Category Archives: Violent Crime

Body cameras for police

Police Chief: Only Bad Officers Fear Body Cameras 

The tragedy in Ferguson has once again revived the debate over whether or not police officers should be required to wear body cameras. While some departments have sought out the technology to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits, other agencies aren’t so keen on the idea.

One city that wants to get the ball rolling on body cameras is Denver, Colorado. Although it is expected to cost about $1.5 million to equip all 800 officers on the force, police chief Robert White said the cameras would help restore the community’s faith in the police.

“Citizens should know that officers are being held accountable,” said White. “The body camera will help clear up those moments of conflict.”

In a pitch to Denver’s city council, White informed officials how the cameras will record audio and video of police and civilian interactions, and all the footage would be stored, “in the cloud.”

White added that the cameras would be beneficial for police, as it could protect them from false allegations of excessive force. He said there is no reason why a cop should be hesitant to wear a body camera.

“The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.”

Funding Biggest Issue

The biggest issue facing the Denver police department and many agencies across the country is a lack of funding. Equipping the officers with the cameras is only half the battle. Video logging and storage, cloud technology and expert analysis of footage all adds to the cost of body cameras.

In some cases the cameras would pay for themselves by preventing lawsuits against the department, but it’s tough for some agencies to find money in the city budget to get the program off the ground.

“I’m hoping financially we can afford them,” White said. “Technology is such that they are affordable. It’s achievable.”

The Denver city council is currently reviewing the department’s proposal.

Related source: Denver Post

Summer Crime rates

Warm Weather Brings Uptick in Violence

Researchers analyzing crime trends in the United States found that violent crimes such as assault, domestic violence and rape occur at a much higher rate when the weather is warm.

In their report titled “Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends,” researchers examined patterns in violent and property crime over the course of 18 years. They found that although the overall rate of crime has decreased since 1993, annual crime tends to spike during the summer months.

“Good weather means people are out and about. It also means there are more opportunities for crimes,” said one police chief. “During cold weather, people tend to stay inside.”

According to the data, winter rates of rape or sexual assault were about nine percent lower than the summer, while crimes rates dipped about 10 percent during the Fall.

Why The Spike?

There are a number of reasons crime spikes in the warm summer months. Avery Appelman explains below.

Temperature – As alluded to above, the warm weather means more people are outside. The days are also longer. When you have more people outside in parks, bars or at the beach, you’re bound to have more interactions, some of which could be physical.

Alcohol – This one goes hand in hand with the temperature. The warm weather lends itself to barbecues, trips to the beach and late nights on a bar’s outdoor patio. Alcohol can escalate a situation and make it harder for a person to think rationally. It’s no surprise as a DUI law firm that our busiest weekends of the year are Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, as these three-day weekends are often rung in with spirits.

School is Out – I’d be interested in seeing how juvenile crimes fluctuate during the summer, but it makes sense that certain property crimes like vandalism or trespassing would spike in the summer when children aren’t required to be in school. If children aren’t kept busy during the summer, their boredom may lead them to commit risky or criminal activities.

Minnesota Sex Offender

Experts Seek Delay in Sex-Offender Program Review

It doesn’t appear that four experts tasked with evaluating the current state of Minnesota’s sex offender program are going to meet the requested deadline to issue their report.

The experts originally told the court they would issue a comprehensive report on the current state of the program by the end of August, but it appears they bit off more than they could chew. They are now asking for an extension into mid- or late November, which can’t sit well with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who just last week announced that he wanted to expedite the review.

“We are aware that the stakes are high and that the Court and parties wish to expedite the process; however, the complexity of the issues at hand and our respective responsibilities and schedules … interfere with our ability to complete a detailed report before the end of August in the professional manner required,” the experts told the court.

Frank said the involved parties “will be discussing this and its implications” during a status conference on Thursday.

Moving Along Slowly

The experts are tasked with reviewing the current Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Program that requires some sex offenders to report to high security facilities after they’ve completed their prison sentence. Residents filed the class action lawsuit in 2011, claiming treatment is inadequate and indefinite.

As we mentioned in a previous post, of the more than 700 residents deemed sexually dangerous or psychopathic, only one resident has ever been released in the last 20 years.

In their letter to the court, the experts announced that they have reviewed more than half of the residents and have met with program leaders and staff, but added they still wanted to review a random sample of program residents and examine re-integration plans prior to releasing their findings.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Class Action Lawsuit

Judge Expedites Sex Offender Class-Action Lawsuit 

Despite denying an offender’s petition for immediate release, U.S. District Judge Donavan Frank noted that he planned to expedite a class-action challenge of the current sex offender program’s constitutionality.

Frank has been a staunch critic of Minnesota’s current sex offender program for some time. Back in March he issued a 75-page ruling chastising the current system and calling for reform. In his ruling, Frank said the current program had “grave deficiencies” and inmates were left in a purgatory-style state with “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” which is concerning because “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender patients were in Phase I.”

Frank’s opinion of the system hasn’t changed much over the last five months. The class-action suit by the inmates alleges that they are locked up indefinitely with no realistic hope for release, and the statistics show that they may have a point. Of the nearly 700 people who have finished their prison terms and have been transferred to high security sex offender facilities, only one inmate has been given conditional release from the program since 1994.

Frank told attorneys for both sides to come to next Thursday’s pretrial conference with trial dates in mind.

Release Denied

Although Frank said he would expedite the class action lawsuit, he stopped short of granting an inmate’s petition for immediate release. However, that doesn’t mean Frank believes the system has treated the inmate justly.

According to court documents, the inmate, identified as E.T., has been in the program for over a decade for crimes he committed between the ages of 10 and 14. E.T. is now 24 years old, and he said he feels lost in the current system. An expert testified that the inmate never should have been placed in the program, he doesn’t need sex offender treatment, and he doesn’t pose a risk to the public. Frank stopped short of granting immediate release, but upon hearing the testimony he noted that, if not for the class-action lawsuit, E.T. “would likely have languished for years in the prison-like environment of (the state sex offender program at Moose Lake) without any realistic hope of gaining his freedom.”

Prosecutors of the class-action suit expect the trial to begin in September or early October.

Related source: Pioneer Press

New Minnesota Laws

New Minnesota Laws Go Into Effect August 1

Laws passed during the 2014 legislative session set to go into effect tomorrow include a ban on weapons for individuals convicted of domestic assault and increased fines for speeding in construction zones, among others.

Quick Overview

Below is a quick run through of some of the bigger changes that affect criminal law that will go into effect on August 1.

Ban on Guns for Violent Offenders – Starting tomorrow, any person convicted of domestic violence or stalking will be unable to legally obtain a firearm in Minnesota. The law prohibits any person subject to an order for protection in a child or domestic abuse case from possessing a weapon for the length of the order. Offenders would also have to submit any firearms they previously possessed if the court decides it is necessary.

Additionally, Minnesota added three crimes to the state’s crime of violence statute. Any person convicted of one of the following crimes will be unable to legally possess a firearm in Minnesota for life:

  • Fifth Degree Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault by Strangulation

Work Zone Speeding Fine Increase – This cut and dry law is aimed at keeping construction workers safe. Beginning August 1, motorists caught speeding through a work zone will be fined $300. “The law is important because it provides added protection in areas that can be vulnerable to careless drivers,” said Charlie Zelle, Minnesota DoT commissioner. The law would also include drivers who fail to obey directions from work zone flaggers.

Expanded Drug Law – Legislators expanded the statutory definition of a drug in an effort to remove synthetic drugs from Minnesota communities. The new law states that an illegal drug is, “any compound, substance, or derivative that is not approved for human consumption under Minnesota law [when introduced to the body induces an effect similar to that of scheduled drugs.]”

Related source: Wahpeton Daily News

Cespedes

Violence Mars Home Run Derby 2014

All eyes were on Minneapolis on last night as some of baseball’s biggest stars took center stage at the 2014 Home Run Derby. Fans expected to see a show, but they were instead treated to a crime spree that would make Bonnie and Clyde blush.

After the event unfolded police charged Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes with 30 counts of assault with a deadly weapon after he violently smashed 30 baseballs towards spectators who had unwisely chosen to sit in the left field bleachers. Cespedes could face punishments of up to 20 years in jail and fines up to $20,000 If he is found guilty of Assault in the First Degree.

Cespedes wasn’t the only All-Star who faced charges at the end of the night. Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton was booked on a Weapons Charge for carrying his Louisville Slugger bat in a crowded area. Authorities decided to move forward with charges after witnessing Stanton hit a baseball that was projected to travel 511 feet.

And last but not least, Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig was taken into custody on a Breach of Contract violation. Puig entered the Home Run Derby with much fanfare, but he failed to hit a single ball over the fence. Authorities felt that his inability to hit a single home run during a home run exhibition was enough of an injustice to charge the young slugger with Breach of Contract.

Despite their alleged crimes, all three players are expected to participate in the 2014 All-Star game, which gets underway at 7 p.m. tonight.

Dog Drive

Monday Morning Musings: Weird DUI Stories 

It can be tough to get out of bed when Monday morning rolls around, but you can take solace knowing that you’re not one of these people who earned a DUI in some of the weirdest ways possible.

Dog Days DUI – A Florida man was arrested for DUI and animal cruelty after leaving his dog in the car while he ran into a store to do some shopping. Mark Terrell was originally only going to be charged with animal cruelty, but when he returned to his vehicle, officers noticed that he “appeared to be highly intoxicated.” Terrell thought he had a fool proof plan to get out of the DUI charge. He told the officers he was drunk, but he said he received a ride to the store.

From his dog.

That’s right. Terrell told officers that his dog had driven him to the store for groceries. Not surprisingly, the officers weren’t buying his “tail.” Terrell was booked, and animal control took custody of the pup.

Christmas in June – A Michigan man just couldn’t wait for winter late last month when he decided to take his snowmobile for a drive on an 84 degree day. It wasn’t his wisest decision considering he had consumed a few too many alcoholic beverages earlier that day.

The unnamed 43-year old was unable to keep his snowmobile under control, and his ride came to a screeching halt when he drove headfirst into a tree. A concerned citizen called police, and they booked the snowmobiler on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Michigan Madness – Not to be outdone, another Michigan man was cited for a weird DUI after taking his tractor for a joyride down a residential neighborhood. Police responded to a call about a tractor in a residential area only to find Joshua Vieau, 35, riding shirtless on top of his John Deere tractor. Authorities activated their lights and sirens, but when Vieau became aware of their presence, he turned his tractor around and drove directly at the squad cars!

The police were able to get their squad cars out of the way of the slow moving tractor, but Vieau came back for more. He made a U-turn on a side street, but was again unsuccessful at ramming the police vehicles. They say the third time is the charm, and Vieau proved that sentiment correct after again whipping a U-turn and driving headlong at the officers. Vieau hit a squad car on his third pass, but the impact caused his tractor to roll onto its side. After a brief attempt to flee the scene on foot, officers were able to apprehend Vieau with the help of a Taser. He was booked for DUI and two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon and fleeing an officer.

Have you heard of a stange DUI? Email it to us at inco@aacriminallaw.com

Violent Crime mn

Violent Crime In Minnesota On The Rise

Authorities believe a growing drug trade in Minnesota is the main reason why violent crime increased in 2013.

The findings are part of a comprehensive crime report released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Tuesday. After comparing the data to 2012 findings, the MCBA discovered:

  • The murder rate increased 21 percent in 2013.
  • Although burglaries were down, the value of the stolen items taken during a robbery or motor vehicle theft increased in 2013.
  • There were 559 more narcotic-related arrests last year than in 2012.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi believes the last statistic is the reason violent crime is increasing across the state.

“I think the violent crime is definitely drug driven,” said Amazi. “I think the methamphetamine obviously plays a role in that, but I also see that the heroin and prescription painkillers are definitely driving that as well.”

Amazi said the issue is two-fold. She noted that more drugs are entering Minnesota, and released convicts aren’t getting the necessary counseling to rid them of their habits.

“Probably about 95 percent are in jail because of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both,” Amazi said. “We don’t very often arrest sober people.”

Amazi said the first stage of intervention needs to come from family and friends, but that can be problematic if those individuals abuse drugs too.

“Only the first names are changing in our jail and that’s probably the biggest issue,” said Amazi. “The family is definitely the biggest issue in combating drug abuse.”

To see the 183-page report in it’s entirety, click here.

Related source: KAALTV.com

Police Body Cameras

Police Body Cameras Would Cut Crime

If you’ve been following the debate over whether or not police officers should wear mounted cameras while they are out on patrol, you’re probably familiar with the experiment in Rialto, California.

Back in 2012, officers in Rialto decided to equip themselves with body cameras for one year to see if they would help reduce complaints and provide stronger evidence in “he said, she said” situations. At the end of the year, the Rialto police department crunched the numbers and found:

  • Use of force by officers dropped by 60 percent (61 compared to 25).
  • Complaints against officers fell by 88 percent (24 compared to 3).

Video evidence collected during citizen encounters was also used to support an officers re-telling of events in many cases. In all, the body camera trial was a rousing success.

So Why The Hesitancy?

Despite the findings in the Rialto study, precincts and departments are still leery about outfitting their officers with cameras. As the Associated Press puts it, “most law enforcement officials [say that] the lack of clear guidelines on the cameras’ use could potentially undermine departments’ goals of creating greater accountability of officers and jeopardize the privacy of both the public and law enforcement officers.”

To us, that just sounds like an excuse to bury the issue under a gob of bureaucratic red tape. Rialto police chief Williams A. Farrar had the right idea when he said, “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better. And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

It’s a no-lose situation. Citizens don’t need to fear excessive force or an officer who doesn’t know the law, and officers don’t have to fear a frivolous suit by someone looking for a payday.

Attorney Mel Welch extrapolated on the point, saying that there were a few key reasons why body cameras would be beneficial.

“It is a win-win for all involved to have law enforcement wear cameras: there is objective evidence to corroborate their accounts of an incident,” said Welch. “It keeps law enforcement honest, which is important because:

  • They have guns; and
  • They have the authority to use those guns;

Also, this will help expedite the wheels of justice because those accused:

  • Will not have their backs up against a proverbial and literal wall as a result of police abuse; and
  • They will be able to rely better upon the objective account of evidence in coming to terms with the accusations.”

You can make the case that the cameras are too costly, and in some cases they may be, but don’t tell us it could “undermine accountability.” When you factor in the money they’ll save by preventing frivolous suits, it’s not hard to see how the cameras could quickly pay for themselves.

Related source: AP, Web Pro News

Hope Solo

US Soccer Star Solo Arrested for Assault 

U.S. Women’s National Team goalie Hope Solo was arrested for assault over the weekend after witnesses say she struck her sister and nephew at a family gathering.

We’ve been theorizing how red card fouls in the World Cup would translate to assault charges if the aggression occurred off the pitch, but it appears that Solo won’t escape this situation with a simple red card. According to the police report, Solo would not stop “hitting people” or leave the home where the incident occurred.

Officers arrived at the residence and reported that they could hear the disturbance. Once inside, they noted that Solo appeared “intoxicated and upset,” and they determined she was the “primary aggressor and had instigated the assault,” which left her sister and 17-year-old nephew with visible injuries.

Solo was arrested on two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault. She will make an appearance this afternoon at Kirkland Municipal Court.

No Stranger to Controversy

This isn’t the first time the soccer star has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Besides making waves for her criticism of some former teammates and coaches, Solo was also involved in a domestic disturbance the night before her wedding.

According to the 2012 report, Solo and her fiancé Jerramy Stevens, a former tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, got into a heated argument a day before their wedding. Stevens was arrested while authorities investigated a possible assault, but he was never charged. The pair got married the following day.

Reached by email to comment on the latest incident, Solo’s attorney Toddy Maybrown said, “”Hope is not guilty of any crime. In fact, our investigation reveals that Hope was assaulted and injured during this unfortunate incident. We look forward to the opportunity to present the true facts in court and to having this matter behind Hope very soon.”

Related source: CNN, ESPN