U.S. attorney general Lynch lauds Seattle police for reform efforts

Seattle will receive $1.5 million to combat human trafficking, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during a visit to the city.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Seattle Thursday to praise the progress of police reforms, meet with community organizers and announce a $1.5 million grant to help fight human trafficking.

It was Lynch’s first visit to Seattle since being named the country’s top law-enforcement officer, and it coincided with the release of the latest report by a federal monitor overseeing Department of Justice-mandated (DOJ) reforms of the city’s police department. The report found the SPD had reached initial compliance with three out of four key reforms involving the use of force by officers.

However, the report by federal court-appointed monitor Merrick Bobb said the department still has a lot of work before it reaches full compliance with a 2012 consent decree between the city and the DOJ to curb the use of excessive force and avoid biased policing. Thursday’s report dealt with the first four of 15 initial assessments the monitor will conduct over the next several months.

Lynch’s visit was part of a six-city tour to promote Community Oriented Policing, a concept at the core of the efforts to reform the SPD. The department came under investigation after community groups complained about harsh methods and lack of accountability that had resulted in a loss of confidence.

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5 ways drones can help cops fight crime

Drones are becoming a go-to tool for law enforcement — here are five ways your agency can use them

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as drones, have been a popular topic among both businesses and law enforcement agencies due to growing interest in their use in non-military applications.

Police departments can deploy drones to improve their ability to enforce the law and protect lives, all while saving valuable resources like police officer time and tax dollars.

1. Active Shooter
A bird’s eye view can enable police to gain a quick understanding of the scope of what is going on in an active shooter situation.

The view from a drone can not only provide the location of the shooter, but also an understanding of the surrounding area, offering valuable information such as the direction the shooter might be headed, escape routes for victims and the shooter’s firing line.

UAVs are also great tools for active shooter situations because they can be deployed from almost anywhere and stored in the trunk of a cruiser.

They can also access areas traditional helicopters cannot. UAVs have an ability to fly lower to the ground, get into tight spots, hover under bridges and structures, and even fly inside buildings in order to help the experts gather as much detail as they can.

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Gov. Nikki Haley OKs armed guards at S.C. National Guard sites

Gov. Nikki Haley has approved armed guards at S.C. National Guard sites as a response to last month’s ambush-style killings of four Marines and a sailor near Chattanooga, Tenn.

Haley signed an executive order Monday that calls for a variety of security upgrades at recruiting, armory and depot sites around the state.

Additionally, S.C. Adjutant General Robert E. Livingston Jr. has changed S.C. National Guard policy to allow personnel to carry a weapon while in uniform under certain circumstances.

Among the areas covered in Haley’s order are increased hard-site security, protection training to be coordinated through the State Law Enforcement Division, and assigning and arming individuals who successfully complete training for station at all guard facilities in the state.

The long-term effect is that all National Guard locations will have permanent protection measures in place, the governor’s office said.

The announcement came after lone gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, drove to a military recruiting office and to a Navy-Marine operations center outside Chattanooga, opening fire at both places. Four Marines were killed, and a sailor wounded in the attack died, as well. Abdulazeez also died.

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Bomb threats at 7 schools across Tennessee

Schools in seven Tennessee counties were evacuated Friday morning due to bomb threats.

No explosives were found at any of the schools, said Lt. Bill Miller of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Emergency crews were sent to schools in Murfreesboro, Millersville, Greenbrier and Columbia. Threats were also reported at schools in Wilson, Knox and Lewis counties.

Students, teachers and staff at Millersville Elementary were safely escorted to Millersville City Hall about 420 feet away on 31W Louisville Highway, Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford said. The sheriff’s office received a call at 9:48 a.m. on Friday, but nothing had been found nearly two hours later.

Millersville students were dismissed, but teachers were allowed back in the building to finish the day, Miller said.

Robertson County investigators spent most of the day at Greenbrier Middle School but found nothing, according to Greenbrier Deputy Chief Randy Pack. School officials there were notified that that a person was inside the building with a bomb, officials said.

Pack said the threat was called into the school at about 11:05 a.m. Students were transferred to nearby Greenbrier High.

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More than 400 weapons and potential weapons seized

More than 400 weapons and tools that could be weapons have been seized by security at Plymouth’s crown and magistrates courts in the last two years – including one replica firearm.

Security guards seize a range of items every day including drugs and alcohol, and objects which could be used as a weapon.

The figures have been released today by the Ministry of Justice following a Freedom of Information request.

Some months see the city courts finding a weapon once every other day, with objects that could be used as a potential weapons routinely held.

In total 177 weapons were seized at the two courts in the last two years and 226 tools were held when security thought they could be used as a weapon.

In May 2014 a replica firearam was found on one person at Plymouth Magistrates Court.

Knives are the most common seized weapons, with 10 knives with a blade longer than three inches found in October 2013 alone at Plymouth Magistrates Court – the biggest monthly haul for large blades.

There were also 10 smaller knives found at Plymouth Crown Court in June 2013 and in November 2014.

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Police chiefs from around the country meet in D.C. to discuss violent summer

Law enforcement officials from the Washington area and across the country said Monday that there has been a recent increase in shootings in several major cities but that they haven’t pinpointed what’s causing the spike in violence.

Officials from several cities, including the District, St. Louis, Chicago and Baltimore, met at the Newseum in the District to discuss the trend and possible solutions to the violence. They were joined by criminology professors, attorneys and others.

“We had this meeting as an urgent summit because we felt a sense of urgency because people are dying,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said at a news conference after the summit. “We have not seen what we’re seeing right now in decades.”

The event was hosted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), which said a survey of its members showed that police in many cities are seeing more guns on the streets and more killings. Four of the nation’s largest cities — New York, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia — recorded a rise in homicides by mid-
July compared with the same period in 2014.

The District has experienced the same trend. The city’s homicide toll for 2015 is now 87; the total for all of 2014 was 105. Violent crime in general also is on the increase compared with last year, police said.

The summit was organized by Lanier, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and MCCA President J. Thomas Manger, the police chief in Montgomery County, Md., following a conference call in late July, Darrel Stephens, executive director of MCCA, said in an e-mail.

During the summit, the group identified several issues prevalent across many of the major cities, with the proliferation of guns high among them.

Manger said at the conference that 40 percent of the 35 cities surveyed reported shooting scenes with multiple firearms, with an increased number of shell casings found at the scenes.

Among the recommendations that came out of the summit, the chiefs called for more stringent gun laws, including harsher penalties for gun crimes and the use of high-capacity magazines.

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Cold Case Investigation

Solving a Decades-Old Mystery

Tonya Hughes was just shy of her 21st birthday on a spring day in 1990 when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Oklahoma City. She died five days later, but the investigation into her suspicious death led to a mystery—and a murder—that took decades to fully unravel.

That’s because Tonya Hughes was not who anyone thought she was—and neither was her husband, Clarence Hughes, who now sits on death row in a Florida prison.

“The FBI has been chipping away at this one,” said Special Agent Scott Lobb, who began working the cold case investigation in 2013 out of the Bureau’s Oklahoma City Division. “There were a lot of peculiar twists to this case.”

Tonya left behind a child, Michael Hughes. Her husband claimed he was Michael’s biological father, but shortly after Tonya died, Clarence gave Michael to Oklahoma state welfare officials and promptly disappeared. “He knew the truth would come out,” Lobb said, “and so he fled.”

The truth—discovered during the hit-and-run investigation—was that Clarence Hughes was actually Franklin Delano Floyd, a federal fugitive from Georgia wanted since 1973.

Floyd was arrested in Georgia two months later and sent back to prison to serve the rest of his sentence. A blood test revealed that he was not Michael’s biological father. That fact apparently didn’t matter to Floyd, because when he got out of prison in 1993, he was determined to get custody of Michael. And he did—by kidnapping the 6-year-old from elementary school on September 12, 1994.

When authorities caught up with him in Kentucky two months later, Michael was nowhere to be found, and Floyd would not say what happened to the boy. Floyd was later found guilty of a federal kidnapping charge and sent to prison.

During the kidnapping investigation, photos were found taped to the gas tank of Floyd’s pickup truck that showed a young woman who appeared to be bound and beaten. Years later, the woman—Cheryl Ann Comesso—was identified and matched to remains that had previously been discovered near a freeway on-ramp near Tampa, Florida. Floyd was charged with her 1989 murder, convicted, and sentenced to death in 2002.

The investigation into Michael’s kidnapping also determined that Tonya Hughes, too, had been kidnapped by Floyd—sometime between 1973 and August 1975—and when he surfaced in Oklahoma City, he began introducing his future wife as his daughter.

In 2013, the FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children conducted a cold case review of the Hughes kidnapping and reopened the investigation. A year later, Lobb and Special Agent Nate Furr spent several days interviewing Floyd in prison regarding Tonya and Michael Hughes.

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Steeplechase opts for traffic enforcement on private roads.

An effort over the past year in Oak Brook to have residents in subdivisions with private roads agree to allow police to enforce the entire Illinois Vehicle Code has proven successful.

The Steeplechase Community Association of Oak Brook, which has 21 homes, is the latest homeowners’ group to agree to the enabling ordinance that allows enforcement. The Oak Brook Village Board approved the agreement July 14.

“We are restricted to what we can enforce on private roads unless those residents agree to the enabling ordinance,” Police Chief James Kruger said. “Having the enabling ordinance in place allows us to better serve the community and provide the same level of service for everyone.”

Without an agreement to the enabling ordinance, police are not able to write tickets for violations of lane usage and vehicle registration. Police also are not able to issue tickets to those driving without a license or with a license that has been suspended.

Bob Sheppel, president of the Steeplechase Community Association of Oak Brook, said the group’s board decided to accept the enabling ordinance because it “goes hand in hand with security.”

Kruger and Village President Gopal Lalmalani reached out to homeowners association presidents a year ago, asking that they agree to the enabling ordinance. Since that time, homeowners associations in Briarwood Lakes, Heritage Oaks and Midwest Chase also have agreed to the ordinance.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the response we’ve received from our homeowners associations,” Kruger said. “We’ve had a couple of requests for extra patrol, and some have expressed traffic safety concerns. This allows us to have an increased presence.”

Kruger said the Oak Brook Club and Covington Court are the only two remaining eligible subdivisions in the village that have yet to agree to the enabling ordinance.

“They have expressed interest, and we are working with them,” Kruger said.

Two Oak Brook subdivisions with private roads, Breakenridge Farm and Wendell Woods, are not eligible for the enabling ordinance because each has only nine homes. State law requires a minimum of 10 homes to enact the enabling ordinance, Kruger said.

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NY prison escapee Sweat back behind bars. What’s different this time?

David Sweat has been transferred to another upstate New York maximum security prison, but he will lose all the privileges he enjoyed before his breakout a month ago.

After spending three weeks on the run and one in the hospital, escaped prisoner David Sweat is back in a maximum security prison. He was transferred Sunday to the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, N.Y., according to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

This time, the level of attention focused on Mr. Sweat will be heightened. Whereas prior to his breakout from Clinton Correctional Facility Sweat had lived in “honor housing,” where well-behaved inmates were trusted with limited privileges, Sweat’s freedom at Five Points will be severely abridged.

He will spend the first 24 hours at Five Points in the infirmary for a medical evaluation, DOCCS said in a statement. Sweat will then be placed in the facility’s Special Housing Unit, where he will be locked in a single-occupancy cell for 23 hours a day. He will also be on active suicide watch.

Each of the 150 cells in the Special Housing Unit comes furnished with the basics for all-day confinement: a bed, a toilet, a sink, a writing platform, and a shower that the prison controls to “limit movement,” DOCCS said.

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Chicago police officers sue over tattoo cover-up rule

Three Chicago police officers filed a federal lawsuit against the department Thursday, challenging its new policy that requires uniformed officers to cover their tattoos.

The officers, all of whom served in the military and have tattoos on their arms, argue in the suit that the policy violates their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression. The city of Chicago is named as the sole defendant.

According to the Police Department’s new policy, which went into effect June 12, tattoos and body brandings cannot be visible on officers “while on duty or representing the department, whether in uniform, conservative business attire, or casual dress.”

The hands, face, neck and other areas not covered by clothing must be covered with “matching skin tone adhesive bandage or tattoo cover-up tape,” according to the policy. Uniformed officers also are barred from wearing baseball caps, and knit caps in the winter, under the new policy.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Officer Daniel Medici, a nine-year veteran of the department, bears a tattoo that honors his service in the Marine Corps. An Iraq War veteran, he has a “wings and halos” tattoo in remembrance of his fallen comrades, according to the suit.

The two other plaintiffs, Officers John Kukielka and Dennis Leet, each have a religious tattoo of St. Michael, the patron and protector of police, mariners, paratroopers and sickness, the suit says. Medici also bears a religious tattoo. Leet and Kukielka both served in the Air Force and were hired by the Police Department in 1999 and 2009, respectively.

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