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How police can justify a drone acquisition to the public

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 15:19

Author: Tim Dees

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are cheap enough that almost any law enforcement agency can afford one. Gaining the community’s approval for the purchase is a little harder.

Drones, or UAS (the current in-vogue terminology) are ubiquitous. Their size varies between a large insect and a medium military airplane, although most of the models used in public safety will be man-portable inside a Pelican™ case.

They usually run on rechargeable batteries, with an endurance of less than 30 minutes. Pilots are trained and licensed in a few weeks, for a few thousand dollars.

Peter DeLisa is a former law enforcement officer who operates an aviation business, including training UAS pilots and preparing them for certification.

“I saw drone training as a natural merging of my expertise,” said DeLisa, who cited instances where UAS have been helpful in locating lost children and seniors who had wandered from their homes.

Another business useful to public safety operations is CRG Plans, operated by a retired New Jersey State Police officer. The company develops layered photographic maps that show interior floor plans (among other things) superimposed onto aerial photographs. “The maps are then overlaid with a grid, so that officers can be directed to grid coordinates, rather than to something like ‘Loading Dock 2,’ when they are unfamiliar with the layout of the building,” DeLisa said.

The literary reference may be dated now, but some critics of public safety UAS cite a fear of “1984” style surveillance by police. In Orwell’s dystopian novel (written in 1948), the Thought Police used helicopters to spy into citizens’ windows, looking for seditious behavior. An aircraft with only a few minutes of available loiter time isn’t going to be especially useful for this, even if the police were inclined to do it. People should probably be more concerned about the data their smartphones and fitness bracelets are collecting about them.

Educating the public about how drones can assist police operations

While UAS in law enforcement applications are often compared to helicopters, there is a world of difference between the two. A helicopter is a multi-million-dollar purchase, costs hundreds of dollars an hour to operate, and requires at least one commercial pilot with years of expensive training. They have much more capability, as they can carry a lot more gear and travel hundreds of miles (beyond visual line of sight), where the payload on a UAS is typically limited to a few pounds and cannot be operated beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

While UAS aren’t meant to replace helicopters, these limitations don’t undercut the utility of a police UAS. There are many law enforcement situations where just being able to see the situation from a high vantage point is huge.

UAS have been used to help locate lost children and seniors who have wondered from their homes. Crime scenes and accident investigation sites are another area where UAS are useful. A UAS can map a crime scene much faster and probably more accurately than a human on the ground can. The UAS may reveal evidence that is invisible to those on the ground because of terrain features or other obstructions. The UAS may also be able to fly in weather conditions that would ground conventional aircraft.

In a Florida case, a fugitive tried to hide in a swamp. A thermal camera mounted on a UAS revealed the suspect’s hidden location, as well as that of some other swamp-dwellers. The cops were able to tell him over a PA system, “Come to us, or four alligators are coming to you.” The suspect took the first option.

During a protest in Richmond, Virginia, an overhead UAS was flown to prevent any conflict between pedestrians and vehicles, and assisted the police to successfully direct motor officers to stop traffic before it got intermeshed with the protesters.

After the Santa Rosa (CA) wildfire, a UAS recorded this spectacular 360° high-resolution photo of the damage.

Charles Werner of the National Council on Public Safety UAS recounted a deployment by a California sheriff’s office during the raid of a drug house: “Search warrants were issued and the UAS was flying overhead maintaining an overwatch when the deputies made entry, and could see all sides of the house. It saw and recorded people coming out of windows, drugs thrown into the bushes, and guns thrown onto the roof. The suspects were a block away and thought they were home free when units rolled up and arrested them.”

How to overcome public objections about police drones

Werner offered these tips to overcome public objections to the acquisition and deployment of a UAS:

    Know what you are getting into, as a UAS program requires governance, policies/procedures, defining missions, selection of UAS and payloads, training/proficiency, maintenance and thorough documentation. Engage your jurisdiction’s administration and elected officials. Be up front and open (transparent). Provide success stories from other localities (there are plenty). Plan to use the UAS for multiple public safety missions and with other public safety agencies. Where possible, create a multi-discipline public safety UAS team. Where possible, create a regional team of public safety from multiple jurisdictions. Develop a clear policy as to when UAS will be used for surveillance and evidentiary purposes. Provide the safeguards that will be in place to ensure personal privacy. Explain recording policy and length of maintaining those video recordings. Explain the extent to maintain training and safety protocols. Consider involving the local ACLU in review of department UAS policies. Ensure your pilots are certified and licensed under the appropriate FAA regulations.

Follow these guidelines, and your agency may have its own unmanned aircraft ready to help keep the community safe.


Categories: Latest News

5 steps toward achieving community support for police UAS programs

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 15:10

Author: Tim Dees

By Police Foundation

Technology is rapidly changing the face of policing today. One new technology is the unmanned aircraft system (UAS), a portable and easy-to-learn technology of increasing interest to law enforcement because of its potential to improve operational efficiency, as well as officer and community safety.

However, there is public concern about the potential for an invasion of privacy. While the UAS can provide immeasurable benefits, it also has the potential to drive a wedge between police and the community.

To avoid these risks, law enforcement agencies considering adopting a UAS should engage their communities in the decision to implement a program. Here are five steps police leaders should take as part of that process:

1. UNDERSTAND THE TECHNOLOGY AND CONCERNS ABOUT ITS USE

Law enforcement agencies considering deploying UAS must understand:

The technology; The benefits to public and officer safety; The legal limitations on its use; The regulatory environment in which it will operate; Privacy laws and expectations.

Some of the most important considerations are the needs, fears and concerns of the community regarding potential police surveillance of citizens.

2. EMBRACE COMMUNITY POLICING PHILOSOPHIES WHEN ADOPTING NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Community policing embodies trust and mutual respect between police and the communities they serve as critical to public safety. It promotes organizational strategies that support the systemic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime.

When considering implementation of new, potentially controversial technology, it is important for police departments to rely on these practices, and engage the community in the process of deciding whether to implement or not.

3. DEVELOP POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR YOUR UAS PROGRAM

As with implementation of any new technology, developing and vetting detailed UAS policies and procedures is critical.

Departmental UAS policy should:

Clearly define how personnel are permitted to use UAS technology; Allay public fears of loss of privacy; Assure legal and ethical use of the technology; Provide a vehicle for accountability.

Share the draft of the policies and procedures with the community and accept their input where appropriate.

4. ENGAGE THE COMMUNITY IN CONVERSATION

A community engagement plan should be one of the first and most important elements of UAS program development.

Create opportunities to gain input from the community and explain how you will protect privacy and maintain safety. Partnerships with the media are a beneficial strategy for raising public awareness of the UAS program. Unwavering transparency, collaboration, proactive continued engagement, outreach and trust are essential to community understanding, acceptance and support.

5. IMPLEMENT MEASURES FOR ENSURING ACCOUNTABILITY

Accountability will assure your community that your department will use UAS in accordance with properly developed policies and procedures and is essential to obtaining and maintaining community support. The community must have confidence that complaints, or audits that reveal possible violations are thoroughly investigated and misuse is addressed. Accountability must be ensured at all levels, including sworn and civilian employees, contractors, subcontractors, and volunteers.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON UAS IN LAW ENFORCMENT

The Police Foundation’s Community Policing & Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Guidelines to Enhance Community Trust guidebook, funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice.

Police Foundation’s sUAS and Public Safety infographic provides an overview of operational, training and legal and regulatory compliance considerations in visual format for law enforcement agencies interested in using sUAS for public safety.

Forthcoming Police Foundation resources include:

The National Public Safety sUAS Flight Operations & Incident Reporting System, funded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice

The Police Foundation Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Public Safety website, funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice.

About Police Foundation

The Police Foundation is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing policing through innovation and science. Established in 1970, the Foundation has conducted seminal research in police behavior, policy, and procedure, and works to transfer to local agencies the best new information about practices for dealing effectively with a range of important police operational and administrative concerns.


Categories: Latest News

Policing Matters Podcast: Tactical uses for drones

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 15:03

Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

Editor's note: Law enforcement agencies nationwide are adopting unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – also known as drones – for operations as diverse as search and rescue, traffic accident reconstruction and SWAT response. PoliceOne’s special coverage series – 2018 Guide to Drones in Law Enforcement – takes an in-depth look at considerations for police departments looking to implement a UAS program.

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Download this week's episode on iTunes, SoundCloud or via RSS feed

Until fairly recently, FAA regulations seemed somewhat unclear about exactly when and how law enforcement agencies can use UAVs. Now that there is a little deeper understanding of the legal parameters, police agencies are beginning to adopt the technology. The most obvious use for a UAV in law enforcement is for search and rescue operations. Drones can get under the canopy of thickly wooded areas and see what officers in a helicopter could not. Further, this technology can be helpful in standoff situations and other incidents where getting “eyes on” from a distance provides a tactical advantage for police. In this podcast segment, Jim and Doug discuss the ways in which police can use UAVs.


Categories: Latest News

SC K-9, off-duty cop killed in separate DUI crashes

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 13:57
Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

By PoliceOne Staff

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – A K-9 and an off-duty police officer were killed in separate DUI crashes Thursday.

According to The Island Packet, Officer Ryan MacCluen, 31, was killed when suspect Whitney Danielle Brooks, 29, turned in front of the officer’s motorcycle.

Around an hour earlier, an officer was injured and his K-9 Mojo killed when suspect Richard Shore, 37, collided with their police vehicle.

Ryan MacCluen’s mother remembers her son as great kid. He was 31 yrs old. Loved sports. Spent 2 yrs at The Citadel. His funeral will be at Bethany United Methodist Church on Tuesday. @ABCNews4 #chsnews #sctweets pic.twitter.com/N3naXb5p5M

— Bill Burr (@BBonTV) February 16, 2018

North Charleston PD Chief Reggie Burgess described MacCluen as “a friendly person that always had a smile on his face” who “loved being a police officer.”

Mojo served with the department for five years. His handler, Officer Brandon VanAusdal, is currently being treated at a hospital.

Both Brooks and Shore have been charged with felony DUI.

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Our hearts are heavy this morning as we mourn the loss of our family members, Officer Ryan MacCluen and K9 MOJO. Both...

Posted by North Charleston Police Department on Friday, February 16, 2018


Categories: Latest News

Inmates who clapped for cop death suspect may face reprisals

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 13:21
Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

By Don Babwin Associated Press

CHICAGO — Five Cook County Jail inmates who applauded as the man charged with the fatal shooting of a Chicago police commander was led by their cell could face reprisals for their actions, a jail official said Friday.

Cara Smith, the chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, said a security video shows them clapping as suspect Shomari Legghette was being led past a crowded holding cell on Thursday after his first court appearance. The inmates were in the holding cell awaiting action on their cases. Legghette is charged with first-degree murder in Tuesday's shooting death of Commander Paul Bauer.

She said the five inmates were transferred overnight from Chicago to a jail in southern Illinois, where it will be more difficult for family and friends to visit them while they are in custody.

The jail also is forwarding to prosecutors the video and reports of the incident Thursday afternoon so they can use the information if the inmates are convicted, she said.

"The conduct that those detainees engaged in was disgraceful... and speaks to their character," Smith said. "We feel it should be considered by prosecutors in connection with their sentencing."

The video could be a "factor of aggravation" considered by a judge in sentencing.

But Steve Greenberg, a prominent Chicago defense attorney, said there is no way the inmates should be penalized for what he said is a clear exercise of their right to free speech.

"These inmates ... no matter how vile or disgusting you may think their expression is, they have an absolute fight under the First Amendment to express those feelings and it is a violation of their rights as citizens to penalize them or consider that as aggravation," said Greenberg, who is not representing any of the men.

The video was taken moments after the 44-year-old Legghette appeared in court on charges of first-degree murder of a peace officer, armed violence, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and possession of a controlled substance.

Police say they wanted to question Legghette Tuesday when he took off running and Bauer pursued him on foot. He caught Legghette near the James R. Thompson Center, a government building, where the two struggled and Legghette fell down the stairs. Bauer either fell or ran after him to a landing where, Legghette, wearing a bullet proof vest and armed with a semi-automatic handgun, allegedly shot the 53-year-old Bauer six times.

Bauer, a 31-year veteran of the police force, was pronounced dead a short time later.


Categories: Latest News

Texas DPS launches new drone program

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:53
Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

By Allie Morris San Antonio Express-News

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Public Safety is launching a new drone program, about eight years after scrapping its first effort due to challenges posed by federal restrictions and maintenance costs.

Over the past few months, the department has quietly spent about $70,000 to purchase 17 drones, known formally as unmanned aerial systems.

The most expensive, an Aeryon SkyRanger equipped with a high-tech camera, cost $48,000 and can fly for up to 50 minutes, department purchase records show.

DPS officials weren't available to discuss details Thursday, but DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the SkyRanger, equipped with specialized software and an extended battery life, mostly will be used by the highway patrol for crash scene reconstruction.

The other new drones will aid in search and rescue, disaster support, aerial observation and crime scene photography, among other uses, a news release about the program said.

"The (drone) is an excellent tool to deploy when DPS aircraft are unavailable; if a mission is too dangerous for manned aircraft to be deployed; or when deemed more cost effective than conventional aircraft," the release stated.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the drones will be used at the border.

So far, three agency officials have passed the 10-hour training needed to fly the drones, which only can be operated during daylight hours.

The department's 18-page policy guide says division directors will "establish protocols to prevent violations of policy, law, and public privacy," but those aren't detailed in the document.

The drones add to a growing fleet of DPS aircraft that already includes 15 helicopters and nine planes. The San Antonio Express-News reported last year that two high-altitude surveillance planes DPS bought recently for more than $15 million to help secure the Mexican border regularly circle over San Antonio. Details about their missions are scarce.

When asked recently why the department uses planes over drones, a spokesman said "their missions and capabilities are not comparable. There are also numerous limitations placed on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" by the Federal Aviation Administration.

But Vinger said Thursday, "the regulatory environment has greatly improved" since the FAA issued clarified rules in June 2016.

DPS initially deployed drones in 2008, one of the first state and local law enforcement agencies to use the devices. Within two years, however, the department gave up the program over concern with "complicated Federal Aviation Administration restrictions, battery life of the device, maintenance costs and deficient video quality," according to the agency.

The department began developing the latest drone operating procedures in June last year, records obtained by the Express-News showed. The finalized policy bars the drones from carrying weapons or tear gas and requires they fly at less than 400 feet in the air.

Several local police departments in Texas already use drones. The Lone Star State is home to at least 28 law enforcement agencies with drones, the highest number nationwide according to a 2017 report from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. Though drones must be registered with the FAA, none is listed yet for the Department of Public Safety.

The Legislature recently opted to impose costly penalties on people who fly drones above a large sporting event, a prison or a detention center. The shift comes amid growing concern that drones can be used to drop drugs, weapons or other contraband into correctional facilities.

©2018 San Antonio Express-News


Categories: Latest News

Ala. House approves church 'Stand your Ground' law

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:49
Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

By Kim Chandler Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A deadly school shooting in neighboring Florida colored debate Thursday in the Alabama Legislature over "Stand Your Ground" legislation regarding the use of deadly force to defend someone in a church.

The proposed revision of the state's self-defense law says a person is presumed justified in the use of force if they reasonably believe someone is about to seriously harm a church member. The Houses of Representatives approved the bill on a 40-16 vote. It now moves to the Alabama Senate.

Police say a 19-year-old former student opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, killing 17 people. It was the nation's deadliest school attack since a gunman targeted an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

Republicans argued the Florida shooting showed the need for self-defense laws, while Democrats argued they encourage more shootings and the bill was unneeded since the state already has a broad "Stand Your Ground" law that would cover church incidents. The bill had been introduced before Wednesday's shooting.

Rep. Lynn Greer, a Republican from Rogersville, cited deadly church shootings in South Carolina and Tennessee, saying church members need the legal protection to "shoot back" if someone comes into a church with a gun intending to harm people.

"You got nuts everywhere just like you had in the high school in Florida yesterday. Occasionally, they show up in a church," Greer said.

Rep. Chris England, a former prosecutor, said the bill would have no effect, since Alabama already has a self-defense law that would cover incidents in churches.

"It's pandering. It doesn't accomplish anything," said England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa.

Some Democrats launched a nearly three-hour filibuster against the bill, saying it would encourage violence. Rep. Laura Hall, a Democrat from Huntsville, said such laws send a message of "shoot first and ask questions later."

Greer said large churches can afford to hire professional security teams and off-duty police officers, while small churches, such as in his hometown of 13,000 people, can't afford to do so.

England said he found it "amazing, interesting that on the day after a school shooting where 17 people were murdered ... that in Alabama we are having a debate about trying to figure ways to introduce guns in churches."

Separate from the debate, state Rep. Will Ainsworth said he planned to introduce legislation to allow Alabama teachers, after undergoing training, to carry guns during school hours.

"Our children are sitting ducks in gun-free schools," He wrote on social media.

State Rep. Terri Collins, who led a school-security task force, expressed skepticism at the idea. "My child's a teacher. I wouldn't want her to have to make the decision to have to draw down on a student," Collins said.


Categories: Latest News

FBI received tip on Fla. suspect but did not investigate

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:53

Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

By Kelli Kennedy, Curt Anderson and Tamara Lush Associated Press

PARKLAND, Fla. — The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a "desire to kill" and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate, the agency said Friday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for the FBI director to resign because of the agency's failure.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the shooting that killed 17 people Wednesday was a "tragic consequence" of the FBI's missteps and ordered a review of the Justice Department's processes. He said it's now clear that the nation's premier law enforcement agency missed warning signs.

In more evidence that there had been signs of trouble with suspect Nikolas Cruz, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday news conference that his office had received more than 20 calls about him in the past few years.

A person who was close to Cruz called the FBI's tip line on Jan. 5 and provided information about Cruz's weapons and his erratic behavior, including his disturbing social media posts. The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school.

In a statement, the agency acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI's Miami office and investigated, but it was not. The startling admission came as the agency was already facing criticism for its treatment of a tip about a YouTube comment posted last year. The comment posted by a "Nikolas Cruz" said, "Im going to be a professional school shooter."

The FBI investigated the remark but did not determine who made it.

The 19-year-old Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency was still reviewing its missteps on the January tip. He said he was "committed to getting to the bottom of what happened," as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.

"We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy," Wray said in the statement.

Scott on Friday sharply criticized the federal law enforcement agency, calling the FBI's failure to take action "unacceptable."

"Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn't going to cut it," the governor said. " ... The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need."

The FBI is already under intense scrutiny for its actions in the early stages of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans have seized on what they see as signs of anti-Trump bias.

The president has repeatedly slammed the nation's premier law enforcement agency and its leaders, writing on Twitter that its reputation was in "tatters."

Also Friday, mourners gathered for the first funeral for a shooting victim, packing the Star of David chapel to remember 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. From outside the chapel, other mourners strained to hear the voices chanting Jewish prayers and remembering the star soccer player as having "the strongest personality." She was also remembered as a creative writer with a memorable smile.

At the funeral for 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, her father's angered boiled over. With more than 1,000 mourners including Scott packed into Temple K'ol Tikvah, Andrew Pollack looked down at the plain pine coffin of his daughter and then told the crowd, "I am very angry and upset about what transpired."

A day earlier, details of Wednesday's attack emerged , showing how the assailant moved through the school in just minutes before escaping with the same students he had targeted.

Cruz jumped out of an Uber car and walked toward building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. He slipped into the building, entered a stairwell and extracted a rifle from his bag, authorities said. He shot into four rooms on the first floor — going back to spray bullets into two of the rooms a second time — then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.

He ran to the third floor, where according to a timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and quickly blended in with panicked, fleeing students.

Florida State Sen. Bill Galvano, who visited the third floor, said authorities told him it appeared that Cruz tried to fire point-blank out the third-floor windows at students as they were leaving the school, but the high-impact windows did not shatter. Police told Galvano that it was not that difficult to open the windows.

Israel clarified Friday that Cruz never had a gas mask or smoke grenades during the attack, but officers did find a balaclava. The sheriff said his office would be investigating every one of the previous calls about Cruz to see how they were handled.

Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students and serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships.


Categories: Latest News

Texas police mistakenly shoot man who took gun from suspect

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:29
Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

Associated Press

AMARILLO, Texas — A Texas Panhandle shelter worker who wrestled a gun away from a man holding hostages was then shot by a police officer who mistook him as the suspect.

Amarillo police say they received a report Wednesday of a man holding dozens hostage in the chapel of Faith City Mission, a shelter serving the indigent and others.

An officer confronted a man inside holding a gun and shot him. Police say the investigation revealed the man who was mistakenly shot had moments earlier fought with the gunman and took away his weapon.

Police say the worker remained hospitalized Thursday with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Authorities say 35-year-old Joshua Len Jones is being held at the Potter County jail on multiple counts of aggravated kidnapping.

Online jail records don't indicate an attorney who's representing him.


Categories: Latest News

Skier lost in NY doesn't know how he got to Calif.

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:07

Author: Jim Dudley and Doug Wyllie

Associated Press

WILMINGTON, N.Y. — Police on Wednesday were trying to piece together how a 49-year-old skier whose disappearance sparked a massive search on a snowy New York mountainside ended up six days later in California, confused and still in ski clothes.

Toronto firefighter Constantinos "Danny" Filippidis told investigators he doesn't know what happened after he was reported missing Wednesday, Feb. 7, from Whiteface Mountain during an annual ski trip with colleagues. The search ended Tuesday when Filippidis turned up in Sacramento, California, some 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) west of the Adirondacks.

"At this point, we want to assist Danny in getting back the last six days of his life," said New York State Police Maj. John Tibbitts.

Filippidis was heading back to the Lake Placid, New York, area on Wednesday. Tibbitts said the firefighter had agreed to be interviewed by state police but that he's not aware that Filippidis broke any laws.

Frank Ramagnano, president of the Toronto Professional Firefighters' Association, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday evening that Filippidis appeared to be "confused and was unable to give direct answers."

"He had phoned (his wife) and called her by a nickname. She quickly recognized the voice and that it was him," Ramagnano said. "Then they lost contact and he contacted her again and they kept him on the phone and asked him to call 911 to get him help as soon as possible."

Filippidis told deputies he remembered little, but thought he'd suffered a head injury, rode in a "big rig-style truck" and slept "a lot," Sgt. Shaun Hampton of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department told the Post-Standard of Syracuse.

Filippidis said he bought an iPhone to call his wife and told deputies that a truck dropped him off in downtown Sacramento, where he got a haircut, Hampton said.

Tibbitts said it was too early in the missing person investigation to comment on details provided from others. He also declined to estimate the cost of the six-day search, which involved a helicopter and up to 140 people a day, some combing the snow with hands.

Police distributed a picture of Filippidis taken in California on Tuesday, hoping people who recognize him can help solve the mystery.

"He wants to find out where he was as badly as we want to find out where he was," Tibbitts said.


Categories: Latest News

Fla. school shooting suspect charged with 17 murders

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 18:10

By Terry Spencer, Tamara Lush and Kelli Kennedy Associated Press

PARKLAND, Fla. — The teenager accused of using a semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 people at a Florida high school confessed to carrying out one of the nation's deadliest school shootings and carried extra ammunition in his backpack, according to a sheriff's department report released Thursday.

Nikolas Cruz told investigators that he shot students in the hallways and on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, the report from the Broward County Sheriff's Office said.

Cruz said he brought more loaded magazines to the school and kept them in the backpack until he got to campus.

As the gunman moved through the school, he fired into five classrooms — four on the first floor and one on the second floor, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The shooting lasted for three minutes. The assailant then went to the third floor and dropped his AR-15 rifle and the backpack and ran out of the building, attempting to blend in with fleeing students, Israel said.

After the rampage, the suspect headed to a Wal-Mart and bought a drink at a Subway restaurant before walking to a McDonald's. He was taken into custody about 40 minutes after leaving the McDonald's, the sheriff said.

A day after the attack, a fuller portrait emerged of the shooter, a loner who had worked at a dollar store, joined the school's ROTC program and posted photos of weapons on Instagram. At least one student said classmates joked that Cruz would "be the one to shoot up the school."

The 19-year-old orphan whose mother died last year was charged with murder Thursday in the assault that devastated this sleepy community on the edge of the Everglades. It was the nation's deadliest school attack since a gunman targeted an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

Meanwhile, students struggled to describe the violence that ripped through their classrooms just before the school day ended.

Catarina Linden, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she was in an advanced math class Wednesday when the gunfire began.

"He shot the girl next to me," she said, adding that when she finally was able to leave the classroom, the air was foggy with gun smoke. "I stepped on so many shell casings. There were bodies on the ground, and there was blood everywhere."

State Sen. Bill Galvano visited the high school Thursday and was allowed to go up to the third floor, where he was shown bullet holes that marked where Cruz had tried to shoot out the windows at point-blank range. But the high-impact glass did not shatter.

Authorities told Galvano that Cruz apparently wanted to shoot out the windows so he could fire on the students running away from the school. Police told Galvano that it was not that difficult to open the windows.

"Thank God he didn't," Galvano said.

Among the dead were a football coach who also worked as a security guard, a senior who planned to attend Lynn University and an athletic director who was active in his Roman Catholic church.

The last of the bodies were removed from the high school Thursday after authorities analyzed the crime scene. Thirteen wounded survivors were still hospitalized, including two in critical condition.

Authorities have not offered any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students and serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him.

Cruz was ordered held without bond at a brief court hearing. He wore an orange jumpsuit with his hands cuffed at his waist. His attorney had her arm around Cruz during the short appearance. Afterward, she called him a "broken human being."

He was being held under a suicide watch, Executive Chief Public Defender Gordon Weekes told reporters.

Wednesday's shooting was the 17th incident of gunfire at an American school this year. Of the 17 incidents, one involved a suicide, two involved active shooters who killed students, two involved people killed in arguments and three involved people who were shot but survived. Nine involved no injuries at all.

As the criminal case began to take shape, President Donald Trump, in an address to the nation, promised to "tackle the difficult issue of mental health," but avoided any mention of guns. Trump, who owns a private club in Palm Beach, about 40 miles from Parkland, said he planned to visit the grieving community.

He did not answer shouted questions about guns as he left the room.

Trump, who did not speak publicly immediately after the shooting, weighed in on Twitter early Thursday, calling the suspect "mentally disturbed" and stressing that it was important to "report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

In the case of Cruz, at least one person did report him.

FBI agent Rob Lasky said the FBI investigated a 2017 YouTube comment that said "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." But the agency could not identify the person who made the comment, which was from an account using the name Nikolas Cruz. It was left on a YouTube video of a vlogger and bail bondsman from Louisiana named Ben Bennight.

In a Buzzfeed article , Bennight said he called the FBI, and agents came out to talk with him. They called him again Wednesday.

Officials were also investigating whether authorities missed other warning signs about Cruz's potentially violent nature.

He had been expelled from the school for "disciplinary reasons," according to the sheriff, who said he did not know the specifics.

One student said Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend.

Math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat before Wednesday's attack. Gard believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz should not be allowed on campus with a backpack.

The leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said Cruz was a member of his group and had participated in exercises in Tallahassee. Jordan Jereb said he had only a brief interaction with Cruz a few years ago. The group wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state.

Neither the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee nor the Southern Poverty Law Center could confirm any link between Cruz and the militia.

Jereb appeared to back away from his claim later Thursday. Someone posting under his name on Gab, a social media site popular with far-right extremists, complained about getting criticized over a "prank," claimed there was a "misunderstanding" and said he received "a bunch of conflicting information."

Cruz's mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia Nov. 1, and his father died previously, according to the arrest affidavit.

Two federal law enforcement officials said the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223 was purchased legally last year at Sunrise Tactical Gear in Florida.


Categories: Latest News

Sprint's Connected Officer platform helps keep cops safe

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 14:03
Author: Ron LaPedis

I’ll bet you didn’t know that SPRINT used to be an acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications. The Southern Pacific maintained an extensive microwave communications system used for internal communications. Believing that the future meant selling services to other companies, they expanded this network by laying fiber optic cables along the same rights-of-way.

Fast forward to today and Sprint is the fourth largest mobile network operator in the United States – and is still innovating, by helping to save the lives of cops and other first responders.

At SHOT Show 2018, Sprint was showing off additional partners for its Connected Officer Platform, a suite of hardware, software and communications that separately or together have the back of every first responder. LAPD liked this platform so much that they deployed it to 7,000 officers.

Brian Mancuso, a Wyandotte County, Kansas, deputy and Sprint’s public sector strategic operations manager, guided me through some of these futuristic products.

What's Hot

New or updated products include:

Officer hit detection; Officer-down detection; Body-worn cameras with automatic activation and remote feed; Smartphone-based gunshot detection with body-worn camera activation; Smart holsters with body-worn camera activation; Personal micro drone with remote feed; Night vision with remote feed; Indoor and outdoor infrastructure-less microcells.

Most, if not all, of these technologies are radical ideas, and several of them can save lives. Let’s dive a little deeper into them.

Really Smart Phones

You already know that smartphones are always on, know where they are and whether they are moving or stationary, know what position they are in, are always listening and usually are with their owner. Sprint and its partners are using these capabilities to their advantage.

Much of the functionality in this article uses applications that need the sensors built into a Samsung Note 8 or Samsung S8 Active. iOS functionality will be coming in a few months.

Smart Bodycams with Remote Feed

The cellular-based body-worn cameras are tightly coupled to the smartphones listed in the previous section. Basic functionality includes automatic triggers based on pre-defined department policies, integration with Bluetooth sensors, and officer and remote-initiated live streaming that can be sent via the cellular or agency’s radio network.

The automatic triggers and buffered recording eliminate the chance that an officer will forget to initiate recording or will miss that important first action.

Once recorded, video evidence is annotated by the officer in the field and then automatically uploaded wirelessly to CJIS-compliant cloud storage. This means no more end-of-shift docking or video tagging, which sometimes is forgotten.

Officer Hit and Officer Down Detection

Sensor panels from Select Engineering Services slide in front of an officer’s ballistic panels and detect the type and anatomical location of the wound and transmit this information to the attached smartphone app.

The app knows the geographic location of the officer and whether he she is down or on the move. This information, along with the officer’s name and blood type, is sent to those who need to know in near real time – and can include EMS.

The officer’s cellular-based bodycam and radio microphone can be activated upon detection, and the buffered recording might catch an image of the shooter that can be used to send a BOLO.

The panels are free to any officer when their agency buys them a Sprint smartphone for use with the Connected Officer Platform.

Gunshot and Officer Down Detection

Unlike traditional gunshot detection systems which are mounted in fixed locations around a community, Body-worn gunshot detection software runs on select Sprint smartphones. It is not designed to locate where a shot came from, but rather lets officers and those who need to know if they are under fire.

When a shot is detected, the app will trigger the closest officer’s body cam and open their microphone. It also will trigger the bodycams of all officers in the same area. Again, the buffered recording might catch an image of the shooter.

This app knows not only if the officer possibly was injured, but also if they are back in the fight, hunched down, or lying down. If they are lying down, the app can tell if they are on their stomach, back, or side and communicate that information.

Smart Holsters

Sprint’s Partner EAA is introducing a line of smart holsters that automatically activate a bodycam when an officer’s firearm is drawn. Again, the buffered recording may catch the reason the officer felt the need to deploy lethal force and the video can be live-streamed to where it is needed.

In addition to detecting the draw of a firearm, the holster knows when it is not being worn by the officer and can send an alert if it is picked up (perhaps by a curious child) or stolen. The holsters support embedded modems, Bluetooth transmitters, or both, so that they can provide tracking information to help with recovery, even if they are on the move.

Night Vision

Using a FLIR One connected to one of Sprint’s supported smartphones, video can be fed back via the Sprint network to the IC or command staff. Using an appropriate mount, you can even send “first person shooter” video from your marksmen or snipers. Sprint was showing off its system mounted to a patrol rifle using the Inteliscope Pro+ mount. While Inteliscope seems to be temporarily out of business, some merchants may have the company’s mounts in stock.

Personal Micro Drone

While this just sounds geeky, the AEE Selfy drone snaps into a cellphone case and can provide a 4-minute vital overview of a situation. Like the bodycam, the Selfy can use the officer’s Sprint cellphone to stream video back to the IC or HQ to help with decision-making. And with a $129 price, it’s easily replaceable if it gets shot out of the air.

Infrastructure-Less Microcells

None of Sprint’s solutions above work without sufficient coverage and I’m sure all of us have driven through cellular black holes. To combat this, Sprint has created indoor and outdoor microcells (The Magic Box and Airpole), which can extend coverage over an area equal to about 6 football fields.

Unlike home microcells that need to connect to a wired Internet connection, these microcells use Sprint’s 2.5 gHz network to link the to the closest Sprint cellphone tower. Since Sprint has more 2.5 gHz spectrum than the other USA carriers combined, they should be able to support thousands of these devices to fill in their network.

How much are they? Sprint says they will provide enough Magic Boxes and Airpoles at no charge to blanket any municipality with a Sprint contract.

I was thinking of command staff carrying one of these in their cars to quickly create an incident-wide cell site, but Sprint says it can take hour or more after they are powered up before they are ready for use. But they could be perfect to beef up your network for pre-scheduled events.

Secure Your LE-Sensitive Data

Advanced hackers may be able to tap networks to listen to or view traffic. Sprint can help deter hacking by supplying Sprint Secure Net licenses from Columbia Tech at no charge to any municipality that purchases Sprint’s mobile infrastructure.

Summary

Sprint and its partners have committed a substantial amount of resources to the Connected Officer Platform. Many of the new products and services are game changers and can save lives.

Watch for more SHOT Show 2018 coverage on PoliceOne!


Categories: Latest News

Celebrating 50 Years of 9-1-1

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:51

Author: 9-1-1 Magazine Staff

By Randall Larson, Editor, 911 Magazine

This article is reprinted with permission from 911 Magazine.

The 50th anniversary of 9-1-1 takes place on February 16, 2018.

It was on that date that – 35 days after AT&T implemented the emergency call number – Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite picked up a telephone at 2 p.m. in the Haleyville, Alabama, police station, and dialed 9-1-1.

Moments later, Alabama Congressman Tom Bevill answered a phone elsewhere in the station – reportedly with a simple “Hello” – and the United States’ 9-1-1 system was officially inaugurated.

It wasn’t the world’s first universal emergency number – the United Kingdom had implemented a 9-9-9 numerical code as early as 1936, which is officially the world’s oldest emergency call number. That number is still in use in the UK and various other European, African and Asian countries.

The European Economic Community (created in 1957) established 1-1-2 as the emergency number code in 1991 for its members; in 1993 when the EEC incorporated and became the modern European Union (EU) they carried over 1-1-2 for most of its member nations. While 999 remains the official emergency number for the United Kingdom – Brexit notwithstanding – calls are also accepted on the EU’s 1-1-2 number (all 1-1-2 calls placed within the UK are answered by 999 operators).

In 1961, Australia introduced its emergency number, 0-0-0, for major population centers, extending its coverage to nationwide in the 1980s.

The city of Winnipeg, Canada, adopted the UK’s 9-9-9 emergency number in 1959, which lasted until 1968 when Canada joined the U.S. 9-1-1 system, unifying the concept and giving 9-1-1 international stature. Most recently, Mexico signed on to 9-1-1 in January 2017, replacing three individual numbers for police, fire and EMS that were awkward and largely untrusted.

The path to 9-1-1

Flash back to 1957. Aware of the overseas emergency numbers used in Europe, the National Association of Fire Chiefs in the U.S. first recommended the creation of a national emergency phone number in 1957.

Prior to that time, callers reporting a crime, fire, or medical emergency were forced to make a direct call to the local precinct, firehouse or hospital with the potential for telephone exchange failure, lack of prioritization of calls or fire companies being out on a call.

After debating the issue nationally for 10 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. (AT&T) met to find a solution.

They were likely prompted by President Johnson's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, which in 1967 recommended that a "single number should be established" nationwide for reporting emergency situations. The use of different telephone numbers for each type of emergency was determined to be contrary to the purpose of a single, universal number.

That solution was the selection of 9-1-1 as the number that all people living in America could use to summon help during emergencies effective in January 1968.

The number 9-1-1 was chosen primarily and necessarily because those three consecutive numbers were not in use within the U.S. phone systems as either a prefix or an area code. It may have been good planning or fortuitous coincidence that the latter two numbers, when dialing on the rotary phones of those ancient days, the “1” made it back to the start position in the fastest amount of time, allowing the number to be dialed speedily.

There was also some joking that AT&T or public safety services might need to make sure callers understood that the code was “nine-one-one” and not “nine-eleven,” although to date I don’t think there have been any reports of any caller anywhere successfully dialing an eleven key on their rotary phone. Today’s push-button, speed-dial smart phones makes that a moot point anyway.

A bid for Alabama

In 1968, AT&T, in accord with the FCC, originally planned to build its first 9-1-1 system in Huntington, Indiana. That decision irked Bob Gallagher, president of Alabama Telephone Co. (ATC), when he read about it in a Wall Street Journal article. Gallagher thought his small company should have an equal shot at launching the first 9-1-1 system.

“Bob was a little offended because the independent telephone companies had not been included in the FCC’s decision,” Haleyville’s mayor Ken Sunseri told the Alabama NewsCenter online newspaper in 2015.

Gallagher contacted Robert Fitzgerald, who was Inside State Plant Manager for ATC, and asked him to build the system. Fitzgerald identified Haleyville, in northwest Alabama, as the perfect site. There was some local debate over who should receive the calls, said Sunseri: “They discussed having the calls come into the hospital, the fire department or the police department. They decided the police department was the ideal place because it already had a dispatcher on-site.”

Fitzgerald then designed the circuitry and directed the effort to implement 9-1-1 in the town, building the system during off-hours. Fitzgerald completed the task within a week. And so it was that Haleyville, Alabama, took the spotlight from Huntsville, Indiana and has gone down in history as the “Home of 9-1-1.”

History Moves Forward

Sadly the original Haleyville City Hall, which included the police department and dispatch center, along with Fire Station #1, which was located behind it, were demolished in May 2015 to make room for a CVS store, promising new jobs and allowing for modern city facilities to be built elsewhere in the town, including a six-bay fire station, with five bays offering complete drive-through access.

Anything of any historical significance of sentiment was removed prior to the demolition. These things included the building’s cornerstone and the large sign on the front of the building commemorating Haleyville being the city where the first 9-1-1 call was placed.

Mayor Sunseri added that a special commemorative sign will be erected at the new CVS building when it is finished, recognizing the site as where the first 9-1-1 call was made. “This is progress,” the mayor remarked in a story that posted in the Northwest Alabamian newspaper on May 9, 2015. “This is change we hope will bring progress to the city. Everything has a life cycle, and it’s time for this to be changed.”

The new City Hall facility will contain the city clerk and mayor’s office, 9-1-1 dispatch, the police department, and conference and break rooms. Additional commemorative placards from the original building will be placed throughout City Hall in honor of Haleyville’s proud history with 9-1-1.

Progress Continues – One Call at a Time

By the end of the 20th century, according to NENA, nearly 93% of the population of the United States was covered by some type of 9-1-1 service.

The more rural, isolated areas of the country may only have Basic 9-1-1 – that means that when the three-digit number is dialed, a call taker/dispatcher/telecommunicator in the local public safety answering point (PSAP), or 9-1-1 center, answers the call. The emergency and its location are communicated by voice between the caller and the call taker.

In areas that have Basic 9-1-1, 95% of that service is Enhanced 9-1-1, wherein the local 9-1-1 center has equipment and database information that allow the call taker to see the caller's phone number and phone company billing address on a display. This lets them quickly dispatch emergency help, even if the caller is unable to communicate where they are or what the emergency is.

Currently, NENA reports approximately 96% of the geographic U.S. is covered by some type of 9-1-1 service.

The big issue these days has to do with Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911), which addresses the problem of locating wireless phones/cell phones/smart phones and text-to-911. And that issue may need just a little more help from our friends to resolve.


Categories: Latest News

Will you take the active shooter pledge?

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:45

Author: Lt. Dan Marcou

Another active shooter/killer strikes – this time in a Florida high school – leaving in his wake deaths, injuries, mourning and these inevitable questions:

    Why did he do it? What do we do to prepare/prevent these incidents?
This is what I have concluded

Having met active shooters professionally, I was drawn to research these events extensively and develop tactics for not only responding to, but also preventing these incidents.

I have concluded that family, teachers, peers, fellow employees, mental health professionals and good citizens can stop these active shooters by taking effective action, during the first four of the five phases these killers travel through. To review the Five Phases of the Active Shooter they are:

    The Fantasy Phase The Planning Phase The Preparation Phase The Approach Phase Implementation Phase.

If you don’t stop them in one of the first four phases then you are left with one option. To borrow an old cavalry term, you must as quickly as possible, during the Implementation Phase, “Ride to the sound of the guns!”

I am no PHD, but I have discovered the answer for why they kill can be found in one or more of the following categories:

    Drug/gang war Holy war What for? (The dangerously mentally ill.) What for! (They want to give fellow humans the proverbial “What for!” out of pure hate.) Top score. (They want to become famous by killing more than anyone else. They will not stop killing until they run out of ammunition or someone stops them. If they are killing with a knife or vehicle, they will not run out of ammunition. If they are wearing a bomb, they must be dissuaded or diffused. )
What You Have Probably Done To Prepare

Most of you have attended some sort of police training on active shooter/killer response. That training expanded your knowledge of these events and, in some cases, gave you practical options and allowed you to practice team tactics to move through a building passing roll players who were playing frightened, wounded and killed victims. You joined others in a one-trained formation or another in search of roll player(s) pretending to be the culprit. You practiced communication and conducted rescues.

These are excellent opportunities to train and prepare together. Agencies should continue these exercises, but after each training concludes, evaluate them and decide if you are even nearly duplicating the urgency an initial lone responding officer faces.

A Decision That Is Yours to Make

The fact is that if you are the only first responder at one of these events or even an off-duty/retired officer who happens to be present, you will realize it would be safer to have two, three, four, five or even six additional officers to assist you. However you also may be keenly made aware by the in-progress circumstance that every moment you wait for additional officers to arrive is a moment during which innocents are in fear of death, or actually being killed.

I can’t tell you what to do in that lonely moment, but I know what I will do. I have taken the pledge long ago that if I am ever once again in a position to do so I will move to stop the killing immediately. If you are a police officer (active, retired, or off-duty) consider taking this pledge. Remember, when your moment arrives, whether you are on-duty, off-duty or retired, it is your decision to make not mine:

The Active Shooter/Killer Pledge

I have personally decided that the threats faced by my generation of police officers require that I always be armed and personally committed to furiously train to protect those who can’t protect themselves in their moment of desperate need.

If I am ever faced with an in-progress active shooter/killer and I can make a difference, I will use my superior attitude, superior training, superior tactics and superior weapon (superior because it is in my trained hands) to become an army of one!

Out of my love for humanity I will enter that environment like a hate-seeking missile and use the chaos created by the killer(s) as a distractive device. I will move unheard and unseen by the killer(s) to a position of advantage. Once there – if left with no other options and presented with the opportunity to stop the killing – I will take the shot and make the shot. I am the protector of the flock; the honorable sheepdog.

Conclusion

Whether you take the pledge or not, prepare brothers and sisters, for your moment may be at hand.


Categories: Latest News

San Francisco faces claim after stolen police gun kills man

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:44
Author: Lt. Dan Marcou

By Paul Elias Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The family of a community volunteer killed by a gun stolen from a San Francisco officer filed a legal claim with the city Wednesday, alleging the police department failed to provide proper training on gun storage.

Abel Esquivel, 22, was killed during a robbery Aug. 15 as he walked to his mother's house after working a late shift at a grocery store. He volunteered at the Central American Resource Center, which provides legal help to low-income Latino clients and other social services.

Three men were arrested and charged with murder, including an 18-year-old facing deportation who was wearing a monitoring device so federal immigration authorities could track him.

The family's claim was filed at City Hall and seeks unspecified damages. It alleges that the off-duty officer's loaded gun was left unattended in a private car rather than stored in a lockbox in the trunk.

If the San Francisco Board of Supervisors rejects the claim, lawyers said they will file a wrongful-death lawsuit.

City attorney spokesman John Cote said San Francisco lawyers are reviewing the claim.

"What's clear is that Mr. Esquivel's death was a tragedy, and we are heartbroken for his family," Cote said. "But our office also has a legal responsibility to San Francisco's taxpayers. Based on what we know now, the city is not liable for his death under the law."

Two separate lawsuits are pending in Northern California alleging that guns stolen from law enforcement officials were used in homicides, including the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle in July 2015.

A Mexican man living in the country illegally who had been deported five times was charged with murder after Steinle's death on a San Francisco pier, sparking a national debate over the country's immigration policies.

Steinle was shot with a gun stolen from a Bureau of Land Management ranger. A jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of killing her days after he released from jail under the city's "sanctuary city" law despite a federal request to detain him for deportation.

After the verdict, U.S. prosecutors charged him with illegal gun possession and he pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

The family of an Oakland artist is suing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after a gun stolen from one of its agents was used to kill the man while he painted a mural under a freeway overpass.


Categories: Latest News

Man sentenced in Chicago officer's 2010 killing

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:39
Author: Lt. Dan Marcou

Associated Press

CHICAGO — A man convicted of first-degree murder in the 2010 death of an off-duty Chicago police officer has been sentenced to 76 years in prison.

Bernard Williams was found guilty last year in the death of Officer David Blake. Prosecutors said the then-18-year-old Williams killed the officer and raided a gun safe at his house. Blake was dating Williams' sister at the time.

No physical evidence linked Williams to the killing of the 45-year-old Blake and the weapon wasn't recovered. But several of Williams' friends testified that he tried to recruit them to help with the slaying and robbery and then confessed to them after the killing.

Before sentencing, Williams apologized to a courtroom packed with Chicago police officers but said he "did not commit this crime."


Categories: Latest News

Rapid Response: 4 key takeaways from the Fla. high school shooting

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:25

Author: Mike Wood

A 19-year-old man shot and killed 17 students and adults at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and wounded many more. The man is in police custody after he surrendered to them “without incident.”

We will learn more about this horrific crime as the investigation continues, but even at this early stage, we can identify useful pieces of information from the reporting to highlight several longstanding truths about these rapid mass murder incidents:

1. We have a mental health crisis in America.

There will be a predictable focus on the tool used by the killer by some people with a political agenda, but the real story here is about a young man who had mental and emotional problems, and didn’t get the right help for them.

We’ve already heard reports from people claiming that “everyone predicted” the man would snap and commit violence. Reportedly, the man had previously been suspended from the school where he committed the murders for “unspecified behavior problems,” and made statements on social media that he aspired to become a “professional school shooter.”

We can’t say with any certainty right now, but it’s likely that in the coming days we will discover a pattern of behavior indicating this man needed professional help that he didn’t get for some reason.

Cops will be the first to tell you that the mental health system in America is broken, because they’re the ones who inherited the primary burden of dealing with the mentally ill after we deinstitutionalized mental health care in the 1970s. With nowhere else to go, many of these ill people wound up in the criminal justice system, which is ill-equipped to handle their needs. Most of the rest wound up on the streets, with no help at all.

If we want to make a dent in mass shootings like the one in Florida, we need to fix our mental health system and ensure that the people who obviously need help are getting it.

2. Our schools deserve better security.

It’s too early to know with certainty, but it appears that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not have an armed security presence at the time of the assault. It’s reported that a football coach – who also served as an unarmed security officer – bravely responded to the attack and shielded students from harm, but so far there has been no mention of a police officer present during the attack.

In this day and age, it’s unacceptable for a school – any school, be it public or private, regardless of student age – to operate without an armed security presence on site. There is no combination of passive security measures, defensive architecture, or unarmed security that can adequately protect our most precious resource – our children – from an armed attacker intent on destruction. The only thing that can properly defeat an armed attacker is a defense manned by trained and armed personnel.

Please note, this does not have to be a police officer. Programs such as the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Flight Deck Officer program or the Buckeye Firearms Association’s FASTER program have ably demonstrated how selected volunteers can be trained to provide a necessary layer of defense, and act as on-scene first responders, while more capable resources (the police) are summoned. Furthermore, such volunteers can act as force multipliers even if a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to the school, and can fill in the gaps for those occasions when the SRO is not on campus.

We trust our teachers and school staff with our children’s welfare every day. We trust them to protect our children from dangers such as fires and natural disasters, so we should also be willing to train and equip the suitable volunteers among them to defend our children against armed violence.

3. Enemy tactics are improving.

The killer reportedly wore a gas mask and had smoke grenades, setting off a smoke alarm to flush students from their classrooms, where they could be more easily targeted. In an environment where a lockdown is the predictable response to an active killer threat, today’s killer found an easy way to short circuit the defense by using the school’s own fire response protocol against them.

This denotes a rather sophisticated level of planning and tactical awareness that shouldn’t surprise anyone in this audience. We know these killers study the successes and failures of other killers, and make continuous improvements to their game. They adapt their tactics and their weapons to ever-changing conditions, managing to retain the initiative. We should expect this cycle to continue.

4. We cannot relax our efforts.

As a result, we cannot afford to rest. We too must seek continuous improvement in our tactics, training and equipment, and must never allow our preparations to grow stale. We must stay abreast of the latest enemy tactics, and organize flexible, responsive defenses that can quickly adapt to the situation.

Among other things, attention should be paid to:

Developing more comprehensive security protocols for our schools than simply relying on “lockdown” tactics; Ensuring our schools have a trained, armed security presence; Providing vehicle-pedestrian exclusion in public areas and venues; Eliminating fictional “gun-free zones” that only disarm the law-abiding, but leave criminals free to terrorize and injure innocents; Teaching hemorrhage control basics to the public; Integrating law enforcement and fire-EMS assets; Honing the tactics for the joint deployment of these police-fire-EMS resources. Integrating EOD into our tactical teams, and ensuring those teams are nimble enough to respond to the complex, coordinated attacks that we know are coming. Providing meaningful safety education and training to employees, instead of pretending that they are suitably trained because we have a “Run, Hide, Fight” poster on the wall in the break room. Stay Alert

The mass murder in Florida was horrific, but it was not unforeseeable. We don’t know the details of when or where, but we know another tragic scene like this is on the horizon.

It’s incumbent on us, as the guardians of public safety, to take advantage of the time we have and ensure that we are using it to prepare for the next event like this. Hopefully, the citizens in your area will never be the target of a mass killer, but we can’t count on that.

Work hard. Stay alert. Be safe.


Categories: Latest News

'Outraged' cop starts fundraiser for man sued over sign for trooper

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 09:17
Author: Mike Wood

By Matt Coughlin The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — When a police officer learned about a lawsuit against a Plainfield Township man who created a lawn sign to raise money for a wounded state trooper, the officer became “outraged” enough to start a fundraiser to help pay the sign maker’s legal costs.

Forks Township police Cpl. Shawn Hummer said he’s hoping to raise $50,000 to cover the costs of Nolan Kemmerer’s legal fees. Kemmerer, who produced 3,000 signs with the hashtag “PSPStrong” to raise money for a state trooper shot while on patrol, is being sued by PSP Strong Association for trademark infringement.

After state police Cpl. Seth Kelly was shot in November during a traffic stop on Route 33 in Plainfield Township near Kemmerer’s home, the sign maker felt compelled to do something to help. So the owner of Rapid Wraps N’ Signs made the lawn signs and sold them for $10 a piece.

Hummer said Kemmerer raised about $19,000 for Kelly, keeping about $2,000 to cover the cost of the materials to make the signs, which say “Trooper Kelly #pspstrong.” Pennsylvania State Police use the initials PSP.

Hummer — who works with Kelly's wife, Detective Philomena Kelly, and is good friends with the Kellys — said that after he heard about the signs Kemmerer created, he went and got a bunch for Forks officers, meeting Kemmerer for the first time. In the ensuing weeks, Hummer said, he ended up picking up several more signs to be distributed to police officers he knew at nearby departments.

“[Kemmerer] donated 100 percent of his time and effort, he put a lot of time and effort into this, and the thanks he gets is a lawsuit,” Hummer said.

After learning about Kemmerer’s signs, a small Luzerne County nonprofit, PSP Strong Association, contacted him with a cease-and-desist letter that escalated into a lawsuit.

PSP Strong Association is a state trooper support organization created in the wake of the ambush and shooting of two troopers in Pike County by Eric Frein.

The lawsuit alleges Kemmerer improperly used the nonprofit’s name and likeness and seeks an injunction and more than $50,000 in damages.

Support Trooper Kelly. Recover Well... #pspstrong @stembrothers @Shammyshine1 @PAStatePolice @lehighvalley @lehighvalleypa pic.twitter.com/bGnfm3siPL

— Shammy Shine (@Shammyshine1) December 1, 2017

The president of the nonprofit, Danielle Petros, has said she had no choice but to sue after Kemmerer refused to sign paperwork agreeing not to use the name again.

Kemmerer’s attorney, Andrew Bench, pointed out the nonprofit was denied trademarking PSP Strong by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of its similarity to Sony’s PlayStation Portable game system. However, that decision is under appeal.

Still, Hummer thinks the whole dispute is outrageous. So he has started the GoFundMe account for Kemmerer’s legal fees. If the money raised exceeds the fees, the remaining money will be donated to St. Luke’s University Health System’s “Stop the Bleed” campaign. The campaign is an attempt to equip all first responders with tourniquets.

Kelly has largely been credited with saving his own life by applying a tourniquet to himself in the moments after being shot.

©2018 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)


Categories: Latest News

Deputy wounded in deadly Colo. shooting released from hospital

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 09:01
Author: Mike Wood

By Ellie Mulder The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Deputy Scott Stone was released from UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central Wednesday, more than a week after he was wounded in a gunbattle during an attempted auto-theft arrest, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office reported.

Deputy Micah Flick was slain in the Feb. 5 shooting in the parking lot of an apartment complex near North Murray Boulevard and Galley Road.

Stone, sheriff's Sgt. Jacob Abendschan, Colorado Springs police Detective Marcus Yanez and Thomas Villanueva, a resident, were injured.

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A message from Deputy Scott Stone: “Today I’m getting released from the hospital. I would like to say thank you to...

Posted by EPC Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The shooter - Manuel Zetina, 19, of Colorado Springs - also was killed.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office announced on social media that Stone was being released, including a message from the wounded deputy.

"I would like to say thank you to the community for all of the support shown to me and my family," Stone said in the statement. "I have a long road to full recovery ahead of me but your support makes it so much easier. I would like to extend a thank you to Memorial Hospital for their professionalism they showed during my stay.

"My family and I would request for continued prayers and thoughts to the Flick family and all those who were affected by the shooting on Feb 5, 2018. There is still a lot of healing that is needed by all."

©2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)


Categories: Latest News

LEO who fatally shot a bat-wielding mentally ill woman found not guilty

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 08:50

Author: Mike Wood

Associated Press

NEW YORK — A police officer who fatally shot a mentally ill woman in her New York apartment in 2016 after she brandished scissors and a bat was acquitted by a judge Thursday.

New York Police Department Sgt. Hugh Barry was found not guilty of murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of Deborah Danner.

Defense attorney Andrew Quinn said "we've always felt confident we would win but you never know" until the verdict is announced.

The October 2016 shooting earlier drew rare rebukes from New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill and Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said "something went horribly wrong here."

Officers had been called to the Bronx home of Danner, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, several times before.

Barry testified that he persuaded Danner to put down the scissors and then tried to grab her before she had a chance to pick them up again.

"She was too fast for me," Barry said. "The last thing I want was for her to go into the room and get the scissors."

Barry said he drew his gun and pleaded with her to drop the bat, but she stepped toward him. He said he could not back up because five other officers were crowded close behind him.

"I just see the bat swinging and that's when I fired," he said. "I'm looking at this bat that can crack me in the head and kill me."

O'Neill said at the time that his department had "failed" by not subduing Danner without resorting to deadly force.

"That's not how it's supposed to go," O'Neill said. "It's not how we train; our first obligation is to preserve life, not to take a life when it can be avoided."

De Blasio said officers are only supposed to use deadly force when "faced with a dire situation" and then "it's very hard to see that the standard was met."

Prosecutors said Danner's death resulted from numerous failures by the eight-year department veteran.

"He failed in his training," Assistant District Attorney Newton Mendys said in opening statements. "He failed to listen to Mrs. Danner. ...He failed to grasp the actions of a mentally ill woman."

Sgt. Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said on Twitter after the verdict that he offers his "empathy and sympathy" to Danner's family. But he said he was outraged "for the malicious prosecution that was conducted for the most nefarious of reasons."

The death of Danner, who was black, at the hands of Barry, who is white, invited comparisons to the 1984 police killing of another black Bronx woman, Eleanor Bumpurs, who was shot after waving a knife at officers.


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