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December 13, 2012

After decades of abuse, Oakland Police placed under Federal control

This is one day after the OPD gave commendations to cops who beat Occupy protesters in the streets. Oakland Police Department placed under court control - latimes.com
A federal judge has placed Oakland Police Department reform efforts under his direct control, citing nearly a decade of inadequate attempts to comply with a legal settlement in a case that unmasked systemic police brutality and racial profiling. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson on Wednesday signed off on an eleventh-hour agreement reached last week between the city and plaintiffs’ attorneys under which he will appoint a full-time “compliance director” with sweeping powers to dictate changes related to the case. That director will have the ability to order expenditures of up to $250,000 without city approval, revamp police policies pertaining to required reforms, demote personnel or order other staffing changes. With Henderson's approval, the director would even be able to fire Police Chief Howard Jordan if progress to revamp the department stalls. Plenty of police departments have faced federal consent decrees and mandated reforms, but this marks the first known instance in recent decades in which a judge has stepped in to take over an agency's key decision-making authority when reforms failed, plaintiffs' attorneys said. The case pertains to a group of officers known as "The Riders" who framed and beat suspects in West Oakland. The city paid $10.9 million to 119 plaintiffs in the case, and a settlement agreement was implemented in 2003 mandating a host of specific reforms to department culture and practice. The city has complied with a number of them. Years later, however, key changes have not occurred, including an early-warning system to detect problem officers, a revamping of the internal affairs division and the collection and analysis of data to avert racial profiling.

December 11, 2012

Is it time to fine traffic camera manufacturers for false positives?

For the record, I think red light cameras and speed trap cameras are a bad idea. They penalize people secretly for dangerous behavior but do nothing to stop people in the act or to catch DUIs. They always feel like a cash grab to me and not like they give a damn about public safety. Legislator: Traffic Camera Manufacturers Should Be Fined For Each Error – The Consumerist
As we’ve seen in previous stories, cameras intended to catch speeders and red-light violators are not perfect, and now a state lawmaker in Maryland believes that the makers of these devices need to be held financially accountable for each instance in which a driver is incorrectly ticketed. Following a report by the Baltimore Sun showing that five of that city’s 83 speed cameras were inaccurate, state Delagate Jon Cardin from Baltimore County has called for manufacturers to be fined $1,000 for each ticket issued in error. Additionally, he wants to require that municipalities using these cameras submit regular audits of the cameras to prove they are working correctly. “Over the last few weeks, the speed camera issue has really shaken all our confidence in what our government is here to do,” Cardin said yesterday. “Is government here to raise revenue, or is government here to keep our residents safe?” State Senator James Brochin, also of Baltimore County, has called for an end to “bounty” systems that pay speed camera contractors a fee based on the number of tickets issued. Since 2009, the city of Baltimore has earned about $40 million from traffic violations caught by speed cameras. Of the 1.6 million tickets issued during that time, it claims to have voided around 6,000.

December 06, 2012

San Francisco cops launch website to crowdsource suspect identification

This seems problematic. What's to stop someone from lying and fingering the wrong person? Be A Detective From The Comfort Of Your Laptop: SFPD Launches Crowdsourced Crime Fighting Initiative: News: SFAppeal
Attention, wannabe detectives: It's time to put down that Dashiell Hammett novel and join the SFPD in their new weekly segment they're calling "The Line-Up." No, it's not a David Simon show, but a handy way for SFPD to use our social media-connected city to identify suspects committing crimes. According to SFPD, every week a new set of photos or video will go up on the SFPD website with stills of the suspect and a short summary of the event. A police detective's contact number will accompany each entry. Tipsters can choose to remain anonymous, SFPD says. The inaugural Line-Up post has a stun gun assault police say was captured by surveillance. The attack occurred Thursday, November 15 at 9:27 PM on the 600 block of Polk Street, which is near Turk. The suspect is described as a 6'2" 40-50 year old black male weighing about 200 lbs. who is dressed in a rather dapper fashion for a taser attack, with an overcoat and fedora.