We Need Retired Cops Running for Elected Office

Photo from npr.org

In recent months, the important role of elected officials at all levels has been made painfully clear for law enforcement officers, for their families and for those citizens who support their mission. When elected officials—particularly at the local or state level—fail to stand up for the basic principles of law and order, communities can quickly devolve, and innocent people can quickly become victims. Decades of progress within law enforcement agencies and in the communities in which they serve can be set back by mayors, city council members, state representatives and governors who are ignorant of, or indifferent to, the vital necessity of law enforcement officers’ active presence in our communities.

An age-old complaint is often recited by law enforcement officers, active and retired, who endure the public statements and policy decisions of elected officials whose ideas of policing have no relationship to reality. The complaint tends to boil down to some version of: “They just don’t know what they’re talking about.”

But who are the individual​​s who represent us in elected office? Who are the people willing to dedicate so many hours to campaigning for positions that often pay relatively little? Some are motivated by an altruistic drive to make their community a better place to live. Some, on the other hand, don’t have much else to do and are excited by the prospect of gaining an importance that they could never get in their personal lives or in any other line of work. The latter, those motivated by the once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain self-importance, seem all too common in 2020, and their impact on their constituents will eventually be counted in failed businesses and destroyed lives.

Here’s a proposition: What if individuals who did know what they’re talking about actually decided to run against those who did not? What if genuine institutional knowledge, rather than college classroom talking points, guided the public conversation in an election cycle?

This is why we need retired cops running for elected office—those men and women who have actually seen the impact of violence and disorder on real people. Those who are often stunned by the manner in which elected officials publicly discuss strategies to combat social ills. Those who have actually conducted high risk traffic stops, served warrants on violent offenders and responded to domestic disturbance calls. Those who are regularly disgusted by the way in which politicians cluelessly attempt to analyze police conduct in these scenarios.

In this election year, there are extremely few retired officers running for elected office at the local, state and federal levels. It does not have to be that way. The limits of their job prevents active law enforcement officers from fully expressing themselves in public due to the vital importance of maintaining impartiality while on the job. But once retired, there is no such limitation. Many retired officers have stable income in the form of a pension, children who are grown, and more free time on their hands than ever before in their adult lives. They could make the time to campaign without having to sacrifice their ability to make a living or spend time with their young children—unlike so many citizens who are frustrated by the caliber of our current class of elected representatives but feel unable to step forward to opposition.

There are many articulate and motivated law enforcement professionals who would prove highly capable representatives, if elected. Even if they were unsuccessful in their campaigns, how many retired cops would speak truth to nonsense from a place of personal experience that few people can? Doesn’t the prevalence of military veterans in this year’s election cycle demonstrate that the public responds to candidates who have unique first-hand knowledge of the most fundamental policy issues?

Many retired cops have watched from home as lawlessness is met with indifference by impotent politicians who are more concerned with political gamesmanship and the possibility of seeking a higher office than they are concerned with keeping innocent citizens safe. These men and women have strong views on what should be done and those views are formed by careers spent confronting violence and disorder in order to protect the lives and property of the most vulnerable members of their communities. There is little reason to think that the political realities will change if these men and women stay home.

These are individuals who spent a career putting themselves in harm’s way and running towards danger while most ran in the opposite direction. We need these retired cops, these men and women with unique expertise in law and order and poverty and public decay, to step up again.

By Matt Dolan | dolanconsultinggroup.com

About the Author

Matt Dolan is a licensed attorney who specializes in training and advising public safety agencies in matters of legal liability. His training focuses on helping agency leaders create sound policies and procedures as a proactive means of minimizing their exposure to costly liability. A member of a law enforcement family dating back three generations, he serves as both Director and Public Safety Instructor with Dolan Consulting Group.

His training courses include Recruiting and Hiring for Law Enforcement, Confronting the Toxic Officer, Performance Evaluations for Public Safety, Making Discipline Stick®, and Supervisor Liability for Public Safety.

Fallout from the GEDMatch Genealogy Datebase Breach

In July, GEDMatch, an ancestry genealogy site, suffered two breaches to its website by hackers. Subsequently, the website was shut down on both occasions to troubleshoot the breach and ensure the privacy of users’ data.

GEDMatch provides free, open-source access to anyone seeking to find ancestors and family members by uploading their DNA profile data.

So far, approximately 1.45 million people have enrolled. A computer algorithm analyzes each profile and provides the users with information on matches to potential relatives.

A “match” is not as simple as it sounds, however. The user receives a list of other registrants who have a portion of their DNA profile in common with the user. The list is displayed in a unit of measurement known as centimorgans. The higher the centimorgan number, the more closely related a user is to the match. For example, centimorgan matches in the 3,400 range indicate a parent and child. A match with only 1700 centimorgans may be an aunt or uncle to the user.

In order to upload data to GEDMatch, users must first have their DNA analyzed by a third-party vendor, such as 23andMe or Ancestry. Users can order a kit from either company, deposit their saliva in a tube, and mail the kit back for analysis. The end result provides insight into a person’s ancestry — what countries the family tree has had ties to — and, if requested, health predisposition reports. The latter can provide information about genetic markers that may cause a person to be more vulnerable to certain diseases, such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s.

The analysis can also identify whether a person is a carrier for particular diseases, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. Once a user has received the DNA results, that person can then upload those results to GEDMatch for further ancestry analysis.

GEDMatch in Law Enforcement

In 2018, law enforcement officials began using the GEDMatch website to link unknown DNA samples found at crime scenes to suspects. The first and most well-known case in which forensic genetic genealogy was used identified the rapist/murderer in a decades old cold case known as the Golden State Killer.

Joseph D’Angelo left his DNA at many of his rape and murder scenes throughout his years-long series of crimes. However, officials were never able to identify it as his DNA because the CODIS database never returned a match. D’Angelo’s DNA profile had never been entered into CODIS because he had never served in the military or been arrested or convicted of a crime.

After uploading the unknown DNA to GEDMatch, retrieving the centimorgan matches, and working with a genetic genealogist who specializes in building family trees, authorities were able to identify D’Angelo as the likely suspect. He was arrested in May of 2018 and pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison in August 2020.

The identification of D’Angelo via GEDMatch began a new initiative in law enforcement seeking to solve cold cases. Since the identification of the Golden State Killer, many other cold cases have been solved using forensic genetic genealogy.

Privacy concerns on behalf of ancestry site users have paralleled this advancement in crime-fighting. Many people have raised concerns about law enforcement, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, or other government agencies gaining access to their genetic profile and using it for alternative reasons.

How Safe Is a Person’s DNA Data on GEDMatch?

When a user uploads his DNA results to GEDMatch, those results are converted to a different, coded format and the user is provided a corresponding kit number. The reason for this is twofold: One, the coded format eliminates the risk of having users’ actual DNA code online; two, it facilitates ease of use for the website’s software. Once converted, the original profiles are deleted. The passwords all users create for their login are also automatically encrypted so that site managers and owners cannot view the original password of any user.

There is no method available on the site that allows someone else to download the DNA profile of a user. Additionally, when enrolling for access to GEDMatch, registrants are given a choice of four levels of privacy: Private, Research, Public + Opt Out, and Public + Opt In. Users may change their privacy preference at any time.

Public + Opt In is the most open access, in which a user’s profile can be compared to any other user profile on the site; This includes the use of GEDMatch by law enforcement for investigative purposes. Currently, there are approximately 280,000 users who have “opted in” on the site.

Details of the GEDMatch Breaches

An investigation of the breaches revealed that no user DNA information was stolen or altered. In the first breach, it appears the only action the hackers took was to reset all users’ privacy preferences to “Public + Opt In.” As a result, all 1.45 million coded DNA profiles were temporarily available for genetic matching for any other GEDMatch user, including law enforcement.

However, there is no indication that any law enforcement agency used the database during the few hours when all profiles were available. In the second breach, the hackers changed all user privacy preferences to “Research,” which allows profiles to be seen only for one-to-one comparison and is a very limited privacy setting.

Following the two breaches, Brett Williams, CEO of GEDMatch’s parent company, Verogen Inc., issued a statement which read in part: “We can assure you that your DNA information was not compromised, as GEDMatch does not store raw DNA files on the site. When you upload your data, the information is encoded, and the raw file deleted. This is one of the ways we protect our users’ most sensitive information.”

In the days following the two breaches, several clients of the MyHeritage site, a genealogy website based in Israel, reported phishing attacks in which they were sent malicious emails with the intent to obtain their login information for the site. It’s been suggested that the phishing scam hackers wanted to obtain users’ email addresses via the GEDMatch breach; however, that has not been proven.

As of July 21, 2020, 16 users had fallen victim to this scam, unwittingly providing their MyHeritage login information to a malicious party. This, in turn, may have allowed the hackers to access users’ profiles on the MyHeritage site, changing privacy settings, or obtaining other personal information.

Fortunately, MyHeritage was alerted minutes after the scam began and took immediate security actions to protect all user data and login information. It is possible a similar phishing scam may occur in the future, targeting users of 23andMe and Ancestry, which could result in the theft of more login credentials or personal information.

Possible Motives Behind the Attack

No one has claimed responsibility for the breaches of GEDMatch. Therefore, we can’t be sure of their purpose in illegally accessing the website. However, several possible motives exist. The hackers may have had a desire to discredit GEDMatch and its parent company to create privacy fears among users and to discourage people from using the company’s genetic genealogy resources.

An alternate purpose may have been to obtain user email addresses to send phishing emails in an attempt to gain access to the personal computers or accounts of those users. It is also possible the hackers simply wanted to prove that they could crack the website security measures and had no other malicious intent.

Potential Fallout of the Breach

There are several consequences, however, that might be observed in coming months as a result of the breaches. The most serious one would result in fewer DNA profiles being available in GEDMatch and other genetic genealogy sites. Although one’s DNA profile cannot be obtained from any genealogy site, doubt still exists among many skeptics. A reduction in available DNA profiles would likely decrease the ability of law enforcement agencies to use genealogy sites to solve cold cases. This, in turn, could lead to a reduction in clearance rates for unsolved cases and allow more violent criminals to remain free.

The issue whether law enforcement’s use of genealogy sites constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure has been greatly debated in recent months. Although users must now provide explicit permission for law enforcement to see their genetic profile, Fourth Amendment issues still persist.

One argument holds that constructing an unknown suspect’s family tree inadvertently identifies innocent people to law enforcement; these are people who have not uploaded their genetic information to any website and who have not granted permission for law enforcement to use their familial relationships to narrow a suspect pool. Breaches of any genealogy website will surely continue to fuel this debate.

Though risks certainly exist in conjunction with the use of any genetic information in an online environment, appropriate security measures have been instituted by GEDMatch and other similar companies. The fact that no actual DNA profiles are stored online combined with users’ ability to fully control their privacy settings should ease the concern of persons interested in genetic genealogy. For many, the benefit of knowing they may have inadvertently helped remove a violent criminal from the streets outweighs the minimal risks of enrolling in a genealogy website.

Listen to Jennifer Bucholtz’s five-part podcast series on her involvement in solving the cold case of Rebekah Gould by visiting https://inpublicsafety.com/2020/07/podcast-investigating-the-murder-of-rebekah-gould-episode-1/

By Jennifer Bucholtz | In Public Safety inpublicsafety.com

About the Author: Jennifer Bucholtz is a former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent and a decorated veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, Master of Arts in criminal justice and Master of Science in forensic sciences. Bucholtz has an extensive background in U.S. military and Department of Defense counterintelligence operations. While on active duty, she served as the Special Agent in Charge for her unit in South Korea and Assistant Special Agent in Charge at stateside duty stations. Bucholtz has also worked for the Arizona Department of Corrections and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at American Military University and teaches courses in criminal justice and forensic sciences. Additionally, she is an instructor for the Department of State’s Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance and a licensed private investigator in Colorado. You can contact her at Jennifer.Bucholtz@mycampus.apus.edu.

Major County Sheriffs of America to Join COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today announced that the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA) has joined the COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC) as a new partner. Led by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), CRI-TAC is a partnership between the COPS Office and a number of professional law enforcement organizations throughout the field to provide premier law enforcement technical assistance to law enforcement agencies on request. The COPS Office “by the field, for the field” approach combines collaboration and professional advancement, making the technical assistance provided practical, while creating greater capacity for law enforcement to address the ever-changing challenges and landscape of policing.

“Under the leadership of the IACP, we have assembled an exemplary coalition of professional standards-making partners, driven by research and best practices, working to meet the training and technical assistance needs of law enforcement. I am excited that the Major County Sheriffs of America is joining this remarkable coalition,” said Phil Keith, Director of the COPS Office. “The expertise, leadership and resources from MCSA will help ensure we continue to meet the diverse needs of all law enforcement and their communities, and provide much-needed training and technical assistance across the country.”

IACP President Steven R. Casstevens, Chief of the Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Police Department, said, “The IACP is excited to have Major County Sheriffs of America join the coalition of leading law enforcement associations partnered with the COPS Office to bring CRI-TAC to the field. Representing the largest elected sheriffs’ offices, their innovation and expertise will further enhance CRI-TAC in building customized, field-driven training and technical assistance solutions to support law enforcement, corrections, and communities throughout the U.S.”

“MCSA is proud to join the COPS Office, IACP and all the partners on this critical initiative. Ensuring that agencies large and small across the nation have access to cutting-edge, customized training and technical assistance strengthens not only individual departments, but our profession as a whole and most importantly, the communities we serve,” said MCSA President and Middlesex (MA) Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “We look forward to sharing our expertise in developing and implementing best practices with our colleagues across the country.”

In its first two years since it began, CRI-TAC has fielded more than 400 requests for assistance from campus, local, county, tribal, and state agencies on critical issues such as school safety, active shooter response, de-escalation, crisis intervention, and intelligence and information sharing. More information can be found in the second annual review of CRI-TAC at https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-W0897.

In addition to the MCSA, IACP’s partners in CRI-TAC include:

Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy Associates (FBINAA)
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)  
International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA)
International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST)
National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE)
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA)
National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA)

The Collaborative Reform Initiative provides critical and tailored technical assistance resources to state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies on a wide variety of topics. It features a “by the field, for the field” approach while deliver​​ing individualized technical assistance using leading experts in a range of public safety, crime reduction, and community policing topics. Law enforcement agencies that are interested in receiving technical assistance through the Collaborative Reform Initiative should visit the COPS Office website at https://cops.usdoj.gov/collaborativereform.

The COPS Office awards grants to hire community policing officers, develop and test innovative policing strategies, and provide training and technical assistance to community members, local government leaders, and all levels of law enforcement. Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to help advance community policing.

 

Sting Targeting Child Predators Will Set Precedent

Truckers Against Predators’ exposures lead to two arrests in Missouri.(KY3)


The Shannon County Sheriff’s Office has announced another arrest in a coordinated sting targeting child predators.

At least three men accused of targeting children for sex have been arrested since August. Martin Kester, 34, of West Plains was arrested Thursday for attempting to meet for sex with a 13-year-old girl in Eminence, the sheriff’s office announced Sunday.

Authorities say two others were previously busted after a group of truckers pretended to be young girls online, and set up a meeting. The group, Truckers Against Predators, exposed the men on Facebook live for more than 100,000 followers.

According to the sheriff’s office, Kester communicated with a person who portrayed themselves as a teenage girl, but was involved with Truckers Against Predators (TAP). A Shannon County deputy joined the conversation undercover.

The sheriff’s office says Kester intended to meet a teenage girl after he left work on Thursday, Sept. 10. Upon arrival to a destination, Kester was confronted by a T.A.P. crew frontman in a live stream video.

Kester was taken into custody and sent to Shannon County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. He is being held on a $50,000 cash bond and was charged for felony enticement of a child.

Authorities have also​​ confirmed the arrests of Jefferson Rippe, a Springfield man, and Richard Holford, a Birch Tree man, in the sting. Shannon County Sheriff Darrin Brawley believes the charges will hold up in court, and the trials against both men will set precedents for the state.

Sheriff Brawley says his smaller department doesn’t have the manpower or resources to coordinate these efforts and he’s grateful for the effort of Truckers Against Predators. The group hopes to work with more agencies in the future to expose more pedophiles, collect convictions and ultimately, make Missouri a safer state.

 
 
​KY3 Staff​

Inmate Argues Chance of Parole Isn’t Enough

Jessica Hicklin, who was born James Hicklin, is serving a life sentence for a 1995 murder in Cass County that occurred during a meth transaction. Kansas City Star photo.

 

Four years ago, Missouri lawmakers offered a chance of release for inmates serving life without parole for crimes they committed as teens. The Missouri Supreme Court is now considering whether that law went far enough.

On Sept. 9, the court heard arguments from Jessica Hicklin, who was convicted of fatally shooting Sean Smith in 1995, when she was 16. Hicklin was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole, the lowest sentence that Missouri law permitted at the time for first-degree murder.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that juvenile offenders cannot be given an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, though a jury can still impose such a sentence based on the particular offender’s case. In 2016, the high court said in Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller’s holding was retroactive to inmates already serving life sentences.

To address those holdings, the Missouri legislature in 2016 passed Senate Bill 590, which allows parole hearings for inmates previously sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles, so long as they have served at least 25 years in prison. The bill also added a wider range of sentencing provisions for those who are under 18 when they commit first-degree murder.

Anthony Rothert of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, an attorney for Hicklin, noted that prior to the passage of that bill, the Missouri Supreme Court had ruled that such inmates had to be resentenced, and that anyone under 18 convicted of murder today would receive a sentence under the new law.

“This case raises the question about what happens to the small number of people caught in the middle,” he said.

Rothert argued that Hicklin’s original sentence is still in effect and is still unconstitutional, and therefore is void. But Andrew J. Crane, an assistant attorney general arguing on behalf of the state, said Hicklin essentially was asking the court to “harm her” by denying the potential parole hearing the revised state law provides. He added that crafting sentencing laws that comply with the constitution ultimately is the job of the legislature.

“It would be unprecedented and unwarranted for this court to depart from its precedent and take away the power of the General Assembly to retroactively help offenders, especially those with unconstitutional sentences like Ms. Hicklin had,” Crane said.

The judges repeatedly questioned Rothert about whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents already have determined that a parole hearing is an adequate solution for an inmate such as Hicklin.

“Does that then prevent us from saying, while maybe not ideal, it’s not unconstitutional, as you’re asking us to hold?” Judge Laura Denvir Stith said.

“Ms. Hicklin does not have parole eligibility today or even any promise that she ever will,” Rothert said. Assuming the legislature can replace a void sentence with a new sentence, he added, “What she has is the ability to ask after 25 years to become parole-eligible.”

Judge Zel M. Fischer repeatedly pressed Rothert on whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s Montgomery ruling said that states are not required to resentence prisoners already serving life without parole. Rothert disagreed.

“The constitutional right here is to have a Miller-compliant hearing,” he said.

The suit seeks a declaration that the 2016 bill is unconstitutional as applied to Hicklin. But several judges asked whether a habeas writ would be the more appropriate procedural route, as Hicklin is challenging her sentence. Rothert characterized the case as “a bit unique,” particularly because his client isn’t seeking immediate release from prison, as is typically the case in a habeas action.

The case drew multiple amicus briefs, including from the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which won a federal court order last year mandating that Missouri overhaul its parole process for juvenile life-without-parole inmates. An appeal of the ruling is being briefed in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Separately, Joe Dandurand, the former Johnson County circuit judge who originally sentenced Hicklin, now agrees that sentence was unconstitutional. Dandurand, who now is the executive director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, urged the court to order resentencing in a ​​court of law.

The case is Hicklin v. Schmitt et al., SC97692.

By Scott Lauck | Missouri Lawyers Media molawyersmedia.com​


From a February 12, 2018 story written by Matt Campbell for the Kansas City Star​:
 
Jessica Hicklin, who was born James Hicklin, was convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Sean Smith, who lived in a trailer in East Lynne, Mo. Hicklin, of Clinton, Mo., shot Smith in the face and the back when he could not pay for a crystal meth transaction. He (Hicklin) was 16 when he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In 2015, Hicklin changed her name and in 2016, filed a civil lawsuit alleging that deprivation of hormone therapy was unconstitutional.

​I​n 2018 U.S. District Judge Noelle C. Collins ordered the state to provide hormone therapy to Hicklin, who was also allowed to have permanent body hair removal and access to “gender affirming” toiletries

Highlights of the Officer Media Salary Study

When you’re discussing pay raises or additional benefits, it might help to have demonstrable data.

Sponsored by 5.11 Inc., the 2020 Officer Media Group Salary Survey Summary comprised of about 22 questions of our readership. The full report runs 10 pages, to save you from data overload, here are some highlights.

​​Download the full report at Officer.com/21140916.

One of the questions identified rank/position. Bear in mind that this was not just a survey for executive personnel, but covered all ranks from the most rookie patrolman to chiefs and sheriffs. It makes sense that the largest responding group represents the largest population within the law enforcement community that we serve: that being management, supervisory, and command staff personnel. As a result, just over 48% of our survey respondents held the rank of sergeant on up through major. Those who identified as executive or command staff accounted for another 14% of the responses while detectives/investigators/inspectors made up another 9%. Combined, those groups represent roughly 2/3 of our respondents. Keep that in mind as you read the remainder of the following.  

When asked what described the respondent’s type of agency, just over 56% answered “municipality,” while another 20% answered county sheriff’s or police department. Those two groups alone make up well over 3/4 of our respondents with state police adding another 8.6% and “Other” contributing 13.4%.

For agency size, approximately half were 100 or more employees. The other half (48.9% versus 51.1%) were less than 100 employees. It’s worth noting, however, that “employees” is different from sworn strength and the division of employee size (20 to 49, 50 to 99, 100+) is such that plenty of agencies with less than 50 sworn officers but enough support staff to push the total employee count over 50. The most recent surveys/polls we’ve seen on sworn strength still places approximately 55% of all law enforcement agencies in the country with less than 50 officers in sworn strength. It’s important to realize that most agencies in the country, even the largest ones, don’t have over 500 to 1,000 officers and those that do you can find on NFL team jerseys. How many NFL teams are there? There aren’t even that many cities with police departments over 1,000 officers.

In terms of actual salary, the largest bulk of respondents are paid between $25K to $100K. Quite surprisingly, 25.4% report being paid between $100K to $150K. What should be of larger concern is that there were actually respondents who get paid less than $25K per year. Unless they are part-time officers, that is absurd.

On a final note, we asked the takers if their salary had increased or decreased this year from last year. While the largest majority saw the cost of living increase, 2.4% saw salary decreases and some of those decreases were more than 15% of their total salary.
 
By the Editorial Staff | Officer Media Group

Privacy and Accuracy Issues Raised by Facial Recognition

​The failure rate for searches has dropped from 5% in the year 2010 to 0.2% in 2018.​ © izusek/E+/Getty Images

 

The tremendous benefits of facial recognition technology for law enforcement identification applications have brought with them unparalleled challenges. Some among the public continue to believe that every individual is being tracked and watched wherever they go, or that facial recognition has an ethnic bias. These myths are incorrect—yet their persistence can create obstacles for hardworking officers and agencies.

To further complicate matters, at the same time facial recognition experts are working hard to educate the public on how beneficial this technology is, the amount of incident-related video is rapidly growing, and local and federal law enforcement investigations are relying more and more on video as one of their key sources of evidence to build a case. Body-worn cameras, in-car video and hundreds of millions of smartphones are generating massive quantities of video that can be used as evidence for arrests and in trials. This means that a rapidly growing number of individuals who are not involved in the incidents, and not part of ongoing investigations or trials, are being recorded on video as well.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted to make U.S. government agencies’ functions more transparent. Through the FOIA, individuals, law firms, businesses and news organizations can request any information including these video recordings, from law enforcement agencies. Already resource-stretched agencies are being forced to take time away from critical responsibilities to respond to each of these requests. A significant amount of the video captured includes images of individuals not related to the investigations whose privacy must be protected. Agencies are further required to dedicate increasing amounts of time and resources to manually redact these individuals’ faces from video. Not only does this consume a tremendous amount of personnel bandwidth, it also is susceptible to errors.

Fortunately, while technology is creating more responsibilities for officers in this way, it is also providing the tools to address many of the public’s concerns about privacy and the accuracy of tracking utilities like facial recognition.

How automated redaction helps

Through a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, new technology is delivering solutions to ease this burden, reducing the time needed for the manual processes of uploading, storing, searching, editing, and sharing video evidence. Most important, the technology leverages the capabilities of deep learning analytics to automatically analyze video and catalog faces, thus redaction capabilities. This dramatically reduces the time, effort, and expense required for redaction services—in some cases by up to 90 percent.

Automated redaction addresses privacy concerns by ensuring that outside organizations requesting video do not see the faces of every person who happened to be captured within the scene. The video data is maintained in the evidence itself, but it does not get shared beyond the initial capture from body-worn cameras, in-car video, surveillance cameras, or phone cameras. When redacted video is played back inside a courtroom, juries and audiences are shown only the edited version with bystanders’ faces blurred beyond recognition, while the original video remains intact as evidence.

Using technology like this, agencies can streamline their video redaction responsibilities to better respond to FOIA requests quickly and efficiently.

Advanced software improves accuracy

From the moment the public became aware of the existence of facial recognition as an application, there were stories about shortfalls in accuracy. Many claimed that individuals from certain ethnic backgrounds could not be reliably identified. This spurred concerns that there could be accusations, arrests or even convictions that were incorrect based on inaccurate identification of a suspect based on facial recognition.

In reality, the technology has evolved greatly in the time since it was first introduced. Further, the level of accuracy has improved enormously in the last 10 years, according to an evaluation performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to a November 2018 news story, the NIST reports that the failure rate for searches (meaning that the software failed to find the matching face residing within a database) has dropped from five percent in the year 2010 to 0.2 percent in 2018—a reduction of 96 percent.

When facial recognition software scans a face to look for a match, it is processing a number of different geometric vectors. While all software is different, most read such factors as the distance between eyes and the distance from chin to forehead. Depending on the sophistication of the software, it may be reading 50, 75 or more different factors. Typically, each analysis is performed individually, and the only data being stored on databases is the physical information contained in the photos themselves, along with the identities of the individuals in the photos.

The network of facial image databases available to and via federal and local law enforcement agencies has grown accordingly, so this level of accuracy is even more important and meaningful. The databases include mug shots, the State Department’s entire directory of visa and passport pictures, and photos from the Departments of Motor Vehicles.

As of October 2021, Americans in 47 states will be required to show either a passport or a new federally compliant Real ID driver’s license to board any domestic flight. For non-government users of the technology, databases could include opt-in customers who have provided their photos for a variety of reasons including security checkpoints, ID access bracelets, VIP club memberships, etc. All of these databases may also be used to determine the identify of an individual caught on surveillance video and suspected of a civil or criminal infraction.

Because there are so many image databases available, it is imperative for law enforcement to have absolute certainty when surveillance video of a crime is being matched up in an attempt to identify a perpetrator caught on camera. Today’s best facial recognition offerings meet that requirement.

Facial recognition has become a hot button for privacy advocates in recent years. Yet there is no doubting that the technology has exceptional application potential—so much that it will without question continue to proliferate. As the ability to redact faces becomes more efficient and the recognition technology itself becomes more accurate, some of the general public’s concerns will continue to fade away.  

Rob Thompkins, i-PRO National Sales Manager | Officer.com

The Hardest Budget to Come

As chiefs of police and sheriffs face what will probably be one of the most difficult years of budgeting, here are some thoughts. Many this year will have to make the decision between ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ Yes, this was something taught to me as a child but often we forget when we see the new shiny widget. Some programs, outreaches or initiatives could be on the chopping block with monies diverted or lost.

One thing that I keep reminding the new chiefs and sheriffs of is that you are the chief executive officer (CEO) of an organization, you are not just the figurehead. You must run your department as a professional organization and not a frat house. This year with the impacts of Covid-19, on-going social unrest, and the possibility of the defunding some police missions, the hard decisions will be made this year. These upcoming decisions will have long-term implications. Be the leader and decide wisely.

Unfortunately, a lot of ​chiefs and sheriffs use “personality-based decisions” in purchasing. Every one of us has our personal likes and dislikes. We have our brand preferences, our favorite company or our favorite contractors.  Often, we make our purchasing choices with these personality-based influences rather than hard data. Now with the budgets tighter than ever imagined, one must perform due diligence for nearly all budget-based decisions. Going back to our favorite product brand, you must now decide is a name recognition worth the price? Is there something comparable and more economical and here goes the dilemma?

Another area to revisit is our existing contracts. Every organization has vehicle maintenance, dry cleaning, building maintenance, and other support services contracts. These line items are often in the budget often without review. All too often departments have always used a particular company just because this was the way it has always been. Granted, sometimes it was a political decision made for you by elected officials. ​Reality is that politicians have to ​”​spread the wealth​”​ to their supporters, whether you like it or not. 

 
In a perfect world, all want to see the local vendor, or the local smaller business get these lucrative contracts. This only makes sense to keep local tax money within the local tax base. When reviewing existing contracts and requesting competitive bids, you will ruffle the feathers of most businesses, but it has got to be accomplished. Be honest with them, state that you are performing due diligence, after all you have to be the guardian of taxpayers’ money. The main point here is that you must ensure the process is the best for all concerned. You can defend your selections, while trying to preserve your funding.

Spreadsheets

I strongly suggest you create a spreadsheet of upcoming renewals and review them. Memberships to professional organizations will be scrutinized, as well as renewal of service contracts for technology, projected replacement of outdated technology, fleet management and all maintenance and replacement costs. Elected officials may not ​understand proper law enforcement practices. I have heard in public meetings, “I still hunt with my granddaddy’s shotgun, why do you need new shotguns​?​” and “Why do you need expensive uniforms, why can’t you get the rental uniforms like the public works employees wear​?”​ Yes, there are more foolhardy statements that I have had to field in the past. Tip – be prepared for anything this year. “Needful things” has to be on the defense spreadsheet, review the expendables you have gone through for COVID and recent unrest, you have to keep your quartermaster stocked for bad days.

Personnel

In this current climate I feel we will see those able to retire submitting their papers. Some who are fed up may vest or withdraw their retirements, invest in a private retirement fund and walk out. The personnel shortages will be another war cry of do more with less. Granted salaries and related personnel costs make up the biggest slice of your budget pie. Politicians will view this as a means of closing the budget gap. Be ready to guard your staffing and operational requirements. Recruiting will probably be more difficult than ever; I foresee department jumping. Better benefits, better working/living conditions will attract officers who can leave without retirement impacts. Care for your staff, they are your most important resource.

Training Solutions

One thing which is particularly disturbing will be the attack upon the training budget. This is often the most vulnerable for most political leadership cannot see this as a tangible item. All they can see is police officers not working on the street, getting paid to sit in a classroom. As training budgets get tighter, you must begin to seek other non-traditional sources for training. Many insurance trusts who service governmental organizations offer some free training. Since the department is underneath their insurability umbrella, ask for their training offers or grants.  Research government​-​supported training where all you have to do is host the training. Now, never say it is ​”​free training​”​ for there is no such thing as free training – you have to have overtime for backfill​ and​ there may be some expendables (classroom supplies or hall rental). The goal is to seek partnerships you can build to establish free training.

Training conferences may be viewed with skepticism for the fees, travel and per diem adds up quickly. My best suggestion is inquiring if attendees present a topic or assist in some way with the conference operations, could they receive complimentary attendance or some perks to lessen the costs.

Most state POST councils are now approving virtual or on-line training options which helps with the scheduling and gives you more latitude on meeting state requirements. To me there is no ‘minimum training’ but seek quality, suitable training to meet the demands that your officers are facing.

Nuances of 2020

The first reality is that most municipalities or counties will be facing budgetary shortfalls this year and probably until there is a full economic recovery. Most all are facing reductions in employment taxes (people not working), sales taxes (shops closed or going out of business) and if they offer utilities services (water/sewer for example) many customers cannot pay or legislation preventing cut-offs for non-payments inhibiting this income. Some of their own sacred line items may also face cuts – donations to the arts, recreation and other public donations/support to non-profits. What will convolute the next few months is that most budget processes should have been completed, but due to no public meetings or face to face meetings all are behind schedule. Chiefs​ and sheriffs​ need to schedule telephone or email time to answer and defend questions to the budget staff and elected officials.

New demands

If your agency does not have body cameras and other recording systems (vehicle and station), expect to be purchasing them. In the quest of transparency, it is going to force your hand.

New training demands will come about. ​There will be m​ore mandated training with no financial assistance. Whether it be bias training, use of force, de-escalation, or whatever; you will need to insert this in the budget. Problem is the ​f​ederal ​government ​or ​the s​tate will manda​​te this midstream of next fiscal year without warning, so you will have sticker shock.​

In closing, with the ‘defund the police’ movement some missions may be reassigned to another agency. Mental health calls have been discussed in the past. Have the data of the number of mental health calls from the past and calculate the percentage they were from calls for service.  We have been through something like this in the past. It created social experiments in the 1980s and other times where draconian backlashes have occurred for political changes and motives. We will get through this, but it will be hard, tedious work. If a chief or sheriff expects this year or next year for that matter to be a budget process as usual, you are sadly mistaken. You will earn your salary on this one. Good luck and keep up the good work.


By William L. Harvey | Officer.com
 
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Medical Marijuana Expected to be Available Soon

Lyndall Fraker, director of the Medical Marijuana Division of the Department of Health and Senior Services, refers to an industry magazine for information while seated for an interview regarding the current status of the medical marijuana roll out in Missouri. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.


When they awarded licenses last winter, administrators of Missouri’s medical marijuana program anticipated products being dispensed during the summer.

But only two dispensaries have opened (both in St. Louis), and they don’t yet have products available for patients.

Having medical marijuana on the shelves for patients is imminent, according to Lyndall Fraker, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services section for medical marijuana regulation.

It is about time for harvest at a couple of Missouri medical marijuana cultivation facilities that have met all the state’s requirements to grow the products, he said.

However, all medical marijuana produced in the state must go through a testing process at a testing facility before being made available to patients.

And no testing facilities have opened yet.

Testing facilities check the levels of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) of all marijuana cultivated in the state. They test manufactured products, such as edibles. And they check for dangerous compounds like toxins and bacteria.

A testing facility in eastern Missouri is close to opening, he said.

“That’s the one big piece of the puzzle. We have one testing facility that’s requested their commencement inspection, but they’re actually still waiting on some equipment,” Fraker said. “We’re ready. We know it’s important, but the ball’s in their court on that.”

Missouri’s medical marijuana amendment passed in 2018 with nearly 66 percent of voters’ approval. It made marijuana legal for treatment of cancer; epilepsy; glaucoma; intractable migraines (those persistent migraines that don’t respond to other treatments); chronic medical conditions that cause severe, persistent pain or persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to psychiatric disorders (when diagnosed by a state licensed psychiatrist), including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder; human immunodeficiency virus or acquired dependence (if a physician determines cannabis would be effective and safer); any terminal illness; or (in the professional judgment of a physician) any other chronic debilitating medical condition.

Thousands of potential medical marijuana patients applied for licenses to purchase medical marijuana. The division approved more than 23,000 patients and caregivers in 2019, despite there being no production completed or distribution of products expected until late this summer.

However, since the beginning of 2020, applications for medical marijuana patient or caregiver cards have jumped. Caregivers, by definition, are at least 21 years old and responsible for managing the well-being of a qualified patient.

As of Monday, the division had approved 61,541 patient and caregiver applications.

By December last year, the division received about 4,500 patient applications per month and about 180 caregiver applications.

The division received applications for 5,223 patient and 204 caregiver cards in January this year. For February, 5,717 patient and 193 caregiver; March, 5,077 patient and 191 caregiver; April 4,436 patient and 188 caregiver; May, 5,483 patient and 197 caregiver; June, 5,333 patient and 213 caregiver; July, 5,287 patient and 244 caregiver; and August, 5,188 patient and 213 caregiver.

The division also received more than 1,000 applications monthly for patient cultivator status (so people may grow their own medical marijuana) and more than 100 caregiver cultivator cards monthly.

The licenses to purchase medical marijuana expire after one year.

The medical marijuana division is in the renewal period. It began June 28 last year, accepting applications for patients and cultivators.

In addition to this being a renewal period for the early applicants, new applicants anticipate the dispensaries opening soon, Fraker said

“I believe a lot of people know we’re really close to having dispensaries open,” he said. “Cultivation facilities are running and growing products. So a lot of those people that maybe waited until they could buy the products and aren’t home-cultivating or something — they’re signing up now.

“We kind of expected a pretty impactful time right now, with that one-year renewal, plus facilities are getting ready to open up.”

The division anticipates being really busy in September, October and November, as more and more facilities are expected to come online, Fraker said.

Even before most facilities have opened, annual fees have increased, according to health.mo.gov. DHSS will adjust licensure fees annually (either up or down) based on the previous calendar year’s Consumer Price Index. The adjustment takes effect every July 1.

Patient or caregiver fees each rose from $25 to $25.58. Patient cultivator fees rose from $100 to $102.30.

The annual cultivation fee rose from $25,000 to $25,575; dispensary from $10,000 to $10,230; testing facility from $5,000 to $5,115; manufacturing from $10,000 to $10,230; and transportation from $5,000 to $5,115.

All fees are non-refundable, as were application fees.

The division received applications for more than 2,100 facilities, each requiring applicants to provide non-refundable fees of $5,000, $6,000 or $10,000.

And the division issued only 348 facility licenses.

Following announcement of the license recipients, spurned applicants (many of whom applied for multiple licenses) filed 869 appeals of the decisions.

There have been several appeals withdrawn.

“We’re down to about 788,” Fraker said.

The majority of appeals were based on the blind scoring process used for selection of license recipients.

“I think the first actual hearing is in October,” he said. “Once there are a few of those out there, and they have been decided or ruled on, it will affect the others.”
 
​By Joe Gamm | News Tribune​
 

House will Vote on Removing Cannabis from Controlled Substances List

In September, the House will vote on removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act as well as erasing some marijuana criminal records, The Hill reports.

The bill would not legalize cannabis. That choice would still be left up to states. Even though the vote will not legalize the drug, it will still be a historic step to reduce legal penalties related to cannabis.

Marijuana is currently legal in 11 states.

The September vote is set to be the first taken by either chamber of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

As of right now, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

This means there is no benefit to medical use and a high chance for abuse of the drug. If the drug were removed from the act, federal prohibition of the drug would be eliminated, but state laws that make it illegal would remain in place.

It would also remove criminal records and give grant funding to people negatively affected by the enforcement of marijuana laws.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler first introduced the bill last year which passed the panel by a 24-10 vote in November.

With the votes of GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.), it passed the committee.

It is unlikely that the bill will pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Story from Fox 8