Crime & Public Safety

Monday, April 20, 2015

Did You See a Fight in the Maynard's Parking Lot in March?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM

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Well?

From an email I received from Raymond Duron of Optimus Investigations:
WITNESS? On March 14th, 2015 at about 2:00 a.m., a physical altercation involving law enforcement officers and an individual occurred on the north east area of the parking lot of Maynard’s Kitchen. If you saw altercation or witnessed events leading up to the incident please call 520.339.2342  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Excessive Force or a Necessary Move? Marana Officer Hits Armed Suspect With Patrol Car

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 9:01 AM


Michael Rapiejko
  • Michael Rapiejko
Editor's note: Viewer discretion advised. If you don't want to see a guy pointing a gun at himself and being hit by a car, don't watch this video.

Marana Police Department made national news yesterday when they released dash cam footage from a February incident in which an officer rammed an armed suspect with his patrol car.

Mario M. Valencia, armed with a rifle he had just stolen from the Walmart on Cortaro Road, was walking down Coca Cola Drive on of Feb. 19 when Officer Michael Rapiejko stuck him with a patrol car. In the video, Valencia can be seen firing a round into the air.

Rapiejko accelerated his patrol car and struck Valencia near the entrance of Continental Ranch Self Storage, sending 
Mario Valencia
  • Mario Valencia
Valencia flying into the air and knocking the rifle several out of his grasp. Valencia suffered serious but nonlife-threatening injuries. He was released from the hospital two days after the incident. Valencia is now in Pima County Jail on counts of robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, arson and theft related to a string of crimes in midtown Tucson.

No officers were harmed, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office declined to charge Rapiejko over his use of force. Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema said Rapiejko’s actions saved lives, including Valencia’s.

What do you think: Was this a case of excessive force or a necessary move?




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Friday, March 27, 2015

Five Flowing Wells Students Will Not be Charged

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 3:16 PM

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The Pima County Attorney’s Office will not press charges against the five Flowing Wells students arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, according to a press release.

According to the release, the office conducted a comprehensive review of the investigation and determined there was insufficient evidence to file formal charges against the students, who were arrested on March 18.

The Pima County Attorney's Office determined that the evidence collected during the investigation was insufficient to establish that there was an actual, concrete agreement between the students that a murder would take place. The office said that the students discussed ways that a fellow student might be killed. There was, however, no agreement on how they intended to carry out the killing, and no details (who would carry out the killing, when it would happen or where it was to take place) had been discussed. The release says there was no evidence a consensus was reached about actually carrying out a plan to commit the murder.

The students admitted to having conversations about a murder, but that the discussions had “no serious intention to act” and the conversations were hypothetical in nature.

One of the Flowing Wells students was in possession of a knife when he was arrested, but claimed that he regularly carried the knife to school. The country attorney’s office is evaluating whether charges may be filed against that student for bringing the weapon to school.


Friday, March 6, 2015

The Star's Unconscionable Slanting of the Ferguson Report

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 5:00 PM

COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

You can make errors of commission where you say something that isn't true, and errors of omission where you leave out vital information. The Star news team is guilty of a serious error of omission in its coverage of the Justice Department's Ferguson Report. The paper's only article about Ferguson Thursday discussed the Feds' decision not to charge Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, with no coverage of the scathing report detailing the grossly unfair treatment of Ferguson's minority community by the police department and justice system.

Thursday, the Star ran a long, detailed article, Feds: Evidence backs Ferguson officer's account in shooting. It was all about the evidence that resulted in the Justice Department not charging former officer Darren Wilson with a civil rights violation. It's important to note, that doesn't mean the Feds said Wilson was justified in killing Brown. It means the evidence didn't clear the very high bar the Feds have to jump over to show that Wilson intended to violate Brown's civil rights. Presented by itself, the article amounts to a shout-out to all those who think Wilson was justified in shooting Brown and were shocked and angered by what they believe was as an overreaction by the Ferguson community and other cities where demonstrators protested the killing.

The Feds' decision about Wilson is only part of the story, and really the less important part. The Wilson/Brown incident exposed a racist police and judicial system which systematically profiled and unfairly targeted African Americans in the area, which is discussed in detail in the report.
Blacks in Ferguson accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests over a two-year period studied by investigators. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of those charged. A black motorist in Ferguson was twice as likely to be searched, according to the report, even though searches of whites turned up drugs and other contraband more often.

The Justice Department’s analysis found that these disparities could not be explained even when correcting for crime rates and demographics. “These disparities occur, at least in part, because Ferguson law enforcement practices are directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias,” the Justice Department concluded.
The Star didn't tell that part of the story.

The tragic truth is, this kind of thing is a regular part of law enforcement around the country, and it can only be dealt with if it's made visible—which is the responsibility of local papers like the Star. It would be nice if people like Sheriff Arpaio were the rare exception, but they aren't. People like "Arizona's Sheriff" occupy too many leadership positions in too many police departments, and the officers serving under them follow the orders they're given, sometimes with racist gusto, sometimes simply because they're following orders. The problem can extend to local and state leadership and the judicial system as well. Sometimes the arrest-and-incarceration epidemic is as much a result of our out-of-control War on Drugs and zero tolerance policies as it is the specific intent of the people involved. But no matter the reason, the result is minority communities where the arrest and incarceration rates are far higher than they should be compared to similar rates of criminal behavior in other communities.

Maybe I should cut the Star some slack because it ran a Chicago Tribune editorial today dealing with the rest of the report, but I won't. It's a day late—Friday, while the Wilson/Brown story ran Thursday—and data short—far fewer words than the Thursday article, and less detailed since it's an opinion piece. Besides, the news department of the Star can't hide behind an piece chosen for inclusion by the editorial staff. There's a wall of separation between the two departments. While the editorial staff did a reasonable job of covering the entire report, the news department failed utterly.

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Arne Duncan: “The division between young people and the police is huge."

Posted By on Sat, Jan 3, 2015 at 9:09 AM

[Note: I wrote this awhile before New Years and it got lost in the end-of-the-year shuffle, so it may sound a bit dated. But I've been reading a whole lot about the problems with mass incarceration, mandatory sentencing and the school-to-prison pipeline and plan to write more about the topics this year. So consider this an introduction, with more posts to follow.]

I missed this when it happened a few weeks back. In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. Ed Sec Arne Duncan went to St. Louis to talk with students about problems related to race, police relations and educational inequality. His takeaway:


“The division between young people and the police is huge,” Duncan said. “The division along race in this community is huge. The division along educational opportunity being based on where you live, your zip code, is huge. The inequities are huge.”

According to Duncan, the students want more interaction with police — positive interaction.


“I just can't overstate how large the appetite is among young people to be part of the solution, to build bridges to the police,” Duncan said. “To have the police see them for who they are, and for the police to see them for who they are. And look beyond skin color, look beyond uniforms, look beyond badges, look beyond stereotypes and get to know each other as humans.”

Nice words. It's good to see Duncan diving into these issues, especially the problems between the youth and police which isn't strictly an education issue. But how would he go about improving the situation? Is the conservative "education reform" movement, much of which he and Obama have embraced, his answer? If so, if supporting charters over school districts, sidling toward an acceptance of vouchers and blaming "bad teachers" and teachers unions for our "failing schools" are the ways he wants to lower educational inequity and improve educational opportunity, he's siding with educational privatizers and profiteers who are more interested in a bigger slice of the education pie than in what's best for our children.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Department of Education tells Harvard to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 4:30 PM

click image Jasmine Lester, founder of founder of Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault at Arizona State University and Know Your IX organizer from the KYIX website.
  • Jasmine Lester, founder of founder of Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault at Arizona State University and Know Your IX organizer from the KYIX website.
In the last year, there's been a lot of news about campus rape. Colleges generally didn't know what to do with themselves as students protested leniency with attackers and accused rapists defended their honor. This week, the  U.S. Department of Education is saying they had better figure it out.

Because of increased attention and organizations like Know Your IX—a very cool organization that helps students deal with sexual assault at their colleges—there's been a lot of pressure to get things right.

Yesterday was a big day in the direction of progress. The U.S. Department of Education announced it had found Harvard University and its Law School had fallen short in its campus sexual assault responsibilities. The ruling means that Harvard will have to redo it's sexual harassment policies. 

From yesterday's U.S. Department of Education press release
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault.

"I am very pleased to bring to close one of our longest-running sexual violence investigations, and I congratulate Harvard Law School for now committing to comply with Title IX and immediately implement steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "This agreement is a credit to the strong leadership of Harvard President Drew Faust and Law School Dean Martha Minow, for which I am deeply grateful and from which I know their students will benefit significantly."

Following its investigation, OCR determined that the Law School's current and prior sexual harassment policies and procedures failed to comply with Title IX's requirements for prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Law School also did not appropriately respond to two student complaints of sexual assault. In one instance, the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant's complaint.

During the course of OCR's investigation, the Law School adopted revised procedures that use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard for its sexual harassment investigations and afford appeal rights to both parties, in compliance with Title IX. The Law School also complied with the Title IX requirements relating to the designation of a Title IX Coordinator and publication of its non-discrimination notice.

The Law School has committed to take further specific steps to ensure that it responds to student complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence promptly and equitably. As part of its monitoring of the agreement, OCR will review and approve all of the policies and procedures to be used by the Law School, including the Law School's use of the new University-wide sexual harassment policies and procedures adopted for this academic year. The changes relating to the University-wide policies and procedures will be published in supplemental guidance and will affect all of the University's schools as they, like the Law School, decide how to implement the new University-wide policies and procedures.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Law School must:
  • Revise all applicable sexual harassment policies and procedures to comply with Title IX and provide clear notice of which policy and procedure applies to Law School complaints;
  • Through its Title IX Coordinator, coordinate provision of appropriate interim steps to provide for the safety of the complainant and campus community during an investigation;
  • Share information between the Harvard University Police Department and the University and notify complainants of their right to file a Title IX complaint with the Law School as well as to pursue the criminal process in cases of sexual assault or other sexual violence;
  • Notify students and employees about the Law School's Title IX coordinators and their contact information;
  • Train staff and provide information sessions for students on the policies and procedures applicable to Law School complaints;
  • Conduct annual climate assessments to assess whether the steps and measures being taken by the Law School are effective and to inform future proactive steps to be taken by Law School;
  • Review any complaints of sexual harassment filed during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years to carefully scrutinize whether the Law School investigated the complaints consistent with Title IX and provide any additional remedies necessary for the complainants; and
  • Track and submit for OCR's review information on all sexual harassment/violence complaints and reports of sexual harassment/violence filed during the course of the monitoring and responsive action taken by the Law School.
The agreement announced today relating to the Law School does not resolve a still-pending Title IX investigation of Harvard College and its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of undergraduate students.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Introduction Of Police Officers Into TUSD Schools Needs To Be Thoughtful and Careful

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 3:28 PM

At the same time high profile killings of unarmed black men by police officers are making national news and bringing thousands of people into the streets to protest, TUSD is introducing police officers into some of its schools. When you combine people's justifiable concerns that too many police are arrest- and trigger-happy with the introduction of officers into Tucson schools with a high minority population, it's inevitable there will be concerns. And it's the job of TUSD and the Tucson Police Department to address and deal with the concerns directly.

Ideally, officers in the school should be community policing at its finest, bringing police into the halls and the classrooms to increase dialogue and understanding between young people and police at the same time the schools become safer places for students and staff. But officers in the schools can also result in more juveniles being brought into the criminal justice system, which can lead to all kinds of negative, life-altering consequences for the young people involved, and can give students and other community members another reason to fear and distrust police.

There are two positive aspects of the way police officers are being introduced. First, TUSD wisely refused to station police officers in its schools if they were allowed to ask students about their immigration status. Only after the agreement with the city read, “School Resource Officers shall refrain from asking about immigration status,” was the officers' presence OK'd.

Second, the legal agreement between TUSD and the City of Tucson on the use of police officers in the schools looks like a good document to my untrained eye. Attached to the agreement is the Arizona Department of Education's School Safety Program Guidance Manual which begins by saying the purpose of the program is "to contribute to safe school environments that are conducive to teaching and learning." It discusses the training officers go through and their educational duties in the schools. The emphasis of the manual is on safety and education, not arrest and incarceration.


But with a police officer easily at hand, it becomes easier to turn situations which should be handled in house into trips down to the police station. When there's a law enforcement hammer in the school, every infraction of the rules can look like a nail. The officers as well as the school administration need to be aware of the temptation to criminalize bad behavior by students which should be dealt with by in-school reprimands and, if necessary, disciplinary action. The only time the criminal justice system should be involved is when a situation is serious enough that a school without an on-campus officer would call in the police to deal with the problem.

Continue reading »

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Prison Policy: A Crime Against Our Community. Panel Discussion Wednesday, 6pm

Posted By on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 10:06 AM

You can attend a panel discussion, Prison Policy: A Crime Against Our Community, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 6 to 8 p.m., YWCA Frances McClelland Center, 525 N. Bonita Ave.

Join us for a panel discussion on the history of incarceration policies in the US and Arizona. Learn how current policies impact and oppress our community and what might be done to bring positive change.

Panel Presenters:
Caroline Isaacs, MSW. Program Director of Arizona American Friends Service Committee.

Tom Litwicki, M.Ed. CEO Old Pueblo Community Services. Retired, Regional Administrator, Arizona Department of Corrections.

A few facts to carry with you to the discussion, from a recent Capitol Times article:

Arizona’s sentencing laws became tougher in 1978, and prisoner population grew from about 3,000 then to more than 42,000 today. The state adopted a “presumptive” sentencing system that requires a judge to sentence someone to a set term and add or subtract time based on findings.

[snip]

The Arizona Department of Corrections, which has a nearly $1 billion budget, recently notified the Governor’s Office it will need $26 million more in fiscal year 2016 for increased expenses, including health care, to cover the current and anticipated growth.


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