Science and Technology News

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Criminal Justice Technology in the News

Law Enforcement News

New Pa. Alert System to Connect With Stranded Motorists
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ed Blazina, (12/22/2016)

Pennsylvania has a new system to allow officials to better communicate with motorists stranded for more than two hours on the state's highways. The 511PAConnect system will send a message to all cellphones in a specific area when a standstill occurs on a limited-access highway. The system, which will be enacted by emergency management personnel in consultation with police and road officials, will encourage motorists who are stranded to register with the emergency operations center with basic information about their vehicle and passengers, and any other information they can provide about the incident. Once registered, motorists will receive updates every 15 minutes until traffic resumes moving.
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Monticello Police Department Set to Receive Active-Shooter Kits
WLFI, (12/27/2016), Brad Oppenheim

The Monticello (Ind.) Police Department will soon receive a dozen kits for police officers to use in the event of an active shooter incident. The kits consist of ballistic helmets and shields. The $9,000 cost of the kits is being split three ways between the department, the local Rotary Club and the Monticello Council.
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Henry County Police Department Receives Grant to Renew Highway Safety Unit
Henry Herald, (12/28/2016)

The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety has renewed its grant to the Henry County Police Department for 2017, providing for four officers to devote 100 percent of their time to roadway safety. The officers will serve in the department's Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic unit. The grant funds 40 percent of the salaries for two officers. The county will continue to pay 60 percent of those officers' salaries and 100 percent of the salaries of two additional officers.
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California to Drivers: Starting Sunday, Don't Hold That Cellphone
The Sacramento Bee, (12/27/2016), Tony Bizjak

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, California drivers will no longer be allowed to hold their cellphones in their hands for any reason, including using apps. The law that takes effect with the New Year plugs what safety officials called a major loophole in the state's hands-free cellphone laws, which ban talking and texting on handheld phones while driving. Other handheld uses of a phone, such as shooting videos or scanning Facebook, have been technically legal. Under the new law, drivers can use their cellphones if they do it hands-free, but phones must be mounted on the dashboard or windshield. With a phone mounted, the new law allows the driver to touch the phone once to activate or deactivate a feature or function.
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Judge Refuses to Halt SFPD's New Use-of-Force Policy
SFGATE, (12/27/2016), Michael Bodley

A San Francisco Superior Court judge has rejected the city's police union's request to delay the rollout of a contested use-of-force policy updated by the city's Police Commission. In declining to grant a temporary restraining order, the judge said the union had little chance of winning a lawsuit it filed against the city seeking more latitude for officers under the new guidelines. The suit targets measures in the new policy that the union said would impede officer safety and should be subject to negotiation. In the lawsuit, the Police Officers Association argues that officers would be endangered by new prohibitions on carotid restraint neck holds and shooting at moving vehicles. Bans on both measures took effect December 27, as the police department completed the formality of issuing the commission-approved policy, even though litigation is expected to continue.
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Traffic Safety Program Kicking Off in Sarasota Next Month
Herald-Tribune, (12/28/2016), Carlos R. Munoz

The Sarasota Police Department will use a $25,000 grant from the University of South Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation to promote pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The High Visibility Traffic Safety Program will educate drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians on how to use the roadway. The police department will focus on five primary intersections that have a high rate of crashes involving cars and pedestrians or bicycles. In 2016, there have been 3,407 crashes in Sarasota, 46 involving people and 79 crashes with bicyclists. The special patrol begins the first week of January and will continue through May 14.
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New App Allows Anonymous Tipsters a Faster Way to Share Info with KC Crimestoppers
WDAFTV, (12/29/2016), Sean McDowell

A new Crimestoppers mobile app will offer tipsters a means of contacting Kansas City (Mo.) police, allowing uploading of video clips, still photos and audio in addition to anonymous tips. If the info leads to arrests, tipsters are eligible for a cash reward. The new mobile app will be activated on Jan. 1, 2017.
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Bryan Police Officer Saved by Bulletproof Vest When Shot at Scene of Robbery
Body Armor, (12/29/2016), Scott Burton

The Bryan (Texas) Police Department credits an officer's ballistic-resistant vest with saving his life when he was shot by a suspect in the robbery of a convenience store in the early morning hours of December 29. The officer's name was not released for privacy reasons; the suspect was later apprehended when found hiding in a vehicle parked near the scene of the robbery.
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Bulletproof Vest Saves Second Brazos Valley Officer, (01/02/2017)

On New Year's Day, a Brazos Valley police officer was saved from serious injury or death by his ballistic-resistant vest; he was the second area officer saved by his armor in less than a week (see previous item). Officer Stephen Magnes of the seven-person Calvert (Texas) Police Department received only minor injuries after being shot in the back as he exited his patrol car. He was treated and released within hours; a suspect was arrested shortly after the incident.
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Arkansas Officers Put Drone to Use in Search, See Bigger Role Ahead
ArkansasOnline, (01/02/2017), Tracy Neal

Police in Rogers, Ark., recently used a drone to help another agency map and search for a missing woman and her young daughter. A Rogers officer piloted the drone to help the Siloam Springs Police Department search the vicinity where the woman's vehicle was found in November. She and her daughter remain missing. The department purchased the drone in September for about $4,500. Rogers Police Chief Hayes Minor believes the drone could be a valuable asset for police, particularly in searches and for aerial photography of a crime scene or at a large traffic accident.
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LaPorte County Law Enforcement Units Merge to Fight Drug Crimes
South Bend Tribune, (01/02/2017), Stan Maddux

Two law enforcement units in LaPorte County, Ind., have merged to form the new LaPorte County Drug Task Force to clamp down on drug crimes. Officials hope the merger between the Street Crimes Unit of the Michigan City Police Department and the LaPorte Metro Operations Unit will deter drug dealers. In November, the number of heroin-related deaths in LaPorte County for the year approached 20, despite first responders carrying the heroin antidote Narcan. The new task force has 10 investigators who work on cases across the county.
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CPD Begins 2017 Initiatives to Reduce Violence
Chicago Sun Times, (01/01/2017)

Hiring more officers, funding economic growth and providing support for young men in violent neighborhoods are among the initiatives the Chicago Police Department and the city are planning to reduce the amount of violence. By the end of 2017, nearly 1,000 more beat officers, detectives, lieutenants, sergeants and field training officers will be working for the police department. The mayor will invest in mentoring programs for men in the 20 most violent neighborhoods and offer incentives for commercial retail and industrial developers, and will financially support the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and the Community Catalyst Fund, police said. Police will also emphasize technology, training and transparency. By year's end, officers from all districts will wear body cameras.
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The Lie-Detecting Security Kiosk of the Future
San Diego State University, (12/16/2016), Suzanne Finch

The Canadian Border Services Agency is testing a robotic kiosk to help security agents detect possible deception by travelers. San Diego State University management information systems professor Aaron Elkins developed the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR), and describes it as a kiosk with a face on the screen that asks questions of travelers. It can detect changes in physiology and behavior during the interview and changes in the eyes, voice, gestures and posture to determine potential risk. Once the kiosk detects deception, it will flag those passengers for further scrutiny from human agents.
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Corrections News

Growth of Mentally Ill Inmates Raises Concern in Mich.
The Detroit News, (12/28/2016), Michael Gerstein and Jonathan Oosting

The number of prisoners in Michigan prisons classified as having a mental illness has risen 14 percent, from 8,213 inmates in 2012 to 9,395 inmates this year, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. The mental health community and law enforcement have complained that correctional facilities too often become warehouses for the mentally ill. State House Speaker-elect Tom Leonard said he wants to make mental health reform and actions to keep people with mental illness out of prison one of his top priorities in the new legislative session that begins in January. Mentally ill inmates comprise about 23 percent of Michigan's more than 41,000 prisoners.
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Prison Reform Top Issue in 2017 Legislative Session
WSFA, (12/28/2016), Michael Doudna

Prison reform will likely be among the priority issues during Alabama's 2017 legislative session. The state's prisons face overcrowding, understaffing and lawsuits. Gov. Robert Bentley has said he is looking at a potential special session to isolate the prison issue during the legislative session. One proposal is the governor's Prison Transformation Act, which would build four new super prisons to replace old facilities, funded by an $800 million bond issue.
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CDCR Awards $14.5 Million to Expand Rehabilitative Programs
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, (12/30/2016)

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has announced the recipients of $14.5 million in grants to boost innovative programs and increase volunteerism in prisons. During this grant cycle, the Innovative Grant Program, which began in 2015, will establish 43 programs at 20 adult institutions. Programs include communication and de-escalation skills, service dog training, prison gardens, family reunification and computer coding. Grants are targeted to institutions underserved by volunteers and not-for-profit organizations.
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Virginia Prisons in Solitary Confinement Reduction Effort
Richmond Times-Dispatch, (12/31/2016), Frank Green

The Virginia Department of Corrections is one of five prison systems selected to participate in an initiative aimed at safely reducing the use of inmate solitary confinement, also known as segregation. In addition to Virginia, prison departments in Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada and Utah were chosen after a competitive proposal process. Five other jurisdictions already are participating. The 21-month initiative begins in early 2017 and is supported by a $2.2 million grant awarded to the Vera Institute of Justice by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance. The states will provide a match up to $50,000.
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State Prisons Grow, Donate Produce to Fight Hunger
The News & Observer, (01/02/2017)

Twenty prisons in the N.C. Department of Public Safety prison system provided more than 36,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks and anti-hunger organizations in 2016. The food is donated through the Combating Hunger project with Harvest Now, a national nonprofit that works with several state prison systems. Harvest Now donates $7,000 worth of seeds to the prisons, which work with local community colleges or agricultural extension offices for expertise and advice on planting and tending their gardens.
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Guilford County Jail Adds Programs to Reduce Repeat Offenders
Greensboro News and Record, (12/25/2016), Joe Gamm

Correctional facilities in Guilford County, N.C., have increased educational and life skills programs for inmates in an effort to reduce recidivism. Inmates are offered access to programs such as anger management, parenting and mental health counseling, as well as classes to improve themselves, satisfy orders from a judge or to earn perks in the jail. In one program, they can earn points using tablets to take self-directed educational, finance, job training and other classes, then spend those points using the tablets to listen to music, watch television or make phone calls. Inmates can also learn computer skills, math or English, or work toward a GED.
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Maryland Jail Inmates to be Trained to Administer Overdose Drug
The Baltimore Sun, (12/25/2016), Alison Knezevich

Maryland is expanding a program to provide inmates leaving prison with naloxone, which is used to reverse an opiate overdose. Health officials say recently incarcerated people are particularly susceptible to overdosing because without access to drugs in jail, their tolerance has dropped. Five counties are receiving state funding to pay for naloxone kits as an expansion of a pilot program the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched in Southern Maryland jails in 2016. Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Harford and Washington counties are getting new funding. Baltimore County plans to train about 300 inmates on the use of naloxone beginning in January.
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Oklahoma Correctional Officer Intercepts 'One of the Largest Attempted Contraband Drops of the Year'
KFOR, (12/30/2016), Dallas Franklin

A correctional officer at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Oklahoma caught an inmate attempting to smuggle a large amount of contraband that had been packed in a bag and thrown over a fence onto prison property, officials said. An officer stopped an inmate carrying a large bag and on inspection, found footballs and basketballs that had been cut open and filled with contraband. A review of perimeter security footage shows unknown individuals outside the fence throwing the bag over the fence. Sample items found inside the bag included cellphones and cellphone chargers, rolling papers and tobacco.
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