Archive for the ‘Police Procedure’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Crime Data: A Roll of the Dice

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We’ve all seen, heard, or read about crime stats and their comparisons to previous years, such as the number of homicides committed in 2012 as opposed to those committed in 2011.

These are the numbers used by elected officials, and others, when they tell concerned citizens not to worry about the latest killings and robberies in their areas because violent crime is down by, say…15%, for example. Yet, Sally Sue is too frightened to go to the store because the medical examiner visits her neighborhood nearly as often as the post office letter carrier. So why and how is it that a city’s crime rate can be down by so many percentage points, yet crime is still as rampant as ever in some areas of town?

Before we address Sally Sue’s woes, let’s first examine the reporting system used by law enforcement.

In the 1920’s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police started a system of crime data collection called Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR).  The program was implemented in 1930, or so, and participation was voluntary. The National Sheriffs’ Association also signed on to the program and encouraged all sheriffs across the country to participate. UCR reporting by law enforcement agencies was voluntary back when it started and it still isn’t mandatory today.

UCR reporting is not rocket science. Data is gathered from police reports and subsequently submitted to the FBI for compiling. However, not all crime data is reported. Instead, it is the most “popular” and violent offenses (Part I Offenses) that receive the most attention—murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. These are the stats we most often see listed in our local papers and in travel guides—Sugarcoatville is Now the Safest City in America: Violent Crime Down by 87%.

Part II Offenses are also reported for inclusion in UCR data, and they include simple assault, curfew offenses and loitering, embezzlement, forgery and counterfeiting, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, drug offenses, fraud, gambling, liquor offenses, offenses against the family, prostitution, public drunkenness, runaways, sex offenses, stolen property, vandalism, vagrancy, and weapons offenses.

Now, let’s go back to where the data originates, and we’ll start with the crime. There’s a rash of B&E’s in town and the police haven’t had any luck catching the suspects. A bad guy, feeling confident he won’t be caught, decides to break into a home to steal whatever he can find that’ll bring a few dollars at the local pawn shop. So he pulls out a window air conditioning unit (this, by the way, is like providing bad guys with a personal key to your home) and slips inside. Fortunately, a vigilant neighbor, Sally Sue, saw the incident this time and called the police, who showed up in time to catch the thug in the act. Thanks to the quick-thinking neighbor the crook wasn’t able to steal anything, but he still committed a burglary, a UCR Part I offense.

But…the town has a chief who’s been in the hot seat with her mayor due to a number of unsolved crimes and angry residents who want to see a stop to the rampant crime. After all, the front pages of local papers are filled with stories of the local high crime rate. So, the chief decides to make her numbers look a little better before the next council meeting, and all it took was to record a few of the B&E’s (Part I crimes) as trespassing, a non-UCR crime and, abracadabra, hocus-pocus, the crime rate just went down.

Hmm…she thinks. Why not switch a few aggravated assaults to simple assaults, and what about changing a couple of larcenies to possession of stolen property? Remarkably, all it took was a few strokes of an ink pen to magically reduce the city’s violent crime rate by a few percentage points. No harm, no foul right? After all, checking a few boxes doesn’t seem too bad. There’s nothing to write. No narratives. No explanations. So it doesn’t seem like lying. Just a checkmark in a box.

The papers are now reporting a lower rate of violent crime. Citizens feel safer. The mayor is happy. Birds are chirping. Children are back playing in the parks. The sun is shining. Rainbows color the sky with happy colors. More importantly, to the chief, she keeps her job. In the meantime, thugs are are still stealing, robbing, and assaulting. And Sally Sue and her neighbors must still step across chalk outlines of dead bodies on their way to the nearby Piggly Wiggly. But the numbers are down… Hallelujah, the numbers are down!

Of course, falsifying these numbers is a rarity, not the norm.

Another way low UCR data/crime rates offer the public a false sense of security is because the figures we see blanket an entire city. In other words, crime could be seriously out of control in certain sections while nonexistent in others. But, the data is compiled and averaged over the entire municipality. If the ” low crime” areas saw a reduction in crimes committed (a bunch of bad guys moved out and were replaced by honest folks) while the high crime area numbers remained stagnant, the city would show a decrease in its overall crime rate. And this is while the residents of the high crime neighborhoods are still living in fear.

Those who don’t live in or visit the dangerous areas never see the troubles; therefore, they believe all is okey-dokey in the La-La-Lands created by a bunch of not-quite-so-accurate and slightly misleading numbers—numbers politicians often love to toss out as bones to voters (“On my watch, the city saw a 17% decrease in violent crime.”).

Remember, too, that UCR reporting is voluntary. Law enforcement agencies are not required to participate. I’m not sure of the exact number of departments who do not send in data, but whatever the number, it could be enough to skew the data one way or another. Add that to administrators who don’t mind “fudging” the numbers a bit, especially during election years, and, well…

But all is okay because there’s a new data system in the works, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

NIBRS differs from UCR in that details of each crime reported are expected—where the crime occurred, how it occurred, who was involved, characteristics of the perpetrators, time of day, gang involvement, drugs involved, or not, victim data, was the crime an attempt or a completed offense, etc.

The new data will definitely help the public “see” a better picture of the crime in their cities. However, this system, like UCR reporting, is voluntary.

As for the accuracy of the crime stat numbers in your area…well, it’s a roll of the dice.

*Update – Sally Sue recently bought a can of pepper spray and a handgun, and she’s currently enrolled in classes where she’ll learn gun safety and gun laws. I also heard a rumor that she’s planning to sign up for the Writers’ Police Academy where she’ll fine-tune her shooting skills on the firing range in sessions taught by qualified instructors. 

Writers’ Police Academy registration opens at noon EST on February 21, 2016. Oh, Sally Sue wanted me to remind you that slots fill extremely fast, so be ready to sign up at noon. She also wanted me to tell you that the 2016 WPA is THE event of the year! She hopes to see each of you there.

PostHeaderIcon It’s Video Training Day!

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It’s video training day!
 
1. Fingerprint ridge builder and cleaner – a liquid or lotion-type product applied to fingertips. The substance temporarily puffs up ridges enabling the officer to obtain a much clearer print from the elderly or people with damaged ridge structure, such a brick layers or others who work with their hands.
 

 
2. Evidence weapons boxes are used to safely store and transport weapons recovered from crime scenes and from criminal suspects.
 

 
3. Crime Scene Evidence Collection Vehicle – What’s inside of those CSI vehicles? Well…
 

 
4. Miranda and Interview and Interrogation. Here’s a video by 2016 WPA instructor Mike Knetzger.
 

 
*It’s almost here! Writers’ Police Academy registration opens February 21st at noon EST! Be ready because slots fill QUICKLY!

PostHeaderIcon Because Sometimes There’s an Unruly Groundhog

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Blue lights. Sirens. Guns. Knives. Handcuffs. High speed pursuits. Foot chases. Barking and snarling dogs.

Think those are the only calls cops respond to during their shifts? Well, it’s not all action. For example, this happened…

1. Officers arrested Ms. Dusty Rae Ingram and then delivered her to the county jail for safekeeping. During the booking process jail officials discovered a bag of prescription pills tucked away inside Ms. Ingram’s…uh…private parts. When questioned, the absent-minded Dusty told the officers she usually kept those pills in her purse and she had no idea how they found their way to her genitals.

2. Police were dispatched to investigate a suspicious man who was possibly not wearing pants while crawling along a city sidewalk. When officers arrived they found the man hiding beneath a van. He was indeed naked from the waist down.

3. Police in Florida stopped a young man for a traffic infraction. During the stop the driver attempted to hide what officers described as a “Batman bag.” Officers asked the man to retrieve the bag from beneath the seat and he told them he couldn’t show it to them because it contained something “bad.” He was right. The bag contained Xanax pills and a scale commonly used for weighing narcotics. To add to his troubles, the driver had apparently spilled marijuana on himself because small bits of pot leaves were discovered clinging to his shirt.

4. Police at a Greenacres substation noticed a strange vehicle parked in the lot and went out to investigate. They discovered a man asleep behind the wheel with the motor running. The roused him and asked why he was there. The man told them he was drunk and tired. Officers kindly provided a better place for the driver to “sleep it off.”

5. Police officers were called to a bar to break up a fight between intoxicated patrons. One of the tough and rowdy fighters spit on the responding officers who then promptly arrested him. The brawler then began to bawl like a baby. During his uncontrollable crying spree he told officers he couldn’t go to jail because he’d just gotten out.

Other reports include:

– Two men knocking on doors asking people, in English, if they spoke French.

– A couple fighting because their dog died.

– A woman dialed 911 because her taxi driver was yelling at her.

– A woman called 911 because prices at her local produce stand were too high.

– Officers were called to assist a parent who couldn’t get their child to go to bed.

– A woman called 911 to report a fire in her living room. Officers responded and explained that the flame she saw inside her kerosene heater was necessary to heat the home.

– A caller advised police that a dog had defecated in her yard even after she’d asked it nicely to not do it.

– A man called 911 to report suspicious items in his mailbox. Officers responded and discovered the items to be…mail.

– A man reported seeing a male subject exposing himself repeatedly to a woman seated in a parked car in the lot of a convenience store. After a brief investigation officers learned the woman was the store manager and the male subject, who was wearing only an overcoat, was her husband.

– People yelling in a field were found to playing a game that required participants to yell.

– A caller reported seeing footprints on his front porch for several days in a row. Police discovered the prints were left by the mailman.

– A 911 caller reported seeing a strange rock in his driveway.

– A woman called police to report seeing an open door at a residence in her neighborhood. Police responded and closed the door.

– Police were called because animal control would not respond to a sighting of an unruly groundhog.

– A concerned citizen called police to report possible terrorist activity at their neighbor’s home. The caller told the dispatcher a male subject was using a device to spray some sort of deadly toxin. Police arrived and spoke to the exterminator who’d been hired to rid the property of unwanted ants. His truck with a giant rubber bug on the rooftop was parked in the driveway. If only there’d been a clue…

PostHeaderIcon A Dead Woman Crying: Murder in the Rain

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I’ve seen more than anyone’s fair share of murder victims. More than I’d care to count, actually. I’ve also seen a variety of methods and instruments used by killers to achieve their goal(s)—gunshots, edged weapons, etc. Of course, some of those victims were poisoned, while others were killed by hanging, strangulation, fire, torture, beatings, blunt instrument bludgeoning and, well, you name the manner and I’ve probably seen the end result. Unfortunately, it’s not long before dead bodies—the victims of senseless violence—quickly begin to stack up in the old memory bank.

Sure, cops get used to seeing carnage. They have to in order to survive the job. Still, there are cases that cling to the outer fringes of the mind, remaining fresh in our thoughts for many years. These, the often thought of, aren’t necessarily the most gruesome or the most difficult to solve. Not at all. In fact, what sticks with one officer may not affect another in the same way.

A few homicides occasionally creep back onto the “replay” reel inside my brain—the killing of children, the crazy guy who hacked his sister-in-law with an ax because she wouldn’t give him money for a pack of cigarettes, the kid found hanging from an extension cord in an abandoned factory, and, of course, the case I’m about to describe to you. It came to mind today because of the much-needed rains we’ve received lately here in Northern California.

So slip on a pair of boots and a raincoat, and join me on a brief journey into my memory.

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It was a brutal storm that night, one that delivered a hard-driving and bitterly cold winter rain. Accompanying winds tugged hard against my long, school-bus-yellow rain coat, sending its tails fluttering and flapping, exposing my brown over tan deputy sheriff uniform. It—the uniform—was not waterproof. Not even close.

The ground at the crime scene was extremely muddy, and with each step my once shiny brown shoes collected gobs of thick, wet soil until it felt as if bricks were tied to the bottoms of my feet.

These were the deplorable conditions in which I met the crying dead woman.

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Raindrops the size of gumdrops pelted the victim’s face, gathering and pooling at the corners of her eyes, eventually spilling out across her cheeks like tiny rivers that followed the contours of her flesh until they poured from her in miniature waterfalls.

It was one on one, just me and the victim.

Passenger door open.

She’s lying there, bottom half in, top half out.

Her face aimed at the sky.

Rain falling into her open mouth.

Cheap dollar-store tennis shoes and half-socks, the socks her youngest daughter—the seven-year-old—called baby socks.

Her hair, mingling with mud, rainwater, sticks, and leaves.

Power lines crackle and buzz overhead.

The yellow Maglite beam against her dim gray eyes.

No life.

No recollections.

No dreams.

Not a flicker.

Tire tracks.

Different pattern than the rubber on her Chrysler.

Driver’s window down.

Three rounds—one to the head and two to the torso.

Five empty casings.

Pistol.

Not a revolver.

Half-empty wine bottle.

Cheap.

Not her brand according to the ladies in her church group. “Oh we don’t drink. Neither did she. Except on special occasions. Yep, it must have been something or somebody really special for her to drink that stuff.”

“Was there a somebody special?”

Eyes cast downward.

Blushes all around. “Well…she did stay after Wednesday night preaching a few times. But they were meetings strictly about church business. After all, he is the Reverend. A good man.”

More blushing.

A stammer or two.

A good man.

The rain comes harder, pouring across her cheeks, meandering through her hair.

Droplets hammer her open eyes.

She doesn’t blink.

A dead woman crying.

Footprints.

Two sets.

One walking.

Casually, perhaps.

The other, long strides.

Running away, possibly.

Zigzagging to the woods.

Bullet lodged in base of a spruce pine.

One round left to find.

Water inside my collar, down my back.

Shivering.

Cloth snagged on jagged tree branch.

Plaid shirt material.

Blood?

Still visible in the rain?

The missing fifth round?

Maglite never fails, even in torrential rain.

Cop’s best friend.

Light catches shoe in underbrush.

Shoe attached to adult male.

Dead.

Bullet in back.

The fifth round.

Coming together nicely.

Church meetings.

Reverend.

Two lovers.

Special wine for special occasion…

Morning sunshine.

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Tiny face peering from window.

Waiting for Mama?

Scent of frying bacon in the air.

Door swings open.

Worried husband.

“No, she didn’t come home after church. Called friends and family. Nobody knows.”

Husband, devastated.

Questions unanswered.

Children cry.

Yes, I have ideas. I promise.

Tire tracks match.

Pistol found.

Preacher hangs head in shame.

Special occasion.

Profess love.

Another man.

Angry.

Jealous.

Handcuffs.

Click.

Click.

Murder.

No bond.

Home.

Today, our rains have stopped but,

I’m thinking of the crying dead woman and her kids, her loving husband and, of course, baby socks.

Special occasion?

Yeah, right.

 

PostHeaderIcon 4th Circuit – Taser Use Unconstitutional: Officers Forced to Say Pretty Please

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The 4th Circuit (federal) Court of Appeals has ruled it a violation of the 4th Amendment for officers to use a Taser on any subject unless they are a clear and immediate risk. This includes the use of the device in “drive stun” mode (stun gun). This ruling, so far, applies to the states within the 4th Circuit—North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The court says the pain caused by Taser use is excessive force.

I guess officers in those states are now forced to return to the days of painful and sometimes injury-inducing baton strikes, clouds of choking pepper spray, and a dozen or so officers piling on top of unbelievably strong suspects who resist arrest. After all, extreme combativeness and violently resisting are generally not considered to be “risks.”

Here’s a fun fact – Believe it or not, wearing a badge and uniform does not give an officer super-human strength, and the minimum amount of defensive tactics they’re taught in the academy is of little use when attempting to arrest The Incredible Hulk on meth, a person who typically feels no pain and who pepper sprays often do not affect.

So stand by for a new wave of cellphone/YouTube/agenda-driven media videos, and for a list of officers who’ve been treated or hospitalized for injuries received while attempting to handcuff someone twice their size who’s doing whatever it takes to prevent their arrest.

Police Officer - definition: uniform-wearing human designed as a punching bag for anyone and everyone who cares to take a swing. Hated by all until they’re needed. Not to be confused with politicians, who are rarely needed.

Politicians - definition: gun-hating people who surround themselves with gun-toting police officers as a means of insulation from people who want to punch them in their lying mouths.

Lying Mouth - definition – untruths spew violently forward with each movement of the lips. 1st requirement to become politician. Also a known trait of narcissists and people who blatantly steal the ideas of others (these are often one and the same).

Agenda-Driven Mediadefinition: lying mouths who are sometimes former politicians. Never needed but you can’t make them go away. Taser use encouraged.

But yeah, Taser use in the 4th Circuit, in all but extreme cases, has indeed been ruled to be a use of excessive force. Therefore, police officers are now required to say “pretty please” as the first step in each encounter with suspected criminals. “Pretty please, stop punching me in my face.” Pretty please, let go of my gun.” Pretty please stop strangling your mother.” Pretty please, remove your hand from my chest cavity.” “Pretty please, remove your knife from my intestines.” “Pretty please, help me find the teeth you knocked from my mouth with your extremely large fists.”

This new development reminds me of the good old days when cops carried little more on their belts than a six-shooter, a pair of handcuffs, a flashlight, and a radio (if there were enough to go around). There was no pepper spray to squirt, nor were there Tasers to light up the eyes of the guy who was bashing your brains out onto the pavement.

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Back in “the day,” officers didn’t have the luxury of non-lethal devices. Instead, we had to rely on fast talking and sheer muscle power to get out of jams.

Sometimes, the only thing that kept us from getting hurt, badly, was to use a flashlight as a tool to deliver a properly-placed “love tap” to an attacker’s thick skull (an aluminum shampoo). Of course, that’s no longer an option, but the tactic saved my butt more than once. And there’s one such event will forever stand out in my mind.

While arresting a very big and unruly man, a guy who just happened to be twice my size (and I’m not small), my future prisoner decided he was allergic to handcuffs. And, during a brief struggle, my neck somehow wound up in the gentle grasp of the behemoth’s skillet-size hands. In other words, he was “hands-around-the-neck” choking me with every ounce of strength he could muster. I couldn’t breathe, and I knew then how it must feel to be icing inside a pastry bag, because he was squeezing so hard that I thought my eyes would pop out of their sockets at any moment.

The thug had me pinned against a wall in a position that made going for my gun (a .357 in those days) impossible. However, I finally managed to get a hand on my metal Maglite. So I starting swinging (short strokes because of the odd angle), hoping to force the guy to release his grip. Finally, after a few hard whacks to his head, he let go. And, as they say, it was game on!

I finally got that big moose handcuffed and then promptly delivered him to the jail. But, my car was not equipped with a cage to put him in for safekeeping (none of our cars had cages back then), so I made him ride up front with me. And I made a point to let him know that my gun was in my hand with my finger on the trigger, and if he so much as looked at me wrong I’d shoot him. He behaved nicely on the ride in.

We must have been a real sight when we arrived at the jail—clothes torn, badge ripped from my shirt, bloody lips and clothing, flashlight-shaped knots on his head, fingerprint-shaped bruises on my neck, and more. But that’s how it was back then.

Yep, those were the good ‘ol days.

If only we’d had Tasers back then. Maybe then we’d have lost less blood and suffered fewer injuries, both to officers and suspects. I know, I know. The mere sight of a Taser could hurt someone’s feelings, and we can’t have that, right?

Oh, I know, we could have safe spaces for violent people who want to don’t want to feel the effects of a Taser, pepper spray, and/or handcuffs. That’s the ticket. Hmm… Is it okay to say ticket, or is that too offensive?

I’m going to close my blinds and shut my office door so I don’t have to deal with this stuff. It’s too scary…

*This post, although mostly factual, was meant to be slightly humorous. Please don’t turn it into a cop-bashing, religion-shunning, politically-driven argument on gun control and “I hate everything and you offend me.”

 

PostHeaderIcon Why the Militia Guy was Charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle

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Once again media clickbait headlines and agenda-skewing stories, including those on Facebook and Twitter, have people sharpening their pitchforks and lighting the torches. This time the induced hoopla is over the charge brought against the Oregon militia standoff guy, a chainsaw sculptor, who illegally used a federally-owned vehicle to go on a grocery run to a Safeway store, a business located 30 miles from the bird sanctuary his group occupied several days ago.

As a result of flame-fanning news reporting, many people, people who aren’t fully aware of the law, are practically jumping up and down because the occupying sculptor was arrested for Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle. It seems these folks are boiling mad because the charges were not for Grand Larceny, an offense that sounds far more evil than Unauthorized Use.

Let’s dig into this a bit and hopefully clear the mud and media-planted debris from the waters.

1. Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle is a charge that relates specifically to a person who takes, operates, exercises control over, rides in or otherwise uses a vehicle, boat or aircraft without consent of the owner. The key word here is “USES,” which means there was no intent to steal the vehicle (use – to put into service).

In the case of the militia member driving to Safeway, well, he used (put into service) the truck to go grocery shopping and his intention was to return, with supplies, to the bird sanctuary. As far as we know, he did not plan to steal the truck, permanently depriving the owner of the vehicle.

Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle (in Oregon) is a Class C felony that could earn offenders a sentence of up to five years in the state penitentiary.

2. Larceny (stealing the truck) is defined as wrongfully and fraudulently taking and carrying away the personal goods of another from any place, with a felonious intent to convert them to his (the taker’s) use, and make them his property. In other words, to take/steal something with the full intention of not returning it.

Theft in the First Degree (in Oregon) is basically defined as—a person commits the crime of theft in the first degree if the total value of the property stolen (larceny) is valued at $1,000 or more. Theft in the 1st degree is a Class C felony.

So, the two offenses—Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and Theft in the First Degree are both Class C felonies, and both are punishable by up to five years in prison. They both earn equal spots on an offender’s criminal history, and both earn an offender the right to wear the same prison clothing, sleep in the same prison cell, and eat the same crappy prison food. The big difference between the two charges is that they’re…wait for it…NOT the same offense.

The militia guy did not commit the crime of Grand Larceny/Theft in the First Degree. If law enforcement had charged him incorrectly a judge would have no choice but to order a dismissal. Therefore, the correct charge in this case was indeed Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle. The names are different but the penalties are the same.

I hope this tidbit of information was enough to prevent an overdose of blood pressure medications by those who were so extremely upset after reading all the agenda-driven media stories. As always, I’m presenting fact, not opinion, so please do not attempt to read between the lines. I promise, there’s nothing there.

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