Friday, March 31, 2006

Driver Convicted Of Shooting Police Officer

The punishment phase of a man convicted of attempted capital murder for shooting a Houston police officer resumes this morning after being delayed briefly Thursday when the judge ordered he be taken from the courtroom for speaking while a witness testified against him.

A jury convicted Wendell Roy Mitchell, 34, early Thursday in the wounding of Houston police officer Raul Montelongo Jr. during a traffic stop April 22.

He faces 15 years to life in prison. The punishment phase is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m.

Mitchell told investigators he did not intend to kill Montelongo when he fired his pistol. Jurors could have found him guilty of the lesser charge of deadly conduct if they had determined he had no intention of killing the officer.

During the trial's punishment phase late Thursday, several witnesses testified about Mitchell's previous arrest for robbing restaurants in 1990 in Houston and Jacinto City.

While Jacinto City Police Chief Joe M. Ayala read from a written statement Mitchell made when he was arrested and admitted committing one of those robberies, Mitchell pleaded with the judge, saying he had not made the statement.

"Your honor, I didn't write those things in that statement," he said in a calm, soft voice.

State District Judge Belinda Hill told bailiffs to escort the jury from the courtroom and to take Mitchell to a holding cell outside the court. She recessed court for about 10 minutes.

When court resumed but before the jury returned, she admonished Mitchell not to make any more outbursts or he would be returned to the holding cell.

He remained quiet for the remainder of testimony Thursday.

Mitchell told investigators after his arrest that he meant only to scare Montelongo when he fired his .380-caliber pistol as the officer stood within about a foot of him after stopping him for speeding in the 8400 block of the Eastex Freeway, according to court records.

"I believe him, because he's not a murderer," his mother, Lillian Davis, said outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced..

Montelongo, 36, said he was happy about the verdict.

"It's satisfying, knowing the justice system worked," he said outside the courtroom.


Man Fatally Shot By Holland Police Officer After Chase

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — A driver who crashed into a police car and tried to run over an officer following an attempted traffic stop was fatally shot by a city police officer early Friday, authorities said.

The shooting happened about 2 a.m. in a parking lot, The Grand Rapids Press reported. The name of the man who was killed was not immediately released, nor was the identity of the officer who shot him.

Police said an officer tried to stop the driver, but that the motorist sped off. After eventually pulling into the parking lot, police said the vehicle hit a patrol car several times and the driver tried to run over an officer.

The driver was shot and taken to a local hospital, where he died, police said. It was uncertain how many officers were involved, the newspaper said. Holland police asked Michigan State Police to conduct an independent investigation into the shooting.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Crime And Probation

By David Fraser

Each week, a murder or rape is committed by offenders supposedly under supervision. Yet, even knee-deep in evidence of its own failure, the National Probation Service cannot acknowledge its inability to reform these criminals. It is all a deadly con trick, writes David Fraser, who spent years working in the service

When I read that four of the six men who raped, tortured and then murdered the schoolgirl Maryann Leneghan were on probation, I felt angry and desperately sad. But I was not in the least surprised: I realised long ago that probation is a gigantic con trick played on the public.

I spent 34 years working with criminals. For most of those years, I was trying to reform criminals, first as an officer, then a manager, in the probation service. I witnessed at first hand the contempt of most criminals for the "rehabilitation sessions" - which then lasted, at most, half an hour a week - that were supposed to persuade them out of a life of crime.

Most of the criminals, when they did not see the sessions as a huge joke, thought our conversations a pointless bore. Their behaviour showed it: when they were not talking to me, they simply continued their criminal careers. That, to me, demonstrated just how futile the attempts to turn them into law-abiding citizens were.

Almost all governments since the 1960s have tried to convince the public that probation works and prison does not. In fact, that is the exact opposite of the truth. Probation, parole and community sentences fail miserably at reforming criminals. The reality is that if criminals are in prison, they cannot commit crimes. If they are in the community, they can - and they do.

The Government spends enormous amounts of money, time and energy on trying to deny this obvious truth. The statistics are blatantly fiddled to "prove" that probation and community sentences are as effective as prison at reducing crime.

The only way to get this result is simply to refuse to recognise that when in prison, criminals cannot commit crimes. So that is precisely what happens. The reconviction rates of prisoners are measured from the time of their release, while the reconviction rates of those on probation or community supervision are measured fom the start of the order. Even on that spurious comparison, which is blatantly and deliberately mendacious, the two rates of conviction are broadly similar.

The conjuring trick has the desired effect: it fools most people into thinking that probation is "just as good" as prison. Recent events, however, should have gone some way towards dispelling that illusion.

Damien Hanson, who stabbed the banker John Monckton to death in his Chelsea home, was on parole. Yousef Bouhaddaou, who murdered Robert Symons when the school teacher disturbed him as Bouhaddaou was burgling his house, was also under the supervision of the probation sevice.

Now we know that Michael Johnson, the ringleader of the group of vile and vicious sadists who murdered 16-year-old Maryann was on community supervision, as were three of the others involved. None of these hideous murders would have happened if the men had been in jail.

Harry Fletcher, the secretary of the National Associaton of Probation Officers, and Martin Wargent, the chief executive of the Probation Boards Association, have both been in the press and on the radio defending the service, and quoting a new statistic: that, of the 13,000 offenders who are assessed by the probation service to pose a "high or a very high" risk to the public, only "0.6 per cent committed serious offences last year".

That sounds as if it is an impressive testament to the National Probation Service's success. It starts to seem somewhat less so when you realise that "serious offences" covers such crimes murder, rape, arson and armed robbery.

It does not include assault, actual bodily harm, burglary, fraud or theft. Even if the "0.6 per cent of 13,000" statistic is correct, it still means that, on average, someone is raped or murdered or seriously injured each week by a criminal supposedly under the supervision of the probation service.

The admission that decisions by the probation service result in "only" one murder, rape or similarly serious offence a week does not sound like something to boast about. Again, these are all crimes that would not have happened had the criminal not been released to be supervised by the probation service.

It is an outrage. Those murders and rapes, not to say millions of lesser crimes, are wholly the result of the Government's policy of preferring probation, parole and "community punishments" to prison.

Moreover, it is important to point out that Johnson and the three others who murdered Maryann Leneghan while on probation would not be counted as among the "0.6 per cent" of offenders "assessed as high risk who reoffended last year". Astonishingly, they would all be classified, in Home Office statistics, not as a failure, but as a success for the probation service. This is for two reasons.

First, although the murder of Maryann was committed during their period of probation, they were not convicted of the crime or, indeed, charged with it until after that probation period was over. According to the probation service's definition of a "successfully completed period of supervision", these men did exactly that.

Amazingly, offences committed during the probation period do not count. Only offences for which a criminal is convicted while he is on probation are recorded in Home Office statistics as a "failure" of probation.

Second, Johnson et al were all assessed as at a "low risk", which automatically rules them out of being among the "13,000 high-risk offenders", of whom "only 0.6 per cent committed serious offences last year".

So a statistic that looks, on the surface, as if it is a tribute to the success of the probation service, is actually an example of its multiple failures. Although the probation service is able to predict accurately how likely criminals are to reoffend, it fails to stop them doing so.

This is as true of the probation service's much-vaunted "intensive supervision" courses as it is of the probation or parole consisting of a bog-standard, half-hour meeting a week. Consider, for example, the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme, which the Government introduced, at a cost of £98 million, as an alternative to sending young offenders to prison.

A recent assessment of that programme showed that it had been a total failure: a staggering 91 per cent of the juvenile offenders were reconvicted of an offence while they were still on the programme. But was that enough for it to be recognised as a failure by those within the criminal justice industry? Absolutely not.

Incredibly, Ellie Roy, the chief executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, insisted that a 91 per cent failure rate was, in fact, "a success". She claimed that "young people on the programme commit 40 per cent fewer crimes than previously, and those they do commit are much less serious".

Ms Roy's defence is spurious: she could not know either how many or how severe the offences that the juvenile offenders on the course were committing. All she or anyone else could possibly know for certain were the offences that the courts had found these young people guilty of committing.

Since about 20 times as many offences are committed as result in criminal convictions, this suggests that the young criminals on the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme were busy committing far more offences than those which they were actually convicted for while on the course.

The real recidivist rate on that programme was almost certainly not 91 per cent: it was 100 per cent. That is a failure by any standard - except, of course, the one that the National Probation Service uses.

It is the same story with just about every form of probation you care to consider. What Works - the special programme that was claimed, as its name suggests, to work, in direct contrast to earlier programmes - turned out not to work after all: 84 per cent of the criminals on that programme were convicted of offences committed while they were taking part.

Drug Testing and Treatment Orders, also rolled out with much fanfare by the Government as an effective way of dealing with crime "in the community", had an even higher rate of failure: 90 per cent of the criminals on that programme were convicted of offences committed while they were on it.

The Home Office statistics show that the rate of reconviction for all males on probation is more than 60 per cent. And, remember, these statistics count only reconvictions. When you consider that about 20 offences are committed for every one that results in a conviction, the real rate of reoffending is going to be far higher.

The Home Office and the Government is perfectly well aware of these figures - and of the shattering failure of probation and related "community sentences" which they represent. The truth is that criminals placed in the community commit crimes. No one knows that better than Government ministers and civil servants at the Home Office. Why, then, do they deny it in public?

There is a simple answer: money. The Government argues that probation and parole are, compared with prison, cheap. In reality, the cost of crime (at least £60 billion a year) far outweighs the cost of prisons. The only way of preventing criminals from committing crimes that is known to be effective is to lock them in prison.

But keeping criminals in prison is expensive. The Government would have to embark on a massive prison-building programme if it were to replace probation, parole and community sentences with incarceration.

No one in the Government, and certainly no one in the Treasury, is prepared to spend the enormous sums that would be required. So they keep on peddling the false promise that probation, parole and community sentences protect us all just as well as prison.

Honest, law-abiding people are the victims of this policy of pretending that probation does anything to reduce crime. It does not. The Government has evidently made the decision that it is too expensive to put criminals out of circulation, and that they must be allowed to prey on the rest of us.

Perhaps a majority of us would turn out to share the view that the millions of additional crimes, which include scores of murders and rapes, is a price worth paying. Somehow I doubt it.

But we have not been asked: instead, we have been lied to and conned, fed phoney statistics and imaginary "success" rates for probation, and told that everything is going just fine. It is not. The sooner we all realise that fact and see through the probation con-trick, the better.

• David Fraser is the author of A Land Fit for Criminals (Book Guild Publishing; £17.99), available in bookshops from Thursday or by telephoning 01825 873133.

22-Year-Old Arrested In Shooting Of Officer

Seattle -- A 22-year-old man was arrested Saturday night for allegedly shooting a Puyallup police officer in the face. The man is being held on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm. His name was not released.

The officer, who has served more than 14 years on the force, was in stable condition at Tacoma General Hospital late Saturday after being shot at Puyallup's South Hill mall.

Gary Shilley, 51, was investigating a suspicious vehicle at the mall about 12:20 a.m. when he was shot, police said.

He was shot once in the face, police said, but was able to call for help.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Police Search For Street Racer Who Struck Officer

Brent Whiting
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 21, 2006 12:00 AM GOODYEAR - A Goodyear police officer escaped serious injury early Sunday when he was struck by a street racer who swerved and apparently tried to run him down, police said Monday.

Authorities say Sgt. Chris McCall had stepped out of his patrol car and fired his service weapon at the oncoming vehicle just before being hit.

McCall, a 10-year veteran of the Goodyear force, was taken to a Phoenix hospital for treatment but did not suffer any serious injury, said Ralph McLaughlin, a Goodyear police commander.

The incident occurred on Litchfield Road near the entrance to the Phoenix-Goodyear Municipal Airport after McCall and other officers tried to stop vehicles that were street racing, McLaughlin said.

Up to 40 vehicles had been racing in the area, McLaughlin said. Some of the cars raced past McCall, but the driver of one vehicle swerved toward him.

Police have several leads, but the driver has yet to be identified, McLaughlin said.

To offer information, call Robert Frederick, an Arizona Department of Public Safety investigator, at (602) 223-2363.

Monday, March 13, 2006

NSW Polcie Should Settle Out Of Court

NSW, AU -- MARK COLVIN: The New South Wales Police Force has been accused of wasting millions of dollars by fighting compensation claims, by officers who've been physically or psychologically damaged in the line of duty.

It's been revealed that in a number of cases former police officers had offered to settle for less than $150,000 but ended up with payouts of three quarters of a million dollars, after the force insisted on going to court.

The Police Union says the way the claims are handled by the force's legal unit is "dysfunctional", and that the process only causes further injury to officers seeking compensation for negligence.

The allegations have prompted an external review of the force's legal services unit.

Jean Kennedy compiled this report for PM.

BOB RIDLEY: I had a total nervous breakdown in '98, and went into a state of depression and had a suicidal tendency, and I basically gave up on life.

JEAN KENNEDY: Bob Ridley was a former undercover officer with the New South Wales Police Service.

He worked for four years as a senior constable in the police service's most secretive squad, the special forces unit known as the stingers, and assumed a range of different identities posing as both a drug dealer and buyer for crime gangs.

He infiltrated bikie gangs and the Russian mafia, and to both fit in and cope with the danger, he drank to excess and took speed and cocaine, among other drugs.

But Bob Ridley says that when the job was done, he was left with an addiction but little support in picking up the pieces.

BOB RIDLEY: The biggest mental struggle I had was trying to find my feet being a policeman again after being a crook for four years, you know, purporting to be a drug dealer and running around living that sort of lifestyle.

JEAN KENNEDY: He sought compensation from the police force for negligence. They knocked back an offer of $100,000 forcing him to pursue a civil claim through the courts, which he ended up winning, and was awarded $ 750,000 plus court costs.

The police union says there are many such examples, where the police force's legal unit appears intent on dragging out cases and pushing them into the courts, at taxpayer's expense.

Peter Remfrey is the Police Association Secretary.

PETER REMFREY: Well we think the whole system for handling of these claims is dysfunctional, and part of the reason for that is that, there are so many different people, and so many different agencies that are involved in the system, that it makes it impossible for sensible decisions to be made when there's offers of settlement on the table.

JEAN KENNEDY: What sort of cases are having to go before the courts because they're not accepting settlement?

PETER REMFREY: The cases that have got the real problems around them are people who have been severely injured at work, who might have psychological claims, people who are working in crime scene for example, and are suing New South Wales Police for negligence.

They make offers of a small amount of settlement and unfortunately the system is forcing them to go through a court process, that asks them to repeat and relive the very things that it is, that damaged them. In our view forcing someone through such a system, who is already damaged, is criminal.

JEAN KENNEDY: The New South Wales Police Minister, Carl Scully.

CARL SCULLY: Well, I've had a number of complaints brought to my attention by serving and former police officers and lawyers, about the way claims are being managed. Not police prosecutors by the way, but the civil law claims, and I thought that those claims needed to be tested and that's why I've ordered an external review.

JEAN KENNEDY: How concerned are you about these cases where officers have been prepared to settle for around $150,000 or less, but end up going to court, being forced to go to court and getting $750,000 awarded to them?

CARL SCULLY: I'm very concerned about those allegations that have been made. I need to have them tested.

It's one thing for people to make informal approaches, it's quite another to put formal offers into the court documents. And I'd be quite concerned if the offer had been formalised by the plaintiffs' lawyers, and not seriously considered by Police legal when the consequence is taxpayers end up paying a lot more money than they necessarily should have.

JEAN KENNEDY: In Bob Ridley's case, after the court awarded him $750,000 the case was appealed against by the police force, but after four months it thought better of it, and dropped the matter. He says the way the force handled his compensation claim was disgraceful.

BOB RIDLEY: It's just fight them until they either die, or they lose interest, or they run out of money.

JEAN KENNEDY: So they made it very hard for you?

BOB RIDLEY: Most definitely. In fact, I probably got as much stress from that, than I did doing undercover work.

JEAN KENNEDY: Did you feel a sense of satisfaction that you ended up getting such a big amount rewarded to you, when you had been prepared to settle for so little?

BOB RIDLEY: Just relief, just relief that it was all over. I felt vindicated, that I had done nothing wrong myself, and that I was the loyal one to the Police Service, and a committed police officer, who tried his hardest to do the right thing and got shafted in the mean time.

MARK COLVIN: Former undercover police officer, Bob Ridley, ending Jean Kennedy's report.


Crime in Scottsdale Arizona

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Property crimes are on the decline, according to Scottsdale police.

A 2005 crime analysis shows a decrease in robberies, burglaries and thefts from 2004.

Police reported slight increases in aggravated assaults and homicides. There were five homicides in 2005, up from four in 2004.

The statistics, compiled by Scottsdale's Crime Analysis Unit, highlight police partnerships with community organizations, such as neighborhood watch groups and homeowners associations, Scottsdale Police Sgt. Mark Clark said.

Clark said the declining crime rates could be attributed to community efforts.

Neighborhood groups are particularly useful property crime deterrents, considering that neighbors are what police have come to call "the first line of defense" against burglaries and thefts.

"The chances of someone in the neighborhood seeing someone doing that is a heck of a lot higher than a police officer catching it," Clark said.

The biggest crime trend from 2004 to 2005 was a 16 percent decrease in thefts, police said.

Motor vehicle thefts decreased 12 percent over the same period. Burglaries declined by 10.4 percent.

Victims reported 51 forcible rapes in 2005, down from 63 in 2004.

Aside from the slight increase in homicides, 285 aggravated assaults were reported in 2005 up from 269 the previous year.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Secret Service Officer Hurt in SE Shootout

An off-duty police officer in the Secret Service's uniformed division was wounded last night in Southeast Washington in an exchange of gunfire during an attempt to steal his car.

It was the second time yesterday that shots were fired when gunmen tried to take a police officer's car in the District.

In last night's incident, The Secret Service officer was hit in the hand about 9:40 p.m. at a service station at Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, according to Inspector Alton Bigelow of the 6th Police District.

The officer, who was not identified by name, was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The Secret Service officer, who was not in uniform, was filling the tank of his late-model Jeep when the would-be carjacker stepped out of an automobile, Bigelow said.

The assailant approached and demanded the officer's vehicle. The officer drew his gun, and the exchange of shots followed.

It was unclear last night how many shots were fired, but markers placed at the scene indicated the presence of about half a dozen spent cartridges.

After the shooting, the robber returned to his car and fled. At least one other person was inside, police said.

The Jeep remained at the scene last night. The window on its driver's side was shattered, apparently by gunfire.

The Secret Service's uniformed division patrols the White House and its grounds, as well embassies.

The earlier incident also occurred at a service station east of the Anacostia River. Robbers, at least one of them with a gun, seized a vehicle from an off-duty Prince George's County officer in the 3300 block of Benning Road NE, police said.

The officer fired at the robbers during the carjacking, police said.

Police who were searching for the officer's car found it about 10 minutes later, in another east-of-the-river neighborhood.

They said two suspects were taken into custody in the incident. One had a gunshot wound.

Police Officer Makes Quick Collar

Their luck and timing could not have been worse.

Three men, one armed with a handgun, robbed a man at Rosemont and Madison streets in Hartford at 2:45 a.m. Sunday, practically right in front of Dexton Palmer, an off-duty Meriden police officer.

The victim told Palmer that he had been robbed and pointed out the suspects, Hartford police said Sunday. It wasn't immediately known if the victim knew Palmer was an officer. Palmer, a rookie who was armed with his service weapon, decided to intervene.

He identified himself as a police officer and held two of the men, Hartford police said. A third robber fled, police said.

When officers arrived, Palmer had two of the suspects on the ground, waiting to be handcuffed, police Lt. Bruce Roy said.

Joseph Murrell, 19, of Capen Street, and Terrence Anderson, 18, of 2329 Main St., both of Hartford, were charged with robbery, police said. Hartford police said they are still investigating.

Efforts Sunday to reach Palmer were unsuccessful.

Word of the arrest by Palmer, who has been in the department a little more than a year, had made it back to Meriden police later in the morning. Meriden police Sgt. Lenny Caponigro said many officers carry their firearms while off duty. "A lot of them carry them 24/7," he said.

"He basically happened to be in the right place at the right time," Caponigro said of Palmer.

In an unrelated incident, Hartford police were investigating a shooting at 911 Asylum Ave. in which a man was wounded in the leg by a .22-caliber firearm.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Police Officer Face Sacking Over ATM Theaft

NSW, AU -- The New South Wales police corruption watchdog has recommended a suspended Sydney policeman be sacked after an investigation into the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from automatic teller machines (ATMs).

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has not recommended criminal charges be laid, but says the officer should be prosecuted over other offences uncovered during hearings, including encouraging witnesses to give false testimony and falsifying documents.

The PIC has found that Senior Constable Daniel Francis Ryan engaged in police misconduct.
During a hearing, Senior Constable Ryan denied involvement in the theft of about $700,000 from ATMs in Sydney in 2001. It was alleged his brother and a Chubb security guard were also involved.

The PIC says the policeman was unable to provide a credible explanation about the source of more than $400,000 he had.

Police Officer Kills Armed Woman

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A police officer shot and killed a woman who lunged at him with a knife during a confrontation at a house early Friday, police said.

"It was very clear that the woman was in an irrational state and lunged at a police officer," said interim Chief Timothy Hickey.

The husband of Patricia Thompson, 54, alerted police around midnight to say that he needed help. Within a minute of the arrival of two officers, Thompson repeatedly attempted to strike Officer Jeffrey Lafave, who pushed her away, the chief said.

She then retreated into the kitchen, returned to the front hallway and moved toward the officer with a knife, Hickey said. The officer backed up but she kept moving toward him and he shot her once in the chest, Hickey added.

Thompson's husband and his daughter witnessed the confrontation and told officers they saw her attack the officer, the chief added.

Police were called to the house nine times over the last few years because of Thompson's mental health problems, Hickey said. But neither Lafave, an officer for one year, nor his partner knew about her health history, he said.

Lafave will be placed on administrative duty while an internal investigation is conducted, but the chief described the shooting as justified. The other officer, a three-year veteran, will resume regular patrol duties.