Tech solutions

March 8, 2019

Two articles out today illustrate potential benefits from modern technology. One describes a mobile app that enables police officers handling a mental health incident to “video chat a physician, therapist or case worker to evaluate the patient at the scene and direct them to a clinic or mental hospital instead of the ER” — pilot testing found a 22% reduction in ER and jail visits saving an average of $847 per call, as reported here. The other describes a test of augmented/virtual reality in disaster response training for EMS personnel — “People who trained on the digital model were 45% more accurate and nearly 30% faster … than those who only received traditional classroom training,” as reported here.

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Shootings by NYPD continue downward trend

March 7, 2019

Police-involved shootings by NYPD officers have decreased 96% since 1972, dropping from 994 in that year to 35 in 2018, as reported here. More restrictive deadly force policies adopted in the 1970s had an early impact, while the sharp decline in violent crime since the 1990s has contributed. More recently, officials say enhanced training deserves credit — officers are “put through varying scenarios to prepare them for eventualities when responding to a crisis,” the agency “reviews every shooting incident and passes on findings to instructors at the academy,” and “We address any tactical training issues almost immediately.”

Social media guidebook

March 6, 2019

The Urban Institute has published a social media guidebook for law enforcement agencies, available here. The document, focused mainly on Twitter, “provides data-driven recommendations and step-by-step strategies for agencies that want to use social media to enhance community engagement.” One observation is that agencies of all sizes and types can benefit — “nearly any agency that has buy-in from leadership can effectively engage with their community through social media.”

Delaware reviewing hair evidence convictions

March 5, 2019

The FBI determined in 2015 that its crime lab had a very high error rate in microscopic (non-DNA) hair comparison analyses completed prior to 2000, possibly contributing to mistaken convictions. Delaware has now joined several other states conducting independent reviews to identify any past convictions involving questionable hair evidence, as reported here. The announcement notes that use of such evidence “would not necessarily cast doubt on the case’s resolution if additional evidence, such as confessions or DNA analysis, supported the conviction.”

Mental health crisis response in Tucson

March 2, 2019

Tucson PD has a plainclothes team that helps handle incidents and follow-ups involving people in mental heath and addiction crisis, as reported here. According to the police department, “more than a third of the calls officers respond to involve someone suffering from a mental health or addiction disorder.” Police work closely with the city’s Crisis Response Center, established following a mass shooting 8 years ago that left 6 dead and 13 injured, including member of Congress Gabrielle Giffords.

Terrorism at lowest level since 2002

February 28, 2019

Global terrorism has been decreasing steadily since 2002. The number of terror attacks decreased 19.8% in 2017, following drops of 9.2% and 11.5% in the preceding two years, according to this article. Terrorism-related deaths declined 24.2% in 2017 following drops of 10.% and 12.7% in preceding years. In 2017, two of the safest regions were Western Europe and the U.S., accounting for 2.7% and about 1% of global attacks, respectively. India, the Philippines, and Nepal are countries that did see an increase in attacks in 2017.

Investigating atrocities & war crimes

February 23, 2019

The FBI has an International Human Rights Investigation Unit that continues work begun after World War II to bring “perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice in the United States by investigating suspected perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, torture, recruitment of child soldiers, and female genital mutilation, among other offenses.” This column describes the work of the IHRU and argues against a current proposal to eliminate the unit by merging its work with domestic civil rights investigations. The concern is that “at a time when serious humanitarian catastrophes continue to unfold around the world,” the U.S. will not be a strong defender of human rights.

Focus on wellness in Stockton

February 23, 2019

This article describes Stockton, California PD’s wellness network aimed at helping officers deal with stress and trauma. The award-winning initiative includes a significant orientation for new recruits and proactive measures when officers encounter difficult situations in the field. The police department endured layoffs earlier in the decade while the city went through bankruptcy, adding to the burdens facing officers in a violent, high-crime environment. So far, worker’s compensation claims are down as are citizen complaints.

New report on terrorism prevention

February 22, 2019

The RAND Corporation has published a new report on national efforts at terrorism prevention, available here. It reviews gaps and challenges as well as successes, including “community education efforts, formation of public-private partnerships, and development of local capacity to intervene with individuals at risk of radicalizing to violence.” One key challenge is balancing the tension between “an emphasis on specific communities, and the risk of stigmatizing communities and alienating key allies.”

North Dakota may outlaw DUI checkpoints

February 22, 2019

The lower house of the North Dakota legislature has passed a bill outlawing DUI checkpoints by a 79-14 vote, with state senate action pending, as reported here. Data indicated limited checkpoint usage in recent years with relatively few DUI arrests. The bill’s sponsor called the checkpoints “cliched” and said they had been “proven inadequate.” Evidence from prior studies suggests that checkpoints can reduce fatal crashes, but only when they are reasonably frequent and highly publicized.