Missouri Judiciary Launches Interactive Tool as Courts Reopen

The Missouri Courts’ main COVID-19 alerts page has been redeveloped to enable users to determine quickly the phase in which a court is operating as courts begin the process of reopening under the Supreme Court of Missouri’s May 4 order and administrative guidelines, which became effective May 16.

Circuit court and appellate court information will be available using the drop-down menus or the interactive maps (which toggle between circuit/county and appellate district views). Clicking on any county or district will take users to a page with the court’s notices and orders. The map is followed by a searchable, sortable table for municipal division information. If there is specific information available for a particular municipal division, it will be included in the table. Otherwise, the municipal division may be covered by a countywide order. Clicking on the hyperlinked name of the municipal division will take users to a page with the division’s notices and orders.

Both the maps and the table are color-coded according to operating phase. A key to the operating phases also is included on the COVID alerts page. Pursuant to the Court’s order and administrative guidelines, all courts currently are operating in Phase Zero; beginning May 16, they could begin moving to Phase One operations if they met the Court’s guidelines.

The Missouri Courts’ COVID alerts page remains available at https://www.courts.mo.gov/pandemic/. The new design went live May 16.

Perfect Stance vs Odd Angles: Which is Faster?

There’s a lot of talk on what the best “combat” shooting stance is.

In my mind, that’s the wrong question.

If the situation gives you time to get a perfect stance, then take advantage of it. It’ll probably make you more accurate.

But what if you don’t have time to get a perfect stance … and all your training has been done with a perfect stance?​​

That’s bad.

If that’s the case, you’re going to have to figure out odd-angle shooting on the fly when success could make a difference on who lives and who dies.

So, how big of a difference does it make when you square up to the target vs shoot at odd angles? Take a look at the video at https://youtu.be/82X7ImEMWJY

Most training doesn’t take this into account…not in classes, and not when individual shooters are practicing. But your training should.

Because when that day comes when your skills are tested, you’re not going to have time to think your way through the problem. Your reactions are going to need to be smooth, fast, and accurate.

So, next time you’re able to…try this with dry fire and a par timer. See how big of a difference there is with being squared up, turning to square up, and engaging at an off angle without moving your feet.

By Mike Ox | MultiBrief: Exclusive

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards. His team is made up of current and former law enforcement and military special operations instructors with an emphasis on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at DryFireTrainingCards.com.

Missouri Continues Drive to Increase Seat Belt Use

With seat belt usage in Missouri steadily rising over the past three years, highway safety professionals are hoping for continued progress and eventually seeing the state reach the national average of 90.7%. The most recent survey in Missouri conducted in 2019 indicated a usage of 87.7%.

To help encourage increased us​​age of seat belts, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety is joining with state and local law enforcement May 18-31 for the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. “Safety belts decrease your risk of dying in a crash by 45%,” said MoDOT Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Nicole Hood. “Last year alone, 880 lives were lost in Missouri crashes—64% of those required to be restrained were not at the time of the crash. If everyone buckled up, hundreds of lives would be saved in Missouri each year.”

The Coalition is asking drivers and passengers to ensure all occupants are buckled before driving, including having all children in the appropriate restraints. Missouri’s child safety seat survey revealed that when drivers were not buckled up, 33 percent of children were not restrained either, but when the driver was buckled up, 98 percent of children were also restrained. To ensure safety, make sure kids use a car seat that is appropriate for their height and weight. Infants should travel in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they grow out of the rear-facing car seat’s height and weight requirements. Children should travel riding in the back seat of the vehicle until age 13.

The Coalition also wants to remind drivers to slow down and put away their phones while behind the wheel to reduce the risk of a crash. “Even though a seat belt greatly increases your odds of surviving a crash, practicing safe driving behaviors can help prevent a crash from occurring in the first place. Please slow down, buckle up, and put your phone down,” said Hood.

To check that your car seat and child are restrained correctly, please contact a Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area by calling 800-800-2358.

For more information about Click It or Ticket, visit www.saveMOlives.com or social media at Save MO Lives.

 
​Centralia Fireside Guide​

Wuhan was Fentanyl Capital Before Becoming Coronavirus Capital

​Wuhan, China, is the world capital of production of chemicals needed to make fentanyl.(Getty Images) ​

 

For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan.

The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids.

Vendors there shipped huge quantities around the world. The biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels, which have embraced fentanyl in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin.

But the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan late last year before spreading across the planet has disrupted the fentanyl supply chain, causing a ripple effect that has cut into the profits of Mexican traffickers and driven up street drug prices across the United States.

Few industries — illicit or not — have been unscathed by the pandemic that has upended the global economy and killed more than 190,000 people worldwide.

The narcotics trade, which relies on the constant movement of goods and people, has been stymied by lockdowns, travel bans and other efforts to contain the virus, according to government officials, academic researchers and drug traffickers.

Mexican production of fentanyl and methamphetamine appears especially hard hit.

Fentanyl pills disguised as prescription pain killers.(Associated Press)

Both drugs are made with precursor chemicals that are typically sent on planes or cargo ships from China, where despite U.S. pressure to ban them, they continue to be sold legally.

That supply chain was shut down in January when authorities in Wuhan enacted a lockdown that forced residents to stay inside for more than two months.

In February, after a major manufacturer of the chemicals closed, vendors began posting apologies on the online sites where chemicals are typically sold, said Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University who tracks global fentanyl production.

“They were saying: ‘We’re not producing or selling or shipping,’” she said.

Logan Pauley, a researcher at C4ADS, a Washington-based think tank focused on transnational security, also noticed a decrease in advertisements for fentanyl precursors. He said vendors switched to selling other products, including face masks and anti-malarial drugs that some doctors and politicians initially hoped would help treat the coronavirus.

The drop in exports has left some Mexican drug producers with less access to needed chemicals.

Simultaneously, cartels have encountered another colossal challenge: new restrictions on entry to the United States — the world’s biggest market for illegal drugs.

Normally, more than a million people cross the U.S.-Mexico border legally each day. But that number has fallen significantly since March, when President Trump closed the border to all nonessential traffic, reducing opportunities for cartels to smuggle drugs north.

Some cartels are hurting financially, said Falko Ernst, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. He said he has interviewed gang members who complain that cartel bosses have not paid their salaries.

“They’re being told that business is bad, that finances aren’t flowing smoothly,” he said.

Other factors are also hurting organized crime. Experts say quarantines have slowed the movement of cocaine from South America to Mexico and harmed legal industries, such as the avocado trade, from which cartels extort money. Meanwhile, the downturn of global oil prices has been a blow to gangs that resell stolen gasoline.

That loss of income could be exacerbating violence in Mexico, which saw 2,585 homicides in March, more than in any month in nearly two years.

In the United States, reduced drug production and less trafficking across the border appear to have resulted in rising retail prices.

Kameron Korte, a spokeswoman for the San Diego field division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said fentanyl pills in her region now sell for $7 each, up from $5 a few months ago.

The average cost of methamphetamine has risen from $1,000 per pound to $1,400 per pound, she said.

Similar price hikes have been seen in other parts of the country.

Drug users have grumbled about rising prices on online forums. On a message board on the website Reddit, one person complained that prices of fentanyl pills in Phoenix had nearly doubled. “Border shut = less trafficking,” it said.

Despite that, drug treatment experts say they are seeing a surge in drug use.

Jeffrey Holland, who runs a nonprofit rehabilitation facility in Albuquerque, said anxiety about the pandemic and the economic recession is a potent trigger. It doesn’t help that Narcotics Anonymous meetings and other recovery programs have been moved online, he said.

“This is cultural trauma on a global scale,” he said. “And when people have more anxiety, they turn to alcohol and drugs.”

The country’s opioid crisis began more than a decade ago with prescription painkillers and heroin, but in recent years it has been dominated by fentanyl.

In 2018, more than 31,000 people in the United States died after taking fentanyl or one of its close chemical relatives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No other drug in modern history has killed more people in a year.

Holland said he’s seen no sign of a slowdown in New Mexico during the pandemic.

“Drug dealers are still driving around, and they’re still selling from their houses,” he said.

Jaime López-Aranda, a Mexican security analyst, said that drug traffickers are accustomed to disruptions in the supply chain and that they would bounce back from the pandemic the same way they rebound from cartel infighting or law enforcement crackdowns.

“It’s part of the business cycle,” he said. “This has never been a stable market. The rule is strife and conflict.”

In Mexico, there has been some evidence that cartels have been trying to adapt.

Miguel Angel Vega, a journalist and expert on the Sinaloa cartel, said multiple drug producers have told him of efforts — so far unsuccessful — to manufacture the precursor drugs needed to make fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mexico.

Wuhan ended its 76-day lockdown on April 8, and many of the city’s 11 million residents have returned to work. According to Shelley, some online websites have already resumed selling fentanyl ingredients.

Ben Westhoff, who traveled to Wuhan in 2018 while researching the opioid trade for his book “Fentanyl, Inc.,” said it’s likely that Mexican cartels are already designing more resilient supply chains.

The only reason they relied on Chinese manufacturers for precursor chemicals in the past was because it was easy, he said.

“The reason they buy these ingredients from China is the reason everybody buys things from China: because it’s cheap.”

By Kate Linthicum | Los Angeles Times

The Police Trainer: An Instructor Can Make or Break an Officer’s Performance on the Street

Training—it’s the vehicle that helped us become police officers, and in the most extreme cases, how we survived critical incidents. Much of what we learn is predicated upon two things: a willingness to learn the topic, and, the instructor’s ability to deliver the information. Both are important components to becoming a successful law enforcement officer. The first component, willingness to learn, is critically important. Having been a police trainer for more than twenty years, I’ve had the experience of observing students whose attitudes were an impediment to learning. Some guys thought they already knew the topic inside and out, while others were perhaps attending training for the wrong reason. Maybe the training venue was ideal, or they just wanted time away from the job. Still others were only at training simply because they were ordered to be there. And in some cases, a student simply did not like the instructor or his technique and thus said the heck with it all.

Many of you have heard it explained that training is like a buffet—you pick and choose what you like about the training and add it to your repertoire of skills. Whether it’s building entries, room clearing, firearms … you’ll find techniques that are helpful and some others that aren’t. All training is valuable, and the goal of both the instructor and attendees should be the same, learn at least one thing you can take with you to use on the job.

 As an instructor it’s important to be able to connect with your students. And one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t be a good instructor if you’re not also a good student. That means continually learning about the craft or topic you’re teaching. Researching it, talking about it with subject matter experts, and staying abreast of the latest educational tools utilized to impart knowledge to your attendees.

An effective police trainer must have “walked the walk” before he can “talk the talk.” In the first minute or two, cops will read the instructor as far as whether he/she knows what they’re talking about. Have they been there, or are they just teaching from slides someone else prepared? It’s called credibility. That initial assessment dictates whether or not they respect the instructor. Respect is the number one factor students look for in a teacher. According to a study at Austin Peay State University, respect is even more important than knowledge and the ability to communicate and engage. Respect dominates all other characteristics in effective teaching.

One of the least effective methods of teaching is the PowerPoint presentation. If you deliver this type of instruction, be prepared to hear sighs and negative comments throughout. Most often the PP results in boring unproductive classes. A much better alternative is videos that reinforce teaching points, or even inviting students to share their experiences with the class. Getting students engaged generates enthusiasm in both the instructor and attendees. In fact, when both are engaged the allotted time seems to fly by and class ends before most want it to.

Using humor during training is a good technique but remember it can also be a double-edged sword. It can be used as a segue to a lighter topic, or it can backfire and alienate some who were formerly on board with your delivery. Remember that humor is an important tool for coping with stress and anxiety. It can help you do your job better and have fun doing it.

Along with using humor in your instruction, being passionate about your topic can be a priceless attribute. Knowing your topic inside and out as a result of having practiced the technique or method, particularly, if it resulted in a life-changing experience, adds value. Students easily pick up on an instructor’s passion for teaching and feed off his energy.

In many cases, learning doesn’t happen until behavior changes. It doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t properly employ it. An opportunity to practice a newly learned skill will reinforce the likelihood of retention and on-the-job application.

Being an effective instructor also involves learning from feedback. If you don’t allow for either verbal or written feedback, you are at a real disadvantage. How can you possibly improve yourself if you don’t allow for feedback?

Think about the times you may have given a shooter on the range some feedback on their skill. Giving simple, concise feedback to a technique is the most effective way to help the shooter learn. Demeaning comments about the student, rather than corrective comments about technique, will always cause doubt and loss of confidence. The desire to make that shooter into the best he can be will be easily picked up on. Even if the instructor may have a personal bias toward the student, that should never be addressed during training. If need be, wait until training has ended to address personal issues.

Positive feedback is the key. Negative comments only tend to reinforce a student’s perception that he can’t do something. You must instill in your students your belief that they can master whatever technique you’re teaching, and that their success is your success. Your enthusiasm will translate to their enthusiasm and eventual mastery of the topic. Having faith in them will generate respect for you and make your job enjoyable and rewarding.

Stay Safe, Brothers and Sisters!

By John Wills | Officer.com

Photo by Frank Borelli

NHTSA to Offer Free Traffic Safety Training

If you’ve been following the news lately, you have heard we have lost several officers to traffic crashes and from being struck, especially while deploying spike strips.  This class addresses the need for officers to watch their speed and use good judgement during our daily activities, a​​nd discusses strategies to reduce the threats faced while driving and conducting traffic enforcement.  

Th​e​ 4-hour ​morning session, TOPS – Traffic Occupant Protection Strategies​ (800 – 1200 hours)​, is designed for officers and supervisors to increase understanding of how law enforcement officers save lives and prevent injuries by enforcing traffic laws. The class will also discuss:

· The toll traffic crashes have on the community

· Occupant protection laws

· Crash dynamics

· Special risks to law enforcement

· Effective methods of issuing citations

· Effects of high visibility traffic enforcement on preventing and clearing other crimes

​The afternoon session is titled ​Officer Roadside Safety (1300 – 1700 h​ours​)​.​

More officers are killed as a result of automobile accidents, struck by vehicles and intentional vehicle assaults than any other method. Participants of this 4-hour course will review and discuss the prevalence of officer accidents, traffic related accidents and deaths in recent history. Various contributing factors will be discussed including fatigue, equipment, staffing and individual officer experience.

This program will include specific recommendations on how to prevent and survive roadside incidents, including vehicle positioning, traffic stop recommendations, lane closure and traffic direction recommendations.  

The ​ entire training will run from 8 a.m.​​ to 5 p.m. Thursday, June 18 and will be hosted by the Palmyra Police Department in the Sesquicentennial Building at 621 Johnston Avenue in Palmyra.

There is no charge for this training. Both classes are POST Certified. 8 Hours POST credit will be provided by the Missouri Safety Center at no cost to the participant. Class size is limited. Contact Assistant Chief Ronald Peer at 573-769-5540 or rpeer@palmyrapd.com for further information. Bring your POST Number.

And please share this information with any agency that might be interested.

Missouri Supreme Court Issues Directive to Resume Court Activities

The Supreme Court of Missouri has issued an order and operational directives, effective May 16, to help courts statewide establish localized plans – recognizing the varying community health safeguards and court dockets, facilities and staffing levels across the state – for easing COVID-19 restrictions on in person proceedings. Since mid-March, the state’s courts have been operating under precautionary measures to help combat the spread of the disease while ensuring they remain open to conduct business as necessary to carry out their core, constitutional functions.

Under the order, activities in all appellate and circuit courts – including all associate, family, juvenile, municipal and probate divisions – will continue to be restricted in some respect, and courts are encouraged to use all available technologies to conduct activities remotely to limit the number of in-person proceedings conducted in courthouses. The order authorizes judges presiding over civil matters to waive, for good cause shown, deadlines or time limitations set by state or local court rule (but not those set by a statutory or constitutional provision) and directs courts to adopt measures to ensure timely filing by self represented litigants (who lack access to Missouri’s electronic filing system).

The order further enacts operational directives establishing uniform “gateway criteria” for Missouri courts to begin resuming – gradually as local conditions permit – activities previously suspended. Under the operational directives, also effective May 16, to help make paramount the health and welfare of litigants, witnesses, victims, jurors, attorneys, judicial employees and other individuals involved in judicial proceedings in determining whether a courthouse is ready to progress through four defined operating phases, local courts:

  • Should monitor local circumstances and conditions on a regular basis.
  • Should work with local health officials, law enforcement officers, children’s division personnel, juvenile officers, prosecutors and public defenders, and local attorneys in adapting their plans for moving through operating phases to local health conditions.
  • May move to a new operating phase only after being in the prior operating phase at least 14 calendar days, with no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the court facility and improving COVID-19 health conditions in the community during that time.
  • May revert to a prior operating phase immediately when required by local conditions and circumstances.


Regardless of the phase in which they may be operating, local courts should:

  • Allow (or, in phase three, consider allowing) “vulnerable individuals” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone their required presence in a court proceeding.
  • Follow social-distancing protocols and consider requiring the use of masks or other face coverings.
  • Clean and disinfect common areas and consider providing hand sanitizers and wipes.

The Court intends to issue further operational directives for conducting grand and petit jury proceedings as pandemic and health conditions improve.

NIJ Reports Explore Today’s Criminal Justice Issues

Our system of criminal justice faces many challenges, including persistent violent crime in urban areas, cybercrime and the addiction epidemic. And unlike many TV dramas, where crimes are solved and trials neatly concluded in the span of a mere 60 minutes, the process of handing down justice to the guilty and obtaining justice for victims is increasingly complex in today’s world.

“Our nation’s criminal justice system must deal with a constant barrage of threats, some old, some new and every one of them a test of our public safety professionals’ skills and expertise,” said Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. “In today’s environment, when more demands than ever are being placed on police officers and prosecutors, they are under greater pressure to improve and innovate in their critical work.”

Publications released recently by the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice aim to determine the top issues facing law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide, and to encourage evidence-based solutions. NIJ convened two separate workshops of experts in each field in 2018 to reach conclusions on the most pressing matters, as well as on priorities for innovation.

Based on the findings of each working group, known as the Chiefs’ Panel and Prosecutors’ Panel, the reports serve to inform the work of professionals in each field, policymakers, researchers, and data scientists, and increase awareness of the general public. Although the law enforcement community and prosecutors each have specific functions within criminal justice, they are partners in reducing crime. Not surprisingly, the reports show that the two professions share some similar areas of need.

Both working groups placed staff-related issues as their highest priority, which, for law enforcement, is supported by tragic statistics. At least 228 officers took their own lives in 2019, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that tracks law enforcement suicides. Not only is that higher than the number of line-of-duty deaths, it reflects a steady rise in officer suicides over the last four years. As a panelist noted, giving insight into the stress faced by police officers, “All we need to do is be perfect at all times in a constantly changing world.”

“The value of research in assisting police officers and prosecutors in the challenges they face cannot be overstated,” said NIJ Director David Muhlhausen. “If we can identify the most formidable obstacles—the most serious and persistent problems they encounter every day—we can design our research agenda to meet those needs and ensure that scientific findings are a potent tool in developing policy and improving community safety.”

The report “Fostering Innovation in Response to Top Challenges in Law Enforcement” looks closely at the challenges around officer wellness, homing in on the need for early identification of and intervention for mental health issues and the importance of discerning sources of stress. The report also includes the need to determine the skills, abilities and experiences most useful in hiring police officers. Similarly, the report “Prosecutor Priorities, Challenges and Solutions” includes the leading challenge of staff recruitment and retention.

“State and local prosecutors across the country continue to contend with very high caseloads and comparatively lower salaries than practicing attorneys in other settings,” states the report.

Both groups see the pressing need to effectively use today’s burgeoning technology. Social media and body cameras, for example, are increasing sources for evidence. The challenge, especially when faced by staffing and funding limits, is to use this information in a timely and effective manner. The groups share concern for improved community relations, which is valuable in preventing and solving crimes. They also cite the need for effective technology to deal with cybercrime. These are just some of the issues detailed in the reports.

“Addressing these challenges,” states the Chiefs’ Panel’s report, “will take concerted and collective effort across the criminal justice community. … Stakeholders must be willing to consider substantial and systemic improvements to public safety and criminal justice.”

Officer wellness, prosecutor retention, effective technology, positive community relations and other issues raised in the reports all contribute to greater public safety. These measures are critical because they assist officers and prosecutors in more effectively reducing crime and getting the guilty off the streets.

The Chiefs’ and Prosecutors’ Panels, and their resulting reports, were funded by OJP’s National Institute of Justice and produced in partnership with the RAND Corporation, RTI International, Police Executive Research Forum and the University of Denver.

Jails Turn to UVC Robots to Fight Coronavirus

​​Dane County, Wisconsin Sheriff’s Office is testing out UV light emitters to kill bacteria within the jail. (WMTV) 

​​At the Dane County Jail in Madison, Wisconsin, robots that look like fancy space heaters have rolled from room to room 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since the end of March. The devices emit high-intensity ultraviolet light, a technology that can destroy viruses including swine flu and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
 
Sheriff Dave Mahoney bought the pair of UVC emitters, which cost about $80,000, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic hit, and was reimbursed through a federal FEMA grant the county received for COVID-19 expenses. Now, the robots target everything from solitary cells to eating utensils. Mahoney says he’s had 40 cases at the jail so far after testing the roughly 450 prisoners and 600 staff who work there, a level of infection that he believes would be higher if not for the robots.

“There is so much nasty stuff in the jail,” Mahoney said. “Once you clean a room, it’s only as good as the next person who comes in. That’s why we do it around the clock.”

Prisons and jails, where social distancing is nearly impossible, are epicenters for COVID-19 infections, and corrections officials have struggled to find ways to stop the spread. So they are increasingly turning to UVC technology typically used by hospitals to reduce the organisms that contribute to new infections.

Many lock-ups rely on the people incarcerated there to scrub them down, often with diluted and alcohol-free products. That can keep cleaners from getting intoxicated or injured, but can also make disinfection more difficult.

The Marion County Jail in Indianapolis, Indiana, used bleach as a disinfectant before the pandemic, said Col. James Martin. But it wasn’t always possible for prisoners to leave it on surfaces, such as walls, long enough to work. Now, Martin says, in addition to chemical disinfection, officers run the UVC machines, which the county bought at the end of April.

“We were fighting hard water, dirt and grime,” he said, “but now we’re fighting something totally different.”

Martin said he and others at the jail first learned about UVC during an Indiana Sheriff’s Association meeting last fall where they met with representatives from Skytron, a Michigan-based company that manufactures UVC disinfection systems and other equipment for major hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic.

Last year Skytron began to pursue a foothold in the prison and jail market, attending conferences and supplying machines to jails for free demos, said Larry Perez, a company vice president. “I began to think, why aren’t we sharing this with other places in our community?” Perez said. “One of the dirtiest places you’ll step foot in is a jail.”

That strategy has paid off, Perez said. Skytron’s UVC sales to jails more than quadrupled in April, going from 11 jails to a total of 48. Perez said several state prisons have also ordered units, which cost between $40,000 and $80,000.

Morris Miller, the chief executive of Xenex, which makes UVC robots, said he’s also noticed more interest from police departments and jails. Last year, the company made its first such sale when the LAPD purchased a UVC machine, which cost about $100,000, after an officer contracted typhoid fever.

Companies are pitching new coronavirus-fighting products for lockups, including a machine that sprays an atomized disinfectant mist, which has been adopted by prisons in Connecticut and North Carolina, and a humidifier that a promoter said was being used to combat the virus in 83 unnamed prisons and jails across the country. Studies have shown that the influenza virus does not spread as easily in humid environments.

But UVC, which is also referred to as UVGI (for ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), has the advantage of a long track record. For decades, municipal water plants have used UVC to sanitize water. Hospitals nationwide are currently using UVC to decontaminate equipment, including N95 respirators. There is also a growing reliance on UVC disinfection outside of hospitals, including in New York City’s subway cars and the floors of Pittsburgh’s airport.

Nevertheless, its use is largely unregulated and there are no uniform standards to measure performance. “Right now it’s just whatever anybody wants to say,” said Meredith Stines, CEO of American Ultraviolet and a member of the International Ultraviolet Association, which is pushing for standardization in the industry. There are a range of UVC products, including hand- held devices, that are much less expensive than the robots, which are manufactured by about a dozen companies nationwide, Stines said, adding that some products aimed at consumers don’t deliver on the level of disinfection they promise.

Researchers are studying the impact of UVC light specifically on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and some studies have shown it’s probably as effective on this virus as on older ones like SARS.

Despite President Donald Trump’s floating ultraviolet light as a possible coronavirus treatment for people, the intensity of UVC rays that are required to kill viruses and other germs are dangerous to humans and could burn skin and eyes.

“This is promising technology for jails, as long as you don’t expose the prisoners or anybody to this light directly,” said Steven DenBaars, a professor at UC Santa Barbara who specializes in ultraviolet LED light. He said he has seen an increase in funding for research into UVC and is expecting guidelines on the use of this technology in public spaces from the National Institutes of Health soon. NIH has already put out guidelines for the use of UVC to disinfect personal protective equipment.

Experts say UVC should be used in conjunction with other cleaning efforts, and is not a silver bullet. “What this does, is it gives an additional layer of security, because we’re people, and people will miss spots when cleaning,” said Shawn Gibbs, Dean of the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University.

UVC companies said the robots are high priced because they emit more powerful rays and can automatically assess a room’s size, which allows the machine to estimate the correct dosage of light required to be effective. Robots also come with a variety of safety features, including an auto shutdown function if a person goes in the room while it’s on and door motion sensors to detect people trying to enter.

The Kent County Sheriff’s office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, reduced its spending on chemical cleaning agents so it could afford to buy a UVC robot. It is seeking reimbursement through a Bureau of Justice Assistance federal grant, Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said.

The 1,400-bed jail has so far had just two positive cases of COVID-19, even though Michigan has one of the highest positive case counts in the country, according to data from John Hopkins University. LaJoye-Young partially credits the new robots for keeping the virus out, alongside reducing the jail’s population by about 350 people.

“We have to approach this from all angles,” LaJoye-Young said. “You can’t just clean your way out of this.”

Dane County’s Sheriff Mahoney said he believes UVC is an important tool that he’d like to see other prisons and jails embrace. As incoming president of the National Sheriff’s Association, Mahoney said he plans to distribute a white paper to law enforcement nationally about “the benefits of investing in this technology to keep deadly organisms out of jail populations.”

Mahoney says he’s already shared his enthusiasm for UVC with other sheriffs across Wisconsin, who have followed his lead and also bought UVC emitters. He said he has no ties to any UVC businesses.

“I’ve sold more of those machines for them than their salesman,” he said with a laugh.

 
By Alysia Santo | themarshallproject.org

Senate to Consider Renewal of Surveillance Laws

The Senate is expected to vote on whether to extend three surveillance authorities as senators of both parties express concerns that the laws infringe on Americans’ rights.

The surveillance pro​​visions expired in March, the month lawmakers fled Washington because of the coronavirus pandemic. House lawmakers passed a bipartisan compromise bill just before leaving town, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet been able to push the legislation through the Senate.

The House legislation also has the backing of President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The compromise would renew the three surveillance authorities and impose new restrictions to try and appease civil liberties advocates in both parties.

But the House legislation does not make enough changes for a bipartisan coalition of senators who have long sought to curb federal law enforcement’s ability to surveil. Two amendment votes on Wednesday won solid majorities of senators and complicated McConnell’s efforts to send the bill to the president’s desk for signature.

The expired provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allow the FBI to get a court order for business records in national security investigations, to conduct surveillance on a subject without establishing that they’re acting on behalf of an international terrorism organization, and to more easily continue eavesdropping on a subject who has switched cell phone providers to thwart detection.

Lacking enough support to pass the House measure, McConnell instead pushed through a simple extension of the surveillance laws in March. But Pelosi never took up that legislation in the House, and McConnell is trying again to pass the compromise House bill this week.

“The attorney general and members of Congress have worked together to craft a compromise solution that will implement needed reforms while preserving the core national security tools,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “These intense discussions have produced a strong bill that balances the need for accountability with our solemn obligation to protect our citizens and defend our homeland.”

McConnell urged senators to vote against three amendments to the bill, two of which came up for votes on Wednesday. He said the legislation was already a “delicate balance” and warned changing it could mean the underlying provisions won’t be renewed.

“We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good when key authorities are currently sitting expired and unusable,” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

Still, 59 senators voted for the first amendment — one short of the 60 votes needed — and the second amendment was adopted with 77 votes, more than three-fourths of the chamber. Both were overwhelmingly bipartisan votes.

The first amendment, by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, would have prevented federal law enforcement from obtaining internet browsing information or search history without seeking a warrant.

“Should law-abiding Americans have to worry about their government looking over their shoulders from the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on their computers to when they go to bed at night?” Wyden asked. “I believe the answer is no. But that’s exactly what the government has the power to do without our amendment.”

An aide to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said after the vote that she would have supported the amendment if she had been present — meaning it would have passed. Murray was in her home state and is expected to be in the Senate for Thursday’s vote.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a think tank, said it was striking that the amendment failed by only one vote. He said the vote total would have been “inconceivable” five years ago.

“It suggests a sea change in attitudes” following revelations in problems with how the FBI has used its secret surveillance powers, Sanchez said. “It goes to the sort of collapse in trust in the intelligence community to deploy these authorities in a restrained way.”

The second amendment, by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would boost third-party oversight to protect individuals in some surveillance cases. It was adopted 77-19.

If the Senate passes the legislation with the amendments intact, the bill would then have to go back to the House for approval.

A third amendment, by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a longtime skeptic of surveillance programs, is expected to be considered Thursday before a final vote. Paul’s amendment would require the government to go to a traditional federal court, instead of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to get a warrant to eavesdrop on an American.

The congressional debate coincides with internal efforts by the FBI and Justice Department to overhaul its surveillance procedures after a harshly critical inspector general report documented a series of problems in the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

The report identified significant errors and omissions in applications that were submitted in 2016 and 2017 to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The Justice Department inspector general has since said that it has identified additional problems in applications. The FBI has announced steps designed to ensure that the application process is more accurate and thorough, and that information that cuts against the premise of the requested surveillance is disclosed to the court.

Trump has frequently railed against the surveillance laws and the Russia investigation. But with encouragement from Barr and congressional Republicans, he said he will support the House-passed legislation.

Associated Press | Molawyersmedia.com