Airport Cops Are Warned to Avoid Airline Disputes

After Chicago police dragged a United Airlines passenger off a plane, airport police officials are telling their officers to intervene only in cases of criminal acts or safety risks.

Police agencies that patrol U.S. airports are telling their rank and file after Chicago officers dragged a United Airlines passenger off a plane not to get involved in carriers’ civil disputes, the Wall Street Journal reports. “We know our roles, our responsibilities, and that does not include enforcing an airline policy to replace somebody on a flight so a flight crew can go somewhere,” said Atlanta police Maj. Lane Hagin of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic. United says it will never again seek police assistance for a customer-service issue, and call them only when there is a threat to passengers or crew.

U.S. airports are guarded by a mix of dedicated staff and police drafted in from city forces. The Chicago incident has prompted debate about which is best placed to patrol aviation facilities. The Port Authority Police Department, which patrols New York City’s three major airports tells officers not to insert themselves into disputes unless a passenger has committed a crime, poses a safety risk or is deemed emotionally disturbed. “We’ll intervene as necessary if a law’s being broken,” a Port Authority police spokesman said. ”Absent that, it’s a civil issue—it’s an airline issue.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city is reviewing the future of the Department of Aviation security force. The 300-strong airport unit is made up entirely of city employees. All are sworn police officers but receive less training than regular officers would at a police academy. They don’t carry weapons, and have battled to do so amid heightened concerns over terrorism.


Many States Are Delivering on Police Reforms

The emerging role of states in policing reform is critical, says Jim Bueermann of the Police Foundation and the former police chief in Redlands, Ca.

The week that Freddie Gray died in Baltimore in 2015, while the city burned and protesters demanded police reforms, legislators in Colorado met to deliver just that. They considered 10 bills, ranging from restrictions on the use of chokeholds to the collection of data on officer-involved shootings. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed five of those bills that year, followed by two more last year, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Colorado is only one example of states taking a serious look at reform amid the national debate around policing, particularly in communities of color. Over the last two years, 34 states and the District of Columbia enacted at least 79 bills, resolutions, or executive orders that changed policing policies and practices, says the Vera Institute of Justice. That’s almost four times as many as the 20 passed between 2012 and 2014.

In recent years, it has been left to individual police departments to enact reforms, or to the U.S. Department of Justice, typically via a court-ordered “consent decree.” The emerging role of states in policing reform is critical, says Jim Bueermann of the Police Foundation and the former police chief in Redlands, Ca., because they can strike a balance between understanding local policing issues and solutions, while having the broad authority to pass laws that affect every agency in their state. “States are the sweet spot between the federal government passing laws and the 17,000 communities [with law enforcement agencies] passing laws,” says Bueermann. Reforms that legislators have passed include banning the use of chokeholds, mandating data collection on traffic stops and officer-involved shootings, developing guidelines for body-worn cameras, creating requirements for crisis intervention training, and increasing transparency in investigations into the use of lethal force.


Greyhound Bus Therapy: Losing Your Mind in Las Vegas

     According to mental health experts, the city of Las Vegas not only drives people crazy, it attracts unbalanced folks from around the country. The place is a mental illness magnet. In Washington, D.C. you have idiots and fools; in De…

     According to mental health experts, the city of Las Vegas not only drives people crazy, it attracts unbalanced folks from around the country. The place is a mental illness magnet. In Washington, D.C. you have idiots and fools; in Detroit, empty buildings and bullet-ridden corpses; in Los Angeles, narcissistic celebrities; and in Las Vegas, a lot of people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. If I had to live in one of these places, I'd pick Detroit.

     Dr. Lorin Scher, an emergency room psychiatrist with the University of California at Davis Medical Center explains why so many mentally ill people end up in Las Vegas: "As the whole country knows, Las Vegas is a pretty unique place. [Thank God.] Many bipolar patients impulsively fly across the country to Vegas during their manic phases and go on gambling binges. Vegas probably attracts more wandering schizophrenics, people who are drawn to the warm weather, lights, and action."

     Other psychiatrists have pointed out that Las Vegas is home to a disproportionate number of residents displaced by the housing and mortgage collapse of 2007. People lost their jobs, their homes, and apparently their minds.

     Nevada, in 2009, began cutting its mental health service budget. By 2012, the funds for this form of health care had been cut by 28 percent. The reduced spending occurred during the period Las Vegas experienced the surge in psychiatric admissions. Something had to be done to hold down the state's health care costs.

     In March 2013, James Flavy, a 48-year-old schizophrenic living in a complex in Sacramento, California for the homeless, told the authorities a rather disturbing story. A month earlier, when discharged from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, a mental health worker drove him to the Main Street bus station and put him on a Greyhound bus destined for Sacramento. Following a 15-hour bus ride, Mr. Flavy rolled into Sacramento with a two-day supply of medication and instructions to follow-up his care with a doctor in California. Someone suggested that upon his arrival in the Golden State he call 911. Flavy got off the bus without any identification or access to his Social Security benefits. He wound up in a University of California at Davis Medical Center emergency room where he lived for three days before someone arranged temporary housing.

     Mr. Flavy's story led to the remarkable revelation that over the past five years, more than 1,500 Las Vegas mental patients have been shipped via Greyhound bus to more than 200 cities in every state in the continental United States.

     The Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, between July 2008 and December 2014, spent $205,000 on mental patient bus tickets. (The agency had a special arrangement with Greyhound.) The busing program has saved the state of Nevada millions of health care dollars.

     One-third of the Greyhound therapy recipients were bused to California, 200 of whom to Los Angeles County. In 2012, Greyhound buses rolled out of Las Vegas carrying 400 mental cases destined for 176 cities in 45 states.

     Health care administrators in Nevada defended their mental ward on wheels program as sort of a revolving door operation. If unbalanced folks from all over the nation can roll into Las Vegas, they ought to be able, following emergency mental health treatment, to roll them back out of town.

     This story makes one wonder if homeless people arrested by the Las Vegas police are packed off in Greyhound buses. Such a program would save the city a lot of criminal justice money and help deal with jail overcrowding.

     Can you imagine what it must be like for ordinary tourists riding Greyhound buses out of Las Vegas? Moreover, what would it be like to drive one of these rolling mental institutions? I can envision a reality TV show called "Mental Health Bus Drivers: A Ride on the Wild Side".


Three Seattle Officers Shot Making Robbery Arrests

Three suspects are all teenagers. One was found dead and another was arrested. The shooting created a chaotic scene in downtown Seattle.

Three Seattle police officers were shot while trying to arrest robbery suspects downtown yesterday before one of the suspects barricaded himself in a nearby building where he was later found dead, reports the Seattle Times. A male officer, who was shot in the face, was in serious condition. A female officer, whose Kevlar vest saved her from a life-threatening gunshot wound to the chest, was treated at a hospital and released. A third officer suffered a hand wound and was treated at a hospital.

One suspect, a 17-year-old girl, was arrested near the shooting scene about 45 minutes after the officers were shot. The two other suspects, including the one found dead, are 19-year-old men, police said. The shooting created a chaotic scene downtown as police flooded the area and ordered office workers to stay inside and closed off downtown streets, causing gridlock until the start of the evening commute.


Dotson Out As St. Louis Chief With New Mayor In Office

Sam Dotson retires as police chief after meeting with the new mayor, Lyda Krewson, who made public safety the centerpiece of her campaign. Deputy Chief Lawrence O’Toole is the city’s interim chief.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson is retiring after more than four years on the job, new Mayor Lyda Krewson said yesterday on her first full day in office, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dotson, 47, has been chief since 2013. He met with city leaders yesterday, and they came to a mutual agreement that he retire, Krewson said.“We were talking about the future of the police department and he made the decision to retire,” Krewson said. “This will allow us to turn the page and begin anew here.”

Dotson he will serve as a consultant to the city for a year. His salary will be $129,000, the same salary he was paid as chief. He served 22 years with the police department. Deputy Chief Lawrence O’Toole becomes interim police chief. Krewson said she was interested in a national search for a new chief but would not exclude internal candidates. She made public safety the centerpiece of her campaign, and in her inauguration speech Tuesday said she would “rebuild the frayed relationships between law enforcement and our community.” Krewson, a longtime alderman, first won election to the board in 1997, two years after her husband was fatally shot during a carjacking with their two young children in the car. Dotson was selected from a field of 11 candidates in 2012. He announced in October that he was going to run for mayor, but withdrew a month later. Then-Mayor Francis Slay pressured him to resign if he wanted to run for office, saying he would not tolerate a part-time police chief.



L.A. Police De-escalation Policy Called ‘Dramatic’

The “unnacceptably high” rate of shootings by Los Angeles officers make the city’s rules change “long in coming” and “necessary,” says Joe Domanick of John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice.

The Los Angeles Police Commission has approved new rules ordering officers to try de-escalating potentially violent conflicts before using their weapons. The policy change is “dramatic, and it’s long in coming, and it’s necessary,” Joe Domanick of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice tells NPR. Domanick, author of the book “Blue: The LAPD And The Battle To Redeem American Policing,” says the rules change is “the last piece that the LAPD really has to address before we can really say the transformation that it’s been undergoing under Chief [Charlie] Beck for the last eight years is really happening and hopefully will continue when he leaves.”.

Domanick says similar policies are being adopted by progressive police departments across the nation. He says the police commission and Beck believe that the rate of shootings by Los Angeles officers “remains unacceptably high.” Domanick notes that the police union vehemently opposes the rules change.  “They want as much freedom as possible to act as they see fit, and they don’t want to be held accountable if they make a mistake,” he says, adding that, “There are some situations where a police officer has to shoot. What de-escalation says is, you do whatever possible so that you don’t have to shoot.”



How ‘Closed’ Homicide Case Figure Can Mislead

Baltimore’s rate of “closed” homicides is 49 percent this year, but only one-fourth of 2017’s killings have resulted in charges against a suspect. The Baltimore Sun explains how the system works.

The Baltimore police rate of closed homicides stands at about 49 percent for the year, but that doesn’t mean half of this year’s killings have been solved. About one-quarter of killings this year have resulted in handcuffs and charges against a suspect. The rest of the cases closed are killings that occurred in previous years and for which a suspect was only arrested this year. The total also includes cases where no one was arrested at all, the Baltimore Sun reports.

FBI crime reporting guidelines call for police departments to count all cases “closed” by police in a given year — regardless of the year the killings occurred — in that year’s rate of closed cases. Half of this year’s solved cases are from killings committed in prior years. The clearance rate also include cases “closed by exception.” That’s a term for cases administratively closed when a suspect — who police believe they have enough evidence to charge — dies or is unavailable for other reasons. At least five of this year’s “closed by exception” cases involve suspects who were themselves recent murder victims.



Criminalizing Citizen Videos of Police is “Bad Policy,” says Texas Group

Citizen recordings are critical tools to hold police accountable for their actions, and efforts to limit them undermine First Amendment rights of free speech, says the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The right-of-center foundation issued its opinion in response to a pending state bill to force anyone filming an officer to stay between 25 and 100 feet away.

The public should be free to record all interactions between police and citizens—as long as those recordings don’t interfere with ongoing investigations, argues a policy briefing paper issued by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

“Law enforcement recordings in the form of body cameras and dashboard-mounted cameras have long provided valuable evidence of wrong or right actions by both the citizens and the police,” said the paper, written by TPPF senior researcher Randy Petersen and published  earlier this month by the right-of-center foundation, which has been a key player in the nationwide “Right on Crime” movement.

“The same ability to document interactions between the police and the communities they serve rightfully is afforded to…citizens by the First Amendment.”

The paper, produced by the Center for Effective Justice at TPPF, was written in response to a bill proposed in the Texas legislature this session that would criminalize any recording of the police within 25 feet of the officer if unarmed, or within 100 feet if the recording party is lawfully carrying a handgun.

The briefing paper said the bill would distort the “balance of legitimate government interests and individual rights” guaranteed under the Constitution.

“Police serve and protect the public daily, striving for peace and civility,” said Petersen in a release accompanying the paper. “During interactions between the police and the public, these two competing interests sometimes come into conflict. As a former police officer myself, I fully understand that these conflicts are among the most sensitive of interactions. Using video and audio recording to capture these interactions can hold both sides accountable.

“Criminalizing recordings of this kind by the public is bad policy and infringes on an individual’s rights.”

The reason for setting the arbitrary distances isn’t clear, the paper observed.

“Would a police officer be truly safe from someone with a handgun simply because that person is 100 feet away? Is the officer now made less safe because that same person is using a recording device to document the officer’s actions?”

Another bill before the legislature, which Petersen noted is “not compatible” with the first one, would provide protection to citizens recording police action under their “free speech” rights and make it a  a criminal offense for an officer to destroy a recording seized from a person.

“Police officers operate under significant hazardous conditions at times, and as representatives of the community and the government, their lawful actions need to be protected and their safety preserved,” the paper said.

But it added that these interests should not be at the expense of the legitimate public interest in police transparency and accountability.

“The public and the police are safer when they are each held accountable,” it concluded.

The full paper is available here.


Women Officers Better at De-Escalation, Chief Says

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau begins a drive to recruit more female officers, saying women use verbal skills better than men.

As young street cops in Minneapolis, Janeé Harteau and her partner, Holly Keegel, were called out to investigate a man brandishing a gun. They recognized him and braced for the worst, but he surrendered without a fight. The reason, he told them, was simple: They had treated him with dignity, even when they handcuffed him and took him to jail, the chief recalled. “If you look statistically, at not just uses of force but accusations of excessive force, they are very seldom at the hands of female officers,” Harteau said. “Women do tend to use verbal skills, communication — that’s the fundamental core of de-escalation.” The Minneapolis Police Department is rethinking its use-of-force policies, while stepping up its efforts to recruit female officers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Officers are being trained in alternative ways to control violent or uncooperative suspects before resorting to physical means.

Harteau, who rose through the ranks to become the city’s first-ever female chief, is part of an exclusive club: women leading big-city police departments. As with her counterparts in Oakland, Ca., and Seattle, Harteau’s appointment four years ago was hailed as a milestone, challenging long-held assumptions about what law enforcement should look like. While the department has grown by about 60 sworn officers since 2006, it has the same number of female cops as it did a decade ago: 127. The department hope to change that with recruitment efforts geared toward women. A YouTube video launched this month titled “Women of the MPD” features the multifaceted lives of the women on the force. “It was and still is a male-dominated profession, but some of the attitudes are starting to change,” said Catherine Johnson, one of two female precinct inspectors.


‘Once They See You’re More Than a Badge, Things Change’

A young police recruit talks with The Crime Report about what it feels like to walk a beat for the first time under the NYPD’s new training program. Strangest thing to get used to: all those cellphone cameras.

As early as 2012, any rookie  officer recently graduated from the New York Police Department (NYPD) police academy would be assigned to the most challenged precincts in the city, placed in the most challenged neighborhoods, and expected to perform his or her duties with a minimum of  assistance or support.

Things have changed.

As part of the  Academy’s recent overhaul of  training, and the NYPD’s new  focus on  “neighborhood policing,” which seeks to bridge the divide between police and the communities they patrol by emphasizing communication and de-escalation, recruits at the academy now go through  a field training program that provides an early glimpse of their profession’s challenges.

The field training assigns recruits to a precinct during the fifth month of their six-month training.  Guided by a veteran officer, each recruit is taken on patrol, taught to engage with the community, and learns the daily routine of policing.

Field training is intended to give them an early test of the responsibilities and duties that they would otherwise only learn about through classroom lectures or improvised scenario-based training.

The Crime Report, as part of its ongoing series on the academy’s new training initiative, was given the opportunity to speak with Daniel Bavuso on his field training experience just before he graduated from the Academy last month. In a conversation with TCR staffer Isidoro Rodriguez, he described how the public reacted to him, and what the new, less-confrontational style of policing taught by the NYPD academy  feels like to a young officer at the start of his career.

The Crime Report: What were your first impressions of the field-training experience?

Daniel Bavuso: It was really cool.  Everybody was really, really helpful.  (At first) you walk into precincts and you feel like you belong everywhere but there.  It’s weird.

TCR: What did the training involve?

DB: We worked with a different [officer] most every day, in different parts of the precinct.   One day we worked in domestic violence; [on another]  it was in crime analysis; and on another,  it was with the detective squad.  It was all different people just to see how everything works and flows behind the scenes. That’s only for the three weeks we’re out on field training.  Once we  graduate officially, then we’ll be assigned to a steady Field Training Officer.

TCR: How was patrol?

DB: We went out on patrol a bunch of times.  My precinct was  the 10th [in Lower Manhattan], so they’re talking about neighborhood policing.    You’re supposed go out and meet people, and they really, really encourage you to do that.  Go out and talk to people—and get their names.  They want you to be friendly and not like you’re just there to work.  Let’s go talk to the shop owner, talk to the kid going by.

TCR: In going around and interacting with people, having conversations, what type of reception did you receive?

DB: For example, we went to a job fair at a halfway house.  The kids, from ages 16-21,  obviously had a hard life.  We talked to them essentially about their goals and how they can reach them with steps in the right direction.  We sat down with these kids and it was one-on-one.  I sat down with a  girl who told me she wanted to be a nurse; another wanted to go to  culinary school. There is a big divide between the people and the police department, but this is such a great way to bridge the gap.

At first it’s scary (for them)—people see you and your uniform, your badge, and a gun..  Once they see that you’re a person, with a face—-that you’re more than just the uniform, [things change]; it’s really positive.

TCR: How big was the area you had to patrol?

DB: It’s broken down into three sectors:  Adam, Boy and Charlie.  Some days you would be assigned a different sector.  It’s a pretty decent size, but with neighborhood policing, that’s what you do.  You aren’t responding to as many [calls]; you’re focusing on meeting the people.  The sectors are this size so you’re not sitting on a street corner, you’re going to different areas.  They don’t really want you to park on a street corner and sit there or just drive around, you’re supposed to get out and walk.

TCR: Because you are not a police officer, but training in the field, what happens if a situation occurs?

DB: We have the power of arrest, but [when I did the training) I still had a month to go in the academy.  If I was to arrest somebody, they’d have to pull me out of the academy to go to court.  So, if something happened we’d help out, but we don’t take responsibility for the arrest.  There was a kid I was with, he put the cuffs on but it wasn’t his arrest.

TCR: What was it like to see an arrest from this new perspective?

DB: What I thought was the coolest thing, it’s the stuff you don’t know.  Behind the scenes. This guy was arrested and he’s in the holding cell waiting to get transported to central booking.  And he was sick.  The officer went out and bought him a drink, a sandwich, and a bag of chips.  While he was in the holding cell, the cop went out and bought him food.  It was  cool how they treated people the right way, and you’d never see that otherwise.

TCR: One of the aspects of the scenario training at the academy was the emphasis placed on bystanders and video recording.  How true-to-life were the simulations with regards to how people reacted to your presence and to seeing an arrest?

DB: A ton.  I worked in Manhattan and everywhere you go people are recording you.  Even when we weren’t talking to someone, or making an arrest, even when we were just  walking down the street, people would stop and take pictures and record us.  Just walking down the street, not even interacting with anyone.  But, it’s the NYPD.  Sometimes they just like the department, sometimes they’re trying to get us doing something,

It’s not a big deal. That’s your right, you’re allowed to record, you’re allowed to stand and watch.  Go for it.

TCR: What did you gain from the three weeks of field training?

DB: The academy itself is great. If you’re a lawyer, you could read the penal law for your whole life, but once you’re in the courtroom and you have to persuade a jury to get on your side, it’s gonna be hard.  You have to be a people person.  [It’s the same difference with cops.] You can’t just yell, “Sir! Stop doing what you’re doing! Put your hands behind your back!”

You have to talk to people, be human, and it’s real easy to get lost in that kind of attitude when you’re reading these penal laws and procedures.  You want to be a person, you don’t want to be a robot, so doing field training and learning how to deal with every kind of situation is really beneficial.

Isidoro Rodriguez is a staff intern with The Crime Report and a graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This is the third in his continuing series examining NYPD training. Readers’comments are welcome.