In the first part of the 20th century, Berkeley’s first police chief was a household name. When Americans thought about the giants of crimefighting, August Vollmer was in the pantheon that included FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Wyatt Earp, the deputy marshal who participated in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
His renown was understandable. Vollmer started as town marshal in 1905 and then took over the new Berkeley Police Department in 1909. He was an innovator and ushered in many improvements that are commonplace today, earning him the nickname of the “father of American policing.”
Vollmer was the first to put an entire police force on bicycles. He improved the way police got information about crime, first by installing flashing red recall lights scattered around Berkeley that told officers to return to headquarters, then by using Morse Code to deliver to them the address where a crime had been committed. Vollmer was the first to have his force use cars, earning officers the nickname “limousine police.” Vollmer hired the country’s first female police officer in 1917 and its first African-American officer in 1918. He insisted on collecting physical evidence from crime scenes and using that evidence — rather than hunches — to find criminals. His protégés invented the lie detector and the Berkeley Police Department was among the first to use it. Vollmer also required that all Berkeley police officers have a college degree.
Vollmer also believed in the humanity of criminals and that they could be redeemed, rejecting the use of brute force and intense interrogations such as the third degree, a common practice of torture in that time.
Today, Vollmer’s name is not widely recognized, even among Berkeley residents. Yes, there is Vollmer Peak, in Tilden Park, but few know the details about his life and accomplishments.
Willard M. Oliver, the author of a new biography about Berkeley’s first police chief, August Vollmer, stands in front of an old lie detector that was developed by Vollmer’s proteges and used by the police department. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel Willard M. Oliver, a professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, hopes to change that. And his chances are good, as his new 780-page book, August Vollmer: The Father of American Policing — the first comprehensive biography on the police chief — has just been published. Oliver and the Berkeley Historical Society have also worked together to create a major new exhibit on Vollmer. The show opens Sunday at 3 p.m. at 1931 Center St. Oliver will deliver a talk with photos before that, at 2 p.m. at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Read about the rediscovery of Vollmer’s long-lost gold-and-diamond badge, found in Texas by a pair of booksellers “The name faded with time,” said Steve Finacom, a historian who helped with the Vollmer exhibit now on display. “His life and his philosophy are very relevant today. For example, how would Vollmer have reacted to the extremist gathering in the park?” he said, pointing to Civic Center Park, across the street from the Historical Society and the site of recent protests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions engaged in a war of words on Friday over a Department of Justice statement accusing the city of being "soft on crime."
The department said New York "continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city's 'soft on crime' stance."
The statement was part of an ongoing dispute between Republican President Donald Trump and cities including New York over immigration policy, with the Trump administration threatening to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities.
The Democratic mayor called the "soft on crime" characterization "absolutely outrageous."
"Attorney General Sessions is supposed to be the leading law enforcement official in America," de Blasio said. "Why would he insult the men and women who do this work every day, who put their lives on the line and who have achieved so much?"
Police Commissioner James O'Neill, who appeared with de Blasio at police headquarters, said the "soft on crime" statement made his blood boil.
"To say we're soft on crime is absolutely ludicrous," O'Neill said.
He said his police department, by far the nation's largest, locked up more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns last year.
Rob Duke's insight:
Ask the cops of NYPD...de Blasio is not well-liked and they will tell a different story on crime fighting than he has told here.
On Thursday, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Fuller issued a joint statement with Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley and Kalamazoo Township Police Chief Tim Bourgeois responding to the report.
Rob Duke's insight:
The risk-reward factor should be considered before bringing in outside investigators who: a. don't understand the actual practitioner roles, duties, and limitations; b. have their own political agenda.
Replacing one biased investigation for another isn't much in terms of progress.
The past few months have seen an interesting change in events across the country: more people are taking an active role in organizing community initiatives to spark change. We’ve seen riots and peaceful protests, call parties and petition - Americans are throwing themselves into democracy.
But how do the younger generations feel about this movement? After all, as the future leaders of this country, their participation in political and grassroots movements is perhaps even more telling than the participation of Gen X-ers and Boomers.
Who is Gen Z?
Over the past five years, every industry has tried to crack the Millennials conundrum. Brands have spent huge budgets conducting studies to figure out what Millennials like, what makes them tick, and what they’ll do tomorrow. And now just as people “think” they’ve got Millennials figured out, there’s a new generation demanding attention.
Gen Z-ers came of age switching seamlessly between several different screens; if Millennials are the Facebook generation, Gen Z is the Snapchat generation. Their ease and comfortability with social platforms has enable them to share their voices and creativity not just with their own circles, but with audiences across the globe. But Gen Z is so much more than just digitally savvy - although they are too often relegated to this status. In fact, unlike their slightly older counterparts, Gen Z is highly interested in developing offline relationships and connecting
The head of the ATF’s office in Los Angeles has sent a memo to Southern California police chiefs and sheriffs saying the agency has found law enforcement officers buying and reselling guns in what could be a violation of federal firearms laws, it was reported Thursday.
The memo from Eric Harden, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s Los Angeles Field Division special agent in charge, describes the finding as an “emerging problem” and expresses concern about “the growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealing,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
He did not say how many officers the agency has found purchasing and reselling weapons, but the memo dated March 31 says some officers had bought more than 100 firearms, and some of the guns have been recovered at crime scenes, The Times reported.
But Harden wrote that the goal is “to educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment to themselves and your department/agency.”
His memo focuses on the purchase and resale of “off roster” firearms. Those are guns that are not on an approved list of weapons that can be sold to the public.
The California law establishing the roster has an exemption that allows sworn peace officers to purchase such weapons, and an additional one that allows officers to resell the guns under certain conditions. But if officers are buying and reselling weapons for profit as a business, they need a federal firearms license. The lack of a license is the conduct that ATF has uncovered and is the subject of the memo.
Rob Duke's insight:
I kept rough track and sold my backup weapon (I carried a S&W 4506 .45 duty weapon and the very similar 4516, as my backup--the magazines from the 4506 fit in the 4516) at 10,000 rounds fired (every couple years). While these guns should go for longer, I had heard of firing pin malfunction at more than 10k rounds, thus I cycled my guns. I took a hit on depreciation, but then again, I used my guns so I considered them tools.
What is going on here sounds like something else....
What I missed mostly, though, were the people I worked with. Most of us came on the job together at the age of 21 or 22, as I did. We grew up together. We were family. We went to each other’s weddings, shared the joy of our children's births, and we mourned the deaths of family members and marriages. We celebrated the good times, and huddled close in the bad.
We went from rookies who couldn't take our eyes off of the tin number of the old timer we worked with, to dinosaurs. After all, what they gave us was just a job. What we made of it was a profession. We fulfilled our mission, and did the impossible each and every day, despite the department and its regulations.
In 2014, after pointing his pistol at an officer's head in Smyrna and carjacking a woman at gunpoint, police said parolee Aaron Smith Jr. drove to Elliston Place in Nashville. He tried to break into a business, then pointed his gun at officers once again.
Click to read more headlines from Davidson County.More >> Countless people reportedly could have been hurt. Instead, five officers shot and killed Smith. Officer Clyde Stambaugh was one of them.
"He put his life on the line to save theirs," said Nashville Fraternal Order of Police attorney Jack Byrd.
Those heroic actions had devastating consequences. Stambaugh sought help from his pastor and counselors. Eventually his psychiatrist diagnosed him with severe PTSD.
Unable to work, Stambaugh asked Metro's benefit board to grant him an "injured on duty pension." Tuesday, the board voted 4-3 to deny him.
"This employee does not meet the criteria as he was trained to expect to do this in this line of work," said Benefits Board chairman Edna Jones.
"I think it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Byrd said.
A priceless artifact from Berkeley police history, which turned up in a $5 box of books at an estate sale in Texas, will be on public display for the first time ever Sunday at the Berkeley Historical Society.
Read more about the new Vollmer exhibit and biography. Scroll to the bottom of this story for exhibit details. The artifact is the long lost 14-karat gold, diamond-studded badge of Berkeley’s first police chief, August Vollmer. It was so far gone, in fact, even the department historian was unaware of its existence as a BPD relic. Vollmer has been called “the father of modern policing,” which is the title of a comprehensive new book about him just published this year. The author of that book will speak Sunday, and the badge will be shown alongside Vollmer’s revolver as part of a program at the Berkeley Historical Society museum celebrating the innovative chief’s history.
The rediscovery of the badge blindsided a couple from a suburb of Austin, Texas, in August 2015. The story has been somewhat under wraps ever since, until Susan Lyons and her husband, Mark — speaking by phone from Texas — shared that story with Berkeleyside. The couple has worked together, as a side job, for more than a decade selling books on Amazon to help put their four children through college. One day, at an estate sale, they picked up about 200 boxes of high-quality books that appeared to have been hastily slapped together. When they later went through those boxes, they were surprised to come across an old leather case.
“Mark’s going through boxes, and he comes up to me and he goes, ‘Do you think this is worth something?'” recalled Susan. “Me being a woman, I know a diamond when I see it. When he handed it to me and I saw Vollmer’s name on it, we both looked at each other and said: ‘This needs to go home.'”
Rob Duke's insight:
Very nice. The last real time that law enforcement went through planned change. We need to analyze ourselves and make periodic needed change. Vollmer, and his protege, O. W. Wilson, taught us that, but it is a lesson we're prone to forget.
Video emerged on Friday showing the disturbing aftermath of a confrontation between American Airlines flight staff and at least three passengers. The video, attached at the end of this story, shows a deeply distraught female passenger crying near the airplane cabin as two other passengers confront airline staff. One male passenger tells a male crew member that “you do that to me, and I’ll knock you flat.” The crew member squares off aggressively with the passenger, urging him to “bring it,” and saying “you don’t know what the story is.” The story, according to eyewitness reports gathered by a local Fox affiliate, involved a passenger with two small children who refused a request to check her stroller. In response, a flight attendant—apparently the man shown in the video—called security, then “wrestled” the stroller away from the passenger. Eyewitnesses claim that the passenger was hit in the head, and that her children were in harm’s way.
Rob Duke's insight:
Stewards act as the representatives of the Captains who are virtual dictators of ships and planes under international law. They have also adopted very formal and polite manners, but the bottom line is do what you're told for the good of the order and the safety of all other passengers--you have a duty to do so.
It seems that we've become so enamored with freedom, that we have forgotten responsibility. The same forces that have eroded police authority are at work in other areas of our lives (i.e., airline stewards, teachers, etc.).
As a chaotic series of bloody brawls erupted in Berkeley over the weekend at a far-right rally in support of President Trump, hundreds of police officers were stationed nearby but didn’t immediately jump into the melee. The mostly hands-off approach marked the latest strategy by a police force dealing with violent demonstrations in a famously liberal city that has become ground zero for confrontations between supporters of Trump, including white supremacists, and opponents who want to shut them down. But the response — one of the first big tests for Berkeley’s new police chief and mayor — attracted criticism from some experts in police tactics. “Doing nothing empowers the miscreants,” said Charles “Sid” Heal, a retired commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the president of the California Association of Tactical Officers. “The first and fundamental reason government exists is for protection. When government fails, the people take the matter in their own hands.”
Alfred Olango, a 38-year-old Ugandan refugee, was unarmed when he was shot in a minutes-long confrontation with Officer Richard Gonsalves on Sept. 27. Olango had been acting strangely that morning, telling his sister he hadn’t slept and was paranoid.
His sister called 911 three times that morning, asking for help for her brother who was having a mental breakdown.
Olango was found wandering in and out of traffic, and when Gonsalves pulled up in his patrol car, Olango was pacing in the parking lot of the Broadway Village shopping center in El Cajon.
Surveillance and cellphone video show the two facing off. The officer said he commanded a visibly agitated Olango to take his hands out of his pockets, but he wouldn’t comply.
Olango suddenly pulled an item out of his pocket and pointed it at the officer, taking what police have described as a two-handed shooting stance, and the officer fired. The item turned out to be a vaping device with a barrel that resembled a gun, police said.
Dumanis rules El Cajon police shooting of Alfred Olango justified The District Attorney’s Office, which reviews all officer-involved shootings, found the use of deadly force was justified because the officer reasonably feared for his life.
The lawsuit, filed in January, accuses Gonsalves of “aggressively” confronting and cornering Olango rather than waiting for a psychiatric team to arrive for help. The suit also alleges Gonsalves had a “cowboy attitude” and his demeanor provoked Olango’s reaction, resulting in the shooting.
In their motion to dismiss, lawyers for El Cajon argue that the lawsuit does not allege any unconstitutional conduct that occurred before the shooting.
“Not waiting for a P.E.R.T team before confronting a mentally unstable Olango does not constitute a Fourth Amendment violation. Nor did it violate the Fourth Amendment to confront, chase or corner Olango. At most, these might constitute negligent tactics and conduct,” the lawyers from the firm Haley & Dean argue.
Rob Duke's insight:
See the photo to the right. It's difficult to argue that the officers weren't justified. They were called to the scene and used good judgement and reasonableness to verify if the man needed help (and good officer safety--hands kill, thus we always demand to see the hands. This is like in basketball where you always watch the opponents hips because that tells you where they will move next). It is unreasonable to call PERT before verifying that the man needs them. What if his sister is over-reacting? What if someone reported him maliciously? Not only that, but PERT doesn't show up in an hour--my experience with the strained mental health system is that response will take several hours (at best).
On Monday, Speaker Paul Ryan met with a handful of Police Chiefs from across the nation to discuss growing tensions between officers and their communities. During the discussion, Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), brought up new police training tactics that the organization is trying to implement nationwide.
According to the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), PERFs suggested tactics are criticized by a number of police organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Rob Duke's insight:
PERF's document was completely unrealistic, didn't take into account Officers' reasonable fear for their safety, and did not consult actual law enforcement officers.
A recent Los Angeles Times story explored the recent drop in arrest rates, both in Los Angeles and across the state, stating it was "unclear" why arrest rates have dropped as crime has risen. While we can't speak for other agencies, we can inform the public about some reasons for the arrest rate decline in jurisdictions patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
One key factor is the lack of unobligated patrol time due to short staffing in our patrol functions. As detailed in a National Institute of Justice report, "Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising" proactive policing, where deputies interact with the public and investigate suspicious activity and persons, produces arrests and deters crime. However, instead of engaging in those functions, deputies now spend time racing from call to call, leaving little time for proactive patrol.
In addition, short staffing of the Department leads to patrol deputies being forced to work multiple overtime shifts in a week, which often lengthens a shift to 16 hours. Additionally, deputies are being ordered to work on regularly scheduled days off. The fatigue factor of long shifts and the realization that an arrest towards the end of a shift will lead to multiple hours in paperwork and additional hours in processing if a booking takes place, combined with compression of work weeks, is certainly a discouragement to making an arrest. In addition, making an arrest often requires backup, the availability of which many times is in question due to short staffing.
It is not, however, just a lack of resources which have led to a drop in arrest rates. While the article implies a decrease in conjunction with a rising crime rate means crimes are not being solved and suspects identified, that is overstated. Since arrests are most often discretionary acts, a deputy may simply write a report documenting the crime, leaving it to prosecutors to file charges and send a notification letter to the defendant with an appearance date for arraignment. An arrest simply jump starts this process. This then raises the question: Why would a deputy forego an arrest and instead only write a report? Simple. Making an arrest presents an opportunity for second guessing by the Department, politicians, and the public.
The Department has instituted a culture that emphasizes discipline not praise for hard working patrol deputies, with a singular focus on looking for the "bad" in every arrest or public contact. The default response of line supervisors and higher-ups is to second guess deputies and look for "bad tactics" or outcomes, instead of supporting proactive deputies, or praising them as examples to be followed. Since discretion allows a deputy to solve a crime and document it with a report, the understandable human behavior is to avoid making an arrest if that will simply invite second guessing and undue scrutiny.
Then, of course, there is the politics of law enforcement; that is, politicians. The lack of support for deputies doesn't just exist within the Department but is amplified by politicians eager to grab the limelight and slam rank-and-file law enforcement whenever an incident does not end in textbook fashion. Former NYPD Commissioner and LAPD Police Chief Bill Bratton once observed, "Police work is not always pretty. In my years in law enforcement, I've learned not to make a judgment until I have all the facts." Sadly, that is not the case with many politicians. Far beyond just a lack of support, the willingness of elected and self-appointed experts to rush to the cameras and pass judgment on rank-and-file law enforcement officers for incidents where they scarcely know the details--and what "details" they often know later prove to be false--certainly causes pause in engaging in arrests or proactive law enforcement.
Further, whether it is simply a vocal minority receiving outsized attention on their views of law enforcement, or in fact a larger segment of society, it is unquestionable that as a whole there is less civility towards law enforcement by the general public. Society has become impatient, rude, judgmental and sanctimonious towards law enforcement, and it should be no wonder why deputies are hesitant to engage in actions such as arrest which leads to second guessing.
A recent survey in a leading law enforcement publication found the major decrease in proactive policing across the nation was in large part because of "significant correlations between leadership, media, community relations, and training to their individual effects upon decreased proactivity." As mentioned above, the decrease in arrests and a rising crime rate does not mean that crimes are not being solved and suspects identified. However, if one wants to start searching for the reasons for a decrease in arrests while there has been an increase in crime, the responses of nearly 500 officers and deputies in this survey and the issues detailed in this blog provide a solid starting point.
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