Will Personal Radar Remain Widely Used by Law Enforcement?

Recent advantages in technology have the potential to greatly increase the safety of LEOs in the field. However, some highly promising technology is so controversial that its use may be limited.

One such example is that of the personal radar devices. The most widely used is the Range-R. This technology lets LEOs detect movement through walls. The radar is so sensitive that it can detect a person breathing from about 50 feet away.

Nearly 50 law enforcement agencies quietly started using this technology in the field. Police and federal officers can monitor buildings to determine the location of suspects before they enter the premises. This ability is invaluable for officers who need to storm buildings or determine the location of hostages.

However, the public was unaware that LEOs used these devices until December 2014. That’s when a Denver federal appeals court said that officers had used one to see into a house before they arrested a man who had violated his parole. However, the agents had used the technology without a search warrant which “poses grave Fourth Amendment questions” according to the judge.

Since then, more advanced radars that were originally used in Iraq and Afghanistan have come on the market for law enforcement agencies in the US. One such device can create 3-D displays of where people are in a building, while another can be mounted on a drone.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution generally prevents police from using a thermal camera to scan the outside of a house unless they have a warrant back in 2001. The Court specifically stated that their ruling would apply to radar devices then under development.

Ideally personal radar devices can be used by law enforcement agencies to safeguard their personnel in dangerous operations as long as they first obtain a warrant. However, privacy advocates remain skeptical about whether this will be the case.

It appears that this potentially life-saving technology will be the subject of court cases to determine whether it should be used or not.

San Diego Law Enforcement Won’t Help with Immigration Changes

Fallback from the tumultuous presidential election continues to come from sources around the country. Police and sheriff’s departments in San Diego are speaking out against President-elect Donald Trump’s aggressive stance on the deportation of illegal immigrants. Representatives

Chief Shelly Zimmerman issued an email statement after the election results stating that “the primary responsibility for the enforcement of Federal immigration laws rests with the United States Customs and Border Protection Services.”

While San Diego city and county officials have denied being a “sanctuary city”, it is on the list of cities that could lose out on federal funding if President-elect Trump gets his way and they refuse to cooperate.

Chief Zimmerman explained in her email that San Diego booking facilities have immigration officials on-hand who make the determination of which individuals that come through should be deported. Deputies currently only hold individuals for federal agents until their release date. They will however, divulge the details of the individual to the agents if they have already been released. In her statement, Zimmerman said that fingerprints of all individuals booked are checked for immigration status through the Department of Homeland Security. ICE agents are notified and must arrive before the individual’s release date if they want to take the individual into custody.

Zimmerman stated that the San Diego Police Department will continue to work with all necessary agencies to keep the city safe. She also stressed the importance of having a trusting relationship with the city’s immigrant population and valuing the city’s diversity.

Cities across the United States have also come forth to speak out on Mr. Trump’s proposal for a mass deportation of illegal immigrants. Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department said that his officers will not be involved in deportation of individuals, stating that it is not their responsibility.

Law Enforcement Wary After More Deaths but Still Honored to Serve

Law enforcement officer deaths continue to be on the rise with 104 lost lives to date in 2016. In 2015 a total of 123 officers were killed. Lt. Steve James of the Long Beach, California police department understands the stress of not knowing if colleagues will live through their shifts. When two officers were killed and a third wounded in early October, James did not immediately know if any of the officers involved were friends of his.

“I’m devastated no matter who it is, but I didn’t happen to know those two,” James said. Just days before Sgt. Steve Owen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff lost his life while responding to a burglary call.

Law enforcement officers around the country have become hyperaware while on duty and their stress levels are higher than ever. They are also aware that the spotlight is shining on their actions daily as they patrol and respond to calls.

Sgt. Debby Foy of the Riverside Police Department has served in law enforcement for 32 years and hasn’t let the recent rise in deaths deter her from doing her job. She believes that 99 percent of the public support police and said she is proud of her job. She admits she has become more cautious though and ensures that she has backup available before entering into a dangerous situation.

Law enforcement agencies understand the need to have a connection with the communities they serve in order to reduce the tensions that exist in many cities across the nation. Chief Charlie Beck of the LAPD is making efforts to reduce lethal force by officers by utilizing body cameras and stun guns as safer alternatives. Deputy Chief Bob Green of the LAPD believes that there has to be a balanced, two-way discussion to ensure police are able to protect themselves as well as the communities they serve.

Northeast Ohio Law Enforcement Stresses Customer Service as its Main Objective

Protests against law enforcement are at an all-time high and officials from Northeast Ohio’s police departments say they are hoping to change that. Lt. Mitch Houser of the Euclid Police Department’s Community Policing Unit believes that public perception is everything. “I think a lot of what the public feels about us has a lot to do with the last service experience they had with us. So, it just depends on who you’re asking,” he said. He added that it is difficult for one police department to combat the reputation of all police departments.

Houser also pointed out that unfortunately, good deeds done by police are forgotten at a much quicker rate than bad deeds. He stressed the importance of hiring officers who are able to withstand the job pressure and be respectful of everyone in the communities they serve. “It has to be driven by customer service,” he said.

Euclid Police Department hosts an annual National Night Out which allows law enforcement officers to gather with community members in a casual, fun atmosphere with grilled food, cotton candy and bounce houses for the kids. These events allow community members and law enforcement officers the opportunity to have an open dialogue about bad experiences.

Not far away in neighboring Mentor, Ohio, Chief Kevin Knight of the Mentor Police Department said that his department was inundated with lunches, dinners and other baked goods after the Dallas police shootings.

Like Houser, Knight believes law enforcement’s core duty is customer service. Knight has his lieutenants randomly follow-up with people who have had an interaction with one of his officers. He uses the follow-ups as a way to gauge community satisfaction.

Knight added that no call is too small for his department to handle. “We never say: ‘hey that’s not our problem.’”

Law Enforcement Fitness Standards Under Review in One Kansas County

A criminal justice review panel at Kansas’ Wichita State University recently sent out a recommendation to ease fitness requirements for law enforcement recruits. The recommendation comes as local agencies consider fitness changes in hopes of increasing the number of potential recruits.

Sedgwick County Jail has already incorporated a change to its qualifications, allowing detention deputy recruits an additional 10 seconds to complete the agility drills testing. Recruits will now have 80 seconds to complete the drills instead of the previous time of 70 seconds. The change has been in effect for two months and according to Sgt. Dave Hein, the quality of applicants has not been significantly affected. “My personal observation is they were right. The demographics that we’re getting to pass that is not significantly different than what we were getting at 70 seconds,” said Hein. He added that candidates that were extremely out of shape would still be unable to pass the drills regardless of the additional time allotment.

Hein began to question the fitness standards for recruits while processing them for the Wichita-Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Training Academy. After inquiring why certain agility tests were required, he was told that was just how it was always done.

Hein launched a study at his facility to determine the job demands of patrol and detention deputies. Volunteers participated in an interview process and wore accelerometers to measure how much a deputy was walking or running while on duty. The results showed detention deputies walked an average of two miles a day while patrol deputies walked an average of 4.7 miles.

According to Hein, the need to climb five-foot walls or jump through windows is virtually non-existent within real-world scenarios and these obstacles will eventually be removed from the training program as well. Additional changes may be implemented once the final report is issued by the university review panel.

Support Grows for Nation’s Law Enforcement Community in Wake of Mass Shootings

On the morning of July, 8, the nation awoke to the horrific details of the mass killings of Dallas, Texas police officers. As the first rays of morning light shone through, five police officers lay dead and 11 others injured. Less than two weeks later, three more officers’ lives were senselessly taken in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The killings were the result of planned attacks on the nation’s police officers.

As the nation mourned the loss of America’s finest, citizens across the country began gathering to show their support to law enforcement. The Dallas police department recently reported a 344 percent increase in applications since the shootings in that city.

In College Station, Texas, residents flooded the city’s police department with gifts of balloons and flowers to show their support. Many delivered food to the officers to thank them for their service. Lt. Steve Brock, a 22 year veteran of the police department was touched by the sentiment. “It makes us feel like a family,” he said.

Brock spoke of the personal connection all law enforcement feels when one of their own is killed in the line of duty, saying, “… we hurt when they hurt.” He reiterated the need for law enforcement to have a positive relationship with citizens and stated that the College Station police department and its residents have a good relationship. Brock also urged residents to continue supporting police.

In an effort to help break down the barriers between officers and citizens, the CSPD recently held a Q&A at the Lincoln Center which lasted for 3 ½ hours. More than 70 residents gathered to have their questions answered by officers. The response to the Q&A was very positive according to Lt. Brock and there are plans to hold a future one with students of Texas A&M.

Wrongful Conviction in Oldest Cold Case in American History Overturned

On December 3, 1957, on the streets of Sycamore, Illinois, Maria Ridulph disappeared with a man who only referred to himself as Johnny. Her body was found in the nearby woods four and a half months later. The leads into Maria’s abduction and murder didn’t go anywhere until the 2012 conviction of Jack Daniel McCullough, who was a neighbor to the Ridulphs with the former name John Tessier. During the trial, McCollough claimed he was innocent.

The entire case was flipped on its head in March 2016 when Richard Schmack, the DeKalb County State’s Attorney, reexamined the case files. During the initial trial, there was a box of files containing old police reports and FBI reports on McCullough. The judge presiding over the trial did not allow the files to be used as evidence, claiming they were all hearsay.

When Schmack went over the files in 2016, four years after the conviction, he found that the timeline prevented McCollough, then known as Tessier, from being in Sycamore. He was instead in Rockford, Illinois, at the time of the abduction, almost 40 miles away. Schmack also subpoenaed phone records from AT&T that corroborated the new timeline developed with the older records.

As expected, the reactions from the Ridulph and McCollough families have been opposed and emotionally charged. Schmack notified the families of his decision to overturn the ruling through letter. The Ridulph family, particularly Maria’s older brother Charles, disagreed with the newly established timeline, echoing the judge’s decision to keep those records out of evidence. Sue McCollough, Jack McCollough’s wife, is excited to see her husband again. She had been living in a nursing home and has been unable to visit her husband in prison. McCollough was released from prison on April 15, 2016, and the charges against him were dropped a week later.

High-Tech Threat Assessment Technology for Law Enforcement Agencies

Law enforcement agencies have embraced recent advances in data mining and predictive modeling. One such example is Intrado’s software program Beware that enables the police to perform threat assessments on a household when officers are called to the scene.

This powerful program uses a household address to provide the names of the residents. Then it scans billions of records in publicly available databases to generate a threat level for each person in seconds. While the exact determinations used to generate a threat level are proprietary, social media comments, recent purchases, and criminal records all contribute to generating a green, yellow, or red threat assessment.

The Fresno Police Department was one of the first to test this program in its Real Time Crime Center. While a boon to police officers, the use of this type of technology has been highly controversial.

One concern is that not even the police know what will trigger an assessment that a person is dangerous, since the data mining techniques are a trade secret. Also, individual police departments can craft their own standards for what information is relevant in a threat score. With threat assessments varying by location, oversight is nearly impossible.

Some agencies have used Beware as a fishing expedition. For instance, officers in Colorado used the program to check the license plates of people at a Phish concert.

In some cases, complaints by local citizens have led public officials to decline the use of such technology. The Bellingham City Council took citizens’ concerns so seriously that they redirected grant funds originally meant to purchase Beware.

However, other law enforcement agencies have had great success with Beware. The Fresno Police Department was one of the first in the country to test the program in its Real Time Crime Center. The Washington Post quoted Fresno’s Chief of Police Jerry Dryer as saying that officers could now respond more safely to calls.

Law Enforcement Forced to Act Amid Rising Tension in Oregon

It has happened before, citizens refusing to recognize the legitimacy of government claims to land, taking over a federal building, and starting antigovernment protests. When law enforcement agencies intervene, typically bolstered by federal agencies, these situations can often erupt into staggering amounts of violence.

In 1992 a family in Idaho was killed in a shootout between the family of four and federal agents at their cabin in the mountain. Marshals approached the cabin to arrest Randall Weaver, for failing to appear in court following previous convictions, when shooting erupted. Who did the shooting is still a point of dispute, but one marshal and one 14-year-old boy, Weaver’s son, were killed in the shooting.

Likewise in 1993 in Waco, Texas citizens had a shootout with federal agents following a raid on what was allegedly an illegal gun arsenal. After initial fighting was halted, the law enforcement agents tried to flush out the inhabitants using floodlights and sound blasts of horrific recordings to deprive them of sleep in order to force them to surrender. 51 days later, the compound was destroyed by fire and shots were heard from inside. 75 people, a third of them children, were killed.

Many are worrying that a similar incident could take place in Oregon as antigovernment protesters continue the occupation of a wildlife refuge. Local sheriff and police departments are on the scene, along with the FBI, the agency leading the taskforce and hoping to calm tensions and convince the armed protesters to leave.

The protesters mostly consist of ranchers, protesting the government’s claim on large portions of grazing land. Ranchers have been fined for allowing their cattle to graze on government land without a permit, and one rancher forced the government to a standoff after accruing over a million dollars in such fines.

When asked, the FBI declined to explain how they planned to use law enforcement agencies to resolve the situation. Local police officers and sheriffs are working to halt tensions; local sheriffs have been seen addressing protesters directly and asking them to return to their homes.

Cybercrime Requires New Policies From Vulnerable Communities

Businesses, government organizations, and private citizens are all susceptible to attack by cybercriminals. Cybersecurity is constantly changing as new technology is developed by men and women seeking to protect private information and by the ones seeking to take it for themselves.

However, for many, the concept of cyber crime is still confusing. Not everyone understands what their rights are when it comes to cyber crime or what ways they can help law enforcement to apprehend cybercriminals.

In response, a national symposium was held in northern West Virginia to help educate members of the business, education, and banking communities on what to do if they become victims of cyber attacks. The symposium was led by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia William J. Ihlenfeld II. He was also joined by experts from the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and they all gave presentations during the event on how to better provide for cybersecurity.

Michelle Pirtie, a special agent with the FBI, gave a presentation focused around developing policies for cybersecurity breaches. She found that different arms of the same company would meet with her in the aftermath of a breach and that there unpreparedness ended up creating more administrative problems on top of their cybersecurity issues.

Pirtie also cited circumstances where criminal proceedings became difficult because the criminals were acting from outside the U.S. Criminals preying on U.S. citizens from outside its borders are difficult to prosecute and stop. Pirtie said that a national program is being developed to work with law enforcement agencies and afflicted companies to help them in cases involving international cybercriminals.

Since 2001, more than $1 billion has been lost by companies as a result of cybercrime. Improving security measures and action plans is of the utmost importance for agencies of all kinds if they intend to stay safe and competitive in the digital age.