Saturday, January 3, 2015

Seattle Police Grapple With New Role ..

The new approach chafes with a generation of police whose training and outlook were based on the notion that no infraction was too small.
Kathleen O’Toole, this city’s new police chief, recently visited some of her department’s stations to deliver an unusual message: It’s OK to arrest people who violently break the law.
Ms. O’Toole, who became head of the 1,350-officer force in June, said police showed admirable but excessive restraint when pelted with stones and bottles at a protest related to the death of Michael Brown, the Ferguson, Mo., black teen shot by a white officer. “If you get agitators who threaten the police or the public, you have to arrest them,” she said.
That a police chief felt the need to issue such instructions is a signal of the turmoil that has beset American law enforcement. After decades of aggressive policing and prosecution practices, combined with tough-on-crime legislation, there is increasing debate over whether those policies need to change. In recent months, that has taken an angry and at times violent turn, including the shooting of Mr. Brown and the execution-style killing of two New York City policemen.
Seattle officers now direct some offenders toward social 
services rather than the criminal-justice system. 
Sipa/Associated Press
The tactics many believe helped reduce American crime rates and make violent cities more habitable now appear to be at odds with a different set of consequences. Almost 80 million people, or nearly one-third of adult Americans, have an arrest or conviction record, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. Among minorities, in particular, there is a mistrust of law enforcement.
These tensions are playing out in Seattle, a fast-growing city of more than 600,000 that is home to corporate giants such as Starbucks Corp. and Inc. The police department is under the scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor, the result of a 2012 Justice Department complaint accusing it of a pattern of using force that denied people’s constitutional rights.
Seattle’s political leadership, including City Attorney Peter Holmes, has moved to rein in police tactics and cut down on prosecutions for minor crimes.
Many police officers have chafed at the restrictions. Earlier this year, one officer cited dozens of people for smoking marijuana in public and wrote some of the tickets to the attention of “Petey Holmes.” Rates of serious crime have started to tick up.
Out of this contentious debate has emerged a possible third way, the joint brainchild of civil-rights activists and law-enforcement officials. The three-year-old program gives beat officers the option of diverting some offenders into social-service programs rather than the criminal courts.
Other locales are trying similar experiments. In Durham County, N.C., prosecutors, defense attorneys, police and judges are working to give youthful first-time offenders an option other than adult court and a criminal record. Authorities in New York, Philadelphia and some other cities have stepped away from making arrests for minor pot possession. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has directed officers to limit searches during traffic stops, which in the past produced arrests.
The collateral consequences of an arrest and conviction—which can include difficulty in getting a job, scholarship or loan many years later—are now “definitely on our radar screen,” said Steven Jansen, vice president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, a group representing thousands of prosecutors. “In the end, we have to ask, ‘Is this fair?’ ”
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can see where this all going. Yes We The People respect the police. But sometime they go over board. When this happens. There should be a Sargent in the sean. To make sure that people be treated fair. The system some time they lie with there story. The DA is looking for some one to be prosecuted and not looking for a True story. I hav set in many Jurior in court. They look so evel the DA and the Attorneys they just to win a case so they can get there status up in the Judge seat. Its wrong that why people don't trust the cops. Change the System and you will see more people to help the Police Department. God Bless you all. Ex Army Ranger.