Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Part-time police

March 15, 2019

Pennsylvania is one state that relies on part-time officers, particularly in smaller departments. This article reports one risky aspect of that practice — officers take as many shifts as they can get, from multiple departments, resulting in fatigue. One chief notes “there is no way to monitor the amount of hours a part-timer has worked in another municipality and whether that part-time officer is sufficiently rested.” Most chiefs would prefer full-time officers, while some also note increasing difficulty in finding and keeping qualified part-timers.


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.”

50 extremism-related murders in 2018

January 25, 2019

There were at least 50 U.S. murders linked to extremism in 2018, making it the 4th deadliest year for domestic terrorism since 1970, and all the perpetrators “had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement,” according to this article. Firearms caused 42 of the deaths, and just 5 shooting sprees accounted for 38 of the murders. The Anti-Defamation League reports that, over the last 10 years, “73.3 percent of all extremist-related fatalities can be linked to domestic right-wing extremists, while 23.4 percent can be attributed to Islamic extremists.”

Rapid DNA in action

January 22, 2019

This article reports early adoption of Rapid DNA technology in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and a few other sites around the country. The equipment requires little training and returns results in 90 minutes. Scientists are generally satisfied with the accuracy of matches from cheek swabs but consider crime scene DNA much more complicated to process and interpret. A current limitation is that most machines only link to local databases, not the FBI’s national CODIS system. Critics worry that the technology will tempt police to collect DNA from anyone they deem suspicious, leading to an ever-larger DNA database susceptible to misuse.

Local policing in Pennsylvania

December 19, 2018

Pennsylvania has over 2,500 municipalities and no unincorporated areas. Nearly half the municipalities have their own police departments, while the rest rely on state police, since PA sheriffs lack general police powers. This article describes the policing situation in Allegheny County, which has Pittsburgh PD and 108 other police departments. Most of the PDs are small and many depend heavily on part-time officers. The result is wide variation in staffing, workload, and pay, with the neediest communities often least able to afford reliable, consistent police service.

Scoop and go

November 15, 2018

This article reports the common police practice in Philadelphia of “scoop and go” — immediately taking gunshot victims to the hospital in patrol cars, rather than waiting for an ambulance. Explaining it, a captain says “We don’t join the Police Department to watch people die.” Study results are mixed, but trauma surgeons say that seconds and minutes matter most in shootings, not any care that EMTs can provide along the way. Besides saving lives, the chief in nearby Camden adds “The streets are always watching. And they see your behavior, and actions speak far louder than words.”

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.

Crime victim vs. public nuisance

October 13, 2018

This article points out an apparent flaw in many public nuisance laws — they can penalize crime victims. In the case of domestic violence, some victims who have called the police multiple times have crossed a threshold that put their home into the public nuisance category, particularly risky when renting from a landlord. Others have been warned that their next call could qualify them as a public nuisance, effectively deterring them from reporting future assaults. Estimates are that less than 10% of public nuisance laws have an exception for domestic abuse victims.

Launching a career from a streetcorner

September 8, 2018

This article reports a new initiative in Philadelphia, started by police, aimed at linking “corner boys” and “corner girls” with job opportunities. On the first Friday of each month, officers, local employers, and workforce developers will visit streetcorners in two sections of the city. “They’ll offer a wide range of support to help the new workers prepare for and retain employment. Barriers such as criminal records, transportation, child-care, computer literacy, and even wardrobe will be addressed through the program.”

Investigating hate crimes

August 26, 2018

This article reports several examples of successful investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Reporting and documentation of hate crime is inconsistent around the country and federal prosecution is rare, so local police action is usually the key to success or failure. One reason that bias crimes often get overlooked is the element of the offender’s motivation: “Police officers, for most crimes, are not rigorously trained to look at motive. They apprehend; they take reports; they do some investigation.”