Most Chicago Police Stops Last Year Justified, Report Finds

Retired federal magistrate judge Arlander Keys finds that 90 percent of Chicago police stops in the first half of 2016 were
good stops.” Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be subjected to “bad stops,” in which officers failed to articulate a legal reason for stopping someone.

Most stops that Chicago police officers made during the first half of 2016 appeared to be by the book, said a long-awaited report released Friday by retired federal magistrate judge Arlander Keys, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Keys found what he termed a “good stop rate” of about 90 percent of the stops that he and his researchers reviewed. “This good stop rate, in isolation, certainly represents an excellent start by the [Chicago Police Department] to documenting investigatory stops,” Keys wrote. He noted that blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be subjected to “bad stops,” in which officers failed to articulate a legal reason for stopping someone. Minorities also are more likely to be patted down by officers, he found.

Keys’ 400-plus-page report was the result of an agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy reached in August 2015 after the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the Chicago Police Department for disproportionately stopping minorities and failing to list lawful reasons for stops on the “contact cards” they’re supposed to fill out. Under the agreement, the police agreed to broaden the information officers put on contact cards — such as whether someone was frisked, searched or arrested.


Too Quick to Shoot?

A Sacramento Bee investigation finds a small suburb leads the state of California in the per capita rate of officer-involved shootings. It underlines concerns that the new administration’s promise to back off civil-rights probes of police departments will put the burden of police oversight on cities and counties with scant resources or little interest in making reforms.

A suburb of Sacramento, California’s capital, is the newest addition to the national debate over officer-involved shootings.

An investigation this month by The Sacramento Bee found that officers in suburban Citrus Heights (population 87,000) lead California in the per capita rate of shooting deaths at the hands of cops.

The actual numbers were comparatively small.  But according to the paper, of the eight officer-involved shooting deaths between 2010 and 2016, six occurred in a three-year period between 2013-2016 —the same number of fatalities caused by police in Oakland, a city with five times as many residents and a much higher violent crime rate.

Local authorities say the numbers are misleading, and don’t reflect the police force’s overall work. They say that the number and type of calls the police receive should be considered in any analysis of officer-involved shootings, and claim the department’s professionalism is responsible for a decline in crime.

“We don’t have a problem,” Citrus Heights Mayor Jeff Slowey told the newspaper. “I have seen nothing except what I see as positive results from our police department.

“Yes, we’ve had several shootings in a period of time, but I’m not sure that means anything but that the bad guys didn’t look at a calendar and they all fell together in the same period of time.”

The paper based its analysis on an examination of four police shooting databases and official state population estimates.  A further review of each of the department’s officer-involved shootings was conducted using police reports, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office investigations, court documents, interviews, and information obtained through the California Public Records Act.

It found that two of the six people killed by Citrus Heights police since 2013 were unarmed. One suspect had a gun. Another had a knife. One of those fatal shootings resulted in a $2 million payout to the victim’s family, among the largest such settlements ever in the region.

[Yet a final assessment of the shootings is hampered by the lack of a civilian or independent review board. Unlike many police departments in California, (but like many smaller police forces around the country),]  Citrus Heights, with a force of 90 sworn officers, doesn’t have a process for public scrutiny of police shootings. Moreover, officers do not have cameras in their patrol cars or on their bodies. Police personnel records, including disciplinary actions, are kept confidential by state law.

[Some of those personally affected by the fatalities believe that such limitations encourage police misconduct.]

“They’re a scary police department,” said Gayla Hernandez, whose ex-husband, Jason Wilson, 42, was fatally shot by Citrus Heights police in May 2014. The police department said Wilson assaulted a woman and then fled from responding officers. Hernandez disputes that official account. She said police knew Wilson and may have targeted him.

“Any time they would approach us for any reason … we were afraid something bad would transpire,” she said.

The string of shootings by Citrus Heights police comes as law enforcement nationally has faced pressure to provide more accountability over fatal shootings, particularly of African Americans and mentally ill people. None of the people shot by Citrus Heights police was black, but family members said some may have been mentally ill.

The shooting of Joseph Mann, black and mentally ill, in North Sacramento last July led to significant policy changes within the Sacramento Police Department, including the release of video in critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings.

Scrutiny of police shootings has also fueled a pro-police movement highlighting the dangers of the job and the complexity of the work. The administration of President Donald Trump recently said it will back off of federal civil rights investigations of local police departments. With that change, police oversight and reform will largely revert to cities and counties.

Critics say they’re concerned the city does not provide enough direction and oversight to avoid deadly force. The department functions with a limited budget and busy staff that struggles to respond to a large volume of calls, city officials confirmed. A focus on controlling costs may have hampered its hiring, some said.

Experts on police use-of-force policies also said the “off-the-shelf” version in Citrus Heights focuses more on legalities than protecting lives.

Police Chief Ron Lawrence, who took over the force in October from former chief Christopher Boyd, said he has reviewed the shootings in question. In each case, he said, officers acted appropriately and lawfully to protect themselves and the public.

“They were either under physical attack, they were confronted by an assailant with a weapon and their lives were threatened, or there was an imminent threat,” he said.

Boyd added that he believes some of the victims, whom he did not identify, intentionally provoked police to kill them, committing “suicide by cop.”

The Citrus Heights force would not have the highest rate of fatal shootings by police if its entire history of more than 10 years was taken into account, Lawrence said, an assertion that is almost certainly true given that the department had no fatal shootings during its first four years.

Still, some community members and police experts said that the numbers uncovered by The Bee deserve attention.

Editor’s note:  A video of Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence responding to The Sacramento Bee investigation is available here.

“This kind of rise in the statistics for a town that small … should give rise to concern and the need to look deeper,” said Stephen Downing, a use-of-force expert and former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department who has been involved in numerous reviews of shootings.

Justin Nix, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisville and an expert in policing issues, cautioned against “drawing conclusions” from the data, but he said it “is certainly something to raise an eyebrow … I would certainly want to take a closer look.”

Deputies from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department patrolled the area until 2006, when Citrus Heights formed its own Police Department.  The city formed its own department in part to cut costs, said Mayor Slowey.

In 2016, Citrus Heights patrol officers handled an average of 5,691 calls per month, or about 187 calls daily, Lawrence said. He said officer deployment varies depending on call volume, with up to 21 patrol officers on duty each day. Officers regularly ride without partners and dispatchers sometimes must ask officers to leave less-urgent situations to respond to other calls.

On a recent Saturday night, The Bee rode with officers for more than four hours, during which police responded to a string of incidents that highlighted the pressures and pace of the department.

During one call early in the shift, a 63-year-old-man told dispatchers his girlfriend had hit him. Police found him in front of his trailer, where a gorilla mask on a stick stood sentry in a garden of dead roses. Lacking evidence of assault, the officers persuaded him to spend the night at his mother’s house.

Soon after, a man called to report that unknown enemies had implanted a device in his head. When officers located him, he was calm but said the device was telling him to kill himself. Officers gave him a ride to a hospital.

Later, on the department’s 228th call of the day, officers surrounded a domestic abuse suspect in the parking lot of his apartment complex. One officer pointed his gun at the man while a K-9 dog barked and strained at its leash. The man cooperated as a third officer cuffed him and the encounter ended peacefully.

Despite what Lawrence described as a relatively high number of calls, statistics do not suggest that Citrus Heights officers are dealing with a more violent population than other police departments in the Sacramento region. FBI data show that Citrus Heights police reported 44 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2015. Four area cities had higher violent crime rates but lower per capita officer-involved fatalities: Sacramento, West Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Woodland.

One of the difficulties in evaluating police shootings in Citrus Heights is a lack of independent information. With no civilian oversight board for the department other than the City Council and no official video footage of events, police largely control what the public knows about critical incidents.

Lawrence said that the Police Department does not have car or body cameras because both technologies cost too much and raise issues of privacy. Officers do have audio recorders, but there is no department policy mandating officers use them when responding to calls.

Slowey said city officials have talked about getting cameras but “our department thinks we don’t necessarily need (them) right now.”

“We don’t have a trust (issue), or we don’t have an issue where people are saying, ‘Hey, the police did this or the police are doing that,’ ” Slowey said. “If we believed there was an issue of public trust, we’d be on it in a heartbeat.”

All of the fatal shootings by Citrus Heights officers have been reviewed internally by the department, Lawrence said. But disciplinary and personnel records for law enforcement are private by California law, leaving the public in the dark about findings.

Slowey said that the City Council receives reports from police about officer involved shootings, but that he doesn’t consider it his purview to critique specific police actions if the command staff doesn’t find fault.

“I am a banker by trade, a politician by night, so I don’t try to second-guess our Police Department,” said Slowey.


Citrus Heights does not routinely release the names of officers involved in fatalities without a request, though it is public information by law. Another piece of information only available by asking is Policy 300, the department’s rulebook for using force.

Ed Obayashi, a use-of-force expert recognized by the federal government, said the “off-the-shelf” policy on force used by Citrus Heights, while legally sound, doesn’t reflect specific community values or expectations for behavior. Obayashi said that many small departments purchase policy in ready-made manuals, instead of crafting their own, as a cost-saving measure.

Boyd said the policy was purchased from Lexipol, a major publisher of policy manuals for law enforcement and emergency service providers nationwide, as a way to ensure that policies were current.

The Lexipol policy follows established legal guidelines that give officers wide discretion based on the threat an officer perceives in the moment. Deadly force may be justifiably used, according to the Citrus Heights policy, to protect an officer “from what he or she reasonably believes would be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

Obayashi cautioned that such one-size-fits-all policies don’t address the culture of an agency or community values.

Downing described some of its rules as “antiquated” and “thin.”

The Citrus Heights policy, Downing pointed out, mentions the value of human life but doesn’t place a priority on preserving it. Recently, Sacramento’s City Council passed a resolution affirming that, “the sanctity of life is inviolable,” and instructing its police to craft a policy that allows deadly force only when there is an imminent threat to life and such force is “strictly unavoidable.”

“They are way behind the times,” Downing said of Citrus Heights.

Some family members of those killed by the Citrus Heights police question whether the same financial constraints that pushed the city to buy a policy manual also influence its hiring, preventing it from landing the most sought-after recruits. The department’s salaries are among the lowest in the region.

Attorney Ellen Dove said she is concerned that “some of the officers there are worse because of inexperience and because of poor management. The rogues there are more rogue because the tightness with which some supervisors hold the reins is not there from all supervisors. They do not have a consistent policy, which is a bad thing.”

Dove filed a lawsuit against the department in 2012 for excessive force, one of six excessive force lawsuits reviewed by The Bee. It alleges that in three separate instances with three different suspects, Citrus Heights police let a police dog named Bruno continue to bite people after they were subdued.

The city hired a notable defense lawyer, Bruce Praet, and claimed the officers acted lawfully and that the defendants failed to provide enough details, including medical records. Dove said she dropped the suit because she doubted she could win it because of the criminal history of her clients, but that she stands by the filing’s claims.

Mary Beesley said she has similar questions about the training and tactics that led to the shooting of her granddaughter, Gabriella Nevarez, 22, in March 2014.

Beesley said her granddaughter was mentally ill and disliked taking her medications. Nevarez died from a barrage of 17 shots fired by Citrus Heights police Sgt. Jason Baldwin and Officer Alexi Fanopoulos after officers said she rammed a patrol car with her vehicle and drove toward them. At least one witness said Nevarez was in the driver’s seat of her car, with her hands up, when she was shot, according to the district attorney’s review of the case.

Officers disputed that account. They said they feared for their lives.

Many updated use-of-force policies ban officers from shooting at moving vehicles precisely because of what occurred with Nevarez: Officers wounded her with initial shots, causing her to lose control of the car, according to the district attorney’s investigation. Departments including Sacramento instruct officers to move out of harm’s way when faced with a moving vehicle when possible.

Beesley, who called police after Nevarez took her car that morning, said she wonders whether Citrus Heights officers know how to handle situations involving mentally ill suspects.

“Gabriella was bipolar,” said Beesley, who is raising her granddaughter’s son Vincent, 6. “Maybe she was scared, and trying to escape the police. But why did they have to shoot her? Why couldn’t they have used a Taser or something? I just don’t understand it.”

Lawrence maintains that his officers are highly trained, with an average of 12 years’ experience in law enforcement. Officers take special training in techniques for defusing volatile situations, including those involving mentally ill people, without using deadly force, he said. The city also has a grant to work with a local provider on better interventions and understanding for domestic abuse calls.

The chief said his officers receive crisis intervention training in-house “multiple times” each year and also attend sessions on how to use words, “defensive tactics” and tools other than firearms to defuse potentially deadly encounters.

Boyd said that the department has earned multiple awards for community policing, and crime has dropped 28 percent during his tenure. The department is taking part in a regional pilot program that allows a mental health technician to work in the field with officers, Lawrence said.

Fatal shootings, Lawrence said, represent a tiny fraction of the number of incidents and arrests that Citrus Heights officers handle. “While unfortunate, compared to the volume of police incidents we handled, our use of deadly force represents a very small percentage of our work.”

But Frank Straub, former police chief in Spokane, Wash., and current director of strategic studies for the national Police Foundation, said small numbers can matter.

“There is an intangible damage to the community when an officer-involved shooting occurs, because no one is shot in isolation,” he said. “The person has brothers, sisters, mothers and friends. So there is this ripple effect … that maybe to some degree is undermining the trust and confidence that a segment of the community has in its police.”

Hernandez, who lost her ex-husband, feels that distrust. “I have bad things to say about them,” she said of her interactions with Citrus Heights police.

“I don’t care for the way they do things,” Hernandez said. “They are not there to serve and protect.”

Where the numbers came from

This is an edited and condensed version of a story that appeared earlier this month in The Sacramento Bee.  One of the authors, Anita Chabria, is a  2016 John Jay/Quattrone Reporting Fellows, and her  work was assisted by her participation in the Fellowship. The complete story is available here. Readers’ comments are welcome.



Murder Trial Jury Rips Cleveland Police in Letter to Judge

Among other things, officers failed to notice incriminating damage on a car used to run over the homicide victim. After voting to convict the victim’s wife of murder, jurors criticized the police investigation as “inadequate and a disservice to the citizens of Cleveland.”

A jury that earlier this year convicted a Cleveland woman of murder took the extraordinary step of penning a letter that excoriated three Cleveland police officers who investigated the crash that killed the woman’s husband, reports the Plain Dealer. The jury criticized the entire police investigation into the May 25, 2016, crash that killed Ronrico Shutes. Ashley Shutes, 33, was convicted of murder in her husband’s death and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. The letter, signed by all 12 jurors, was given to Judge Brendan Sheehan just after the verdict was read in February. Sheehan filed the letter under seal. The Plain Dealer received a copy of the letter from a juror.

“As ordinary citizens — not police experts — we find [the officers’] behavior in responding to this incident to be inadequate and a disservice to the citizens of Cleveland,” the jurors wrote in the three-page letter. Officers Ryan Corrigan and Brian Soucek, who handled the initial probe, are facing an internal investigation. Jurors said in the letter that their criticism of the investigation did not affect their verdict. Testimony showed that Ashley Shutes ran over her husband–twice–in the driveway at their home. Corrigan and Soucek initially wrote it off as an accident. But body camera footage shows a Cleveland firefighter pointing out to police that there was damage to both the front and rear of her car.


How to be a 21st Century Cop

The New York Police Department’s new-style training teaches recruits that they don’t always have to make an arrest to enforce public order. In his second article in a series, TCR’s Isidoro Rodriguez follows two recruits as they tackle a grueling—and eye-opening—regimen that mixes military-style discipline with lessons that “de-emphasize confrontation.”

David Bavuso and Bellai Noe Cayo couldn’t have been more different when they joined the incoming class of 800 probationary police officers at the New York Police Academy last October.

Bavuso, 21, was working part-time at a McDonald’s restaurant and pursuing a political science degree at St. Joseph’s College.  Bellai Noe Cayo, 37, was a US Air Force veteran who had served as an officer in their security forces.

But they were united in one thing.  Though they hail, respectively, from Deer Park and Brentwood in Suffolk County, New York, both were driven by the idea of a career that would help them make a difference in one of the biggest cities in the world.

“(Policing) is a way to get hands-on and get involved in the community,” said Bavuso, whose father served in the New York Police Department (NYPD) for 22 years, retiring as a highway officer.

“You can be the guy who makes laws or makes legislation, but this is one-on-one dealing with people that most people don’t deal with: the elderly, the sick, drug addicts.”

Cayo’s motivation came from something just as deep. She had been in what she described as an “abusive relationship,” but when she called police for help, she was given the run-around. “They said it would be a hassle (to pursue charges), and a lot of paperwork for them,” she recalled.

She decided that she would do everything in her power to make sure that other women never experienced such treatment.

Maybe I’ll be captain,” Cayo said, half-jokingly.  “The only way I can have an effect is by being in the system.”

Most policing veterans would recognize those motivations. It’s what brought them into one of New York’s most difficult—and often most thankless—professions in the first place.

Cadet Bellai Noe Cayo, a member of the Fall 2016 training class at the New York Police Academy

But unlike the hardened veteran cops who have passed through the previous training courses at the Academy, whose ideals often quickly got lost in the gritty routine of day-to-day policing,  Bavuso and Cayo would be exposed to the kind of training that –in theory—would arm them with the emotional and intellectual tools to achieve their goals.

Along with their fellow cadets in the incoming NYPD class, they would be the first men and women to experience a new kind of training program—one  that concentrated as much on the “culture” of modern policing as on the practical aspects of making an arrest, dealing with suspects and the court system, and understanding the legal responsibilities of law enforcement.

The Crime Report was given an unprecedented opportunity to join the new recruits as they endured the challenges of the new training regimen.  In the opening article of this series, “Changing the Culture of Policing: One Recruit At a Time,”  we examined the context of the new approach to training, begun under the NYPD’s new Deputy Commissioner Tracy Keesee and set in motion by former Commissioner Bill Bratton and his successor, James O’Neill.

For this series, TCR was given conditional access to the recruiting class.  We were permitted to accompany them through their daily curriculum, provided we took no photographs, and we were allowed to observe them during classes, gym, and any specialty or reality-based training they were given.

Together, both Bavuso and Cayo represent the new mindset of the NYPD: one that de-emphasizes confrontation and makes connecting with and understanding the communities they patrol a key value.

NYPD Cadets David Bavuso (right) and Ed Griffin

The first days of orientation were “super intimidating,” said Bavuso. “I had no idea what to expect.”

Of Bavuso and Cayo’s classmates, nearly 24% are female and some 16.5% are African-American, both record numbers for the Academy and ones that better reflect the diversity and demographics of New York City.

“These are all guys of different ages, backgrounds, groups,” said Bavuso. “One guy is from Haiti, he’s only been here for six years.  They’re from every aspect of life.”

At the academy, the recruits are divided into companies of 24.  This allows for smaller class sizes, and better interaction and communication with instructors.  The recruits, who come from all the city’s five boroughs and reflect the city’s multi-ethnic character, meet one another, find out who lives where, plan carpools, and get acquainted.

The move for greater diversity in a police force, so that it mirrors the people it is dedicated to serve, is part of the new approach to policing that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio considers a necessary to forge closer ties between police and the city’s multi-ethnic communities.

“It will create a sense of appreciation among the people that you serve and a connection to the people you serve,” DeBlasio told the recruits at their swearing-in ceremony in October, 2016.

For the next six months, they would be doing nothing other than learning how to become agents of law enforcement.  Though they are not permitted off-duty employment, upon starting at the academy they are granted the starting salary for an officer: $44,000 per year.

Outside of the uniform, which they wear to and from the academy, in a way, the experience is very much like the first weeks at any job.

With perhaps one difference.  Every recruit learns very quickly that policing is an intensely collaborative profession.

“Everybody (in your company) wants you to do well,” said Bavuso.  “And [the feeling is] if you don’t do well, we’re here for you.”

It’s a key lesson that will help when they go on the streets and learn to depend on one another for support.

That mutual support system, engraved into their experience from the start, helps everyone get through a day that starts on the campus “parade ground” at 6:30 am with a general assembly called “muster.”

With the sun only just rising, the various companies of recruits, aging roughly 21-35, form up in organized rows of six to await inspection.

Standing roughly one yard apart, the recruits are scrutinized by their commanding officers, who wind between their ranks checking their posture, uniforms and equipment.  A recruit’s uniform consists of a grey button down, a black tie with a silver tie clip, a silver nametag, silver badge, black or navy blue slacks, and black shoes.

Everything must be pressed and neat.

Before beginning their training, recruits are required to pay close to $1,000 for their uniform and all their equipment, including their department-issued phone, ID card, Metro Card (for public transportation), gear bag, gun belt, flashlight, and gun.

All of this is carried to muster. If a recruit displays the slightest infraction or is missing a single piece of equipment, he is chastised—loudly.

The military feeling is no coincidence.

“It commands discipline,” said NYPD Lieutenant Robert Tillwitz, Squad Commander of the Recruit Training section of the academy.  “And it wakes them up.”

This morning routine has been part of the NYPD for decades, reflecting the realities of the paramilitary aspects of their training and conditioning.

Cayo doesn’t mind. This is familiar territory.

“I like the discipline,” said Cayo, who also serves in the Air National Guard.

By 7 AM, all companies reassemble, stand at attention, and are promptly dismissed, leaving in organized lines with their gear.  That’s when their training starts to take a different character under the new system—a system that resembles a university classroom, but with a schedule that most college students would find off-putting.

On an average day at the academy, recruits attend classes and training for nine hours, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

That day is divided between classroom lectures and discussions on law, social science, and police science, physical exercise and combat sparring in the gymnasium, and specialty training such as reality-based exercises and emergency response procedures and tactics.

In the classroom, recruits learn a range of subjects, including: appropriate interview techniques for suspects and witnesses; the proper way to conduct a preliminary investigation; and the best methods for policing the emotionally distressed.  Recruits are quizzed daily, and classes are handled in a collegial style with constant interactions between recruits and their instructors.

“It’s a lot more of a “what you need to know” structure,” said Sergeant Robert Sanderlin, a 10 ½ year veteran officer and an instructor at the academy.  “We tell them this is what you have to do, this is how you speak to people… know the law.”

Originally an officer in Alabama, Sanderlin points out that this style of training is being used everywhere as departments large and small push to change with the times.  However, the NYPD is at the forefront of that change, conscious that they are setting an example for training the police officers of the 21st century.

“The reality of what we used to do wasn’t protecting and serving,” said Sanderlin. “Whether you like it or not.”

According to Sanderlin, before the recent changes the job had become all about the numbers, a fact that cut the humanity out of the profession.

Today, recruits like Bavuso and Cayo are taught to make emotional connections with the people they serve, that they don’t always have to make an arrest.  Changing the idea of basic procedure, the curriculum emphasizes an increase in socialization and understanding of the law.

“These people have rights,” Sanderlin often tells his class.

“You don’t have to yell, you don’t necessarily have to arrest.  You have to figure out how to talk and how to listen.”

Recruits learn about the “seven major felonies,” the rules and exceptions to search and seizure, and the intricacies of investigation and report writing.  But the emphasis on communication, on active listening and de-escalation, is never far from the surface.

Instructors continually point out that while laws are black and white, on the street everything becomes grey: people have to come first.

“The instructors bring it down to the real world level,” said Bavuso. “The laws are written by lawyers, so they break down what that means on the street.”

This new attitude and understanding of law enforcement is the core of a curriculum that is the result of major changes in the wake of the mandated end to the controversial stop, question and frisk practices of the past.

In 2014, Mayor de Blasio settled a long-running legal battle by agreeing to the reforms initially ordered by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin during the term of his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A federal monitor, Peter L. Zimroth, was appointed to ensure that the NYPD is in compliance with the new mandates.

“Training had to be rewritten and redeveloped with the monitor’s approval,” said Sergeant Aaron Lai, Commanding Officer of the academy’s Recruit Curriculum and Evaluation Unit.  “It’s been an ongoing process.”

Part of that process has been returning the curriculum back to a three-discipline system.

Before 2012, recruits followed a unified curriculum, in which law, social science and police science were combined into “chapters.”   In the old style of training, these chapters were then taught as a single unit by a single instructor.

But, with so much material handled by only one instructor, the “gray areas” that are so important for cops to understand could be easily missed. A three-discipline curriculum, taught by a team of instructors each specializing in one area, is considered far more beneficial for would-be police officers.

According to Lai, that allows the police cadets to be given the kind of detail that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

As recruits learn from three different experts on each subject, they are also receiving three different perspectives and being exposed to three different styles of teaching.  In this way, they are pushed to always be prepared with the knowledge they need to succeed in the field.

It isn’t meant to be easy.

“It’s stressful, it’s a lot of studying, it’s so much material,” said Cayo after six weeks in the academy.  “You just gotta suck it up.”

Both in and out of class, recruits find support from the other members of their companies.  They share study guides, make up acronyms to help each other memorize material, and take advantage of the fact that instructors are constantly available for any questions.

“To have these guys have your back, on top of what the instructors give you, it really helps,” said Bavuso.

The six-month training period for recruits is divided into trimesters. The close of each one is marked by an exam.  Recruits have two opportunities to pass these exams. If they fail both, they are required to resign.

Every recruit must know the letter of the law before he or she can proceed.

“There are no ‘what if’s’ in the field,” said Sanderlin. “(So) there are no ‘what if’s’ on the exam.”

However, despite the obvious stress and pressure that comes with the testing and training, the recruits behave like any other group of college students.  They joke with each other before the “professor” arrives, share stories from the past few days, and discuss plans for those brief moments during the weekend when they won’t be studying.

When the instructor first enters, they snap to attention and salute, but the regimental air of these proceedings is soon forgotten as they get down to discussion and review of yesterday’s work and head into the day’s newest topic.

It is only when they leave the classroom and head through the halls of the academy to the gym that the paramilitary character of policing is again apparent.  There, instructors try to expand on what recruits learn in the classroom through exhaustive physical training and exercise.

While balancing both the academic and physical sides of training is not easy, both Bavuso and Cayo have met every trial successfully.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Cayo.  “I’m still here”

Now finishing their final trimester along with the rest of the recruits of Company 67, they face one last exam which will decide if they will either be at graduation two days later or going home.

Isidoro Rodriguez

For Bavuso and Cayo, that success means putting  their heads down and getting it done.

“It’s stressful, but I feel pretty confident,” said Bavuso.  “I think everybody is going to do ok.”

Isidoro Rodriguez is a staff writer for TCR. He will publish occasional pieces over the next six months as he follows a class of NYPD recruits through their training. Readers’ comments are welcome.










NM Shooting Raises Issues About Police Camera Value

Nearly three years after it happened, after the Albuquerque killing of Mary Hawkes by a police officer has become a cautionary tale about the potential of new technology to obscure rather than illuminate, especially in situations when police control what is recorded and shown to the public, the Washington Post reports.

The killing in Albuquerque of Mary Hawkes  a troubled 19-year-old woman suspected of stealing a truck, should have been a case study in the value of police body cameras. The action was fast-moving, the decisions split-second. All of the surviving witnesses, including the shooter, were police officers wearing small video cameras on their uniforms, the Washington Post reports. Nearly three years after the shooting, it instead has become a cautionary tale about the potential of new technology to obscure rather than illuminate, especially in situations when police control what is recorded and shown to the public. Federal investigators are probing allegations that police tampered with video evidence in the case, underscoring broader questions about whether a nationwide rollout of body cameras is fulfilling promises of greater accountability.

“The video has become part of the story, as opposed to what it was perceived to be, as telling the story,” said Edward Harness, executive director of Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency. The clearest look at Hawkes’s final moments could have come from the shooter himself, Officer Jeremy Dear. His camera was not recording when he fired five shots at point-blank range, leaving Hawkes dying alongside a small handgun that Dear claimed she pointed at him just before he fired. Videos from three other officers who converged on the scene also missed the first, crucial moments. Video from a fourth camera was oddly blurred. A fifth and a sixth turned up nothing at all. The controversy highlights the possibility that massive deployments of body cameras, now used by nearly every major department, may be used selectively to bolster police accounts of incidents without providing the transparency expected by reform advocates.



Police Deflection: The Screen Door at the Front of the Justice System

Confronted with people clearly in need of treatment and social services, law enforcement officers need a way to respond, because they know they’ll see them again. A new approach gaining traction across the country offers “a public health approach to better public safety.”

Law enforcement officers know the routine well. They encounter someone who has a drug addiction or a mental health problem. Sometimes they stop the person for a low-level offense, such as drug possession, petty theft, or vagrancy.

Sometimes this might mean arrest, but often it means not being able to do anything.

If an arrest is made and the person is prosecuted, then very often, he or she will be arrested again and the cycle continues.

Confronted with people clearly in need of treatment and social services, law enforcement officers need a way to respond, because they know they’ll see them again. Confronted with violations of the law, officers cannot simply ignore what’s happening.

But continually arresting individuals for low-level offenses only exacerbates problems. As officers have said for decades, “we cannot arrest our way out of social problems.”

What if officers had a third option?

Increasingly, in jurisdictions across the country, they do.

They do in Tallahassee, Florida. In Gloucester, Massachusetts. In Lucas County, Ohio; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Seattle, Washington. These are some of the more than 250—and counting—jurisdictions across the United States that are part of rapidly emerging criminal justice efforts that collectively are called “deflection.”

Deflection is a term coined in 2014 to represent a broad range of alternatives that take place as part of law enforcement’s decision-making before an arrest is made. Existing deflection initiatives may include pre-arrest or pre-booking diversion, law enforcement diversion, and police-assisted diversion.

Deflection involves a different approach than prosecutorial or court-based diversion, where a person already faces criminal charges and is subsequently moved out of the system. It is defined as moving a person away from the justice system and toward community behavioral health and social services without ever being arrested and processed into the criminal justice system.

Deflection is a public health approach to better public safety.

Earlier this month, the Center for Health and Justice at the Chicago-based nonprofit called Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) and the Civil Citation Network co-convened the first-ever National Deflection Summit in Alexandria, VA.

The summit brought together 45 leaders representing law enforcement, behavioral health, research, and public policy partners. Among the participants were “brand name” deflection programs, including Adult Civil Citation, the Angel and Arlington models (part of the PAARI network, the largest number of deflection sites in the country), LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), and STEER (Stop, Triage, Engage, Educate, and Rehabilitate).

The summit involved an exchange of experience, insights and thoughts about deflection, including how deflection can be used in confronting the opioid crisis. At the conclusion of the summit, it was decided to move forward together—law enforcement, treatment, researchers and partners—to provide national vision, leadership, voice and action regarding deflection.

Accountability Without Arrest

Drug use and mental health issues are the major drivers of criminal justice involvement.

Deflection identifies and treats these underlying issues as a health issue first, and public safety event only when they present a real risk to others’ well-being. Through this approach, encounters with law enforcement involve screening to determine who may be deflected to services before an arrest is made and without locking people up.

This real-time sorting is done by officers and behavioral health experts based on the person’s own desire to receive help, behavioral triage, or if criminal charges could be brought, it might involve their risk to re-offend and identified treatment needs. If deflected, there are no criminal charges filed and many deflection initiatives do not require criminal charges even be present in the first place.

Early deflection programs show promising results. For those communities that have practiced pre-arrest diversion to treatment for several years, the rearrest rates for those receiving behavioral intervention services have significantly decreased.

Beyond these early initiatives, there is now a sizable expansion of programs that connect law enforcement to community-based treatment, and that paradigm shift can transform the front door of the justice system. When deflection is scaled using universal screening, referral, and intervention/treatment, the numbers of individuals entering the justice system should drop —assuming the availability of sufficient behavioral health services in the community.

Through expanded use of deflection, law enforcement could become the largest referral source to behavioral health and social services in U.S. criminal justice history.

Deflection makes every law enforcement officer a potential pathway to behavioral intervention services, drug treatment, mental health treatment, and social services when called for. Based on the street-level experiences of police officers who see the same drug users and people with mental illness daily on their beats, and know an arrest will do absolutely nothing to solve the situation, deflection adds to the justice system something new.

A screen door.

By reshaping the American criminal justice system so that it holds only those deemed a danger to society, we will achieve a system that is more nimble, agile, and able to focus on addressing offenses that present a real risk to public safety.

This new type of American justice will be able to systematically focus its full attention, resources and efforts on a smaller number of the most dangerous criminals, most urgent public safety challenges, and most intransigent crime issues, while also providing more support for victims of crime.

Perhaps one of the most timely, though not initially obvious, outcomes is improved police/community relations.

Surveys of officers often show that one of the reasons they joined the profession was to help people. Deflection gives law enforcement departments the opportunity to provide and train officers to use an effective alternative to arrest that has a positive outcome.

And the community will see law enforcement repeatedly doing much more than arresting, by truly understanding what residents and their loved ones may need: A place to stay, treatment, or a real shot at a job.

Jac Charlier,  a national expert on police deflection and criminal justice systems-change initiatives, is National Director for Justice Initiatives at the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. He welcomes comments from readers.



The Kim Nguyen Police Brutality Case

     At three in the morning, March 17, 2013, 28-year-old Kim Nguyen and two of her male acquaintances were waiting for their designated driver outside a bar in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Police officers David Shin and Jin Oh, in a marked L…

     At three in the morning, March 17, 2013, 28-year-old Kim Nguyen and two of her male acquaintances were waiting for their designated driver outside a bar in Los Angeles' Koreatown. Police officers David Shin and Jin Oh, in a marked LAPD patrol car, pulled up to the trio. Following a brief questioning of Nguyen and her friends, the young officers drove off.

     For some reason the officers circled back to Nguyen and her companions. As the patrol car approached the bar's parking lot, Nguyen crossed the street to an all-night coffee shop. At this point the officers decided to arrest the Loyola Marymount University graduate student for public intoxication. (This part of LA must be crime-free.) One of the officers handcuffed Nguyen behind her back and placed her into the back of the patrol vehicle.

     The young woman's friends asked the officers where they were taking Nguyen. The officers drove off without answering that question.

     Video footage from a surveillance camera at an intersection not far from Nguyen's arrest showed her lying on her back in the street with a badly bloodied face. The video did not reveal how Nguyen had exited the patrol vehicle. Because she was not moving, it appeared she was either dead or unconscious.

     A patrol car occupied by another set of officers pulled into surveillance camera view. These officers were followed thirty seconds later by the car containing the arresting cops. Officers Shin and Oh were observed standing over Nguyen's body. Finally one of them crouched down next to her and rolled her onto her side. (Perhaps to take off the handcuffs.) Nguyen had regained consciousness and was writhing in pain. Paramedics arrived at the scene, gathered up Nguyen, and took her to a nearby hospital.

     Nguyen's jaw had been shattered and she suffered bleeding on the brain. She had also lost several teeth. Doctors kept her heavily sedated for several days.

     According to the responding paramedics, the LAPD officers told them that Nguyen had fallen out of the patrol car as it accelerated to 10 miles-per-hour from a stop sign. Surveillance camera footage, however, contradicted this account. Video footage showed the patrol car carrying Nguyen traveling through a stop sign at a much higher speed.

     Since Kim Nguyen had no memory of how she got from the patrol vehicle to the street, and patrol cars are equipped with locks that officers can engage when transporting arrestees, how this woman exited the patrol car remained a mystery. Moreover, it was apparently a mystery that no one at the LAPD was interested in solving.

     In September 2013, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times doing a story about Nguyen's lawsuit against the police department asked a police commander if the department had launched an internal investigation into the matter. Commander Andrew Smith said that he didn't know if such an inquiry had been conducted. According to Commander Smith, now that a lawsuit had been filed against the LAPD an investigation would be conducted for sure.

     In May 2015, the UCLA graduate, with her state civil lawsuit unresolved, filed a suit against the police department in federal court. Her attorney told reporters that the officers involved had sexually assaulted her. Surveillance camera footage revealed that Nguyen's left bra strap was broken and the top of her dress was pulled down to her waist. According to the lawsuit, when she awoke from the trauma days later, she found bruising on the inside of her thighs.

     On February 17, 2016, in a case not directly related to the Kim Nguyen case, Los Angeles police officers James Nichols, 43 and Luis Valenzuela, 40, were charged with sexually assaulting four women in their patrol car,while the officers were on duty. The alleged rapes occurred at various locations between 2008 and 2011. As of March 2017, the officers involved in Nguyen's arrest had not been criminally charged.

     The Los Angeles Police Department, on February 4, 2017, settled Kim Nguyen's lawsuits for $35 million. In a city that is virtually bankrupt, bad police behavior extracts a high cost on taxpayers.



Nearly 100 Killed in Police Drug Raids Over Six Years

Forcible-entry raids to serve narcotics warrants have led to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense, a New York Times investigation finds.

Forcible-entry raids to serve narcotics search warrants regularly introduce what the New York Times reports as “staggering levels of violence into missions that might be accomplished through patient stakeouts or simple knocks at the door.” Thousands of times a year, “dynamic entry” raids exploit the element of surprise to make seizures and arrests of drug dealers. They have also led to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense. The newspaper, using dozens of open-record requests and examining police and court files, found that at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in such raids from 2010 through 2016. Many others were wounded.

The casualties occurred in the execution of no-knock warrants, which give police judicial authority to force entry without notice, as well as warrants that require the police to knock and announce themselves before breaking down doors. Innocents have died in attacks on wrong addresses, including a 7-year-old girl in Detroit, and collaterally as the police pursued other residents, among them a 68-year-old grandfather in Framingham, Ma. Search warrant raids account for a small share of the 1,000 fatalities each year in officer-involved shootings. What distinguishes them from other risky interactions between the police and citizens is that they are initiated by law enforcement. With four in 10 adults having guns in their homes, the raids lead to predictable collisions between officers with a license to invade private homes and residents convinced of their right to self-defense.


LA Sheriff’s Deputy Killed Struggling With Suspect

Shawn Anderson becomes fourth law enforcement officer to be killed in the Baton Rouge area in eight months. The father of a deputy wounded last July says elected “soft on crime” officials are not supporting law enforcement enough.

A veteran East Baton Rouge Parish, La., sheriff’s deputy who served high-risk warrants and earned accolades in his career became the fourth law enforcement officer to die in the area in the line of duty over the last eight months after he was fatally shot Saturday night at a strip-mall hair salon while trying to question a rape suspect, reports The Advocate. Sgt. Shawn Thomas Anderson, 43, a father of two and an East Baton Rouge Parish deputy for 18 years, struggled with the rape suspect, and shots were fired. The suspect also was shot.

Anderson’s killing occurred as Baton Rouge law enforcement continues to grieve the assassination of three officers in July during an ambush that also left three others wounded. Deputy Brad Garafola and Baton Rouge police officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson were killed July 17 in an ambush by a former Marine from Kansas City, Mo. James Tullier, the father of Deputy Nick Tullier, who was critically wounded in the July 17 attack and remains in an intensive rehabilitation facility in Texas, said the shooting was another tragic blow to the tight-knit local law enforcement community. Tullier  said here isn’t enough support for police and deputies in the parish, and laid some blame for that at the feet of local elected officials. “The change has to start in the community and with some of these officials who want to be soft on crime,” he said.


Sessions, Facing Budget Cut, Won’t Promise To Help Chicago

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t keep to police chiefs at a time of proposed cuts to the Justice Department budget. Chicago Police Superintendent seeks more federal prosecutions of gun crimes.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for more financial help at a time of runaway violence, but Sessions was noncommittal, saying he didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t keep at a time of proposed cuts to the Justice Department, the Chicago Tribune reports. Johnson was among several chiefs from mostly big-city departments who talked to the nation’s top law enforcement official about how the federal government can help them fight gun violence on their streets. Chief J. Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, Md., president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the meeting with Sessions lasted close to an hour and was “substantive.”

Sessions noted that his budget for the next fiscal year had been cut and that he didn’t want to promise anything he couldn’t deliver. After briefing Sessions on Chicago’s violence woes, Johnson called for the addition of more federal prosecutors to help prosecute cases of felons in possession of illegal handguns. “The superintendent said for a city that’s leading headlines with challenges of gun violence, we have one of the lowest federal prosecution rates in the country and that shouldn’t be,” said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, who also attended the meeting. “The meat and potatoes of what was discussed was bad guys with guns are wreaking havoc in American cities, and the federal government certainly needs to help local entities set an example in a culture of accountability for those repeat offenders.”