News from CRI-TAC The COPS Office Collaborative Reform Technical Assistance Center

Police officers wear protective masks while maintaining a road block on the bridge leading to a drive-through testing facility. Angus Mordant—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Protecting Our Law Enforcement Officers As They Serve The Community During A Pandemic​

As millions of Americans try to limit their exposure to the possibility of contracting COVID-19, there are certain groups that need to stay on the front lines, and law enforcement is one of those groups. While the predominant focus is on staying physically healthy, often overlooked is the mental toll faced by the officers and deputies, who are valiantly continuing to do their jobs in the face of a worldwide pandemic. To that end, CRI-TAC is offering two webinars that will focus on the mental health of law enforcement doing their jobs during this trying time:

Maintaining Morale During a Public Health Crisis Webinar

On October 19, 2020, the COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC), in conjunction with CRI-TAC partners NSA and IACP, will host a webinar on what sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders can do to help maintain and improve morale among personnel – both sworn and civilian – during a crisis. Speakers will include Sheriff Garry McFadden, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. To register for the webinar, please visit https://sheriffs.org/CRITAC-StaffMorale-Webinar.

How to Prevent a Global Crisis from Becoming a Personal One: Stress Management in High-Stress Times Webinar

On October 27, 2020, the COPS Office CRI-TAC, in conjunction with CRI-TAC partners NSA, IACP, and FOP, will host a webinar on the mental health of officers during COVID-19. This webinar will offer realistic practices and tips for first responders and their families to help address and manage stressors during a pandemic. Speakers will include FOP National Director of Wellness Services Sherri Rowan, Dr. Kimberly Miller, and Metropolitan Nashville Police Manager David Kennington. To register for this webinar, please visit https://www.sheriffs.org/CRITAC-MentalHealth-Webinar.

Don’t Forget to Contribute to the COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard!

The National Police Foundation recently announced a real-time COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard to collect data and monitor workforce impacts, including the number of officers unable to work/placed in off-duty status due to possible or confirmed exposure, the number of officers that have been tested and diagnosed, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs.

The NPF, IACP, and other CRI-TAC partners encourage law enforcement agencies to submit their data here: https://www.policefoundation.org/covid-19/. Data collected through the COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard will assist the field with understanding the scope and impact of COVID-19, as well as informing CRI-TAC tools and resources for the field.

New Offering Under CRI-TAC’s Menu of Technical Assistance

CRI-TAC is pleased to announce that its technical assistance offerings will now include the topic of “use of force.” In response to tremendous requests from the field, use of force will now join a number of other highly requested topics including community engagement, de-escalation, mass demonstration response, officer safety and wellness, and school safety. Technical assistance on use of force will include:

  • Offering training and awareness on best and promising practices, including offering peer-to-peer exchanges to share those practices
  • Reviewing and providing tailored guidance on an agency’s policies, procedures, and training
  • Training and guidance on how to conduct use of force investigations
  • Developing a calibrated use of force investigation process tailored to the type and size of the agency
  • Addressing how to handle complaints, as well as how to follow-up complaints to ensure investigations are safe, and accountable

Agencies can request more information by visiting CollaborativeReform.org or contacting TechnicalAssistance@usdoj.gov.

How Has COVID-19 Affected Crime?

Crime rates are declining in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19. Or at least that’s what we thought.

Violent crime and property crime rates did indeed fall during the first months of the pandemic, according to the FBI. The preliminary data show that rapes dropped 17.8% and murders fell 14.8% from a year earlier, during the first six months of the year. Non-violent thefts and larceny fell by slightly more, while violent robbery decreased 7.1%. However, the report does not categorically state that the period covered by the data coincides with COVID-19 quarantines and social distancing rules.

The data, however, show that arson cases have grown during this time. There has been a 52% rise in large cities and a 28% rise in the West. Overall, violent crime increased in the South by 2.5% compared to 2019 but fell in the Northeast, West, and the Midwest.

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Police Department has a different perspective, however. It has witnessed an increase in gun violence and killings in the city during the pandemic. The increase comes despite a 5.6% overall drop in violent crime.

Initially, they, too, reported a decrease in crime amid stay-at-home orders. At the onset of stay-at-home orders, the Bay Area had fewer reported crimes in Los Angeles. But the summer proved violent as gun violence became more rampant. Compared to September 2019, L.A. is witnessing a 13.7% increase in homicides and an 8.2% increase in shootings.

City-wide burglaries dropped 10%, and property crime rates dropped by 9.3%. But retail theft jumped 67%, and vehicle thefts increased by 35%. Known for its gang-related violence, L.A. saw a 14.4% decrease in gang-related shootings and a 2% decrease in gang-related homicides.

COVID-19 has adversely impacted businesses, leading to economic despair. Communities are on edge. People are suffering from more stress and depression than before. These, in turn, have led to the rise of violent crimes. LAPD’s police chief announced that the department is viewing these anomalies as a top priority and have begun implementing changes to address it.

New York and Chicago

Similarly, in New York, gun violence surged during the summer. The number of shooting victims has jumped by 77.5%. July stats show shootings in NYC have increased by 66.8% year-over-year. Sadly, the Fourth of July weekend saw more than 500 were wounded by gun violence. Nationwide, there have been more than 22,000 deaths by gun violence and over 19,000 injuries.

Some research suggests that the increase in gun sales may have a direct correlation with these crimes. A whopping 64% more guns were sold in the U.S. between March and May. This is over 2 million more guns than were sold during the same months in previous years.

The numbers are equally disturbing in Chicago. A report by WLS-TV states that the 37% spike in murders in Chicago far outpaces the 14.8% average increase nationwide.

Further studies

Another report released by the University of Pennsylvania shows that crimes dropped an average of 23% across the 25 cities being monitored.

Highlights of the report:

Drug crimes saw the most dramatic drop — more than 63% compared to the past five years.
Property crime dropped 19%
Violent crime dipped 15%.

New crimes rearing their heads

The quarantine has created other criminal activities, the primary one being civil disobedience. This has manifested itself in the refusal to wear masks or stay at home despite state and city restrictions.

Online shopping has seen a boom, but so has package theft. Others include speeding and more cases related to the opioid epidemic. It is horrifying to see the increased assault on law enforcement officers and medical workers (usually through coughing, sneezing, or spitting).

Other crimes that have continued and perhaps increased during the pandemic include burglaries of commercial businesses left vacant, vehicle thefts, price gouging, and financial scams. Hate crimes are on the rise across the nation, especially against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Another disturbing effect of the pandemic has been a spike in domestic and family violence. The police making fewer rounds on the streets or lesser 911 responses have perhaps embol​​dened abusers.

By Bambi Majumdar | Mullltibriefs.com

About the Author

Bambi Majumdar has over 18 years of industry experience in journalism, PR, and marketing communications. She is passionate about bridging the gap between the audience and brands via meaningful content. She has contributed articles to The Economic Times, the leading financial daily of India, among others. She is also active on the board for several business organizations that focus on helping small business owners and women achieve more in their respective fields.

The Hardest Budget to Come

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

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

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

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

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

Spreadsheets

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

Personnel

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

Training Solutions

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

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

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

Nuances of 2020

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

New demands

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

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

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


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

Coronavirus: Guidance for Better Mental Health

The Community Outreach department at Rehab 4 Addiction, which serves as an online resource to individuals and families dealing with substance abuse, created a guide to increase awareness and understanding of all aspects of coping with the stress of the lock-down and bereavement.

​​With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many who live with depression are struggling to stay afloat during mandated or self isolation.

The aim is that this informational guide can be one of many stepping stones for those struggling and their loved ones to better understand their situation and lead them to find a supportive and safe environment, especially during the pandemic.

You can access the guide by visiting  https://www.rehab4addiction.co.uk/coronavirus/mental-health-coronavirus

Benefiting From Crisis Lessons Learned

COMMENTARY | Elected and appointed officials must anticipate a broad range of possible catastrophes and put effective plans in place now to meet challenges like Covid-19 and future disasters.

From hurricanes to pandemics, all disasters share a common set of characteristics. They are sudden, unexpected, carry severe life-threatening consequences and won’t abate until there is a satisfactory resolution of the underlying situation.

The key to successfully navigating crisis is recognizing the six distinct phases of emotional reaction that come before, during and after a disaster. They start with the pre-disaster phase, when people are gripped with fear about what is to come; next is impact, as everybody juggles different emotions and begins to comprehend the damage toll; and then heroic, when people can act to address the immediate challenges they face. Subsequently, there is the honeymoon phase, when people feel optimistic about how things will work out, which is then followed by disillusionment as individuals confront the totality of the tasks ahead of them. Finally, there is reconstruction, where people come to grips with what they lost and accept the need and timetable for rebuilding.

Viewed through this prism, the re-emergence of Covid-19 and the resulting seesaw between openings and closings is understandable as optimism morphs into disillusionment. For government, that means calibrating its ongoing engagement accordingly.

As the city manager of Panama City, Florida, where Hurricane Michael made landfall in October 2018 as the first Category 5 storm to strike the U.S. since 1992 and the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle—our community knows the evolution of people’s reactions well. To that end, the successful four-part template that guided our recovery can, with some necessary customization, can help communities across the country manage the impact of, and recovery from, the Covid-19 pandemic. The key elements of that template are:

Outline Specific Lines of Effort: There is no question that disasters are complex operating environments. Therefore, the first step is to develop a strategy aligned to each specific function of the recovery effort that is overseen and staffed by the professionals best suited to those tasks and articulate defined goals and success metrics. In response to Hurricane Michael, we identified safety and security, economy, key and vital infrastructure and quality of life as the key lines of effort. This format could serve as an effective coronavirus response framework. For example, communities could focus their coronavirus strategy around health and medical care/personnel, economic continuity, equipment supply chain, community changes, and education. Without this division of responsibilities, the enormity of the crisis leads to confusion of roles and an inability to achieve sustainable progress.

Communicate: There is no such thing as over​-​communicating in a disaster. Officials should communicate as often as possible to the widest possible breadth to both internal and external stakeholders through the crisis and its aftermath. Within government that means setting expectations for city employees, like first responders, involved in the response so that they can rise to the occasion. Externally, regular communication to the affected community will foster trust and help reduce anxiety and displace rumor and speculation. Harnessing every communications tool available and driving a reliable cadence of information will earn the trust of citizens that their leaders are acting decisively on their behalf.

Document Work and Accomplishments: The need to prove that work was accomplished through a workflow is crucial. Given the sums of direct and reimbursed federal assistance at stake, and the urgency of the situation, audit trails and transparency play a key role in demonstrating that the assistance was used properly. Moreover, this careful tracking makes it possible for communities to tangibly demonstrate the value the assistance provided.

Prepare Proactively: Simply put, the time to prepare is before the crisis arrives. Start with conducting a candid vulnerability assessment and then map each major threat to a specific plan of action. Once those are in place, holding tabletop drills that further identify areas of improvement will make the difference between a successful response and one that falls flat. Working through these exercises will help teams make necessary changes that will preserve life and infrastructure. This process also presents opportunities for government leaders to recognize the specific types of relief it can provide like waiving taxes and fees before the crisis occurs.

In Panama City, we are working to ​​become the premier city in the Florida Panhandle. We are doing that by developing a strong bond with our resilient and resolute community and marshaling all of our available government resources to set overall objectives. Never is this more important than in crisis recovery. No challenge is too large or complex, to keep us from fulfilling our duties, not even one as omnipresent as the Covid-19 pandemic.

​By ​Mark McQueen ​| Route 50

Mark McQueen ​is the ​c​ity ​manager of Panama City, FL., and a ​m​ajor ​g​eneral (retired), United States Army.

Missouri Supreme Court Issues Directives for Reopening Courts

The Missouri Supreme Court has issued additional guidance for circuit courts as they navigate resuming jury trials in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court issued an order supplementing its May 4 order and operational directives for gradually reopening the state’s courthouses to in-person proceedings.

In the new order, the court said that the safety of jurors, visitors, court personnel, parties and attorneys is paramount, and no jurisdiction may resume jury proceedings without first undergoing sufficient planning and preparation.

“The resumption of jury proceedings too early would not only risk the health of participants, but it could also undermine public confidence in the courts and damage the integrity of trial by jury, a cornerstone of our justice system,” the order said.

The Supreme Court pointed to new research indicating that COVID-19 may be spread through the air by normal breathing and conversation in addition to the spread of droplets from sneezes and coughs.

“Therefore, every reasonable precaution should be taken in the context of jury proceedings,” the order said.

Under the new guidelines, in order to resume grand or petit jury proceedings under any operating phase, presiding judges first must determine whether their circuits have the proper facilities and equipment in place to conduct jury proceedings in compliance with social distancing protocols, local restrictions on occupancy rates and other recommended health and safety strategies.

Jury proceedings are not generally anticipated to resume before a court implements Phase Three of the Supreme Court’s operating phases, the order said. The order noted that the earliest a court could enter Phase Three under its requirements is June 13.

The order said courts should take efforts to educate the general public about the importance of jury service and the steps the courts are taking to ensure the safety and well-being of potential jurors as jury trials resume.

The Supreme Court also recommended that courts suspend warrants for jurors who fail to appear when summoned and to suspend the execution of warrants previously issued for that reason until after the pandemic subsides.

Instead, the court recommended that circuits follow up with non-responders with a second notice and second summons. Courts may offer deferral in place of a warrant.

Additionally, the order recommended that courts should be capable of seating jurors 6 feet apart, limiting the number of potential jurors involved in jury selection and ensuring that members of the public may view public court proceedings.

Molawyersmedia.com

Emptier Roads Became More Lethal During Quarantine

During the pandemic, “we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and chief executive of the National Safety Council. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


As stay-at-home directives took effect due to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans began driving less and covering fewer miles. But there was a down side: the emptier roads became riskier and more lethal.  In March, the number of motor-vehicle deaths nationwide was down, but the mileage death rate was up compared to the same time period a year ago.

Those are the highlights of preliminary estimates released by the National Safety Council, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” Lorraine M. Martin, president and chief executive of the council, said in a statement. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely. If we won’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”

Based on early data, the council’s researchers found that the number of miles driven in March this year decreased 18.6% compared to March 2019, but the fatality rate jumped 14 %, despite an 8 % drop in the total number of roadway deaths.

In March, 31 states and the District of Columbia reported fewer deaths compared to March 2019, three states reported no change, and 16 states reported more deaths.

The National Safety Council noted that quarantines and shelter in place directives across the country were the most likely reason for the significant drop in the number of deaths, but that  more information and insight was needed to determine “the alarming rise in death rates.”  

By Tanya Mohn | Forbes

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

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.

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