Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

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.

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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.

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.

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.”

FBI shooting data

February 12, 2019

FBI agents have been involved in 228 shooting incidents since 2011, including 113 accidental discharges, 34 animals, and 81 “intentional shootings involving people or objects” according to this NBC news segment and article. Agents were found at fault in 5 of the shootings, none of which resulted in fatalities. The bureau has not traditionally released information about its agent-involved shootings, and has not employed independent or external investigation. Looking ahead, the FBI will be administering the new national database of police shootings, announced last year — reportedly, “the bureau itself would also submit information to the database.”

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.

Improving recruiting

February 5, 2019

This new report presents results from projects in 21 different jurisdictions aimed at identifying police recruiting messages and processes that produce more applicants and more people following through in the hiring process. The Behavioral Insights Team helped evaluate various alternatives to determine which ones worked better than others. One finding was that “Even small changes in how jobs are advertised can make a real difference to both the total number of applicants and the diversity of those applicants.”

Scooting away from the scene of the crime

January 30, 2019

A bank robber in Austin, Texas made his getaway recently on a rental scooter, as reported here. Apparently he didn’t realize that, having used an app with his credit card to activate the scooter, he was leaving “digital bread crumbs” all the way home. One detective observed “In the past you were looking for fingerprints and then it was DNA, and now you’re looking more and more towards examining people’s digital footprint.” As for rental scooters, they have been used in the commission of crimes in several other cities as well.