NYPD officer shot in Brooklyn
By Jamie Schram, C.J. Sullivan and Larry Celona — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Post’
A rookie NYPD officer just out of the Police Academy became the first city cop shot on duty this year when he was wounded in a Brooklyn parking lot Wednesday.
Officer James Li, 26, was hit multiple times in the leg, groin and thigh outside a White Castle restaurant at Utica Avenue and Empire Boulevard in Flatbush, law-enforcement sources said.
“I was like boom boom boom. I would say close to 20 shots, if not more,” said James Zitis who darted across the street from his Affordable Glass shop.
“I saw the cop down in the driveway of the White Castle parking lot, shot in the left leg.”
Two off-duty EMS workers — Khadija Hall and Shaun Alexander — rushed to aid the fallen officer as cops chased the suspect.
“These two women were like angels,” said Asad Penkale, who lives in the neighborhood.
“They rushed over and started working on the cop. He looked like he was in a lot of pain.”
The incident unfolded when two officers pulled Rashaun Robinson, 28, and another suspect off an MTA bus after they boarded without paying.
Robinson, who has multiple prior arrests, started to run and both Li and Officer James Chow gave chase.
Police said Robinson then turned and fired a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson from about 10 feet away, hitting Li multiple times.
Both officers returned fire but Robinson was not hit.
Witnesses pointed cops toward an apartment building on Schenectady Avenue where Robinson was found cowering in the fifth-floor hallway.
Cops said the suspect had the firearm in his waistband and authorities recovered three shell casings at the scene.
He was taken to the 71st Precinct station house and charges were pending Wednesday night.
Li was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where he was in stable condition. He had wounds to the left leg, right thigh and groin.
His wounds were not believed to be life-threatening.
“They did everything a good cop does and did it like seasoned veterans,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at the hospital.
Mayor de Blasio also visited the hospital and said he was “proud of the NYPD and what they do every day.”
Li was in the most recent Police Academy graduating class and was assigned to the 71st Precinct just a few weeks ago.
The last officer to be shot in the line of duty also was a rookie wounded in the leg in Brooklyn.
Last July, Officer Jamil Sarwar, 30, and his partner were on foot patrol in the Cypress Hill Houses and pursuing a suspect in a gang shooting when Sarwar was hit by a sniper from the housing project’s roof.
The last officer killed in the line of duty was Peter Figoski, who was responding to a Brooklyn robbery in December 2011.
With additional reporting by Dana Sauchelli
Rookie NYPD cop shot in both legs in Brooklyn after attempt to bust bus fare-beater
Officer James Li, a 26-year-old December graduate of Police Academy and stationed at the 71st Precinct, removed fare-beater Rashaun Robinson from a B46 bus before he whipper around and opened fire, cops said.
By Kerry Burke, Rocco Parascandola AND Thomas Tracy — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Daily News’
A rookie cop — just two months after graduating from the Police Academy — was shot in both legs Wednesday when he and his partner pulled a gun-toting fare-beater from a city bus.
Rookie Officer James Li, 26, and his partner Randy Chow were on routine patrol in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, when they spotted two men entering the backdoor of a B46 bus without paying. The cops boarded the bus, which was southbound on Utica Ave, about 5 p.m. and removed both suspects.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
One of the men, identified by cops as Rashaun Robinson, took off running. Robinson, 28, allegedly whirled toward the officers, whipped out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and from 10 feet away squeezed off three shots.
Li, who fired five times, was hit once in each leg and fell to the ground on Empire Blvd. inside a White Castle parking lot.
Witnesses directed pursuing cops toward Robinson, who ran west along Lefferts Ave. and then south on Schenectady Ave. Then he dipped down an alley and slipped into a building.
Robinson, who has six city arrests on his record and a drug warrant from Pennsylvania, was busted on the fifth floor without more shots being fired.
Cops found the weapon used in the shootout on him, and Chow identified the perp as the gunman who shot his partner.
“This was just a great piece of police work on the part of the initiating officers, as well as the pursuing officers and the apprehension of this suspect with a loaded firearm who showed no compunction whatsoever about turning and firing three times at the officers,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
“So a dangerous felon now off the street, another firearm off the street, all as a result of very good police work by two rookie police officers who I’m pleased to have as members of the New York City Police Department.”
Bratton and Mayor de Blasio were two of the first to visit Li — who is single — at Kings County Hospital. He’s the first cop shot in the line of duty since July 4 — when another rookie cop was shot, also in Brooklyn. Li is expected to make a full recovery.
“Commissioner Bratton and I had the honor of visiting some heroes today in their hospital rooms,” de Blasio said. “I have to tell you that Officer Li and Officer Chow really did everything we could conceivably have asked of them. They did everything a good cop does, and they’ve only been on the job for a few months. And yet they responded like seasoned veterans, and it’s something we as New Yorkers can be very very proud proud of.”
Chow was taken to the same hospital for observation. A third officer, who fell and cut her chin while chasing Robinson, was also treated at Kings County Hospital.
Li and Chow entered the Police Academy in July and graduated in December. They were on a foot post, as part of Operation Impact, in which neighborhoods are flooded with rookie cops. One of their duties was to keep a lookout for fare-beaters on city buses, Bratton said.
It comes on the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Police Officer Eddie Byrne, who was shot dead inside his police car at 107th Ave. and Inwood St. in Jamaica, Queens, as he guarded the home of a brave informant who had given cops information on crack dealers.
Charges against Robinson, whose rap sheet contains mostly drug busts, were pending Wednesday night.
With Chelsia Rose Marcius, Pete Donohue, Mark Morales and Erin Durkin
Police Officer Shot in Leg in Brooklyn
By Pervaiz Shallwani and Adam Janos — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
A New York Police Department officer suffered gunshot wounds to the groin and leg Thursday evening following a struggle in Brooklyn, a law-enforcement official said.
The officer was transported to King County Hospital, police said. The officer’s name and condition were not immediately released.
The official said police have arrested a 28-year-old man, and a gun was recovered. The man was being questioned at the NYPD’s 71st precinct stationhouse. His name was not released.
The shooting occurred around 5 p.m. at Utica Avenue and Empire Boulevard in the Crown Heights neighborhood.
An officer working in an Operation Impact zone approached the man as he was trying to board a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus through a rear door, apparently to avoid paying, the official said. It was unclear why.
As the officer approached, a struggle ensued, the official said. The suspect was able to break away and, as he fled, fired several gun shots, striking the officer four times in the leg and groin, the official said.
The suspect was arrested a short distance away at 255 Schenectady Ave., the official said.
The officer is the first to be shot since Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton took office, and the mayor and police commissioner were on their way to the hospital to meet with the officer Thursday evening.
Earl McKie, 57 years old, was leaving a nearby Gulf gas station when the shooting occurred.
“I heard shots fired, a lot of them,” he said. “The shots were coming from by the bus stop. There were a lot of people there, and they all started running.”
Abdul Ali, 29, who was working behind the counter at Empire Deli and Grocery, nearby on Utica Avenue said he “heard six or seven shots.”
“I saw a cop on the floor, he was moving,” Mr. Ali said. “There were two or three cops around him. They ripped up his pant leg, the left leg. I saw his thigh, where the bullet go through.”
NYPD officer shot in the leg in Brooklyn
By DEON J. HAMPTON AND MATTHEW CHAYES — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘New York Newsday’ / Melville, L.I.
A rookie NYPD cop was shot Wednesday in Brooklyn's Crown Heights by a fleeing farebeater, who was caught within minutes after good Samaritans directed other officers to his hideout, police said.
The officer, James Li, 26, sustained nonlife-threatening injuries to his legs and groin, police said.
Police said the shooting happened about 5 p.m. at Utica Avenue and Empire Boulevard after Li and another officer, Randy Chow, 30, spotted two farebeaters -- including the man who would open fire, Rashaun Robinson, 28, of Brooklyn -- sneak onto a B46 bus without paying.
The two officers fired seven shots in return, though none struck Robinson, police said.
After being taken off the bus, Robinson fired a .45-caliber pistol at least three times from as close as 5 feet, striking Li in the leg several times, according to police. It wasn't immediately known how many bullets hit the officer.
After being taken off the bus, Robinson fired a .45-caliber pistol at least three times from as close as 5 feet, striking Li in the leg several times, according to police. It wasn't immediately known how many bullets hit the officer.
The other alleged farebeater is still at large.
Good Samaritans tended to Li as Chow radioed for backup, giving a description of the suspects and giving chase. Li was taken to Kings County Hospital Center, where he remained Wednesday night.
Another officer hurt her chin in the pursuit.
Robinson, who has a criminal record and is wanted on a Pennsylvania narcotics charge, was found in an apartment at 455 Schenectady Ave. Police said he had the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson they believe he used in the shooting.
Both officers graduated from December's police class.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Police Commissioner William J. Bratton were to visit with the officers at the hospital.
"I think for anybody, the first time someone turns on you with a gun and starts firing, you can imagine what that experience would be like for any human being, any new officers, and these officers were outstanding in their response," de Blasio said.
Said Bratton: "A dangerous felon now off the street; another firearm off the street."
NYPD WTC Command
NYPD and Port Authority Bury the Hatchet Over World Trade Center Rift
By Murray Weiss — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘DNAinfo.Com News’ / New York, NY
MANHATTAN — The NYPD and Port Authority have buried the hatchet — and not in each other's backs — in their long-running dispute over security at the World Trade Center.
New NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton went to the Port Authority for his first meeting with PA officials to start a new dialogue with counterparts there over the direction of security at the World Trade Center and other state facilities in the Big Apple, officials said.
The symbolism of the trek by Bratton from One Police Plaza to the Port Authority offices was not lost on participants, considering the high-handed, my-way-or-the-highway attitude of Bratton’s predecessor, Ray Kelly, during his 12 years atop the city’s police department.
"It is a new day," one official declared. "Now we are having conversations."
Another source explained, “There was a meeting being scheduled and Bratton called over to the Port Authority to say that he wanted to go over there.”
DNAinfo New York reported last October that the rift between the NYPD and the Port Authority was raging again over concerns that the NYPD’s security plans for the reconstructed World Trade Center site created a fortress-like environment that was discouraging business and traffic from returning to more normal levels.
The issues involved decisions by the NYPD to close the streets in and around the WTC, screening vehicles before allowing them onto Ground Zero acreage, and restricting most from entering unless they had demonstrable business purposes there. In addition, the NYPD plan called for the perimeter to be ringed with 3-foot-tall barriers, police guard booths and long sally ports where cars could be examined for explosives.
“The N.Y.P.D. has determined that the entire World Trade Center site is a potential target,” the department said in its principal impact statement. Even bicyclists would be required to dismount and walk through security zones.
The Port Authority approached Kelly to discuss easing restrictions and reducing the police footprint for a post 9/11 era, perhaps using contracting civilian screeners rather than using police, but the NYPD would hear nothing of it.
The NYPD was given the mandate to protect the site under a memorandum of understanding reached in 2008, which officials hoped would end years of squabbling between the agencies. But in 2011, Kelly announced the NYPD would pull nearly 700 officers for the WTC, and planned to house them eventually in a new downtown precinct.
With the WTC site coming back to life after a dozen years, a new approach was being preferred.
And since the “On The Inside” disclosure, a group representing Lower Manhattan residents filed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stranglehold on an area they described as being “as impervious to traffic as the Berlin Wall.”
Other public, and less attractive, signs of the deepening rift surfaced, including the afternoon when the NYPD parked an Emergency Services mobile command center next to a newly erected Port Authority police booth. The show of force was quickly countered with the arrival of a massive PA mobile command center, pitting giant police logos and egos nose-to-nose.
Frustrated by a lack of diplomacy, the Port Authority decided to wait to deal with Kelly's successor, who turned out to be the more approachable Bratton, to extend the olive branch.
"Let's just say, there's a decidedly better environment for discussion now," a Port Authority official said.
Bill Requests NYPD to Report Youth Arrest Data
By Kristina Skorbach — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The Epoch Times’ / New York, NY
Public Advocate Letitia James proposed a bill Wednesday requiring data on all NYPD youth arrests with a focus on those school-related.
“The goal of this legislation is to protect youth from unjustified arrests,” James said, according to a press release.
Under the law, New York City police will be required to create a report for youths under the age of 18 who were arrested for violations. The report will include charges, age, race, precinct, and address of the arrest.
This location of the arrest is central to the report since it will show if the arrest address corresponds to the address of the school.
Currently the School Safety Division compiles data on juvenile arrests, which include statistics of arrests made by NYPD personnel assigned to the school building. Arrests made outside school grounds or by precinct officers who are not stationed at the corresponding school, are not recorded.
James said the data will make sure the youth doesn’t enter the juvenile justice system if the arrest is avoidable.
“During the 2011–2012 academic year, there were 882 school-related arrests, which averages to nearly four arrests per school day,” she said.
According to the release, the data will also be central to discussions about appropriate police practices and allocation of police resources.
NYPD Stop, Question and Frisk
Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Daily News’ Editorial:
An ACLU attack on new Newark stop-and-frisk numbers raises a crucial question for New York City
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton express every confidence that they’ll live happily ever after with court-ordered monitoring of the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk policy. Good luck with that.
It’s only a matter of time before de Blasio and Bratton crash into the anti-stop absolutism of the activists whose federal suit declared the program unconstitutional. For evidence, consider a report that the American Civil Liberties Union has issued on stop, question and frisk in Newark.
The ACLU played the numbers game that won the day in court for the New York activists: Count the number of stops and analyze the races of the people who were stopped. When the proportion who are blacks is larger than the proportion of blacks in the general population, cry unfairness.
Next, count the number of stops that produced an arrest or a summons. When the percentage — or the “hit rate” — proves small because cops have the power to question anyone on just a reasonable suspicion of criminality, cry more unfairness.
The NYPD issued summonses or made arrests after 10% of its stops. To the activists, the number proved wrongdoing because, they said, 90% of the people stopped were innocent.
We’ve asked them: What would be the right number of stops? What would be the right ratio of stops to arrests? We don’t know. They never answer because there is almost no level of police action above zero that would satisfy their concerns.
Now, the ACLU has offered some clarification. At 25%, Newark’s hit rate is more than double New York’s, and that is still not good enough.
“Only one out of four individuals stopped by the Newark Police Department is arrested or issued a summons,” the ACLU wrote, while “thousands of people were stopped, questioned by police, and many undoubtedly were also frisked, even they were completely innocent.”
When Bratton was Los Angeles police chief, the LAPD had a hit rate that, at 30%, was only a smidgen higher than Newark’s. He and de Blasio stand warned: No matter how they “fix” stop-and-frisk, it won’t be good enough. That monitor will be on their case for good.
NYPD Muslim Surveillance
How the Associated Press burned Muslims
By Seth Lipsky — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Post’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
NOTE: Read the below related LA Weekly article, titled: “Forget the NSA, the LAPD Spies on Millions of Innocent Folks” to see what William Bratton's LAPD “Predictive Policing” model will allegedly do to privacy in Los Angeles and California. - Mike
Maybe the Muslim community in New Jersey should sue the Associated Press. The wire service won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage exposing the surveillance of the Muslim community that was done by the NYPD after 9/11 — but a federal judge seems to think there were some unintended consequences.
Muslims in Jersey complained of feeling the effects of the surveillance only after it became widely known that the NYPD was doing it there in the first place. Several filed suit against New York City, complaining, as the judge summarized it, that the surveillance caused “a series of spiritual, stigmatic and pecuniary losses.”
This presents a novel problem for the press. I’ve been working for newspapers for decades and am the last person in the world to blame the messenger. The AP no doubt felt it was trying to help the Muslim community that was being spied upon — but it ended up compounding their problem.
Don’t take it from me. Read the opinion of the Honorable William Martini.
Six Muslim individuals, two groups that run mosques, two Muslim-owned businesses and the Muslim Students Association at Rutgers brought the case to Martini’s courtroom. They argued that the NYPD surveillance program “targeted Muslims solely on the basis of religion.”
It turns out that this started in early 2002, when the NYPD began, as Martini put it, “to infiltrate and monitor” Muslim life in New York, including what the plaintiffs call “painstaking” documentation of Muslim life in the Garden State. NY cops used cameras on light poles to watch mosques, collected license plate numbers, infiltrated organizations and “monitored sermons, meetings, conversations and religious practices.”
Cops also wrote reports that “named specific individuals without any evidence of wrongdoing,” the plaintiffs complained, and labeled some groups as “Locations of Concern,” which meant they’d demonstrated “a significant pattern of illegal activity.” The plaintiffs say that label was “false and stigmatizing” because there was no evidence of illegal activity and it violated their rights to free exercise of religion and equal protection of the laws.
Judge Martini didn’t buy it. The plaintiffs, he wrote, “have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion. The more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”
“The most obvious reason for so concluding,” he added, “is that surveillance of the Muslim community began just after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.” If there were a Pulitzer Prize for common sense, Martini would be a good candidate.
“While this surveillance program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles,” wrote the judge as he threw out the case, “the motive . . . was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”
So what about those law-abiding Muslims? They’re not to blame for 9/11. They’re protected by the same Constitution that all of us are.
This is where Martini almost invited the question of whether they could sue the Associated Press. He notes that the defendant, New York City, argues that the AP and not the city is the manifest cause of the alleged injuries to the Muslim plaintiffs — and doesn’t sneer at that argument. On the contrary: “None of the plaintiffs’ injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents. Nowhere in the complaint do plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press.”
That, says the judge, “confirms that plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. The harms are not ‘fairly traceable’ to any act of surveillance.” That echoes a blunt point made by New York City, namely that the Muslim plaintiffs didn’t accuse the police of making the disclosures.
Will anyone sue the AP? I’d be against it, even though I’ve been highly critical of the AP coverage as way too negative toward the NYPD. No editor will blame the messenger.
But if the Muslim plaintiffs in New Jersey do turn around and sue the AP, the wire service had better hope that the case doesn’t land in the court of Judge William Martini.
Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ Editorial:
Ray Kelly Was Right
A federal judge affirms that it's constitutional to look for terrorists
Put an asterisk next to the prizes for the Associated Press for its 2011 series on the New York City Police Department's search for terrorists. The stories suggested that police monitoring of Muslim communities threatened civil liberties and might not stand up in court. Federal Judge William Martini has now ruled otherwise.
Former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly believes that when AP reporters embarked on their series, they were largely ignorant of the "Handschu" rules on police surveillance. These were the result of a 1980s consent decree, and Mr. Kelly insisted all along that his cops were following the rules and acting within the law. When we asked him last year what the department had changed in the wake of the AP reporting, he said: "Nothing."
A group of plaintiffs, including Muslim businesses and associations, nonetheless sued the department. They claimed they had suffered, and would suffer in the future, from their identification as targets of police surveillance.
But last week Judge Martini tossed their case out of court. He ruled that police didn't harm the plaintiffs, but he also suggested that if any harm was done to the plaintiffs, it was done by the AP. "None of the Plaintiffs' injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents," he wrote.
Judge Martini also drop-kicked the notion that the plaintiffs had been unfairly targeted simply because of their religion. He wrote, "The more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies. The most obvious reason for so concluding is that surveillance of the Muslim community began just after the attacks of September 11, 2001."
The judge further reasoned that the police "could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself." Judge Martini concluded that "the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims." Which is exactly what New Yorkers want their police department to do.
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103 Precinct Rookie Hero Edward Byrne
Hamill: Even in death, rookie cop Eddie Byrne's assassination in Jamaica sparked the beginning of a safer city
Officer Eddie Byrne was sitting outside in the middle of the night protecting a witness testifying against a crack lord when he was gunned down. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton came in the middle of the night to remember the sacrifice he made for a better city.
By Denis Hamill — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Daily News’
The symmetry was bittersweet.
Just before 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton went back to the streetcorner where Officer Eddie Byrne was assassinated on Feb. 26, 1988, some 26 years ago.
Right there on the corner of 107th Ave. and Inwood St. in Jamaica, Queens, Byrne was sitting in an NYPD radio car in the middle of the night, guarding the home of a brave witness against local crack dealers. The home had been firebombed several times, and the city seemed lost to the violent gangbangers of the crack scourge.
Then came a milestone moment in New York City history.
Four cowards with automatic handguns, assassins hired by a sociopathic, jailed crack mogul named Pappy Mason, crept up on the 22-year-old police rookie about 3:30 a.m. They opened fire into Byrne’s young head.
Byrne’s crimson blood coursed down his NYPD blue uniform and rushed across the city like a ferocious river of outrage. Citizens of every stripe implored their police to take back the city from the bad guys who were dropping 2,200 murder victims a year on our streets.
Not even uniformed cops were safe in New York City.
Twenty-six years later, after a minute of silence, Bratton spoke to cops and citizens gathered around a floral memorial to Police Officer Eddie Byrne, NYPD shield No. 14072, of the 103rd Precinct.
“A little over 20 years ago, in January of 1994, right after being sworn in as police commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, I came to the 103rd Precinct with Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple to honor this brave police officer, Ed Byrne, whose assassination was the beginning of the taking back of this city,” Bratton said.
“I addressed the roll call in the 103 as I did again tonight, 20 years later, to pay tribute to this brave young man who gave his life protecting this city. To say again that his short, young life meant something. That Eddie Byrne counted. He mattered. Just like every one of you count. Like every one of you matter every time you put on that uniform. . . . You matter because you are the guardians at the gate. Like Eddie Byrne, whose life and death still has meaning.”
Cops applauded. They applauded Eddie Byrne. They applauded Bratton. But the cops should have applauded themselves. The rest of us should applaud them, too . Because if you lived and raised kids in this city during that crack epidemic, as I did, you should know that these cops, cops like Eddie Byrne, helped give the citizens back the greatest city on Earth.
“The beginning of the end of the bad old days started right here,” says Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence John Miller, pointing to the curb where Byrne’s cruiser had been parked. “The monsters who did this assassination were rounded up within days. Commissioner Ben Ward started letting (uniformed) cops make drug busts. When Bratton and Maple took over in 1994 and introduced the ‘broken windows’ concept, they let cops be cops and the city was turned around.”
Now 20 years later, Bratton was back on the corner where Eddie Byrne was assassinated, thanking the cops who continue to guard the gate.
“In the past, most commissioners would only come if we did the memorial in the daytime,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told me.
But Bratton said he wanted to do it in the early-morning hours, closer to the time Byrne was shot.
“That’s total respect,” Lynch said.
The slain cop’s relatives agreed .
“It means a lot that the commissioner and all these cops are here tonight,” said Larry Byrne, Eddie’s older brother. “It eases the pain to know that people remember that Eddie’s life and death made a lasting difference in the city.”
But it did not make it any safer for another rookie cop guarding the city. Before this Feb. 26 would end, Bratton would rush with Mayor de Blasio to the hospital bedside of Officer James Li, fresh out of the Police Academy. He was shot in the line of duty in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, trying to stop a fare-beater on a city bus.
Fortunately, Li was expected to survive his leg wounds.
Hours earlier, while honoring Byrne , Bratton told me, “What I love about this memorial is that it’s not an official NYPD function. It was started by the 103rd Precinct cops. They never forget. None of us ever should. What started here, and what the late Jack Maple helped continue with CompStat in the 1990s, has given us a much safer city.”
When asked, Bratton said crime stats since Jan. 1 are looking great.
“We had one 10-day period without a single homicide,” Bratton says. “The beginning of that safer New York started right here on this corner 26 years ago. In Eddie Byrne’s honor, I’ll make sure it continues.”
No better legacy.
Mixed Messages From NYPD at Manhattan Vision Zero Forum
By Stephen Miller — Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 ‘Streetsblog New York’ / New York, NY
At the first of what is sure to be many forums on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda, nearly 100 residents, advocates, city officials and elected representatives gathered in Manhattan last night to talk about what implementing the Vision Zero Action Plan will look like, including immediate actions from the city and longer-term efforts at the state level.
While most of the speakers last night were on the same page, it became clear very quickly that NYPD, at least as represented by Sergeant Amber Cafaro of NYPD’s Manhattan South patrol borough, was giving mixed messages about its street safety priorities.
The forum, convened by State Senator Brad Hoylman, included a panel featuring Cafaro, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives, and Christine Berthet, co-founder of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. The event also featured remarks by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Corey Johnson and Helen Rosenthal. There were no representatives from the Taxi and Limousine Commission or District Attorney Cy Vance’s office at last night’s forum.
Trottenberg revealed a few of DOT’s street design priorities in Manhattan this year, including Ninth Avenue at 41st and 43rd Streets, Lafayette Street, part of Hudson Street and Houston Street at Sixth Avenue, where Jessica Dworkin was killed by a turning truck driver. In about a month, she said, DOT will host the first of its borough-wide street safety meetings, where it will ask local communities about traffic safety hotspots before preparing an action plan for each borough.
Perez said the mayor’s office will play a big role in coordinating borough-level input on Vision Zero implementation, acting as a go-between between city agencies, borough presidents, community boards, and neighborhood groups.
Trottenberg also had some observations about the important role drivers play on our streets. “New York state is one where driver’s ed has not really kept pace with the way our roadways are used now,” she said. ”When you get behind the wheel of a car and are in control of three tons of metal, you have an awesome responsibility. More of a responsibility than someone walking down the road.”
This perspective was not echoed by NYPD’s Cafaro, who began her remarks last night by listing the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries last year in Manhattan South, followed by do’s-and-don’ts for pedestrians and cyclists. “Just be mindful when you’re out there — don’t use your phone, headphones, texting,” she said. Cafaro, whose dark predictions about bike-share crashes last year failed to materialize, did not list similar advice for drivers.
Cafaro did say that cell phone use, failure to yield, and speeding would be enforcement priorities. Manhattan South, which covers all precincts below 59th Street, is carrying out a traffic enforcement operation over the next two weeks. “Right now we do write a lot of speeding summonses, but we’re looking to write more,” Cafaro said. The numbers, however, tell a different story: Last year, the 10 precincts in Manhattan South wrote a combined 477 speeding tickets, the lowest number of all the city’s patrol bureaus. The eight precincts of Queens North, for example, issued 5,562 speeding tickets last year — more than 11 times as many summonses.
A few early questions from the audience focused heavily on jaywalking and cyclists who don’t follow the rules of the road. DOT and NYPD spoke about their education and enforcement efforts, but TA’s DeVito reminded the audience of what’s really at stake. “It’s important, particularly at this moment with Vision Zero, that we keep our perspective about what’s injuring people and what’s killing people,” he said. “People are dying on our streets on a nearly-daily basis, and now it’s much more appropriate to be focusing on the actual threat.”
Trottenberg expressed her condolences to families who have lost loved ones to traffic violence. “They’ve been a tremendous force in helping us think about this issue and reframing it,” she said. “One of the things I am excited about with Vision Zero is that it’s creating a real political force on the ground.”
Much of the work to achieve Vision Zero’s goals will take place in Albany, and Hoylman plugged two of his bills: One to require all large trucks operating in New York City to have under-ride wheel guards, and another to lower the citywide speed limit to 25 mph, as requested by Mayor de Blasio. (A separate bill, which would lower the speed limit to 20 mph, is favored by advocates.) Hoylman also expressed his support for bills to strengthen Hayley and Diego’s Law, increase penalties for unlicensed and hit-and-run drivers, and more.
“We’re getting co-sponsors right away,” he said. “Unfortunately it gets crowded around budget time, but I plan on pressing ahead with them and my colleagues immediately.”
NYPD Tickets for Failure to Yield Up 66 Percent in January
By Brad Aaron — Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 ‘Streetsblog New York’ / New York, NY
NYPD got a lot of press last month for ticketing pedestrians, but officers were also summonsing more motorists for deadly driving behaviors.
NYPD issued 1,993 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian in January. That’s a 66 percent increase from the 1,198 failure to yield tickets issued in January 2013, and a 60 percent jump from last year’s monthly average of 1,240.
January’s speeding summons total was also up 20 percent from last year, but since most speeding tickets are issued on highways it’s impossible to know for sure how much of that increase happened on neighborhood streets. Failure to yield stops, by definition, occur where pedestrians are present.
Tallying the number of tickets is a blunt way to assess NYPD’s traffic enforcement performance. The department should be releasing the summons data in a mappable format, so the public can tell where enforcement is happening. And there should be a metric of motorist compliance, in addition to the summons data, so people can tell if overall driver behavior is getting better or worse.
It’s possible last month could be a fluke — police wrote 1,916 failure to yield tickets last November, by far the highest total of any single month in 2013. Or with the launch of Vision Zero, the January uptick could be the first substantial sign that NYPD is making pedestrian safety a higher enforcement priority.
We’ll get a clearer picture over the next few months.
Confines of the 78 Precinct [Huge Sphincter Muscle Showing How to Win Friends & Influence People]
A Wintry Encounter With the NYPD
By Jack Feinberg — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The Epoch Times’ / New York, NY
COMMENT: There is no doubt in my mind that the author is telling the truth. We all know one or two people, who make us all look bad, don't belong on the job and are just like this! - Mike Bosak
On an evening not long ago I was bicycling home through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Snow and ice still covered the ground from a recent snowstorm, and the temperature was below freezing. By cycling standards the roads were rather treacherous, and I had to exercise a good deal of caution when navigating them. Adding to the difficulty, when pedaling it felt like the gears were frozen stiff, which doubled the amount of energy normally required to move.
Heading south on East Drive near the zoo, I came toward a parked NYPD van, which flashed its lights as I approached. A command was issued over a loud speaker: “Stop your vehicle.”
Reducing my speed, I came to a halt along side the van. Three heavyset officers sat inside. One opened a window and said, “This is a one way street—do you have any ID?” I knew it was one-way, but one always plays dumb in these situations. “Oh, I see that now … where is a road leading south?” “The nearest is Flatbush, which you can get to on foot. Do you have ID?” Surprised that identification was necessary to find Flatbush Avenue, I produced it, and was told to wait in front of the van, which I did. About three minutes later, the officer handed me a court summons. The official charge was “disobeying a park sign.”
His parting words were “stay safe.”
I am not sure what he meant by that. The sidewalk he directed me to was covered in slippery snow, while the road was clear of both impediments and traffic. Perhaps he wasn’t making a suggestion, but rather reassuring himself, as in, “I am keeping the city safe by issuing this summons.” Or perhaps he meant, “My job is safe because I am closer to fulfilling a summons quota.” Or maybe he genuinely thought I was safer with this “lesson” he taught me. However, this is all speculation.
My only other prior police encounter occurred following a similarly minor infraction, but because I had no ID on me at the time—making the issuance of a summons on site impossible—I was arrested and taken to a holding cell. I was 16.
The only thing I remember being said to me during that day as a teenager were the words “do not resist.” I will never forget them.
In recent days, when developments in the case of Suzanne LaFont and Karl Anders Peltomaa have made headlines, the issue of excessive police force has once again been brought to the public eye. (The couple, both university professors, were subjected to a clear-cut case of police brutality in their own home.) In no way am I comparing my own recent experience with their horrific ordeal, but both incidents serve as reminders that the streets of our city are ruled by 30,000 “gentlemen of the law” who exercise their own individual notions of what is acceptable to maintain the peace, and those do not necessarily embody the highest ideals of democracy.
If our civic leaders want New York to remain a hospitable place to live, they need to address the way law enforcement personnel interact with the citizenry. In that process, they need to ask themselves a key question: Are there higher virtues than “not resisting” and “staying safe”? I pray that there are, and hope they can be cherished and preserved in this great city for generations to come.
FDNY racial discrimination retrial will be celeb circus: city lawyers
By Selim Algar — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Post’
The feds want to turn next month’s hotly anticipated FDNY racial discrimination retrial into a star-studded media attraction, city lawyers argued in a scathing Brooklyn federal court filing.
Lawyers for the government submitted an eye-popping witness list for next month’s legal brawl that included a slew of powerful pastors and polticians, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel.
But city attorney Jessica Giambrone lobbied Judge Raymond Dearie to shear off unnecessary witnesses from the trial because they have little relevance to the issues at hand.
“These individuals do not seem able to offer relevant evidence and have been selected solely for the purposes of garnering media attention,” she wrote in her filing.
The government’s roster of potential witnesses also includes Rev. Johnny Youngblood, former Governor David Paterson, Rep. Gregory Meeks and Rep. Yvette Clarke, according to court papers.
“They are very likely being offered not for their substantive testimony but rather for purposes of dramatic impact,” the filing continues. “In general, defendants submit that plaintiffs’ proposed witnesses and exhibits are not appropriate, or relevant, to the issue to be tried.”
The filing requests a hearing with all parties to “clarify the paramenters” of the trial.
Slated to kick off on March 31, Dearie will decide whether the FDNY purposefully discriminated against minority applicants after an appeals court tossed an earlier ruling by Judge Nicholas Garaufis that it had.
In his decision, Garaufis squarely attacked former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for failing to end discriminatory hiring practices in the FDNY.
But the appeals court tossed the ruling and argued that Garaufis was no longer able to remain objective on the topic before appointing the veteran jurist Dearie to handle the case.
Some components of his rejected ruling remain intact, including his appointment of a federal monitor to patrol the FDNY’s hiring practices for fairness.
But the monitor, Mark Cohen, has come under fire from city attorneys for his ballooning invoices that have thus far piled up to more than $3 million.
Garaufis has defended his work as necessary to ensure that minority applicants are treated fairly at the FDNY.
City wants to keep politicians and clergyman, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and former Gov. David Paterson, off witness stand in FDNY discrimination trial
The Vulcan Society of black firefighters is planning to call the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Gov. David Paterson and Rep. Charles Rangel, to the testify in the retrial alleging the city discriminated against minority FDNY applicants.
By John Marzulli — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Daily News’
THE VULCAN Society of black firefighters is planning to put the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Charles Rangel and former Gov. David Paterson on the witness stand at next month's civil retrial to prove the city intentionally discriminated against minority applicants.
But city lawyers are seeking to block testimony from the trio, along with several other politicians and clergymen who are expected to be witnesses for the first time in the years-long litigation.
"These individuals do not seem to be able to offer relevant evidence and have been selected solely for the purpose of garnering media attention," Assistant Corporation Counsel Jessica Giambrone complained in a letter to Federal Judge Raymond Dearie.
The Vulcans have said Sharpton and the Revs. Herbert Daughtry and Johnny Youngblood of Brooklyn will testify about “communication with city decision makers regarding firefighter hiring,” according to Giambrone.
As for Paterson, Rangel and fellow U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks and Yvette Clarke, the city predicts their appearances are being offered for “dramatic impact” and have nothing relevant to say at the trial.
The issue of whether the city intentionally discriminated against minority applicants to the FDNY was decided in the Vulcans' favor by Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis. But the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the ruling last year and ordered a retrial before a different judge.
The U.S. Justice Department, which successfully sued the city for discriminating against minorities through two written exams, is not a party to the bench trial. It is scheduled to begin March 31.
Garaufis still retains jurisdiction over the monitor he appointed to oversee sweeping changes in the way the FDNY recruits minorities and investigate bias complaints.
Superior Officers contract clears committee in Suffolk
By DAVID M. SCHWARTZ — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘New York Newsday’ / Melville, L.I.
A new contract for Suffolk County police brass with an estimated cost of $63 million through 2018 was approved unanimously by a committee Wednesday and will go to the full county legislature on Tuesday.
The 440 sergeants, lieutenants, captains and other high-ranking police officials in the Superior Officers Association will get average pay hikes of 3.375 percent a year, according to a preliminary estimate by the legislature's Budget Review Office.
The agreement would raise base pay for sergeants from $135,915 this year to $162,843 in 2018.
Tim Morris, association president, said members ratified the deal Monday by a vote of 340 to 24.The top rank of chief inspector would see the base pay rise from $204,928 this year to $245,529 in 2018.
"We believe this is a good contract for our members and the people of Suffolk County," Morris said. Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said.
The contract is in line with others granted to the police officers and detectives, he said.
"We have a terrific police force and they do a wonderful job," Gregory said at the Government Operations Committee. "We should respect what they do."
He said when he sees media coverage of high salaries, "you wince a little bit when you see the numbers. But I strongly believe we need to pay for service."
The additional costs per rank under the new contract, such as holiday pay and overtime, were not available Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's office said.
North Brunswick police officer to be sentenced today in joy-ride crash that killed fellow cop
By Anthony G. Attrino — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘NJ.Com News’
NORTH BRUNSWICK – A police lieutenant is expected to receive three years in prison today and resign from the force following a guilty plea in the 2008 joy-riding crash that killed a fellow police officer.
Keith Buckley of the North Brunswick Police Department drove a high-powered Dodge Viper on Aug. 12, 2008 – while on duty – and was speeding when he crashed into a utility pole. His passenger, fellow police officer Christopher Zerby, died in the accident.
In his guilty plea last year, Buckley said he “felt enjoyment” driving the car and speeding, despite the fact that he “endangered the public and his passenger (Zerby).”
The accident occurred on Route 130 in North Brunswick.
Buckley was charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and official misconduct. Tests showed Buckley was neither intoxicated or otherwise impaired at the time of the crash.
A 19-year-veteran of the department, Buckley pled guilty in November 2013 to third-degree official misconduct in exchange for three years in prison. He may be eligible for parole after two years, according to the agreement. Buckley must also resign from his job at today’s sentencing and agree to forfeit his right to hold public office or a public job and possibly give up his police pension.
Buckley has been suspended without pay since 2008.
Heroin overdose antidote: Who gets to carry it?
By KATIE ZEZIMA (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, February 26th, 2014; 10:06 p.m. EST
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- As deaths from heroin and powerful painkillers skyrocket nationwide, governments and clinics are working to put a drug that can reverse an opiate overdose into the hands of more paramedics, police officers and the people advocates say are the most critical group - people who abuse drugs, and their friends and families.
Supporters say the opportunity to save potentially thousands of lives outweighs any fears by critics that the promise of a nearby antidote would only encourage drug abuse.
At least 17 states and the District of Columbia allow naloxone - commonly known by the brand name Narcan - to be distributed to the public, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a national nonprofit that focuses on preventive health care. And at least 10 of those states allow for third parties, such as a family member or friend of an intravenous drug user, to be prescribed it.
Among them is New Jersey, which passed a law last year that allows members of the public to carry naloxone - administered through a nasal spray or injection into a muscle - after getting training.
About 20 people, most of them related to overdose victims or people who currently abuse heroin, crowded into a clinic last weekend in Camden, a drug-plagued city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, to learn about the antidote. Jane Stiuv, whose daughter survived a heroin overdose in 2011, listened as a nurse described the signs of an overdose and when to administer naloxone.
Stiuv, who found her daughter slumped over the side of a bathtub with a needle in her arm hours after her release from prison, said she wanted to learn how to reverse an overdose should it happen again. Each attendee received a kit containing two syringes, a small vial of naloxone, alcohol swabs and a face shield for rescue breathing.
"I was a little shaky. It brings me back to the times she overdosed," Stiuv said of the training. "But it makes me feel better that it can help her and do something about overdose prevention."
Naloxone is regarded within the medical community as highly effective when used properly. A study conducted during a state-supported pilot of naloxone distribution and overdose education in Massachusetts showed it was 98 percent effective in attempts to rescue a person who overdosed.
Police in Quincy, Mass., have been carrying naloxone nasal spray since 2010 and said in July 2013 that they used naloxone 179 times, reversing 170 of those overdoses - a 95 percent success rate.
According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of overdose deaths involving prescription drugs increased 21 percent from 2006 to 2010; the number of overdose deaths involving heroin increased 45 percent.
Bills are pending in at least seven states to increase access to naloxone. In Tennessee and Utah, doctors would be allowed to prescribe it, and civil liability for those who administer it would be dropped. A Wisconsin bill seeks to broaden access to naloxone and, as New Jersey also does, provide legal immunity to drug users reporting an overdose.
Marty Walsh, the new mayor of Boston, this month called for all first responders to carry naloxone. Police in Indianapolis, where heroin overdose deaths have doubled since 2011, have started a pilot program to have officers carry the drug. In Ocean County, N.J., police are being trained in how to use it.
The White House drug policy office is also urging all first responders to have naloxone on hand. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration held hearings on making naloxone available over the counter, but it has not yet done so.
Naloxone is available by prescription in the United Kingdom, but an advisory council has called for over-the-counter distribution. Prescription take-home programs are in place in Australia, Canada, Estonia and Russia. Norway plans to distribute nasal spray kits to drug users in its two largest cities.
But not everyone is sold on the idea of making it more widely available.
In Maine, where heroin overdoses increased fourfold from 2011 to 2012, Gov. Paul LePage opposes a bill that would allow health care professionals to prescribe it and allow more emergency responders to carry the drug.
LePage, who wants to add 14 new drug enforcement agents in the state, cites concerns that it would raise Medicaid costs. He also has said the drug provides "a false sense of security that abusers are somehow safe from overdose if they have a prescription nearby."
"This bill would make it easier for those who have substance abuse problems to push themselves to the edge, or beyond," LePage wrote in a letter last year explaining his veto of a similar bill designed to expand access to naloxone. "Offering temporary relief without medical or treatment oversight will not combat drug use."
Dr. Marcus Romanello, the chief of the emergency room at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton, Ohio, said he believes police should carry naloxone but is leery of giving it to the public.
There is no disputing, however, that it works, he said.
"They are pulled back from the jaws of death, as we say, by the Narcan," he said.
An overdose of opiates essentially makes the body forget to breathe. Naloxone works by blocking the brain receptors that opiates latch onto and helping the body "remember" to take in air. The antidote's effects wear off in about a half hour, and multiple doses may be needed.
The drug's backers say it's crucial to train relatives or friends of addicts because the person overdosing is likely sick or unconscious and unable to self-administer the antidote. It also must be given within a certain window; most overdoses occur within a half-hour to three hours after injecting too much of a drug.
Naloxone wouldn't, therefore, have helped actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of an apparent heroin overdose this month in his New York apartment and is believed to have been alone as he took drugs; he was already dead when discovered.
At the New Jersey workshop on Saturday, nurse Babette Richter described the signs of an overdose. Observers should watch and listen for raspy breathing and a blue face, signaling a loss of oxygen.
Keep a close eye on people who nod off after using, and try to wake them, Richter instructed. If they do not rouse, place them a floor or other hard surface, give rescue breaths every 10 seconds or so, and administer naloxone.
The most important thing, Richter said, is to call 911 and wait with the person who has overdosed - and to remember that in New Jersey, the caller can't be charged with a crime.
"This is buying us time," Richter said. "It's not a cure."
Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin in Augusta, Maine, and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
Targeting the Johns in Sex Trade
By Nicholas Kristof — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The New York Times’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
(Edited for brevity and generic law enforcement pertinence)
Police arrest women for prostitution all the time, but almost never their customers.
Yet that is beginning to change. There’s a growing awareness that sex trafficking is one of the most serious human rights abuses around, with some 100,000 juveniles estimated to be trafficked into the sex trade in the United States each year.
Some women sell sex on their own, but coercion, beatings and recruitment of underage girls are central to the business as well. Just a few weeks ago, New York City police officers rescued a 14-year-old girl in Queens who had run away from home and ended up locked up by pimps and sold for sex. According to court documents, she was told she would be killed if she tried to run away, but after three months she managed to call 911.
Police increasingly recognize that the simplest way to reduce the scale of human trafficking is to arrest men who buy sex. That isn’t prudishness or sanctimony but a strategy to dampen demand.
Polling suggests that about 15 percent of American men have bought sex, and back-of-envelope calculations suggest that a man has about a 1 in 100,000 chance of being arrested while doing so.
Yet stings to arrest johns are marvels of efficiency. Here in Chicago, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office places ads on prostitution websites. When men call, an undercover officer directs them to a hotel room. The officer negotiates a price for a sex act, and then other officers jump in and arrest the customer.
It’s an assembly line, almost creating traffic jams in the hotel. One time, a customer had just been handcuffed when the undercover officer’s phone rang: it was another john downstairs in the lobby.
“Just give me a few minutes to freshen up,” the undercover officer purred.
Donna M. Hughes, an expert on human trafficking at the University of Rhode Island, notes that police often are tougher on men who download child pornography than on johns who have sex with girls or women.
“I think there is still the old idea around that ‘bad woman’ lure men into bad behavior,” Professor Hughes said. “And the police don’t want to bring shame on the whole family by arresting the man.”
Thomas Dart, the sheriff here, says that a basic problem is that the public doesn’t much sympathize with victims of trafficking. He remembers his department once raiding a dog-fighting operation to free pit bulls, and soon afterward raiding a sex-trafficking operation to free girls and women sold for sex. There was an outpouring of sympathy for the pit pulls, he said, but some carping about why the department was in the morals business and worrying about sex.
Yet, slowly, understanding is growing that this isn’t about policing morals but about protecting human rights. In more and more states, pimps are prosecuted more often, and minors are not arrested in prostitution cases but are directed to social programs. Sometimes that’s true of adult women, too.
As appreciation grows that human trafficking is one of the most serious of human rights abuses, so is the recognition that a starting point in addressing it is to stop making excuses for the men who perpetuate it — and start arresting them.
That’s happening more often, although the punishments are typically minimal. Here in Chicago, the men arrested were taken to another hotel room and made to watch a video about the risks of prostitution — such as sexually transmitted diseases — and then given a $500 ticket. They are advised to pay the fine immediately or a registered letter will be sent to their home address. There is no criminal record, and the men are released in about 30 minutes.
The men’s cars are also towed, which costs them another $700 or so. Mike Anton, commander of the vice unit, says that he always tells the married men that they can avoid towing fees if they call their wives to have them pick up the car.
“None of them has ever taken me up on that,” he added.
Bill would require drivers in serious accidents to give police cell phone information
Proposal would also raise penalty for distracted driving in fatal accidents; ACLU questions constitutionality
By Kevin Rector — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The Baltimore Sun’ / Baltimore, MD
Drivers suspected of causing serious accidents in Maryland while distracted by a cellphone would be required to give police certain information from that phone under a pair of bills currently filed in Annapolis.
The bills also would make distracted driving resulting in a death or serious injury a misdemeanor in Maryland, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Advocates say the legislation would save lives by deterring distracted driving in an age when cellphone use is increasingly being linked to deadly car accidents, and when many in Maryland support harsher penalties for it.
Civil liberty advocates have raised concerns about the proposed law's constitutionality.
Under the House version of the bill, filed earlier this month by Del. Luke Clippinger, a driver would be required to provide an officer with his or her cellphone number, service provider and any email accounts associated with the phone if the officer has "reasonable grounds" to believe use of the phone contributed to the accident.
Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, said the bill would give police the information they need to pull phone records and check whether the driver at fault was on the phone or text messaging at the time of the accident.
A hearing on the bill was held before the House judiciary committee on Wednesday, with groups representing police officers and prosecutors testifying in favor of it. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland filed testimony in opposition.
Toni Holness, a public policy associate and attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, said law enforcement and prosecutors already have tools in Maryland to subpoena phone records, and don't need another one.
"The last thing the legislature should be doing is codifying a rule to give law enforcement the authority to set out on a fishing expedition into the information stored on a person's phone, but also in their email accounts," Holness said. "The fundamental privacy rights of everyday Marylanders might be eroded."
Holness said the bill's constitutionality is also "on shaky ground," because the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding two cases in which police access to cellphone information is being considered.
Clippinger said he will review the Supreme Court cases, but is confident any constitutionality issues can be resolved.
He also said prosecutors can only subpoena phone records if they know the phone's number and carrier, but they don't always have that information.
His bill does not give police access to the contents of a driver's phone conversations, text messages or emails, he said, and its requirements would be less than those made of suspected drunken drivers.
"Right now under the law, if you're in an accident that involves death and [police] have a reasonable belief that you are under the influence of alcohol, they can order a blood test," he said. "You could argue a blood test is far more invasive than [the question], 'What's your phone number?'"
A Senate version of the bill was filed last month by Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery County Democrat. A version of Manno's bill that appeared on the Maryland General Assembly's website on Wednesday would require drivers to let officers immediately "inspect" their cellphones, but Clippinger said that language goes too far and has or soon will be removed.
Manno did not respond to a request for comment.
A hearing on the Senate bill is scheduled before the judicial proceedings committee on Friday.
Clippinger's bill is informally named after Jake Owen, a 5-year-old South Baltimore resident who was killed in an afternoon car accident in 2011, on lanes leading from northbound Interstate 83 to the inner loop of Interstate 695.
Jake's family has said the prosecution of the man found responsible for the accident would have been easier with evidence from his cell phone. Prosecutors said they believed the driver was distracted by his phone.
Devin Xavier McKeiver, 23, of West Baltimore, was found guilty of negligent driving and failure to control his vehicle's speed, and fined $1,000. He was found not guilty of criminal negligent manslaughter.
Clippinger lives a few blocks from Jake's family in South Baltimore, and said the boy's death shook the neighborhood. He said he has spoken at length with Jake's mother, Susan Yum, about beefing up Maryland's distracted driving laws.
Our desire to be "constantly connected" through our cellphones has created a dangerous situation for drivers, he said.
In support of the legislation, the Change for Jake Foundation, a nonprofit formed in Jake Owen's memory, released on Wednesday the results of a poll of registered Maryland voters by Annapolis-based OpinionWorks, which found a majority favor increased penalties for distracted driving.
The poll of 799 registered voters in Maryland, conducted last month, found 82 percent of respondents felt causing a death or serious injury through distracted driving should carry penalties similar to those for drunken drivers who cause similar accidents.
Seventy-five percent of respondents said they would support a law that established the penalties proposed in Clippinger's bill.
The poll also found 28 percent of respondents said they had used a handheld cellphone to text or call while driving in Maryland in the last six months.
Texas officers suspended for homeless sign contest
By BETSY BLANEY (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, February 26th, 2014; 7:19 p.m. EST
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) -- Two police officers in an oil-rich West Texas city spent weeks competing to see who could take the most cardboard signs away from homeless people, even though panhandling doesn't violate any city law.
Nearly two months after the Midland Police Department learned of the game, the two officers were suspended for three days without pay, according to findings of the internal affairs investigation obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
Advocate groups immediately blasted the department's handling, suggesting that the punishment wasn't harsh enough and that the probe should have been made public much earlier, before news organizations, including the AP, started asking about it.
"The fact that they are making sport out of collecting the personal property of homeless individuals could be seen as them targeting these individuals for discriminatory harassment," said Cassandra Champion, an attorney in the Odessa office of the Texas Civil Rights Project. "Simply holding a sign is absolutely a protected part of our free speech."
Police Chief Price Robinson said the actions were an isolated incident in a department of 186 officers and didn't deserve a harsher punishment. After the investigation all officers were reminded to respect individual rights and human dignity, he said.
"We want to respect people, no matter who they are - homeless, whatever," Robinson said. "That situation's been dealt with. Those officers understand."
The investigation found the two officers, Derek Hester and Daniel Zoelzer, violated the department's professional standards of conduct. There is no ordinance against panhandling in Midland, an oil-boom city of more than 110,000 where a recent count put the homeless number at about 300. About a quarter of those are transient.
Evan Rogers, founder of Church Under the Bridge Midland's ministry, said the failure by police to disclose the officers' behavior once discovered made it appear the department was "pushing it under the carpet.
"I think that does give the public the wrong message," he said.
Asked Wednesday about why the investigation wasn't made public earlier, city spokeswoman Sara Higgins said it is not the department's standard protocol to announce when an internal affairs investigation is completed. She said the officers weren't suspended until January because of staffing issues and the winter holidays.
On a recent afternoon, one group of homeless people could be seen near a trash bin behind a fast-food restaurant and another around an intersection. Among their signs was one that read: "Anything helps. God bless."
"If it was them, I guarantee you they'd be doing the same thing," said Desarie Caine, who sought donations on a street corner while eating from a package of beef jerky. "I think they're bored."
The two officers, who did not appeal their suspensions, have been with the department about two years. They both returned emails from the AP declining to be interviewed.
According to the investigation report, eight signs were found in the trunk of Hester's patrol car on Nov. 20 and Zoelzer had thrown the about 10 signs he had confiscated into a city trash container after Hester called him to warn him he had been reprimanded by his superior for having the signs.
The two told the internal affairs investigator, that they were issuing criminal trespass warnings when they took the signs. But according to the report, no homeless people were issued criminal trespass warnings by either officer in 2013. Most of those warnings in Midland are written, but some are verbal.
The investigation also looked into complaints from within the department that Hester and Zoelzer failed to log into evidence brass knuckles, a small set of scales and two knives they had obtained during other patrol stops. The investigation into the signs began after an officer on patrol with Hester when Hester obtained the brass knuckles sent an email to his sergeant Nov. 18 about Hester saying he wasn't going to log them in as evidence.
The signs and the brass knuckles were found in Hester's car during a vehicle inspection two days later.
The contest between Hester, 25, and Zoelzer, 26, was alluded to in text messages on Nov. 21 obtained by the AP. It was unclear which of the officers sent each message.
"My bad man when he first ask me about it he didn't seem mad or anything so I just told him me and u wereaking (sic) a game outta it when we'd trespass them and stuff," one text read. Another read, "Man this is some bs."
Although Rogers said he doesn't believe the officers' actions reflect on the whole department, he considered the penalty insufficient.
"I don't believe three days gives it justice," Rogers said.
Los Angeles, California
Forget the NSA, the LAPD Spies on Millions of Innocent Folks
By Darwin Bond-Graham and Ali Winston — Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 ‘The LA Weekly’ / Los Angeles, CA
Edward Snowden ripped the blinds off the surveillance state last summer with his leak of top-secret National Security Agency documents, forcing a national conversation about spying in the post-9/11 era. However, there's still no concrete proof that America's elite intelligence units are analyzing most Americans' computer and telephone activity — even though they can.
Los Angeles and Southern California police, by contrast, are expanding their use of surveillance technology such as intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification and military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime. Information on the identity and movements of millions of Southern California residents is being collected and tracked.
In fact, Los Angeles is emerging as a major laboratory for testing and scaling up new police surveillance technologies. The use of military-grade surveillance tools is migrating from places like Fallujah to neighborhoods including Watts and even low-crime areas of the San Fernando Valley, where surveillance cameras are proliferating like California poppies in spring.
The use of militarized surveillance technology appears to be spreading beyond its initial applications during the mid-2000s in high-crime areas to now target narrow, specific crimes such as auto theft. Now, LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff are monitoring the whereabouts of residents whether they have committed a crime or not. The biggest surveillance net is license plate reading technology that records your car's plate number as you pass police cruisers equipped with a rooftop camera, or as you drive past street locations where such cameras are mounted.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California are suing LAPD and the Sheriff's Department, demanding to see a sample week's worth of that data in order to get some idea of what cops are storing in a vast and growing, regionally shared database. (See our story "License Plate Recognition Logs Our Lives Long Before We Sin," June 21, 2012.)
Two dozen police agencies have gathered more than 160 million data points showing the exact whereabouts of L.A.-area drivers on given dates.
Despite growing concerns among privacy-rights groups, LAPD hopes to greatly expand its mass surveillance: The city traffic-camera system — 460 cameras set above major roads and intersections by the Department of Transportation — which now are used to monitor traffic jams, could be folded into LAPD's surveillance network.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander wants to convert the system's video feeds to a digital format used by automated license-plate readers. Despite L.A. crime levels being at historic lows, Englander insists, "It is vital that the LAPD have instant split-feed access to the 460 traffic cameras ... and be able to review this data to catch suspected criminals and protect our community."
LAPD's mild-sounding "predictive policing" technique, introduced by former Chief William Bratton to anticipate where future crime would hit, is actually a sophisticated system developed not by cops but by the U.S. military, based on "insurgent" activity in Iraq and civilian casualty patterns in Afghanistan.
Records obtained by L.A. Weekly from the U.S. Army Research Office show that UCLA professors Jeff Brantingham and Andrea Bertozzi (anthropology and applied mathematics, respectively) in 2009 told the Army that their predictive techniques "will provide the Army with a plethora of new data-intensive predictive algorithms for dealing with insurgents and terrorists abroad." In a later update to the Army, after they had begun working with LAPD, they wrote, "Terrorist and insurgent activities have a distinct parallel to urban crime."
This month, LAPD sent a team to Israel, the Jewish Journal reports, to visit drone manufacturers and Nice Systems, a cyber-intelligence firm that can "intercept and instantly analyze video, audio and text-based communications." Reporter Simone Wilson quoted Horace Frank, commander of LAPD's Information Technology Bureau, as telling an Israeli conference of data intelligence experts: "Let's be honest ... We're here to steal some of your great ideas."
Max Blumenthal, a journalist and fierce critic of Israel, tweeted: "LAPD delegation heads to Israel to learn lessons in control, domination and exclusion."
With L.A. and most U.S. cities — including those that don't use predictive algorithms and license-plate recognition — enjoying a huge drop in violent crime, some are indeed questioning this liberal city's embrace of war and spy technology.
Ana Muniz, an activist and researcher who works with the Inglewood-based Youth Justice Coalition, says, "Any time that a society's military and domestic police force become more and more similar, where the lines have become blurred, it's not a good story."
The military is supposed to "defend the territory from so-called external enemies," Muniz says. "That's not the mission of the police force — they're not supposed to look at the population as an external enemy."
L.A. residents may not yet grasp that more and more military technology is being aimed at them in the name of fighting routine crime. But Hamid Khan, an Open Society Foundations fellow who studies LAPD surveillance, warns, "Counterinsurgency principles are being incorporated on the local policing level."
In 2010, LAPD announced a partnership with Motorola Solutions to monitor the Jordan Downs public housing project with surveillance cameras. Then-chief Bratton called it the start of an ambitious buildout to use remote "biometric identification," which can track individuals citywide.
In a letter to the Los Angeles City Council, Bratton claimed that CCTV "will enable police to respond more effectively to criminal conduct," and that "facial-recognition technologies will be used to enable law enforcement to more effectively enforce the gang injunction already in place."
Then in January 2013, LAPD announced the deployment of more than a dozen live-monitored CCTV cameras in the Topanga and Foothill divisions in the San Fernando Valley. The cameras are equipped with facial-recognition software — purportedly programmed to ID people named on "hot lists" for having open warrants or because they were documented as active gang members.
Operated by LAPD's Tactical Technology Section, these cameras feed facial imagery to LAPD's Real-time Analysis and Critical Response Center (RACR), a digital "war room" that also creates up-to-the-minute crime mapping.
RACR opened in early 2012. The Weekly could not obtain a comment from LAPD on the efficacy of its live-monitored facial ID rollout, but the question remains whether all this is necessary.
Raytheon, which last year sold $13 billion in weapons to the Department of Defense, has a major contract with LAPD to outfit patrol vehicles with video cameras.
"Smart video" programs can use facial recognition to ID people by comparing live CCTV footage to mugshot databases built from facial scans collected by police using mobile devices or during bookings. Computer programs also can learn "acceptable behavior" by humans — such as pedestrian or vehicular traffic patterns — and alert cops when something "abnormal"' occurs.
LAPD already is using a sophisticated intelligence-analysis program from Silicon Valley firm Palantir, which is partially funded by In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital firm. Palantir sells data-mining and analysis software to the NSA and other intelligence agencies.
LAPD did not respond to requests for comment about the Palantir intelligence program. But Peter Bibring, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, has seen at least one Suspicious Activity Report from LAPD in which investigators used Palantir's intelligence-analysis software to delve into "license plates, leads and suspect profiles."
(Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, are citizen- or police-generated tips about potential terrorist activities; they are controversial because they rely on the "reasonable indication" standard for investigating, rather than the tougher crime standard of "reasonable suspicion.")
Whitney Richards-Calathes, a doctoral student at the City University of New York, who studies predictive policing and other tech-centric law enforcement trends, warns, "We have to be really critical about the built-in assumptions made when ... databases are created for 'public safety,' yet youth as young as 9 and 10 years old are put in these secret databases, automatically labeled as gang members."
Hamid Khan sees a situation developing in L.A. that might give some people pause: the spread of intelligence gathering by local police, using the lower standard of "reasonable indications" instead of "reasonable suspicion," thus fueling "a culture of suspicion and fear" in many of L.A.'s nonwhite communities.
6 police officers in Calif. town arrested
A six-month investigation has led to the arrests of six police officers in King City, California. They're accused of wide range of violations that "dishonored their badge."
By Allison Gatlin [The Salinas Californian] — Thursday, February 27th, 2014 ‘The USA Today’
KING CITY, Calif. — More than a third of the police officers in this Northern California town of 13,000 have been arrested, variously accused of bribery, embezzlement and threats charges.
Four are accused of developing a scheme to impound vehicles belonging to poor families, said Dean Flippo, Monterey County district attorney. After 30 days, those cars were turned over to King City police officers when the owners were unable to pay the impound fees.
The probe revealed that the scheme focused on poor Hispanic residents — including many who don't speak English. Census numbers show nearly 2 in 5 residents here are Hispanic.
"These people said, 'They are taking our property, they're taking our cars, they're taking our money and we can do nothing about that,' " Flippo said Tuesday. More than 200 vehicles were impounded, and 87% had been taken in by the same towing company.
Arrested were the following officials:
• Former police Chief Nick Baldiviez, charged with embezzlement by a public officer.
• Current acting Chief Bruce Miller, charged with accepting a bribe.
• Sgt. Bobby Carrillo, charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, accepting a bribe and bribing an executive officer.
• Sgt. Mark Baker, charged with criminal threats against a resident.
• Officer Mario Mottu, charged with embezzlement by a public officer.
• And Officer Jaime Andrade, charged with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm at his stepson's residence unrelated to the car scheme.
Also arrested was Brian Albert Miller, owner of a towing company and the acting police chief's brother. He was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and bribing an executive officer.
All of those arrested were out of jail within hours. Bail amounts ranged from $10,000 to $60,000.
"There has been a significant breakdown in the internal leadership of the King City Police Department," Flippo said. "It also appears to me that some officers have dishonored their badge."
Carrillo was accused of receiving a free vehicle for every 10 to 15 vehicles he had impounded. Ultimately, Carrillo allegedly got five vehicles to keep or sell and gave one to Bruce Miller, then a police captain.
In 2011, prosecutors believe Baldiviez gave Mottu a free 2001 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car belonging to either King City or the King City Police Explorers, a nonprofit group that is part of the Boy Scouts of America. Baldiviez remains on the city's payroll in spite of his September retirement, Flippo said.
"I'm not sure we know all the cars that were taken," the district attorney said. He couldn't put a value on the vehicles handed out in the scheme.
None of Tuesday's arrests, part of a six-month investigation of complaints going back 3½ years, are related to accusations posted on the Internet that King City police officers skimmed money from recovered bank robbery funds, Flippo said. He wouldn't specify whether any of the officers arrested were implicated in that accusation.
"As we began to talk to individuals over the years, we were beginning to hear this constant theme that had been there for years prior, and that was a lack of trust and faith in the King City Police Department," he said.
King City criminal cases in which any one of the six accused was the arresting officer are under scrutiny, the prosecutor said.
So far three cases that cannot proceed without the arresting officer's testimony have been dismissed, said Terry Spitz, chief assistant district attorney. Other cases also may be dismissed.
"My reputation is soiled," Bruce Miller said. "There's no coming back from this even if I'm found innocent. People are always going to look poorly upon me."
He said he knew his department was being investigated but had no idea he was a suspect. He denied that he had accepted any bribes.
Almost all of the police force's upper management has been arrested, Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller said. His office is offering help in the interim as King City officials figure out how to continue policing the town about 135 miles southeast of San Francisco and 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles along U.S. 101.
"We have no plans to just go into the city and take over services, but our offer to the city is we're available from this point on to provide whatever level of law enforcement services the city requires," he said.
The King City Police Department has come under fire in recent years. In 2010, Baldiviez was placed on administrative leave after officers claimed he arrived intoxicated at crime scenes. The next year, Baldiviez came under scrutiny for allegedly placing overweight officers on a weight-loss program, claiming they were unfit to work.
Baldiviez officially retired in September after a four-month vacation. Bruce Miller has filled the chief's position on an interim basis since May 2013.
At the time, Bruce Miller said he would be interested in applying for the chief's position when it became officially available.
Baldiviez is also listed as one of several defendants in a November lawsuit claiming the King City Police Department brutalized a Hispanic family, based upon their ethnicity, in an April 2012 raid.
Contributing: The Associated Press
California town shaken as police officers arrested
By MARTHA MENDOZA (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, February 26th, 2014; 10:53 p.m. EST
KING CITY, Calif. (AP) -- Residents of a California farming town were grappling Wednesday with the feeling that their trust has been violated after learning the acting police chief and a handful of officers were charged with crimes including selling or giving away the impounded cars of poor Hispanic residents.
The misgivings had been building for some time. Investigators heard people - many unable to speak English - complain that police were taking their cars and money, and there was nothing they could do about it.
"I'm not at all surprised by the arrests, I'm just surprised there weren't more charges," restaurateur Vivian Villa said Wednesday in Spanish while sizzling a pan of beef in preparation for the lunch rush. "Now maybe some of them are going to feel what we feel when they target us."
Later in the day, Villa held a meeting in her little restaurant where about a dozen community members spoke out against police abuse and corruption.
Latinos account for nearly 90 percent of the community of 13,000 people tucked among fields of tomatoes, strawberries and lettuce along the Salinas River, 150 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Farm mechanics Francisco Mendez and Alfonso Perez, stopping at a taco stand before heading into work, both described being stopped frequently by police for having tinted windows or broken tail lights.
"It seems like they just want a reason to pull you over," Mendez said.
Tuesday's arrests, which also included a former police chief, came after a six-month probe of the police department launched in September when a visiting investigator - there to check out a homicide - heard from numerous sources that the community didn't trust its police department.
By this week, authorities said they had enough evidence to arrest a total of six people linked to the department for a variety of crimes ranging from bribery to making criminal threats. They were all quickly released on bail.
"Ordinary citizens, again and again, told us they didn't trust the police," said acting chief assistant Monterey County District Attorney Terry Spitz. "There are more investigations underway."
Tow shop owner Brian Miller; his brother, acting police chief Bruce Miller; and Sgt. Bobby Carillo were scheduled to be arraigned Monday on bribery charges after authorities said vehicles impounded from Hispanic immigrants were funneled to the tow yard then sold or given away.
Prosecutors said an undetermined number of vehicles were sold or given away for free when the owners couldn't pay fees to reclaim them. Two people at Miller's Towing in King City refused comment.
Former Chief Dominic David Baldiviez and Mario Alonso Mottu Sr. were set to be arraigned March 6 for embezzlement of a city-owned Crown Victoria. Officer Jaime Andrade, accused of possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm, and officer Mark Allen Baker, accused of making criminal threats, are also slated for a March 6 arraignment.
Bruce Miller said the charges were baseless, and his family had received death threats since prosecutors disclosed details of the case. Messages for Baldiviez and Brian Miller were not immediately returned. A man who answered the phone at a listing for Baker hung up when asked about the case.
Attorney Michael Schwartz of Ontario, Calif., representing Carillo and Andrade, said it's important to hold off judgment until the evidence comes out.
City Manager Michael Powers said all but Mottu had been placed on paid leave during the investigation prior to their arrests, and that he hopes to announce a new, interim police chief on Thursday.
Fixing King City's sense of well-being is a bigger challenge.
"Obviously no one should be targeted because of race, but recent immigrants are at something of a disadvantage," Powers said. "They already fear the police. It makes them easy prey."
Powers said a community meeting would be held in two weeks to try to resolve concerns of angry citizens and those worried about the depleted police force, where 10 of the 17 sworn positions were held by Latinos.
State Sen. Bill Monning, whose district includes King City, said he was "incensed and outraged," and thanked the FBI and local authorities for their ongoing pressure.
"While I hope this is an isolated incident, I fear it is not," he said. "There continues to be situations throughout the state where the immigrant workforce is subjugated to tyranny of those abusing their authority."
County Supervisor Simon Salinas said it's going to take community oriented policing to get the town to trust authorities again.
"It's certainly going to be a black eye for King City," Salinas said.
Complaints of misconduct have been raised during the past few years in this historic, agricultural city where John Steinbeck's father settled in 1890s and met his wife. With wide streets, historic buildings and old oaks, parts of the city haven't changed much since Steinbeck wrote of King City in parts of Mice and Men and To a God Unknown.
But some said they are now afraid in the city.
"I'm not sure who is taking care of the town," said San Lorenzo Liquors store owner Myukng Hong who reopened Wednesday after closing early the night before after learning of the arrests.
At Leyva's Tow Yard, which police often bypassed with impounded cars, George Oliveros said many people in the community were aware of the investigation for months.
"In King City, a lot of people really try to stay away from the police," he said. "Cops aren't really helping the people, they focus on helping themselves."
Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala, Paul Elias, Garance Burke and Channing Joseph in San Francisco also contributed to this story.