Category Archives: police

Eliminate Unnecessary Traffic Stops

New Report Details How Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly

Excellent article by Finesse Moreno-Rivera gives solutions to eliminating unnecessary traffic stops. Unfortunately, many of these impromptu occurrances become escalated and result in fatalities. To protect motorists and police, we need better protocols.

The Data

According to recent data from Mapping Police Violence, an unfortunate amount of civilian deaths occur during traffic stops.  In many cases, the police department responsible refused to provide details or justification. Purported traffic violations account for about 40% of these killings. And almost half of those involved individuals under the influence of drugs, alcohol or with mental illness.

In nearly 430 of these fatal traffic stops, the victim was suspected of carrying a weapon. But in 20% of the cases – that’s more than 80 deaths – the individual was unarmed. In about 350 deadly incidents, the officer initiated a traffic stop for unspecified circumstances.

To reduce police violence, states need to reform their policies:

Limit stops for minor traffic violations. Clearly, more states need to adopt policies to prevent police from pulling over nonthreatening vehicles. Cities such as Los Angles and Philadelphia have passed legislation to end unnecessary traffic stops. These reforms aim to decrease unnecessary exposures to danger and to mitigate police’s tendency toward racial bias. We must stop pulling vehicles over for minor traffic violations with intent to investigate for larger offenses. Instead, we must incentivize officers to determine whether a vehicle is involved in a serious crime before pulling them over.

Eliminate incentives for ticket revenue. The financial incentive for police to stop drivers has been an issue for a long time. This is because many communities rely heavily on ticket revenue. Many local and state governments are so dependent on officers’ traffic stops for revenue, they often evaluate officers based on ticket quotas. This system attaches monetary gain or promotions to the number of tickets issued. Making matters worse, the federal government awards municipalities money for the number of tickets issued. This negative financial incentive goes all the way to the top, establishing a system conducive to corruption. To date, more than 20 states have prohibited quotas. This is a step in the right direction.

Create national campaign for traffic stop awareness. Police academies train recruits in basic traffic stop fundamentals. However, motorists in driving school do not get the run-down on police procedures. This unpreparedness increases the risk of danger for both motorists and officers. The lack of standardization in traffic stop conduct is a real problem.

Motorists can send mixed signals to officers or be wary of traffic stops, especially if they’re a person of color. Teaching drivers about police protocol and their rights and responsibilities would promote safe and effective roadside communication.

Some organizations already offer this kind of roadside safety education. The National Association of Black Law Enforcement hosts events in Black communities to teach people the risk of traffic stops, how to act when stopped by police given what police are trained to watch for, and what their actions will communicate to their officers.

Police reforms so far aren’t keeping people from dying. The only way to protect motorists and officers is to limit traffic stops and to promote clear communication between officers and citizens after the sirens have sounded.

My opinion? The challenges facing law enforcement are difficult. Perhaps a shift in protocols would ensure that everyone – officers included – are more safe in their day-to-day contacts with citizens. Let’s prevent Reckless Driving or DUI incidents from becoming lethal. And please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Extraction of Smartphone Data by U.S. Law Enforcement

Mass Extraction | Upturn

A new report from upturn.org reveals that thousands of smartphones are searched by police every day across the US. Unfortunately, most searches are done without a warrant and in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

THE PROBLEM

Law enforcement agencies across the country search thousands of cellphones, typically incident to arrest. To search phones, law enforcement agencies use mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs). This powerful technology allows police to extract a full copy of data from a cellphone. This data includes all emails, texts, photos, location, app data, and more. The report documents more than 2,000 agencies that have purchased these tools, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“We found that state and local law enforcement agencies have performed hundreds of thousands of cellphone extractions since 2015, often without a warrant. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such records have been widely disclosed.” ~Upturn.org

According to the report, every American is at risk of having their phone forensically searched by law enforcement. Police use these tools to investigate assault, prostitution, vandalism, theft, drug-related offenses, etc. Given how routine these searches are today, it’s more than likely that these technologies disparately affect and are used against communities of color.

The emergence of these tools represents a dangerous expansion in law enforcement’s investigatory powers. In 2011, only 35% of Americans owned a smartphone. Today, it’s at least 81% of Americans. Moreover, many Americans — especially people of color and people with lower incomes — rely solely on their cellphones to connect to the internet. For law enforcement, mobile phones remain the most frequently used and most important digital source for investigation.

THE SOLUTIONS

Upurn.org believes that MDFTs are simply too powerful in the hands of law enforcement and should not be used. But recognizing that MDFTs are already in widespread use across the country, they offer a set of preliminary recommendations that, in the short-term, help reduce the use of MDFTs. These include:

  • banning the use of consent searches of mobile devices,
  • abolishing the plain view exception for digital searches,
  • requiring easy-to-understand audit logs,
  • enacting robust data deletion and sealing requirements, and
  • requiring clear public logging of law enforcement use.

Of course, these recommendations are only the first steps in a broader effort to minimize the scope of policing, and to confront and reckon with the role of police in the United States.

“This report seeks to not only better inform the public regarding law enforcement access to mobile phone data, but also to recenter the conversation on how law enforcement’s use of these tools entrenches police power and exacerbates racial inequities in policing. ” ~Upturn.org

Special thanks to authors Logan Koepke, Emma Weil, Urmila Janardan, Tinuola Dada and Harlan Yu for providing this highly informative and educational material.

Please review my Search & Seizure Legal Guide and contact my office if you are charged with a crime involving a smartphone search. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Washington Police Say Drivers Aren’t Stopping For Them

See ya! Washington police say drivers aren't stopping for them; cite  pursuit restrictions - OPB

Journalist Austin Jenkins reports that drivers are increasingly refusing to stop for Washington State Patrol troopers. troopers – and other law enforcement agencies also say this is becoming a common occurrence.

The Northwest News Network reports that from January 1 to May 17 of this year, the agency logged 934 failure-to-yield incidents. While the patrol didn’t track this in the past, veteran troopers say there’s been a dramatic uptick in drivers fleeing traffic stops.

“Something’s changed. People are not stopping right now. It’s happening three to five times a shift on some nights and then a couple times a week on day shift.” ~WA State Patrol Sgt. Darren Wright.

Many blame recent police reform laws passed in response to the murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile police killings — reforms aimed at addressing racial disproportionality in policing. Minority Republicans in the Legislature criticized many of the changes, including the pursuit law House Bill 1054, and said they jeopardized public safety.

Under House Bill 1054, police officers can’t give chase unless there’s reasonable suspicion to believe the driver is impaired or the higher standard of probable cause to believe they’re an escaped felon or have committed a violent crime or a sex crime.

Even then there are restrictions on when officers can pursue. Officers must balance whether the person poses an “imminent threat” and whether the safety risks of the person getting away outweigh the danger of engaging in a high-speed chase.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving, Eluding or any other crimes. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Bellingham Residents Express Concern Over Rising Crime Rates

Neighborhood Policing - City of Bellingham

KGMI reports that the Bellingham City Council, mayor and other leaders heard from residents about their concerns about public safety at a virtual community meeting held on Monday, May 16th.

Residents expressed concerns about housing prices, drug deals in their neighborhoods and rising crime rates. Chief Deputy for the Bellingham Police Department Don Ahlmer told the meeting that while crime rates are up, the numbers have to be viewed with perspective.

“If you look at the numbers for aggravated assault, if a seven year average is 124, the last three-year average is roughly 50 more a year. You’re looking at one more assault a week . . . So, numbers are numbers . . . But I don’t want the public or anybody watching this to think, oh my gosh, there’s like a hundred extra assaults a day.” ~ Deputy Almer, Bellingham Police Department

Mayor Seth Fleetwood said the city needs more police officers.

“We’re fortunate to have a police department that is exceptional, made up of capable, caring, highly confident, trained professionals,” said Fleetwood. “But our staffing levels are down and we’re doing all we can to staff back up. And I know that we’re going to get there.”

Click here to watch a YouTube video of the meeting.

My opinion? The concerns of Bellingham’s citizens reflect national trends that crime – especially homicides and manslaughter – has increased. Covid disrupted every aspect of life in the past two years. Social services and supports that help keep crime down vanished overnight. Schools could no longer keep unruly teens safe and distracted. A broader sense of disorder and chaos could have fueled a so-called moral holiday, in which people disregard laws and norms.

Citizens are righteously concerned with crimes happening in their backyards. And yes, we need solutions. The solutions involve training and hiring police officers who are not racially biased. We need police officers who won’t conduct illegal searches/seizures. And we need police officers who won’t go about policing poverty. These practices strain the criminal justice system. They also burden impoverished people with fines for minor offenses and fracture the relationship between police and minorities.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New Washington State Patrol Trooper Class the ‘Most Diverse’ in the Agency’s History

Governor Murphy Sign Laws In An Effort To Try And Boost Racial Diversity  Among New Jersey Police Departments | New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law  Blog

King5 News reports that the latest class of graduates from the Washington State Patrol Academy (WSP) is the agency’s most diverse.

Of the 44 cadets sworn into service Wednesday, 43% come from populations considered historically underrepresented. Two of the new troopers are women, six are Hispanic, four are Asian, two are Black, and five identified themselves as representing two or more of those groups.

However, it’s reported that the agency still does not reflect the diversity of the state’s population. Not counting the recent graduating class, 90% of WSP’s commissioned officers are male, and 85% are white. That lack of diversity prompted state legislators to pass a law requiring oversight of the agency’s minority hiring practices.

WSP spokesperson Chris Loftis said the agency’s recent class is proof WSP was working on the issue before legislative action.

“We’re really seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Loftis. “It’s targeted recruitment, it’s community engagement, but it’s also increasing the allure and respect for law enforcement.”

My opinion? This is good news. And arrives on other reporting that it’s difficult to hire cadets from diverse backgrounds:

“This is a profession in particular over the course of the last many years that has struggled with regards to community acceptance to some degree as a profession, which has made it a lot more difficult to recruit folks within the diverse communities.” ~WSP Chief John Batiste.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Lacks Diversity, Seeks Active Recruitment of Minority Officers

Police Officers Explain Why Diversity in Law Enforcement Matters | Rasmussen University

King5 journalist PJ Randhawa reports that diversity in the Washington State Patrol (WSP) has been lacking for years. A new state law is putting pressure on the agency to attract and retain cadets of color.

WSP data shows the majority of state troopers are white men. Department of Justice and state data found diversity in the state patrol has declined. Compared with 2003, the patrol now employs fewer Black, Asian and Native American troopers.

A new state law looks to change the narrative. In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that puts pressure on WSP to attract and retain cadets of color. The measure will cost the state patrol $1.3 million. It includes the commission of an independent study into retention and recruitment efforts in addition to setting agency benchmarks and providing legislative oversight of WSP’s progress.

THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC AND BEGINS AT RECRUITING

A 2021 state study into WSP’s retention and recruitment practices showed cadets of color were failing the agency’s psychological evaluation at a higher rate than their white counterparts. And there’s a lot at stake – if you flunk the psychological evaluation, you’re out.

According to data compiled in the report, 36% of white candidates didn’t pass WSP’s psychological evaluation compared to 44% of Latinx candidates, 67% of Asian candidates and 60% of Black candidates who didn’t pass the psychological examination.

Dr. Daniel Clark, WSP’s longtime psychologist, was the man responsible for administering the tests. Clark faced criticism from lawmakers after that 2021 state report showed candidates of color were rejected from the patrol at high rates. The report found, “Every focus group and multiple key executives reported concerns of bias in the psychological evaluation process.”

Clark kept his job. He’s been reassigned at the state patrol and now deals with counseling and training.

THE WSP’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY

Last year, WSP announced they had signed onto the 30×30 pledge, a nationwide effort within police departments to increase representation in all ranks and promote gender equity. According to the WSP, “The ultimate goal of the 30×30 Initiative is to reach 30 percent of women in police recruit classes by 2030 and to ensure policing agencies are truly representative of the jurisdiction the agency serves. While 30×30 focuses on advancing women in policing, these principles are applicable to all demographic diversity, not just gender.”

According to a statement provided by WSP, high vacancy rates across all law enforcement agencies have increased competition for candidates of color. They say they continue to modify their hiring and training practices to eliminate any unintended barriers for candidates of color.

My opinion? I agree with recent studies showing that diversity in law enforcement may improve policing. Compared to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers made far fewer stops and arrests — and used force less often — especially against Black civilians. Also, female officers used less force than their male counterparts. Apparently, de-escalation tactics and a decrease in unnecessary pullovers benefits everyone.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Employees Lose Jobs For Refusing to Vaccinate

Unvaccinated Cops Should Be Fired; Use Their Salaries on Public Health

Today’s press release from the WA State Patrol reports that 127 people employed by WSP were separated from employment for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Those leaving include 67 troopers, six sergeants, one captain and 53 civil servants, according to the announcement.

The departures from the State Patrol are spread across the state. Over the next few days, leaders plan to gauge the impact of the departures and move resources where necessary. The State Patrol plans to make similar adjustments for departures from its civilian jobs and is looking to fill vacancies “as soon as possible.”

Longer term, the WSP will continue recruiting and plans to fill three classes of police academy cadets in the coming months.

WSP Chief John R Batiste said the State Patrol will do its best to keep staff from becoming overburdened from the departures. “We have the responsibilities of the agency to carry forward and I am not going to ask you to do more with less,” said Batiste in the press release.

About two weeks ago, WSP said 93 percent of its 2,200 employees had been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Seattle Times. Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said last week that across Washington, more than 90 percent of state workers had been vaccinated. Inslee announced in August that state employees, health care employees and school workers must be vaccinated or provide proof of medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18. According to the Associated Press, the mandate is believed to be among the strictest in the nation and covers more than 800,000 workers.

In other related news, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that police officers should get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves and others.

Police unions across the country have urged members to resist vaccine requirements for their jobs. But Fauci said police officers should view vaccination as a key part of their job:

“Think about the implications of not getting vaccinated when you’re in a position where you have a responsible job, and you want to protect yourself because you’re needed at your job, whether you’re a police officer or a pilot or any other of those kinds of occupations.” Dr. Anthony Fauci,  Fox News Sunday.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

LGBTQ Training for Police

No Cops at Pride”: How the Criminal Justice System Harms LGBTQ People | Urban Institute

Great article in NBC News by reporter Finbarr Toesland says police departments across the U.S. are mandating LGBTQ training. Some departments are doing so voluntarily, while others are being required to do so following lawsuits.

According to Toesland, there’s growing reports of police allegedly using excessive force against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. There have also been numerous incidents in which LGBTQ individuals said members of law enforcement made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to news reports, lawsuits and academic studies.

These incidents — along with the historically fraught relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community — have led a growing number of police departments across the country to introduce LGBTQ awareness and cultural competency training for their officers. With trainings found from Washington, D.C., to Palo Alto, California, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; rather, departments are crafting programs that take into consideration their specific communities.

Toesland explains that throughout much of modern U.S. history, police officers were bound to enforce explicitly anti-gay laws. They ranged from local measures outlawing men from “impersonating a female” to the widespread criminalization of same-sex sexual activity. In fact, it wasn’t until the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas that gay sex was decriminalized throughout the country.

THE REPORTS, SURVEYS & STUDIES

  • A 2015 report highlights the numerous surveys, court cases and academic studies that document the alleged discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people by law enforcement.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found 58 percent of trans respondents who said they interacted with police in the previous year alleged they had been harassed by law enforcement. The survey also found 57 percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable contacting police for help.
  • A study published in June in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found 43 percent of Black sexual minority men experienced police discrimination in the past year. This unequal treatment had a range of negative effects on this community, including high levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Another study published by the Williams Institute in May that found lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people are six times more likely than the general public to be stopped by police (data about transgender individuals were not available in the datasets analyzed).

THE NEED FOR TRAINING

Toesland explains that a number of law enforcement departments have proactively decided to add LGBTQ programs to their arsenal of training courses. In fact, the largest local police departments in the U.S. —  New York CityChicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and Washington, D.C. — all offer some form of LGBTQ training.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington — the sixth largest local police department in the U.S. — has been offering LGBTQ training since 2000, though it expanded its curriculum in 2015. Sgt. Nicole Brown, who has been a supervisor for the department’s LGBT liaison unit for the past three years, said her department was the first in the nation to offer such training.

California became the first state to introduce mandatory training on sexual orientation and gender identity for incoming police officers, after former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2504 into law in late 2018. The bill requires new recruits to undertake training in five unique areas, including understanding the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and how these aspects of identity intersect with race, culture and religion, as well as learning appropriate terminology around sexual orientation and gender identity.

My opinion? The increase in LGBTQ-specific police training is a positive step forward. Not only can training help the LGBTQ community, but it can help police departments do their job better, especially those that are really invested in community policing. These trainings can really help get to a place where LGBTQ communities feel comfortable working with law enforcement, and actually enable police to do their jobs better and more safely.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are LGBTQ and are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Language App Helps Police

LanguageLine Solutions(R) Launches Live Interpreting App

Tacoma police officers are now using a language translation tool to assist during emergency responses. Q13 Fox News reports that all officers have access to Language Line Solutions, a translator app on their phones.

In the past, officers used neighbors or even family members, like kids, to translate.

Lydia Zepeda, who is a member of the Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, worked with the Tacoma Police Department to introduce a better way for officers to help people in crisis.

“A lot of these people are experiencing domestic violence, they may have been sexually assaulted, or they may be some other victim of a crime and we certainly don’t want children to have to interpret for something like this.” ~Lydia Zepeda, Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

“Language Line Solutions allows the Tacoma Police Department to offer equitable services to all members of the community,” said officer Wendy Haddow with the Tacoma Police Department.

The app offers translators for 240 different languages with voice options, and for some languages, video chat options. When you open the app, you can scroll or use the search feature to find the language you are looking for.

“This app is really, really important,” said Zepeda. She says this new tool, gives people going through an emergency an easier way to be heard, and get the help they need. She says it also protects children from having to be involved. “It minimizes trauma.”

My opinion? The language line app is an excellent use of police resources which serves everyone. In an emergency, getting information quick is vital. However, challenges arise when responding officers and the caller do not speak the same language.

Language barriers are the source of much litigation. In State v. Prok, the WA Court of dismissed a DUI case against a Cambodian DUI defendant because the police officer failed to advise Mr. Prok of his right to counsel in language easily understood. By itself, State v. Prok assisted defense attorneys who argued Motions to Suppress evidence based on language barriers between police and defendants.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

No More Police Chokeholds

emi koyama (@emikoyama) | Twitter

Excellent article by Melissa Luck of the yaktrinews.com reports that House Bill 1054 would limit law enforcement officers from using controversial police tactics like chokeholds and tear gas.