DEA Museum to Hold Lecture Series ‘Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy: Smuggling Stories’

The Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center will present the next installment of its Lecture Series, “Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy: Smuggling Stories,” at 1 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT) on June 17.

Join host Josh Edmundson, the DEA Museum’s Curator of Education, for a live, virtual discussion with DEA experts about drug smuggling, a fundamental element of all major drug trafficking organizations’ business models and a critical component of DEA’s work.

Smuggling Stories investigates one of the pillars of DEA’s Kingpin Strategy: disrupting smuggling routes and discovering and seizing shipments of illicit narcotics, weapons, cash, and other goods. The Kingpin Strategy focuses on removing the delivery capabilities of drug trafficking organizations to prevent their products from further distribution in the United States.

The Lecture Series will feature retired Special Agent Tony Placido and Special Agent Nate Jones, who will speak about DEA’s work thwarting the efforts of international drug trafficking organizations and the unique enforcement challenge that is our Southern Border.

As part of the event, Mr. Edmundson will present additional information on smuggling artifacts using objects from the Museum’s collection.

The DEA Museum collects, preserves, and interprets the material culture and artifacts pertaining to DEA and its predecessor agencies, U.S. drug policy and enforcement of U.S. drug laws, and drug education programs. The Museum interprets its collection for the public benefit through permanent and temporary exhibits, programs, the Museum website, publications, social media, and other mediums.

This event is free and open to the public. Sign language interpretation will be provided. Reserve your free ticket at www.smuggling_stories.eventbrite.com.

WHEN: Thursday, June 17, 1 to 2:30 p.m. EDT (2 to 3:30 p.m. CDT)

WHERE: Live-streamed from DEA Headquarters

ACCESS: Streaming link will be emailed to all ticket holders

EMAIL QUESTIONS: During the event, email questions to Elizabeth.P.Thompson@usdoj.gov

CONTACT: DEA Museum (202) 307-3463, DEAMuseum@usdoj.gov or Elizabeth Thompson, Visitor Services Coordinator, Elizabeth.P.Thompson@usdoj.gov

Sick of Dangerous City Traffic? Remove Left Turns

Left turns are responsible for 61% of all car accidents at intersections. studiodr/iStock via Getty Images Plus



​By Beth Daley for The Conversation

To reduce travel times, fuel consumption and carbon emissions, in 2004, UPS changed delivery routes to minimize the left-hand turns drivers made. Although this seems like a rather modest change, the results are anything but: UPS claims that per year, eliminating left turns – specifically the time drivers sit waiting to cut across traffic – saves 10 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 tons of carbon emissions and allows them to deliver 350,000 additional packages.

If it works so well for UPS, should cities seek to eliminate left-hand turns at intersections too? My research suggests the answer is a resounding yes.

As a transportation engineering professor at Penn State, I have studied traffic flow on urban streets and transportation safety for nearly a decade. Part of my work focuses on how city streets should be organized and managed. It turns out, restricting left turns at intersections with traffic signals lets traffic move more efficiently and is safer for the public. In a recent paper, my research team and I developed a way to determine which intersections should restrict left turns to improve traffic.

Why are left-hand turns so bad?

Intersections are dangerous because they are where cars, often moving very fast and in different directions, must cross paths. Approximately 40% of all crashes occur at intersections, including 50% of crashes involving serious injuries and 20% of those involving fatalities. Traffic signals make things safer by giving vehicles instructions on when they can move. If left turns did not exist, the instructions could be very simple: For example, a north-south direction could move while the east-west direction was stopped and vice versa. When drivers make left turns, they must cross oncoming traffic, which makes intersections much more complicated.

One way to accommodate left turns is to have vehicles wait until a gap appears in oncoming traffic. However, this can be dangerous as it relies entirely on the driver to make the left turn safely. And everyone knows how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a car waiting to make a left turn on a busy road.

Another way to allow left-hand turns is to stop oncoming traffic and give cars turning left their own green arrow. This is much safer, but it shuts down the entire intersection to let left-turning vehicles go, which slows traffic considerably.

In either case, left turns are dangerous. Approximately 61% of all crashes that occur at intersections involve a left-hand turn.

How would eliminating left turns improve traffic?

Traffic researchers have proposed a variety of innovative signal strategies and complex intersection configurations to make left turns safer and more efficient. But a simpler solution might be the best: Restrict left-hand turns at intersections.

Some cities have already started limiting left turns to improve safety and traffic flow. San Francisco; Salt Lake City; Birmingham, Alabama; Wilmington, Delaware; Tuscon, Arizona; numerous locations in Michigan; and dozens of other cities in the U.S. and around the world all limit left turns in some way. It’s typically done at isolated locations to solve specific traffic and safety problems.

Of course, there is a downside. Eliminating left turns would require some vehicles to travel longer distances. For example, if you wanted to turn left off a busy street to get to your house, you might instead have to take three consecutive right turns. However, research I published in 2012 using mathematical models and in 2017 using traffic simulations showed that eliminating left turns on grid-like street networks would, on average, require people to drive only one additional block. This would be more than offset by the smoother traffic flow.

Which left turns need to go?

Getting rid of left turns would be difficult to implement across an entire city – and at some intersections, left turns don’t cause problems. But if a city did want to remove left turns from some intersections, how should it choose which ones? To answer this question, my research team and I recently developed algorithms that use traffic simulations of a city to identify where restricting left turns will improve safety and traffic flow the most.

The exact answer for each city depends on how streets are laid out, where vehicles are coming from and going to and how much traffic is on the street during the busiest times. But, according to our models, there is a general theme: Left-turn restrictions are more effective at busier intersections in the centers of towns or cities than at less busy intersections farther from the town center.

This is because the busier the intersection, the more people will benefit from smoother traffic flow. These central intersections also tend to have alternative routes available that minimize any additional distance traveled due to the restrictions. Lastly, fewer cars tend to turn left at these central intersections to begin with so the negative impact of removing left turns is relatively small.

So the next time you are sitting stuck in traffic behind someone waiting to make a left turn, know that your frustration is justified. There is a better way. In this case, the answer is simple – get rid of the left turn.

Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety Reminds Pedestrians Every Step Counts

Whether driving a vehicle, walking or biking, keep your head up and be alert – every step counts.

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety has announced a week-long campaign June 6-12 focusing on pedestrian safety. The campaign will be geared toward pedestrians and drivers, educating both about being alert and what to watch out for to ensure everyone is safe.

Preliminary data from 2020 indicates 128 pedestrians were killed and 316 others were seriously injured in Missouri traffic crashes. The top contributing factors for pedestrians involved in these crashes were failure to yield, alcohol or drug impairment, and distraction/inattention.

You are urged to keep pedestrian safety tips in mind anytime you walk:
· Drivers and pedestrians need to make eye contact with each other. Don’t assume that the other one has seen you.
· If your vehicle is stranded, remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on. If you must exit a stalled vehicle alongside the roadway, do so on the opposite side of traffic and do not attempt to walk across the oncoming traffic.
· Only cross at an intersection or crosswalk. Stepping out from between parked cars or other obstacles by the road can keep a driver from being able to see you and stop in time.
· Look left, right and then left again before crossing an intersection or crosswalk. You always want to double-check the lane that you’ll be entering first.
· Be aware of drivers even when you are in a designated crosswalk. Drivers can look and use their mirrors, but there are always blind spots.
· Avoid walking while wearing headphones. You won’t be able to hear if a car is coming.
· Always wear brightly colored clothing for visibility when exercising alongside a roadway.
· Always walk against the flow of traffic rather than with the traffic.
· Always be cautious when exiting parking lots and be on the lookout for pedestrians.
· Always put your cell phone down and don’t look at it when driving or walking. Stay alert to all the challenges of the road.

Missouri’s new strategic highway safety plan, “Show-Me Zero, Driving Missouri Toward Safer Roads”, identifies four key messages to help turn the tide: buckle up, phones down, slow down and sober up.

For more information on the Show-Me Zero plan, and to check out the Coalition’s new video promoting the plan, visit www.savemolives.com.

New COPS Grant Funding Opportunities are Open

The COPS Office is pleased to announce that the following grant funding opportunity is now open and accepting applications:

Community Policing Development (CPD) – Full Solicitation Now Open

Community Policing Development funds are used to develop the capacity of law enforcement to implement community policing strategies by providing guidance on promising practices through the development and testing of innovative strategies; building knowledge about effective practices and outcomes; and supporting new, creative approaches to preventing crime and promoting safe communities.  

The 2021 CPD program will fund projects that develop knowledge, increase awareness of effective community policing strategies, increase the skills and abilities of law enforcement and community partners, increase the number of law enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders using proven community policing practices, and institutionalize community policing practice in routine business.

Portions of the CPD solicitation pertaining to Crisis Intervention Teams and Microgrants previously opened on May 20, 2021.  Today’s announcement opens the following portions of the CPD solicitation:

  • De-escalation Training: Up to $15,000,000 is available for officer training in de-escalation techniques, of which no less than $4,250,000 is for grants to regional de-escalation training centers that are administered by accredited institutions of higher education and offer de-escalation training certified by a national certification program and $8,750,000 is for grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to build and maintain officer de-escalation proficiency.
  • Accreditation: Up to $5,000,000 is available to expand accreditation programs and assist agencies with gaining accreditation to ensure compliance with national and international standards covering all aspects of law enforcement policies, procedures, practices, and operations, of which no less than $1,500,000 is to be provided for small and rural law enforcement agencies for this purpose.
  • Tolerance, Diversity, and Anti-Bias Online Training: Up to $2,000,000 is available for grants to support tolerance, diversity, and anti-bias training programs offered by organizations with well-established experience training law enforcement personnel and criminal justice profes​​sionals.


For these portions of the CPD solicitation, applications are due by July 22, 2021 at 7:59 PM EDT.  Click here for more information on the 2021 Community Policing Development program.​​

Improving Non-Verbal Communications With a Smile

Smiling faces can be especially beneficial to school resource officers. Showing off their smiles are Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers Dep. Mary Forler (Hillsboro) and Dep. Brent Nanney (Jefferson R-7). 

​Story by Lt. Dan Marcou for PoliceOne

As both an officer and trainer I practiced and taught what I call the discipline of staying positive to help avoid negativity and chronic cynicism.

These efforts led me to discover a simple but powerful tool that is underutilized by too many officers. That powerful tool is the smile.

NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

You have all have been taught about the importance of reading non-verbal cues of the people you are in contact with. Those same people are also making judgments about you based on your non-verbal cues as well and the smile is a clear-cut non-verbal communication during any contact on the street.

A smile is not an absolute indicator of positive intentions. However, it does generally send an immediate positive non-verbal message when worn on the face of a police officer.

SMILE WHEN APPROPRIATE

It bears stating, there are many times in law enforcement when smiling would be totally out of place. Clearly, at death scenes, serious accidents, while investigating sexual crimes, or while using force to overcome combative resistance.

However, when on foot patrol, entering a business on your beat, or giving directions upon request, willfully smiling as you meet and greet the public you serve can positively impact their attitude toward not only you but also our profession. In contrast, make the same casual passing of someone in the public and ignore them, look uncaring, or even worse, be gruff in your demeanor, and they will instantly judge you as well as our profession harshly.

THE POWER OF THE SMILE

Realize that a contact started with an air of indifference, or even a scowl will likely take a different trajectory than a contact with a smile, a greeting and an introduction.

For instance, “Good evening, I am Lt. Dan Marcou. The reason I stopped you tonight is both your taillights are out and since you can’t see them from the driver’s seat, I thought I should stop you and let you know.”

Starting a legal equipment violation contact such as this with a smile, where a warning is most likely imminent, is certainly acceptable.

THE POWER OF ENDING A SMILE

The use of a smile can also become a tactic to achieve compliance. When you as an officer make a lawful request with a smile such as, “Since you are clearly not happy with the service here, and the owner wants you to leave how about we leave now and you can find another place, whose service you might better appreciate.” All this can be said with a smile.

When the person you are speaking with replies in the negative, I have found that just a pause and transition from a smile to the face of a serious professional can have as powerful an effect on people as any words and eventually actions that will most certainly follow if the person does not comply.

Once mastered, the act of transitioning from smile to no-smile properly timed is almost like a no-impact use of force technique.

CREATE SMILES

As you patrol, when time permits, you can create circumstances that allow you to smile at the public you serve. One such way is to increase your contacts. This allows you to not just cite, but stop and educate people who commit violations that are dangerous bad habits and citable offenses but are minor enough to warrant a warning.

You can stop someone for rolling through a stop sign, a seat belt violation, or even a cellphone violation and give them not only a warning but recite a short pre-prepared presentation. During the presentation explain to them not just how much money you are saving them by warning them, but how what they are doing could lead to a tragedy. Send them on their way with a “Thank you for your courtesy and for listening. Drive safe and be safe,” type of closure.

Caution: Even during these “public safety violation vehicle contacts” you need to use proper tactics because although you will run across mostly good people, at times you will come upon people who are wanted on warrants, driving without a license and/or in the process of committing a crime. Therefore, use caution and proper tactics on all stops since no stop is routine!

DRIVE-BY SMILES

  • You can also conduct congenial stop and talks, or drive-by-smiles, with an open-window wave. Here are a few examples. You can:
  • Stop and give a shout out to kids playing, saying “Nice catch,” or “Nice shot.”
  • Stop to tell a business owner who has made some improvement, “Thanks for making the city a little nicer place to live.”
  • Stop and tell a homeowner working in the yard, “Your roses look beautiful this year.”
  • Kiddingly tell new parents, “You may not be aware of it, but you are strolling in a No Cute Zone, and with those children you are definitely in violation.” (I have used this one more times than I can count and it never fails to get not only a smile but a proud laugh from the parents.)

Adding these and others of your own making to your patrol repertoire takes little effort. It also costs nothing to be nice until it is time to be intense, but the positive impact can be priceless.

CONCLUSION

During these tough times, it seems unrealistic to even talk about smiling while doing police work considering the way some so publicly besiege and besmirch the entire profession of law enforcement. I get that.

However, the reality is, a recent Monmouth Poll revealed that in spite of the onslaught, 71% of Americans still approve of their local police. That’s you!

This shows that not only do the majority of the public you serve, not believe the misrepresentation of the entire police profession willfully orchestrated by some; but it also shows that in spite of these attacks you all must be continuing to serve the public faithfully one contact and one call at a time throughout these challenging times.

Now that’s something to smile about.

About the author
Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.

Two New Laws Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method

​​HudsonAlpha, a genome sequencing lab in Alabama that has worked on more than 1,000 forensic genealogy cases. Photo credit…Wes Frazer for The New York Times

 

Story by Virginia Hughes​ for the New York Times​

New laws in Maryland and Montana are the first in the nation to restrict law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy, the DNA matching technique that in 2018 identified the Golden State Killer, in an effort to ensure the genetic privacy of the accused and their relatives.

Beginning on Oct. 1, investigators working on Maryland cases will need a judge’s signoff before using the method, in which a “profile” of thousands of DNA markers from a crime scene is uploaded to genealogy websites to find relatives of the culprit. The new law, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, also dictates that the technique be used only for serious crimes, such as murder and sexual assault. And it states that investigators may only use websites with strict policies around user consent.

Montana’s new law, sponsored by a Republican, is narrower, requiring that government investigators obtain a search warrant before using a consumer DNA database, unless the consumer has waived the right to privacy.

The laws “demonstrate that people across the political spectrum find law enforcement use of consumer genetic data chilling, concerning and privacy-invasive,” said Natalie Ram, a law professor at the University of Maryland who championed the Maryland law. “I hope to see more states embrace robust regulation of this law enforcement technique in the future.”

Privacy advocates like Ms. Ram have been worried about genetic genealogy since 2018, when it was used to great fanfare to reveal the identity of the Golden State Killer, who murdered 13 people and raped dozens of women in the 1970s and ’80s. After matching the killer’s DNA to entries in two large genealogy databases, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, investigators in California identified some of the culprit’s cousins, and then spent months building his family tree to deduce his name — Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. — and arrest him.

Ms. Ram subsequently published an article in a law journal calling on Maryland lawmakers to act against the practice. Granting police access to a suspect’s genome, she argued, including markers of sensitive health information, was akin to an unreasonable search, which i​​s banned by the Fourth Amendment. In 2019, she testified to a state House committee after a delegate, Charles Sydnor, who is now a state senator, introduced legislation that would have banned the method outright.
The ban did not pass. But it prompted discussions with legal experts, public defenders, prosecutors and police officers that led to a compromise bill, which passed unanimously this term in the state House and Senate.

“This bill strikes a balance between this very important technology to identify people that do the very worst things to our Marylanders, yet it balances that against the privacy concerns and the trust that we need from the public,” John Fitzgerald, the chief of the Chevy Chase Village Police Department, testified to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee in February.

But some experts said that the law could put a damper on the technology’s use in Maryland. For one thing, the law states that by 2024, genealogists working on such cases must be professionally certified — a credential that does not yet exist.

Another sticky provision: Investigators may use only genealogy companies that have explicitly informed the public and their customers that law enforcement uses their databases, and that have asked for their customers’ consent to participate. Currently, customers of GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA are given a choice about whether to participate in these searches. But the companies provide little information about what those searches entail, and the opt-in settings are turned on by default.

“We know well that most people do not read these kinds of forms closely,” Ms. Ram said. “This is likely to generate unwitting inclusion rather than actual consent.”

Unlike 23andMe and Ancestry, which have kept their immense genetic databases unavailable to law enforcement without a court order, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA are eager to cooperate. If other states do not follow Maryland’s lead, it seems unlikely that either company would make changes that would shrink the pool of DNA profiles available for these searches. Both companies said in statements that they had no plans to update their policies.

“If the rest of the nation doesn’t have that requirement, why would they bow to Maryland’s needs?” said Paul Holes, a critic of the bill and a retired cold-case investigator who was on the team that found Mr. DeAngelo. “Now they’re serving the greater good at the expense of one state.”

In the three years since Mr. Holes’s team found Mr. DeAngelo, likely several hundred cases, many of them decades old, have been solved nationwide with genetic genealogy. The method has been used to solve crimes, exonerate the innocent and find the names of unidentified remains. The Defense Department may use the technique to identify World War II soldiers.

In some cases, customers may never know that the DNA markers they have uploaded into a database are being used by the police to identify culprits — or that using the database may bring trouble to their relatives. In 2018, police in Orlando, Fla., asked a woman for a DNA test, telling her that they believed she was related to a dead person they were trying to identify. She complied, only to find out that they were investigating her son, who was subsequently arrested and charged with murder.

In other cases, detectives might surreptitiously collect the DNA of a suspect’s relative by testing an object that the relative discarded in the trash.

Maryland’s new law states that when police officers test the DNA of “third parties” — people other than the suspect — they must get consent in writing first, unless a judge approves deceptive collection.

Investigators cannot use any of the genetic information collected, whether from the suspect or third parties, to learn about a person’s psychological traits or disease predispositions. At the end of the investigation, all of the genetic and genealogical records that were created for it must be deleted from databases.

And perhaps most consequential, Maryland investigators interested in genetic genealogy must first try their luck with a government-run DNA database, called Codis, whose profiles use far fewer genetic markers.

Mr. Holes said that this part of the law could have tragic consequences. For old cases, he pointed out, DNA evidence is often highly degraded and fragile, and every DNA test consumes some of that precious sample. “In essence, the statute could potentially cause me to kill my case,” he said. And given the speed that DNA technology evolves, he added, it is unwise for a law to mandate use of any particular kind of test.

But other experts called this provision crucial, because the potential privacy breach is far more severe for genetic genealogy, which gives law enforcement access to hundreds of thousands of genetic markers, than it is for Codis, which uses only about two dozen markers.

These searches are “the equivalent of the government going through all of your medical records and all of your family records just to identify you,” said Leah Larkin, a genetic genealogist who runs a consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area that is largely focused on helping adoptees and others find their biological relatives. “I don’t think people fully appreciate how much is in your genetic data.”

DOJ Fiscal Year 2022 Funding Request

Proposal Reinvigorates Civil Rights Enforcement, Counters International and Domestic Terrorism, Combats Violent Crime and Gun Violence, Advances Environmental Justice, Invests in Community Policing, Addresses Inequities in the Nation’s Criminal Justice System, and Reduces the Immigration Court Backlog

The President today submitted his Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 to Congress, totaling $35.3 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ).  

The request seeks to sustain and enhance the Justice Department’s vital work to counter both international and domestic terrorism, reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, address inequities in the nation’s criminal justice system, combat gun violence, advance environmental justice and help reduce the backlog in the nation’s immigration courts.

“This budget proposal advances the Justice Department’s three overarching goals: keeping Americans safe, adhering to the Rule of Law, and seeking equal justice under law for everyone,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “These funds will strengthen our ability to counter international and domestic terrorism, support our efforts to curb violent crime, enhance our enforcement of voting rights and other civil rights laws, protect our nation from cyber-attacks, and double our resources dedicated to addressing gender-based violence and the support of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Our request will increase public safety through investments in policing and criminal justice reform, as well as by dedicating funds to combating gun violence. Importantly, this budget makes a down payment on improving access to justice, a prerequisite to equal justice. The department looks forward to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to help secure its timely passage.”

At the Department of Justice, the Budget would provide:

  • More than $1.5 billion to combat international and domestic terrorism – an increase of more than 12% over the FY 2021– which includes an additional $101.2 million to address domestic terrorism with a broadscale approach across the Department.
  • $2.1 billion, an increase of $184.3 million, to combat gun violence while focusing on programs that address both gun safety and violent crime.
  • $177.2 million over the FY 2021 appropriation to reinvigorate Federal civil rights efforts, including to re-establish and expand the Office for Access to Justice and to support the Community Relations Service with conciliators in local communities.
  • $1.0 billion, an increase of $486.5 million, to address gender-based violence through the Office on Violence Against Women, nearly twice the FY 2021 investment in this effort.
  • $1.6 billion, an increase of $669.3 million, to implement further reforms to the criminal justice system and continue critical investment in implementation of the First Step Act of 2018.
  • $1.3 billion, an increase of $379.8 million, to support programs designed to further strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
  • $44.0 million in new resources to advance environmental justice initiatives, including facilities modernization and repair.
  • $177.5 million more than FY 2021 to reduce the immigration court backlog and fund new legal support efforts for children and families.
  • $1.1 billion, an increase of $150.7 million, to augment Cyber Investigations and Cyber Security.

Countering International and Domestic Terrorism

As the Nation’s top law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice is devoted to a broad-scale approach to counter the threat of both international and domestic terrorism. While the United States has seen unprecedented and troubling levels of domestic violent extremism, the department and its law enforcement agencies remain acutely aware of the threats posed by international terrorist organizations. The budget request includes increased funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the principal DOJ law enforcement agency charged with combating terrorism, to conduct domestic terrorism investigations, and for the U.S. Attorneys to manage increasing domestic terrorism caseloads. Further, the budget will support additional response capabilities at the U.S. Marshals Service and support research on the root causes of domestic radicalization at the National Institute of Justice.

The FY 2022 budget invests more than $1.5 billion to combat international and domestic terrorism, including an additional an $101.2 million to address the rising threat of domestic terrorism. 

Combating Violent Crime and Gun Violence

The Department is committed to addressing the epidemic of gun violence and other violent crime that has taken the lives of too many people in our communities. As part of the department’s recently announced strategy to reduce violent crime, including through grantmaking opportunities, the budget request establishes innovative new grants for States to incentivize Red Flag and Gun Licensing Laws; creates a new $100 million Community Violence Intervention Initiative to tackle gun violence in our neighborhoods; provides grants for Project Safe Neighborhoods, and expands ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. A new pilot program promotes the development, adoption and use of programs designed to help communities address situations where people become legally prohibited from possessing the firearms they own. 

The FY 2022 budget invests $2.1 billion to address gun violence and gun safety, an increase of $184.3 million over FY 2021. 

Reinvigorating Civil Rights Efforts 

Protecting our Nation’s civil rights is a top priority for the Department, as far too many of our citizens still face discrimination. To help protect marginalized communities, the budget request includes funding to re-establish the Office for Access to Justice, and increases funding for the Civil Rights Division, the Community Relations Service, the Office of Justice Programs and the Office on Violence Against Women. These funds will support the enforcement of voting rights and the protection of constitutional and civil rights; mediation and conciliation services for community conflicts arising from discriminatory practices; the prosecution of hate crimes across the nation, especially in communities uniquely impacted by bias, xenophobia and hate driven by the COVID-19 pandemic; and other civil rights activities.

The FY 2022 budget invests a total of $307.2 million in civil rights efforts, an increase of $177.2 million over FY 2021

Addressing Inequities in the Criminal Justice System

The Department’s budget request addresses the need to ensure equal justice for all Americans. The budget request prioritizes improving community relations through the Office of Justice Programs. The budget request establishes new programs for community-based alternatives to prison, expands the Part B Formula Grants, and increases funding for the Second Chance Act program. The Department will implement Executive Order 14006 by transferring Federal Prisoner Detention detainees from privately operated to alternate State, local, and Federal facilities with an additional $75.0 million. Finally, the budget continues the historic investment of $409.5 million by the Bureau of Prisons in the First Step Act.

The FY 2022 budget invests over $1.6 billion to address inequities in the criminal justice system in America, an increase of $669.3 million over FY 2021 levels. 

Investing in Community Policing 

Creating strong, positive ties between law enforcement and the communities they serve is critical to making the Nation’s communities safer and to rooting out systemic inequities in the justice system. Providing resources to police departments to help them reform and gain the trust of communities is a priority of this Department and this Administration. The department’s budget addresses the need to further strengthen relationships between communities and police officers by hiring local police officers and investing in racial sensitivity, hate crime and implicit bias training.

The FY 2022 budget invests a total of $1.3 billion to support law enforcement agencies, including through programs that support community-oriented policing policies and practices, as well as training for law enforcement on racial profiling, de-escalation and the duty to intervene. This is a $379.8 million increase over the FY 2021 level. 

Advancing Environmental Justice

The Department is committed advancing environmental justice and supports the President’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” The Executive Order establishes a “whole-of-government” approach to addressing the climate crisis and formalizes the government’s commitment to environmental justice. The budget request includes increased funding for the Environment and Natural Resources Division to expand its use of existing authorities in affirmative cases to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change and to continue defensive and other work related to climate change. In addition, the Bureau of Prison will invest in energy saving modernization and repair projects to replace aging equipment with energy efficient models, resulting in reduced energy costs and consumption, as well as other environmentally-sound operational benefits. 

The FY 2022 budget invests $44.0 million to advance environmental justice, tackle climate change, and enhance environmental stability. 

Reducing the Immigration Court Backlog

Although the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has doubled the number of Immigration Judges onboard since 2015, caseloads continue to grow at an even faster pace, and processing times continue to increase due to a rise in the number of complex adjudications, such as those of asylum claims. The FY 2022 budget addresses this challenge by both providing additional Immigration Judges, and by promoting efficiency initiatives within EOIR. The request supports hiring 100 new Immigration Judges, as well as necessary support staff and attorneys. The request would also enable EOIR to continue to modernize its IT capabilities. 

The FY 2022 budget invests $177.5 million in new resources to reduce the immigration court backlog, as well as create the Legal Representation for Immigrant Children and Families Pilot, which supports the enhancement of legal representation of immigrant children and families who seek asylum and other forms of legal protection in the United States after entering at the borders. 

DOJ Announces New Efforts to Reduce Violent Crime

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on May 26 announced a new Department of Justice effort to help protect our communities from the recent increase in major violent crimes.

“Today, we renew our commitment to reducing violent crime and building strong communities where all Americans are safe,” said Attorney General Garland. “The Deputy Attorney General is issuing a comprehensive strategy to deploy our federal resources in the most effective way, disrupting the most dangerous threats and supporting the ground-level efforts of local law enforcement.  In this endeavor, we will engage our communities as critical partners. And through our grantmaking, we will support programming at all stages – from the earliest violence interruption strategies to post-conviction reentry services.”

The strategy announced today is three-pronged. First, it establishes a set of four fundamental principles to be applied Department-wide to guide violent crime reduction:

  1. Build trust and earn legitimacy. Meaningful law enforcement engagement with, and accountability to, the community are essential underpinnings of any effective strategy to address violent crime, as well as important ends in themselves. Accordingly, building trust and earning legitimacy within our communities is the foundation on which the strategy is built. 
  2. Invest in prevention and intervention programs. Violent crime is not a problem that can be solved by law enforcement alone. Accordingly, the Department must invest in community-based violence prevention and intervention programs that work to keep violence from happening before it occurs.
  3. Target enforcement efforts and priorities. The Department is most effective when it focuses its limited enforcement resources on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting the most significant drivers of gun violence and other violent crime.
  4. Measure results. Because the fundamental goal of this work is to reduce the level of violence in our communities, not to increase the number of arrests or prosecutions as if they were ends in themselves—we must measure the results of our efforts on these grounds.

The whole-of-Department approach means that these four fundamental principles will guide not only the Department’s 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, but also its law enforcement components (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS)),  its grant-making components (the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC)), and litigating divisions, such as the Criminal Division.

Second, the strategy enhances the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program by directing all U.S. Attorneys across the country to update their PSN programs to be aligned with the Department’s guiding principles to improve community engagement, support proven community-violence intervention programs, develop strategic enforcement plans in coordination with state, local, and Tribal law enforcement partners as well as community groups, and measure the effectiveness of these collective efforts to reduce violence. By drawing on lessons learned from research and experience over the past two decades, the Department will help ensure that PSN remains the leading initiative bringing together law enforcement partners at all levels and a broad array of community stakeholders to develop comprehensive solutions to the more pressing violent crime problems in our communities. 

Third, the strategy directs each U.S. Attorney’s Office to work with its state, local, federal, Tribal, and community partners to establish an immediate plan to address spikes in violent crime that are typically seen during the summer.

The Department recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that the needs of each jurisdiction will vary based on the nature of violent crimes and the ability of local criminal justice systems to respond. Thus, the Department has committed to providing the following additional support where it is needed and appropriate:

  • The FBI will make available cutting-edge analytical resources to support state and local law enforcement efforts to identify the most violent offenders and most dangerous criminal organizations in communities.  The FBI will then deploy agents to assist with enforcement operations targeting these entities. 
  • Where feasible, the ATF will embed with local homicide units and expand the availability of its NIBIN Correlation Center, which matches ballistics from crime scenes to other ballistic evidence nationwide.
  • The DEA will focus its efforts, in coordination with state, local and Tribal law enforcement, to disrupt the activities of the most violent drug trafficking gangs and egregious drug-trafficking organizations operating in the highest-crime areas.
  • The United States Marshals Service, in coordination with state and local authorities, will conduct fugitive sweeps throughout the country focused on individuals subject to state or local warrants for homicide, aggravated assault with a firearm, aggravated robbery, robbery with a firearm, rape or aggravated sexual assault.
  • The Department’s grantmaking components will highlight funding opportunities for community programs focused on reducing gun violence and other violent crime, share information about effective community-violence intervention programs, and provide training and technical assistance to support the violent crime reduction work of state, local, tribal and community partners.

To learn more, see the Deputy Attorney General’s detailed guidance to federal prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and other components across the Department of Justice.  A Fact Sheet on 2021 Grant Opportunities and Other Resources to Support Violent Crime Reduction can be found here.

Deadline Extended for the Fifth Annual AG Award for Distinguished Service in Policing

The Department of Justice has extended the nomination deadline for the Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. The nomination period is now open until Monday, June 28, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET. Detailed information regarding the nomination process for this award is available at www.justice.gov/ag/policing-award.  

The Attorney General’s Award recognizes individual state, local and tribal sworn, rank-and-file police officers and deputies for exceptional efforts in community policing. The awarded officers, deputies and troopers will have demonstrated active engagement with the community in one of three areas: criminal investigations, field operations or innovations in policing. Within each category, an award will be given to law enforcement agencies serving small, medium, and large jurisdictions. Those agency sizes are defined as:

  • Small: Agencies serving populations fewer than 50,000
  • Medium: Agencies serving populations 50,000 to 250,000
  • Large: Agencies serving populations over 250,000

Nominations may be submitted by the potential recipient’s supervisors, professional peers, or members of their local community.  Nominations may include references and URL links to news sources and promotional or other materials that describe or substantiate the activity, program, or initiative for which the nominee(s) is being nominated. Please note: Nominee(s) (rank-and-file officers, deputies, and troopers) must be in a non-supervisory position at the time the nominated event, activities, and/or programs occurred to be an eligible candidate for this award.

Nominations must be submitted through the web-based application form in the following format. The online application will direct the nominating individuals to complete the following fields:

  1. Name and rank of nominee(s) (must be rank-and-file officers, deputies, or troopers in a nonsupervisory position), the lead agency name, and the size of population served by the agency
  2. Name and affiliation of the nominating individual
  3. Nomination category for the action(s), program(s), or initiative(s) for which the nominee(s) is being nominated (Criminal Investigations, Field Operations, or Innovations in Policing)
  4. A detailed description of the specific action(s), program(s), or initiative(s) of the nominee(s) for which s/he is being nominated
  5. Agency point of contact information

To nominate someone for this award, please visit https://www.justice.gov/ag/webform/policing-award-nomination. Nominations must be submitted by 8:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 28, 2021. In the event that agencies or other nominating parties are unable to access the online application, nomination letters may be sent via email. The nomination letter should be no longer than three pages and should include the fields listed here. Nominations submitted in letter format must be sent via email to dojpolicingawards@usdoj.gov by 8:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 28, 2021.

Please direct all general inquiries to dojpolicingawards@usdoj.gov

Bipartisan Congressional Bills Aim for Drunk Driving Tech in Vehicles

Two bills with bipartisan sponsors in Congress – the HALT Act in the House and the RIDE Act in the Senate – are looking to tap into existing vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving.

 

Story by Maya Rodriguez for KSBY News​

The photo says it all. It shows a beaming Katie Snyder Evans, weeks after giving birth nearly four years ago, finally able to hold her premature twin daughters together for the first time.

It was also the last time.

“On her way home from the hospital, one night after visiting the twins, she was hit and killed by a drunk driver, “ said Ken Snyder, Katie’s father.

Snyder is on the faculty of Utah State University and is now a technology adviser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“I’ll admit that I’m not an independent commentator on this topic,” he said. “I am a grieving father.”

His latest focus is on two bills with bipartisan sponsors in Congress: the HALT Act in the House and the RIDE Act in the Senate, which are looking to tap into technology to prevent drunk driving.

“The goal is to mandate drunk driving prevention technology as standard as seat belts and airbags on all new passenger vehicles,” said MADD president Alex Otte.

According to MADD, there are currently 241 forms of vehicle technology, like lane assist or driver monitoring, which could be used to combat drunk driving by, in some cases, reprogramming that tech to safely pull an impaired driver over.

The bills in Congress seek to create federal rules so that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could begin that process.

“It would require NHTSA to figure out what the best technology is,” Otte said. “The bill is tech-neutral, which means that they can look at all the different options and decide what they believe is best and then mandate that technology to be placed on all new cars.”

For its part, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a major auto industry group, said it would like to keep working on it. They declined to do an interview but provided a statement.

“We share the goal of eliminating alcohol-impaired driving. Automakers are working collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other stakeholders, to develop innovative technologies that have the potential to prevent alcohol-impaired driving,” AAI president John Bozzella said in the statement. “We are also committed to working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, members of Congress, and other stakeholders who also prioritize this life-saving goal, as legislation is developed.”

However, the prevention of drunk driving comes too late for many families, including Ken Snyder’s.

“The ​​woman that killed my daughter was driving 95 miles an hour on a city boulevard,” he said. “The veering, the sideswiping, the lane-changing, any one of any one of the simple technologies that are already available on cars would have shut her down if only activated.”

The hope is the technology will help other families from experiencing the loss of a loved one due to drunk driving.