Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Should You Vote YES or NO on I-940?

On May 23, 2013, Annalesa Thomas warned her son Leonard that she would call the police if he didn’t hand over her 4-year-old grandson Elijah. Hours later, 27 Pierce County police officers, two SWAT trucks and a sniper arrived at their home in Fife, a small town of about 9,000 residents in Washington State near the much larger city of Tacoma. The massive police presence came despite the fact that Leonard was unarmed.

A four-hour standoff ensued: according to the police, Leonard, 30, had snatched the phone from Annalesa when she first tried to call 911 and held Elijah against the child’s will. Annalesa, however, had told the police that she called for help simply because she did not want Elijah be watched by Leonard, who struggled with alcoholism.

Near the end of the standoff, police struck a deal with Leonard in which he would hand over Elijah and the officers would leave. As police raided Leonard’s house, he panicked, grabbing Elijah. Watching the scene unfold, a sniper then fired a .308 caliber round into Leonard’s waist.
Leonard bled out on the floor just inside the home, clinging to Elijah as police pulled his son from his arms. “Don’t hurt my boy,” Leonard told the police. Those were his last words, Annalesa told The Appeal.

On July 14, 2017, a jury in federal district court awarded Leonard’s family $15 million in civil damages, one of the largest sums awarded in a civil suit over a police killing in Washington history (after an appeal of the verdict, the Thomas family agreed to settle their wrongful-death and civil-rights lawsuit for $13 million). Elijah Thomas, now 10 years old, told reporters after the verdict that he believed his father was simply “trying to protect me.”

Despite the verdict and public outrage over Leonard’s death and others wrongfully killed by police, including protests, no officers were criminally charged in the case. But this is not an unusual outcome in Washington, where an officer may not be found criminally liable if he or she acted “without malice” according to state law. The legislation was passed in 1986 by lawmakers who were concerned about insufficient protections for the police after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1985 in Tennessee v. Garner that it was unconstitutional to use deadly force against an unarmed suspect fleeing arrest. But because of the law, no officer in the state has been convicted of wrongfully killing someone in the line of duty in more than 30 years. The sole homicide case against a Washington officer was brought in Snohomish County in 2009 when Everett police Officer Troy Meade shot a suspected drunk driver in the back, killing him. Despite another officer testifying against his colleague’s excessive use of force, a jury acquitted Meade of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

“It’s difficult to prosecute a police officer, and it should be, but today it’s impossible,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg told The Appeal. “That’s been the result of our legal analysis in every police shooting we’ve ever had.”  (The Appeal, September 20, 2018)


I have posted about this case and I-940 on August 30, 2018 and on September 9, 2018. There is a lot of debate about I-940. Is it good law? Is it bad? Does WA State really need to change the way it investigates officer involved shooting?

Do we want to make it easier for an "anti-cop" jury to convict an officer for doing his or her job? Can we expect a jury to return a fair verdict when it has weeks or months to make a decision, yet the officer on the street had only seconds to make a life and death decision?

If police officers know that they may be prosecuted and face homicide charges following an officer involved shooting, won't they hesitate to use deadly force to protect themselves and others in the community?

If we, as a community, expect police officers to put their own lives at risk to protect the community they serve, shouldn't we as a community protect those officers from criminal prosecution when they are forced to  kill someone in the line of duty?

I can't tell you how to vote on I-940 this fall. What I can tell you is that this is an important issue that directly affects the safety of our police officers and our communities. Take time to consider all of the issues surrounding I-940 and make an informed and considered vote on this issue.


China's 'Super Aggressive' Spy Campaign on LinkedIn

Reuters News Service reported on August 31, 2018 that the United States’ top spy catcher said Chinese espionage agencies are using fake LinkedIn accounts to try to recruit Americans with access to government and commercial secrets.

The Chinese campaign includes contacting thousands of LinkedIn members at a time, but he declined to say how many fake accounts U.S. intelligence had discovered, how many Americans may have been contacted and how much success China has had in the recruitment drive.

German and British authorities have previously warned their citizens that Beijing is using LinkedIn to try to recruit them as spies. But this is the first time a U.S. official has publicly discussed the challenge in the United States and indicated it is a bigger problem than previously known.

U.S. officials said China’s Ministry of State Security has “co-optees” - individuals who are not employed by intelligence agencies but work with them - set up fake accounts to approach potential recruits.

Chinese intelligence uses bribery or phony business propositions in its recruitment efforts. Academics and scientists, for example, are offered payment for scholarly or professional papers and, in some cases, are later asked or pressured to pass on U.S. government or commercial secrets.

Unfortunately, many don't realize that LinkedIn is just another form of social media, and one that allows unfettered access to the information individuals post on it. Given that it is used to "manage your professional identity. Build and engage with your professional network. Access knowledge, insights and opportunities," it comes as no surprise that it is a wealth of sensitive information that would be of interest to a foreign intelligence service.

JBLM Officials Are Investigating the Death of Another Soldier On-Post

Joint Base Lewis-McChord officials found SPC. Matthew Pollock, 25, of Grand Junction, Colorado, dead in his personal vehicle parked at Sequalitchew Lake, Sept. 18

Pollock enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2014, he has served as a radio communications security repairer in 5th Battalion 3rd Field Artillery since July 2016.  (Tacoma Weekly, September 20, 2018)

The number of recent deaths of JBLM Service Members is concerning. In August 2018, three JBLM Soldiers were found dead in separate cases. The death of SPC Pollock adds one more Soldier to the JBLM death toll.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of SPC Pollock and to the families of the other Soldiers who have recently died at JBLM.

Seattle Court Agrees to Clear Past Marijuana Convictions

Judges in Seattle have agreed to clear past misdemeanor convictions for pot possession that were prosecuted before marijuana was legalized in Washington state.

The Seattle Times reports that all seven judges of the Seattle Municipal Court signed an order Sept. 11 setting out a process for vacating the cases.

City Attorney Pete Holmes filed a motion in April asking the court to vacate the convictions. He argued that possessing small amounts of marijuana is no longer illegal and clearing past convictions would right the injustices of a drug war that targeted people of color.

About 542 people could be affected. The ruling covers from about 1996 - when municipal courts, rather than county district courts, began handling those misdemeanors - to 2010 when Holmes became city attorney and stopped prosecuting low-level pot cases entirely.

Seattle Municipal Court web-site explains what vacating a record means:

Vacating a conviction for a misdemeanor crime means the court determines you meet certain conditions and orders. If you pled guilty to a crime, your plea will be changed to not guilty and then the charges are dismissed. If you were found guilty, the court may set aside the conviction, dismiss the case and vacate the judgment and sentence.

If your record is vacated, your name, the case number, the charge, a "V" for vacated, and, "DV" if the file was related to domestic violence will still show up in the court's information system and online portal. Vacating a record does not remove information from the court's electronic record. The record will remain and is public. The record will be updated to contain information about the vacation of the record.

If you were arrested and fingerprinted, these records are maintained by the arresting agency, the Washington State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cell Phone Video Shows a Yakima Police Officer Kicking an Unruly Teen

Yakima police are reviewing an officer’s use of force when breaking up a fight Sunday night at the Central Washington State Fair.

A video posted on Facebook shows an officer kicking a teen boy to the ground after he had been sprayed with pepper spray.

The video shows several youth running from the area while a few remain fighting. Then one of the teens appears disoriented, rubbing his eyes while officers order him to get on the ground.

That’s when an officer is shown thrusting a kick into the boy’s backside, sending him to the pavement.

It’s not clear what may have led up to the officer kicking the boy, said interim Chief Gary Jones.
Such a brief video may not provide an accurate account of the entire incident, he said.

“Anytime you only see a snippet of a video, you’ve got to look at the totality of what was going on — what was going on around the officer” Jones said. “With a very short amount of video, it doesn’t give us all the information.”  (Seattle Times, September 24, 2018)

As with many short videos posted to the Internet, it is hard to know the totality of the circumstances and what else is going on around the officer.

Perhaps this is an appropriate tactic for gaining control of a teenage subject who has just been pepper-sprayed?  Or... perhaps it is not? What is likely however is that we will see a civil lawsuit brought against the officer and his department as a result of this incident.


Techniques For Information Research

Techniques For Information Research (December 2017) is a 98 Page PDF document with useful resources for anyone conduction on-line research, OSINT, or other reporting and analysis of data.

The guide is free, provided under a Creative Common License: "The work may be freely distributed or modified for commercial or non commercial purposes."

- Understanding Internet Search Techniques
- Search Engine Manipulation
- Open Source Intelligence Resource Publications
- Specialized Information Resources
- Manipulating Data In Documents
- Specialized Software
- Information Software
- Data Mining
- Firefox Web Browser Related
- RSS Feed Reader
- Monitor Events In Real Time
- Real Time Global Trend Information
- Maps And Satellite Imagery
- Visualize Social Media Connections
- Online Remote Radio Monitoring
- Information Research Tools and Resources
- Search Engine Resources
- News
- National News Agencies
- Intergovernmental Organizations
- The Universal Language Of Mathematics
- Citations

State Can Still House Sex Offenders in Lakewood Family Homes, Judge says

A Pierce County judge ruled Friday that the state can still house sex offenders in 90 adult family homes in Lakewood, WA.

In May, the City of Lakewood filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington over the unsafe release of those with a criminal history or sexual offenses into the city.
State officials said there have been no reports of new sex crimes by offenders released into these adult family homes.  (KOMO 4 News, September 21, 2018)

So, what is the risk of housing sex offenders in a community after they are released from prison? Is there a high recidivism rate - are these offenders likely to commit new crimes?

According to a New York study:
  • 95.88% of arrests for all registerable sex crimes are of persons previously non-convicted of a sex offense.
  • 95.94% of arrests for rape are of previous non sex-offenders.
  • 94.12% of arrests for child molestation are of previous non sex-offenders.
(Sandler, Jeffrey C, et. Al., Does a Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 2008 Vol. 14, No. 4, 290)

These results are closely parallel to figures compiled by the US Department of Justice that show that 93% of child sex abuse is committed by a person whom the child knows. In 47% of the cases, the perpetrator is a member of the family. Only 7% of offenses are committed by strangers.

Other studies show similar recidivism rates:
  • Missouri DOC study of 2,777 sex offenders released from 1998-2007 found that the recidivism rate was 1.9% after 3 yrs.; 3.5% after 5 yrs.
  • A Maine study tracked sex offender releases for 2004-2006 and reported a recidivism rate 3.8% in 3 yrs.
  • A Connecticut Criminal Justice and Planning Division study of 746 offenders released in 2005 showed 3.6% re-arrests; 2.7% convictions over 5 years.

While the probability of recidivism is low for sex offenders, the nature of these crimes increases the overall risk to the community, even with a low probability of occurrence. Of further concern is the concentrating of sex offenders in small geographic areas. This increase the likelihood of an event in the defined geographic area. Statistically we say,  When two events, A and B, are mutually exclusive, the probability that A or B will occur is the sum of the probability of each event. P(A or B) = P(A) + P(B).

The National Sex Offender Public Web-site allows users to search by name or location for registered sex offenders living in their community. It should be noted that this web-site only list sex offenders with an assessed moderate or high risk to the community (i.e. Level-II or Level-III).  

In WA State there are approximately 22,000 registered sex offenders. Of these around 3,500 are Level-II (Moderate Risk) and around 1,800 are Level-III (High Risk). There remainder are assessed as posing a low risk to the community, or do not yet have an assessed risk level.

Offender Watch will allow you to view maps of sex offenders living in your community, as well as to sign up for notifications if a sex offender registers to live in your neighborhood.