Category Archives: Law.Enforcement

GHC outsourcing security, custodial services

Source: Northwest Georgia News, May 11, 2016

Georgia Highlands College will be outsourcing campus safety and custodial positions at all campuses, according to school officials. “We want to broaden our security and are privatizing and restructuring the custodial program to help with the costs of that expansion,” explained Sheila Jones, director of public relations and marketing. … The college’s human resources department is arranging employee meetings with Dynamic Security, the company that will be supplying security services. Employee meetings will also be set up with 3H Systems, the custodial services company. … The college currently has 29 full-time employees working in custodial and security departments at all of its campuses. Also, security and custodial staff will be encouraged to apply for any open GHC positions for which they may be qualified, and human resources will contact Kennesaw State, Dalton State and the Technical College System of Georgia to obtain information on any position opportunities they have.

Walbridge seeks public input before outsourcing police

Source: Debbie Rogers, Sentinel Tribune, May 5, 2016

Before the potential closure of the police department, council and the mayor want to hear from the community. … A couple of community members gave their opinions on outsourcing the police department to save money, which was proposed last month. … Kolanko said the majority of residents want to keep a police force in Walbridge. But finances may dictate outsourcing. “It’s not fun to talk about, but if you want to be a good manager of finances, it’s a conversation you have to have,” he said. “If we can keep it here – and that’s the feedback from the community … that will be a priority.” However, if the quotes come back high, the village may look at what can be done to restructure the department to try to save money. The 2016 annual police budget is $405,000, Kolanko said. Letters asking for proposals were sent on April 25 to Lake Township, Northwood and the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. The village is asking for a minimum of one police officer present in the village at all times, attendance at one council meeting a month, continuation of the block watch program, a multi-year agreement for service, and 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week coverage. …

Stockbridge to draft contract with private police firm

Source: Asia Ashley, Henry Herald, April 12, 2016

Stockbridge city officials have given the OK to the city manager to proceed with drafting a contract with a private police services company. During Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Michael Harris said the city’s public safety committee interviewed six to seven private security firms to provide protection within the city limits. Advanced Protective Services was recommended as the firm to pursue. Candidates to provide the services were narrowed down based on “experience and approach,” according to Harris. … The decision to privatize police services came after the city decided not to renew the service delivery strategy for the services with Henry County. The city had paid the county $500,000 annually for two Henry County Police Department officers to be in the city limits all hours of the day. The county has maintained that the city has been underpaying for the service, particularly due to the high call volume in Stockbridge. Late last year county officials proposed an agreement that would require Stockbridge to pay the county $743,000, a figure still below the actual cost to provide the additional county services within the city, according to Police Chief Keith Nichols. The payment would have increased 4 percent per year beginning Jan. 1, 2017. … Harris said the officers will likely be armed and be allowed to detain suspects, but will not have arrest powers. The company will mostly be doing code enforcement, typically working evenings and weekends. They will be responsible for having their own liability and insurance coverage, and the city will not be liable for any incidents, said Harris. Preliminary discussions with the council indicate that there will likely be two private officers per shift, which may increase or decrease during certain times of year, Harris said. He said costs will “certainly” be less than the cost of paying the county.

US contractor fined $3.1 mn for outsourcing work to India

Source: Domain-B, March 26, 2016

US authorities have imposed a hefty $3.1 million fine on a US contractor for illegally outsourcing a $3.4 million US government-funded work to a sub-contractor based in India. Charles Tobin, owner of Focused Technologies Imaging Services and its former co-owner Julie Benware have been slapped with the penalty and fees for outsourcing the work to a subcontractor based in Mumbai in 2008 and 2009. … Focused Technologies had, in 2008-09, been awarded a $3.45 million contract by the New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID) and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), to digitise and index approximately 22 million fingerprint cards into a searchable database. … Focused got the work done by paying the Indian sub-contractor just over $82,000 for this indexing between October 2008 and September 2009. Neither the Indian company, nor any of its employees were aware that the sub-contract was illegal, the US authorities stressed. The outsourcing was illegal because Focused sent personal information of over 16 million people to the Mumbai-based subcontractor that was unauthorised to receive this information. The outsourcing also resulted in the failure of Focused to adhere to a requirement that over 50 per cent of the labour hours of the contract be performed by individuals with disabilities

Outsourced Law Enforcement

Source: Kiel Robert Brennan-Marquez, New York University School of Law Public Law Research Paper No. 15-51, November 2015

From the abstract:
How should the Constitution think about “outsourced law enforcement” — that is, investigative activity carried out by private actors that substitutes, in practice, for the labor of law enforcement? Existing doctrine offers a simple answer to this question, centered on chronology. If the government was responsible for outsourcing law enforcement — if a private actor was operating as an “agent or instrument” of the state — Fourth Amendment scrutiny applies, just as it would apply to the conduct of state officials. If, on the other hand, the outsourcing transpired voluntarily — if a private actor decided, without prodding, to assist the authorities — no Fourth Amendment scrutiny applies. This rule is often called the “private search” rule. I adopt that label here.

My goal, in this brief Essay, is to suggest that the private search rule suffers a crucial blind spot — indeed, one that goes to the heart of Fourth Amendment privacy. When it comes to private searches, what we should care about is not which party, private actor or state official, initiated the relationship. What we should care about is whether the private actor, in monitoring others, engaged in privacy-eroding conduct that is functionally similar to — and merits the same regulation as — the privacy-eroding conduct of law enforcement officials. In other words, the relevant question is: Did the labor of a private actor supplant the need for law enforcement involvement at a particular stage of the investigative process? Or, put even more simply: Did a private actor step into the shoes of law enforcement? If so, then Fourth Amendment scrutiny — at least in some measure — is warranted.

Newark OKs dispatcher agreement with county

Source: Kent Mallett, Newark Advocate, September 21, 2015

The city’s police dispatching will move from the police station to the Licking County 911 Center sometime next year, as a result of City Council’s 7-3 vote Monday night in favor of a two-year agreement among the city, county government and the county’s Emergency Management Agency. … The agreement states the city will pay the county $515,000 annually to perform its police and fire dispatching duties. City fire dispatching is already performed at the new 911 Center, which opened in April 2014 and uses computer-aided dispatch. The city’s eight police dispatchers, who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2963, could apply for the county jobs or attempt to remain city employees by bumping other city employees from their positions. … Lewyenne Shumaker, president of AFSCME Local 2963, said she does not expect any of the city dispatchers to apply for the county jobs because they would lose seniority as well as the city’s contribution to Public Employees Retirement System, and insurance benefits would not be as good. She said the union should have been involved in the negotiations.

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Safety director speaks on dispatching proposal
Source: Anna Jeffries, newarkadvocate.com, May 5, 2015

Since discussions began about moving the Newark Division of Police’s dispatching services to the Licking County 911 Call Center, safety director Bill Spurgeon hasn’t spoken much about the issue. But after the council approved a resolution Monday night, allowing the city to negotiate a possible plan, Spurgeon shared his thoughts with The Advocate on Tuesday. … The proposal was first presented to the council’s Public Service Committee in late March. The committee recommended that the council authorize negotiations and then vote again before the city enters any final contracts with the county. …

Private colleges, public safety: few disclosure requirements for campus police

Source: Shawn Musgrave, Muckrock, September 15, 2015

…Campus cops are empowered as “special state police officers,” a category which also includes police employed by hospitals and railroads. As of June 2015, there were 1,500 special state police officers across Massachusetts, the vast majority of whom work at colleges and universities. .. Sworn campus police may carry weapons, make arrests and use force, just like any other officer. Statute grants special state police “the same power to make arrests as regular police officers” for crimes committed on property owned or used by their institutions. … Hundreds of campus police are thus full officers of the law. Yet special state police are exempt from the Massachusetts public records law, which requires government agencies to release most documents upon request, including police reports. … In June, after the shooting of a knife-wielding suspect by Massachusetts state police near its campus, Boston University police rejected a request for reports filed by its own responding officers. Incident reports are typically public records when completed by municipal or state police. A BUPD lieutenant responded that his department would release the report only under subpoena. … Massachusetts case law supports this interpretation. In a suit brought by Harvard’s student newspaper, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled in January 2006 that the public records statute does not cover private university police.

Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

Source: David Kidwell, Chicago Tribune, August 31, 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has sued Chicago’s former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions. According to court filings unsealed late last week, the Emanuel administration has joined forces with a former executive vice president at Redflex who says he helped orchestrate the scheme under orders from his bosses. The city moved earlier in August to intervene as a plaintiff in a whistleblower case filed under seal by the fired executive, Aaron Rosenberg, in Cook County Circuit Court more than a year ago. … The lawsuit alleges that the competitive bidding process was corrupted by Bills’ actions to steer the contract to Redflex, and that his actions defrauded Chicago taxpayers by orchestrating a better deal for the vendor at taxpayer expense. … Also, the lawsuit alleges, Bills orchestrated renewing the Redflex contract without going out to bid and was constantly looking for ways to expand Redflex fees because he got extra commissions for all work that went to Redflex outside the scope of its contract.

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Feds: Red light camera firm paid for Chicago official’s car, condo /Former Redflex CEO, contractor, Chicago transport official indicted for fraud.
Source: Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, August 17, 2014

The former chief executive officer of Redflex, a major red light camera (RLC) vendor, has been indicted on federal corruption charges stemming from a contract with the City of Chicago. On Wednesday, in addition to former CEO Karen Finley, government prosecutors also indicted John Bills, former managing deputy commissioner at the Department of Transportation, and Bills’ friend Martin O’Malley, who was hired as a contractor by Redflex. According to the indictment, O’Malley himself was paid $2 million for his services as a contractor, effectively making him one of the company’s highest paid workers. Much of that money was then funneled to Bills, who used it for personal gain. Via Redflex employees, Bills also acquired a Mercedes and a condominium in Arizona. In December 2013, Ars reported on red light cameras nationwide, and in particular, Redflex’s four cameras in the central California town of Modesto. A May 2014 affidavit written by an FBI special agent suggests that Bills likely used some of this money to purchase and store a boat, buy a car, pay for an addition to his Michigan cabin, pay for his girlfriend’s mortgage, pay his own mortgage, pay his kids’ schools, and hire a divorce attorney over the course of several years. A 2013 Redflex document states that two employees “paid for vacation-related expenses” for Bills “for at least 17 different trips from 2003 through 2010,” which included “hotels, flights, rental cars, golf games and meals” and a computer, for a total value of around $20,000. Karen Finley was vice president of operations at Redflex from 2001 until late 2005, and then was promoted to CEO from 2006 until February 2013….

Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets
Source: Erik Runge, WGNtv.com, July 18, 2014

The Tribune investigation found about thirteen thousand questionable tickets at about a dozen intersections and similar pattern of problems at several others. The Tribune found some cameras went from writing one or two tickets a day to more than 50 in some cases with no real explanation as to why.
The Tribune also found inconsistencies with tickets for drivers ticketed for not coming to a complete stop before turning right. Three experts reviewed the documents the Tribune gathered and said there were two possibilities for the dramatic jumps. Either people messed with the cameras to ticket more drivers or the cameras malfunctioned. In either case, the experts say the city should have noticed the wide swings in the tickets and investigated what was going on. The city transportation department told the Tribune it wasn’t aware of the problems until the paper showed them their data.

Red light camera firm admits it likely bribed Chicago official
Source: David Kidwell, Chicago Tribune, March 2, 2013

Chicago’s embattled red light camera firm went to City Hall on Friday in its latest effort to come clean, acknowledging for the first time that its entire program here was likely built on a $2 million bribery scheme. By its sheer size, the alleged plot would rank among the largest in the annals of Chicago corruption. An internal probe of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. and a parallel investigation by the city’s inspector general — prompted by reports in the Chicago Tribune — have cost the company its largest North American contract and all of its top executives. On Friday the company announced the resignations of its president, its chief financial officer and its top lawyer. The head of Redflex’s Australian parent company conducted town hall meetings at the headquarters of its Phoenix-based subsidiary to tell employees there was wrongdoing in the Chicago contract and that sweeping reforms were being instituted to win back the company’s reputation….

Meet The Man Who Runs New Orleans’ Entirely Privatized (And Controversial) City Surveillance System

Source: Eric Markowitz, International Business Times, August 26, 2015

…The result is Project NOLA, perhaps the country’s first and most extensive private surveillance network, run, improbably, by one man and a ragtag group of volunteers. … This is how it works: New Orleans residents who have chosen to participate install a surveillance camera on their home or business. The cameras must face toward the street and broadcast a high-resolution feed. The videos feed directly to Project NOLA’s headquarters. Lagarde says that those who host a camera are also given the username and password, and can access the videos whenever they’d like. … This is where relations with the police department have gotten somewhat uncomfortable. Gamble, the police spokesman, says that while the police appreciate all the help they can get, Lagarde has overstepped on a number of occasions. … Gamble adds, “He’ll watch his video cameras and he’ll listen to feeds of the police scanners. And then he’ll call the command desk and get someone to try to give him information.” Gamble says Lagarde has even tried to re-route officers to a particular scene, and called schools to urge them to go into lockdown after something he saw on a video feed….

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Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans? How a rich entrepreneur persuaded the city to let him create his own high-tech police force.
Source: David Amsden, New York Times magazine, July 30, 2015

…. In the United States, private police officers currently outnumber their publicly funded counterparts by a ratio of roughly three to one. Whereas in past decades the distinction was often clear — the rent-a-cop vs. the real cop — today the boundary between the two has become ‘‘messy and complex,’’ according to a study last year by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Torres’s task force is best understood in this context, one where the larger merging of private and public security has resulted in an extensive retooling of the nation’s policing as a whole. As municipal budgets have stagnated or plummeted, state and local governments have taken to outsourcing police work to the private sector, resulting in changes that have gone largely unnoticed by the public they’re tasked with protecting.

Graves of Shame

Source: John Carlos Frey, Texas Observer, July 6, 2015

A year ago, a Texas Rangers inquiry found “no evidence” of wrongdoing in the botched handling of migrant remains in Brooks County. New evidence indicates rampant violations of the law.

According to the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office, from 2009 through 2013, the years when the mass graves were most active, 361 migrant remains were recovered in Brooks County. Each of those remains would have passed through multiple hands. When remains are discovered, a deputy sheriff is called to investigate the scene, along with a county justice of the peace who makes a determination of death. Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, the funeral home in nearby Hebbronville owned by Service Corporation International, the nation’s largest death services provider, then arrives to recover the remains, which are transferred to Elizondo Mortuary in Mission for processing. However, Texas law does not require processing and identification of human remains be performed by a licensed medial examiner.

Elizondo is supposed to try to identify each set of remains, a process that by law includes gathering fingerprints, photographing any clothing or possessions, and “proper removal of a sample from a body” for lab tests. When Ramirez or a justice of the peace requests an autopsy, it is conducted by a third party—starting in 2007, that third party was a local pathologist, Dr. Fulgencio Salinas. After some weeks, Elizondo returns any unidentified remains to Howard-Williams for burial in Sacred Heart. At every stage, a paper trail accumulates. According to Texas law, death records must be retained for at least 10 years.

The sheriff’s office turned over all 361 crime scene reports. But the Brooks County clerk’s office could locate files related to the retrieval and burial of no more than 121 of these remains, leaving records on two-thirds of the dead unaccounted for. According to notes from a series of meetings that took place from December 2012 to June 2013 between the forensic anthropologists and county officials, and confirmed by Chief Deputy Martinez, the county sheriff’s office never received from Salinas a single autopsy report during this period, despite repeated requests. By law, such reports must be made available to law enforcement. …..

….It’s unclear how Salinas, a family doctor with a private practice in Edinburg, was charged with taking over the autopsies. His medical license indicates that he is not board-certified in pathology. Before 2007, the Nueces County coroner in Corpus Christi, a state-accredited medical examiner, had been contracted to handle identification and autopsies of unidentified remains found in Brooks County. But in 2007, just after Raul Ramirez was elected county judge, that work was steered to Elizondo Mortuary, a small family business, which took on the task of identifying remains and contracted out the autopsies to Salinas. The Brooks County clerk easily located the contract with Nueces County, which is still active, but could not locate one with Elizondo. In response to follow-up queries, a county auditor wrote, “There are no service contracts between Brooks County and Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams Funeral Home or between Brooks County and Elizondo Mortuary.”….

…..While Elizondo appears to have broken the law in failing to collect DNA samples pre-burial, Howard-Williams was responsible for the chaotic burials themselves. And though Elizondo, a family operation, could plausibly claim ignorance of the law, Howard-Williams is owned by the Houston-based national chain Service Corporation International (SCI). In exonerating Howard-Williams of any violations, Lain relied heavily on an assessment by the Texas Funeral Services Commission (TFSC).

TFSC oversees all mortuaries and funeral service companies in Texas. Though the commission’s executive director, Janice McCoy, has no prior experience in funeral services, she is deeply connected to the Texas political establishment. Prior to her TFSC appointment, she served for several years as chief of staff for GOP state Sen. Troy Fraser. Several TFSC commissioners also lack funeral business experience, and some have GOP ties, including Sue Evenwell, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee.

SCI’s CEO, Robert Waltrip, considers former Gov. Rick Perry a personal friend, and ranked as one of Perry’s top political donors during Perry’s tenure as governor, personally donating a total of $310,000 from 2001 to 2010, according to Texans for Public Justice. SCI also has a close tie to the Texas Rangers—its director of security, Robert K. Madeira, is a former Ranger lieutenant……

….SCI has been mired in controversy for decades. In 2001, The Miami Herald reported that SCI had exhumed bodies to make room for fresh burials in an overcrowded cemetery in Palm Beach. The case resulted in a $14 million settlement with Florida’s attorney general. In 2009, The Washington Post reported that another SCI funeral home, in Falls Church, Virginia, failed to properly store the bodies of veterans. The decomposing bodies were described as “disgusting, degrading and humiliating.” (SCI defended the practice, saying Virginia has no law that requires bodies to be refrigerated.)

According to a 2013 story in Bloomberg Businessweek, SCI has a history of buying rural funeral homes and raising prices, charging, on average, 42 percent more for funerals than rivals…..

Related:
Mass Graves of Immigrants Found in Texas, But State Says No Laws Were Broken
Source: Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now!, July 16, 2015

Texas says there is “no evidence” of wrongdoing after mass graves filled with bodies of immigrants were found miles inland from the U.S.-Mexico border. The bodies were gathered from the desert surrounding a checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, in Brooks County. An investigation was launched after the mass graves were exposed last November in a documentary by The Weather Channel in partnership with Telemundo and The Investigative Fund. The report also found many of the migrants died after crossing into the United States and waiting hours for Border Patrol to respond to their 911 calls. We speak with reporter John Carlos Frey, who found rampant violations of the law….

Dozens of bodies found in mass grave near South Texas border crossing
Source: Lindsey Bever, Washington Post, June 23, 2014

About two weeks ago in Falfurrias, a small town in the northeastern part of the county, a team of archaeologists uncovered a mass grave where many immigrants’ remains had been buried — in trash bags, shopping bags, body bags or no bags at all, researchers told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which broke the story last week. ….Baker estimated the bodies were buried between 2005 and 2009 — with no known names, no known families. For most, their only identification was a small, temporary grave marker bearing the name of a local funeral home. The bodies are believed to have been buried there by Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, a local funeral home contracted by the county to handle the bodies for $450 per corpse after sheriff’s officials recovered them from the brush country, according to reports. County Judge Raul Ramirez told the Caller-Times that this has been the practice for 16 years…..

Mass graves of unidentified migrants found in South Texas
Source: Maya Srikrishnan and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2014

A series of mass graves filled with remains of unidentified migrants has been discovered in a South Texas cemetery. … Brooks County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said he would meet with the county judge and commissioners Tuesday in Austin to investigate what happened with the burials. …. Martinez said he doesn’t foresee any criminal charges for the funeral home, Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, that the county pays to take care of bodies after sheriff’s officials recover them. “We have always been under budget constraints,” he said. “Maybe there was no money to facilitate burying the bodies.” …. A spokeswoman for Service Corporation International, which owns the funeral home, said in an emailed statement: “No matter if this is one of our client families we serve on a traditional basis or a migrant family’s loved one we are serving and we do not have identification of the loved one, it is our policy to treat the decedent with care, to treat them just like we would treat anyone else.”…. When the researchers discussed the matter with the funeral home before the excavation, Baker said, they were told that Sacred Heart didn’t have maps or lists to help figure out where the bodies were buried or who they belonged to. When they asked for the materials the funeral home used for the burials, they were shown fiberboard coffins, Baker said. “But we are yet to find any burials using those,” she said….

Mass graves of migrants found in Falfurrias (+ Video)
Source: Mark Collette, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, June 19, 2014

….County officials said they paid the local funeral home, Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams to handle the bodies after sheriff’s officials recovered them from the brush country. County Judge Raul Ramirez said that was the practice for at least 16 years. A smaller number of migrants die in neighboring Jim Hogg County. It has paid Howard-Williams to handle bodies for as long as Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Lorenzo Benavides can remember — at least 22 years, he said. The funeral home buried the Jim Hogg County remains in the Brooks County cemetery, he said. The funeral home currently charges $450 to handle each body, Brooks County Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said. Researchers found remains under small, temporary grave markers bearing the Howard-Williams name, Baker said. A kitchen garbage bag containing bones was tucked inside a gift bag emblazoned with a logo featuring the word “Dignity,” Baker said, indicating one of the funeral service brands owned by Howard-Williams’ parent company, Houston-based Service Corporation International. The company acquired Howard-Williams in 1999, spokeswoman Jessica McDunn said….