Axon Plans ‘Public Evidence Project’ for Citizen Video

In a survey to law enforcement officials, the company formerly known as Taser International announces a product that will allow citizens to submit photos or video evidence of “a crime, suspicious activity, or event” to Evidence.com, the company’s cloud-based storage platform, to help agencies “in solving a crime or gathering a fuller point of view from the public.”

Axon, the largest vendor of police-worn body cameras, is moving into the business of capturing video taken by the public, The Intercept reports. In a survey to law enforcement officials, the company formerly known as Taser International solicited naming ideas for its “Public Evidence Product.”

The product will allow citizens to submit photos or video evidence of “a crime, suspicious activity, or event” to Evidence.com, the company’s cloud-based storage platform, to help agencies “in solving a crime or gathering a fuller point of view from the public.”

Civil rights advocates see this as another untested effort to co-opt community oversight and privatize criminal justice. “When police body cameras were initially established, it was because citizens were clamoring for police accountability,” said Shahid Buttar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“But we’ve seen how cameras have been more useful for police investigations than for accountability. This product realizes those dangers and takes them to a new dystopian level by crowdsourcing the collection of evidence and turning it over to law enforcement.”

Body camera vendors like Taser originally pitched the collection of video evidence to lawmakers as a way to increase accountability, transparency, and trust between civilians and police. Three years and several million taxpayer dollars later, those promises have been called into question. Body camera footage has rarely been used to indict officers for brutality, and several states have introduced measures to restrict the public’s access to it.

For privacy and civil rights organizations, enthusiasm about the technology has given way to concern about beat cops turning into walking surveillance cameras. Buttar and others fear that by adding civilian footage to Evidence.com, Axon is expanding this dragnet.

Axon has signed lucrative contracts with major police departments while it offers the rest its hardware free of charge, because its revenue comes from monthly subscriptions to Evidence.com. Axon’s CEO has called this model “Dropbox for Cops.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago Police Department To Boost Training Sharply

An ambitious plan laid out by the Police Department calls for the training to expand to 40 hours a year for every officer beginning in 2021. It comes as the department attempts to add nearly 1,000 officers to its force by the end of next year.

Starting next year, every Chicago police officer will undergo 16 hours of training each year, the first regular training for many since graduating from the police academy as new recruits, the Chicago Tribune reports. The ambitious plan laid out by the Police Department  calls for the training to expand to 40 hours a year for every officer beginning in 2021. It comes as the department attempts to add nearly 1,000 officers to its force by the end of next year,  recruits who all must undergo months of training before hitting the street. The department said it expects the vast majority of officers to have completed a four-hour course on its revised use-of-force policy by Oct. 15, when those changes are scheduled to take effect.

The department has moved to beef up its training in the aftermath of the court-ordered release in late 2015 of police dashboard camera video showing a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. A scathing U.S. Department of Justice report in January described the Police Department as a broken institution and singled out negligent training as among its many deficiencies. The department has provided only sporadic in-service training, refresher training through videos or new directives for officers to learn about during their roll calls. The department has already started requiring officers to take classes on Taser use, crisis intervention and training geared toward de-escalating incidents. First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro said that even he had not gone through such a comprehensive regimen since he attended the police academy more than 30 years ago. “That’s something that we definitely need to change,” Navarro said. “It’s a win for Chicago police officers, and it’s a win also for Chicagoans.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Black Detectives to Sue NYPD In Bias Complaint

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the promotions process in the Intelligence Division stymied black detectives. The U.S. Justice Department declined to sue based on the EEOC report.

In the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division, one unit was filled almost exclusively by black detectives. The “rap unit,” as it was called, had a peripheral role in a division focused on recruiting Muslim informants and building terrorism cases. Black detectives went undercover at hip-hop concerts, protected artists from scammers and stickup men and warned venues of potential feuds, reports the New York Times. The “rap unit” was known to stall careers: Black detectives did not get promoted for years, no matter how good their recommendations, charged a complaint filed by three black detectives with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For years, the complaint says, there was only one promotion in the unit, and it was given to a white detective, one of a very few assigned there. Current and retired detectives said a patronage system promoted detectives based more on connections to powerful bosses, and less on their work, fueling bitterness and accusations of nepotism.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found last year that the promotions process systematically stymied black detectives, leaving them with less pay, power and prestige than their white counterparts. The commission ruled that a “wholly subjective and secret process” caused black detectives to receive “lesser and later opportunities for promotion consistent with their qualifications.” Those findings failed to prompt fixes in a promotions process some police officials have conceded is opaque and frustrating. The Justice Department said it would not sue the department over the findings. That averted a confrontation with the nation’s largest police force for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said federal interventions in local policing are bad for morale. The detectives plan to sue the department. The deputy police commissioner for legal matters, Lawrence Byrne, disputed the EEOC findings, calling it “a largely incompetent agency.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

OK Chief to Meet With Deaf Advocates After Shooting

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty plans to meet with advocates for the deaf and speech impaired to discuss the fatal shooting of Magdiel Sanchez by a police officer this week. Sanchez, 35, was deaf and developmentally disabled.

Incidents like the one that left a deaf, developmentally disabled man dead Tuesday night in Oklahoma City unfurl quickly, and no amount of training can guarantee perfect results, says Oklahoma City police Chief Bill Citty. “These situations are dynamic,” Citty said. “It’s emotional.” Citty spoke on Thursday about the fatal shooting of Magdiel Sanchez, 35, who was shot and killed by Sgt. Christopher Barnes outside his home, The Oklahoman reports.

Sanchez, who was deaf and developmentally disabled, was wielding a length of pipe when he was killed. Citty expressed his sympathies for the family. He said that he plans to meet with advocates for the deaf and speech impaired soon. Citty said the impact of the hit-and-run crash that led up to the shooting was strong enough to roll Sanchez’s father’s pickup. He then left the scene and drove home. Citty also said that he would release a picture of the makeshift weapon once Barnes had been interviewed by homicide detectives.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Smart Policing’ Praised by The Heritage Foundation

A report on a model supported by the Justice Department in 48 sites concludes that it benefits communities “not only through cost savings, higher clearance rates, and crime prevention, but also through the promotion of collaboration, a sense of community, and economic development.”

The “smart policing” program promoted by the U.S. Justice Department was given a boost this week in a new report from the Heritage Foundation. In a study written by former Attorney General Edwin Meese and John Malcolm, Heritage describes “smart policing” as “a strategic management approach that brings more science into police operations by leveraging innovative applications of research, analysis, technology, and evidence-based best practices.” Since it was launched in 2009, the model has been tested in 48 sites and has been reviewed in 59 independent assessments.

Heritage concludes that smart policing benefits communities “not only through cost savings, higher clearance rates, and crime prevention, but also through the promotion of collaboration, a sense of community, and economic development. Stable communities with low crime and high community-police teamwork attract economic investment and employment opportunities.” The report offers specifics from several cities, including Los Angeles, Kansas City,  Boston, New Haven, Ct., and Rochester, N.Y. In Philadelphia, the report says, new foot patrol and problem-solving strategies in ten test police districts are outperforming the traditional style of policing that focuses on offenders. The changes resulted in a 22 percent reduction in violent crimes and a 31 percent reduction in violent street felonies.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Federal Court Allows Sibling Lawsuits Over Police Shootings

Judge allows sisters and brothers of a man killed by Sacramento police to pursue a damage suit against the city under the First Amendment’s right of association. The case involves a man who was shot 14 times by two officers last year.

The sisters and brothers of a man killed by Sacramento police won a pivotal federal court ruling that potentially expands who can win lawsuits in the aftermath of police shootings, the Sacramento Bee reports. Joseph Mann was shot 14 times in July 2016 by two Sacramento police officers, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya. Mann’s father had sued the city and settled for $719,000. Mann’s five siblings were unhappy with the outcome of their father’s suit because they wanted it to include public tracking of police reforms in Sacramento and information on whether the two officers who fired shots had been disciplined by the department.

So the siblings filed an unusual lawsuit, citing the First Amendment right of association, which usually is invoked for social or political groups. The Supreme Court has limited suits over police shootings to parents and children of the deceased. In the Mann case, Sacramento lawyer Mark Merin argued that the killing deprived Joseph Mann’s sisters and brothers of the right to associate with him. U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled that nothing in the language of the Constitution or case law around the two amendments clearly excludes siblings from suing under the First Amendment, making it legal for the Mann siblings to make their claim. Merin said the ruling means that claims in police shooting cases “are not limited to the parents and the children of the persons who are killed but extend at least to the nuclear family because its recognized that the intimate relationships, the family relationships, are severed, and that damages the people in those categories.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Based Some Afghan Police Training on ‘Cops,’ ‘NCIS’

U.S. is ill-prepared to train Afghanistan’s security forces, says an inspector general’s report issued as 3,500 more U.S. troops are headed for the war zone.

A U.S. infantry officer in Afghanistan was tasked with training indigenous police. Lacking any law enforcement experience, he looked to TV shows like “Cops” and “NCIS” to fill in the gaps. A helicopter pilot was pulled from the cockpit and given the same assignment. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, described those anecdotes in a bruising new review that found the U.S. is ill-prepared to build the war-torn country’s security forces, whose foundation is ravaged by decades of conflict, illiteracy and corruption, the Washington Post reports. Talent mismanagement, Sopko says, also undercuts such efforts. “We really do need to align capabilities to the needs of Afghans. Effective security forces are basically the way this thing ends,” Sopko said.

The report comes as 3,500 additional U.S. troops are headed to the war zone, where they’ll augment what’s become an Afghan-led campaign, bringing greater capacity to provide close air support and advise front-line special operations missions. Yet questions remain about how a modest increase of U.S. troops will help regain momentum in America’s longest war.It’s  unclear how any effort to overhaul training and reinforce the Afghan security forces can be confidently executed amid the grueling missions to reverse Taliban gains. As of early May, more than 2,500 Afghan security forces had been killed this year, with more than 4,200 wounded. It is also unclear how quickly some of Sopko’s 35 recommendations can be implemented. Some recommendations, like deploying more civilian police trainers, could reasonably happen within months. More than $70 billion has been poured into building up the Afghan military and police, and yet the U.S. government lacks a “deployable police-development capability for high-threat environments,” Sopko said. The Justice Department has capacity for the mission but not the responsibility or funding, he said. The Pentagon has willingness and funding but lacks the capability among its military police to train Afghan police officers in civil law enforcement.

from https://thecrimereport.org

States Take Action Against Disruptive Protests

Many protesters are being more disruptive, whether they’re blocking access to highways, chaining themselves to pipelines, damaging businesses or being physically violent toward other people or property. In response, state lawmakers—mostly Republicans—are seeking new ways to regulate or criminalize protests.

Americans have a constitutional right to assemble and protest, but they don’t have the right to do it in the middle of a freeway. In contrast to demonstrations in recent decades, which often were held in fenced-off “free speech zones,” many protesters are being more disruptive, whether they’re blocking access to highways, chaining themselves to pipelines, damaging businesses or being physically violent toward other people or property. In response, state lawmakers—mostly Republicans—are seeking new ways to regulate or criminalize protests, reports Governing. “You have absolutely zero First Amendment protections or right to assemble in the center lane of I-94,” says Minnesota state Rep. Nick Zerwas, the GOP sponsor of a bill to increase penalties for trespassing on freeways. “Clearly, the current misdemeanor penalty hasn’t been an effective deterrent.”

The bill is part of a national trend. About 20 states are considering new regulations and penalties regarding protests. New laws have been enacted this year in several states, including Georgia, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Some increase penalties for picketing near “critical infrastructure,” such as pipelines and airports. Some call for protesters to pay overtime costs for law enforcement. Some threaten to seize protesters’ assets. Some require colleges and universities to suspend or expel students who disrupt campus speakers. “There’s no question you’ve seen an upsurge in the numbers of these bills and an increase in their stringency,” says Sam Munger of the State Information Exchange, a strategy center for progressive legislators. “It’s both reactive to a recent upsurge in grassroots protests and an effort to intimidate protesters.” Says Indiana University sociologist Fabio Rojas, “This is a very common thing in the history of the United States, to impose some costs on social movements or protest movements. Basically, the whole point of this is to suppress protests.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Interim St. Louis Police Chief Under Fire After Protests

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said comments by interim Police Chief Lawrence OToole after a third night of protesting the acquittal of a police officer in a shooting were “inflammatory,” but she is standing by him. The city is seeking a new chief to replace Sam Dotson.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said comments by interim Police Chief Lawrence OToole after a third night of protesting were “inflammatory,” but she is standing by him, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Throughout the protests, which began Friday after a white police officer was found not guilty of murdering a black drug suspect after a car chase, Krewson has been careful to show support for the police department she oversees and for the protesters who have peacefully demonstrated. Krewson said Tuesday that she had met with the chief and told him that his remarks and those chanted by his officers were inappropriate and certainly nothing that she supported.

Early Monday, a few hours after more than 100 people were arrested and downtown business windows were shattered, O’Toole said that police “owned tonight.” Officers facing off with protesters chanted “Whose streets? Our streets,” co-opting a popular phrase used by demonstrators during marches. “I wish they wouldn’t have said that,” Krewson said. She said intimidation by police “is not conduct that lives up to the standard of behavior expected by city police officers or any city employee.” O’Toole has served as chief since the abrupt resignation of Sam Dotson, whose departure was announced on Krewson’s first day in office five months ago. A national search is underway for Dotson’s replacement, which is still a few months away. The International Association of Chiefs of Police is hosting a town hall meeting Wednesday night to seek public input “as they develop their candidate profile and recruitment strategy,” a flier states. Protesters in the streets and on social media have called for the ouster of O’Toole, who is white, and say new leadership is necessary to change the culture of the police department and improve relationships with African Americans.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Appeals Court Upholds Seattle Police Use of Force Policy

Three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejects officers’ lawsuit, affirms city policy that when necessary, officers shall only use “objectively reasonable force, proportional to the threat or urgency of the situation.”

A federal appeals court upheld the Seattle Police Department’s policy on the use of force by officers, the Associated Press reports. The department adopted the policy under a 2012 reform agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. It says that when necessary, officers shall only use “objectively reasonable force, proportional to the threat or urgency of the situation.” It also requires them to use de-escalation techniques when it’s safe to do so. A group of 125 officers challenged the policy, saying it would unreasonably restrict their Second Amendment rights to use their service weapons for self-defense.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. “The City of Seattle has a significant interest in regulating the use of department-issued firearms by its police officers, and the … policy does not impose a substantial burden on the Second Amendment right to use a firearm for the core
lawful purpose of self-defense,” wrote Judge William Hayes, a California federal trial judge who was assigned to the case..

from https://thecrimereport.org