Archive for the ‘Dr. Katherine Ramsland’ Category
A Philadelphia cop taps social media for crime control
Using social media doesn’t just mean mundane status lines and community games. Joseph Murray, a Philadelphia-based detective, has devised a unique way to combine Twitter with his neighborhood watch. As a result, he’s made his area a safer place. Hopefully, his idea will go viral. Imagine all these Twitter-communities keeping watch.
Murray is a third-generation police officer and long-time Philadelphia resident. He joined the force when he was just 19. Six years later, he became a detective. He started his online networking efforts with community blogs when he became a member of the Southwest Division. He wanted potential victims to be aware of danger zones – especially those that were presently in progress. Twitter provided a great tool, for both brevity and speed.
Murray opened a Twitter account in 2009 and identified himself as a detective. He’s @TheFuzz9143 (his badge number). He signaled that he would be posting tweets about crime patterns, suspects, and public safety. He asked people to let him know if he could be of assistance. It was an invitation to be involved.
“Everyblock is reporting a stranger rape on the 200block of 47th Friday night,” one Tweeter writes. “Nothing in news. Is this true?”
“Not true,” TheFuzz9143 responds. “Can’t find anything in any computer system we have here.” Followers can see the response and retweet it. If he gets an update, he can send it out at once, and the update quickly spreads.
In another tweet, Murray related a “great job done by a few citizens who called police when they spotted a guy who committed a robbery a few nights ago. Arrest made. Phone returned.”
As of today, he has acquired around 1285 followers, many of whom live in his area. He’s known some followers as long as 5 years, from the earlier message boards.
“I started Twitter,” he says, “because the neighborhood message boards were becoming irrelevant. I wanted to use the popular medium. You have to adapt or you’ll be left behind.”
He’s aware of the limitations of a few cops driving around a neighborhood: they can be in only one place at any given time. Citizens who join the effort to keep their neighborhoods safe offer more eyes and ears. It’s also a way to build trust and cooperation. Even Philadelphia’s mayor has posted tweets on Murray’s feed.
On a daily basis, he tweets where and when crimes are occurring (“just had a gunpoint Robbery on 47th Street”), and responds to queries. For example, they arrested a guy in the process of a car-jacking who couldn’t figure out a stick shift. Murray even tweets to criminals not yet arrested, warning them they’ll be in custody soon.
Murray is a face to which people can relate, a protector who listens. He’ll even comment on mundane things like what he’s eating or the billboard ads he notices. When things are quiet, he offers safety tips or posts a photo he just took. If someone wants to send a tip confidentially, Murray provides his private email address.
To spread the word, reporters have written about Murray’s efforts to lift the veil that often blocks the police from the community they serve. One Philadelphia journalist contacted residents to get their reactions, finding individuals who keep Murray’s Twitter feed on their home pages or who feel like Murray is a friend. This is positive community policing in action. One neighborhood watch group routinely checks Murray’s tweets before they go out on patrol.
Recently, bureaucracy slowed things down, as officials realized that policies must be in place before officers reach out in this medium. “Per a new directive,” Murray tweeted in January, “all personnel wanting to use social media under their official title must get approval from the commissioner.”
The Philadelphia Police Department recognizes the service Murray provides and they’re currently training 12-15 officers to exploit social network opportunities for community relations. It’s important to have consistency. The department itself has a Twitter feed, @Phillypolice.
The concept is simple: train officers to use Twitter, publicize their “beat” locally, and invite followers to provide information about things they observe. Also, provide followers with safety tips and updates (where possible) about local crime. It’s a terrific way to tap the networking power of social media. It’s not a replacement for 911, but it does connect a lot of people. It also makes them feel safer and more involved.
Let’s hope more towns and cities pick up on it. As Murray states, “It’s win-win.”
*Det. Murray’s image – Philly.com/TOM GRALISH / Staff
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Dr. Katherine Ramsland has master’s degrees in forensic and clinical psychology, a master’s in criminal justice, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. She has published nearly 1,000 articles and forty books, including The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, The CSI Effect, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Healthcare Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers, Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators, and The Human Predator: A Historical Chronology of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation. She has been featured on numerous documentaries and such programs as 20/20, The Today Show, 48 Hours, Montel Williams, and Forensic Files, and she currently writes regular features for InSinc and The Forensic Examiner. She teaches forensic psychology and criminal justice as an associate professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and consults with death investigators and law enforcement worldwide on cases involving serial murder.
Post-Dahmer Stress Disorder?
PTSD can be a scapegoat for poor judgment
by Dr. Katherine Ramsland
Jeffrey Dahmer killed seventeen men before he was arrested in 1991. An intended victim had escaped his personal killing field and returned with the police. Inside Dahmer’s apartment they found human heads, intestines, hearts, defleshed skulls, and dismembered torsos half-dissolved in a barrel of acid. Numerous snapshots depicted posed and mutilated bodies. With chloroform, electric saws, acid, and formaldehyde, Dahmer was killing men and preserving or dissolving their parts. Sometimes he cooked and tasted them.
The man who’d stopped him was Tracy Edwards, still wearing the handcuffs that Dahmer had used to restrain him. Later in court, Edwards gave a description of how Dahmer had transformed into a monster that night and threatened to kill him. “He said he was going to eat my heart,” Edwards testified in a quavering voice. “He laid across me and put his head on my chest and was listening to my heart.”
Now Edwards has been in court for his own sentencing for a homicide. During an altercation with a homeless man, Johnny Jordan, Edwards helped another individual to throw him over a bridge into a river. Jordan drowned. Edwards’ attorney threw part of the blame on Dahmer, stating that Edwards’ troubles are the result of PTSD from his ordeal in Dahmer’s apartment. On the bridge, two decades later, he had “shorted out.”
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can be acute, chronic, or delayed. It can happen to anyone, but we don’t know why some suffer more than others. The symptoms range all over the place, and a positive prognosis relies on therapy and a good support system. Supposedly, the impact of trauma can diminish over time, but here we are, twenty years later (almost to the day), and an attorney is offering Edwards’ horrendous past experience one night as a mitigating factor.
Is it just an excuse? The attorney is not a mental health expert and he didn’t bring one to court to support his opinion. In addition, Edwards is not the only person to have endured and survived torment from a serial killer. In fact, a number of others have been treated far worse, but most haven’t harmed or killed anyone.
So, is this alleged post-Dahmer stress disorder, which seems to have pushed Edwards into a mess of trouble over the years, just another designer defense?
The goal of designer defenses, which have taken many forms since the so-called (and poorly named) Twinkie defense in 1979, is to transfer responsibility from perpetrators to external factors. Many rely on the notion of temporary psychosis or use a twist on a more traditional disorder. We’ve seen “black rage,” “Matrix confusion,” “cyberspace addiction,” “gay panic,” “9-11 syndrome,” “mother lion,” and “urban survival,” among others.
Such defenses are devised when full-blown psychosis cannot be proven and they generally tap into some subconscious social force, such as sympathy for abused individuals, to sway a judge or jury. Whether or not a defense can win an acquittal (about 8-10% have), it can result in a hung jury or mitigate the severity of the punishment. A study of nearly 200 cases that used some type of designer defense reveals that about 50% succeeded in some manner. Most often, the defendant receives a reduced sentence, especially if he or she is more likable than the victim, is female, or is particularly sympathetic. Attorneys don’t even need to use clinical experts to persuade fact-finders to accept the disorder.
However, we must keep such claims in perspective, as did the judge in the Edwards case. Although extreme trauma might erode cognitive abilities, it does not hijack judgment altogether. Edwards is now 52. Nothing in his mental state blinded him to the fact that pushing a man off a bridge was reckless, dangerous, and potentially fatal. The judge was right to say that, despite his past ordeal, Edwards should have known better.
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Dr. Katherine Ramsland has master’s degrees in forensic and clinical psychology, a master’s in criminal justice, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. She has published nearly 1,000 articles and forty books, including The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, The CSI Effect, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Healthcare Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers, Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators, and The Human Predator: A Historical Chronology of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation. She has been featured on numerous documentaries and such programs as 20/20, The Today Show, 48 Hours, Montel Williams, and Forensic Files, and she currently writes regular features for InSinc and The Forensic Examiner. She teaches forensic psychology and criminal justice as an associate professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and consults with death investigators and law enforcement worldwide on cases involving serial murder. Her latest books are The Mind of a Murderer: Privileged Access to the Demons that Drive Extreme Violence and an ebook called Psychopath.