Follow-up to persistent surveillance in Baltimore

February 18, 2017

This article summarizes a Police Foundation review of the secretive aerial surveillance project in Baltimore last summer. They found that the technology provided “hundreds of potential leads in an array of crimes and significantly advanced investigations of seven shootings and three homicides” as well as ten hit-and-run traffic accidents and many lesser incidents. The ACLU of Maryland severely criticized the report, though, for failing to recognize the impact of “giving the government the power of knowing where everyone goes every time they leave their house.”

Taser zapped by VieVu

February 17, 2017

After the rival company VieVu initially won the $3.6 million contract to provide body cameras for Phoenix PD, Taser attempted to intercede with political and police officials, causing it to be disqualified for violating the city’s procurement process, according to this article. But the city later decided to rebid the contract, so now VieVu is suing Taser, according to this article.

Taking a bite out of forensic odontology

February 15, 2017

This article reports a session on dentistry at the annual forensic science conference featuring Keith Harward, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 33 years in Virginia based on expert testimony that bite marks on the victim were made by him “to a reasonable scientific certainty” and “It’s a practical impossibility that someone else would have all these characteristics in combination.” Recent reviews have been very critical of the scientific validity of bite mark matching.

Shooters rarely arrested in Boston

February 14, 2017

Suspects were arrested in less than 4% of 618 non-fatal shootings over a 32-month period during 2014-2016 in Boston, according to this article. Community members say that witnesses and victims fail to cooperate in investigations because they fear the shooters more than they trust the police. Comparable figures for non-fatal shootings in other cities are elusive but clearance rates of 30-40% seem more typical.

Police & social workers

February 13, 2017

This article describes the work of the Trauma-informed Response Team in Milwaukee, social workers who follow up with crime victims and witnesses based on police referrals. The team focuses particularly on children, helping them overcome the impact of violence in their neighborhood and family.

Safer in-car systems

February 11, 2017

This article reports a project in North Carolina exploring ways to improve the safety features of front-seat police equipment. For example, making the in-car computer screen more user friendly improved driver lane maintenance and speed control during simulator tests.

Social skills & economic success

February 10, 2017

This article is not specifically about police, but it reports that (1) in today’s economy, social skills are more strongly related to employment success than in the past and (2) schools don’t usually put much emphasis on teaching social skills. This might help account for recruiting challenges, as police are competing with other employers for the same limited number of candidates who have good people skills.

Taking unsolved murders seriously

February 9, 2017

This article describes work done by a former journalist to compile and analyze data on unsolved murders throughout the U.S. — well over 200,000 since 1980. Police departments initially ignored his data and alerts about cases possibly linked to serial killers, but have recently started to take notice.

Unfounded sexual assaults in Canada

February 4, 2017

This article takes an in-depth look at rape and sexual assault investigation in Canada. Nationally, police unfound almost 20% of reported cases, although independent research indicates that only 2-8% of rape reports are false. The unfounded rate varies greatly between jurisdictions, suggesting that some departments continue to use outdated investigation methods and are dismissive of all but “perfect” victims.

San Francisco suspends participation in JTTF

February 3, 2017

San Francisco PD has suspended participation in the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force while a mandatory review of the 10-year-old memorandum of understanding is conducted, according to this article. Activists have pressured the PD not to aid federal agencies in surveillance related to immigration and 1st amendment activities.