Latest News

Ill. police widows' benefits sidelined by budget impasse

PoliceOne - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 08:14

By PoliceOne Staff

CHICAGO — A group of widows, whose police officer and firefighter husbands died in the line of duty, are still awaiting more than $300,000 apiece for their losses.

Reuters reported that Illinois' 22-month budget stalemate has left the seven windows' unpaid. They have been waiting for at least a year for their share of more than $2.7 million in awards and interest owed under the Line of Duty Compensation Act.

"I think it's unconscionable," Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, said. "From my perspective, I'd say this is the result of Governor Rauner's failure to propose and work with the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget that funds important things like this."

The payment of line-of-duty awards passed in the Illinois Senate May 2016, but dissolved in the Illinois House.

"Heaven knows what they're going through," State Rep. Fred Crespo said.

Gov. Rauner's spokeswoman, Eleni Demertzis, said the governor wants to "uphold any promised payments made to the families," but believes the payments should be part of the budget deal, according to the report.

"Unfortunately, they cannot be paid until the General Assembly passes a balanced budget," Demertzis said.


Categories: Latest News

Police release video of suspected Texas cop killer's car

PoliceOne - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 08:06

By Andrew Kragie Houston Chronicle

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The day after a local law enforcement leader was ambushed and fatally shot east of Houston, police said on Tuesday morning that they are pursuing leads and following up on the few tips that have come in.

"We're getting a few here and there," Baytown police Lt. Steve Dorris said of tips that have come through Crime Stoppers, which on Monday offered a reward up to $50,000. Gov. Greg Abbott's office offered an additional $15,000 reward.

Late Monday, police released surveillance video of a suspected getaway car. Authorities believe the driver is the same man who fatally shot Clint Greenwood, assistant chief deputy with the Harris County Precinct 3 Constable's Office. The vehicle appears to be a dark-colored subcompact car.

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Per Baytown Police Department, TX: Attached is a video clip of a suspect vehicle in the murder of Assistant Chief Deputy Clinton Greenwood this morning. Along with the vehicle in this video we are also currently looking for a white or Hispanic male, approximately 6’0 to 6’3 tall, short hair and medium to stocky build. This person was possibly wearing a dark jacket with some type of patch on the sleeve and was seen in the area around the time of the shooting. We ask anyone who may recognize the vehicle or who has any information about this case to contact the Baytown Police Department at 281-422-8371 or Baytown Crime Stoppers at 281-422-TIPS (8477) or Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers of Houston will pay up to $50,000.00 and Baytown Crime Stoppers will pay up to $15,000.00 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect in this case.

Posted by Harris County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Police described a man who was seen in the area at the time of the 7 a.m. shooting as a white or Hispanic man, about 6 foot to 6 feet 3, with short hair and a medium to stocky build.

The driver could have blended in with traffic as students, parents and staff arrived to a nearby high school, which was later locked down.

Authorities said late Monday they were investigating several leads but had not made any arrests.

Just last week, Greenwood had told county officials he felt threatened by a man he'd once targeted in a corruption investigation. He shared his concerns with officials in the Harris County Attorney's Office who were handling an administrative matter related to the case, according to a source who asked not to be identified because of the nature of the investigation.

"I believe [this person] poses a real threat to my and my family's safety," Greenwood said in an email sent Thursday to the county attorney's office.

Greenwood's concerns about the corruption case were passed along to law enforcement, the source said.

The reward of up to $65,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and charges in the case through Crime Stoppers, 713-222-TIPS.

———

©2017 the Houston Chronicle

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Texas prays for Chief Greenwood’s family and the Harris County, Texas, constable’s office. Our men and women who wear the badge are the best we have. Chief Greenwood’s life may be gone, but his memory serves as a reminder of all those who give their lives for the thin blue line. The suspect is still at large and Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering a reward up to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case. #BackTheBlue Houston Police Department Harris County Sheriff's Office

Posted by Ted Poe on Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Categories: Latest News

Ex-convict briefly escaped though hole in police station ceiling

PoliceOne - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 07:29

By Patricio G. Balona The News-Journal

ORANGE CITY, Fla. — An ex-convict arrested on a shoplifting charge escaped from a police station by making a hole in the ceiling of a bathroom as an officer stood guard outside, investigators said.

After his Sunday arrest, Michael Caruso, 31, removed an exhaust fan from the bathroom ceiling, made the hole bigger then climbed into the attic and eventually out of the Orange City Police Department building, police reports state.

He was captured not long after but during the escape one resident he asked for a ride tried to hold him at gunpoint. Then another resident had to stop Caruso from entering his house, police said.

The incident is under an internal affairs investigation, said police Lt. Jason Sampsell on Monday.

Earlier Sunday, Caruso, a homeless man who served time for theft and burglary, knocked an officer to the ground as the officer tried to arrest the suspect at Kohl's, 1065 Harley Strickland Blvd. Police said Caruso stole a vacuum cleaner and a speaker with a combined value of $530. As the officer fell to the ground, his Taser discharged, but it did not hit anyone, police said.

Florida Department of Corrections records show Caruso was released Nov. 24 after serving one year in prison for four counts of grand theft and two counts of burglary.

Orange City police were called to the Kohl's about 5 p.m. Sunday, reporting the thefts. Caruso had also tried stealing merchandise from the store Friday night, a store employee told a dispatcher in a 9-1-1 call.

Caruso was arrested, taken to the police station and escaped less than two hours later, police said.

Caruso was in a holding cell as officers prepared his arrest paperwork before at the police department before he was to be taken to jail. While waiting, he repeatedly asked that he be allowed to use the bathroom. An officer escorted him, but stood outside to wait, reports state.

After a while the officer told Caruso to hurry up and the suspect answered, saying he needed two more minutes to wash his hands.

After the two minutes, the officer ordered Caruso out again, but this time got no answer. A sergeant joined the officer and they opened the door to the single-stall toilet to find that Caruso was gone, reports state.

Sampsell said Monday he could not comment on whether Caruso was handcuffed because of the ongoing internal investigation.

Left behind was a large hole in the ceiling where Caruso had removed the exhaust fan, made the hole bigger and climbed into the attic and got out of the police station, reports state. Police have not said where Caruso exited the building.

As officers pondered Caruso's escape, they got a call from a woman who told them Caruso showed up at a home about a mile a way and was in the garage. Caruso told the homeowner, Zachary Colangelo, that he needed a ride because he had just escaped from the police. Colangelo told Caruso he was going inside to get his keys but instead got his gun and asked his girlfriend to call 9-1-1, investigators said.

"Apparently there is somebody in our garage that is running from the police," Colangelo's girlfriend told a dispatcher.

The woman said Colangelo was mowing the yard when he heard the dogs barking. The dogs only bark when people come around the house, the woman said.

"He went into the garage and the guy was in the garage," Colangelo's girlfriend said to the dispatcher.

Colangelo then went outside and, pointing the gun at Caruso, ordered the suspect to the ground. Caruso ran off. Later he tried to get into another home but was pushed out of the house, police said.

"He actually did run out of our garage and he is going around back," the woman said.

A K-9 officer then spotted Caruso running on Crittendon Avenue where he was finally recaptured with the help of a police dog, reports indicate. Caruso has added more than a half-dozen charges including grand theft, escape and burglary to several new probation violations. He was being held without bail Monday at the Volusia County Branch Jail, the situation he was trying to avoid.

Officers said Caruso told them why he ran: "He said he didn't want to go back to prison."

———

©2017 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.


Categories: Latest News

Officials: Russia subway blast was suicide attack

PoliceOne - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 06:56

By Irina Titova and Nataliya Vasilyeva Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A 22-year old suicide bomber born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan was behind a blast on the St. Petersburg subway that killed 14 people, Russian investigators said Tuesday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Monday afternoon attack, which came while President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, Russia's second biggest and Putin's hometown.

Russia's health minister on Tuesday raised the death toll from 11 to 14 and said 49 people are still hospitalized. Authorities did not say whether the suicide attacker was included in the death toll. The City Hall said there were several foreign nationals among those killed and injured, but would not offer detail. The foreign ministry of the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan said one of its citizens has been killed in the attack.

Residents have been bringing flowers to the stations near where the blast occurred. Every corner and window-sill at the ornate, Soviet-built Sennaya Square station on Tuesday was covered with red and white carnations.

Russian investigators on Tuesday said the bomb was set off by a suicide bomber and identified him as Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, who turned 22 two days before the attack.

The Investigative Committee said that forensic experts also found the man's DNA on the bag with a bomb that was found and de-activated at another subway station in St. Petersburg on Monday. In Kyrgyzstan, the State Committee for National Security confirmed the man's identity and said it would help the Russian probe.

The Interfax news agency on Monday said authorities believe the suspect was linked to radical Islamic groups and carried the explosive device onto the train in a backpack.

The entire subway system in St. Petersburg, a city of 5 million, was shut down and evacuated before partial service resumed six hours later. Typically crowded during the rush hour, the subway on Tuesday morning looked almost deserted as many residents opted for buses.

"First, I was really scared," said Viktoria Prishchepova who did take the subway. "I didn't want to go anywhere on the metro because I was nervous. Everyone was calling their loved ones yesterday, checking if they were OK and how everyone was going to get home."

Monday's explosion occurred as the train traveled between stations on one of the city's north-south lines. The driver appeared in front of reporters on Tuesday looking tired but not visibly shaken by the events of the previous day.

Alexander Kavernin, 50, who has worked on the subway for 14 years, said he heard the sound of a blast while his train was running, called security and carried on to the next station as the emergency instructions prescribe.

"I had no time to think about fear at that moment," he said.

The decision to keep moving was praised by authorities, who said it helped evacuation efforts and reduced the danger to passengers who would have had to walk along the electrified tracks.

Oleg Alexeyev, 53, who trains sniffer dogs for the police, went to the Technological Institute station Tuesday morning to lay flowers in memory of those who died nearby.

"I traveled on the same route this morning just to see how it felt and think about life. You begin to feel the thin line about life and death," he said.

Four stations on the subway were closed again Tuesday due to a bomb threat, but later reopened.

People from Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian former Soviet republics are common sights in St. Petersburg, home to a large diaspora of migrants who flee poverty and unemployment in their home countries for jobs in Russia. While most Central Asian migrants in Russia hold temporary work permits or work illegally, thousands of them have received Russian citizenship in the past decades.

Russian authorities have rejected calls to impose visas on Central Asian nationals, hinting that having millions of jobless men across the border from Russia would be a bigger security threat.

Patriach Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, led a service at Moscow's main cathedral on Tuesday for those killed in the blast.

"This terrorist act is a threat to all of us, all our nation," he said quoted by the Interfax news agency.

In the past two decades, Russian trains and planes have been frequent targets of attack, usually blamed on Islamic militants. The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

Separately, in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan, two policemen were killed in the early hours on Tuesday in a suspected Islamic militant attack. Alexander Zhilkin, governor of the region, said the attackers are on the run.


Categories: Latest News

Justice Dept. seeks pause on agreement with Baltimore police

PoliceOne - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 06:41

By Juliet Linderman and Sadie Gurman Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Baltimore's mayor and police chief worked closely with Justice Department investigators to scrutinize the city's police force and embraced a plan they crafted to overhaul the troubled department.

So they were surprised by the Justice Department's sudden request Monday for more time to see how the proposed changes might conflict with the aggressive crime-fighting approach new Attorney General Jeff Sessions favors.

Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis believed the proposed agreement would repair public trust in the police while also quelling violence. They swiftly voiced their opposition to the requested delay, and pledged to press ahead with the business of transforming the police department, with or without a court-enforceable consent decree.

"The Baltimore Police Department is continuing to move forward with reforms related to the forthcoming consent decree for the overall progress of the city of Baltimore," said department spokesman T.J. Smith. "Further delays only serve to erode the trust of the public in this process."

"Much has been done to begin the process of building faith between the police department and the community it seeks to serve," Pugh said in a statement. "Any interruption in moving forward may have the effect or eroding the trust that we are working hard to establish."

The government's request for a 90-day continuance came three days before a scheduled hearing before a federal judge, and just hours after Sessions announced he had ordered a sweeping review of the Justice Department's interactions with local law enforcement, including existing or proposed consent decrees.

It provided an early glimpse of the attorney general's stance on police department oversight and his ambivalence about mandating widespread change of local law enforcement agencies.

Sessions, an Alabama Republican who cultivated a tough-on-crime reputation during 20 years in the Senate, has repeatedly expressed concern that lengthy investigations of a police department can malign an entire agency. That view reflects a dramatic break from President Barack Obama's administration, which saw such probes as essential in holding local law enforcement accountable for unconstitutional practices.

Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division under Obama, said the request "is alarming and signals a retreat from the Justice Department's commitment to civil rights and public safety in Baltimore," especially because the agreement sought the input of community members, police union officials and department heads to "address serious constitutional violations that had undermined trust and public safety in the city."

The federal government cited several reasons for the requested delay, including new Justice Department policies that federal officials say are aimed at reducing crime.

If granted, the request would effectively stall a process that could lead to a sweeping overhaul in the policies and practices of the Baltimore police force. The two sides reached agreement on a consent decree earlier this year before Attorney General Loretta Lynch left the Justice Department.

The department said it was aware of the need for police reform in Baltimore but added that the city "has made progress toward reform on its own and, as a consequence, it may be possible to take these changes into account where appropriate to ensure future compliance while protecting public safety."

In addition to Baltimore, the review also renewed questions about the fate of negotiations with Chicago's police department after a report released in the final days of Lynch's tenure found officers there had violated the constitutional rights of residents for years.

Sessions has not committed to such an agreement and has repeatedly said he believes broad investigations of police departments risk unfairly smearing entire agencies and harming officer morale. He has also suggested that officers' reluctance to aggressively police has contributed to a spike in violence in some cities.

The proposed consent decree in Baltimore comes after the Justice Department released a scathing report detailing longstanding patterns racial profiling and excessive force within the city's police force. The review was prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken in the back of a transport wagon, and whose death roiled the city.

Activist Ray Kelly said the requested delay undermined hard-fought efforts to heal the fractured relationship.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, initially voiced concern after the Justice Department asked for a delay of court proceedings earlier this year. On Monday, she called the Justice Department's request "deeply concerning."

"The residents of Baltimore have waited a long time for relief, and the Justice Department provided a roadmap, setting forth in great detail the systemic problems that riddle the police department," she said. "That the Justice Department will turn its back on issues so dark and severe is deeply disturbing."


Categories: Latest News

Deputy helps rescue couple from burning car

PoliceOne - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 02:00

By Elliott Jones Treasure Coast Newspapers

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A car that crashed along Kanner Highway early Saturday evening burst into flames and exploded, just after a deputy and off-duty firefighter got the injured driver and passenger out of vehicle, according to reports.

The vehicle went off the highway and hit a pole in some woods about 5:19 p.m. Saturday in the 6800 block of South Kanner Highway, near Southeast Salerno Road, said Martin County Fire Rescue spokesman Doug Killane.

The crash was because of a medical episode, he said.

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MARTIN COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTY, OFF-DUTY FIREFIGHTER RESCUE COUPLE FROM BURNING VEHICLE A Martin County Sheriff’s...

Posted by Martin County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sheriff's Deputy David Yun intervened when he saw people running toward the accident. By then smoke and flames were coming from the vehicle's front end and an off-duty Miramar firefighter was getting the driver, a woman, out of the vehicle. Within seconds, smoke and flames appeared inside the vehicle, making it difficult to see inside, according to a Martin County Sheriff's report.

Yun ran to the other side of the vehicle and pulled out the passenger, a man. Then the whole vehicle went up in flames. Martin County Fire Rescue put out the fire that included grass near the vehicle.

An off-duty nurse assisted the victims until paramedics arrived.

Names of the man and the woman, the Miramar firefighter and the nurse were not immediately available.

———

©2017 the Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, Fla.)


Categories: Latest News

No More Ransom adds 15 new decryption tools as record number of partners join global initiative

EUROPOL - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 00:50
Nine months after the launch of the No More Ransom (NMR) project, an ever-growing number of law enforcement and private partners have joined the initiative, allowing more victims of ransomware to get their files back without paying the criminals.
Categories: Latest News

Europol and Georgia sign agreement to tackle cross-border crime and terrorism

EUROPOL - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 00:30
Today, Georgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Mghebrishvili, and Europol's Director, Rob Wainwright, signed an Agreement on Operational and Strategic Cooperation to expand cooperation to combat serious and organised cross-border criminal activities. As a response to urgent problems arising from international organised crime and terrorism, the agreement allows for the exchange of information, including personal data of suspected criminals, and the joint planning of operational activities.
Categories: Latest News

Police officers face cumulative PTSD

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 11:16

By Michelle Beshears, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University

Even with all we know about its effects and ways to treat it, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among police officers and continues to take its toll on their lives and those of their families.

Most of what people think of as PTSD relates to trauma suffered by soldiers and those in the military. However, police officers’ PTSD is different. Soldiers often get PTSD from a single or brief exposure to stress. However, for police officers PTSD tends to manifest over time, resulting from multiple stress-related experiences. This is better known as cumulative PTSD.

Understanding Cumulative PTSD

Cumulative PTSD can be even more dangerous than PTSD caused from a single traumatic event, largely because cumulative PTSD is more likely to go unnoticed and untreated. When a catastrophic event occurs, such as an officer-involved shooting, most departments have policies and professionals to help an officer address and deal with the aftermath of an event.

However, the build-up of events that arise throughout an officer’s career generally do not warrant such specialized attention. As a result, an officer with cumulative PTSD is less likely to receive treatment. Unlike a physical injury, a mental traumatic injury can happen almost daily. When the demon of PTSD surfaces it often goes ignored. If untreated, officers can become a risk to themselves and others.

Causes of PTSD

Numerous events can cause PTSD in police officers, such as hostage situations, dangerous drug busts, responding to fatal accidents, and working other cases that include serious injury or death. But there are many less traumatic situations that can still be extremely stressful for an officer. Other stressful situations include, but are not limited to: long hours; handling people’s attitudes; waiting for the next call and not knowing what the situation will be; and even politics within the department. Then, on top of it all, officers are frequently criticized, scrutinized, and investigated for decisions they make.

Signs of PTSD

If recognized early and treated properly, officers and their families can overcome the debilitating effects of cumulative PTSD. The key to early intervention and treatment is recognizing the signs of PTSD and seeking help sooner rather than later.

Some of the physical signs officers should look for in themselves include:

Fatigue Vomiting or nausea Chest pain Twitches Thirst Insomnia or nightmares Breathing difficulty Grinding of teeth Profuse sweating Pounding heart Diarrhea or intestinal upsets Headaches

Behavioral signs family members of officers and officers should look for in themselves and in others include:

Withdrawal from family and friends Pacing and restlessness Emotional outbursts Anti-social acts Suspicion and paranoia Increased alcohol consumption and other substance abuse

Emotional signs include:

Anxiety or panic Guilt Fear Denial Irritability Depression Intense anger Agitation Apprehension

The situational training new recruits receive is simply not enough to prepare them for the reality of the experiences they will face throughout their careers. Most young officers do not understand the stressful events they are likely to experience during their years on the job. Many officers are also not adequately equipped with the emotional tools necessary to deal with the emotions they will feel when things happen.

However, awareness continues to grow about the stress and trauma that officers’ experience. Organizations like the Station House Retreat offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment trauma therapy and peer-support services for police officers as well as all first responders. They also offer addiction treatment for first responders, and support for their family members.

About the Author: Michelle L. Beshears earned her baccalaureate degrees in social psychology and criminal justice and graduate degrees in human resource development and criminology from Indiana State University. She most recently completed her Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in Criminal Justice. Michelle served in the U.S. Army for 11 years. She obtained the rank of Staff Sergeant prior to attending Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia where she earned her commission. As a commissioned officer she led numerous criminal investigations and worked with several external agencies as well. As a civilian, she has worked with the local sheriff’s department, state drug task force and FBI. Michelle is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University and is full-time faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies. You can contact her at Michelle.Beshears@mycampus.apus.edu.


Categories: Latest News

Dallas mayor on saving police pensions: 'This is a poison pill'

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 10:56

By Tristan Hallman The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Mayor Mike Rawlings said Sunday that he won't support legislation meant to save the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

Rawlings plans to testify about his opposition to the long-in-the-works bill on Monday in Austin during a House Pensions committee hearing. The mayor told committee Chairman Dan Flynn, R-Van, on Sunday that a key provision — which binds the city to minimum payments into the pension system — is unpalatable.

"This is a poison pill that, as inserted, would damage the city of Dallas and its services for decades to come," Rawlings said in an interview.

Rawlings' stance frustrated Flynn and escalates what had been a tense, high-stakes political standoff between Dallas police and firefighters, retirees, the pension system and City Hall. A combination of unsustainable benefits and overvalued and underperforming investments have left the first responders' pension system on track to become insolvent within 10 years if the Legislature doesn't change the laws that govern the retirement fund.

Flynn and his staff had played broker in the dispute for months. And all sides had believed the state representative would eventually come up with a deal they could tolerate.

But Flynn talked tough about the mayor on Sunday. Through a spokesman, Flynn said in a statement that he is "deeply disappointed" and hopes "the mayor thinks better of" his opposition. Flynn added that "10,000 police and fire retirees and active members and their extended families will be damaged" by Rawlings' position.

Rawlings said he was equally "disappointed and disheartened" that the provision, which Flynn had in the bill when he filed it last month, remained in the bill on Friday when the chairman released a replacement version.

Currently, state law requires that the city pay 27.5 percent on all payroll, which includes overtime. Last year, that amount soared to about $124 million.

The bill, as currently constructed, sets a minimum amount for taxpayers to pay into the pension system. The city would have to pay into the fund the greater amount of two options: a 34.5 percent contribution rate on the police-and-fire payroll, excluding overtime, or a scheduled amount that starts at more than $134 million and grows over time. In both scenarios, the city would also chip in an additional $11 million a year on top of that amount.

Theoretically, both amounts are roughly the same in the first few years. And the bill operates under the assumption that the city's contribution will grow in subsequent years anyway because of annual salary increases for police and firefighters.

But city leaders don't like that taxpayers will have to pony up an escalating amount of cash every year no matter how many officers and firefighters the city employs or what it pays them.

"Basically, it amounts to nothing more than a taxpayer bailout," Rawlings said.

The provision also makes it more difficult for the city to start a new retirement system in the future if the current one continues to fail.

Pension officials had wanted minimum amounts of taxpayer money included in the bill because they feared city leaders wanted to start a new retirement system and were trying to pull a fast one by removing overtime payments from the equation to save money and starve the pension fund.

But pension officials had also said last month that they couldn't support the legislation in its current form because of other sections in the 177-page bill. They took issue with a portion of the bill that would direct the board to pursue future benefit reductions for retirees who pocketed the most money from the system.

Kelly Gottschalk, the pension system's executive director, said Sunday through a spokesman that she tentatively plans testify in favor of Flynn's bill. Pension officials won one major change they wanted into the new version of the bill: a 50/50 board that splits control between the city and police and firefighters.

Flynn's original bill gave the city more control over the board. Rawlings still wants the city and professional money managers and investors to have more power because the fund ran amok — albeit with little-to-no city resistance until recent years — under the control of mostly active and retired police and firefighters.

Police and fire associations also plan to support the bill but will express their reservations Monday. They won't put up too much of a fight against a crux of the bill, which is that active police and firefighters will have to pay more of their money into the system and accept reduced benefits.

Dallas Police Association Vice President Frederick Frazier was "beyond disappointed" that the mayor won't join them in their support.

"This is typical from old city of Dallas leadership," Frazier said. "Why they continue down paths to tarnish the first responders and their families is unbelievable."

Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade said Rawlings' stance is "just another example of our willingness to be part of the solution and the mayor's unwillingness to be part of any solution."

McDade doesn't believe Rawlings actually wants to save the pension system. But Rawlings said that's not true.

"If I wanted that to take place, the city would not have spent the weeks and months and hours and weekends to try to save this," Rawlings said. "There are a lot of easier ways to deal with this."

Rawlings said he still wants to work with Flynn. But the mayor may not have much luck with amending the House version to his liking now that he has irked Flynn. State Rep. Jason Villalba also said the mayor is using bullying tactics and that his colleagues would perceive his position as "acting in bad faith." But the mayor could also push for changes and find a more receptive audience in the Senate.

Rawlings knows his stance will aggravate police and firefighters who have already made him their public enemy No. 1 during an emotional battle over their pension system's future.

"This is painful for police and fire. There is no question," Rawlings said. "It will continue to be painful for some time. But it would be more damaging to those police and firefighters in the long run in the city of Dallas if the city agreed to something that was not sustainable."

———

©2017 The Dallas Morning News


Categories: Latest News

Fla. first responders build wheelchair ramp for injured, retired officer

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 10:44

By PoliceOne Staff

NAVARRE, Fla. — Twenty years ago, Pat Cocciolone and her partner Officer John Sowa were shot six times each while responding to a domestic disturbance in Atlanta. Sowa died at the scene and Cocciolone’s injuries pushed her into retirement and a wheelchair.

“I was lying there waiting for help before they showed up and I would call out to the officer. I say, ‘John. John,’ and he never called back,” Cocciolone told WEAR TV.

The man responsible, Gregory Lawler, was put to death in October of 2016.

Determined to move onto the next chapter in her life, Cocciolone and her wife Connie bought a home in the Florida area, where they will spend their time when they’re not in Atlanta. But the house is missing a necessity: a ramp.

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BLUE BROTHERHOOD: Meet Patricia 'Pat' Cocciolone. She was an officer for City of Atlanta Police Department and shot in...

Posted by Jackalyn Kovac - TV on Saturday, April 1, 2017

Cocciolone reached out to Chris Rubino, who she credits with saving her life, to help her build a ramp to get into her home, the news station reported.

“I was actually a carpenter while I was a first responder, but her call and several others took their toll on me and I decided I needed to get out of the business,” Rubino said.

Rubino said he and his wife reached out to Santa Rosa County Sheriff Deputy A.J. Calabro for help with cement work. Word spread to local departments and they received a bigger response than they expected.

“I had 20 people right off the bat just saying, ‘When? Where? What do we need to bring? Tools? Do you need money? What?’” Calabro said. “And it's just guys I knew through Facebook. Guys from the fire department, EMS [and] different sheriff office agencies.”

The ramp and the supplies were completely covered. Even her lawn care was taken care of by a local business, WEAR reported.

"Sometimes I can't say the words I really want to say, I wish I could tell you exactly how I feel. I feel like we have found the place, this is the heart. This is our new wonderful life; it will be here in Navarre,” Cocciolone said.

#NWFL local first responders come together to help build a ramp for a wheelchair bound officer. The story at 6 and 10p on @weartv #C3N pic.twitter.com/qYyCTxX4fU

— Hudson MIller (@Hudson_Miller15) April 1, 2017


Categories: Latest News

Tulsa cop: Race didn't factor into fatal shooting of man

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 09:37

By Justin Juozapavicius Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. — A white Oklahoma police officer charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed black man last year says the man's race had nothing to do with her decision to fire her gun.

Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby told CBS's "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday that she used lethal force because she feared 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was reaching inside his SUV for a gun.

"I'm feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, 'Don't do this. Please don't do this. Don't make this happen,'" Shelby told correspondent Bill Whitaker in her first interview since the Sept. 16 shooting.

Shelby said she remembers the moment Crutcher appeared to reach inside.

"And it's fast. Just that would tell any officer that that man's going for a weapon," she said. "I say with a louder, more intense voice, 'Stop. Stop! Stop!' And he didn't. And that's when I took aim."

Shelby said she also remembers pulling the trigger.

"It's like slow motion of me bringing my gun up, my finger coming in and then letting off. And he stopped and then he just slowly fell to the ground," she said.

Shelby has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter and goes to trial May 8. Prosecutors contend that Shelby overreacted because Crutcher wasn't armed or combative when she approached him on a north Tulsa street after his SUV broke down and that he obeyed orders to raise his hands.

After the shooting, investigators determined that Crutcher didn't have a weapon on him or in his SUV. The shooting was caught on video from a police helicopter and a dashboard camera. Footage showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air, but the images don't provide a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot.

Shelby believes she was swiftly charged because authorities feared civil unrest if they delayed taking action. Residents in other cities took to the streets in protest last year in response to a series of deaths of black residents during encounters with police.

Shelby said she has had difficulty coming to terms with killing someone.

"I have sorrow that this happened, that this man lost his life, but he caused the situation to occur. So in the end, he caused his own (death)," she said.

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60 Minutes producers sift through more evidence in the Terence Crutcher shooting. http://cbsn.ws/2o2FMJz

Posted by 60 Minutes on Monday, April 3, 2017

Terence Crutcher's twin sister told "60 Minutes" that her brother was obeying Shelby's commands.

"What we saw on that video is what my dad always taught my brothers, taught us to do if we were pulled over by a police officer," Tiffany Crutcher said. "Put your hands in the air and put your hands on the car. And my brother did what my father taught us," she said.

"My brother's dead because she didn't pause," according to Crutcher. "There was absolutely no justification whatsoever, with all the backup, for Officer Shelby to pull that trigger. No justification whatsoever."

Another officer had arrived at the scene prior to the shooting and a police helicopter was hovering overhead at the time.

Crutcher said she is pleased with the manslaughter charge filed against Shelby.

"I am. I don't believe she woke up that morning and said, "I'm going to go and kill Terence Crutcher." I believe that she choked and she pulled the trigger and she killed him."

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Police shooting in Tulsa: Was the man threatening or was he compliant? http://cbsn.ws/2o0E0sF

Posted by 60 Minutes on Sunday, April 2, 2017


Categories: Latest News

Texas deputy constable fatally shot; suspect at large

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 08:18

By PoliceOne Staff

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Police said a Harris County deputy constable was fatally shot outside a courthouse Monday morning and the suspect is still at large.

Deputy Constable Clint Greenwood was shot behind the courthouse and airlifted to a local hospital where he died from his injuries, the Houston Chronicle reported. He was a 30-year law enforcement veteran, according to ABC 13.

#BREAKING: 30-year veteran Assistant Chief Deputy Clint Greenwood has died after shooting in Baytown. Shooter on the loose. @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/TyUM9EKCe7

— KPRC Cathy Hernandez (@KPRC2Cathy) April 3, 2017

Authorities haven’t released a motive, but stated the shooting was intentional. Police said there is no reason to believe the shooter will target residents.

"Whether or not [the officer] was specifically targeted, or whether this was because of the uniform he was wearing or the place he pulled up to in the morning, we just don't know that right now," Lt. Steve Dorris told the Houston Chronicle.

Multiple helicopters including DPS & HPD out here looking for suspect. @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/ShTDQKa4pe

— Janelle Bludau (@janellebludau) April 3, 2017

A local school was put on lockdown due to high police activity in the area, but no students were injured.

"We ask the entire community to please stand by us," Sheriff Ed Gonzales said. "We're going to do everything we can to track down whoever was responsible for this."

#BREAKING: Sources say deputy constable shot at Baytown courthouse has died Watch live: https://t.co/3JH6Okmwqm #abc13 pic.twitter.com/ebAEadmrvu

— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) April 3, 2017

We @houstonpolice stand with the men & women of @HCConstablePct3. Our thoughts & prayers are with all of our friends, families & colleagues.

— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) April 3, 2017


Categories: Latest News

Drug dealer who fatally shot NYC officer gets life in prison

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 07:43

Associated Press

NEW YORK — A drug dealer who fatally shot a New York City police officer during a foot chase in 2015 has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Tyrone Howard appeared Monday in a Manhattan courtroom. The 32-year-old Howard was convicted last month on charges including murder, robbery and weapons possession in the death of 33-year-old Randolph Holder.

Holder and his partner approached Howard as he was on a stolen bicycle on an East Harlem street in October 2015. Authorities say Howard fled on foot, then pulled out a handgun and shot Holder in the head on a footbridge over the Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive.

Authorities say Howard had been involved in a gunfight with drug dealers just before he was confronted by the officers.


Categories: Latest News

Sheriffs say legal issues hinder ICE cooperation

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 06:48

By Joel Rubin and Paloma Esquivel Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Adam Christianson makes no bones about helping federal immigration agents nab people for deportation.

The three-term sheriff of Stanislaus County, east of the Bay Area, gives agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement unfettered access to his jails, where they interview inmates and scroll through computer databases. The information allows the agents to find and take custody of people they suspect of living in the country illegally before they are released from jail.

There is a line, however, Christianson won’t cross.

ICE officials routinely ask local jailers and state prison wardens to keep inmates behind bars for up to two days longer than they would otherwise be locked up. Christianson refuses to honor the requests — detainers in ICE parlance.

He is hardly alone. None of the sheriffs in California’s 58 counties are willing to hold inmates past their release dates for ICE, the Los Angeles Times has found.

The refusal to comply has drawn fire from the Trump administration, which sees detainers as a key component to carrying out its aggressive plan to find and remove millions of people living in the country illegally.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security started issuing a weekly report that aims to identify and publicly shame law enforcement agencies that released people from custody despite an ICE detainer request. And U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions went a step further last week, promising to withhold federal funding from law enforcement departments that don’t get in line with ICE.

But several sheriffs said their defiance is not rooted in ethical or political opposition but legal concerns. Federal court rulings, including one in Oregon where a judge found that police violated a woman’s constitutional rights by keeping her in jail at ICE’s request, have left California’s law enforcement officials worrying that they could expose themselves to legal troubles for doing the same.

“Sheriffs aren’t going to come close to a Fourth Amendment violation that is going to expose them to liability,” Christianson said.

The same is true throughout the U.S., where a majority of sheriff’s departments have stopped honoring ICE hold requests, according to the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The increasing friction over detainers is just one story line in a larger battle over the Trump administration’s deportation plans, which, on paper at least, dramatically expand the number and type of immigrants targeted for deportation.

For the most part, California’s sheriffs are law-and-order types who do not always agree with calls from some politicians to fully resist ICE or declare immigrant sanctuaries. But they also are flummoxed that the Trump administration is coming down so hard on them while not addressing their concerns about the legality of detainers.

“No one cooperates with ICE as much as we do,” said Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, who allows ICE agents to work inside his jails and shares inmate information with them.

Jones expressed confusion over why his department was included in ICE’s first “Declined Detainer Outcome Report” for allegedly releasing two inmates for whom ICE had issued detainers.

“I don’t even know what that means, since we don’t honor any detainers,” Jones said.

The state’s most serious criminals — such as murderers, rapists and violent gang members — serve their sentences in state prisons, which do hold inmates for immigration agents for up to 48 hours after their release, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. A department spokeswoman said prison officials believe the legal concerns over detainers are limited to local lockups.

The county jails, meanwhile, are largely filled with lower-level felony offenders, those convicted of misdemeanors and inmates awaiting trial, who either serve relatively short sentences or might be eligible for release on bail. In such cases, immigration agents might receive short notice of an impending release, if they receive any warning at all.

When people are arrested and booked into custody their fingerprints and other identifying information are typically transmitted electronically to federal databases. ICE checks the arrest data against internal databases of people believed to be in the country illegally.

ICE lacks the manpower to take custody the moment each inmate is released. Holding inmates for an additional two days gives agents the ability to schedule regular visits to jails in their territory to take custody of inmates to be released.

The large territory ICE agents cover in California exacerbates the challenges. The Los Angeles field office, for example, is responsible for an area that includes seven counties that span more than 35,000 square miles. David Marin, the head of the L.A. office’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, declined to say how many agents work in the area, but said agents frequently are forced to choose between going to one jail or another.

Passed in 2013, the state’s Trust Act limited cooperation with detainers, but still allowed law enforcement to honor the requests for a long list of cases.

Then, in 2014, the ruling by a federal magistrate judge in Oregon upended the use of detainers. The case involved a woman who sued Clackamas County after she was arrested on suspicion of violating a domestic violence restraining order and ICE issued a detainer while agents investigated whether she was in the country illegally. County jailers informed her she would not be released even though a court said she could be let out on bail.

The magistrate found the woman’s extended detention violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The detainers, the magistrate ruled, were mere requests, not mandatory orders.

Jones, the Sacramento sheriff, said sheriffs in California pleaded unsuccessfully with the Obama administration to challenge the ruling. Civil liberty groups sent letters to the state’s sheriffs threatening lawsuits if they continued to honor detainers, Jones said.

In the years since the Oregon ruling, ICE officials have continued to insist that detainers “serve as a legally authorized request, upon which a law enforcement agency may rely,” according to an ICE spokeswoman.

Such assurances have carried no weight among many sheriffs. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, as well as Jones, Christianson, several other sheriffs and ICE officials said they were unaware of any sheriff in California today who honors ICE’s detainers.

Jones and others said they have traveled to Washington, D.C., repeatedly to press federal officials on the legality of detainers. Those efforts have continued since Trump took office.

At a meeting with the president in February, senior officials from the National Sheriffs’ Association raised concerns about detainers, said Jonathan Thompson, the group’s executive director.

San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon did the same in February when he and other California sheriffs met with Sessions in Washington the day before he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general.

The association, Thompson said, has been clear that the more than 3,000 sheriffs around the country would, for the most part, eagerly comply with ICE’s detainers if they had the clear legal authority to do so.

“We want to make sure that sheriffs … aren’t being put in a position where they’re being asked to violate the Constitution,” he said.

Some sheriff’s officials said they want Sessions to give them legal cover by declaring the detainers constitutional. Others said they are looking to the attorney general to take the issue to court in search of an unambiguous legal determination.

In comments last week, Sessions indicated he believes detainers are legal and lashed out at local governments that have implemented “policies designed to frustrate the enforcement of our immigration laws.”

Another solution, many sheriffs said, would be to have a federal judge review each detainer request — although some acknowledged that was not realistic given the number of requests ICE issues.

In the meantime, many sheriffs have found ways to help ICE, while ignoring detainer requests. Several departments often notify immigration agents when a person flagged by ICE is set to be released from jail, but ICE isn’t always around when an inmate goes free.

Like Christianson in Stanislaus, Youngblood, who has been vocal in his opposition to sanctuary policies that aim to thwart deportation efforts, goes out of his way to assist immigration agents in Kern County. They have access to the department’s records, know when inmates are to be released, and take custody of people when that happens. He’s even given agents office space in the jails.

“I made the decision that it was probably economically not a good decision” to honor detainers, Youngblood said, referring to the potential for costly verdicts in lawsuits. The way he sees it, given everything the department does to make sure released inmates are available to ICE, “there is no purpose in them issuing detainers to us.”

Regardless, Kern County found itself listed last week on ICE’s report of agencies that restrict cooperation.

———

©2017 Los Angeles Times


Categories: Latest News

Blast on Russian subway kills 10, injures 50; 2nd bomb found

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 06:37

By Irina Titova and Nataliya Vasilyeva Associated Press ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A bomb blast tore through a subway train in Russia's second-largest city Monday, killing 10 people and injuring about 40 as President Vladimir Putin visited the city, authorities said. Hours later, police found an unexploded device in one of St. Petersburg's busiest subway stations, sending a wave of anguish and fear through Putin's hometown.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Monday, but Russian trains and planes have been targeted repeatedly by Islamic militants, mostly connected to the insurgency in Chechnya and other Caucasus republics. The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort, killing all 224 people on board.

The Dec. 25 crash of a Russian plane carrying Red Army Choir members near the southern city of Sochi is widely believed to have been due to a bomb, but no official cause has been stated for the crash that killed 92 people.

The blast Monday hit the St. Petersburg train it traveled between stations about 2:20 p.m. The driver chose to continue on to the next station, Technological Institute, a decision praised by Russia's Investigative Committee as aiding evacuation efforts and reducing the danger that passengers would die by trying to walk along the subway's electrified tracks.

After a few hours of differing casualty tolls, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said 10 people died from the blast. City health authorities said 43 others were hospitalized.

Witnesses said the blast spread panic among passengers, who ran toward the exits of the station, which is 40 meters (130 feet) underground.

"Everything was covered in smoke, there were a lot of firefighters," Maria Smirnova, a student on a train behind the one where a bomb went off, told the Dozhd television channel. "Firefighters shouted at us to run for the exit and everyone ran. Everyone was panicking."

"Everyone expected death": Eyewitnesses speak of the horror in St. Petersburg metro blast https://t.co/RcKoAz2cG0 https://t.co/kvTQp0CVXV

— CNN (@CNN) April 3, 2017

The entire St. Petersburg subway system, which serves some 2 million riders a day, was shut down and evacuated. Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee said security was immediately tightened at all of the country's key transportation sites, and Moscow officials said that included the subway in the Russian capital.

Putin, speaking Monday on television from Constantine Palace in the city, said investigators were looking into whether the explosion on the train was a terror attack or if it had some other cause. He offered his condolences to the families of those killed.

Within two hours of the blast, Russia authorities had found and deactivated another bomb at a separate busy St. Petersburg subway station, Vosstaniya Square, the anti-terror agency said. That station is a major transfer point for passengers on two lines and serves the railway station from which most trains to Moscow depart.

Russian law enforcement agencies confirmed the Vosstaniya Square device was rigged with shrapnel and the Interfax news agency said it contained up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of explosives.

Social media users posted photographs and video from the Technology Institute subway station showing injured people lying on the floor outside a train with a mangled door. Frantic commuters were reaching into doors and windows, trying to see if anyone was there, and shouting "Call an ambulance!"

Explosion on the St Petersburg Metro network - 10 people killed - 50 reported injured https://t.co/TN8abpAfmG #SaintPetersburg #StPetersburg pic.twitter.com/5xUyIF59nE

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) April 3, 2017

St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city with over 5 million residents, is the country's most popular tourist destination but was no immediate information on whether any foreigners were among the victims Monday.

Nataliya Maksimova, who was running late for a dentist appointment, entered the subway near the explosion site shortly after the blast.

"If I hadn't been running late, I could have been there," she told The Associated Press.

Putin was in St. Petersburg on Monday to meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and went ahead with the talks after appearing on Russian television to speak about the attack.

"Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are doing their best to establish the cause and give a full picture of what happened," Putin said.

Russian transport facilities have been the target of previous terror attacks.

Suicide bombings in the Moscow subway on March 29, 2010, killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 people. Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the attack by two female suicide bombers, warning Russian leaders that "the war is coming to their cities."

A Moscow-to-St. Petersburg train was also bombed on Nov. 27, 2009, in an attack that left 26 dead and some 100 injured. Umarov's group also said he ordered this attack.

Russian airports have also been hit by attacks. On Jan. 24, 2011, a suicide bomber blew himself up at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, killing 37 people and wounding 180. The same airport in August 2004 saw Islamic suicide bombers board two airplanes and bring them down, killing a total of 90 people.

JUST IN: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on St. Petersburg blast https://t.co/bKOYIcAKge https://t.co/gBjSifUyeQ

— CNN (@CNN) April 3, 2017


Categories: Latest News

Kan. boy who patrols neighborhood gets K-9 partner

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 02:00

By Lisa Gutierrez The Kansas City Star

LEAWOOD, Kan. — People around the world are falling in love with 5-year-old Oliver Davis all over again because the little boy who wants to be a policeman has a new partner.

Her name is Ruby, a soft-haired Wheaton terrier who recently joined the Davis household in Overland Park.

Oliver calls the 5-month-old puppy his “police dog.”

Oliver became a viral star last year when his mom, Brandi Davis, began chronicling her son’s visits to local nursing homes — dressed in full kid-police regalia — on Facebook. The Kansas City Star caught up with Oliver in November.

His popularity brought a call from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” right before Christmas. They interviewed Oliver via Skype.

“They said he did really well,” his mom said. “It was a really long time for him to sit, like an hour.”

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Over the holidays Oliver’s friends in the Leawood Police Department gave him police-themed gifts, including official stickers for his kiddie motorcycle “so he could be just like them,” Brandi Davis said.

Soon after, Oliver got to meet the mayor of Leawood when he was honored during a banquet. He rode his little motorcycle to the stage.

A few weeks ago, the family’s dog, a 15-year-old Yorkie named Lilly, died of kidney cancer. Because Oliver and his two older sisters had never had a puppy, their parents bought one.

Within the first week of Ruby’s arrival, Oliver announced: “This is my police dog.”

So his mom hit the internet again to search for a police costume for Ruby, then signed her up for obedience classes.

Oliver thinks of it as a police academy. “He thinks she’s his little partner,” Davis said.

Together they “police” the neighborhood, Ruby patiently riding behind Oliver on his motorcycle.

“She is very crazy and so is he,” Davis says with a laugh. “That’s why I think they get along. She is constantly going, so he walks her. We take constant walks to wear her out.”

Last month Davis posted a video of the new partnership on her Facebook page that caught national attention once again.

Inside Edition featured the budding partnership. Recently, The Dodo, a website for stories and videos about animals, posted a video about Oliver and Ruby. Media inquiries from around the world began flooding Davis’ email box.

“Someone wrote to me, ‘Oh he’s all over England. I love it,’” she said.

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Never once has Oliver faltered in his admiration for police.

As evidence, take what happened two weeks ago.

Davis saw a small fire burning in a neighbor’s backyard and called 911.

After firefighters put out the fire they gave Oliver — on the scene in his ever-present blue police uniform — a ride in the firetruck and let him help roll up the hoses.

Did we change your mind, they asked him? Do you want to be a fireman?

“No,” said Oliver. “I still think policemen are cooler.”

———

©2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)


Categories: Latest News

Lawmakers push bill to keep many 911 calls secret in Iowa

PoliceOne - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 02:00

By Ryan J. Foley and Barbara Rodriguez Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — A bill moving swiftly through the Iowa Legislature would eliminate the public's right to access 911 calls involving emergencies in which people are injured, sealing off key information about authorities' first response to shootings and other incidents.

The bill would declare that audio, video and transcripts of 911 calls involving injured victims of crimes or accidents are confidential medical records and exempt from the Iowa open records law. In addition, any calls involving juveniles under the age of 18 would automatically be confidential.

The House passed the measure unanimously this month, and a Senate committee passed it Thursday with some Democratic opposition. A final vote could happen as early as next week.

Rep. Dean Fisher, a Montour Republican, said it was crafted in response to last year's release to The Associated Press of 911 calls that helped expose an unusual string of gun mishaps in Tama County. Two teenage girls were unintentionally shot and killed and a third teen and her mother were injured in a one-year span in the county of only 20,000 residents.

The calls revealed that one father had accidentally shot and killed his daughter — a fact that the police had never made public. The audio of another call showed that a fast emergency response by authorities helped save the life of an injured 14-year-old girl who was accidentally shot by her brother.

County officials said they were at a loss on how to improve gun safety after what they called an unprecedented string of tragedies, which didn't result in criminal charges against anyone. Instead, at least one county official pushed to limit information about such cases going forward statewide.

Emergency management coordinator Mindy Benson, who had released the calls in response to the AP's open records request, complained to Fisher that she felt the release invaded the privacy of the families and sought a change in the law, Fisher said on the House floor.

"These grieving families simply wanted their privacy," he said.

Two of the three families affected, however, had agreed to speak to AP in the hopes of raising awareness about gun safety.

Randy Evans, director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said the Tama County cases are "spot-on" to show why such information is in the public interest. He said he can understand why lawmakers are concerned about medical privacy but it appears they haven't considered the "unintended consequences" of closing off access to 911 recordings involving injuries.

"This bill would hamper the public's efforts to hold government officials or private citizens accountable for their actions," he said.

Fisher said Thursday that privacy should outweigh the public's right to know and that 911 calls should be treated with the same confidentiality as patients' medical records. He noted that doctors can't publicly discuss medical conditions, asking: "Just because it's a 911 call, why is that different?"

Fisher noted that public records custodians could choose which, if any, of the calls to release at their discretion under the open records law — a power they rarely use. The bill also would allow parents to obtain 911 calls involving their children.

Although members of both parties praised the bill's confidentiality provisions regarding minors, the measure also would block the public's ability to assess how law enforcement officials respond to emergencies involving children.

Fayette County recently released 911 calls related to the death of a 4-year-old boy who shot himself last summer in Elgin. The calls revealed that it took many minutes for an ambulance to arrive — a delay that Sheriff Marty Fisher acknowledged was caused by the closure of a key road that added five miles to its route.

Margaret Johnson, interim executive director of the Iowa Public Information Board, which is responsible for interpreting the open records law, said the board hasn't taken a position. She said her biggest concern is ensuring that any new exemption is "real clear" so it can be easily carried out.


Categories: Latest News

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