Five Facts About Police Body Cameras

Police body cameras are popping up across Minnesota and the United States, but not a lot is known about the technology. Today, we share five facts about police body cameras.

1. Becoming the norm – As we mentioned above, an increasing amount of police precincts are adopting the body cameras. Michael White, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, estimated that 25 percent of police departments are using the technology or are planning on instituting the cameras in the near future. White believes that figure will jump to 33 percent or even as high as 50 percent within the next year.

2. The cameras are costly – Your Canon Rebel may have only cost $80, but police body cameras have a much larger price tag. Research conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that agencies spent between $120 and $2,000 for each camera. For example, the Mesa Police Department just spent $67,000 on 50 new cameras. There are also additional fees for video storage and expert analysis.

3.  No long term studies - Because of their relatively recent inception, there really aren’t any long term studies on the effectiveness of the body cameras. A short term study in California found that allegations of police misconduct and false claims dropped in the months after the department adopted the cameras, but not much is known about their long term effectiveness.  Researchers also want to determine how effective the video evidence is in the court of law, in terms of guilty verdicts.

4. Some disagreement over recording procedures – Since the cameras don’t constantly record, there has been some debate over when they should be turned on. Some departments want their officers to turn on their cameras during every encounter, while some officers think they should only be recording when a citation or arrest is likely. The American Civil Liberties Union believes all encounters should be recorded in order to avoid any possible tampering.

5. Minnesota ahead of the curve - While some departments are discussing the cameras, many Minnesota precincts are early adopters. Departments in Burnsville, Duluth, Gilbert, Farmington and Minneapolis have all begun outfitting their officers with cameras. Assuming the cameras are successful in reducing false claims and instances of police brutality, it seems likely that more Minnesota cities will join the movement.

Related source: AZ Central

 

Poor Drunk Driving Excuse and Vanilla Extract DUI

We mentioned last week that although DUIs were down over the course of the year in Minnesota, there was a spike during the holidays. That holiday increase likely came as little surprise to Daniel Pratts, who was arrested in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve.

An officer pulled Pratts over after witnessing the driver blow through a stop sign. The officer suspected that Pratts had been drinking, but the driver refused to take a breath test. Despite his refusal to comply, the officer had enough evidence to place Pratts under arrest and take him to the station.

According to the police report, while at the station Pratts told the officer that he shouldn’t be charged with a DUI because “it’s New Year’s Eve, everyone drives drunk.” Unfortunately for Pratts, the officer wasn’t buying his logic. Pratts was eventually charged with driving under the influence, refusal to take a breath test and reckless driving.

Excess Extract

A New York woman has been charged with a sweet smelling DUI after consuming alcohol-rich vanilla extract and getting behind the wheel.

Carolyn Kesel, 46, was stopped by officers after they noticed that she was driving erratically in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Authorities suspected Kesel was under the influence after a short discussion, and they asked her to submit to a Breathalyzer. The breath test revealed she was operating the vehicle with BAC more than three times the legal limit.

A subsequent search of the vehicle uncovered a bottle of vanilla extract. According to FDA standards, pure vanilla extract contains a defined level of natural vanilla and a minimum of 35 percent alcohol. Authorities said the bottle found in Kesel’s car was 41 percent alcohol.

Kesel was eventually charged with driving under the influence.

Related source: WATE, Huffington Post

DUIs Spike During Holidays But Down Overall in 2014

Although Minnesota saw a small increase in DUIs during the holiday season compared to 2013, the state saw an overall reduction in the annual number of drunk driver arrests.

A Freeborn County woman with a 0.45 blood-alcohol concentration was one of 2,537 Minnesotans arrested during the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign that stretched from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. That’s up ever so slightly from 2013 when 2,453 drivers were arrested during the same holiday period.

Despite the holiday uptick, DUI arrest numbers are trending in the right direction. 24,159 people were arrested for DUI in Minnesota in 2014, more than a 6 percent decrease from 2013 when 25,719 Minnesotans were booked for drunk driving. This year marked the eighth straight year the drunk driving arrests fell, but Donna Berger, director of the Minnesota DPS’ Office of Traffic Safety, said DUIs are still a problem in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“Drunk driving is a choice, a choice that can have life-altering consequences for you or other on the roads,” said Berger. “Even though we are encouraged by declining DWI numbers, one drunk driver is one too many.”

Speaking of one too many, although the Freeborn County woman took the unofficial record for highest BAC, the police statistics show that 16 drivers were booked with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 or greater, essentially four times the legal limit. The State Patrol said these individuals are lucky they didn’t hurt themselves or others during their drunken drive.

“This woman is very fortunate that she didn’t injure or kill herself or another motorist,” said State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

More DUI Statistics

Some other statistics from the six-week DUI enforcement include:

  • 303 drivers were arrested for DUI on the Saturday before Christmas, the highest one-day total during the six-week stretch.
  • The State Patrol’s east metro district had the most DUI arrests during the campaign, with 168.
  • Outside the metro, the top DUI arresting agencies were in Rochester, St. Cloud and Stearns County.
  • In addition to drunk driving arrests, police also issued 2,093 seat belt violations during the six-week campaign.

Minnesota Women Used Facebook To Take Shoplifting Orders

Nine Minnesota women are accused of taking shoplifting orders on Facebook before heading into several stores and stealing the items.

Some of the stolen items include 30 bottles of name-brand perfume, 41 pairs of Levi jeans and multiple designer handbags. The thefts occurred at stores in Burnsville, Maplewood, St. Paul and other local outlets.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said he believes these women are part or a larger shoplifting ring.

“I’d be willing to bet this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Choi.

Police say the women were part of a sophisticated and organized shoplifting ring. Those involved would use Facebook and other social media sites to take “orders” before heading to the stores to steal the high-end merchandise. Shoplifting and fraud cases aren’t usually top priority for most departments, but Choi said stopping these types of crimes are very important.

“I think when you’ve got organized rings like this and you’ve got chronic individuals who are engaged in this type of activity, it really sends the wrong message if they can continuously get away with all this,” Choi said.

20 Felonies

In all, the nine women have been charged with 20 felony counts in five different counties. Criminal complaints suggest the women stole approximately $35,000 in merchandise from several stores between September 2012 and June 2014.

Police documents suggest the alleged criminals were very organized in their ruse. Authorities say the women:

  • Took specific routes to stores.
  • Parked out of range of video cameras.
  • Teamed up with accomplices to complete a job.
  • Devised specific tactics for certain stores.

One of the women, Christina Coombs, told police she’d steal goods then post the items “for sale” on Facebook, usually at half price. Coombs told authorities she had between 200 to 300 customers, not including repeat buyers.

Briana Jefferson, who worked with Coombs during several thefts, has been charged with five felonies. He told police she only stole the goods “to feed her kids and pay her bills.”

Nationally, shoplifting and related retail crime costs retailers about $30 billion a year.

Related source: Inforum.com

 

Another Minnesota Vikings Player Earns DWI

While eight NFL teams are still battling to be crowned Super Bowl champion, the Minnesota Vikings are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Over the holidays rookie cornerback Jabari Price was arrested for driving under the influence.

Perhaps out celebrating the conclusion of his rookie season, Price was stopped by an officer at 3:18am on December 29, the day after the final regular season game. Although details of the traffic stop are lacking, the officer wrote that he “detected impairment in the driver.” Price was asked to preform a Breathalyzer test, and he registered a 0.13 BAC, more than 1.5 times the legal limit.

Price was charged with fourth degree DWI, which is a misdemeanor offense. He was released without bail later that same day. He will make his initial appearance at the  Hennepin County Courthouse on February 9.

Vikings Issue Statement

The Vikings issued a statement after learning of Price’s arrest.

“We are aware of the incident involving Jabari Price and are looking into the matter,” Vikings spokesperson Jeff Anderson said in a statement. “We will withhold any further comment at this time.”

The Vikings will let due process run its course, but Price could soon find himself looking for a new team. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson was released earlier this season after being arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana, and the Vikings need to build their public image. They have been the most arrested team in the past few years, and Price was the fifth Vikings player to be arrested in 2014. We wrote about most of the other arrests on our blog, but check them out for more details.

Minnesota Task Force Wants Harsher DUI Penalties

A local task force is asking lawmakers to strengthen Minnesota’s current DUI laws in hopes of curbing drunken driving throughout the state.

With the first legislative session of the new year less than a week away, the task force is pushing for numerous changes to current DUI statutes. Some of the proposed ideas include:

  • Seizing license plates of all DUI offenders, including first-time offenders.
  • Lowering the BAC level required to impose stronger criminal penalties. Currently, the threshold is typically 0.16 percent, or twice the legal driving limit.
  • Creating stronger incentives for offenders to install ignition interlock devices, which reduce a drunk drivers likelihood of reoffending.

A state DWI task force is proposing tougher penalties for Minnesota’s drunken drivers with hopes that they will encourage more offenders to install ignition interlock devices before getting back behind the wheel. Studies have shown recidivism rates are lower for offenders who have the ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles compared to simply having their license suspended.

“[They’re] just good science,” said Robert Speeter, a member of the task force.  “You do what’s effective, and it’s more effective to let people live their lives safely, keep their jobs, drive to work, go to AA meetings, take the kids to soccer and do all the things that are positive.”

Despite their effectiveness, ignition interlock devices have yet to be widely embraced throughout the state. Since 2011, about 14,000 Minnesotans have had the device installed after a DUI conviction. During that same period, 60,000 Minnesotans have opted to only have their licenses suspended.

Interlock Issues

One of the main reasons offenders don’t opt for the ignition interlock devices is because they can get expensive. The devices cost about $100 to install, and monthly fees typically range between $100-$200. If an offender needs to have a device for six months, that can get expensive quick. Task Force Chair Dave Bernstein said he knows mandatory devices for all offenders is impractical, as some don’t have cars, while others can’t afford the device.

“We want to be realistic and hope this bill passes to encourage ignition interlock for more drivers as one successful way of reducing drunk driving,” Bernstein said.

The bill Bernstein references calls for plate impoundment for all drunk driving offenders, not just those above 0.16, and the return of the plates would be conditional on the offender installing an ignition interlock device.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota Aiming For Zero New Year’s DUI Deaths

A streak of four years without a death on Minnesota roads over the New Year’s holiday came to a halt last year when one person lost their life in a crash, but state officials are hoping to start a new streak this year.

New Year’s Eve is one of the most deadly days on US roads, as the possibility of poor winter weather mixes with late night partiers who drive home drunk after ringing in the new year. Since New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest days for drunk driving, it should come as no surprise that the Minnesota State Patrol will be conducting extra DUI patrols as part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

“DWI patrols will be on the road, so don’t risk drinking and driving,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety said in a statement. “Now is the time to plan for your safe and sober ride.”

Despite the warning, Minnesota police still expect drunk drivers to hit the roads in droves. Over 300 people were booked for DUI in New Year’s Eve in 2013, despite a heads up, and the state has averaged 295 arrests each year on the holiday for the past five years.

Get Home Safe

If you’ve been following our blog long enough, you probably already know our suggestions for getting home safe after ringing in a holiday, so today we’ll do it Wheel of Fortune style. Below are five ways to get home safe after a night on the town. See if you can figure out the clues with the hints.

1. T_K_    _   C_ _ (3 words)

2.  _ _ BLI_     T _ A _ S _ _ _ TATI _ N (2 words)

3. U _ _ _  (1 word)

4. D _ _ _ G _ A _ E _     D _ _ _ E _   (2 words)

5. _ _ LK (1 word)

Answers

The answers to the five ways to get home safe on New Year’s Eve are: 1. Take a cab. 2. Public Transportation. 3. Uber. 4. Designated Driver. 5. Walk.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Screech Charged With Felony Stabbing in Wisconsin

Dustin Diamond, best remembered for his role as “Screech” on the TV show Saved By the Bell, has been charged with a felony count of reckless endangerment after allegedly stabbing a man during a bar fight in Wisconsin.

According to the police report, Diamond and his fiancee Amanda Schutz were bar hopping in Port Washington, Wisconsin, when they were confronted by “a group of intoxicated people being rude and insulting.” The words soon turned to punches, and Schutz was bloodied by the woman in the party. Shortly thereafter, Diamond exchanged blows with two men in the group.

Concerned bar patrons helped break up the fight, but after the melee one of the males noticed a half-inch puncture wound in his right armpit. Officers noted that the cut was bleeding significantly, but it was not considered life threatening. Diamond and his fiancee had left the scene before the authorities arrived, but police caught up to the couple’s SUV and found a pocket knife with a 3.75 inch blade in the vehicle. Authorities said there was visible blood on the tip of the knife.

Diamond should have hired an attorney at this point, but he made things worse by providing authorities with conflicting accounts of what occurred during the scuffle. At first he told police that he accidentally stabbed the man, but then he recanted, saying he couldn’t remember if he stabbed him or not. He also told police he carried the knife for protection, and he brandished the knife to protect his fiancee.

Despite his argument that he only brandished the knife in self defense, Diamond was charged with a felony count of second-degree reckless endangering safety,  disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon. If convicted, the felony charge carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison.

Diamond’s bail was set at $10,000, and he is set to make his initial appearance in Ozaukee County Court today.

Avery Appelman comments

Hopefully the bar has video evidence of what transpired that night, because a felony charge is no laughing matter. It’s easy to see how someone could overreact if they saw their fiancee being bloodied by someone they didn’t know. Diamond certainly escalated the situation when he stabbed the other man, but if the other three were the aggressors, Diamond could get off scot-free.

Video evidence likely won’t have audio, but it would be much more substantial than any he-said, she-said testimony from patrons who were likely drinking alcohol.

We’ll keep a close eye on Screech as he fights this charge.

Related source: Rolling Stone

Charges Expected After Mall of America Protest

Although nobody was hurt or arrested during the “peaceful” protest at the Mall of America this weekend, criminal charges may be filed against the organizers. There was no property damage either, but store owners are saying the protest cost them big where it hurts – their wallets.

Thousands of protestors in the group “Black Lives Matter” filled the Mall of America rotunda on Saturday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The group, which hopes to raise awareness and ignite change in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, certainly caused a stir. According to police reports, the waves of protestors made it nearly impossible for shoppers to traverse the mall. The mall eventually went into a partial shutdown for about two hours during the protest.

Illegal to Protest?

You may be thinking, “how can peaceful protestors get in trouble when nobody was arrested, hurt, and no property was damaged?” Well, the Mall of America is technically private property, and their presence caused about 80 businesses to go into lockdown on Saturday.

Nate Bush, who works in one of the stores that had to be shut down, described the chaotic scene.

“You had people yelling and screaming inside the mall that wanted out and you had people yelling and screaming outside the mall that wanted in,” he said. “I would say the mall was less than half as busy as it should have been considering what day it was.”

Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson said the amount of money the demonstration cost storeowners is “staggering.” Johnson and other officials are currently looking on Facebook and social media sites to determine who helped organize the protest.

“This was a powder keg just waiting for a match,” said Johnson. “The main perpetrators are those who continued on their Facebook site to invite people illegally to the Mall of America.”

Another concern was the organized march around the mall. Johnson said they are trying to identify who led the large lap.

“Who led that march through the Mall of America?” said Johnson. “If we can identify those people who were inciting others to continue with this illegal activity, we can consider charges against them too.”

Lena K. Gardner, a member of the “Black Lives Matter” group, said several different leaders took part in organizing the protest, and the mall’s loss in revenue is not their fault.

“We came to sing carols and raise awareness,” she said, “and the Bloomington police are the ones who shut down the mall, not us.”

Related source: WCCO

New Minnesota Laws Coming January 1

Although there aren’t as many new criminal laws going into effect this year as there were last January, there are still a handful of new laws that you’ll have to follow come January 1, 2015. Today, we explain the new laws.

1.  Criminal Reform

This new law will reform Minnesota’s current expungement laws in hopes of helping people with a past criminal conviction find housing or employment.

Under the old law, judges were able to expunge court records, but not records collected by state agencies, meaning some expunged transgressions still appeared on certain background and housing checks. The new law provides more protections for people with an expunged record so long as they meet the following conditions:

  • The individual has successfully completed the terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication and has not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since completion.
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least two years since discharge.
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since discharge .
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for one of more than 50 listed felony violations and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since discharge.
  • The individual must show convincing evidence that their record is holding them back, that they’ve shown evidence of progress in their life and that the expungement would outweigh the burden on public safety.

2. Lifeguard Law

Not all public beaches are required to provide lifeguards during swimming hours, but a new change is in the works for those that do. Under the new law known as “Tony’s Law,” public beaches who provide lifeguards must ensure their lifeguards are certified through the American Red Cross and they must be trained in CPR for adults and children.

3. Teen Driving

Teen drivers will need to spend more time behind the wheel before they can take their road test beginning January 1. The new law requires that teens have at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training prior to their road test. The old law only required 30 hours of practice prior to their driver’s test. Additionally, 15 of the 50 hours must come at night, up from 10 hours under the old law.

But there’s another wrinkle. If the parent or guardian takes a 90-minute class aimed at making the parent a better driving teacher, the number of required behind-the-wheel hours drops to 40 hours.

4. New Boat Law

Although the Aquatic Invasive Species Training Law was passed in 2011, it’s finally going into effect on January 1.

The law requires anyone who transports a boat or water-related equipment with a trailer to pass a test to get a decal that must be displayed on their trailers. The decal must be posted by July 1, 2015. Boat owners can access the 10-question test online, and officials say it should take about 20 minutes to complete. If a person is found to be operating their boat after July 1 without the decal, they will not be allowed to operate their boat until they pass the test.

As of now, there is no set penalty for a continued violation of this law.

Related source: MPR News

by Appelman Law Firm