Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Elder fraud

March 8, 2019

U.S. authorities announced a year-long “largest-ever” elder fraud crackdown resulting in criminal and civil charges against 260 defendants for defrauding more than 2 million victims out of $750 million, as reported here. The total annual loss to elder Americans is estimated at $3 billion. The investigation was aided by Europol and police in several individual countries, with “alleged fraudsters charged criminally and extradited from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Poland.” An additional 600 U.S.-based “money mules” who helped transfer funds were identified, most receiving warning letters rather than charges because they didn’t realize they were facilitating scams.


Bike fatalities up

February 11, 2019

Bike fatalities in 2016 were the highest since 1990, with 835 deaths, according to this article. One contributing factor could be the 50% increase over time in the number of people commuting to work on bicycles. Interestingly, though, several cities with the highest rates of biking to work — Portland, Minneapolis, DC, San Francisco, Seattle — had among the lowest fatality rates. The highest bike fatality rates were in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Jacksonville.

K-9 audit in St. Paul

January 5, 2019

Following several accidental bites, an audit has concluded that “Systemic issues with training, supervision and record-keeping plagued the St. Paul police K-9 unit … and partly contributed to attacks on innocent bystanders,” as reported here. The review found that handlers often self-trained, scored their own training performance, and were inconsistent in issuing verbal warnings to suspects. Recommendations include closer supervision, better performance data, and “developing more arrest options officers can use instead of deploying a K-9 for human apprehension; using time, distance, cover and options to slow human-dog encounters; and emphasizing the canine’s primary purpose as a locating tool.”

Disabilities app

November 1, 2018

Police in Minnesota and Ohio have started using an app that alerts them when they are near a person wearing a disabilities “beacon,” as reported here. Importantly, “Users have complete control over the information accessible to police and first responders. Their profile data can include basic personal details, as well as potential deescalation tactics, possible triggers and emergency contact numbers. The information is only available to public safety officers within the 80-foot radius, and it cannot be stored.” Currently, 1,500 families have created profiles on the “Vitals” app.

Transit agencies & homelessness

October 27, 2018

This article reports several examples of cities and transit systems responding to challenges presented by homelessness. Subway stations and other transit facilities are often chosen by homeless people for weather protection and some remain open throughout the night. Philadelphia has brought social services into metro stations and police in Minneapolis have taken the lead in obtaining housing and shelter options for people they encounter.

Autopsy overload

August 31, 2018

This article reports a growing shortage of forensic pathology capacity around the country. An estimated 1,000 more forensic pathologists were needed even before the opioid crisis, which has caused significantly heavier workloads. Though states vary widely in the roles played by medical examiners and sometimes-untrained coroners in determining cause of death, every system depends on autopsies and toxicology tests. As one coroner put it, “More people are just dying in ways that need to be investigated.”

You can’t hate people

August 5, 2018

Nice profile here of Art Blakey, retired sheriff’s lieutenant and state fair chief in Minnesota, who died Saturday at age 83. The first African-American sworn deputy in Ramsey County, he was remembered by the St. Paul police chief as “a guardian in the truest sense” and by the sheriff’s office as “a great man and mentor to many people in our agency and beyond.” Danny Givens, an armed robber who got in a shootout with Blakey in 1996 in which both were wounded, and who then served 12 years in prison before becoming a pastor and activist, called him “the epitome of community policing” and “a hero in the Givens family.”

Poor rape investigations in Minnesota

July 25, 2018

This article reports an analysis of over 1,000 sexual assault cases reported to police departments in Minnesota. Only 25% made it to prosecutors and less than 10% ended in convictions. In about one-quarter of the cases no investigator was assigned, and in one-third an investigator never contacted the victim. Experts who reviewed the cases found that the investigation was adequate in only 20%. The head of the state’s chiefs association concluded “I think there’s no doubt that law enforcement and prosecution … need to look in the mirror and say, ‘what can we do better?”

Use of force down 50% in Minneapolis

May 27, 2018

This article reports 10 years of use of force data in Minneapolis, showing a 50% decline over the decade. When force was used, it was 70% physical contact, 15% pepper spray, and 10% Taser, with injuries occurring in 30% of the use of force incidents. More than half of the encounters were officer-initiated rather than in response to a call. Local activists remain skeptical; one official notes “the perception of police over-aggressiveness has thrived regardless of evidence that counters it, because of the lingering trauma of past encounters with law enforcement.”

Mental health crises — new paradigm needed

March 24, 2018

This column reports a careful study of police handling of mental health crises in Minnesota. Arrests were made in only 1% of cases and officers were effective at de-escalation, but options for what to do next were severely lacking — all police could ultimately do in 60% of cases was walk away. Analysis found “Several group homes in the area … were calling the police on a daily basis. Police were being asked to Band-Aid a broken mental health system.” The authors suggest funding “mobile crisis teams … [and] more free 24/7 mental health centers for triage and treatment.”