Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Documenting hate incidents

September 17, 2019

The police department in Arlington, Texas has amended its policy to begin reporting hate incidents, not just hate crimes, as reported here, citing the example of leafletting by a white nationalist organization. The chief emphasized the importance of getting a full picture of the problem, noting that in 2018, nationally, there were 6,000 official hate crime reports, but surveys estimated 250,000 hate crime victims.

Threatening to commit mass shootings

September 3, 2019

This article reports over 40 people arrested around the country over the last month for threatening to commit mass shootings or bombings, most after tips from the public. Common themes included right-wing ideology and threats against schools, Walmarts, and Planned Parenthood. The nature of the cases ranged from “vague social media threats from juveniles that set parents on edge to well-developed plots from people who had access to weapons and appeared to authorities to have been planning a mass murder.”

Ring doorbell cameras

August 30, 2019

The Ring doorbell-camera company has secured partnerships with 405 police agencies around the country, as reported here. Besides selling the devices to homeowners, the company provides a social media app that helps neighbors share information and videos with each other. The app also enables police to request video from Ring customers, and officers are encouraged to participate on the social media platform in order to raise public awareness and increase community vigilance. Critics worry about police seeming to endorse a commercial product, the expansion of surveillance, and the impact of bias on what residents perceive and report as suspicious behavior.

Who cares about safety?

August 30, 2019

This article reports that U.S. traffic deaths from red-light running increased each year from 2012 to 2017, the last year for which data are available, with 2017 a 10-year high. Meanwhile, the number of jurisdictions using red-light cameras has dropped each year since 2012, despite studies indicating 20-30% fewer intersection crashes where the cameras are used. This year, legislation was passed and signed in Texas banning the use of red-light cameras in the state, as reported here. The governor cited constitutional issues and complaints that local jurisdictions adopted the cameras mainly to generate revenue.

Familial & moderate stringency DNA

August 13, 2019

This RAND report explains the increasing use of familial DNA in cases that lack an exact DNA match, as well as “moderate stringency” DNA searches designed to yield investigative leads. The report discusses legal, ethical, and practical issues and describes different approaches taken in California, Texas, and in the UK.

More unsocial media

June 6, 2019

An independent review focused on 8 police departments recently uncovered hundreds of  social media posts by current or retired officers “displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language,” as reported here. One expert noted that much of the language may be hyperbole, just a way of dealing with stress and frustration, while another worried that it confirms the public’s worst suspicions about police. Some of the posts were from supervisors and commanders — a former chief lamented that “You pay sergeants to be leaders, you pay them to uphold the values of the organization, and to demand constitutionally correct behavior.”

Making it easier to complain or compliment

May 17, 2019

Austin, Texas has revised the way the public can file complaints against the police, or provide compliments, implementing an online form that goes to the independent Office of Police Oversight, as reported here. The form can be submitted anonymously, but if the person provides contact information, a follow-up procedure is specified. The city’s Office of Design and Delivery helped craft the new user-friendly form and process. Although the police department emphasizes that every complaint always was investigated, this new filing system is intended to reassure complainants and increase transparency.

Texas to offer student loan repayment assistance to police

April 18, 2019

The Texas legislature has passed preliminary bills that would assist police in repaying student loans, as reported here. The House and Senate versions differ on payment amounts and eligibility so will need to be reconciled, but both passed overwhelmingly and have leadership support. Sponsors and police employee associations hope the measures will help law enforcement agencies overcome current challenges in recruitment and retention. According to a labor representative, “Much like the military’s GI Bill has done for decades, our LEO (law enforcement officer) Bill will serve a similar purpose.”

2015 Waco shootout — 9 dead, 200 arrests, zero convictions

April 3, 2019

Following a massive 2015 shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco, Texas that left 9 dead and 20 injured, 200 bikers were arrested and held on $1 million bonds, with indictments later sought against 155 participants. Only one case went to trial, ending in a hung jury that leaned toward acquittal. As reported here, the last of the remaining charges have now been dropped, assessed by the current district attorney as unwinnable. Meanwhile, 130 of the bikers have pending civil lawsuits against the city, county, former prosecutor, former police chief, and others.

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.