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Where More Americans Die at the Hands of Police

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Where More Americans Die at the Hands of Police
Source: The Atlantic (Richard Florida)

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer has reintroduced police-related killings as a topic of major national debate. Brown is just the latest in a long line of young, unarmed black men killed by law enforcement agents.

It’s been widely reported that roughly 400 Americans die at the hands of police per year. And yet, that figure is likely a significant underestimate, as Reuben Fischer-Baum details at FiveThirtyEight.

We ask a slightly different question: Where are Americans more likely to die at the hands of police or while under arrest?

With the help of my colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Nick Lombardo of the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI), we mapped data from two sources: “arrest related deaths” from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and from the FBI’s annual Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) on “felons killed by police.” We also got input from three leading American criminologists: Alfred Blumstein and Daniel Nagin, my former colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, and John Roman of the Urban Institute.

It’s important to reiterate that both data sources suffer from serious deficiencies, not the least of which is under-reporting. Roman worries about “reporting bias,” particularly the possibility that “more responsible agencies”—those least likely to use force in the first place—”are more likely to report, and less responsible agencies are less likely to report.” But he also adds that what looks like missing data may not be. “It might be that few policing agencies have an officer-involved shooting and the agencies that don’t simply don’t report any data,” he writes in an email.

But, taken together and in light of their limits, the maps are broadly suggestive of the geography of U.S. police killings as well as the states where arrests are likely to result in more deaths. As Roman puts it: “It is important to shine a light on the subject. Because there is such limited data, our ability to define the scope of the problem greatly limits our ability to form an appropriate response.”

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67 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Nationwide in First Half of 2014

July 22, 2014 Comments off

67 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Nationwide in First Half of 2014
Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Today the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund issued a new report stating that 67 officers have been killed in the line of duty during the first half of 2014—a 31 percent increase over the same period last year.

Of these 67 officers, 26 were killed in traffic-related incidents; 25 were killed by gunfire; and 16 died due to job-related illnesses and other causes.

Key Facts

  • Traffic-related incidents were once again the leading cause of officer fatalities, with 26 officers killed in the first half of 2014—a 37 percent increase over the same period last year.
  • Firearms-related fatalities spiked to 25 in the first half of this year—a 56 percent increase over the first six months of 2013. Investigating suspicious persons or situations was the leading circumstance of fatal shootings, with six officer fatalities; followed by ambushes, with five officer fatalities.
  • Sixteen officers died due to other causes in the first half of 2014, the same as the number reported during the same time last year. Job-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, increased 62 percent in the first half of 2014, with 13 officer fatalities compared to eight during the same period last year.
  • California led all states with eight officer fatalities; followed by Florida, New York, Texas and Virginia each with four peace officer fatalities.

CRS — The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (updated)

July 8, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The U.S. Secret Service has two missions—criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities have expanded since the inception of the Service from a small anticounterfeiting operation at the end of the Civil War, to now encompassing financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. Protection activities, which have expanded and evolved since the 1890s, include ensuring the safety and security of the President, Vice President, their families, and other identified individuals and locations.

How to Lie with Rape Statistics: America’s Hidden Rape Crisis

July 7, 2014 Comments off

How to Lie with Rape Statistics: America’s Hidden Rape Crisis (PDF)
Source: Iowa Law Review

During the last two decades, many police departments substantially undercounted reported rapes creating “paper” reductions in crime. Media investigations in Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis found that police eliminated rape complaints from official counts because of cultural hostility to rape complaints and to create the illusion of success in fighting violent crime. The undercounting cities used three difficult-to-detect methods to remove rape complaints from official records: designating a complaint as “unfounded” with little or no investigation; classifying an incident as a lesser offense; and, failing to create a written report that a victim made a rape complaint.

This study addresses how widespread the practice of undercounting rape is in police departments across the country. Because identifying fraudulent and incorrect data is essentially the task of distinguishing highly unusual data patterns, I apply a statistical outlier detection technique to determine which jurisdictions have substantial anomalies in their data. Using this novel method to determine if other municipalities likely failed to report the true number of rape complaints made, I find significant undercounting of rape incidents by police departments across the country. The results indicate that approximately 22% of the 210 studied police departments responsible for populations of at least 100,000 persons have substantial statistical irregularities in their rape data indicating considerable undercounting from 1995 to 2012. Notably, the number of undercounting jurisdictions has increased by over 61% during the eighteen years studied.

War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing

July 1, 2014 Comments off

War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

All across the country, heavily armed SWAT teams are raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. It should enrage us that people have needlessly died during these raids, that pets have been shot, and that homes have been ravaged.

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies. Any yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color.

As our new report makes clear, it’s time for American police to remember that they are supposed to protect and serve our communities, not wage war on the people who live in them.

CBP — Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook (PDF)
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A. General Guidelines

1. CBP policy on the use of force by Authorized Officers/Agents is derived from constitutional law, as interpreted by federal courts in cases such as Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), federal statutes and applicable DHS and CBP policies.

2. Authorized Officers/Agents may use “objectively reasonable” force only when it is necessary to carry out their law enforcement duties.

3. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force is based on the totality of circumstances known by the officer/agent at the time of the use of force and weighs the actions of the officer/agent against the rights of the subject, in light of the circumstances surrounding the event. Reasonableness will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer/agent on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

4. The calculus of reasonableness embodies an allowance for the fact that law enforcement officers/agents are often forced to make split-second decisions – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

5. A use of force is “necessary” when it is reasonably required to carry out the Authorized Officer’s/Agent’s law enforcement duties in a given situation, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of such particular situation. A use of deadly force is “necessary” when the officer/agent has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer/agent or to another person.

6. An Authorized Officer/Agent may have to rapidly escalate or de-escalate through use of force options, depending on the totality of facts and circumstances of the particular situation.

7. Based on the totality of circumstances, different officers/agents may have different responses to the same situation, any of which may be both reasonable and necessary. The level of force applied must reflect the totality of circumstances surrounding the situation, including the presence of imminent danger to the officer/agent or others.

8. If feasible, and if to do so would not increase the danger to the officer/agent or others, a verbal warning to submit to the authority of the officer/agent shall be given prior to the use of force. If a particular situation allows for the issuance of a verbal warning, the officer/agent:
a. Should have a reasonable basis to believe that the subject can comprehend and comply with the warning; and
b. Allow sufficient time between the warning and the use of force to give the subject a reasonable opportunity to voluntarily comply with the warning.

9. Following any incident involving the use of force, Authorized Officers/Agents shall seek medical assistance for any person who appears, or claims to be, injured.

See also: DHS OIG — CBP Use of Force Training and Actions To Address Use of Force Incidents (PDF; redacted)

CRS — Body Armor for Law Enforcement Officers: In Brief

May 19, 2014 Comments off

Body Armor for Law Enforcement Officers: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Firearms are one of the leading causes of deaths for law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the line of duty. Since FY1999, Congress has provided funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to help them purchase armor vests for their officers. The Matching Grant Program for Law Enforcement Armor Vests (hereinafter, “BPV program”) provides grants to state, local, and tribal governments to purchase armor vests for use by law enforcement officers and court officers. The BPV program was first authorized by the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-181). It has been subsequently reauthorized four times. The most recent reauthorization expired in FY2012. Since FY1999, appropriations for the program have generally been between $25 million and $30 million, with the exception of FY2012 and FY2013, when appropriations were less than $23 million.

Congress is considering legislation that would reauthorize the BPV program. S. 933, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2013, would, among other things, reauthorize appropriations for the program at $15 million for FY2014 and FY2015 and $30 million per fiscal year for FY2016-FY2018.

Armor vests can only save lives when they are actually worn. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that an increasing percentage of police departments and sheriffs’ offices have instituted “mandatory wear” policies. Several factors can affect whether a law enforcement officer will wear an armor vest. Safety concerns are the most significant, followed by whether the officer’s department has a mandatory wear policy. Comfort and fit are also a factor.

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