.


Seeing NYC's tech community complain about the new map because the raw data was not released, one hacker decided to "scrape" the raw data from the map and post it on his website for anyone to download.


Going to those lengths for data might not be necessary much longer. There is an effort in the City Council to open the NYPD's books through legislation, but Bratton says even that might not be required.


"I don't think we need City Council legislation requiring it, we're more than happy to do it," Bratton said after speaking at the Guggenheim Symposium.


When pressed for details of what the NYPD would release, Bratton would not go into specifics.


"Eventually we could be in a position to release just about everything we do once we are able to find a way to format it appropriately and push it out," he said.


Hidalgo said he's hopeful that the new administration will honor its transparency commitments. But he wants to see action.


"[The NYPD] should be number one, but it doesn't even need to be number four or three," he said. "Right now, New York City is nowhere near the top of its game."




Chief of Patrol James Hall

Why this top cop deserves the boot

By Brad Hamilton — Thursday, February 20th, 2014 'Not Just-Us.Com' / New York, NY
(Op-Ed / Commentary)

(One I missed)



This month police commissioner Bill Bratton got rid of detectives' boss Phil Pulaski and Internal Affairs chief Charles Campisi.


Next on his list should be Chief of Patrol James Hall, a gay-hating bungler who shares a philosophy with the Putin henchman who warned homosexuals to keep their hands off kids at the Olympics.


The meteoric rise of Hall, whose bias and vindictiveness cost the city $1.5 million, is a reminder that under former commissioner Ray Kelly performance sometimes had nothing to with where you landed on the totem pole.


Kelly cast himself as a stickler for professionalism and was a big fan of Hall's. When he promoted him to three-star chief and put him in charge of the NYPD's 20,000 street cops in 2010, he gushed about Hall's qualities. "He's a superb tactician and an excellent, experienced manager," he said.


Kelly didn't mention that Hall's father, a former NYPD big shot, was once Kelly's boss and good friend. Or that just about anyone who served in the Marines, as Kelly and Hall both did, can do almost no wrong in his eyes.


And he certainly didn't bring up a notorious incident in 2001 that revealed Hall to be an absolutely lousy supervisor with views one might expect from a Third World despot.


Sergeant Robert Sorrenti no longer works as a cop. Hall drove him out of the NYPD because he assumed that Sorrenti was gay, orchestrating an ignominious end to a career based on Hall's homophobia and paranoia. Turns out he had it wrong. One would think that if you're going to target a subordinate for his sexual orientation, you might at least try to get your facts straight.


The story of Sorrenti's demise is as sad as it is convoluted.


For whatever reason, Hall, 53, concluded that Sorrenti, 47, and his ex-partner were both homosexual and up to no good. Indeed, he was not entirely wrong about the former partner, who was something of a con artist and probably never should have been a cop. According to Sorrenti, this partner developed a "sugar daddy," an older man who gave him cash to fund a "rich lifestyle."


"The cop wasn't gay," Sorrenti said. "But he was out there conning this older man, who paid all his bills. They put me with him as his partner. Unfortunately, he had a bad record."


Sorrenti, who did not know this other cop well, nevertheless got suckered into loaning him $10,000 to buy a motorcycle. It was a bad decision. When the loan was not repaid, Sorrenti began pressing for the money. His partner filed a harassment complaint. An internal probe revealed the truth, and this partner was soon gone from the NYPD.


That unfortunate incident in 1998 became a problem three years later when Hall was asked to approve the hiring of Sorrenti for a job with the Youth Services Division. It's a unit that runs the Police Athletic League, the anti-drug effort DARE and other programs for kids. Many consider it be prestigious.


By most accounts, Sorrenti was eminently qualified for the position, which was to head DARE in Staten Island.


His supporters included the division's commander, Capt. Lori Albunio, and its operations lieutenant, Tom Connors. Albunio liked Sorrenti's multiple commendations and that he'd served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990.


"He was an excellent candidate – professional, sincere, honest," she said. "He'd been with a precinct and highway patrol. He was a veteran of Desert Storm."


But the interview with Hall did not go well.


Hall grilled Sorrenti on his relationship status – the now-married father of two was single back then – and asked probing questions about how he spent his free time. He also wanted to know about this loan he'd made to his ex-partner.


Sorrenti didn't catch on to the problem, but his supporters were soon made aware. Hall dragged Albunio and Connors into his office and raged at them.


He claimed to have learned some  "f_u_c_ked  up  s_h_i_t"  about their candidate and said "something's not right about" Sorrenti. Despite the sergeant's strong record, Hall said, "I won't be able to sleep at night knowing [he's] going to be around kids."


"I told Hall he was making a mistake," said Albunio. Connors agreed: "I said Sorrenti was more than qualified." When they broke the news to Sorrenti, he was stunned.


"I found out from them that he'd had made this statement that he didn't want me around children and I was pissed," said Sorrenti, who went to Hall and attempted to clear the air. "I tried to explain that I'm not gay but he denied saying it."


Hall hired someone else for the job, then launched a campaign to get rid of all three cops.


Albunio was bumped down to the No. 2 job at Transit District 1. Connors was transferred to a pencil-pushing position. Sorrenti was subjected to constant harassment. All eventually quit in disgust, only to find vindication in the courts in 2006.


Their suit, which went to a jury verdict, awarded the three $1.5 million – half a million each, approximately, for being subjected to James Hall's prejudice and retaliation.


This is what Kelly calls an excellent manager?



Here's a detailed argument why Kelly was dead wrong about Hall and why Bratton should fast-track him to retirement:


• Hall's ability to gather accurate information is suspect. This is no small failing when working in law-enforcement. His erroneous assumption about Sorrenti could have been countered by examining official records and interviewing those familiar with the sergeant's background. Hall just didn't care enough to investigate thoroughly. And he apparently was guided by the preposterous belief that all homosexuals are pedophiles.


• He denied a worthy candidate promotion. When talented people get passed over for top jobs for no sensible reason (or bogus ones), they tend to become resentful or pack up and leave. The ability to keep good workers is a sign of a successful manager. Hall pushed out three excellent cops.


• Hall engaged in actionable prejudice based on a subordinate's presumed sexual orientation. When a supervisor breaks the law and costs the city $1.5 million, he should be terminated or demoted. Instead, he was promoted. Now, Hall's bias could handicap the NYPD's efforts in a city with the largest gay population in the U.S.


• He orchestrated a cruel campaign of retaliation based on personal animus. The careers of Albunio and Connors were ended because the two had the temerity to back someone the boss didn't like. And he didn't listen when they told him he was wrong. That's just petulant and certainly not a sign of good management.



Sorrenti has all but forgotten about this former life in blue. "I got over it," he said. "I retired and moved on."


Connors is not so forgiving when it comes to Hall.


"To encounter a man like this – it was incredible," he said. "And to see how the Police Department protected him and promoted him was devastating."


What's up with Hall now? A key recent assignment was to head the NYPD's response to a rash of gay-bashing violence in the West Village, which included the murder of a 32-year-old man on May 18, 2013. The spike spurred outrage last summer and fall, prompting Kelly to announce that the police department would respond with stepped up patrols. All under Hall's command.


Months later, no arrests have been announced. If the cops caught and charged anyone, they haven't said. Has Hall done everything in his power to stop this crime wave? That is difficult to say. Even Sorrenti was not willing to make any snap judgments. "I'm sure he's not stupid enough to show any bias now," he said. "The light was shed on him."


But there are bigger issues here than Hall's incompetence.


It's not sufficient for Bratton to find someone better for the job. Getting rid of Hall alone won't address the problem of undeserved promotions. The new leader must take a fresh look at the top people under his command – and develop new policies for identifying those who deserve added responsibility. He's already made one step in the right direction by bringing back into the fold a handful of cops unfairly sidelined by Kelly.


There's no way to completely eliminate political influence from a police department. It will part of the equation as long as humans are in charge. Nor should shared experiences automatically be discounted as a possible plus when hiring and promoting.


But if meritocracy and professionalism are to trump insider connections, Bratton needs to be a good listener, open minded and willing to dig the truth.


Which would be a welcome departure from the Ray Kelly way.




The Shooting of 71 Pct. Impact Rookie James Li


Fare-beater shot rookie Brooklyn cop because of drug warrant: source

Police officer James Li and his partner noticed Rashun Robinson jumped on a bus in Crown Heights without paying. But when they confronted him, a gunfight ensued, with Li getting shot in both legs — and a source says it's because Robinson knew he was a wanted man. Meanwhile, Li's friends and family — including his 12-year-old little brother — are keeping vigil.

By Barry Paddock, Oren Yaniv, Rocco Parascandola AND Larry McShane  — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Daily News'



The kid brother of wounded rookie cop James Li doesn't see himself wearing NYPD blue.


"Probably not, because I'm frightened I will get shot," 12-year-old Philip Guan told the Daily News as his reeling family kept a bedside vigil Thursday with the hero officer.


Two months earlier, Li's relatives celebrated the cop's graduation from the Police Academy — only to learn Wednesday of his shooting by a crack-slinging fare-beater on a city bus.


"I felt bad for him," young Philip said at the family's Brooklyn home. "I came back from school and my dad told me. They were upset. My mother was crying."


Philip said his 26-year-old single brother, shot three times in the legs in a White Castle parking lot, had long aspired to join the NYPD and "help other people."


"He likes the job," said the boy. "I was proud of him."


Accused shooter Rashun Robinson, 28, showed zero remorse in confessing that he opened fire on Li as a routine fare-beating arrest morphed into a wild street shootout in Crown Heights.


"He gave it all up," said one law enforcement source. "He was not apologetic at all. He said he has a right to defend himself."


Robinson was stone silent and void of any emotion during his arraignment Thursday night in Brooklyn criminal court for second-degree attempted murder of a police officer and other charges.


About 40 undercover cops from precincts across south Brooklyn came to the proceeding in support of Li.


"He [Robinson] is a cold-blooded killer. The reason he pulled that trigger, and he said it, is, 'I hate cops,'" said Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.


"The question was put to him, why did you shoot? 'Because I hate cops.' That's it, no other reason. That's a person that has no heart, no soul."


A police source told The News that Li's department-issued weapon was still in its holster when Robinson, an ex-con and a reputed member of the Bloods, opened fire about 5 p.m. while running from the bus. Li was already down when he fired five times. His partner, Randy Chow, 30, fired twice. About 10 feet separated the rookie cops from Robinson during the shootout.


Robinson, wanted on a 2011 warrant after selling $50 worth of crack to an undercover detective in Lebanon, Pa., was determined to dodge jail time at any cost, a police source told The News.


"He took off because he had the gun," said a police source. "It's assumed he knew he had the warrant."


He was arrested while still carrying the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun that he fired during the fierce battle at Utica Ave. and Empire Blvd., cops said. Police are tracing the origins of the weapon Robinson claims he's had for two years.


When asked where he got the gun, he offered nothing. "I'm not a snitch," he said, according to the police source.


The suspect, who boarded through the back door of the bus without paying, told cops he typically paid while taking mass transit to avoid arrest — but he went out Wednesday with no money, according to a police source.


The stop quickly went awry, with a gunfight and chase like something out of a shoot-'em-up flick.


Witness Khadijah Hall, an off-duty FDNY EMT who came to Li's aid, said everything happened in an instant. "I heard two shots," she said. "I turned to my right, and seconds later I saw a gentleman running down the block, shooting. He turned around and he started shooting behind him. I was saying, 'Oh, my! Oh, my! They're shooting at a cop!'"


Li and Chow were assigned to nab fare-beaters riding the B46 line, the most dangerous bus route in the city, transit officials said. The unwanted distinction is based on fare evasion, assaults on personnel and other factors.


Police Commissioner Bill Bratton defended targeting the $2.50 fare cheats as part of a crime-fighting strategy dating to his 1990s New York tour of duty.


"Some people might say, 'Why are you worried about that?' " Bratton said. "The 'New York miracle,' if you will, began with fare evasion. Twenty-five years later, we're still at it." When Bratton ran the Transit Police, one in seven fare-beaters had a warrant — and one of every 21 had a weapon.


Robinson's New York rap sheet had six arrests, including a 2012 narcotics bust in East New York, Brooklyn, and two 2004 crimes: felony drug possession in the Bronx and a Brooklyn jewelry store heist.


Albert Levey, former owner of E&D Jewelry, recalled grabbing the short, slender Robinson by the neck and holding him until cops arrived after the failed heist.


"They found a knife on him," Levey recalled. "I wasn't afraid. He was a kid."


The suspect is 5-feet-5, 140 pounds.


Robinson stared straight ahead as he was led from the 71st Precinct stationhouse in a white NYPD-issue jump suit.


Family and friends flanked the recovering Li's Kings County Hospital bed. The wounded officer was speaking, but clearly in pain 24 hours later.


"He's anxious to get out," Lynch said. "He's lucky. He thanks God that he's alive."


EMTs Hall and Shaun Alexander said they were only on the scene because of a phone call. Hall was about to drive off when she answered her cellphone. The next thing they heard were gunshots, and the pair quickly ran to the aid of the wounded cop.


"We saw the bullet hole in his leg, we saw the bullet hole through his pants," said Hall, a 22-year FDNY veteran EMT. "It's just second nature. We saw it happen, and we knew that we had to help."


The bleeding Li "was calm. He said, 'I'm OK,' " Hall recounted. "And I said, 'Yes, you're going to be fine.'"


With Erik Badia, Pete Donohue, Edgar Sandoval and Caitlin Nolan





Accused shooter wanted to kill a cop: source

By Larry Celona, Jamie Schram and Bruce Golding — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Post'



He was out for NYPD blood.


The fare beater who allegedly shot a rookie cop after getting yanked off a city bus admitted he wanted to kill a police officer, a source told The Post.


"Cops are the biggest gang and I carry a gun for my own protection," Rashaun Robinson, 28, said at the 71st Precinct, according to a second source. "I fired in self-defense."


Officer James Li, 26, who is just a few weeks out of the police academy, and his partner caught Robinson and another man boarding a city bus through the back door without paying on Wednesday afternoon.


When they pulled the men off the bus to arrest them, Robinson allegedly opened fire with a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson, hitting Li in both legs with three shots.


Cops never had a chance to cuff and frisk him. He ran off, but was collared nearby.


Li was treated at the scene by a pair of off-duty EMTs — Khadijah Hall and Shaun Alexander — who were leaving a nearby White Castle when the shots were fired.


"My friend Shaun said 'I can't believe this! You got any gloves?' It was like cops and robbers!" Hall said Thursday at EMS Station 58 in Canarsie.


Alexander said Li was calm but feared he had been more seriously wounded.


"When we got there he was all concerned that he was shot all over. I checked, said, 'No, you're OK, you're gonna be all right,'" Alexander said.


Robinson, who said nothing when he was led from the 71st Precinct Thursday night for his criminal court arraignment, is a fugitive from Lebanon, Penn., wanted on a 2012 drug warrant.


Authorities there admitted to The Post they didn't have enough manpower to hunt him down for allegedly taking part in a crack sale to an undercover officer.


The Lebanon County Sheriff's Department said Thursday it has more than 2,500 open warrants, and just 26 employees — including civilians — to enforce them all.


Chief Deputy Sheriff Deborah Miller said her department entered Robinson's warrant into state and national law-enforcement databases so he would be held if stopped elsewhere.


Lebanon County DA Dave Arnold said, "I certainly hope and pray for the health of" NYPD cop James Li, who Robinson allegedly shot on Wednesday.


"I know we've got a whole wall full of cabinets with warrants here in our office and we certainly do our best to apprehend who we can, but unfortunately we don't get everybody," Arnold added.


Additional reporting by Gillian Kleiman and Lorena Mongelli




Suspect in Brooklyn police shooting arraigned

By ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'New York Newsday' / Melville, L.I.



The Brooklyn man suspected of shooting and wounding a rookie NYPD officer Wednesday evening was held without bail Thursday night on multiple counts of attempted murder and other charges, officials said.


Rashaun Robinson, 28, was charged with two counts of aggravated attempted murder, attempted first- and second-degree murder, assault and criminal use of a firearm and related offenses, according to police.


He has a criminal record and is wanted on a Pennsylvania narcotics charge, police said.


According to police, Officer James Li, 26, was shot and wounded in both legs by Robinson after the officer and his partner saw him enter through the rear doors of a city bus without paying. Both officers were in uniform at the time, police said.


Li was taken to Kings County Hospital Center where he remained in stable condition Thursday after surgery. He was expected to remain in the hospital for several days, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday night.


Police said the shooting happened about 5 p.m. at Utica Avenue and Empire Boulevard in Brooklyn after Li and another officer, Randy Chow, 30, spotted two farebeaters -- including Robinson -- sneaking onto a B46 bus without paying, police said. Both rookies graduated from the police academy in December.


According to police, the officers followed Robinson and the other man on to the bus and told them to get off. Then Robinson, after leaving the bus, pulled a .45-caliber pistol and fired at Li at least three times at close range, striking him in the legs and groin, police said.


Both Chow and Li fired at Robinson but didn't hit him, police said.


While two off-duty emergency medical technicians in the parking lot of a nearby White Castle restaurant tended to the wounded Li, Chow chased Robinson and radioed details of his pursuit, Bratton said. Robinson was apprehended nearby and the Smith & Wesson handgun he allegedly used was recovered. The other alleged farebeater is still at large and police were trying to obtain video surveillance images to see if Robinson and the unidentified man were walking together for some distance before the incident.


Bratton said Li and Chow had been working together since their graduation from the academy and lauded their actions.


"The training they received in the academy was of such a caliber that they were able to deal with a life-threatening situation in an extraordinarily brave fashion," Bratton told reporters.


Bratton acknowledged that the department preferred that the two rookie officers didn't work together without direct supervision. Bratton said that he plans to have new officers, particularly those working high-crime Operation Impact areas, team up with more experienced officers, partly as a way of alleviating problems about stop and frisk activities.


With Matthew Chayes




High crime makes B46 baddest bus in NYC

MTA asks cops to crack down on fare evasions in Brooklyn, putting the B46 at the top of the list. A rookie cop assigned to stop fare-beaters on that bus was shot Wednesday. MTA estimates it loses $50 million a year from bus riders who don't pay fares.

By Rocco Parascandola AND Pete Donohue — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Daily News'



The hot spot for crime - on the most dangerous bus route in the city - is at the same Brooklyn stop where an ex-con boarded without paying and then shot a rookie cop.


The baddest bus in the city is the B46, which runs through parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and East Flatbush, officials said. The distinction is based on fare evasion, assaults on drivers and passengers, and other factors.


So when transit officials asked the NYPD to crack down on fare evasion in Brooklyn, the B46 was at the top of the list, law enforcement sources said. Over the last year, there have been 41 assaults on B46 drivers and riders - far more than any other route, MTA officials said.


Officer James Li, on the force just two months, was wounded by a suspected fare-beater at Utica Ave. and Empire Blvd. around 5 p.m. Wednesday. The rookie cop was assigned to an NYPD crackdown on fare evasion when Rashun Robinson got off the B46 and shot him, police said.


Edwin Thomas, a driver on the same route, was stabbed to death in December 2008 by an ex-con fare-beater.


The MTA estimates it loses about $50 million a year because of bus riders who don't pay the fare.





Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Daily News' Editorial:

True blue New Yorkers

"My job is my heart"


Give thanks that rookie NYPD Officer James Li is alive after a shootout with gun-toting thug.


Give thanks that New York cops like Li and his partner, Officer Randy Chow, are dedicated to facing the very real dangers that lurk on the streets.


Give thanks that the city is also blessed with public servants like EMTs Shaun Alexander and Khadija Hall, who happened to be off duty near the scene of the gunplay and leaped into action to tend to the wounded Li.


On standard patrol, Li and Chow saw two men board the back of a B46 bus in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. They did what they are supposed to. They moved to make a routine fare-beating collar. Only this turned out to be anything but routine.


Rashaun Robinson bolted because he was wanted on a narcotics warrant. Li gave chase. Robinson spun and opened fire with a .45 from a distance of about 10 feet. He hit Li in both legs. Li and Chow returned fire — both using professional restraint in a highly populated area. Li squeezed off five rounds and Chow only two. Other cops ran Robinson to ground.


Meanwhile, EMTs Alexander and Hall sprang into action.


"My job is my heart. It's what I do," said Hall. "I try and help anybody I can."


More could not have been asked of any of these brave and selfless people.




St. Patrick's Day Parade


NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to march in St. Patrick's Day Parade despite boycott from city leaders

The police commissioner will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Raymond Kelly, who attended the parades. Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have pledged to boycott the March 17 event because it prohibits gay groups from participating.

By Corinne Lestch  — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Daily News'



The city's top cop is marching to a different drummer than many of his fellow officials.


Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Thursday he would participate in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.


"Yes," he answered when reporters asked if he would take part in the March 17 tradition. He declined to elaborate .


Bratton follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Raymond Kelly, who attended the parades and even served as grand marshal in 2010.


Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have pledged to boycott the parade because of its treatment of gay groups.


The parade does not allow groups bearing signs or banners identifying them as gay or lesbian to march.


Gay activists expressed their disappointment.


"To have someone who is in charge of the safety of this city march in a parade that is breathing hate, and saying we as LGBTQ New Yorkers cannot march openly in it, is an extremely giant step in the wrong direction," said Eunic Ortiz, president of Stonewall Democrats.


"We hope (Bratton) changes his mind before March 17," Ortiz added.


Hundreds of New York's Finest march in the annual parade.


De Blasio has said he would not bar city workers from marching with banners.


"I respect the right of city employees to make their own choices on this," he said this week.





Bratton to march in St. Patrick's parade

By MATTHEW CHAYES — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'New York Newsday' / Melville, L.I.



NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton will march in the controversial St. Patrick's Day Parade next month, in a break with his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio.


The mayor, along with most other citywide officer holders, are boycotting on grounds that organizers exclude openly gay marchers.


Bratton did not explain his decision, announced Thursday in response to a reporter's question.


Bratton's predecessor, Ray Kelly, used to march in the parade.


The City Council also won't have an official presence, though individual council members and city workers may participate if they choose.


The parade is March 17.




Bratton bucking St. Patrick's Day parade boycott

By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press)  —  Friday, February 28th, 2014; 6:13 a.m. EST



Police Commissioner William Bratton says he will march in the nation's largest St. Patrick's Day parade.


That will make him one of the few high-profile city officials to walk along Fifth Ave. on March 17.


Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James are among the city's elected officials who are boycotting.


They are refusing to march because of a parade rule prohibiting gay groups from carrying identifying signs. Other groups, such as colleges and civic organizations, can carry such signs.


Bratton, who's Irish-American, was asked if he was planning to march during an unrelated press conference in Manhattan on Thursday. He simply said "yes" and did not elaborate.


More than two million people are expected to attend the parade.




OCCB Det. Wojciech Braszczok

Wojciech Braszczok, NYPD cop involved in biker melee, does not have charges reduced

By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press)  —  Thursday, February 27th, 2014; 2:28 p.m. EST



Prosecutors said Thursday they have changed their minds about reducing charges against an undercover police detective accused of taking part in a motorcyclists-versus-SUV driver melee that was caught on video.


The Manhattan district attorney's office had said in December that the SUV driver's facial injuries were healing and might not warrant the first-degree assault and gang assault charges against Detective Wojciech Braszczok and nine other bikers. The charges require permanent disfigurement.


"Unfortunately, it appears the victim's injuries have not healed as well as we initially believed they would," so the charges stand for now, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said Thursday.


Braszczok — who walked through the courthouse hallway with a hood up and a scarf covering most of his face to shield himself from photographers — has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers have said that he never came close to the SUV driver and that the video footage will exonerate him.

Defense lawyer John Arlia told a judge the developments meant "the game will change" in the case, which grabbed headlines last fall as a highway horror. Arlia and fellow Braszczok lawyer Bruce Wenger declined to comment after court.


The other nine motorcyclists have court dates Friday. The DA's office declined to comment on whether their charges would also remain the same, but they are based on the same injuries.


A spokesman for the SUV driver, Alexian Lien, had no immediate comment Thursday. Lien hasn't been charged, and he has filed a legal notice saying he plans to sue the city over Braszczok's role in the Sept. 29 confrontation.


The tension began when an SUV carrying a family on a Sunday drive crossed paths with a motorcycle rally — with at least one rider capturing events on a helmet-mounted camera and later posting video online.


Police say a motorcycle slowed in front of the Range Rover, which then bumped the bike. Motorcyclists dismounted and converged on the SUV. Lien has said he feared for himself, his wife and their toddler. He hit the gas to get away, running over and seriously injuring motorcyclist Edwin Mieses Jr., of Lawrence, Mass.


The other bikers chased after Lien, dragged him from his car on a side street and beat him, some bashing him with their motorcycle helmets, authorities said. He needed stitches to his face.


The off-duty Braszczok wasn't accused of hitting Lien. But prosecutors have said he shattered the SUV's back window and did nothing to end the assault or get help. The 10-year police veteran told authorities and his union that he didn't intervene partly because he works undercover.


Crushed by the SUV, Mieses suffered broken legs and severe spine injuries. He has gone home from a hospital but still needs a wheelchair, and he most likely never will walk again, his lawyer, Gloria Allred, said this week.




Injuries to dad beaten by biker gang not healing as well as previously hoped, prosecutors maintain gang assault charges against defendants 

Alexian Lien's facial injuries are not healing as well as prosecutors thought in December, when they announced they would likely downgrade charges against 11 suspects accused of yanking him from his SUV and beating him in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

By Rich Schapiro — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Daily News'



Not so fast, detective.


In a reversal, prosecutors said Thursday that charges against the undercover NYPD detective accused of taking part in the biker beatdown of a Manhattan dad are not going to be downgraded.


Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass had said in December that the first-degree assault and gang charges against Wojciech Braszczok and his fellow bikers were likely to be reduced because Alexian Lien's facial wounds were not as serious as initially feared.


But Steinglass said recent medical tests suggested otherwise.


"Unfortunately, it appears the victim's injuries have not healed as well as we initially believed they would so we're not [GOING]to reduce the charges at this time," Steinglass told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley.


All but one of the 11 defendants still face 25 years in prison, rather than 15 that would have come with downgraded charges.


Steinglass also asked for an order of protection for the 33-year-old Lien, which Wiley granted.


Braszczok's lawyer declined to comment after the brief hearing.


Prosecutors say an off-duty Braszczok, 32, was among a horde of bikers that chased Lien's Range Rover along the West Side Highway last September. After pulling Lien from the car, a group of bikers viciously beat him.


The brutal attack was caught on video. Lien's wife, Roslyn Ng, and their 2-year-old daughter, were also in the SUV when the bikers pounced.


The Liens are planning to sue the city.




'Biker gang' cop's charges stand as victim heals slowly

By Kevin Fasick and Rebecca Rosenberg — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Post'



Saying the victim's wounds have not healed as well as expected, Manhattan prosecutors told a judge Thursday they will not downgrade the top charge against an undercover NYPD detective who allegedly participated in the vicious biker gang attack on a Columbia grad in front of his terrified wife and daughter.


"On our last date I indicated we likely would be reducing the charges pending the results of another medical examination," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said about the charges against Detective Wojciech Braszczok. 


"Unfortunately, it appears the victim's injuries have not healed as well as we initially believed they would, so we're not [going] to reduce the charges at this time."


Victim Alexian Lien, 33, needed stitches on his face and head after he was yanked from his Range Rover and savagely beaten in front of his wife and infant daughter on West 178th St. on Sept. 29.


Braszczok, 32, who was off duty during the melee, is accused of punching the car's rear window.


The incident erupted after Lien's SUV bumped into a biker's ride near 125th Street in Harlem.


A confrontation ensued and some of the bikers allegedly slashed the SUV's tires. Lien peeled away, running over several bikers, one of whom was critically injured.


A mob of enraged bikers then chased Lien 50 blocks uptown before forcing him off the West Side Highway.


The furious gang pulled Lien from the SUV and beat him to a pulp in front his horrified family.


The bloody confrontation was caught on video and went viral on the Internet.


Braszczok and nine co-defendants face up to 25 years on the top charge of first-degree gang assault.


If prosecutors had downgraded the charge to attempted gang assault, the bikers would have faced a maximum of 15 years.


A total of 11 bikers have been charged in the brutal beating.


The undercover, who infiltrated Occupy Wall Street protests, was previously offered three years in prison if he pleads guilty.


Justice Maxwell Wiley issued an order of protection barring Braszczok from having any contact with the victim. The disgraced cop is due back in court April 4. 


Braszczok and his defense lawyer John Arlia declined to comment as they left Manhattan Supreme Court. Braszczok's face was hidden from photographers and TV cameras with a scarf and hood.


Lien, who couldn't be reached for comment, plans to sue the city and two of his alleged attackers, Braszczok and NYPD cop Matthew Rodriguez, according to a notice of claim filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.




Chief of Department Philip Banks III


DA Brown applauds NYPD's Chief Banks

By Alex Robinson — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The Queens Times-Ledger' / Queens, NY



The NYPD's second in command was honored by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown last week at a Black History Month event in the prosecutor's offices.


NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks III was presented with the William Tucker Garvin Public Service Award for his years of public service.


"Chief Banks has long been hailed for his successful efforts in building relationships between the NYPD and the communities it serves, particularly in enhancing the lives of young people and steering them away from crime," Brown said at the ceremony.


Banks joined the Police Department in 1986 after he attended Columbia and Harvard universities. Banks was a precinct commander in three different precincts and also served as chief of the department's Community Affairs Bureau in 2010.


He rose steadily through the ranks until he was appointed to his current position last March. Banks is only the second African-American to reach the prestigious rank.


"He's proven time and again he is not only an outstanding field commander and manager of police personnel and operations, but also as a bridge builder to the community," Brown said. "But most importantly, he's a resident of Queens."


Banks was rumored to be in the runnings to become Mayor Bill de Blasio's police commissioner and city Public Advocate Letitia James publicly expressed her support for him before Bill Bratton was appointed.


"He is truly the glue that holds the department together," Bratton said of Banks at the DA's ceremony. "He is one of the finest of the Finest."


The award was established in 2001 to honor the memory of Garvin, the first black assistant district attorney in Queens. Before he joined the DA's office, Garvin was one of the two first black graduates of St. John's University Law School and the first African-American to serve on School Board 50 in Queens back in 1943.


"His accomplishments and service to others were exemplary," Brown said of Garvin. "In choosing to live a life with purpose in public service, and as the first African-American assistant district attorney here in Queens, he paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps."


Banks thanked the DA for the award, whose recipients have included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Mayor David Dinkins and former Gov. David Patterson.


"This country is better off because of pioneers," Banks said. "Against all odds they do it for one reason: They want to leave the world better than it was when they entered it."


"I'm going to certainly work forward to it and make this man and his family proud," he added of Garvin's relatives, who attended the ceremony.




PBBX Chief Carlos M. Gomez to Chief of Housing

Bratton to appoint Carlos M. Gomez to Chief of Housing

By Jamie Schram — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Post'



Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Friday will appoint Carlos M. Gomez — the highest ranking uniformed Hispanic officer in the NYPD– to the top spot in the Housing Bureau, The Post has learned.


Gomez — an Assistant Chief who started his career in 1984 as a patrol cop in the 103 Precinct in Jamaica, Queens — was the Commanding Officer of Patrol Bureau Borough Bronx.


He replaces Three Star Chief Joanne Jaffe, who was recently tapped to head the Community Affairs Bureau.


In The Bronx, Gomez is credited with driving down crime to record levels with murders and shootings plummeting over the past two years.


"Chief Carlos Gomez is an outstanding leader who has excelled in a series of commands," said Dennis Gonzalez, the President of the NYPD Hispanic Society.


"We are confident Chief Gomez will continue to raise the standards of excellence and professionalism in his capacity as Chief of Housing. He's a well respected Chief in the department and has an exemplary record of accomplishments in his 30 year career," Gonzalez added.




Chief Joanne Jaffe


NYPD's Highest Ranking Female Officer Tapped to Lead Community Affairs

By Murray Weiss — Thursday, February 27th, 2014; 3:37 p.m. 'DNAinfo.Com News' / New York, NY



ONE POLICE PLAZA — NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has tapped the department's top-ranked female officer to lead the Community Affairs Bureau, in the latest shakeup of top brass.


Joanne Jaffe, a three-star chief and the highest-ranking female in the city's force of 34,500, joined the NYPD in 1979 and spent years pounding a beat in East New York, Brooklyn. She steadily rose through the ranks, and has been head of the NYPD's Housing Police Bureau since 2003.


Jaffe will replace Community Affairs Bureau Chief Thomas Chan, who Bratton moved to head the Transportation Bureau overseeing the "Vision Zero" plan to reduce pedestrian and motorist fatalities.


Replacing Jaffe will be Carlos Gomez, who will be promoted from his current post as the boss of the Bronx patrol force, which he has held for the past three years. Gomez, who is a 30 year veteran, earned high marks continuing to reduce overall crime in The Bronx.


Bratton has begun to put his stamp on the NYPD in recent weeks, forcing the retirement of two of the NYPD's five so-called "Super Chiefs": Philip Pulaski, the Chief of Detectives, and Charles Campisi, the head of Internal Affairs.


John Bilich, the NYPD deputy commissioner who oversees the vaunted Compstat meetings, also recently left on his own to take a job as the head of Brooklyn District Attorney investigators. His successor has yet to be named.






Number of Communities Using Red-Light Cameras Declines

By Ashby Jones   — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The Wall Street Journal' / New York, NY



Local and state governments across the country are tapping the brakes on red-light cameras.


After a decade of steady growth, the number of communities using cameras to catch drivers who run stoplights has fallen about 6% since 2012, to 508, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by the automobile-insurance industry.


Seven states currently ban them altogether, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and several more, including Ohio and Florida, are considering such prohibitions.


Studies of whether cameras, typically mounted on fixtures beside the road, improve traffic safety are numerous and often point to contradictory conclusions. Many locations, including some big cities, have no plans to get rid of them. And suppliers of the cameras say the total number of cameras in use continues to grow, largely thanks to some larger cities, such as Washington, expanding their programs.


"Opponents of the industry would like the story to be that the demise of the red-light camera is upon us, but nothing could be farther from the truth," said Charles Territo, a spokesman for Tempe, Ariz.,-based American Traffic Solutions, Inc., a leading camera contractor.


But an increasing number of city and county officials are questioning their worth—and pulling the plug. They cite the hassles of dealing with erroneous tickets and complaints from drivers, many of whom perceive the cameras as invasive. Mostly, however, officials point to studies that claim the cameras do little to reduce accidents—and in some cases may increase them.


"It was time for them to go," said John Ducey, the mayor of Brick, N.J., which officially dismantled its red-light camera program last week, despite the cameras filling town coffers.


Mr. Ducey cited city statistics showing a rise in accidents at intersections where cameras were added in 2010, as part of a state pilot project. "The only justification for them is to improve safety, but it seems ours were doing exactly the opposite."


Red-light cameras have been in use since at least the 1990s, but widespread adoption didn't come until the last decade. There were 540 communities using them in 2012, more than 10 times the number in 2001, according to the IIHS. They include a number of big cities, such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix.


The rapid growth was accompanied by aggressive marketing on behalf of camera contractors, including American Traffic Solutions and  Redflex Holdings Ltd., based in Australia. The companies say their cameras catch more drivers running red lights, which deters careless driving and cuts down on accidents.


And many cities and towns have found another benefit: more ticket revenue without the need to hire new police officers.


Mr. Ducey, the mayor of Brick, said its cameras brought the town and state $813,000 last year—"vastly" more than likely ticket revenue if the cameras hadn't been in place. Miami brought in $5.8 million from camera violations in fiscal year 2012-13, a study commissioned by Florida's legislature said.


The contractors and supporters of the cameras say the safety benefits are well established. Russ Rader, an IIHS spokesman, pointed to a 2011 study by the group, its most recent on the issue, that showed significantly lower fatal-crash rates at intersections in cities with cameras than in those without them.


"I'm a big fan," said Jim Simms, a councilman in Amarillo, Texas, which installed cameras at five intersections in 2007, and recently decided to add them to four more. Mr. Simms said city records show that accidents at the five intersections fell from 69 in 2008 to 25 in 2013. "The records don't lie—these things make our streets safer," he said.


But many elsewhere disagree and have moved to get rid of them. Voters in Houston banned them in 2010 after a four-year run. Los Angeles ended its program the following year citing in part a lack of evidence that the camera program, in place for more than a decade, was making intersections any safer. El Mirage, Ariz., and Pasadena, Calif., ended their programs in 2012; San Diego, Poway, Calif., and League City, Texas, followed suit last year.


More programs could see the ax in 2014. Courts in Missouri have recently deemed red-light camera programs invalid because they conflict with traffic laws enacted at the state level. And legislatures in a number of states are considering bills to do away with them, partly because of the financial costs they impose on drivers.


"Red-light cameras are backdoor tax increases, plain and simple," said Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican and sponsor of a bill that would outlaw them statewide. "They're sold as safety measures, but they're really more about revenue."


Mr. Brandes pointed to the state study released this month showing that rear-end collisions at red-light-camera intersections on state roads increased 35% since 2010, when cameras were introduced in Florida, and that crashes overall jumped 12% in the same period.


Critics in Florida and elsewhere flag other hitches with red-light cameras. In most places, cities mail notices of violations captured on camera to the owner of a vehicle, rather than to the driver, a process that can cause headaches for owners who weren't driving.


The systems can also prove tricky for places with nuance in their traffic laws. For instance, Florida law allows drivers to make right turns on red in a "careful and prudent manner," without requiring drivers to come to a full stop. Recognizing the ambiguity, the city of Clermont, Fla., earlier this month rescinded dozens of tickets issued to people who made rolling right turns on red lights.





Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Post' Editorial:

A cop-killer's flack



As director of litigation for the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, Debo Adegbile put himself at the center of a public campaign on behalf of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Now President Obama has nominated this man to head the civil-rights division at the Justice Department.


And all that stands between Adegbile and his appointment is a Senate confirmation.


Let's start at the beginning. In 1981, Abu-Jamal murdered Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. The evidence against him was overwhelming. He was convicted and sentenced to death.


The facts have never really been in doubt. But the left painted Abu-Jamal as the victim of a racist justice system, and over the course of three decades of appeals he became a cause célèbre. He delivered (via a recording) a commencement address for Antioch College. National Public Radio enlisted him for commentaries on crime. Paris declared him an honorary citizen.


In 2009, the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund decided to get in on the act. This meant more than simply legal representation (which Abu-Jamal already had). It meant orchestrating a public campaign impugning the justice system.


We suspect even the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who voted for Adebgile's nomination to proceed are uncomfortable with this record. Why else would they have prevented the widow of the slain police officer, Maureen Faulkner, from testifying before the committee?


Let's hope the Senate does not compound one injustice with another by confirming this man to head a division touted as "the conscience of the federal government."




Chicago, Illinois      [Garry McCarthy]


Emanuel: Cops 'slow' to respond to gang split behind homicide spike

BY LYNN SWEET  AND FRAN SPIELMAN — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The Chicago Sun-Times' / Chicago, IL



The Chicago Police Department was "slow to react" to the splintering of street gangs that drove a spike in the city's homicide rate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged Thursday.


Emanuel made the rare admission during an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks before a live audience at the Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C. think tank. It was the mayor's second trip to the nation's capital this week.


Brooks turned to Chicago's "murder spike," talking about how the killings made national headlines and asked the mayor to "walk us through what you did and was it was like being in the middle of it."


Emanuel responded with a rare moment of introspection. He said Chicago Police are "making progress now," but success required the department to be more nimble and "adopt different tactics" on a daily basis.


"We made some changes in the police department. I don't think we were totally where we needed to be. . . . We had arrested the gang leadership (in) part of my tenure correctly. . . . So there was no leadership in these gangs. And they had broken down and dissolved and there was internecine gang warfare," the mayor said.


"So it wasn't two gangs fighting each other. It was two groups inside of these gangs fighting each other for turf with leadership that was much younger than 30. They have a different perspective. And we as a police department and as a city, [were] slow to react to that."


The mayor said "once we caught on what we were doing," a series of new programs were put in place that reduced crime by "interceding before the retribution shooting."


Emanuel doesn't normally admit mistakes in public, nor does he allow his staff to acknowledge missteps.


He has publicly second-guessed himself only one other time — after an early confrontation with organized labor over his demand for work-rule changes to replace morale-killing furlough days.


Labor leaders who hadn't supported Emanuel when he was running for mayor stood their ground, prompting layoffs. That prompted Emanuel to bemoan the strident tone he took with labor during that early test.


"I could have let that process be more quiet here at this table," Emanuel said, during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on the anniversary of his first year in office.


"You could argue that I could have done it different. Labor could have done it different. I'm responsible for what I do."


This time, the second-guessing involves Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who has been credited recently for an encouraging drop in Chicago's homicide rate and overall crime rate.


Two years ago, McCarthy launched his "gang violence reduction strategy" with a "gang audit" that provided updated information on 600 gang factions and their members.


The results — including which blocks are controlled by which gangs and the names of the gang members — were delivered to beat cops in Chicago's most dangerous districts.


The goal was to allow beat cops to move more quickly to stop retaliatory shootings by knowing the players on both sides of the conflict.


McCarthy also ordered tactical officers to make controlling gang violence their sole focus and to stop leaving their districts without top brass approval — except for emergencies such as police shootings.


More recently, McCarthy ordered his staff to respond to gang shootings by drawing up a list of warring gang leaders in the area, then knocking on their doors to warn them to stop the shooting and give them a contact card for job training and social services.


The so-called "custom notifications" have so far been delivered to 50 people in six police districts. Early results have been promising.


Contributing: Frank Main




San Francisco, California


6 S.F. officers indicted over residential hotel searches

By Henry K. Lee and Jaxon Van Derbeken — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The San Francisco Chronicle' / San Francisco, CA



Five veteran San Francisco police officers and a former officer faced federal corruption charges Thursday after a three-year investigation that began when the city's public defender released surveillance videos appearing to show officers abusing and stealing from residential hotel dwellers.


The grand jury indictments allege that after the FBI and San Francisco police launched a probe in March 2011, they learned three of the officers had stolen a batch of seized marijuana two years earlier. One of those officers, Reynaldo Vargas, delivered the pot to a couple of street informants, told them to sell it and then took a split of the proceeds, federal prosecutors said.


The indictments were unsealed Thursday. They represent one of the biggest scandals to hit the police force since the Fajitagate case, which stemmed from a 2002 fight between three off-duty officers and two men over a bag of fajitas and led to allegations of a cover-up - but no criminal convictions.


Three of the officers charged this week face accusations directly related to the residential hotel searches that were brought to light by city Public Defender Jeff Adachi.


Officers Arshad Razzak, 41, Richard Yick, 36, and Raul Eric Elias, 44, all formerly assigned to the Southern Police Station, are accused of conspiring to threaten and intimidate residents of single-room occupancy hotels by entering units without legal justification by using a master key.


Razzak and Yick also are accused of falsifying police incident reports, federal prosecutors said.



'Criminal conspiracies'


Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, Officer Edmond Robles, 46, and Vargas, 45, of Palm Desert (Riverside County), engaged in "multiple criminal conspiracies," including dealing marijuana, stealing a $500 Apple gift card and other valuables from suspects, and stealing money, drugs and other items that were seized on behalf of the city, their indictment said.


Vargas, who had served 13 years on the force when he was fired in May 2012, used the Apple gift card to buy an iPhone and an iPod Nano at an Apple Store in San Francisco in March 2009, authorities said. They said that transaction happened three weeks before the marijuana deal with the informants.


Elias has been with the department for 12 years, Robles for 22 years, Yick for 13 years and Razzak for 19 years. Furminger, also a 19-year veteran, was charged with extorting property from an individual, but the indictment didn't provide details underlying the charge.


Vargas, who turned himself in after the indictment was unsealed, pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate Thursday afternoon and was released on a $50,000 bond.


The five other defendants are expected to appear in court Friday.


Robles and an attorney for Elias declined to comment. Lawyers for the other three officers did not return messages. Each of the five officers has been suspended without pay.



Officer appealing dismissal


Vargas' lawyer, Harry Stern, said he will examine the charges closely. He said Vargas still has an appeal of his firing pending in the courts and is taking science courses in hopes of becoming a medical technician.


"The government gets to indict by dragging selected witnesses in front of a secret grand jury and asking them leading questions," Stern said.


San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran echoed that sentiment in a statement.


"These indictments are apparently based on the questionable testimony of unreliable informant witnesses," he said. "It is important to remember that the accused officers will have their day in court."


At a Hall of Justice news conference, a visibly shaken Police Chief Greg Suhr said, "I don't know that it gets any worse than this, other than an officer-involved serious injury or death, when the public trust is betrayed by a sitting San Francisco or any police officer.


"This is not only a betrayal of the public's trust," he said, "but also a betrayal of all the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department who work hard every day to do what they can to keep San Francisco safe."


Suhr said he will seek the "immediate termination" of any officer found guilty of any of the charges.


At his own news conference, Adachi said more than 100 criminal cases, most of them felonies, were dismissed after the officers' conduct during searches came to light. He said complaints about such abuses had rolled in for years, but "the justice system turned a blind eye."


"It's important for San Franciscans to understand that this is not a situation where these officers were committing mere technicalities, but instead they were actively engaged in criminal conduct," Adachi said. "Violating the constitutional rights, even of someone suspected of a crime, is still a crime."



Leaving rooms with bags


The investigation began after San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who had been police chief until January 2011, referred the matter to federal authorities because of a conflict of interest. In March 2011, Adachi had released surveillance videos from the Henry Hotel in the South of Market neighborhood, asserting that several officers entered rooms without legal cause.


Some of the officers who were indicted have been accused of wrongdoing in the past, including in connection with drug searches. Vargas was part of a team of officers based at the Mission District Station whose conduct in a February 2011 drug-related search of a residential hotel on Julian Street brought FBI scrutiny.


Surveillance video of the officers taken inside the Julian House Hotel appeared to show Vargas walking out of the search target's room with a bag of the person's possessions, which Vargas never checked into evidence. Another officer was filmed walking out with a bag that authorities believe contained the person's laptop computer, which police also never submitted as evidence.


Vargas was also among several officers involved at a drug-related search in December 2010 at another residential hotel, the Jefferson on Eddy Street in the Tenderloin. One of Vargas' colleagues was filmed by a surveillance camera there taking away a bag of undisclosed possessions, which the officers never accounted for.


In 2012, two men and a woman sued Razzak, Elias and Yick in a federal civil rights case, alleging the officers wrongfully arrested them at the Henry Hotel at 106 Sixth St. The suit was settled in November for $125,000.



'Scandalous, outrageous'


This week's indictment accuses Yick of falsifying an official pay slip that purportedly documented a payment to an informant for providing information that led to the arrest of one of the two men.


The men's attorney, John Burris, said Thursday that while the hotel residents were struggling financially, they deserved protection because "their houses are sacred to them." Instead, he said, officers treated them in a way that was "scandalous, outrageous and disrespectful."


Chronicle staff writers Kale Williams, Bob Egelko and Vivian Ho contributed to this report.




Immigration Enforcement  /  Illegal Aliens


Border Patrol killings of migrants raise questions on training, accountability

By Tim Johnson — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'McClatchy Newspapers'



APACHE, Ariz. — On a chilly January night near the Mexican border, a Border Patrol agent peeled away from colleagues and chased Gabriel Sanchez Velazquez through desert scrub. Two shots rang out.


When the agent returned, he said that Sanchez, a sinewy 5-foot-9 car mechanic who spoke English well after spending 15 years in the United States, had leapt from under a mesquite bush and lunged to seize the agent's service firearm, forcing him to shoot. No one else has come forward to contradict his story.


Sanchez's death was the 20th fatal shooting of a civilian by a U.S. Border Patrol agent since 2010 as the agency expanded rapidly. Last week, another shooting took place, bringing the total to 21.


The killings expose what lawyers and civil rights advocates assert are far-reaching problems in the nation's largest federal law enforcement agency.


Those problems, critics charge, include a resistance to adopting safeguards on the use of lethal force, watered-down training standards amid rapid expansion and a mentality that anything goes in the battle to secure America's borders.


Of the 21 dead, 16 were Mexican or Guatemalan. Most of the victims were unarmed, and some were on Mexican soil. One was a 16-year-old who was shot multiple times in the back as he stood on the Mexican side of the border fence. None of the shooters is known to have been disciplined, and the circumstances of most of the cases have not been aired in public. Sanchez's wife and children – all American citizens – are still trying to learn the name of the man who shot him.


The spate of homicides raises an uncomfortable question, the critics say: Do Border Patrol agents have a green light to fire on and kill Mexican and Central American migrants?


Guarding the U.S. border is an issue of national security, and Border Patrol advocates argue that the agency's mission can be dangerous, though the number of armed confrontations appears minimal. One agent died in a shootout on Dec. 14, 2010, with bandits in Arizona's Peck Canyon. Another notorious case happened Oct. 2, 2012, when an agent was shot and killed not far from the canyon. That incident, however, turned out to be "friendly fire," when two agents responded to a tripped motion-detection sensor.


"You're working in remote areas that are intimidating and desolate. You're often many miles from backup. You're dealing with groups that outnumber you and that you must handle alone," said Shawn Moran, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, a union for agents.


"To claim that the Border Patrol has an itchy trigger finger, we dismiss that. It's a very restrained force," Moran said.


Border Patrol public affairs officer Douglas Mosier said he couldn't comment on the agency's policies and referred a reporter to the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, where a spokesman, Peter Boogaard, declined to comment.


The Mexican government calls the use of lethal force against its migrants disproportionate and is demanding more thorough inquiries.


If anyone other than a lone Border Patrol agent saw what happened to Sanchez shortly after 8:30 p.m. on the cold night of Jan. 16 not far from Arizona's southeastern border with New Mexico, they're not talking.


A deeper look into the Sanchez case reveals discrepancies among various federal, state and county agencies over what occurred.


It also reveals something else: The death of the 31-year-old Sanchez left a wake of grieving kin who are American citizens. Sanchez had spent half his life in the United States. Among his immediate family are an 11-year-old son with cerebral palsy, who lives with his mother in California, and an 8-year-old son who lives with Sanchez's widow in Phoenix. All hold U.S. citizenship.


The widow, Nataly Molina Tebaqui, says she'll file a federal lawsuit once her attorney can identify the Border Patrol agent who shot her husband in the head and chest. The federal government has refused to release his name.


"I want him to go to jail. I want him to feel my pain. I want his wife and his sons to feel the pain," said Molina, a 30-year-old accountant. "Why couldn't he have shot him in the leg or the arm?"


In statements immediately after the death, Customs and Border Protection, a federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security, and the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, which was called in to probe the killing, stated as fact that Sanchez had struggled for the agent's gun and was killed as a result.


A 12-page autopsy report by the Medical Examiner's Office in Pima County, however, offers a different picture. The report, dated Feb. 5, notes that Sanchez was shot in the upper part of his right temple and in his chest.


"Manner of death: homicide," it says.


The trajectory of the bullet wound to the head, it adds, is downward and the bullet appears lodged in the neck. The pathway of the wound to the chest is also downward, indicating that Sanchez was below the agent's firing hand, squatting or perhaps on the ground.


On the night of his death, Sanchez was dressed for warmth and to conceal himself in the dark, perhaps looking more menacing than his 161-pound frame might justify.


In addition to two pairs of dark pants and a dark jacket, Sanchez wore black gloves, a face mask and what the autopsy report called a black beanie. He carried a small pocketknife. Lab tests performed by the coroner showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system.


Sanchez felt more at home north of the border.


When he came to the United States in the late 1990s, he followed a path well traveled by his extended clan in the dusty town of Mapastepec in Chiapas, widely considered Mexico's poorest state, which abuts Guatemala. His mother toiled as a hotel maid in Annapolis, Md., and his aunt's family lives in Jupiter, Fla.


Sanchez moved to Florida for a year or so, then went on to Arizona, where he bought cars and repaired them for resale.


He met his first partner in a coin laundry.


"Gabriel was my first love, and I was his first love," said Misty Hale.


While the relationship didn't last long, Hale said Sanchez always provided money for the care of their son, who uses a wheelchair and requires around-the-clock attention. Sanchez regularly traveled to Southern California to visit the boy.


"He wasn't a deadbeat dad," she said.


Sanchez, who never obtained residency, was deported in 2008 but returned over the border within days, Molina said. Then on April 8 of last year, U.S. marshals came knocking at the door. Molina said someone had placed a call to alert them to Sanchez. He was charged with illegal re-entry. After four months' detention, Sanchez was deported again. He settled in Agua Prieta, a Mexican border town about a four-hour drive from Phoenix.


Molina said she suspected that Sanchez had planned to surprise her by showing up for her birthday on Jan. 20. A phone call from the Mexican consulate in Tucson summoned her instead to identify his body through photos.


The Mexican Foreign Secretariat says it's "profoundly concerned" about the killings of Mexican migrants by Border Patrol agents.


"The use of lethal force in border control operations is unacceptable," it said after the latest killing of a Mexican, Jesus Flores Cruz, on Feb. 18 near the Otay Mesa border crossing east of San Diego. It demanded that Border Patrol agents alter their use-of-force policies "as soon as possible" to conform to recommendations by the agency's own Office of the Inspector General and by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit organization in Washington that's been advising law enforcement agencies for more than three decades.


After the DHS refused for years to say when Border Patrol agents are empowered to use lethal force, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Feb. 7 that his department would release the use-of-force policy soon.


"They treat them like they are nuclear launch codes," said James Duff Lyall, a staff attorney in the Tucson office of the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit group that advocates for migrant rights


At least eight of the 21 agent-related deaths involved Mexicans who allegedly were throwing rocks at agents, often across the border fence. In three of the cases, the victims were minors. Agents shot one of those youths, Jose Antonio Elena, who was 16, multiple times in the back through the fence in Nogales. The Border Patrol declined to release video of the incident taken from an overhead camera.


Supporters of the agency say drug traffickers sometimes deploy rock throwers to divert agents from focusing on smuggling routes.


They also dispute that lethal Border Patrol encounters happen with unusual frequency, given the challenges and dangers of the job. Moran, the Border Patrol union leader, compared the agency with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which he said had numbers of deputies and officers similar to the Border Patrol in recent years.


"In 2012 alone, they shot and killed 48 suspects," Moran said.


Still, relatives of some victims say their deaths were unjustified. One man, Guillermo Arevalo Pedroza, was at a barbecue to celebrate a family birthday on the southern bank of the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on Sept. 3, 2012. Border Patrol agents said they were responding to rock throwing.


"In no case is there any agent publicly known to have faced any discipline or consequences whatsoever," Lyall said. "If you look at many of these incidents . . . the evidence shows that there was no justification for the fatal use of force."


The ACLU has called on Customs and Border Protection, the umbrella agency under Homeland Security, to equip its officers with body-worn cameras, saying evidence shows that the use of such recording gear cuts the use of lethal force but also protects agents from false accusations of misconduct.


Amid concerns about migration and border safety, the Border Patrol ballooned from about 11,000 agents in 2006 to some 21,300 today. Roughly 85 percent of the agents are along the Southwestern U.S. border.


In parts of the sprawling Southwest, federal agents vastly outnumber local and state law enforcement officers. The Cochise County Sheriff's Office, which patrols the southeast corner of Arizona, has 86 deputies to cover an area nearly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, said spokeswoman Carol Capas. In contrast, the Border Patrol maintains roughly 1,000 agents moving through her county, she added.


The migrant-smuggling industry in Mexico has largely fallen into the hands of organized crime, and Capas said local law enforcement was grateful for the support.


"There's more of an aggressive criminal element," said Capas, referring to smugglers of undocumented migrants and illegal narcotics. "They are more willing to fight for their loads, rather than dump them and run."


Daniel R. Ortega, a Phoenix attorney who's helping Sanchez's widow in her claim for redress from the federal government, said county and state attorneys were loath to prosecute cases against Border Patrol agents fingered in killings.


"One, they only have the version of the facts that the Border Patrol agents give, and two, these are highly political and emotional cases because the community is in such an uproar right now over undocumented immigration," Ortega said. "There are biases in convicting law enforcement officers for having shot someone."


Relatives of victims are often on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, and some fail to have immigration papers themselves, Ortega said, leaving them with little power to pursue lawsuits.


Ortega said that when Border Patrol agents killed migrants, they commonly alleged either that the migrants were throwing rocks or were trying to steal the agents' weapons.


"All of these aliens are not armed. So the only way a Border Patrol agent can justify shooting someone is that he was in imminent fear of death or injury and he had to take action," Ortega said. Afterward, few can refute the version. "The alien is dead. He can't tell you what happened."


When other Border Patrol agents or migrants are near the scene of a killing, authorities decline to identify them so that they might corroborate or deny the agent's account. Two migrants were with Sanchez and detained on the night of his death when he bolted away through scrub. One, a minor, reportedly was guiding the other two. What they saw is unknown. Both appear to be in U.S. detention centers.


"I can confirm to you that there were witnesses but I can't give you their identities," said Reyna Torres Mendivil, the top Mexican Foreign Secretariat official in charge of protecting Mexicans abroad.


Meanwhile, Sanchez's relatives simmer.


"What we all believe is that (the Border Patrol agent) fired at him because he wanted to shoot him," said Madai Velazquez Espinoza, Sanchez's aunt who lives in Florida. "That uniform doesn't give you a right to kill people."


Her son, Manuel Coutino, said the trajectories of the bullets told the story.


"How could there have been a struggle? He was on the ground," he said.


The Mexican government helped Sanchez's family return his corpse to his hometown in Chiapas state, where he was buried Feb. 8. Some 300 to 400 people turned out for the funeral. His widow posted a memorial video to him on her Facebook page, showing them during happier times.


She also voiced rage.


"Help me make the whole world understand that the United States gives uniforms to murderers," Molina posted.



Homeland Security


U.S. Militant, Hidden, Spurs Drone Debate

By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITTFEB — Friday, February 28th, 2014 'The New York Times'



WASHINGTON — He is known as Abdullah al-Shami, an Arabic name meaning Abdullah the Syrian. But his nom de guerre masks a reality: He was born in the United States, and the United States is now deciding whether to kill him.


Mr. Shami, a militant who American officials say is living in the barren mountains of northwestern Pakistan, is at the center of a debate inside the government over whether President Obama should once again take the extraordinary step of authorizing the killing of an American citizen overseas.


It is a debate that encapsulates some of the thorniest questions raised by the targeted killing program that Mr. Obama has embraced as president: under what circumstances the government may kill American citizens without a trial, whether the battered leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan still poses an imminent threat to Americans, and whether the C.I.A. or the Pentagon ought to be the dominant agency running America's secret wars.


Interviews with American officials and outside terrorism experts sketch only the most impressionistic portraits of Mr. Shami.


Born in the United States, possibly in Texas, he moved with his family to the Middle East when he was a toddler. Obama administration officials declined requests to provide biographical information about Mr. Shami such as his real name and age — saying that the information is classified — or any specific information about where he was born or where he traveled after leaving the United States. But his nom de guerre has a familiar ring for jihadists: An operative of Al Qaeda named Abu Abdullah al-Shami escaped with three other people from the American military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2005 and was killed in a drone strike three years later.


He came to the attention of the American authorities in 2008, around the same time that another American, Bryant Neal Vinas, was getting Qaeda training in Pakistan, one former counterterrorism official recalled. The authorities worried at the time that a surge of people with terrorism training and Western passports might be coming to the United States. Mr. Vinas was later captured and brought back to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.


The F.B.I. investigated Mr. Shami and determined that he had been born in the United States, but that he had left as a young child and had not maintained any ties to the country. In the years since then, Mr. Shami worked his way up the ranks of Al Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan, his ascent aided by his marriage to the daughter of a top Qaeda leader. Last year, he appears to have risen to become one of Al Qaeda's top planners for operations outside Pakistan, including plots against American troops in Afghanistan.


"We have clear and convincing evidence that he's involved in the production and distribution of I.E.D.'s," said one senior administration official, referring to improvised explosive devices, long the leading killer of American troops in Afghanistan.


Spokesmen for the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. and a spokeswoman for the White House all declined to comment.


For someone with an elevated position in Al Qaeda, Mr. Shami has kept an unusually low profile. He has made no propaganda videos, nor does he seem to have been mentioned in any of the myriad online forums that militant groups use to motivate their followers, raise money and recruit new fighters.


The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the online communications and propaganda videos of militant groups, said it had no records of Mr. Shami's name ever being discussed in chat rooms.


Some terrorism experts said that it could be a calculated strategy by Al Qaeda not to broadcast the growing role of an American inside the organization, or that the group might refer to Mr. Shami by another name. Still others said that it might just be an act of self-preservation on Mr. Shami's part, given that so many of the people who have planned external operations for Al Qaeda — including Ilyas Kashmiri and Saleh al-Somali — were killed by American drones.


"At some point, it would probably make sense not to advertise these positions," said Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation. Mr. Jones said that Mr. Shami had made "a very conscious effort to stay below the radar."


The debate over Mr. Shami's fate is the first time that the Obama administration has discussed killing an American citizen abroad since Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. It comes less than a year after Mr. Obama announced new guidelines to tighten the rules for carrying out lethal drone operations. When the president announced the guidelines, during a speech in May in Washington, the White House acknowledged that four American citizens had been killed in drone strikes during Mr. Obama's time in office.


According to the White House, only Mr. Awlaki had been targeted.


As it was in Mr. Awlaki's case, the Justice Department has been enlisted to evaluate whether a lethal operation against Mr. Shami is legally justified, but it appears that the Obama administration remains divided on the issue. Several officials said that the C.I.A. has long advocated killing Mr. Shami, and that the Pentagon, while initially reluctant to put him on a target list, has more recently come to the C.I.A.'s position.


It is unclear what Mr. Obama's position is on whether Mr. Shami should be targeted. American officials said that as part of the new rules ordered by Mr. Obama, the Pentagon, rather than the C.I.A., is supposed to carry out any lethal strike against an American overseas, a provision intended to allow government officials to speak more freely about the operation after it is carried out.


This has complicated discussions about Mr. Shami, since the C.I.A. alone carries out drone strikes in Pakistan, under the agency's covert action authority. This was one of the conditions of a bargain that the spy agency struck in 2004 with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to allow the C.I.A. to carry out drone strikes in the country.


A decade later, many argue that there is little more transparency to the drone program.


"Given the significance of the authority the administration is claiming, it's quite remarkable how little information it's disclosed," said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union, who has been involved in legal challenges to the targeted killing program.


Some lawmakers have reacted angrily to the new drone rules, calling them overly restrictive. Representative Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, this month deplored a new environment of "self-imposed red tape."





                                                          Mike Bosak


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