Posts Tagged ‘California’

Ghost guns

May 23, 2019

Ghost guns — firearms without serial numbers — are becoming more common, now accounting for 30% of guns recovered by federal agents in California, as reported here. They include 3-D printed weapons but most are assembled with parts legally available from numerous companies — “If you can put Ikea furniture together, you can make one of these” according to an ATF official. Black market prices for the guns are typically 2-4 times higher than legitimate retail, catering to those who can’t pass the background check, plus “Even though you can buy an assault weapon in Minnesota or Texas — why not buy one that the government doesn’t know anything about?”

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Teaching new officers difficult history

May 22, 2019

San Jose police recruits recently took a course on “Policing in the Current Social and Political Climate” during their academy training, as reported here. The course reviewed controversial contemporary incidents but also examined how, “historically, police officers have been used as instruments of government discrimination, tasked with enforcing shameful policies such as the Japanese internment and Jim Crow laws.” The chief emphasized that national and even world events affect how people view the police locally — “No one reads the city on the badge, you just see the badge. We have to understand why certain segments do not trust us. I hope this scratches the surface of that.”

Community policing (parking)

May 21, 2019

Washington, DC is considering empowering residents to issue parking tickets, as reported here. The current proposal would train 10 residents per ward to use an app to issue citations electronically. This form of policing by the community “follows the lead of other cities piloting similar initiatives, including New York, which created a program that gives 25% of the fines imposed on idling cars to residents who report them, and Los Angeles, which started a volunteer ticketing program that issued over 9,000 citations last year.”

Access to police discipline records

April 26, 2019

A media collaboration has compiled discipline records for about 10% of U.S. police around the country, as reported on this 6-minute PBS news clip. Initial reporting is available here, along with a link to the database that was compiled. In California, where a new state law opening up police personnel records went into effect January 1, the Attorney General and the courts are still deciding whether it is retroactive, and various parties are suing, as reported here. New York has one of the most restrictive laws but advocates and legislators are pushing for change in the current session, as reported here.

Eye in the sky

April 15, 2019

The Chula Vista, California police department is believed to be the first to deploy drones for immediate response to emergency calls, as reported here. Average response time is less than 2 minutes for the drones, which are dispatched from the roof of police headquarters and stream video to incident managers and responding officers. The agency credits 57 arrests and 50 calls avoided to the drones over the last 6 months.

LAPD pulls back on data-driven policing

April 13, 2019

LAPD has been at the forefront of predictive policing focused on hot spots and repeat offenders, using algorithms and programs such as PredPol and LASER. Community activists have criticized the approach as biased, and a city inspector general review found inconsistent criteria, lack of oversight, and weak evidence of effectiveness. The department has now agreed to suspend the LASER program while it reassesses the data, as reported here, with the chief commenting “Crime reduction strategies are never static. We will continue to learn and evolve in our work.”

Victim tracking of rape kits

April 9, 2019

An increasing number of states have laws establishing rape kit tracking systems, as reported here. At least 17 states now have such laws, with 5 others pending this year. A key feature of the systems, besides helping officials track cases and reduce backlogs, is empowering victims to monitor the status of evidence collected from them. Advocates argue this “provides a degree of transparency and accountability that, until now, had been notoriously absent from sexual-assault cases.”

Listening in Stockton

April 2, 2019

Stockton, California was in a rough situation when the current chief was promoted to that position in 2012. The city had filed for bankruptcy, there were police layoffs, morale was low, and violent crime was up. In this interview, the chief explains how he learned to listen more carefully to members of his community, including victims and the formerly incarcerated, as well as his own officers. He and the city manager went on a “listening tour” and now he and his staff do a listening session in the community about once a month. Over the last 5 years, public trust has improved, case clearances are up, and shootings are down.

Fewer applicants — not just police

March 25, 2019

A survey of state government officials indicates the number of applicants for public sector jobs dropped 24% from 2013 to 2017, as reported here. Among the reasons: the low unemployment rate, non-competitive salaries, negative perceptions of government work, and antiquated recruiting/hiring processes. On the latter, California recently cut the steps in the hiring process from 89 to 14, and the average application to hiring time from 179 days to 65. Law enforcement was cited as the category experiencing the biggest drop in applicants.

An app named Citizen

March 17, 2019

Now available in New York and a few other cities, the Citizen app rebroadcasts and maps selected police, fire, and EMS calls, so a user can be aware of any dangerous activity in their proximity. As reported here, users are warned to stay safe, but also encouraged to submit photos, video, and commentary from the scenes of incidents. The company says more than 100,000 live videos have been recorded; an alert about a recent car fire in Times Square hit 31,000 phones. Currently the app is free with no advertising, but future commercialization seems inevitable.