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History > 2012 > USA > Police (I)



Woman Accused

of Hate-Crime Murder

in Subway Push


December 29, 2012
The New York Times


A 31-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday and charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in connection with the death of a man who was pushed onto the tracks of an elevated subway station in Queens and crushed by an oncoming train.

The woman, Erika Menendez, selected her victim because she believed him to be a Muslim or a Hindu, Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said.

“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s nightmare: Being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” Mr. Brown said in an interview.

In a statement, Mr. Brown quoted Ms. Menendez, “in sum and substance,” as having told the police: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” Ms. Menendez conflated the Muslim and Hindu faiths in her comments to the police and in her target for attack, officials said.

The victim, Sunando Sen, was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

Mr. Sen “was allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself,” Mr. Brown said. “Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant’s actions should never be tolerated by a civilized society.”

Mr. Brown said he had no information on the defendant’s criminal or mental history.

“It will be up to the court to determine if she is fit to stand trial,” he said.

Ms. Menendez is expected to be arraigned by Sunday morning. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. By charging her with murder as a hate crime, the possible minimum sentence she faced would be extended to 20 years from 15 years, according to prosecutors.

On Saturday night, Ms. Menendez, wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, was escorted from the 112th Precinct to a waiting car by three detectives. Greeted by camera flashes and dozens of reporters, she let out a loud, unintelligible moan. She did not respond to reporters’ questions.

The attack occurred around 8 p.m. on Thursday at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside.

Mr. Sen, 46, was looking out over the tracks when a woman approached him from behind and shoved him onto the tracks, according to the police. Mr. Sen never saw her, the police said.

The woman fled the station, running down two flights of stairs and down the street.

By the next morning, a brief and grainy black-and-white video of the woman who the police said was behind the attack was being broadcast on news programs.

Patrol officers picked up Ms. Menendez early Saturday after someone who had seen the video on television spotted her on a Brooklyn street and called 911, said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department. She was taken to Queens and later placed in lineups, according to detectives. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Friday that, according to witnesses’ accounts, there had been no contact on the subway platform between the attacker and the victim before the shove.

The case was the second this month involving someone being pushed to death in a train station. In the first case, Ki-Suck Han, 58, of Elmhurst, Queens, died under the Q train at the 49th Street and Seventh Avenue station on Dec. 3. Naeem Davis, 30, was charged with second-degree murder in that case.

Mr. Sen, after years of saving money, had opened a small copying business on the Upper West Side this year.

Ar Suman, a Muslim, and one of three roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Mr. Sen in Elmhurst, said he and Mr. Sen often discussed religion.

Though they were of different faiths, Mr. Suman said, he admired the respect that Mr. Sen showed for those who saw the world differently than he did. Mr. Suman said he once asked Mr. Sen why he was not more active in his faith and it resulted in a long philosophical discussion.

“He was so gentle,” Mr. Suman said. “He said in this world a lot of people are dying, killing over religious things.”


Reporting was contributed by William K. Rashbaum, Wendy Ruderman,

Jeffrey E. Singer and Julie Turkewitz. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

    Woman Accused of Hate-Crime Murder in Subway Push, NYT, 29.12.2012,






Woman Helped Firefighters’ Killer Get Gun

He Used in Ambush, Police Say


December 28, 2012
The New York Times


The police arrested a woman in western New York on Friday who they said helped a man acquire the weapon he is believed to have used to kill two firefighters in an ambush that left two others injured.

According to the police, the woman, Dawn Nguyen, 24, bought a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun from a gun shop more than two years ago on behalf of William Spengler Jr., who as a felon was not permitted to buy or own a gun.

Mr. Spengler apparently used the rifle on Monday to kill the firefighters, whom he lured to his home in Webster, N.Y., near Lake Ontario, by starting a fire, the authorities said. After shooting at other emergency responders, Mr. Spengler shot himself in the head with another weapon, a handgun, an autopsy revealed. The fire destroyed seven homes.

Ms. Nguyen went with Mr. Spengler to buy the weapons at a shop in June 2010, according to a criminal complaint filed by the United States attorney in the Western District of New York.

When the police asked her about the purchase after the shooting, she claimed the guns were for her own protection. She also said they had been stolen from her car, although the police said no report had been filed to support that claim.

The complaint said Ms. Nguyen had told a friend that she bought the weapons for Mr. Spengler. The police said that assertion was corroborated by what Mr. Spengler wrote in a suicide note, in which he said a neighbor’s daughter helped him acquire the guns.

Since the guns were not intended for her, the complaint said, she made a false statement when she bought them, a felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Ms. Nguyen is “the person who purchased that rifle and that shotgun found next to William Spengler,” William J. Hochul Jr., the United States attorney for the Western District of New York, said at a news conference in Rochester on Friday.

Ms. Nguyen’s lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Webster police chief, Gerald L. Pickering, said that based on the distance between Mr. Spengler’s hiding place and where his victims were found, he most likely used the Bushmaster.

A similar gun was used in the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, which prompted a renewed debate about the nation’s gun laws. Much of the discussion has been focused on whether military-style assault weapons like the Bushmaster should be banned.

On Thursday, the State Police released the autopsy results of the two firefighters who were killed and their attacker.

Michael Chiapperini, 43, died as a result of a gunshot wound and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, died as a result of two gunshot wounds, the police said. Mr. Spengler, 62, was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot to his head.

Funeral and memorial services are planned for Mr. Chiapperini and Mr. Kaczowka during the weekend. Hundreds of firefighters and police officers from around the region were pouring into Webster on Friday.

The police have also recovered human remains in Mr. Spengler’s home, which was among the buildings that burned, but the remains have yet to be positively identified. Earlier this week, Chief Pickering said the police believed that the remains belong to Cheryl Spengler, 67, Mr. Spengler’s sister.

The two had fought bitterly in the past, friends and neighbors said, and they may have been involved in a dispute over who would take ownership of the family home following the death of their mother, Arline, in October. Mr. Spengler served 17 years in prison for the 1980 murder of his grandmother, whom he killed with a hammer.

It remained unclear what motivated him to target emergency responders, but he made his intentions clear in the note he left behind: he wanted to kill as many people as he could.

When the police arrived at the scene of the fire just before dawn on Monday, they were met by a fusillade of bullets. A SWAT team was called in to help thwart the gunman. As the gun battle raged, the fire spread.

The autopsy report showed that Mr. Spengler was not struck by any bullets fired by law enforcement officers.


Michael D. Regan contributed reporting.

    Woman Helped Firefighters’ Killer Get Gun He Used in Ambush, Police Say, NYT, 28.12.2012,






Detectives ‘Found Nothing’

in Search of Shooting Victim’s California Home,

Mother Says


December 13, 2012
The New York Times


No drugs. No weapons. No evidence of any kind was removed by New York City detectives from the California home of the man who was gunned down this week in Midtown Manhattan, the victim’s mother said Thursday.

“They handed me back the key to his condo and said they found nothing,” said Sandra Wellington, 56, the mother of Brandon Lincoln Woodard, 31, who was shot in the back of the head near Columbus Circle on Monday.

Despite the seemingly fruitless search of her son’s Playa del Rey condominium on Wednesday evening, two detectives drove to Ms. Wellington’s Los Angeles home and offered her some hope, she said.

“One of the detectives said they are very close,” Ms. Wellington said in a telephone interview.

“The detectives promised me that they will find the people who did this to my son,” she added.

Yet a day after what appeared to be a break in the case — the discovery of the rented getaway vehicle in Queens — the New York police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said investigators still had no suspects.

“We’re certainly not in the position to identify a suspect here,” he said at an unrelated news conference.

However, Mr. Kelly’s statement seemed to contradict reports saying the driver had been identified and citing a law-enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, later said in a statement — released to some reporters — that the police were concerned about reports that the driver had been identified, adding that the gunman, “who appears to be a professional,” may want to kill the driver.

Mr. Kelly said detectives knew who had rented the car, a Lincoln MKZ, from an Avis location in Long Island, but he declined to provide details on what relationship they had, if any, to the calculated killing on 58th Street, a block from Central Park.

Detectives on Wednesday questioned a person who they believed may have information on the killing. By Thursday, they had homed in on a name for the driver of the car, according to a person familiar with the case.

The driver was characterized as a low-level criminal from Queens, and detectives were operating on the theory that the gunman had a similar background, the person said.

The absence of new details fueled the mystery surrounding the killing, which appeared to have been highly planned and carried out with a chilling degree of calm in a busy area. Rumors swirled among friends of Mr. Woodard in Los Angeles. “Everyone is scared,” said one friend.

With microphones and cameras pressed in to record his words, Mr. Kelly chastised the news media for publishing what he described as leaked information. “I would also say that leaks in this case are undermining — or certainly have the potential of undermining — the investigation,” he said.

Detectives had told Ms. Wellington that they would provide her with an inventory sheet listing any items taken from her son’s three-story home. But after about two hours of searching, two detectives from New York drove over to Ms. Wellington’s Los Angeles home at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday and told her there was no need to sign any police paperwork, she said.

“They just didn’t have a piece of paper for me to sign because they didn’t have anything,” she said. She added that investigators already had her son’s laptop because Mr. Woodard had left it with his luggage, which he had dropped with a lobby valet at the hotel where he was staying.

The police have said that Mr. Woodard, a University of West Los Angeles Law School student, had been arrested at least 20 times, mostly on drug offenses, but had spent little time in jail. He had a court date next month in Los Angeles on a cocaine possession charge.


William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

    Detectives ‘Found Nothing’ in Search of Shooting Victim’s California Home, Mother Says, NYT, 13.12.2012,






David Durk, Serpico’s Ally Against Graft, Dies at 77


November 13, 2012
The New York Times


David Durk, a New York police detective who with Officer Frank Serpico shattered the infamous blue wall of silence to expose widespread corruption in the city’s Police Department in the 1960s and ’70s, died on Tuesday at his home in Putnam County, N.Y. He was 77.

The cause was cardiac arrest, his wife, Arlene, said. He had been treated for mesothelioma for the past two years, she said.

An Amherst College graduate who studied law at Columbia University, Mr. Durk joined the Police Department in 1963. He imagined a life of public service, as he put it rosily years later, to help “an old lady walk the streets safely” and “a storekeeper make a living without keeping a shotgun under his cash register.”

But what he found was a culture of corruption: of officers and superiors taking payoffs from gamblers, drug dealers, merchants and mobsters for protection and information, like the names of informers they wanted to kill; of officers stealing and dealing drugs, riding shotgun for pushers and intimidating witnesses.

In precinct after precinct, Mr. Durk found cash “pads” — lists of payoffs from gamblers — with shares for officers, sergeants and higher-ups. And behind the corruption, he discovered, was a litany of unwritten rules amounting to a pervasive acceptance of the wrongdoing, even among those not on the take — a code of silence, called the blue wall, which was corroding morale.

Mr. Durk refused to join in, and became a pariah. While he made many arrests and was promoted to detective sergeant, he was shuttled among assignments, often just to get rid of him.

In 1966, while attending classes for new plainclothes investigators, he met Officer Serpico. He too had refused to take payoffs, and had been shunned — and threatened — by fellow officers.

Beyond hating graft, they had little in common. Mr. Durk was a clean-cut collegian with friends in government and the news media, wore conservative suits and lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his wife and two daughters. Officer Serpico was a shaggy, bearded loner who grew up in Brooklyn, served in the Korean War, joined the police in 1959 and lived in Greenwich Village, a serape-clad bohemian called Paco.

But in 1967 they became allies, and over the next few years they complained to high-ranking police and City Hall officials, including Jay Kriegel, Mayor John V. Lindsay’s police liaison, and Arnold G. Fraiman, the commissioner of investigation.

They provided names, dates, places and other information, but were told that nothing could be done. Mr. Fraiman later said the information was not specific enough. Mr. Kriegel said City Hall was worried about alienating the police in a period of civil disturbances.

As Mr. Durk recalled, “The fact is that almost wherever we turned in the Police Department, wherever we turned in the city administration, and almost wherever we went in the rest of the city, we were met not with cooperation, not with appreciation, not with an eagerness to seek out the truth, but with suspicion and hostility and laziness and inattention, and with our fear that at any moment our efforts might be betrayed.”

Frustrated, they went to The New York Times. In a series of articles based on a six-month inquiry, David Burnham reported in 1970 that drug dealers, gamblers and merchants were making “illicit payments of millions of dollars a year to the policemen of New York.”

Mayor Lindsay created a commission, with the lawyer Whitman Knapp as chairman, to investigate. After testimony in 1971 from Detective Durk, Officer Serpico and others, the commission found corruption was endemic. It said the mayor and the former police commissioner Howard R. Leary had failed to act.

But the fallout was minimal. Dozens of officers were prosecuted, but no senior police or city officials were charged. Politically, however, the hearings virtually ended Mayor Lindsay’s presidential aspirations. Officer Serpico, promoted to detective, was shot in the face in a drug raid in 1971, and retired in 1972. But Detective Durk, promoted to lieutenant, remained in the department for more than a decade, at times in elite investigative units but often in lesser posts.

The 1973 Sidney Lumet film “Serpico,” based on the Peter Maas book “Serpico: The Cop Who Defied the System,” minimized Mr. Durk’s role in the exposés. The film lionized Mr. Serpico, played by Al Pacino, but gave Mr. Durk short shrift. (A minor character based on Mr. Durk was given a fictional name.)

In a book review for The Times, Mary Perot Nichols, who headed radio and television stations operated by New York City, called Mr. Serpico “honest and brave,” but said it was Mr. Durk who had sustained their campaign with his persistence and contacts. “It would be fair to say that without Durk, there would have been no police corruption exposé in The New York Times, no Knapp Commission investigations into the matter,” she wrote.

A 1996 biography by James Lardner, “Crusader: The Hell-Raising Police Career of Detective David Durk,” offered a sympathetic treatment of its subject, who received a share of the book’s earnings.

Books and films aside, Mr. Durk had been his own most eloquent spokesman.

“Corruption is not about money at all,” he told the Knapp Commission, “because there is no amount of money that you can pay a cop to risk his life 365 days a year. Being a cop is a vocation or it is nothing at all, and that’s what I saw destroyed by the corruption of the New York City Police Department, destroyed for me and for thousands of others like me.”

David Burton Durk was born in Manhattan on June 10, 1935, one of two sons of a Manhattan doctor. He attended Stuyvesant High School and graduated from Amherst with a degree in political science in 1958.

He married Arlene Lepow in 1959. In addition to her, he is survived by their two daughters, Joan and Julie Durk.

After a year at Columbia, Mr. Durk sold East African carvings for a time, then joined the Police Department. He patrolled in Harlem and Midtown Manhattan for several years, arresting muggers and pickpockets.

College-educated officers were rare, and he moved up to jobs in the Chief of Detectives office, the city’s Department of Investigation and the Internal Affairs Division. In 1969, on a federal grant, he spent a year recruiting officers on college campuses.

After the Knapp hearings, he continued pressing corruption reforms, but he found himself largely persona non grata in the department, in other agencies he worked for and even among some reporters, who regarded him as obsessively overzealous.

In 1973 and 1974 he worked with a federal investigation of underworld influence in the garment center, but it was called off after 18 months. He was banished to a small police office in Queens, then took a year’s leave at the United Nations to study crime issues. He and his wife and Ira J. Silverman, an NBC producer, wrote a book on heroin traffic, “The Pleasant Avenue Connection.”

In 1979, he took another leave to work on enforcement in the city’s Finance Department. He pounced on tobacco companies that failed to pay taxes on cigarettes given away in promotional campaigns. In 1985, he retired on a police pension of $17,000 a year, and in later years was a professed whistle-blowers’ consultant.


Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

    David Durk, Serpico’s Ally Against Graft, Dies at 77, NYT, 13.11.2012,






A Jane Doe Gets a Back Story


November 12, 2012
The New York Times


As cold cases go, this one was frozen. Forty-one years ago a young woman’s badly decomposed body was found floating under a highway overpass at the southern end of Lake Panasoffkee, in central Florida, about an hour and a half northeast of Tampa.

There was no clue to her identity, but one clear sign of her fate. “A man’s belt was wrapped around her neck,” said Darren Norris, an investigator with the Sumter County Sheriff’s office who is now in charge of the case. (The original lead investigator was William O. Farmer, who is now sheriff.)

She was pulled from the water on Feb. 19, 1971, and detectives spent thousands of hours in a futile effort to determine who she was and who might have killed her. She was buried as Jane Doe.

But such cases are not easy to let go. A young woman’s life and body had been thrown away. Detectives could not help but think of the family somewhere who had lost a daughter. In 1986, the body was exhumed, for further investigation, which again led nowhere. What the detectives had to go on, based on forensic science at the time, was frustratingly sketchy: She was 17 to 24 years old, might have had children, and seemed to be white or Native American. It wasn’t enough, and as it turns out it was only partly correct.

Early this year, Detective Norris brought the skeleton of the victim, who early on became known as Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee, to Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist who directs the Tampa Bay Cold Case Project at the University of South Florida.

Dr. Kimmerle reconstructed the woman’s face and clothing, took shavings of her tooth enamel and bones, and recruited George Kamenov, a geochemist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, to analyze chemical traces in those shavings of lead, carbon and other elements that can give a surprisingly detailed history of diet and environment.

This kind of study, called isotope analysis, is part of the tool kit of geologists, archaeologists and paleontologists, but has only recently been used in criminal cases.

Last week Dr. Kamenov reported at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Charlotte, N.C., on his work with Dr. Kimmerle and Detective Norris. His conclusions were startling.

The young woman was not Native American, he told the society. The best evidence suggested that she grew up in Greece and came to the United States less than a year before she was killed. (Tarpon Springs, north of Tampa, has a large Greek-American population.)

The research, said Detective Norris, “turned the case upside down.” Based on the findings, he provided information for an article that was published Oct. 11 in The National Herald, an international Greek-language newspaper. It was accompanied by the new reconstructed image of the victim and her clothing.

The case is still not closed. The woman’s identity has not been determined, and Detective Norris acknowledges that it is still a long shot.

But he is confident that he is on the right track. “The best lead that has ever come in this case came because of the science,” he said — science that has changed remarkably in the decades since the body was found.

Among the changes are better databases for skull measurements used to determine ancestry; 3-D identification software for processing measurements and aiding in producing reconstructions of a face; and isotope analysis. A forensic investigation can now involve scientists from an array of fields, including anthropology and chemistry.

“We’re all working together,” said Ann H. Ross, who developed the software program “3D ID” and is professor of anthropology at North Carolina State University. “That’s where it has changed dramatically.”

Isotope analysis is one of the newest tools. “It’s in its infancy now” in criminal cases, Dr. Ross said.

One of the first times it was used in a criminal investigation was in the gruesome case of the torso of a young boy, who came to be called Adam, found in 2001 in the Thames River in England. Traces of strontium and other elements that accumulate in bones and other tissues led to Nigeria, and eventually to an area near Benin City. He was eventually identified, but no one has been charged with his murder.

The reason such an analysis can be done is that elements come in different versions, called isotopes, that vary by mass. Rocks and soil in different geographic locations have characteristic percentages of these isotopes, a kind of signature. Geologists have been documenting these signatures for years, creating geographic databases. Now, with mass spectrometers, a scientist can read the signature of an element like strontium from a small sample of rock, bone, hair or other material and match it to a location. In Adam’s case the strontium signature matched pre-Cambrian rock in Nigeria.

Dr. Kimmerle, the Florida anthropologist, was working on human rights cases in Benin City, Nigeria, when she talked to the police chief about Adam. “That’s what inspired me,” she said. She now collects sample isotopes for all her cases.

And that’s why she recruited Dr. Kamenov, a geochemist, to whom she sent tooth enamel and bone shavings from the remains of the murder victim.

Lead in the victim’s tooth enamel was what led Dr. Kamenov to his first discovery — that she grew up in Europe. In the 1950s, both Europe and America used leaded gasoline, and so lead ended up in the air, the dirt, the food and the teeth of growing children. But the lead came from different sources, with different signatures.

European gasoline had lead from Australia, Dr. Kamenov said. “The whole of Europe was contaminated with this Australian lead,” he said. The young woman’s tooth enamel showed she had grown up in Europe.

But where in Europe? For that, Dr. Kamenov looked at another element, oxygen, also incorporated in growing teeth. People living near the sea have more of the heavier oxygen isotopes: when seawater evaporates, the heavier molecules (hydrogen and oxygen) fall closer to the coastline. The victim’s tooth enamel showed heavier oxygen, which suggested she was from southern Europe.

He also looked more closely at databases showing fine variations of lead isotope signatures in teeth and narrowed down her probable geographic origin to Greece, probably south of Athens. But, he cautioned in an e-mail that this is just “the most likely scenario based on all the data.” He put the probability at 60-70 percent that she was from Greece, but said there could be other locations in the region with a similar lead signature. A final piece of evidence came from carbon in her hair. Corn and wheat have different carbon signatures and Europeans have a more wheat-based diet than do Americans.

In looking at samples from the growing root of the hair and the old tip, Dr. Kamenov found a change: “The last hair that grew showed heavier carbon isotopes.” The woman had moved to a corn-based diet during the time her hair was growing, less than a year. She was a recent arrival in the United States.

And that discovery has given Detective Norris a slim edge in pursuing a very old, very cold case. People who knew the victim may well be dead now, so such a case is very hard to pursue. (Anyone with information may call the sheriff’s office at (888) 231-2168.) But, Detective Norris said, “the advantage is modern science comes along.”

He has another purpose in publicizing the case, he says: the hope that knowledge of new forensic techniques will spread to other investigators.

“This science exists,” he said. “You can use it. It’s a great tool.”

    A Jane Doe Gets a Back Story, NYT, 12.11.2012,






Crime Increases in Sacramento

After Deep Cuts to Police Force


November 3, 2012
The New York Times


SACRAMENTO — At first, it seemed just an unwelcome nod to frugality. Overtime for police officers was reduced. Vacant positions went unfilled.

But each year brought more bad news for this city’s Police Department. In 2011, faced with the biggest budget cuts yet — $12.2 million — Chief Rick Braziel was forced to take drastic action: he laid off sworn officers and civilian employees; eliminated the vice, narcotics, financial crimes and undercover gang squads, sending many detectives back to patrol; and thinned the auto theft, forensics and canine units. Police officers no longer responded to burglaries, misdemeanors or minor traffic accidents.

Earlier this year, the traffic enforcement unit was disbanded. The department now conducts follow-up investigations for only the most serious crimes, like homicide and sexual assault.

“You reach the point where there is nothing left to cut,” Chief Braziel said.

The shrinking of Sacramento’s police force has been extreme; the department has lost more than 300 sworn officers and civilian staff members and more than 30 percent of its budget since 2008. But at a time when many cities are curtailing essential services like policing — the Los Angeles Police Department said last week that it could lay off 160 civilian employees by Jan. 1 — the cutbacks in this sprawling city of 472,000 offer a window on the potential consequences of such economizing measures, criminal justice experts say.

“Sacramento may be a good city to watch in terms of what we can predict for the future,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Noting that crime rates have plummeted across the country in the last two decades, Mr. Wexler said, “You could argue that the police have been doing something right.” But with budgets being cut, he continued, “police chiefs are caught between saying, ‘Look what we have done,’ and having to rethink the strategies that have been successful.”

Chief Braziel said he had tried to make the cuts strategically, making sure that the public’s highest priority — having a police officer respond in a timely fashion when a 911 call comes in — is met and preserving a focus on violent crimes. (“There’s no law that says you have to investigate homicides, but you don’t just stop investigating homicides,” he said.) Detectives serve on regional task forces led by the F.B.I. that focus on gangs and trafficking. To help morale, Chief Braziel has also offered short-term rotations to patrol officers, providing some variety now that their chances for promotion are severely limited.

“I could cry all day long about the budget cuts and the 30 percent and the loss of people and everything else,” Chief Braziel said. “But it doesn’t do any good because you get dealt a hand of cards with a budget crisis and you’re playing stud poker — you can’t give back the cards and say deal me two or three more.”

“You’ve got to figure out within the new rules of the game how to do it better,” he said.

But he is not blind to the effects of paring down a police force to its core.

In 2011, Chief Braziel said, the cuts, in his opinion, went past the tipping point. While homicides have remained steady, shootings — a more reliable indicator of gun violence — are up 48 percent this year. Rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and vehicle thefts have also increased, though in smaller increments.

Complicating matters, the cutbacks have coincided with a flow of convicted offenders back into the city as California, heeding a Supreme Court ruling, has reduced its prison population. Once released, former inmates have less supervision — the county’s probation department also suffered cuts.

Chief Braziel, an optimist by nature, said the reductions have in fact had some benefits — more experienced officers on street patrols, for example. But the gaps are increasingly evident.

When a patrol officer stopped a car a few weeks ago and found the driver in possession of half a pound of recently cooked methamphetamine, worth $20,000 on the street, there was no one to spend the 10 hours it would take to write up and execute a search warrant for the man’s residence, despite the suspicion that a meth laboratory would be found there.

“It’s frustrating,” said the officer, Darrald Bryan, who had worked his way up to an investigative job in the robbery unit but was sent back to patrol last year along with 24 other detectives, a demotion that involved a 5 percent pay cut, a switch to the graveyard shift in order to keep his weekends off and the loss of his take-home car.

“You just don’t have the manpower,” said Officer Bryan, adding that the best he could do was arrest the man for possession and sale of narcotics. Now that the gang squad is gone, patrol officers take turns in 90-day assignments that focus on gang activity. But undercover work is a thing of the past, and a highly successful program called Ceasefire, intended to reduce gang violence, was halted for lack of money, staffing and community resources.

Sacramento has consistently ranked at the top for traffic accidents among cities of similar size in California. But with the demise of the traffic enforcement unit, citations are down, volunteers have to be called in for large-scale events like races and parades, and efforts to analyze the city’s most collision-prone intersections and address their hazards have been abandoned.

Teams of police officers — known as problem-oriented policing teams — once worked the city’s troubled neighborhoods, following up with residents, landlords and government offices to solve problems identified on patrol. But those teams, too, were a casualty of the 2011 cuts.

“Would I rather be a drug dealer, a speeder or, if I was involved in the prostitution trade, would I rather be involved in that today as opposed to four years ago? Absolutely,” said Lt. Justin Eklund of the major crimes section. “The issue comes down to, ‘If we have X amount of bodies, what are we going to do?’ ”

Not every attempt to prioritize has worked out as planned. Burglaries had been dropped from the list of crimes that officers responded to. But that policy has now been reversed, after patrol officers heard complaints and residents resisted filing the online reports that were intended as a substitute.

For many residents, said Deputy Chief Dana Matthes, “the one time in their life they have to call the police is because their house is burglarized, and we tell them: ‘Oh, report that online. We can’t come out.’ It doesn’t send that customer service message that we’re there for them.”

A local sales tax measure on the ballot in Tuesday’s election could restore some financing for the Police Department and other essential services in Sacramento. But Chief Braziel said the budget crisis had forced the department to re-examine how it is organized and what its priorities should be. Even when the economy relents, he said, some things may be done differently. “You’ve got to have a business model,” he said. “The world’s changing, and you’ve got to change. You’ve got to get out in front of it.”

Bernard K. Melekian, the director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said a similar rethinking was taking place across the country as departments coped with dwindling budgets. Many are consolidating services or merging with other agencies to form regional law enforcement authorities — in November, Camden, N.J., will close its department, terminating 273 officers and ceding control to a county police force.

The result, Mr. Melekian said, will be significant shifts in how policing is practiced. Whether the outcome will be simply an increase in efficiency or an increase in crime is anyone’s guess.

“That’s the big question that everybody is looking at,” he said.

    Crime Increases in Sacramento After Deep Cuts to Police Force, NYT, 3.11.2012,






Upper West Side Nanny Is Charged With Murder

in 2 Children’s Deaths


November 3, 2012
The New York Times


A nanny accused of killing the two young children she was caring for on Oct. 25 in their Upper West Side apartment was charged on Saturday night with first-degree murder, the police said.

The nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, 50, was charged with fatally stabbing the children, Lucia Krim, 6, and her brother, Leo, 2, shortly before their mother, Marina Krim, returned from a swimming lesson with her other young daughter.

The police said they had delayed charging Ms. Ortega for more than a week because she was intubated and unable to speak as doctors treated wounds she received when she stabbed herself in the throat and slashed her wrists.

Ms. Ortega talked with New York City detectives on Saturday afternoon from her bed at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she remains under police guard, Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, said in a statement.

Mr. Browne gave no details about Ms. Ortega’s condition nor any indication of when she would leave the hospital.

He also declined to give information about a possible motive.

On the day of the killing, Ms. Krim returned home in the early evening with her 3-year-old daughter to find her two other children dead of knife wounds in the bathtub. As Ms. Krim walked into the bathroom, police said, Ms. Ortega plunged a kitchen knife into her own throat.

Ms. Ortega, who police said was a naturalized American citizen from the Dominican Republic, had been referred to the Krims by a family friend and had worked for them for about two years. Police said there was no record of her having committed a previous crime or any indication that there were tensions between her and the Krims.

But relatives and friends of Ms. Ortega have said that she seemed to have been unraveling lately and had sought help from a mental health professional. Her home, which she shared with several relatives including her teenage son, was crowded, and she had financial difficulties.

    Upper West Side Nanny Is Charged With Murder in 2 Children’s Deaths, NYT, 3.11.2012,






Police: Man Charged in Ore. Killing Left Evidence


October 27, 2012
The New York Times


OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon man charged in the Oct. 16 death of a 21-year-old barista unwittingly left a trail of evidence as police followed him in the hours before his arrest, court documents show.

On Oct. 19, Jonathan Holt discarded one handgun in bushes at his north Portland workplace, according to documents released Friday.

Investigators say he dropped another handgun in the grass outside the suburban Gresham Police Department, just before he entered for an interview at which police say he confessed to sexually abusing and killing Whitney Heichel of Gresham. Holt was arrested during that interview.

During a brief court appearance Friday, Holt, 25, was indicted on charges of kidnap, robbery and sodomy. He was earlier charged with aggravated murder.

Lawyer Conor Thomas Huseby, appointed to represent Holt, declined to answer questions.

Hundreds of people from around the Portland area gathered Friday at a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in Gresham for a public memorial for Heichel.

Her husband, Clint Heichel, spoke to reporters outside the hall, saying the family wanted to "give the community a hug" and thank people for their kindness.

"She was just a ray of sunshine," he said.

In the hours after the young woman failed to show up for work at a Starbucks cafe on Oct. 16, relatives and friends launched a wide-ranging search. However, Holt, who was a neighbor, an acquaintance and attended the same church, was nowhere to be found, The Oregonian reported.

When friends finally spotted Holt nearly 12 hours later, court documents say he told them he had been on his way to work that day when he was robbed at gunpoint by two black men.

Holt didn't report that robbery to police that day but when questioned by officers for the first time on Oct. 17, he said he'd been shaken by the experience and spent the entire day walking and crying. Police say Holt repeatedly changed his story about the supposed robbery.

Whitney Heichel's Ford Explorer, with the passenger side window smashed, was found at a Walmart six hours after she disappeared, triggering an investigation that ended with the discovery of her body on Larch Mountain, east of Gresham, on the night of Oct. 19.

Court documents released earlier say that Holt told Oregon State Police Sgt. Jon Harrington that he waited outside Heichel's apartment and asked for a ride as she was leaving for work.

Minutes into the drive, he pulled a handgun and told her to drive to Roslyn Lake, the document said.

Holt then forced Heichel to perform oral sex before fatally shooting her, the affidavit stated, adding that Holt disposed of his cellphone at the lake before driving to the mountain to conceal the body.

Heichel was shot four times.


Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

    Police: Man Charged in Ore. Killing Left Evidence, NYT, 27.10.2012,






Shot After Interrupting a Robbery in the Bronx,

an Off-Duty Officer Kills a Suspect


October 24, 2012
The New York Times


An off-duty New York City police officer was shot in the chest on Wednesday evening after interrupting a robbery on a Bronx street, but he continued to pursue three fleeing suspects, fatally shooting one of them, the authorities said.

The encounter occurred around 6:30 p.m. near Bronx Community College, witnesses said.

The officer, identified as Ivan Marcano, 27, lives in the area and was driving with his girlfriend when they noticed two men who appeared to be robbing another man in front of 1898 Harrison Avenue, the police said.

Officer Marcano stepped out of his car and displayed his badge and gun, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference. One of the suspects opened fire, hitting the officer in the chest, Mr. Kelly said. Officer Marcano was in stable condition at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center late Wednesday.

After the officer was hit, the two suspects fled with a third man in a white Mustang, and Officer Marcano returned to his car, intending to go to the hospital with his girlfriend behind the wheel, Mr. Kelly said.

But within a block, the officer and the suspects crossed paths again. In their effort to escape, the suspects had crashed into a livery cab and tried to run away. After seeing the suspects again, Officer Marcano got out of his car and drew his gun, the police said.

“Holding his left hand over his wound, with his gun in his right hand, Officer Marcano moved to the middle of the street, took cover behind a livery cab, yelled to passers-by to get down and fired,” Mr. Kelly said. “He moved a second time, still holding his hand over his wound, to the west side of Harrison Avenue, where he took cover behind a parked car and fired another round at the suspects.”

It was unclear whether the suspects returned fire. Officer Marcano shot one in the head, killing him, the police said. The other two suspects split up and ran off. Officer Marcano chased one of them, but he got away. Both remained at large late Wednesday.

Officer Marcano, who began his career as a transit officer in 2007, happened upon an ambulance parked in the area and was taken to the hospital, Mr. Kelly said. The officer had a bullet lodged in his chest, the police said. The round had grazed his left arm, entered the left side of his chest, narrowly missing his heart, exited and re-entered his right side, where it ricocheted, fractured one of his ribs and lodged in the right side of his chest, the police said.

A .380-caliber semiautomatic weapon was recovered at the scene, the authorities said.

Dozens of police officers, some wearing riot gear, converged on the area Wednesday night, blocking off streets as they searched for the two suspects. Some residents complained that they could not get home to their children. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who visited Officer Marcano in the hospital, said 12 New York police officers had been shot so far this year.

“Police Officer Marcano was protecting our city and putting his life on the line, even when he was off duty,” Mr. Bloomberg said.


Wendy Ruderman and Stacey Stowe contributed reporting.

    Shot After Interrupting a Robbery in the Bronx, an Off-Duty Officer Kills a Suspect, NYT, 24.10.2012,






Police Fatally Shoot an Unarmed Driver

on the Grand Central Parkway


October 4, 2012
The New York Times


A New York police detective shot and killed an unarmed man, whose hands, a witness said, were on the steering wheel of his Honda, after he had been pulled over early Thursday for cutting off two police trucks on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens, the authorities said.

The shooting, which occurred at 5:15 a.m., was the latest in a series of episodes in which police officers fatally shot or wounded civilians. While the Police Department had explanations in the other instances, it could not immediately provide one for the shooting on Thursday.

The detective, Hassan Hamdy, 39, a 14-year veteran assigned to the Emergency Service Unit, fired one bullet through an open window of the car, which his squad had just pulled over with the help of a second police vehicle. The bullet struck the driver, Noel Polanco, 22, in the abdomen. He was declared dead less than an hour later at New York Hospital Queens.

Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, initially said there were reports of movement inside the car, although he did not elaborate. Mr. Browne said a small power drill was found on the floor on the driver’s side, but he later appeared to play down the importance of that information.

“We looked for a weapon, we didn’t find any; we found a drill,” he said in a news briefing at Police Headquarters. “I’m not saying it played a role. I’m just saying we looked for a weapon. We did not find a weapon. The only thing we found was that drill.”

A passenger in Mr. Polanco’s car, Diane Deferrari, said in a phone interview Thursday night that just before pulling the car over, officers appeared irate that Mr. Polanco had cut them off. She said that one of the officers — but not Detective Hamdy — stuck up his middle finger and was screaming obscenities from one of the moving police trucks.

“As soon as we stopped — they were rushing the car,” Ms. Deferrari said. “It was like an army.”

She said a group of officers swarmed the car, yelling for the three people in Mr. Polanco’s car to put their hands up. Mr. Polanco, whose hands were still on the steering wheel, had no time to comply, Ms. Deferrari said. At that instant, a shot rang out, and Mr. Polanco gasped for air, she said.

“I felt the powder in my face,” she said.

Officers then dragged Mr. Polanco from the car and onto the highway, where traffic was snarled, as early-morning commuters slowed to look, she said.

“This is all a case of road rage on behalf of the N.Y.P.D. — that’s all this is,” she said.

Mr. Browne said late Thursday that Ms. Deferrari’s assertions would “be investigated in the ongoing review of the shooting by the district attorney and Internal Affairs.”

The shooting followed a string of fatal police encounters. In August, the police shot and killed a 51-year-old man armed with a long kitchen knife in Times Square; the police said the man had lunged at them.

Also in August, two officers fatally shot an armed gunman who had just killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building. In that shooting, nine bystanders were injured by bullets or ricochet fragments.

Last month, an officer inadvertently shot and killed a Bronx bodega employee: he was fleeing armed robbers and collided with the officer, whose gun accidentally discharged. And last week, officers with the Emergency Service Unit killed a Harlem man in the doorway of his apartment; the police said they had unsuccessfully tried to subdue him and he had lunged at them with a knife.

Police union officials were perplexed by the shooting on the parkway.

“I see a spike in police shootings; I do,” said Edward Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. “For the most part, they are all coming back as justified. This is the first one that’s up for question.”

Mr. Mullins said the reason for the shooting was unclear. He said the shooting, like any other, would be thoroughly investigated by the Police Department and the Queens district attorney.

“It’s tragic and unfortunate,” he said. “Things like this happen. It’s sad. It’s not supposed to happen.”

“I’ve never met a police officer who went to work to deliberately be involved in this type of incident,” he added. “My understanding of this officer is that he is highly thought of in the department.”

The episode began early Thursday at the Ice NYC in Astoria, Queens, where Mr. Polanco, who worked at a local Honda dealership, also worked part time, in the hookah part of the bar, where he filled and served tobacco waterpipes. He was also a member of the New York Army National Guard.

Mr. Polanco, who lived with his mother, arrived at the club around 3 a.m., the club’s manager, Moez Abouelnaga, said. “He came to pick up the bartender,” he said, referring to Ms. Deferrari; they lived in the same apartment building. “Anytime you need something, he would never say no.”

Brian Benstock, the general manager at Paragon Honda on Northern Boulevard, where Mr. Polanco worked, said: “He was a hard-working guy, an active-duty military guy — disciplined and polite. He did what he was supposed to do.”

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said the bartender, Ms. Deferrari, who wrapped up work sometime after 4 a.m., had served a Hennessy Cognac to Mr. Polanco and her friend, an off-duty police officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, also at the bar. Officer Rodriguez was on restricted duty because she was arrested in June and accused of shoplifting.

Nelson De La Rosa, a party planner at the club, said Mr. Polanco was not drunk. “He had a beer and a hookah,” he said. “I was sitting next to him since he got there.”

After leaving the club around 5 a.m., the police said, Mr. Polanco, Ms. Deferrari and Officer Rodriguez got into his car and he drove onto the parkway.

Less than 15 minutes later, the police said, the black Honda that Mr. Polanco was driving crossed from the right lane into the middle lane and squeezed between the two police trucks, which were from the Emergency Service Unit. The officers in the trucks had just executed a search warrant in the Bronx and were on their way to Brooklyn to execute another warrant, the police said.

The Honda, which the police said was speeding, then shifted to the left lane and began to tailgate a car, the police said. Mr. Polanco then swung back between the two police vehicles, and the officers in them turned on their sirens, Mr. Browne said.

The police trucks sandwiched the car, forcing it to slow down and stop, the police said.

Just before Mr. Polanco stopped the car, Ms. Deferrari was arguing with him, urging him to slow down, Mr. Browne said.

“She was frightened by his driving,” Mr. Browne said.

At the stop, along a median of the busy parkway, two officers approached the car, a sergeant at the driver’s side and the detective at the passenger side, where the window was open, the police said. Ms. Deferrari, who was seated there, later told the police that she had heard the officers tell those inside the car to show their hands.

Officer Rodriguez was asleep in the back seat when the gun went off, the police said. The blast woke her, and she identified herself as an officer, the police said.

Mr. Browne said Ms. Deferrari told investigators that when the officers ordered her to put her hands up, she complied, but Mr. Polanco, when last she looked, had his hands on the steering wheel.

“What she said was that she complied with the officer’s directions to raise their hands,” Mr. Browne said. “She said the last time she looked at the driver, his hands were still on the wheel.”

At that point, Detective Hamdy fired a single shot through the open passenger window, striking Mr. Polanco. Mr. Browne said he did not know exactly where the sergeant, approaching the driver’s side, was standing when the shot was fired. Mr. Browne said that what prompted the shooting was unknown, as investigators had not yet interviewed Detective Hamdy.

For legal reasons, to protect officers from self-incrimination, investigators cannot immediately interview officers directly involved in a police shooting.

Detective Hamdy, who joined the force in 1998, had never fired his gun on duty before, the police said. He had worked his way up to the elite Emergency Service Unit, where he had been recently assigned to a team of highly trained officers who specialize in apprehending violent felony suspects.

Late Thursday night, friends and co-workers of Mr. Polanco gathered outside Ice NYC, where people signed photos of Mr. Polanco that were taped to a lamppost. Friends brought flowers, and a cardboard box filled with candles rested outside, along with a hookah that some took turns puffing from.


Alain Delaquérière and Alex Vadukul contributed reporting.

    Police Fatally Shoot an Unarmed Driver on the Grand Central Parkway, NYT, 4.10.2012,






To Fight Crime, a Poor City Will Trade In Its Police


September 28, 2012
The New York Times


CAMDEN, N.J. — Two gruesome murders of children last month — a toddler decapitated, a 6-year-old stabbed in his sleep — served as reminders of this city’s reputation as the most dangerous in America. Others can be found along the blocks of row houses spray-painted “R.I.P.,” empty liquor bottles clustered on their porches in memorial to murder victims.

The police acknowledge that they have all but ceded these streets to crime, with murders on track to break records this year. And now, in a desperate move to regain control, city officials are planning to disband the Police Department.

The reason, officials say, is that generous union contracts have made it financially impossible to keep enough officers on the street. So in November, Camden, which has already had substantial police layoffs, will begin terminating the remaining 273 officers and give control to a new county force. The move, officials say, will free up millions to hire a larger, nonunionized force of 400 officers to safeguard the city, which is also the nation’s poorest.

Hardly a political battle of the last several years has been fiercer than the one over the fate of public sector unions. But Camden’s decision to remake perhaps the most essential public service for a city riven by crime underscores how communities are taking previously unimaginable steps to get out from under union obligations that built up over generations.

Though the city is solidly Democratic, the plan to put the Police Department out of business has not prompted the wide public outcry seen in the union battles in Chicago, Ohio or Wisconsin, in part because many residents have come to resent a police force they see as incompetent, corrupt and doing little to make their streets safe.

A police union has sued to stop the move, saying it is risking public safety on an “unproven” idea. But many residents, community groups and elected officials say that the city is simply out of money, out of options, out of patience.

“There’s no alternative, there’s no Plan B,” the City Council president, Frank Moran, said. “It’s the only option we have.”

Faced with tight budgets, many communities across the country are considering regionalizing their police departments, along with other services like firefighting, libraries and schools. Though some governments have rejected the idea for fear of increasing police response time, the police in Camden — population 77,000 — are already so overloaded they no longer respond to property crimes or car accidents that do not involve injuries.

The new effort follows a push by New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic leaders in the Legislature to encourage cities and towns to regionalize government services. They maintain that in a new era of government austerity, it is no longer possible for each community to offer a full buffet of government services, especially with a new law prohibiting communities from raising property taxes more than 2 percent a year.

Most municipalities have so far remained committed to local traditions, fearing a loss of community identity, but officials in Camden County say they expect others will soon feel compelled to follow the city’s example.

Camden’s budget was $167 million last year, and of that, the budget for the police was $55 million. Yet the city collected only $21 million in property taxes. It has relied on state aid to make up the difference, but the state is turning off the spigot. The city has imposed furloughs, reduced salaries and trash collection, and increased fees. But the businesses the city desperately needs to attract to generate more revenue are scared off by the crime.

“We cannot move the city forward unless we address public safety,” the mayor, Dana L. Redd, said. “This is about putting boots on the ground.”

Even union officials acknowledge that the contract is rich with expensive provisions. For example, officers earn an additional 4 percent for working a day shift, and an additional 10 percent for the shift starting at 9:30 p.m. They earn an additional 11 percent for working on a special tactical force or an anticrime patrol.

Salaries range from about $47,000 to $81,000 now, not including the shift differentials or additional longevity payments of 3 percent to 11 percent for any officer who has worked five years or more. Officials say they anticipate salaries for the new force will range from $47,000 to $87,000.

In 2009, as the economy was putting a freeze on municipal budgets even in well-off communities, the police here secured a pay increase of 3.75 percent.

And liberal sick time and family-leave policies have created an unusually high absentee rate: every day, nearly 30 percent of the force does not show up. (A typical rate elsewhere is in the single digits.)

“How do I go to the community and say ‘I’m doing everything I can to help you fight crime’ when some of my officers are working better hours than bankers?” the police chief, J. Scott Thomson, asked.

Chief Thomson, who is well regarded nationally, is expected to lead the new force. Though Camden County covers 220 square miles and includes 37 municipalities, the proposal calls for a division focused exclusively on the nine-square-mile city of Camden.

Camden, in the shadow of Philadelphia’s glimmering towers, once had a thriving industrial base — a shipyard, Campbell Soup and RCA plants along the waterfront. About 60,000 jobs were lost when those companies moved or shifted them elsewhere.

Nearly one in five of its residents is unemployed, and Broadway, once the main shopping strip, is now a canyon of abandoned buildings.

The burned-out shell of one house, a landmark built by one of the city’s founding families, has become a drug den.

This month, a heroin user there demanded that a passer-by give her some privacy to use it. “Can you show me a little respect?” she said. “I’m in a park.”

Camden reorganized its Police Department in 2008 and had a lower homicide rate for two years. Then the recession forced layoffs, reducing the force by about 100 officers.

The city has employed other crime-fighting tactics — surveillance cameras, better lighting, curfews for children — but the number of murders has risen again: at 48 so far this year, it is on pace to break the record, 58.

The murder rate so far this year is above 6 people per 10,000. By contrast, New York City’s rate is just over one-third of a person per 10,000 residents.

Many of the drug users come to Camden from elsewhere in the county, getting off the light-rail system to buy from the drug markets along what police call Heroin Highway in the neighborhood of North Camden.

“That is cocaine, that is heroin, that is crack,” Bryan Morton, a community activist, said recently as he used his car key to flick away empty bags while his 3-year-old daughter played nearby. This summer, Mr. Morton tried to set up the city’s first Little League in 15 years in nearby Pyne Poynt Park. Drug users colonized even the portable toilets set up for the players, littering them with empty glassine drug packets and needle caps.

Like other residents, he is resentful of the police union for making it so prohibitive to hire more officers. “The contract is creating a public safety crisis,” Mr. Morton said. “More officers could change the complexion of this neighborhood.”

John Williamson, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, blamed the city for creating the problems by shifting officers onto patrols, where they receive extra pay, from administrative positions. He said he was open to negotiation but believed that the city simply wanted to get rid of the contract.

“They want to go back to a 1930s atmosphere where employees and officers have absolutely no rights to redress bad management and poor working conditions,” he said.

Under labor law, the current contract will remain in effect if the new county force hires more than 49 percent of the current officers. So county officials say they will hire fewer than that. Nevertheless, they expect that the new force will eventually become unionized.

Officials say that simply adding officers will not make all the difference, given the deep suspicion many residents harbor toward the police. As the chief and his deputy drove through the Whitman Park neighborhood this month, people sitting on their stoops stood up to shake their fists and shout obscenities at them. When police officers arrested a person suspected of dealing drugs in a house on a narrow street in North Camden last year, residents set upon their cars and freed the prisoner.

The new county officers will be brought in 25 at a time, while the existing force is still in place, and trained on neighborhood streets, in the hopes that they can become part of their fabric and regain trust.

Ian K. Leonard, a member of the Camden County Board of Freeholders and the state political director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he did not blame the union officials who won the provisions. But he said he believed that the contracts were helping to perpetuate the “most dangerous city in America” title that he and others hate.

“If you add police, it will give us a fighting chance,” Mr. Leonard said. “People need a fighting chance.”

    To Fight Crime, a Poor City Will Trade In Its Police, NYT, 28.9.2012,






Police Comb a Dense Forest for a Suspect in a Killing


September 26, 2012
The New York Times


Eugene Palmer was always a loner, his neighbors in the Rockland County town of Haverstraw said. Armed with a shotgun, they said, Mr. Palmer often menaced people who strayed uninvited onto his hilly, overgrown property, and he was known to retreat into the woods near his home to camp and hunt.

It was to those woods that he fled on Monday night after, the police said, he killed his son’s estranged wife, Tammy Palmer, 39, who had lived with his son and their two children in a trailer home 50 feet from Mr. Palmer’s house.

According to The Journal News, Mr. Palmer told his sister that he needed an hour to escape the authorities, then, carrying at least one gun, he disappeared into Harriman State Park, which stretches over more than 46,000 acres. That led the police on a manhunt that had not ended by Wednesday night.

Charles Miller, the Haverstraw police chief, said about 30 armed officers were scouring the woods in teams. Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, about a dozen officers could be seen massing on the southwest side of Lake Welch, about two miles from Mr. Palmer’s home and the scene of the shooting.

As the search dragged on, turning up possible traces of Mr. Palmer’s flight — his green pickup truck abandoned here, an ashy campfire there — people in Haverstraw began predicting a bad ending to what had already been several weeks of violence and tension among Mr. Palmer, 73; his son John Palmer; and Tammy Palmer over a restraining order that Ms. Palmer had filed against her husband about a month ago.

“He’s very coldhearted,” John Pannirello, Ms. Palmer’s father, said of the elder Mr. Palmer. “The detective says he won’t be surprised if something goes on between us and him, if he has guns with him. I just have a bad, bad feeling.”

The police believe that Mr. Palmer, an avid outdoorsman who does not appear to have a criminal record, is carrying a shotgun, and they said that a rifle was also missing from his home. Chief Miller said his officers were prepared.

“They’re all armed, and they have bulletproof vests,” he said. “They’re being diligent out there.”

The Palmers and Pannirellos have been intertwined since Ms. Palmer’s older sister had a son with John Palmer’s older brother 20 years ago. Tammy and John separated about five months ago, Mr. Pannirello said. She filed a restraining order after he continued to show up at her home.

The couple had been married for about 17 years, Mr. Pannirello said — painful years for his daughter. In the past few weeks, there had been a custody battle for the children. Efforts to reach the younger Mr. Palmer on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The elder Mr. Palmer, whose family has lived in the same secluded acres at the edge of Haverstraw for generations, did not make life much easier, Mr. Pannirello said. He railed against the restraining order, demanding that Ms. Palmer leave and shutting off the trailer’s electricity when she refused, Mr. Pannirello said; he also spied on her through binoculars and hurled racial epithets at his granddaughter’s friend. Days before the shooting, he told her, “This is your last chance,” while holding a gun in his pocket, and Ms. Palmer responded by threatening him with a log, Mr. Pannirello said.

Mr. Pannirello said that the police had asked him to give up his rifle and had posted officers around his house, fearing that the elder Mr. Palmer might show up, he said.

Mr. Palmer, a diabetic, had a heart attack last year, and the police do not know if he is carrying any medicine, Chief Miller said.

On Tuesday, police dogs trailed a scent from Mr. Palmer’s abandoned pickup truck to an area of the park known as the Irish Potato Trail before losing the scent. The police also found the remnants of a campfire that they believed to be Mr. Palmer’s. On Wednesday, the Department of Defense sent a helicopter equipped with infrared technology to aid the search, which has been hampered by the thickness of the woods.

At the home of Elaine Babcock, the elder Mr. Palmer’s sister, about a dozen relatives and friends had gathered Wednesday, shooing away reporters.

“Right now, he’s a desperate man, and there’s no telling what he’s going to do,” one neighbor who would give only his first name, Tommy, said of the elder Mr. Palmer. “He’s definitely not right in the head right now.”


Marc Santora contributed reporting.

    Police Comb a Dense Forest for a Suspect in a Killing, NYT, 26.9.2012,






Losing Faith in Stop-and-Frisk


September 26, 2012
The New York Times


The Bronx district attorney’s office showed sound judgment when it told the New York Police Department that it would no longer prosecute people stopped for trespassing, unless the officers could demonstrate that the arrests were warranted.

The trespassing arrests are a variant of the broad stop-and-frisk program that has been challenged by civil rights lawsuits filed over the last several years. Last year, New Yorkers, nearly all of whom were innocent of any crime, were stopped by the police nearly 700,000 times.

Documents filed this week in Ligon v. City of New York — a lawsuit brought on behalf of people who say they were illegally stopped, ticketed or arrested for trespassing, some in their own buildings — shows that the Bronx district attorney’s office had serious concerns about such arrests as far back as three years ago. These arrests were made in public housing developments or under the Clean Halls program, which allows police to patrol the hallways of private buildings to prevent crime.

As The Times’s Joseph Goldstein reported Wednesday, the Bronx district attorney’s office quietly notified the Police Department in July that it knew of people who had been arrested on charges of trespassing, though they were identified as guests by residents in the buildings. As a result, the office said, it would no longer automatically prosecute people charged with trespassing in public housing or Clean Halls buildings.

This was apparently not the first time that the Bronx district attorney had complained about this problem. Lawyers for the Ligon plaintiffs asserted that the prosecutors had told the Police Department in 2009 that some trespassing arrests were not legally justified. By 2011, the prosecutor had become so concerned about the lawfulness of stops made outside of Clean Halls buildings that it “started routinely to decline to prosecute” outdoor arrests, according to court documents.

The Police Department says that it found no wrongdoing by police officers after conducting a thorough investigation. The department asserts that the district attorney did not provide specific examples of bad arrests and notes that it retrained officers after receiving complaints.

Even so, descriptions of police conduct in this case are disturbingly consistent with those cited by civil rights attorneys in Floyd v. City of New York, a federal class-action suit that challenges the legality of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program. In the Ligon and Floyd suits, analyses of police records show that the cops routinely stopped people for vague “furtive movements” and that stops often fail to meet legal standards, which require “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed or is about to take place.

The Police Department is clearly fuming about the Bronx district attorney’s stance. But that office should be applauded for sparing people unfair or unlawful prosecution. Other district attorneys in the city should follow that lead.

    Losing Faith in Stop-and-Frisk, NYT, 26.9.2012,






A Watcher of the Police Says He Is Now a Target


September 9, 2012
The New York Times


In the streets of his native Harlem, Joseph Hayden is a familiar presence, patrolling the neighborhood with his video camera, ready to document interactions between the police and the residents they stop — and doing so at an age when most people have retired.

“Like I tell them,” Mr. Hayden, 71, said recently of the police, “I’m on your side to make sure there is courtesy, professionalism and respect. Isn’t that what you advertise on the side of your car?”

“Seems like you’d want me to do it,” he added, “unless what you’re providing is not courtesy, professionalism and respect.”

Mr. Hayden found himself on the receiving end of police scrutiny one evening last December, when he was arrested on charges of weapons possession after a traffic stop.

Mr. Hayden, known as Jazz, said that his arrest was the product of a “bogus stop and frisk,” and that it stemmed from his visible activism: he posts his videos on a Web site, All Things Harlem.

“Our work galvanized them to push back, which resulted in my arrest,” Mr. Hayden said as he drove his old Jeep through his neighborhood one afternoon.

As he fights to have the charges dropped, Mr. Hayden’s efforts have gathered support. There is an online petition with more than 2,000 names, as well as a letter-writing campaign to the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whom Mr. Hayden interviewed for his Web site when Mr. Vance was running for election. There have also been rallies, the most recent held last week outside Mr. Vance’s office.

His supporters characterize him as a leader in the growing field of a certain brand of citizen journalism, whose practitioners post videos or offer live streaming of encounters involving the police.

“What Jazz is doing, it sparked this cop-watch thing,” said Christina Gonzalez, 25, a Harlem resident who, along with her partner, Matthew Swaye, has posted videos of police actions on YouTube. Their work led to their being characterized as “professional agitators” on a Police Department flier posted at the 30th Precinct station house in Harlem. “Even if my card is full or my camera is dead,” Ms. Gonzalez said, “I want officers to know they’re being watched.”

Mr. Hayden is a short, gray-bearded man with faint tattoos on his brawny arms.

He had a criminal history long before his current legal troubles. He was first convicted at 16 for heroin possession, and his other convictions include ones for manslaughter and laundering money for organized crime. But he said he believed that the pending charges stemmed from a video that he recorded one night outside the Seville Lounge in July 2011.

The video displays his usual journalistic style, which he concedes tends to be aggressive. In it, he peppers officers with questions as they search a car, with the two occupants standing by the curb: What had the occupants done to prompt the search? Had they been violent, or displayed any weapons?

Several times, Mr. Hayden lets the officers know, “Yeah, I got you,” aiming his camera into the glare of a police flashlight.

Mr. Hayden advises the driver not to give permission for the search, then resumes his commentary. “This is what Harlem has turned into,” he says, “an open-air prison. You can get stopped for anything.”

At some point, a man — Mr. Hayden said it was one of the officers — asks him: “You done selling drugs yet or what? I know your rap sheet.”

“You done abusing your authority?” Mr. Hayden spits back. The two trade barbs.

Months later, Mr. Hayden said, the same officers pulled him over at West 132nd Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. He said he was driving from Riverside Church, headed to his daughter’s home after a prison ministry meeting, when he saw flashing police lights.

“Hey, we know you,” Mr. Hayden said one of the officers told him. “Do you still sell drugs?”

Mr. Hayden said the officers eventually told him that a taillight was broken on his old Jeep, which Mr. Hayden disputes. The criminal complaint does not give a reason for the stop.

Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said the police interest in Mr. Hayden “was far more pedestrian” than drugs.

“He was pulled over for a broken taillight,” Mr. Browne said in an e-mail. “Officers saw in plain view a wooden club in the rear of the auto and a switchblade knife in the center console where Hayden began to reach. He was removed from the auto and placed under arrest.”

Mr. Browne added that Mr. Hayden had 22 previous arrests, dating to November 1957, and noted his 12 years spent in prison for manslaughter in the death of a sanitation worker.

Mr. Hayden, who now lives in Yonkers, acknowledges his arrest record. “I’m not ashamed of anything in my life — nothing, absolutely nothing,” he said.

He also said his past bore no relevance to the man he is now. “I think Malcolm X said, there’s nothing wrong with being a criminal — it’s staying a criminal,” Mr. Hayden said.

He was charged was two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, a third-degree felony. He spent the weekend in jail before his arraignment. Prosecutors proposed bail, but the judge released him on his own recognizance. The case goes before a grand jury on Thursday. If he is ultimately convicted, Mr. Hayden could spend two to seven years in prison.

The weapons in question, according to Mr. Hayden and his lawyer, Sarah Kunstler, were a souvenir small-scale baseball bat from a Yankees game, and a switchblade that Mr. Hayden said was the sort “you can buy at any 99-cent store in the country.”

In any case, Ms. Kunstler said, she is pressing for the case to be dismissed, “given Jazz’s prior history with this officer, and how this case arose.” She added that she now believed that the switchblade was no longer usable as evidence.

At a recent meeting in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, “the assistant spent five minutes fumbling with the knife,” Ms. Kunstler said, “and it became apparent that she couldn’t get it open.”

“There’s a mechanism that’s bent that prevents it from opening fluidly,” she explained.

“The screw in the knife fell out,” she said, “and we couldn’t open it anymore. It was broken, and it’s certainly more broken now.”

When asked about the knife, Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said, “We will decline comment.”

Mr. Hayden said he had already turned down a plea deal, in which he would have performed community service in exchange for admitting guilt to a lesser charge.

“I didn’t do anything wrong, man,” he said. “That’s what wrong with the system now.”

    A Watcher of the Police Says He Is Now a Target, NYT, 9.9.2012,






The Curious Case of Chavis Carter


August 3, 2012
The New York Times


Let me get this straight: A young man is stopped by police, who find $10 worth of drugs on him; he had twice been searched by officers and then double handcuffed behind his back and placed in the back of a police car; yet, somehow, he retrieves a gun that both searches failed to find and uses it shoot himself in the right temple?

That is what police in Jonesboro, Ark., say happened on the evening of Sunday, July 29, to Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old African-American man from Southaven, Miss., a suburb of Memphis. They say he committed suicide with a hidden gun while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. According to a local CBS News report, his mother was told that he shot himself in the right temple, but she claims that Chavis was left-handed.

The strange circumstances of this case, which even the Jonesboro police chief, Michael Yates, called “bizarre” and said “defies logic at first glance,” have raised questions that sorely need answering.

First, some background on how Carter came into contact with police that Sunday night.

According to a statement released Friday by the Jonesboro Police Department, Chavis was a passenger in a “suspicious vehicle” mentioned in a 911 call because it was “observed driving down the street with its lights off” at 9:50 p.m. Three people were in the vehicle: the driver, Carter and another passenger.

According to the statement, Carter, who originally gave a false name — Laryan Bowman — was “ ‘frisked’ or ‘patted down,’ not necessarily a full search at this point” because the officers on the scene “did not know what they had nor if any arrests were to be made.” During that first search, “a small amount of marijuana and some small plastic bags commonly used to package drugs were discovered in Carter’s pocket.” According to the police report, the estimated value of it was $10.

The police then determined that Carter “had an active warrant out of Mississippi.” According to The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, a warrant had been issued for Carter’s arrest after he violated his probation. He had pleaded guilty in 2011 to one count of selling marijuana.

He was placed in the back of one of the police cars on the scene without being handcuffed.

The other two people in the car “had no drugs and no active warrants,” so they were released.

Carter was then taken out of the police car, at which point officers “cuffed him behind his back and searched his person again” and placed him back into the police car.

Then things get strange. According to the police statement:

“As the officers then returned to their vehicles to leave, the second officer entered his vehicle and noted the smell of something burning (gun smoke we believe) and noticed Carter slumped over on the passenger side of the police unit. The officer then opened the rear door and noticed Carter unresponsive with a quantity of blood on him. At this point, he ran to the other officer to prevent him from leaving and both officers returned to the second unit, opened both doors and began to attempt to assist Carter (who was still handcuffed behind his back) and summoned an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and transported Carter to the hospital where he died a short time later.”

The statement continues:

“Investigators were called to the scene and began processing the evidence, photographing and securing evidence. A small .380 caliber cobra semi-auto firearm was discovered, as well as an expended case, and a projectile (which was recovered in the rear of the vehicle).”

(The police say that the handgun had been reported stolen from a Jonesboro resident in June.)

Police say that they have interviewed “a number of witnesses” to the incident and that their “statements are consistent with the statements of the officers and the evidence reflected by the dash-cam video of the responding officer, along with audio evidence from the backup officer.”

According to the police, “the statements and video/audio evidence account for the officers’ actions from the beginning of the stop until the arrival of the ambulance and indicate that neither officer removed his weapon, fired a shot or was in a position to enter the vehicle where Carter was detained in a manner that would allow for them to injure Carter.”

Furthermore, “the windows on the patrol unit where Carter was detained were up and intact, indicating no possibility of a bullet penetrating from the outside of the patrol unit while Carter was detained.” Yet, “specifically, how Carter suffered his apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound remains unexplained.”

That is the question, isn’t it? How do police officers search a man twice and find a small amount of marijuana but miss a handgun? And how does that man, who had been handcuffed, use that gun to shoot himself in the head?

The F.B.I. is now monitoring the investigation while a nation waits for answers and wonders about a “suicide” that “defies logic.”

    The Curious Case of Chavis Carter, NYT, 3.8.2012,






Christie Accepts Monitoring of Muslims


May 24, 2012
The New York Times


TRENTON (AP) — The New York City police did not violate New Jersey laws when they conducted cross-border surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said Thursday.

The determination, by the state attorney general, concerned tactics of the New York Police Department like videotaping mosque-goers and collecting their license plate numbers.

Such operations were part of a Police Department program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities in New York and beyond, even when there was no evidence of a crime.

Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, met with Muslim leaders on Thursday to outline the findings. Afterward, one of the leaders, Aref Assaf of the American Arab Forum, said, “I said to him it’s not only insulting, it’s offensive to our sense of justice, that you bring us to Trenton to tell us that you accept as legal and valid the actions of the N.Y.P.D.”

Muslim leaders said they would consider all legal options, including renewed appeals to the federal Justice Department.

The interstate surveillance efforts, revealed by The Associated Press this year, angered many Muslims and New Jersey officials. In response, the governor asked Mr. Chiesa, who is his appointee, to look into the spying.

    Christie Accepts Monitoring of Muslims, NYT, 24.5.2012,






After 33 Years, Police Make Arrest in Case of Etan Patz


May 24, 2012
The New York Times


A New Jersey man was arrested in the killing of Etan Patz, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced on Thursday, an extraordinary moment in a case that has gripped New York City’s psyche ever since the 6-year-old boy vanished in SoHo on his way to school in 1979.

The man, Pedro Hernandez, told investigators that he lured Etan to the basement of a bodega where Mr. Hernandez worked at the time with the promise of a soda, Mr. Kelly said. Once Etan was inside, Mr. Hernandez choked him, stuffed his body into a bag and took the bag about a block and a half away, where he left it out in the open with trash, Mr. Kelly said.

“He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part,” Mr. Kelly said during a news conference at Police Headquarters. “We believe that this is the individual responsible.”

The break in the case came a month after investigators spent five days excavating a SoHo basement near the spot where Etan disappeared. The search for his remains was fruitless.

But Mr. Kelly said the search had prompted a call to the missing persons squad earlier this month from a person who led them to Mr. Hernandez. The commissioner said that over the years since Etan’s disappearance, Mr. Hernandez told a family member and others that he had “done a bad thing and killed a child in New York.”

Mr. Hernandez had been making the claims since as far back as 1981, Mr. Kelly said, but he had never identified the child he had claimed to have hurt.

The news of the arrest was the latest chapter in a wrenching story that has tormented New York City since Etan’s disappearance 33 years ago on Friday in a neighborhood far grittier than today’s SoHo, with its tourist-clogged streets lined with boutiques and restaurants.

It is unclear whether investigators have been able to corroborate the account Mr. Hernandez has provided. Without any trace of human remains or other forensic evidence, any possible prosecution of him would face significant evidentiary hurdles.

Asked what about Mr. Hernandez’s confession had led detectives to find him credible, Mr. Kelly responded, “The fact that he had told this story to others in the past, and the specificity of what he said in the confession.” He said he did not know what the motive might have been.

Mr. Hernandez, 51, was charged with second-degree murder by the police. Mr. Kelly said he expected the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to present Mr. Hernandez for arraignment on Friday, but could not say what charges would be filed.

Under the law, prosecutors will have to bring Mr. Hernandez before a grand jury within six days of the arrest and present sufficient evidence to convince them to vote for an indictment, or hold a preliminary hearing, an extremely rare occurrence.

And it was unclear on Thursday what evidence, beyond Mr. Hernandez’s confession, the prosecutors have in hand. Mr. Kelly acknowledged that there was no physical evidence implicating Mr. Hernandez, though he said the investigation was continuing.

Mr. Hernandez, who was 18 at the time Etan vanished, worked as a stockboy in a bodega at 448 West Broadway that is now an eyeglass store, Mr. Kelly said. Etan disappeared on the first morning his parents allowed him to walk alone from the family’s home on Prince Street to a school bus stop on West Broadway.

Mr. Hernandez was working in the basement, which had a separate door to the street, Mr. Kelly said. Etan was at the bus stop when Mr. Hernandez led him away and to the basement, Mr. Kelly said.

“It’s unlikely, very unlikely,” that Etan’s remains would be recovered, Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Hernandez’s name was mentioned in a 1979 detective’s report as part of the investigation into Etan’s disappearance, Mr. Kelly said. The report listed him as an employee of the bodega, but Mr. Hernandez was never questioned by investigators, Mr. Kelly said.

“I can’t tell you why, 33 years ago, he wasn’t questioned,” he said. “We know that other people in the bodega were questioned.”

Etan’s family was told by the police ahead of time that Mr. Hernandez was going to be arrested in their son’s murder, Mr. Kelly said.

His father was “taken aback,” said Lt. Christopher Zimmerman, the commanding officer of the missing persons squad, and “overwhelmed to a degree.”

Shortly after Etan vanished, Mr. Hernandez left the store and moved to the Camden area in southern New Jersey, where he has many relatives, law enforcement officials said.

Investigators from the New York Police Department traveled to New Jersey and questioned Mr. Hernandez for several hours on Wednesday in the Camden County prosecutor’s office. Mr. Hernandez returned voluntarily to New York, where he led investigators to the address where he worked and described to them what he had done, Mr. Kelly said.

“They kept asking him, ‘Why did you do this?’ ” one law enforcement official said. “And he kept saying: ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ”

Mr. Hernandez was placed into custody later on Wednesday and taken to the offices of the Manhattan district attorney, whose prosecutors are overseeing the inquiry by New York police detectives and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr. Hernandez was emotional and broke down in tears during the confession, the law enforcement official said, adding that it was videotaped, which is standard practice in New Jersey.

During his time in South Jersey, Mr. Hernandez does not appear to have been in any trouble with the local authorities.

He and his wife, Rosemary, live in an apartment in the back of a modest two-story house in Maple Shade, a town of about 19,000 residents east of Camden. The man who rents the front part of the home said Mr. Hernandez and his wife worked with computers, were Pentecostals and hosted many holiday parties with their friends and relatives.

“They were good people, and he was a good neighbor,” said the man, Dan Wollick, 71, adding that he and Mr. Hernandez shared chores like mowing the lawn, raking leaves and shoveling snow.

The investigation into the boy’s disappearance and presumed death has seen a parade of suspects and a range of theories over the years. Last month, the F.B.I. and the Police Department tore apart the basement of a building on Prince Street, just doors away from the longtime Patz family home. Etan’s parents still live on the street. The search was based on a belief among investigators that a local handyman who kept a workshop in the basement in 1979 had abducted and murdered the boy and possibly buried his body there beneath a concrete floor.

A woman interviewed by The New York Times last month who ran a playgroup in SoHo at the time Etan disappeared recalled seeing mounds of garbage bags in the days after the boy vanished, which included Memorial Day weekend. “I always thought there were so many garbage bags out and why did they not search them,” said the woman, Judy Reichler, who now lives in New Paltz, N.Y. “For three days everyone piled bags on the street and then they got picked up.”

The mobilization in the city to find Etan began a new era in the country, marked by children’s faces on milk cartons and made-for-television dramas about kidnapped children. Jim Bogie, 62, a window salesman in Flushing, Queens, said his three children are now in their mid- to late 30s, about the same age Etan would be, and remembered on Thursday being horrified by the disappearance three decades ago.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “If it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke to reporters about Mr. Hernandez while he was being questioned but before he was arrested. “I certainly hope we are one step closer to bringing them some measure of relief,” the mayor said, referring to Etan’s family.


Al Baker, Noah Rosenberg and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

    After 33 Years, Police Make Arrest in Case of Etan Patz, NYT, 24.5.2012,






Man Claims He Strangled Patz and Put Body in Box,

Police Say


May 24, 2012
The New York Times


A man in custody in Manhattan has confessed to strangling Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who vanished in SoHo on his way to school in 1979, wrapping his body in a bag and putting it in a box, a law enforcement official said on Thursday.

The man, Pedro Hernandez, told investigators that he left the box at a location in Manhattan, but when he returned several days later the box was no longer there, the official said. Investigators recently took Mr. Hernandez to that location. A second official also said that Mr. Hernandez told the authorities he had strangled the boy and discarded his body.

Shortly after Etan’s disappearance, Mr. Hernandez, who in 1979 worked at a bodega near where the boy disappeared, moved to the Camden area, where he has many relatives, a law enforcement official said.

Investigators interviewed Mr. Hernandez for much of the day on Wednesday in the prosecutor’s office in Camden County in southern New Jersey.

Mr. Hernandez was taken into custody late Wednesday in New Jersey and was taken to the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose prosecutors are overseeing the inquiry by New York police detectives and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators were tracking down several of the relatives to interview them to hear what, if anything, Mr. Hernandez has said about the crime. Investigators believe he has alluded or confessed to the crime to several family members over the years, the official said.

Mr. Hernandez was apparently very emotional during the confession, the official said, adding that the confession was videotaped, which is standard practice in New Jersey.

“An individual now in custody has made statements to N.Y.P.D. detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement issued early Thursday.

It is unclear whether investigators have been able to independently corroborate the account Mr. Hernandez has provided. Without any trace of human remains or other forensic evidence, any possible prosecution of Mr. Hernandez would face significant evidentiary hurdles.

The 33-year-old investigation into the young boy’s disappearance and presumed death has seen a parade of suspects and a range of theories. Last month, the F.B.I. and the New York Police Department spent five days tearing apart the basement of a building on Prince Street, just doors away from the longtime Patz family home, along the route the boy took on the day he disappeared.

He was on his way to a school bus stop. It was the first time that his parents had allowed him to go the stop by himself.

That search was based on a belief among investigators that a local handyman who kept a workshop in the basement in 1979 had abducted and murdered the boy and possibly buried his body there beneath a concrete floor. No obvious human remains were found. Etan’s parents still live on Prince Street.

The focus on Mr. Hernandez is the latest investigative development since the unsuccessful basement search.

Investigators have focused on Mr. Hernandez as a suspect in the past, one official said, although it was not immediately clear when he became the subject of renewed interest.

Mr. Vance said in 2010 that he would reopen the case, which focused national attention 30 years ago on the problem of missing children and began a new era marked by children’s faces on milk cartons and made-for-television dramas about kidnapped children. President Ronald Reagan declared May 25, the day of Etan’s disappearance, as National Missing Children’s Day.

The police have long had a prime suspect in the case, Jose A. Ramos, a convicted child molester who lived on the Lower East Side and was an acquaintance of a woman who worked for the Patzes as a baby sitter. Mr. Ramos remains imprisoned for molesting a boy in Pennsylvania, but has denied kidnapping or killing Etan.

J. David Goodman contributed reporting.

    Man Claims He Strangled Patz and Put Body in Box, Police Say, NYT, 24.5.2012,






No Charges for Officer in Killing of Man, 68


May 3, 2012
The New York Times


A grand jury voted not to indict a White Plains police officer who shot and killed a 68-year-old former correction officer and former Marine in his apartment last November, the Westchester County district attorney said Thursday.

District Attorney Janet DiFiore called the shooting “a tragedy on many levels.” But she said the grand jury had concluded that “there was no reasonable cause” to indict Officer Anthony Carelli, who fired the shot that killed the victim, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.

Officer Carelli and several other officers were sent to Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment after his medical-alert pendant went off and he did not respond to a call from a medical-alert agency operator.

After Ms. DiFiore announced the grand jury’s decision, the White Plains police released more than 200 pages of documents about the encounter, along with audio and video recordings made as it unfolded. In one report, Officer Stephen Demchuk described Mr. Chamberlain as “acting irrational” when the police arrived and said he stuck an eight-inch butcher knife through a crack in the door.

Mr. Chamberlain made “continuous slashing motions towards my head and face,” said Officer Demchuk, who was ordered to break down the door, but added that Mr. Chamberlain held it shut “with the assistance of a chair.”

The officers eventually broke down the front door. Four officers entered and tried to subdue Mr. Chamberlain, first with a Taser weapon, then with a shotgun loaded with beanbag-type ammunition intended to disable someone without causing serious injury. Officer Demchuk said Officer Carelli fired his .40-caliber pistol when Mr. Chamberlain went after another police officer “with the butcher knife raised.”

Mr. Chamberlain’s family issued a statement saying they were “profoundly saddened” that the grand jury had not found reason to charge Officer Carelli. Lawyers for the family said they would ask the Justice Department to investigate the case.

David E. Chong, the White Plains public safety commissioner, whose department oversees the police, said an internal review would now be finished.

Andrew C. Quinn, a lawyer for Officer Carelli, did not return a call seeking comment.

Ms. DiFiore said the grand jury had heard from 42 witnesses, 21 of whom were civilians — including the emergency room physician who examined Mr. Chamberlain.

Ms. DiFiore said that one officer, who was not identified, used a racial epithet outside the first-floor apartment. “The use of a racial epithet in any context is offensive to the dignity of all of us,” she said. When spoken by a police officer, she added, “It’s intolerable.” But she said the grand jury had not found it to be criminal. Mr. Chamberlain was black. Officer Carelli is white, The Associated Press has reported.

The episode began when Mr. Chamberlain, who could not walk more than a short distance without becoming short of breath, apparently set off his medical-alert pendant accidentally. (An autopsy showed later that his blood-alcohol level was 0.11.)

Responding to the alarm signal, the system operator tried to establish contact using a two-way speaker in the apartment. “Mr. Chamberlain, are you O. K.?” the operator asked.

When he did not reply, the operator arranged for an ambulance. Patrol cars were also sent.

Randolph M. McLaughlin, a lawyer for Mr. Chamberlain’s family, disputed the police account. He said Mr. Chamberlain had not thrust a knife at Officer Demchuk’s face, as he described, although Mr. McLaughlin said video, which had been recorded by cameras in the officers’ Taser weapons, showed “a metal object coming out” from behind the door.

He also said that Officer Carelli fired his pistol immediately after the shotgun with the beanbag ammunition had been fired. “The shots are beanbag, beanbag, beanbag, gun,” he said. “They weren’t giving him a chance, or themselves, or react.”

The documents the police released on Thursday indicated that the officers insisted on going in because they believed someone else might have been in the apartment. They had heard Mr. Chamberlain talking to someone — someone he addressed, according to one of the police reports, as “Mr. President.”


Michael Powell contributed reporting.

    No Charges for Officer in Killing of Man, 68, NYT, 3.5.2012,






Stabbed in Brain, Officer Escaped ‘Death’s Door’


April 18, 2012
The New York Times


The wild swing connected to the left side of the police officer’s head, a presumed punch until the blood started flowing. The officer, Eder Loor, reached to his temple and felt the handle of a knife.

He pulled the knife out, his wife later learned, not realizing then just how seriously injured he was.

By any odds, Officer Loor should have been killed or left brain-dead by the knife that entered his skull on Tuesday, after a confrontation with a 26-year-old ex-convict in East Harlem. At best, he could have lost the ability to speak, to talk to his pregnant wife or young daughter.

The head of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Joshua B. Bederson, said Wednesday that none of that would come to pass.

“He is probably the luckiest unlucky man you could ever have,” Dr. Bederson said at a news conference in New York.

The folding knife’s three-inch blade passed half an inch below structures that control motor functions and another half-inch from structures that control vision. It touched the nerve that gives sensation to the face and nicked, but did not penetrate, a major artery, Dr. Bederson said.

“It was a millimeter from everything; it was ridiculous,” he said later in an interview. “You don’t want to overemphasize, but he was at death’s door. He was minutes away from crashing.”

Officer Loor’s wife, Dina Loor, sat beside the doctor at the news conference, a picture of unfailing calm and poise. She answered questions in English and Spanish as she spoke of her husband’s first words to her, and of how he never showed fear, much as she hid her concerns from their daughter.

Ms. Loor said her husband told her: “Babe, I’m fine. It just hurts.”

The news conference, which was also attended by the officer’s sister, was a vast departure from what typically follows a near-fatal attack on a police officer: Information is guarded, and loved ones seek privacy at a critical time. It also offered a welcome juxtaposition with the scene at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn this week, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg delivered the news that Lt. Richard A. Nappi of the Fire Department had died while fighting a blaze.

Throughout the news conference at Mount Sinai, it was made clear that Officer Loor, 28, was fortunate not to have met the same fate.

Officer Loor and his partner, Luckson Merisme, were responding to an emergency call by the mother of an emotionally disturbed man, Terrence Hale. The mother, Vearry Hale, had called 911 to say her son was bipolar and had stopped taking his medications. When the officers met her outside, she said her son was upstairs and needed to go to the hospital, the police said.

The officers strode into the Franklin Plaza Apartments, a housing complex at 1945 Third Avenue, near 107th Street. Mr. Hale exited an elevator in the lobby and walked past them as his mother asked him to go to the hospital, according to an account given by the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.

Mr. Hale responded, “I’ll go by myself,” and then walked out the door.

The officers caught up to him and said they would escort him there, the police said. It was then that he suddenly produced the knife and stabbed Officer Loor, they said.

By Wednesday evening, Mr. Hale had not been arraigned on charges that included attempted aggravated murder. He had been arrested in the past, the authorities have said, including for a knife attack in 2006, for which he served a term at Sing Sing.

In a brief telephone interview on Wednesday, his mother said she was angry because she had called for an ambulance to help him, and not for the police. She also accused the police of mishandling the situation and displaying a lack of training for a sensitive domestic encounter, and said she planned to contact a lawyer.

“They did not get backup, and they did not do their job right,” Ms. Hale, 51, said. “My son was not feeling well; he was sick and said he wanted to go to the hospital.”

After the stabbing, a call for an ambulance was received at 10:32 a.m. on Tuesday, and Dr. Bederson cited the quick work of the emergency workers in helping to save the officer. The doctor had moved fast, too: he had flown into La Guardia Airport from a conference in Florida that morning and was running in Central Park when the call came. He ran straight to Mount Sinai.

By the time Dr. Bederson arrived, the knife had been removed; the officer’s wife said, “He pulled his own knife out.”

“Since he’s an E.M.T., he somehow managed to hold the pressure,” Ms. Loor said. “Somebody on the street, I believe, handed him a towel.”

Although Officer Loor was alert at first, Dr. Bederson said, he “rapidly deteriorated and was lethargic and sleepy.” The officer was bleeding inside and outside the brain, he added, “and the hemorrhage was expanding and pressing on the brain.” Doctors removed a bone flap, seven inches in diameter, from his skull and stopped the bleeding.

The knife, which entered just behind the officer’s eye, went “deep into the temporal lobe and all the way down to the skull base,” the doctor said.

It cut through the Sylvian fissure, which separates the frontal and temporal lobes and contains major blood vessels. The knife cut the major vein of that fissure and nicked the middle cerebral artery that supplies blood to the brain’s left hemisphere. It missed the carotid artery by a millimeter.

Officer Loor, who joined the force six years ago, is likely to experience a period of facial numbness and a depletion of energy, and will probably require some anti-epileptic drugs, but he is expected to “make a complete recovery,” the doctor said.

In a lighter moment at the news conference, the doctor said he imagined a debate later with Officer Loor over when he would return to work: in one month, as the officer might prefer, or in three, under doctor’s orders.

After the surgery, Ms. Loor, 25, said, she had brought their daughter, 4 ½, into Officer Loor’s room for a bedside visit. The girl was happy “to see her dad,” Ms. Loor said.

Their next child, a boy, is due in July.

As for her husband, she said, “all he wanted was a kiss.”

Dr. Bederson, asked if he would call the officer’s survival miraculous, said, “If you want to call that a miracle, I guess you’re justified in calling that a miracle.”


Joseph Goldstein and Ivan Pereira contributed reporting.

    Stabbed in Brain, Officer Escaped ‘Death’s Door’, NYT, 18.4.2012,






Police Chief Killed in New Hampshire Drug Raid


April 12, 2012
The New York Times


GREENLAND, N.H. (AP) — A man opened fire on police during a drug bust Thursday night, killing a New Hampshire police chief just days from retirement and injuring four officers from other departments. Early Friday, the shooter remained holed up in the home with a woman, police said.

The shooting devastated Greenland, a town of 3,500 near the seacoast that had just seven police officers including Chief Michael Maloney, 48, who was due to retire in less than two weeks.

"In those final days, he sacrificed his life in public service as a law enforcement officer in New Hampshire," Attorney General Michael Delaney said early Friday.

Maloney had 26 years of experience in law enforcement, the last 12 as chief of the Greenland department. Two officers were shot in the chest and were in intensive care early Friday. Two others were treated and released, one with a gunshot wound to the arm and the other with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. The four injured officers were from other area departments and were working as part of a drug task force.

John Penacho, chairman of the town's Board of Selectman, said Maloney was married with children.

"It's a blow to all of us. You're stunned. It's New Hampshire, it's a small town," he said. "We're stunned. I mean all of us. It's an unbelievable situation."

Jacqueline DeFreze, who lives a half-mile down the road from the house where the shooting happened, said she was devastated by reports that the chief had been shot. She'd planned to attend a surprise party for his retirement.

"I'm a wreck. He was just the greatest guy," said DeFreze, a fourth-grade teacher in nearby Rye. "He's kind-hearted, always visible in the community."

Early Friday, streets around the home were blocked off and officers stood at roadblocks in the pouring rain.

State police and officers from many departments responded after the initial call around 6 p.m. Delaney said he couldn't provide much other information about the shooting.

"We do have an active armed standoff at a home and we're simply not going to provide any information right now that may jeopardize that situation," he said. "We are working with federal state and local law enforcement to try to obtain a peaceful resolution."

Gov. John Lynch was at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where the officers were taken. He asked residents to pray for the injured officers and Maloney's family.

"My thoughts and prayers and those of my wife, Susan, are with the family of Chief Michael Maloney. Chief Maloney's unwavering courage and commitment to protecting others serves as an example to us all," he said.

The tree-lined street, closed off by police, features single-family homes and duplexes. The shootings took place at 517 Post Road, a 2-bedroom, 1½ -story structure that's listed as owned by the Beverly Mutrie Revocable Trust, according to tax assessor records.

The Portsmouth Herald reported in February 2011 that Cullen Mutrie, 29, was a resident of the home on 517 Post Road and had been arrested and charged with possession of anabolic steroids.

The newspaper reported that the steroids were found in the home when officers went to confiscate guns after Mutrie was arrested on domestic assault charges. According to a police affidavit, the steroids were found in Mutrie's living room on July 24, 2010, but were not verified by the state crime lab until Jan. 18.

The town's schools will be closed Friday, because law enforcement officers are using the elementary school as a staging area.

Asked what the town will do to help residents cope with the tragedy, Penacho said "We'll do whatever we need to do."

Now split by I-95, the town is one of the oldest settlements in the state.


Associated Press Writers Norma Love in Concord

and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

    Police Chief Killed in New Hampshire Drug Raid, 12.4.2012,





Even as Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises


April 9, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — As violent crime has decreased across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: rising numbers of police officers are being killed.

According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 72 officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008.

The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents, according to data compiled by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The number was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

While a majority of officers were killed in smaller cities, 13 were killed in cities of 250,000 or more. New York City lost two officers last year. On Sunday, four were wounded by a gunman in Brooklyn, bringing to eight the number of officers shot in the city since December.

“We haven’t seen a period of this type of violence in a long time,” said Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly of the New York Police Department.

While the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials cannot fully explain the reasons for the rise in officer homicides, they are clear about the devastating consequences.

“In this law enforcement job, when you pin this badge on and go out on calls, when you leave home, you ain’t got a promise that you will come back,” said Sheriff Ray Foster of Buchanan County, Va. Two of his deputies were killed in March 2011 and two wounded — one of them paralyzed — by a man with a high-powered rifle.

“That was 80 percent of my day shift,” he said.

After a spate of killings in early 2011, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asked federal authorities to work with local police departments to try to come up with solutions to the problem.

The F.B.I., which has tracked officer deaths since 1937, paid for a study conducted by John Jay College that found that in many cases the officers were trying to arrest or stop a suspect who had previously been arrested for a violent crime.

That prompted the F.B.I. to change what information it will provide to local police departments, the officials said. Starting this year, when police officers stop a car and call its license plate into the F.B.I.’s database, they will be told whether the owner of the vehicle has a violent history. Through the first three months of this year, the number of police fatalities has dropped, though it is unclear why.

Some law enforcement officials believe that techniques pioneered by the New York Police Department over the past two decades and adopted by other departments may have put officers at greater risk by encouraging them to conduct more street stops and to seek out and confront suspects who seem likely to be armed. In New York and elsewhere, police officials moved more officers into crime-ridden areas.

“This technique has become more popular across the country as smaller departments have followed the larger cities and tried to prevent crime,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Unlike several decades ago, there is this expectation that police matter and that police can make a difference.”

Commissioner Kelly said, “We try to put those officers where there is the most potential for violence.” However, he pointed out that most of the officers who have been shot in New York since December were not part of a proactive police deployment but were responding to emergencies.

Some argue that the rise in violence is linked to the tough economy. With less money, some states are releasing prisoners earlier; police departments, after years of staffing increases, have been forced to make cutbacks.

“A lot of these killings aren’t happening in major urban areas,” said James W. McMahon, chief of staff for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “One of the concerns we are looking at is that a number of officers are being laid off or furloughed or not replaced.”

The police chief in Camden, N.J., J. Scott Thomson, whose force of 400 was cut by nearly half last year because of financing issues, said that having fewer officers on the street “makes it that much more difficult to create an environment in which criminals do not feel as emboldened to assault another person, let alone a law enforcement officer.”

The murder of a veteran officer last April in Chattanooga, Tenn., was typical of many of the 2011 episodes.

Sgt. Tim Chapin, a veteran nearing retirement, rushed to provide backup to officers who had responded to reports of a robbery outside a pawnshop and were under fire. Sergeant Chapin got out of his car and chased the fleeing suspect, who had been convicted of armed robbery. During the pursuit, the sergeant was fatally shot in the head.

As part of the F.B.I.’s efforts to prevent officer deaths, the bureau trains thousands of officers each year, highlighting shootings like the one in Chattanooga to teach officers about situations in which they are most vulnerable. Those situations are typically pursuits, traffic stops and arrests, said Michelle S. Klimt, a top F.B.I. official at its Criminal Justice Information Services Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., who oversees officer training.

“Every stop can be potentially fatal, so we are trying to make sure the officers are ready and prepared every single day they go out,” Ms. Klimt said. “We try and teach that every day you go out, you are going to be encountered with deadly force by someone trying to kill you.”


Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Joseph Goldstein from New York.

John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting from Washington.

    Even as Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises, NYT, 9.4.2012,






Officer in Bell Killing Is Fired; 3 Others to Be Forced Out


March 23, 2012
The New York Times


The New York City police detective who fired the first shots in the 50-bullet barrage that killed Sean Bell in 2006 has been fired, and three others involved in the shooting are being forced to resign, law enforcement officials said on Friday.

The decision came after a Police Department administrative trial in the fall found that the detective, Gescard F. Isnora, had acted improperly in the shooting that killed Mr. Bell on what was supposed to have been his wedding day and that he should be fired.

“There was nothing in the record to warrant overturning the decision of the department’s trial judge,” Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said on Friday night.

Law enforcement officials said word of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s decision came late Friday. Detective Isnora, an 11-year veteran, will not collect a pension, one official said. “He loses everything,” the official said.

Three other officers — Detectives Marc Cooper and Michael Oliver, who fired shots at Mr. Bell; and Lt. Gary Napoli, a supervisor who was at the scene but did not fire any shots — are being forced to resign.

Detectives Isnora, Cooper and Oliver were acquitted in a criminal trial in 2008 on charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.

A fourth officer who fired his gun during the episode, Detective Paul Headley, has already left the department, and a fifth, Officer Michael Carey, was exonerated in the department’s administrative trial.

Detective Cooper and Lieutenant Napoli, who worked in the department for more than 20 years, will receive their pensions, a law enforcement official said. Detective Oliver, who has served for 18 years, may collect on a pension on the 20th anniversary of his start date, the official said.

The shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, who did not have a gun, occurred in the early morning on Nov. 25, 2006, as Mr. Bell and two friends were leaving a strip club in Jamaica, Queens, where they had been celebrating. The case drew widespread scrutiny of undercover police tactics.

Prosecutors questioned the judgment of the shooters, with one arguing in the department’s trial that Detective Isnora overreacted, leading to “contagious firing” from those who followed his cue.

Detective Isnora testified that he thought Mr. Bell and a friend were about to take part in a drive-by shooting. He has said he believed, after overhearing a heated argument in front of the strip club, that the friend had a gun.

In July 2010, the city agreed to pay more than $7 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Bell’s family and two of his friends.

Sanford A. Rubenstein, a lawyer who has represented the Bell estate and the two men wounded along with Mr. Bell, said, regarding Detective Isnora, “The police commissioner followed the trial judge’s ruling, which was clearly appropriate based on the evidence.” Of the other disciplined officers, Mr. Rubenstein said, “I think the fact that they’re no longer on the police force is appropriate.”

Mr. Isnora’s lawyer, Philip E. Karasyk, said, “The commissioner’s decision to terminate Detective Isnora is extremely disheartening and callous and sends an uncaring message to the hard-working officers of the New York Police Department who put their lives on the line every day.”

Michael J. Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, called Detective Isnora’s firing “disgraceful, excessive, and unprecedented.”

He continued: “Stripping a police officer of his livelihood and his opportunity for retirement is a punishment reserved for a cop who has turned to a life of crime and disgraces the shield. It is not for someone who has acted within the law and was justified in a court of law and exonerated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Many detectives were bracing for the decision after Deputy Commissioner Martin G. Karopkin, acting as the trial judge, recommended the punishment in November.

One law enforcement official said that, as the reality of the decisions sink in, they could have a drastic impact on how detectives view their work, particularly in the department’s undercover programs.


William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

    Officer in Bell Killing Is Fired; 3 Others to Be Forced Out, NYT, 23.3.2012,






Taking On Police Tactic, Critics Hit Racial Divide


March 22, 2012
The New York Times


ALBANY — Black and Latino lawmakers, fed up over the frequency with which New York City police officers are stopping and frisking minority men, are battling what they say is a racial divide as they push legislation to rein in the practice.

The divide, they say, is largely informed by personal experience: many who object to the practice say that they have themselves been stopped by the police for reasons they believe were related to race.

Senator Kevin S. Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, recalled several occasions when, as a high school student walking home in Flatbush, he was stopped by the police, patted down, told to empty his pockets, produce identification and divulge his destination.

Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Democrat from Brooklyn, remembers greeting a woman who was walking down a street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, when, he said, officers in plain clothes approached him and demanded to know who he was, where he was going and whether he had any guns or drugs.

And when Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat, was just 14, he said, detectives threw him against a wall and patted him down in Washington Heights, in Manhattan, when he was on his way to buy a Dominican newspaper for his father.

The lawmakers say the racial imbalance with which stop-and-frisk is applied has a corollary effect: Many white legislators have remained silent on the issue, or have supported the police, revealing a racial gap over attitudes toward the practice.

“There is an ethnic divide on who’s being stopped and frisked, and there is an ethnic divide on who’s fighting against the policy,” said State Senator Eric L. Adams, a Democrat and a retired police captain from Brooklyn.

The lawmakers’ effort to set off a debate in Albany is taking place with an increased focus on the interplay between race and public safety. It was highlighted in New York by the fatal shooting last month of Ramarley Graham, 18, by a police officer in the Bronx, and nationally by the fatal shooting last month of Trayvon Martin, 17, by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. The young men were unarmed.

“Both illustrate the perils of racial stereotyping when individuals are empowered with the capacity to make life and death decisions,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat. He said the shootings had “further emboldened legislators to continue to fight to deal with the out-of-control stop-and-frisk practices.”

The split among Albany lawmakers over the stop-and-frisk issue reflects a divide among New York City voters: according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on March 13, 59 percent of white voters approve of it, and 27 percent of black voters do.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, facing increased complaints about the practice, has pushed back hard against critics. Last week, assailed by the City Council over the practice, Mr. Kelly said that the policy was an important policing tool intended to reduce the violence that has victimized blacks and Hispanics, and that, “What I haven’t heard is any solution to the violence problems in these communities.”

“People are upset about being stopped,” he continued, “yet what is the answer?”

According to the Police Department, 96 percent of shooting victims last year, and 90 percent of murder victims, were minorities.

“There’s more police assigned to a place like East New York than, say, a precinct in Riverdale,” said the Police Department spokesman, Paul J. Browne, “so the police are going to be in a position to observe suspicious behavior more frequently.”

The Police Department has said that it conducted a record 684,330 stops last year, and that 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic. About 10 percent of the stops led to arrests or summonses and 1 percent to the recovery of a weapon, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has examined police data.

But the Police Department frames the numbers in a different way: last year, it said, it recovered 8,000 weapons, 800 of them handguns, via stops. And over the last decade, the number of murders has dropped by 51 percent, “in part because of stop, question and frisk,” Mr. Browne said.

Some white elected officials have strongly criticized the stop-and-frisk policy. They included the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, and the public advocate, Bill de Blasio, both of whom are likely candidates for mayor; and Brad Lander and Daniel Dromm, who are on the Council. Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, has offered a bill that would make it illegal for the department to set a quota for the number of stops officers must make.

Mr. Stringer said it was important for elected officials “who look like me” to help broaden the coalition of New Yorkers fighting against stop-and-frisk.

But race continues to dominate discussion of the issue. Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright, a black Democrat from Harlem, is still smarting over a legislative debate he had in 2008 with Assemblyman David R. Townsend Jr., a white Republican from central New York, on a proposal to prohibit racial profiling. Mr. Townsend said part of good police work involved questioning people who seemed out of place in a particular neighborhood, regardless of their race.

“If you were spotted in an affluent section of Oneida County where we don’t have minority people living, and you were driving around through these houses, and I was a law enforcement officer and a highway patrol, I would stop you to say, No. 1: ‘Are you lost? Is there something we can help you with, or what are you doing here?’ ” Mr. Townsend said to Mr. Wright.

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a law requiring police officials in New York City to no longer store the names and addresses of people stopped but not charged. Gov. David A. Paterson, the state’s first African-American governor, signed the measure despite objections not only from city officials, but also, he said, from an all-white panel advising him on the issue.

In a recent interview, Mr. Paterson, a Democrat, said his views of the measure were informed by his own experience, which included being stopped three times by the police.

“It’s a feeling of being degraded,” he said. “I think that’s what people who it hasn’t happened to don’t understand.”

Now, Mr. Jeffries is sponsoring a bill that would make it a violation, not a crime, to possess small quantities of marijuana in public view. The bill, he said, would curb the tens of thousands of arrests each year that result when officers stop people and ask them to empty their pockets, leading to the revelation of small amounts of marijuana.

Mr. Wright has been urging passage of a bill that would prohibit police officers from stopping people based solely on their race or ethnicity. Mr. Parker is behind legislation to create the post of inspector general for the police.

And in the Council, Jumaane D. Williams has introduced bills that would require officers to inform people they stop that they can refuse to be searched and make mandatory and citywide a pilot program in which officers give those stopped a business card with a phone number, in case they want to lodge a complaint.

Mr. Williams has had his own run-ins with police. He said he was stopped in Brooklyn last year, after he had bought a BMW, by officers who said, “We want to make sure it’s yours.” And, in an episode that drew widespread publicity, he was detained by the police last year after an argument with officers over whether he was allowed to use a closed sidewalk during the West Indian American Day Parade.

“We know that the legislation is not going to stop stop-and-frisk,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is provide more accountability with the N.Y.P.D. and their practices and policies.”

    Taking On Police Tactic, Critics Hit Racial Divide, NYT, 22.3.2012,






More Human Remains Are Found on Long Island


February 18, 2012
The New York Times


Another set of human remains was discovered in a wooded area of eastern Long Island that has become a dumping ground for bodies over the years, the authorities said on Saturday.

The question now is whether the skeletal remains, found on Friday evening by a man walking his dog on a trail in Manorville, represent an isolated death or is the latest clue in a continuing serial-killer case that is confronting investigators in Suffolk County.

“At this time, we cannot say if the remains are connected to any other cases,” a spokeswoman for the police said on Saturday. “The scene will be processed and re-evaluated,” he said, but that they were “at the preliminary stages of the investigation”

The spokeswoman said investigators “cannot yet determine the age or gender of the remains.”

The police said a forensic anthropologist from the New York City medical examiner’s office would assist the Suffolk authorities in removing and evaluating the bones, which they said were believed to have been in the woods for several years based on the degree of plant growth around them.

Investigators are trying to solve the killings of 10 people whose remains have been found since December 2010, spread amid the brush of Jones Beach Island, which is about 45 miles west of Manorville.

A serial killer is believed to be responsible for the deaths of four of those victims — all women who had worked as prostitutes.

Four other sets of human remains found off Ocean Parkway, on Jones Beach Island, included body parts from two victims who had been dismembered and whose torsos were discovered in Manorville, about four miles from where the newest remains were discovered, the authorities said.

Most of the remains of one of those victims, Jessica Taylor, 20, were found by a woman walking her dog off Halsey Manor Road in Manorville, shortly after Ms. Taylor disappeared in July 2003. She had worked as a prostitute in Washington, and briefly in New York. Her head and hands, were discovered in March off Ocean Parkway, about a mile from the location of the bodies of the other four women.

In November 2000, most of the body of another victim — who has not been identified but whom detectives refer to as Jane Doe No. 6 — was discovered in the same heavily wooded area of Manorville where Ms. Taylor’s torso was discovered.

The head, hands and other remains of Jane Doe No. 6 were found in April off Ocean Parkway.

It was early evening on Friday when Matthew J. Samuel, 30, discovered the bones in Manorville. This was about 350 yards from his house in an area he had passed many, many times.

He was cutting through the woods after he had been out with his German short-haired pointer, Molly, searching for the shed antlers of deer, when he noticed “the top, cranial portion of the skull,” bleached white from exposure. “I leaned in and looked a little closer and saw it was a skull from the seam in the back,” said Mr. Samuel, a welder, who is studying education. “And then I looked closer and it was human remains.”

He went home, called his older brother and a cousin and a friend. The four of them returned to the site with a flashlight. They saw the outline of a body seemingly face up, with a foot-high blueberry bush growing through it.

“We saw the pelvis bones sticking out,” said Mr. Samuel.

The body, partly buried, was wrapped in a worn bedsheet. The sheet appeared to be covered in a black plastic garbage bag and wrapped with duct tape. Mr. Samuel did not see shoes. “I think it was barefoot,” he said.

They called the police from there, he said, adding “I’m sure whoever it was, was missed for a while,” he said.

    More Human Remains Are Found on Long Island, NYT, 18.2.2012,






t 9/11 Memorial, Police Raise Fears of Suicide


February 15, 2012
The New York Times


Amid the serenity and solemnity of the National September 11 Memorial, the two sunken granite pools that designate the footprints of the absent World Trade Center towers have become a natural focal point, drawing visitors with artificial waterfalls that extend three stories down.

But for the New York Police Department, the pools also represent a focal point for an entirely different reason: the fear that people overwhelmed by grief may try to commit suicide there.

Police officials and grief experts share concerns that the memorial poses a unique risk because of its layout and its powerful relationship to the terrorist act of Sept. 11, 2001, and because those who lost loved ones that day may still have unresolved issues of loss.

The concern is as yet unrealized; there have been a million or so visitors to the memorial since it opened last September, and there have been no suicide attempts. Nonetheless, the police said a plan had been put in place.

“We have to think of these possibilities,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in an interview with Esquire magazine. “People might commit suicide. We’re concerned about the possibility of somebody jumping in.”

Grief experts say memorials can set off negative psychological reactions, especially for those who have a direct connection to the event being memorialized. That effect could be magnified at the Sept. 11 memorial, where the memory of what happened there may still be fresh.

Dr. Dana M. Alonzo, associate professor of social work at the Columbia University School of Social Work, said there had been instances of people having new episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder; after visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, people have reported worsened symptoms.

“If they have not completed the mourning process, or the mourning process is complicated, which is what generally happens when someone’s loved one dies in a violent type of death,” Dr. Alonzo said, “then the grieving process can take on the form of complicated grief.”

“The memorial, rather than serving as a source of comfort, can heighten feelings of either ‘This is unjust’ or desires for revenge of some sort,” she added. “They can feed into those negative feelings that the person is stuck in.”

Officials at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum said they were aware of the power of a physical landmark to unearth strong emotions in people, whether or not they had a connection to that place.

“Of course it is a trigger for grief; people died here,” Kari F. Watkins, the executive director, said. “But when people experience this site, they see the hope that comes out of the horror and the good that overcame evil.

“People come to these places and begin to understand the meaning of them. We’re teaching lessons of remembrance and resilience, and no matter what people are going through in their personal lives, they can relate to some story that is told here.”

Since the Oklahoma City landmark opened in April 2000, on the fifth anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, no one has made a suicide attempt there, Ms. Watkins said.

But in New York, as the Sept. 11 memorial began to take shape in 2006, the concern about possible suicide attempts was expressed by James K. Kallstrom, a former adviser on counterterrorism. At the time, the greater concern was that someone would throw a satchel laden with explosives or release an airborne contaminant around the memorial’s twin, one-acre watery voids.

“Our big worry several years ago, in the original design, was terrorism, and now we add suicide to the equation,” said Glenn P. Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College, who is advising the Skyscraper Safety Campaign in its criticism of the memorial as inadequately safe and secure. “I think it’s going to happen — a suicide. I think it is an unbelievably emotional site.”

Sally Regenhard, whose son Christian, a firefighter, was killed in the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center, acknowledged that the thought of suicides at the memorial pools had “passed my mind — that people might think of really jumping in, in grief.”

“When people see water, this is such a grief-stricken area that it is certainly within the realm of possibility,” Ms. Regenhard added. “It’s something that should be thought about.”

Commissioner Kelly did not go into detail about the police strategy to prevent suicides there, saying only, “We actually have a plan for when that happens.”

As a practical matter, anyone trying to take his or her life in the waterfalls would have to scuttle over a bronze parapet inscribed with the names of those who died in the terrorist attacks in New York, Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as those who died in the trade center attack in 1993. Once the parapet is cleared, eight feet of water-covered marble must be navigated.

Michael Frazier, a spokesman for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, said the site was patrolled by officers from the police forces of New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He added that there had been “no incidents in the pools, whatsoever.”

Mr. Frazier acknowledged that there was a rule banning off-duty or retired officers from carrying weapons at the memorial site, but said it had nothing to do with concerns about suicide attempts.

Nonetheless, Dr. Gail M. Saltz, a psychoanalyst in New York with the American Psychoanalytic Association, said those who visited memorials to monumental loss might bring with them “their own individual association to loss” that could stir thoughts of suicide.

“Are we talking about people who lost someone on 9/11 and are having complicated grief and therefore are exceedingly depressed and at risk for suicide?” Dr. Saltz said. “Are we talking about someone who has a history of terrible loss that could be standing at a place of loss that might stir those feelings?”

“We can’t always predict,” she said, adding that she was unaware of any suicides at a memorial site.

Still, Dr. Saltz said: “Someone could plan to go there, or someone could be visiting the memorial and be overwhelmed by the thought of suicide. An impulsive act of jumping in may, to that person, be a way of joining their loved one.”

    At 9/11 Memorial, Police Raise Fears of Suicide, NYT, 15.2.2011,






Police Evict Occupy Newark Protesters


February 15, 2012
The New York Times


NEWARK — Authorities swept in shortly after midnight Wednesday and ended what appeared to be a relatively harmonious co-existence between the city of Newark and its occupiers.

At Military Park, the site of Occupy Newark, about two dozen police officers and fire fighters disassembled what was left of the movement’s encampment and loaded much of into the back of a city truck: more than a dozen tents, a canopy, a sofa, pallets, blankets and other items.

Deputy Chief Tracy Glover of the Newark Police Department told protesters that if they did not have a permit that allowed them to be in the park after a 9 p.m. curfew, they had to leave immediately. By 1:30 a.m., most of the site had been removed. No arrests were made, although about a dozen protesters in the park taunted the officers as they worked.

“Carjackings are up 62 percent, but the tents are down,” said Teacher Iovino, 43. At its height, Occupy Newark was a cluster of tents that included a kitchen and an information area. About 30 people stayed overnight at the encampment, most of which was set up in November, and 50 to 60 people would be there during the day, said Anthony Batalla, 20, who has been there since November.

The eviction marked a shift in the city’s approach to the protesters. In November, the city’s police chief agreed to waive a permit required to assemble in Military Park. Mayor Cory A. Booker brought them doughnuts and coffee. A municipal councilman stayed there overnight, said one protester, Ibraheem Awadallah, 27.

Last Tuesday, the city sent a letter to the encampment, said Cass Zang, 42, who has been coming there since November.

“It said that they’ve decided not to continue lifting the ban” on the curfew, Ms. Zang said, paraphrasing the note. “It said, ‘Respectfully, we appreciate working together, but this is over.’”

    Police Evict Occupy Newark Protesters, NYT, 15.2.2012,






A Raucous Protest Against a Police Killing


February 6, 2012
The New York Times


It was a dramatic conclusion to a day of protest: Leona Virgo, whose younger brother was shot to death by a police officer in the bathroom of their family’s home on Thursday, was hoisted above a sea of supporters outside the 47th Precinct station house in the Bronx on Monday night.

As the crowd condemned a dozen officers positioned outside the station — comparing them to members of the Ku Klux Klan, for instance — Ms. Virgo remembered her brother, Ramarley Graham, for the crowd.

“I never wanted him to go out like this,” said Ms. Virgo, 22, tearing up. “He was only 18 years old.”

But, she added: “This is not just about Ramarley. This is about all young black men.”

That theme was echoed throughout the afternoon, as hundreds gathered outside the family’s home on East 229th Street for what was, at times, a chaotic condemnation of police violence and the killing of Mr. Graham, who was unarmed.

The authorities are investigating the shooting, which happened after narcotics officers followed Mr. Graham into the apartment thinking that he was armed, the police said. An officer confronted Mr. Graham, who was in the bathroom, possibly trying to flush marijuana down the toilet, the authorities said. Moments later, the officer fired a shot, killing him.

On Monday, a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside the family’s home, a second-floor apartment in a three-story building, included more than half a dozen posters scrawled with anti-Police Department slogans.

“Blood is on your shoulders NYPD Killer!!” one poster read.

Juanita Young, 57, came to support Mr. Graham’s mother. Her son, Malcolm Ferguson, 23, was shot to death by the police in the South Bronx on March 1, 2000, for reasons still unclear to her. She received $4.4 million in 2007 after the city settled a wrongful-death suit, she said. “I know this mother’s pain,” Ms. Young said. “The pain we walk — can’t nothing touch that pain.”

Some feared that their children might be next; others wanted vengeance. “I don’t want justice,” said Arlene Brooks, 49. “I want revenge.”

Despite that tension, there did not appear to be any violence, and the crowd occasionally broke into song. About 6 p.m., Mr. Graham’s father, Franclot Graham, addressed the group, telling supporters to remember to celebrate his son’s life.

The raucous gathering was then led to the station house by Mr. Graham; his son’s mother, Constance Malcolm; and his son’s grandmother Patricia Hartley. Afterward, children riding bicycles down the street could be heard chanting one of the protest’s mantras: “NYPD-KKK.”

    A Raucous Protest Against a Police Killing, NYT, 6.2.2012,






After 11 Years, a Police Leader Hits Turbulence


February 3, 2012
The New York Times


The officers who stand sentinel over New York’s streets and run the station houses rarely intersect with the police commissioner. They see the man they call “boss” at Police Academy graduations, at promotions, on the news recapitulating the latest ugly crime or at police funerals. That is about it.

So it was jarring recently when some commanders got e-mails from the boss with photos of vagrants taken by his personal staff. The messages cited “a condition that requires your immediate attention.” They specified no action, but officers said those highlighted sometimes later wound up in handcuffs.

The e-mails reminded some precinct commanders of the blanket control the commissioner exerts — even the ceremonial unit of anthem singers and pallbearers reports directly to him — and of his thirst for arrests, of almost any sort. They also reminded them of something quite contrary: While his presence is always sensed, it is unusual to have contact with a commissioner who seems to have reigned for eons.

But that is Ray Kelly.

After years of undeniable suc-cess, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is going through turbulent times, confronted with a steady drip of troublesome episodes. They include officers fixing traffic tickets, running guns and disparaging civilians on Facebook, and accusations that the Police Department encourages officers to question minorities on the streets indiscriminately. His younger son has been accused of rape, though he has not been charged and maintains his innocence. On Thursday, in an episode that Mr. Kelly said concerned him, an officer killed an 18-year-old drug suspect who was unarmed.

At 70, Mr. Kelly has now run the 52,000-member department longer than any of the city’s 41 commissioners. Almost everything about him braids through the department’s interlocking workings. Yet many inside and outside the force wonder whether the pileup of scandals and his increasingly authoritarian use of power have diminished his once-towering stature.

In Mr. Kelly’s two tenures — 16 months in the early 1990s under Mayor David N. Dinkins, and since 2002 under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — he has now served 11 ½ years. Lewis Joseph Valentine presided for just shy of 11, from 1934 to 1945, during monstrous times, when organized-crime groups sanctioned hundreds of murders.

Mr. Kelly has many fans. His public approval numbers after years of low crime remain high: two-thirds of the city’s voters were pleased with his job performance in a December poll by Quinnipiac University.

Mr. Bloomberg continues to affirm his unbending faith. Asked if he had considered replacing Mr. Kelly, he said, “With God as my witness, never once.” While waving off interest, Mr. Kelly has been promoted as a 2013 mayoral candidate; political soothsayers are dubious he will run, however, and the suggestion is heard less often these days.

But even some of those who admire Mr. Kelly wonder if his prolonged tenure has changed him. And they wonder something else more ominous: Has it begun to damage the department?

“In many, many ways he’s been an outstanding commissioner,” said Eugene J. O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former police officer. “There’s a danger in that job in staying too long. I think there should be a six-year term limit to the job.” He added, “I think a lot of what you do after six years is a rerun.”

A Remote Presence

Those who go back far enough generally agree that Mr. Kelly in his elongated encore is different from his first stint: less jocular, more controlling, less transparent.

He used to cook spaghetti for staff members in his office kitchen. He would let the police press corps inspect unloaded guns in his conference room, and brought doughnuts and coffee, but no longer. “He is not a regular guy anymore,” one commander said. “He doesn’t talk to the guys.”

The commander mentioned an officer, retiring after 30 years, and his final request: to meet the commissioner and shake his hand. It was done, but the commander wondered why it had not happened before.

Mr. Kelly’s autonomy is striking. A former senior member of the Bloomberg administration, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to disturb his relationship with the mayor, said he had never known an agency head with such sweeping, unchecked power, and who so intimidated other city officials. He said in budget meetings, when police cuts were suggested, Mr. Kelly would nod, but everyone knew the requests would be ignored or minimized. (The mayor disputed that.)

All police commissioners are remote to some extent. Ray Kelly these days seems to exude remoteness.

Some believe 9/11 is part of it — before and after the attack he has lived in Battery Park City, in the shadow of the towers. Others wonder about the perils of power in a cauldron-like job.

There are reasons he has lasted so long. Under his command, serious crime has dropped and remained remarkably low, even as austerity has reduced resources. When he returned in 2002, there were 587 murders. In each of the last two years, the count was in the low 500s.

He has made taking advantage of cutting-edge technology a top objective. He added thousands of black and Hispanic officers and, despite recent scuffles, has generally strengthened relations with minority communities, in part by regularly visiting black churches.

He has built a counterterrorism machine with tentacles in 11 foreign cities, irritating federal agencies. There has been no successful terrorist attack on his city while he has been commissioner. He has instead been engulfed in the past year largely by familiar police corruption story lines, of human beings succumbing to greed or audacity.

Over the past year, two officers charged with raping a woman were fired after being acquitted of rape but found guilty of official misconduct. A broad ticket-fixing scandal flared in the Bronx; when the accused officers were arraigned, hundreds of officers massed in protest, some denouncing Mr. Kelly. Eight current and former officers were charged with smuggling illegal guns. Narcotics detectives were accused of planting drugs on innocent civilians. An inspector needlessly pepper-sprayed four Occupy Wall Street protesters, invoking memories of the scrutiny and mass arrests of protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention, and giving the nascent movement its first real prime-time moment.

Civil rights advocates have assailed the department’s expanded stops of minorities on the streets. Several officers denigrated West Indians on Facebook. Muslims have denounced the monitoring of their lives, as Mr. Kelly has dispatched undercover officers and informants to find radicalized youth.

This year began with the revelation that a film offensive to Muslims, which included an interview with Mr. Kelly, had been shown to many officers.

The other afternoon, Mr. Kelly was in the back seat of his car, traveling to an appearance. At turns defiant or preoccupied, he brushed aside the combustible year. He said the state of the department was “very good.” He said unsavory things happened in a big department that had always had dark corners. He said they were isolated.

“No, I don’t feel guilt, I don’t feel pain,” he said. “This is a business. It is a business like other businesses.”

He said: “We’re not going to make everybody happy because of what we do. We arrest people; we give summonses; we’re the bearers of bad news; we sometimes use deadly force.”

He added: “You do a good job, you do the best you can. The chips fall where they may.”

Has he held the job too long? “You don’t leave just to leave,” he said. “The question is, are you effective?”


A Victim of Success

Crime will never stop. Still, many officers feel Mr. Kelly acts as if it can. They find him intolerant of not just crime but also of mere suspicious behavior, to a degree unusual even for a police commissioner, who, after all, is judged on the safety of his city.

The mayor recently declared 2011 the 21st straight year in which major felonies fell. Yet these declines are verging on microscopic. In fact, some Kelly allies, like Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., believe that crime is inching up and that the numbers are being massaged.

Franklin E. Zimring, a criminologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied New York’s crime record, said, “In a funny sense, the department is and has been for some time a victim of its own success.” He added: “Anybody in that job has got to play a constant game of, ‘Can you top this?’ And that has been a hard game to play.”

An article of faith among the police is that minor arrests thwart more serious crimes. Yet as the city becomes safer, officers say they often feel pressured to do pointless arrests and ticket-writing, purely to please superiors.

There has been a stunning rise in so-called stop-and-frisks — 601,055 in 2010, compared with 97,296 in 2002 — and they occur overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods. The police say they select crime-ridden areas, regardless of racial composition. Public concern has not caused Mr. Kelly to relent.

Mr. Bloomberg said that he had discussed the practice “ad nauseam” with Mr. Kelly and that it was “one of the key ways to get guns off the street.”

State Senator Eric L. Adams, a former police officer, expressed alarm at this surge. He said his own teenage son was asked for ID at a movie theater. During Mr. Kelly’s first tenure, Mr. Adams said, “he believed in the beat cop. Joe Friendly Officer. Now not.”

The force has noticeably expanded what it deems valid grounds for arrest. Officers have snapped cuffs on people for small-scale marijuana possession, a ticketable offense (a Kelly directive a few months ago cut back such arrests after consistent increases), and transgressions that are not much more than antisocial behavior or code violations, like putting your feet on a subway seat.

In 2002, when the police made 338,789 arrests, 16,714 were for infractions or violations. In 2010, when there were 422,982 total arrests, 32,033 were infractions or violations.

A Bronx patrol officer, who like other officers and commanders spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution or of offending Mr. Kelly, echoed what many colleagues say: “Every month you’re expected to bring in a certain amount. If you don’t, they deny your days off, refuse annual vacation time. They do stuff to you.”

Top department officials have repeatedly denied the existence of quotas but have said managers are expected to establish minimum productivity goals.

Edward Conlon, a recently retired detective who has written tellingly of police work, said of Mr. Kelly: “I do think he tries to do what’s right, and what’s right by cops whenever he can. I’m not sure the rank-and-file always appreciates that, and may not till he goes.”


No Time for Vacations

Even friends find Mr. Kelly inscrutable. He is rarely expansive or publicly introspective. With his stubbled crew cut and muscled look, he is the picture of the prototypical police officer. Beneath his piercing eyes, a grimace appears to have been ironed onto his face.

His own ascent was always a good story. A city kid, he grew up on the Upper West Side. His father worked as a milkman, then on the docks, before landing a job with the Internal Revenue Service. His mother checked the dressing rooms at Macy’s. As a Marine, Mr. Kelly saw combat in Vietnam, then held every rank in the Police Department.

He is not much for joking around though his humor occasionally surfaces. When a retired detective casually inquired recently why he kept working, he told him it was for the dental plan.

Though Mr. Kelly’s encounters with officers are rare, Lowell Stahl, a chief who retired in 2008 after running the commissioner’s office for 18 years, said Mr. Kelly had his driver pull over when he saw an officer doing a good job and he would hand him one of the N.Y.P.D. hats and shirts he kept piled in the car.

He is attentive to the visual impact he has, favoring custom-made suits and Charvet ties. Yet he has relaxed the dress code for officers so they can wear cargo pants. Along with his wife, Veronica, he likes to crawl through the city’s social night life, his name often cracking the gossip columns.

In his 14th-floor conference room in One Police Plaza, screens on the wall pipe in street scenes captured by surveillance cameras. Each morning, he spends an hour talking with two aides about terrorist threats. Those who deal with him say he fully trusts only a few very close to him, like Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman.

Though Mr. Kelly has had his share, he rarely swaps war stories the way officers like to do. Except for a few long weekends, he has not had a vacation in years. He goes to bed knowing his security detail is under orders to wake him if an officer fires his weapon or is shot.

Mr. Kelly said, “You can’t micromanage an organization of 50,000 people.” Yet many feel he comes awfully close.

He has flattened the department so almost everything reports to him. All transfers go through his office, and he revived a promotion board to do away with “the hook,” slang for getting plum assignments based on whom you know. “If a chief says, this is how we always do it, he’d come right back to you and say: Why? Defend it!” Mr. Stahl said.

At news conferences in Mr. Kelly’s earlier days, detectives and chiefs often spoke, but now it is almost exclusively him, conversing in his growling, clipped manner. Incoming rounds in Vietnam damaged his hearing and caused him to wear hearing aids. At news media appearances, he sometimes leans in, cups a hand behind his ear and says: “I’m a disabled war vet. Can you repeat that?”

Government agencies, academics and reporters, however, complain that the department is unwilling to provide insight into its workings — even statistics on lower-level crime or Mr. Kelly’s daily schedule. Several years ago, the commissioner ceased regular background briefings with the press corps embedded at Police Headquarters.

Commanders say they feel less empowered. One mentioned, for instance, how Mr. Kelly had taken over from high-ranking chiefs the right to allocate “take home” cars — unmarked vehicles that officers sometimes get to drive home as rewards for hard work.

New commissioners typically appoint new chiefs, but Mr. Kelly’s long tenure has produced a paralyzed structure. One Police Plaza has become a crucible of frustrated senior officials, where veterans say the only safe elevator conversation returns to lunch and retirement plans.

While he says Mr. Kelly has done a superb job, particularly in counterterrorism, Edward Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, faulted him for no longer offering a vision. “There is no message going to the bottom,” he said. “Everyone is afraid.” He added, “Among the rank-and-file, and even among the brass when I have talked to them, they are dying for a change.”

With long incumbencies, said Professor Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley, “innovation is very difficult, and new blood may need new veins and organizational arteries.”


David W. Chen contributed reporting.

    After 11 Years, a Police Leader Hits Turbulence, NYT, 3.2.2012,






In a Gang-Ridden City,

New Efforts to Fight Crime While Cutting Costs


January 30, 2012
The New York Times


SALINAS, Calif. — People in California generally know two things about this agricultural city nestled among lettuce fields east of Monterey’s beaches and hotels: John Steinbeck was born here, and it has a big problem with gangs.

Three years ago, the violence between warring Northern and Southern California gang members had become so bad that police and city officials decided to mount an all-out drive to tame it.

They poured money and personnel into a strategy that combined tough law enforcement with job training and a plethora of social services. They developed a countywide violence-reduction plan and sought help from state and federal agencies and the nearby Naval Postgraduate School. A special team of police officers worked overtime making home visits in gang-infested neighborhoods.

The efforts seemed to be paying off. In 2010, this city of 150,000 — with an estimated 3,500 gang members — registered 131 shootings and 15 homicides, down from a record of 151 shootings and 29 homicides in 2009, virtually all of them gang-related. Last year the numbers dropped further, to 50 shootings and 12 homicides.

But the economic malaise that has engulfed California has not spared the city. The Salinas Police Department has shrunk to 144 sworn officers from 184 in the last two years. Financing for nonprofits has dried up, making the promises of job training and other services harder to fulfill. The special police team was disbanded — the officers were too exhausted from filling staffing gaps to put in the overtime. Staffing for the Police Department’s violence-suppression unit, a central part of the program’s enforcement arm, was cut back.

“It felt like, overnight, budgets were cut, our grants expired, our service providers lost funding and we were scrambling,” said Sgt. Sheldon Bryan, who managed the Police Department’s Cease-fire program, an important component of the antigang effort. In small cities forced into drastic belt-tightening, ambitious social or law enforcement programs are often the first to go. But city leaders in Salinas worried that they could not afford to abandon what they had started.

Gangs were the city’s biggest and most stubborn problem, a safety and public-relations nightmare. Mayor Dennis Donohue says that when he gives Rotary Club talks in Monterey or Carmel, he tells the audience that he knows some of them think stepping into Salinas — crossing the “lettuce curtain,” as it is disparagingly called — means being shot on sight. “That’s a bit of a problem from an economic development standpoint,” he said.

In fact, gang shootouts do sometimes take place in broad daylight, gang members hiding sawed-off shotguns in parks where children play. Members of Southern California gangs who once rarely strayed north of Bakersfield have moved north and planted firm roots in the city.

East Salinas is sprinkled with bloody landmarks, not least the house where 6-year-old Azahel Cruz, at home and dressed for bedtime in his Spider-Man pajamas, was killed by a stray bullet on a March evening in 2010. But the violence also stretches into the affluent streets of South Salinas, where in 2008, gang members knocked on the door of a tidy house with white trim and shot the father of one of their rivals in the head.

“The gang problems go away, and this town is paradise,” said Kelly McMillin, a deputy police chief. “If we throw up our hands because we’ve run out of money, that’s just irresponsible.”

Money, of course, was the issue: how to build on the gains that had been made without additional funds? The answer, city leaders decided, was to keep many programs in place but modify them to fit a shrinking budget, deploy police officers more strategically, consolidate the efforts of government and nonprofit agencies under a single organizational structure so as not to duplicate resources and shift more responsibility onto the shoulders of community residents.

“It’s a new way of doing business,” said Georgina Mendoza, a senior deputy city attorney and the program director for the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace, which devised the countywide violence reduction plan. “Before, we felt more restricted in our own silos, our own lanes. Now, we realize we can’t do that.”

The Cease-fire program — modeled on a highly successful violence-prevention approach pioneered in Boston that uses “carrots” in the form of jobs and other services combined with the “stick” of intensified law enforcement to persuade hardened gang members to give up violence — is continuing, albeit in a far more modest form. “We need to talk about an altered message because I can’t promise them jobs I don’t have,” Sergeant Bryan said.

The department has also embarked on some new projects, partnering with the community safety alliance in an ambitious prevention program that focuses on a roughly 20-block neighborhood in East Salinas known as Hebbron Heights, where violence is routine. Last Sunday, a 21-year-old man was shot and killed there, the city’s second homicide victim of the year.

As part of the project, the county’s mental health agency has held “charlas” — “chats,” in Spanish — to encourage residents to organize and address problems in the neighborhood. Neighborhood leaders and representatives from a variety of government agencies and nonprofits meet regularly in a recreation center at the corner of Hebbron and Freemont Streets, where northern and southern gangs intersect.

The Police Department has opened an office in the recreation center, staffed by two officers, Rich Lopez and Jeffrey Lofton, who spend their days doing whatever is needed, like mediating disputes between sixth-grade girls and helping people in the neighborhood write petitions to have streetlights repaired.

On a recent afternoon, Officer Lopez and Officer Lofton were knocking on doors, chatting with residents and handing out fliers with information about social services. A 90-year-old woman with two Chihuahuas in her yard said there were occasional shots fired on the street, but otherwise things were peaceful. A man complained about his neighbor, who parked too many cars in the driveway and did not like his dogs.

The hope is that through such efforts, the police will come to be viewed as allies and gain valuable intelligence about the structure of gangs in the area. But Officer Lopez and Officer Lofton have 1,000 doors to knock on; two other officers originally assigned to the project were needed elsewhere and pulled off.

Brian Contreras, executive director of 2nd Chance Family and Youth Services, a gang diversion program in town, said that he applauded what the alliance and the police were doing, but he noted that a number of senior gang members were due to be released from prison soon and worried that a resurgence of gang violence would follow.

“We’re a little paranoid in the sense of what’s going to happen this year and next year, especially when the resources are being cut left and right,” he said.

Deputy Chief McMillin agreed that the city was now embarked on an experiment in doing more with less, and that the outcome was uncertain.

But, he said, “We’re going to fight this fight whether we’re fully funded or half funded or not funded at all.”

    In a Gang-Ridden City, New Efforts to Fight Crime While Cutting Costs, NYT, 30.1.2012,






Justices Say GPS Tracker Violated Privacy Rights


January 23, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that the police violated the Constitution when they placed a Global Positioning System tracking device on a suspect’s car and monitored its movements for 28 days.

A set of overlapping opinions in the case collectively suggested that a majority of the justices are prepared to apply broad privacy principles to bring the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches into the digital age, when law enforcement officials can gather extensive information without ever entering an individual’s home or vehicle.

Walter Dellinger, a lawyer for the defendant in the case and a former acting United States solicitor general, said the decision was “a signal event in Fourth Amendment history.”

“Law enforcement is now on notice,” Mr. Dellinger said, “that almost any use of GPS electronic surveillance of a citizen’s movement will be legally questionable unless a warrant is obtained in advance.”

An overlapping array of justices were divided on the rationale for the decision, with the majority saying the problem was the placement of the device on private property.

But five justices also discussed their discomfort with the government’s use of or access to various modern technologies, including video surveillance in public places, automatic toll collection systems on highways, devices that allow motorists to signal for roadside assistance, location data from cellphone towers and records kept by online merchants.

The case concerned Antoine Jones, who was the owner of a Washington nightclub when the police came to suspect him of being part of a cocaine-selling operation. They placed a tracking device on his Jeep Grand Cherokee without a valid warrant, tracked his movements for a month and used the evidence they gathered to convict him of conspiring to sell cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned his conviction, saying the sheer amount of information that had been collected violated the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches. “Repeated visits to a church, a gym, a bar or a bookie tell a story not told by any single visit, as does one’s not visiting any of those places in the course of a month,” Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg wrote for the appeals court panel.

The Supreme Court affirmed that decision, but on a different ground. “We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’ ” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority opinion.

“It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case,” Justice Scalia went on. “The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.”

When the case was argued in November, a lawyer for the federal government said the number of times the federal authorities used GPS devices to track suspects was “in the low thousands annually.”

Vernon Herron, a former Maryland state trooper now on the staff of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security, said state and local law enforcement officials used GPS and similar devices “all the time,” adding that “this type of technology is very useful for narcotics and terrorism investigations.”

Monday’s decision thus places a significant burden on widely used law enforcement surveillance techniques, though the authorities remain free to seek warrants from judges authorizing the surveillance.

In a concurrence for four justices, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. faulted the majority for trying to apply 18th-century legal concepts to 21st-century technologies. What should matter, he said, is the contemporary reasonable expectation of privacy.

“The use of longer-term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses,” Justice Alito wrote, “impinges on expectations of privacy.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan joined the concurrence.

“We need not identify with precision the point at which the tracking of this vehicle became a search, for the line was surely crossed before the four-week mark,” Justice Alito wrote. “Other cases may present more difficult questions.”

Justice Scalia said the majority did not mean to suggest that its property-rights theory of the Fourth Amendment displaced the one focused on expectations of privacy.

“It may be that achieving the same result through electronic means, without an accompanying trespass, is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, but the present case does not require us to answer that question,” he wrote.

Justice Sotomayor joined the majority opinion, agreeing that many questions could be left for another day “because the government’s physical intrusion on Jones’s Jeep supplies a narrower basis for decision.”

But she left little doubt that she would have joined Justice Alito’s analysis had the issue he addressed been the exclusive one presented in the case.

“Physical intrusion is now unnecessary to many forms of surveillance,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

She added that “it may be necessary to reconsider the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily disclosed to third parties.”

“People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellular providers; the URLs that they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers; and the books, groceries and medications they purchase to online retailers,” she wrote. “I, for one, doubt that people would accept without complaint the warrantless disclosure to the government of a list of every Web site they had visited in the last week, or month, or year.”

Justice Alito listed other “new devices that permit the monitoring of a person’s movements” that fit uneasily with traditional Fourth Amendment privacy analysis.

“In some locales,” he wrote, “closed-circuit television video monitoring is becoming ubiquitous. On toll roads, automatic toll collection systems create a precise record of the movements of motorists who choose to make use of that convenience. Many motorists purchase cars that are equipped with devices that permit a central station to ascertain the car’s location at any time so that roadside assistance may be provided if needed and the car may be found if it is stolen.”

    Justices Say GPS Tracker Violated Privacy Rights, NT, 23.1.2012,






Arrest in California Homeless Killings


January 14, 2012
The New York Times


ANAHEIM, Calif. — The man thought to have killed four homeless men in Orange County over the last month is in custody, law enforcement officials said.

The suspect, Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda, Calif., was arrested Friday night after a homeless man was fatally stabbed behind a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Anaheim. “We are extremely confident that we have the man who is responsible for the murder of all four homeless men in Orange County,” Chief John Welter of the Anaheim Police said.

Officials would not say how Mr. Ocampo had been linked to all four murders. But Friday’s slaying fit the pattern they had already established: a lone, middle-aged homeless man stabbed to death in the same area of inland Orange County.

Investigators, which included local agencies as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were left with few leads besides a few grainy security videos, including one that showed a man walking toward the first victim.

Dozens of people, however, witnessed Friday night’s attack at a busy shopping center. A police spokesman said they began receiving calls around 8:17 p.m., reporting an assault in progress.

When the police arrived, the victim was dead. The suspect had fled on foot, chased by two civilians, and officers caught him about a quarter-mile away.

The first of the four victims, James McGillivray, 53, was found on Dec. 20 outside a shopping center in Placentia. The second, Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found eight days later on the Santa Ana River Trail in Anaheim, and the third, Paulus Cornelius Smit, 57, was found behind the Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30.

As of Saturday night, the police had not confirmed the identity of the fourth victim, but residents said he was John Berry, a Vietnam War veteran who had stayed in the area for years, sometimes sleeping on a bench beside a river bed or, on rainy nights, in the shopping center where he was killed. A photograph of Mr. Berry appeared in a Los Angeles Times article.

A memorial took shape at the spot where he was attacked. The posters of remembrances did not cover all of the blood on the concrete wall. Dozens of residents stopped to place flowers or to recall a man they said never asked for anything. A vigil was planned for Saturday night.

“John was a fixture here, a neighbor,” said Maria Veruasa, 52, who lives in Yorba Linda. “He never asked anyone for money. When you passed by, he would just say, ‘Hi’ and ‘God bless.’ Sometimes he wouldn’t even accept money, so I would leave it discrete on his bicycle seat.”

Jim Palmer, president of the Orange County Mission, said word of the arrest was just beginning to spread among the homeless here. They were hoping the police had the right man, but remained wary.

“We’re thankful, obviously, but everyone wants to be real confident that they’ve caught the right person,” Mr. Palmer said.

    Arrest in California Homeless Killings, NYT, 14.1.2012,




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