<![CDATA[Laura L. Cooper - Author - Pursuit of Justice Blog]]>Sun, 03 Jan 2016 01:24:27 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Cameras on Cops: The Questions They Raise]]>Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:33:20 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/cameras-on-cops-the-questions-they-raisePicture
Clipping a body-worn camera onto every law enforcement officer won't solve all our current issues, and it will raise new ones.

Last year, I wrote a blog that focused on the possible benefits of the technology:
  • Document evidence in investigations
  • Protect citizens from excessive force
  • Defend officers from false accusations

After the controversial use of force case in Ferguson, Missouri, there is an outcry for all law enforcement officers to wear cameras. The White House wants millions of dollars invested in the effort (Dann and Rafferty). However, not every community is prepared to cope with the questions raised by this technology.

Questions We Must Ask
  • When will the cameras be set to record?
  • How will video footage be stored? For how long?
  • Who decides when video data will be released to the public?
  • What if the recording device malfunctions?
  • How will the presence of cameras affect victims, witnesses, and suspects?
  • How will the privacy rights of officers and the public be protected?

Body-worn cameras open up tremendous possibilities for documentation and transparency. My concern is that they could be used to trample privacy rights, try suspects and officers in the media, scare off victims and witnesses, and micromanage every aspect of law enforcement.

We must prepare policies and public expectations so that we protect privacy rights, set reasonable procedures for officers, and realize that every technology has its limits.

Video Footage

Agencies must be clear about when and how cameras will be used and share this with the public. We cannot record everything...not officers undercover, in a briefing, or at the urinal.

"No one wants to talk to you if everything is being recorded," said Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers" (Johnson and Smith).

Public Release

We need to assure victims and witnesses that their videotaped comments are not subject to public records requests. But can we? Suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty, so video may need to be protected until it is used in court. The public should not expect that everything recorded today can be released on the Internet tonight.

Limits of the Technology

It is important to realize that as helpful as the technology can be, it will not resolve all issues. There will be times a camera malfunctions, records blurry images, or is turned off during an unexpected event. An editorial in Scientific American points out that "even when video images are available, they are not always conclusive." Not everyone who views footage will come away with the same determination.

Moving Forward

Some police agencies have been using body cameras for years. Others are still experimenting on a small scale. Of 254 departments surveyed that use body cameras, The Police Executive Research Forum found that one-third have no written policies on their use (Hermann and Weiner).
This is bad news for police and communities.

Carefully crafted policies and laws need to direct when and how video is captured and released to the public. We cannot jeopardize court cases or privacy rights to appease the public's appetite for information. Video has a valuable place in our justice system, but how far can it go toward building trust in communities?


<![CDATA[The FBI's Big Gamble]]>Mon, 03 Nov 2014 19:57:50 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/the-fbis-big-gamble
Some gambling is legal in Las Vegas. Some is not. The FBI threw the dice themselves in a unique scheme to get into a hotel room to collect evidence against an international gambling ring.

In this case, law enforcement personnel used questionable means to stretch or break the rules in order to make their case. It occurred in June and July of 2014 at the Caesar's Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. After getting a tip that several rooms had sophisticated computer equipment that might be linked to an illegal gambling ring, the FBI needed more evidence to get a search warrant.

The Bluff

Without a warrant, they would need consent to enter the room. First, they teamed up with a local technology company. They went to the room and offered to go in and check their new computers to make sure they were connected properly. "Can we just make sure they can connect okay?" asked an undercover agent (NPR.org). The answer was no.

Raising the Stakes

The agents devised a second plan to gain entry. They started by cutting off Internet access to the hotel room. Then agents posed as computer technicians who responded to calls for assistance from the roomful of suspects.

The persons in the room not only opened the door but gave permission for the disguised agents to enter. Inside, the agents looked around and took video of the residents and their computer screens with a lapel camera.

The FBI employed the ruse against the recommendation                  of an assistant U.S. attorney...according to defense lawyers."                (ABCnews.go.com)

Exposed Card

It is reported that the FBI failed to mention their role in disconnecting the Internet service prior to posing as repairmen when submitting a request for a warrant based on what they found in the room (NPR.org).

Now a defense attorney for one of the eight defendants has filed a motion to suppress that evidence. "They were trying everything they could to get inside without a warrant," defense lawyer Thomas Goldstein told the AP (Foxnews.com).

Final Table

Sometimes law enforcement officers must use new, ingenious ways to gain evidence of illegal activity. However, they must play by the rules.

If the court allows the evidence, it would open up the possibility for local or federal law enforcement agencies to disconnect water, electricity, cable, or other services to your home and then pose as utility workers to gain access.

Was it a creative way of tricking the men to give consent for agents to enter their room or a trouncing of the 4th amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure?

The court is scheduled to rule this week.


AP, "Federal agents impersonated computer technicians to collect evidence in sports betting probe, lawyers say," Foxnews.com,
October 29, 2014.

Caldwell, Alicia A, "Video shows FBI impersonating repairmen in ruse," ABCnews.go.com, October 29, 2014.

McConnell, Duglad and Brian Todd, "Undercover sting: FBI agents posed as Internet repairmen," CNN.com, October 30, 2014.

Totenberg, Nina, "Can authorities cut off utilities and pose as repairmen to search a home?" NPR.org, October 29, 2014.

Whitcomb, Dan, "FBI sent fake techs to seek evidence in Vegas gambling case: Lawyers," Reuters.com, October 29, 2014.

<![CDATA[Memorials and Battle Plans: September 11, 2014]]>Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:46:49 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/memorials-and-battle-plans-september-11-2014
Remembering those who died on 9/11.

On September 11, 2001, terrorist activities killed nearly 3,000 people and wounded a nation. Nearly 400 of the dead were first responders trying to rescue those in need. Ceremonies will honor their memories in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, where they lost their lives.

In addition, we must honor the men and women who died serving our country in response to such acts. According to the Military Times Project Valor, over 6,800 service members have died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

There will be tributes given, names read, photos displayed, wreaths presented, memories relived, and tears shared. There will also be moments of silence. What do you think of during the silence? Who do you remember?

If you are too young to remember the events of that day, "eight personal stories of transformation" are available online at the 9/11 Tribute Center website (a project of the September 11th Families' Association).

As we remember the losses, we are faced with new terrorist threats. Perhaps we must also observe a moment of silence to consider how to best confront new threats of terrorism.

  • How do we protect our country and our people without losing our identity as a free nation?
  • How do we fight violence without becoming unrestrained aggressors?
  • How do we root out enemies without filling with hatred?

Wishing you peace.

Articles on memorials:

Alcindor, Yamiche and John Bacon, "Lower Manhattan, the world mark 9/11 anniversary," USAToday.com, Sept. 11, 2014.

Berman, Mark, "Remembrances in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on anniversary of 9/11 attacks," WashingtonPost.com, Sept. 11, 2014.

Blindner, rachelle and Jonathan Lemire (AP), "Nation remembers the fallen on anniversary of Sept. 11 Attack," LawOfficer.com, Sept. 11, 2014.

DEA4912 on YouTube, "Homeward Angels: A 9/11 Tribute," (Before & After, Responding & Collapse, Memorial), Mar. 25, 2013.

Voices of September 11th, VOICES 9/11 Memorial, accessed Sept. 11, 2014.

<![CDATA[Time Served: The Prisoner the Court Forgot]]>Tue, 06 May 2014 19:42:29 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/time-served-the-prisoner-the-court-forgotPicture
Cornealious "Mike" Anderson committed robbery with a BB gun on Aug. 15, 1999. He was found guilty of armed robbery in 2000 and sentenced to serve 13 years...but he didn't.

Nor did he run or hide from the law. In fact, he remained in the St. Louis, Missouri, area. He inquired about serving his sentence and was told to wait for the court's instructions on reporting to prison (Officer.com, April 17, 2014) .

So he waited...and waited.

Because of a clerical error, he wasn't contacted for years which postponed his sentence. Anderson simply lived his life. He married and raised children. He worked and paid taxes. He updated his drivers license and ran three different businesses.

About the time Anderson should have completed his sentence, the Missouri Department of Corrections found the error and had a SWAT team pick him up at his home. Then he had to fight to be released.

“I never felt like a fugitive," Anderson said, "because a fugitive's someone that's running from the law. I never ran from the law. I was there" (UPI.com).

Tim Lohmar, the current prosecutor told TODAY, "I believe that if we allowed somebody to avoid an incarceration sentence, it's just a slippery slope’’ (UPI.com/TODAY.com).

Over 35,000 signatures on Change.org called for the state of Missouri to release Anderson. He served nearly a year in prison while waiting for his hearing.

"Mississippi County Associate Circuit Judge Terry Lynn Brown needed just a 10-minute hearing before ruling that he was giving Anderson credit for time served for all 4,794 days between his conviction and when he was arrested last year" (Officer.com, May 6, 2014).

On May 5, 2014, Mike Anderson walked out of court a truly free man.


Hastings, Deborah, "Missouri man who never served sentence awaits prison term after leading crime-free life," NYdailynews.com, April 15, 2014.

Salter, Jim, "Man freed in Mo. delayed imprisonment case," Officer.com, May 6, 2014.

Salter, Jim, "Missouri convict was never told to report to prison," Officer.com, April 17, 2014.

Sevcik, JC, "Man who didn't serve prison sentence due to clerical error arrested 15 years later," UPI.com, April 15, 2014.

Stump, Scott, "Man who never served prison sentence on clerical error awaits fate," Today.com, April 15, 2014.

<![CDATA[Resolutions: 7 Suggestions for Stupid Criminals]]>Sat, 21 Dec 2013 17:08:07 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/resolutions-7-suggestions-for-stupid-criminalsPicture
Some behaviors are so stupid, dangerous, illegal, and/or deadly that they need to be changed immediately. If your bad habits are getting you unwanted attention from police, fire fighters, or EMTs, it may be time to make a resolution. I've provided a few examples.

Resolution: Take public transportation more often.
Behavior: According to trutv.com's crime library blog, one Anderson, California, man knew how important it was to get to court on time, so he moved fast. He stole a car to get to court and appear on a charge of (yep) stealing a car. Police arrested him before he arrived, making him miss his court date. He'll have another opportunity to get it right.

Resolution: Give up smoking.
Behavior: A CCTV Video on Youtube shows an Australian man apparently trying to steal fuel...he was smoking at the time. He ended up setting himself and several cars ablaze. Police arrested a man with burns on the lower half of his body.

Resolution: Diversify investments.
Behavior: Irish police arrested two men after observing them digging up over one million pounds of cash and drying out bundles in a tumble dryer, www.bbc.co.uk.

Resolution: Only play games like follow the leader with friends.
Behavior: In Ohio, a man stole a briefcase and cash from a vehicle, threatened the victim at knifepoint, and then walked away in the snow. Police followed the footprints and made an arrest, www.19actionnews.com.

Resolution: Quit taking selfies and give up social media altogether.
Behavior: A man was so proud of his stash of stolen property that he celebrated by taking selfies and posting them on Instagram. The former felon posed with weapons, jewelry, and cash. Police visited his home and now, Florida station WPBF reports, the Instagram user faces 142 charges.

Resolution: Read signs and follow directions.
Behavior: Gunmen stole a truck in Hidalgo, Mexico. This truck was carrying a special load of cobalt-60, used in chemotherapy, which emits gamma rays that can cause skin burns, radiation sickness, and various cancers, www.worldnews.nbcnews.com. There have been conflicting reports about possible suspects. It now seems that two men are in police custody at the Hidalgo state hospital, suffering from symptoms of radiation sickness, www.rt.com.

Resolution: Get more organized.
Behavior: A 19-year-old in College Station, Texas, lost a key. The teen walked into the police station and asked for help to remove a handcuff from his right hand after he and his roommate had been playing around. The hitch was that the youth had a warrant for criminal mischief and marijuana in his front pocket. Local police removed the handcuff and arrested him, www.theeagle.com.

May everyone have a better and more giving 2014!


19actionnews, "Knife-wielding thief busted by footprints in the snow," www.19actionnews.com, December 12, 2013.

BBC News, "Limerick money laundering: Police recover 1m euros in tumble drier," http://www.bbc.co.uk, December 16, 2013.

Ingalls, Chris, "WA firefighters pump jet fuel on fire instead of water," www.kgw.com, December 15, 2013.

Johnson, M. Alex, "Six Released from Mexican hospital but detained in theft of cobalt-60," www.worldnews.nbcnews.com, December 6, 2013.

News.com.au, "Man accidentally sets cars on fire while having a smoke while allegedly stealing petrol, causing $100,000 damage," www.news.com.au, December 9, 2013.

Russian Today, "Mexico police block hospital as radioactive load hijackers are admitted," www.rt.com, December 7, 2013.

Salazar, Andrea, "Man with warrant walks into police station already in handcuffs, authorities say," www.theeagle.com, November 14, 2013.

Van Olson, Cora, "Man stole vehicle to be on time for court date for stealing vehicle," "Man stole vehicle to be on time for court date for stealing vehicle,"www.trutv.com/library/crime/blog/, December 19, 2013.

Wise, John P., "Depree Johnson Instabusted after gun-toting selfies lead to 142 charges," www.wpbf.com, December 6, 2013.

<![CDATA[Death Row Dilemma: Organ Donation at the 11th Hour]]>Thu, 14 Nov 2013 23:29:11 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/death-row-dilemma-organ-donation-at-the-11th-hourPicture
Here is a new twist to the moral issues surrounding capital punishment: Should a condemned prisoner be allowed to donate organs after sitting down to his last meal? This is the question being asked by Ohio Governor John Kasich after postponing an execution yesterday (November 13, 2013).

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Governor Kasich said he stopped the execution "so that medical experts can assess whether Phillips' non-vital organs or tissues can be donated to his mother or possibly others...I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues, then we should allow for that to happen," www.dispatch.com.

In 1993, Ronald Phillips, 40, was convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. He served his term without expressing concern for the life and well-being of others. In fact, he waited until all of his appeals had been exhausted before offering to donate his kidney to his mother who is on dialysis and his heart to his sister who has a heart ailment. Now he is apparently willing to donate organs to others as well.

"Ohio's prison medical policy accommodates organ donations, but prison officials rejected the request, saying it came too late to work out logistics and security concerns," www.abclocal.go.com.

Although a Delaware death row inmate donated a kidney to his mother in 1995, "he was not facing imminent execution like Phillips," www.independent.co.uk

Phillips was eating his last meal when he got word of the reprieve. The Ohio Governor stayed the execution to further explore the possibility of Phillips donating non-vital organs...not his heart. Richard Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that this is the first time that a stay of execution was granted based on the request to donate organs, www.bbc.co.uk.

If Phillips  is a viable donor and the procedure is approved, he would be returned to Death Row afterward to await his new execution date of July 2, 2014. Ohio prison policy dictates that any such surgeries be paid for by Phillips or the recipients.

I am a big proponent of organ donation, but this adds layers of complicated ethical and technical dilemmas. This might be a last-minute ploy to buy time for a man facing death. We could ignore Phillips' motives and allow for the organs to benefit others. Then again, maybe this request came too late.


<![CDATA[Body Cams: An Instant Replay for Law Enforcement]]>Thu, 17 Oct 2013 18:56:52 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/body-cams-an-instant-replay-for-law-enforcementPictureTASER's Axon Flex body-worn camera.
Now that the media and the public travel everywhere with cameras, it may be time for law enforcement officers and other first responders to have that same capability. Video from cruiser cameras has been used as evidence in traffic court cases and in use of force incidents. However, dash cams can only capture whatever happens in front of the vehicle. In contrast, body cameras go everywhere an officer goes.

They are "designed to be the eyes and ears during police encounters," www.CBSNews.com. Deputies in Orange County California will run a trial with a few body cameras provided free by the manufacturer. "Unlike a dash camera, the body cameras will capture everything that happens once a deputy gets out of his or her vehicle and approaches a suspect or victim with full video and sound," www.WFTV.com

  • Shirts or lapels
  • Eyeglasses
  • Helmets

Sometimes called Point-of-View cameras, these high tech devices give the officer's perspective during use of force incidents and record statements made during drug, DUI, or domestic violence cases. Both advantages and concerns have been expressed over the use of body cams in law enforcement.


"A federal judge ordered New York city's police department to begin testing the devices after ruling that its stop, question, and frisk policy was unconstitutional," www.PoliceOne.com. Mayor Bloomberg argued that the body cams are not the answer. He asserted that it would provide fodder to further question police actions and motives. He thought that an officer who failed to record something might be accused of intentionally looking a different direction to avoid proof of the incident.

A helmet camera recorded the response to a plane crash in which a fire rig ran over a survivor at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, www.SFGate.com. Afterwards, the San Francisco fire chief banned firefighters from using personal cameras until a policy on their use is resolved. Chief Joanne Hayes-White stated that a concern for the privacy rights of firefighters and victims drove the decision. Cameras have also been banned in Houston and Baltimore, www.SFGate.com.


While some departments have concerns about officers being forced to wear body cams, others see it as a way to verify the claims of good officers doing good work. Chief James Brooks of the Laurel, Maryland, Police Department had a video of a traffic stop at his department go viral. Brooks said, "It shows that these guys were actually doing exactly what they were trained and how they were trained to do it...It was flawless," CNN.com.

Some cameras have a feature in which they capture 10 to 30 seconds of video that took place prior to an officer hitting record. This helps to document the unexpected. Officers can play the video when writing reports to accurately log statements and actions. "I think the biggest benefit is to be able to record a crime scene and the people and exactly how they're telling you the information," said Lt. Bob Wood of the Bellevue, Nebraska, Police Department, www.KETV.com.

Departments can also use videotaped incidents for training. Some of what is preserved will not be flattering. "The camera doesn't lie - it just shows what happened," said Arin Pace, a lieutenant with the Jacksonville, Florida, Fire Department, www.SFGate.com.


In Salt Lake City, Police Chief Chris Burbank praises the evidentiary value of helmet-mounted cameras for his motorcycle officers. A speeder may claim that obstructions affected the radar or that the officer was threatening until a video of the violation and interaction is shown in court. "Well, you see very clearly that that car is the only vehicle on the overpass. You now have the radar gun and the digital readout on the radar gun visible in the camera, the car in the background, and you've got a pretty good accounting of what that officer did," www.DeseretNews.com.

Chief Jack Baldwin of the Pigeon Forge Police Department in Tennessee also wants personal cameras for his motorcycle officers. "If you're wearing the camera, you've got your audio and video no matter where you are," www.TheMountainPress.com.


After a series of questionable drug raids, the San Francisco Police Department began equipping plain clothes supervisors with $1,000 chest cams. The allegations of officer misconduct stemmed from security video footage. "We can have a recording of the conversation at the door with regard to consent on consensual entries or the announcement on search warrant entries," Police Chief Greg Suhr said. "The main goal is to capture for purpose of evidence preservation the conversation at the threshold," www.PoliceOne.com.


Chief Burbank of Salt Lake City also argues that video can be crucial in use of force cases. "You see the proximity of what's going on. You see the interplay that takes place and really what the officer's processing," www.DeseretNews.com. It can also be useful in domestic violence cases. The cameras can capture statements and allow officers to accurately transcribe them into reports.

It may be that officers conscious of wearing a camera are more disciplined in their use of language and use of force. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that when police wore personal video cameras in Rialto, California, it "led to an 88 percent drop in complaints against officers and a 60 percent drop in the use of force in a one-year period," www.DeseretNews.com.


More than 400 police departments across the U.S. use high tech body cams. Whether worn on a lapel, eyeglasses, or a helmet, body cameras go wherever law enforcement officers go. Those in favor of body cams claim they will protect citizens and law enforcement officers. Others fear they are another means of monitoring officers and raising liability concerns for agencies.

"I think you are going to find out that once this equipment is out there that our officers are performing in a professional manner and have been all along," said Martin Halloran, President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, www.DeseretNews.com. Like their predecessors, the dash cams, body cams are likely to grow in popularity across the country.


  • Burns, Kenneth, "Pigeon forge police getting new body cameras to wear on shirts/lapels," www.TheMountainPress.com, Feb. 18, 2013.
  • CNN video, "Cops Use Eye Cams to Capture Crime," www.CNN.com, August 22,2013.
  • Eversley, Melanie and John Bacon, "Judge Rips NYPD Stop-Frisk Policy; City Will Appeal," www.USAToday.com, Aug 12, 2013.
  • KETV article, "Bellevue Police Get Another Set of Eyes," www.KETV.com, August 2, 2013.
  • Miller, John, "Cop Cams: 400 Police Depts. Use Tiny Devices," www.CBSNews.com, Aug 30, 2013
  • Reavy, Pat, "Eye on crime: Police Chief Pushes for Body Cams on Officers," www.DeseretNews.com, Deseret News, Nov. 14, 2012.
  • Van Derbeken, Jaxon, "Plainclothes SF Cops Fight Misconduct Allegations with Body Cameras," www.Policeone.com, August 28, 2013.
  • Van Derbeken, Jaxon, "SF Fire Chief Bans Helmet Cameras in Wake of Crash," www.SFGate.com, August 19, 2013.
  • WFTV, "Orange County Deputies Test Out Body Cameras," www.WFTV.com, Sept. 2, 2013.

<![CDATA[Too Many Deaths: The Below 100 Challenge]]>Mon, 26 Aug 2013 14:43:54 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/too-many-deaths-the-below-100-challengePicture
More than 100 law enforcement officers have died in the U.S. each year since 1944. It is time to stop that trend.

"If we could just slow down, wear our seatbelts and clear intersections, we could get our line of duty deaths to Below 100 a year." That statement made in 2010 by Captain Travis Yates of the Tulsa Police Department helped initiate the BELOW 100 Challenge (www.below100.com).

The program has five tenets to try to reduce line of duty deaths:
  • Wear Your Belt
  • Wear Your Vest
  • Watch Your Speed
  • WIN--What's Important Now?
  • Remember: Complacency Kills!

Most of these goals emerged from the leading causes of on-duty deaths: gunshot wounds and vehicle crashes.  According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund site, 1,540 law officers died in the line of duty in the last decade. Of that number, 564 died from gunshot wounds, 457 died in auto crashes, 77 in motorcycle crashes, and another 138 died after being struck by a vehicle (www.nleomf.org). Reducing deaths from gun violence and traffic accidents would substantially improve the number of officers who make it home at the end of each shift.

Causes of Law Enforcement Deaths in the Last 10 Years (2003-2012)
From the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund Site
  1. Gunshot Wound--564
  2. Auto Crash--457
  3. Job-Related Illness--177
  4. Struck by Vehicle--138
  5. Motorcycle Crash--77
  6. Aircraft Accident--25
  7. Drowning--23
  8. Fall--19
  9. Stab Wound--13
  10. Beaten--10
  11. Terrorist Attack--9
  12. Bomb-Related Incident--5
  13. Struck by Train--5
  14. Electrocution--4
  15. Struck by Falling Object--4
  16. Bicycle Accident--3
  17. Boating Accident--3
  18. Stranglulation--2
  19. Horse-Related Accident--1
  20. Poisoning--1

To date in 2013, 63 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty (www.odmp.org).  Gunfire and traffic accidents lead the way again. Thankfully more and more departments are issuing and requiring personnel to wear soft body armour. However, not all vests are equally effective. If you are heading into a known active shooter situation, it could be life saving to have an external vest in the vehicle that was capable of stopping a rifle round, such as those fired by an AK47. See "Hard Body Armor for Patrol" for more details (www.officer.com).

Officers can wear vests and seatbelts, but what else can they do?

One situation that takes all the self-restraint that an individual officer can muster, is an officer needs assistance call. When you hear another officer radio for help, your adrenalin races and you do everything possible to get there NOW. It is tough to drive safely and avoid tunnel vision under such charged circumstances. But the only way responding units can aid their brother or sister is to get to the scene safely.

After loosing two Georgia officers this summer while responding to two separate assistance calls, Lt. Dennis Valone of the Alpharetta GA Police Department provided suggestions for law enforcement officers related to officer needs assistance calls (www.lawofficer.com).

If you need assistance: Be careful of the message you send. If you want back up but do not require an emergency response, make that clear. Once the situation is under control, advise the dispatcher so that other units know that they do not need to speed to the location.

If you are responding to the request for assistance: Use caution. "Very simply, we need to get there if we are going to be any help" (www.lawofficer.com). Officers who get in accidents on the way to a call for assistance, can't help the officer in need and will divert other emergency responders away from the original incident.

Likewise, you must use extreme self-control during a pursuit. It is too easy to lose site of everything but the suspect vehicle. "When you're pursuing someone, consciously take the time to think about where you are and where you're going, and continually evaluate the risks associated with the pursuit versus the reward of nabbing the perp." (www.policeone.com). Part of a law enforcement officer's job is to do everything in his or her power to be alive to do the job again tomorrow.

The BELOW 100 initiative provides training to give officers information and promote the value of safety throughout departments. It and similar programs preach about effective use of safety equipment and sound decision-making. Law enforcement officers can't avoid danger, but they can respond to dangerous situations with caution.


       "Below 100 is not about statistics. It's about each and every officer, trainer and supervisor taking individual and collective responsibility for the decisions and actions that contribute to safety.

                                                           --Dale Stockton, Editor of Law Officer Magazine

<![CDATA[The Zimmerman Case: Let's Clarify Manslaughter]]>Mon, 15 Jul 2013 22:30:56 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/the-zimmerman-case-lets-clarify-manslaughterPicture
[Updated 07/24/2013] Over the weekend of July 12 and 13, 2013, jurors in the George Zimmerman trial deliberated for more than 16 hours before delivering a not guilty verdict (Washingtonpost.com). They had considered evidence and weighed whether or not Zimmerman had committed second degree murder or manslaughter, while Zimmerman insisted that he killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

Halfway through their deliberations, the jury asked the judge, "May we please have clarification on the instructions regarding manslaughter?" (CBSnews.com). The judge consulted with counsel from both sides and responded that the court could not answer general questions but invited the jury to submit a more specific question. They never did.

I don't know what confusion existed in that Florida jury room, but let's look at what constitutes manslaughter.

While statutes and wording on homicides vary by state, the main difference between first degree murder and other acts that result in a person's death is premeditation. Second degree murder lacks premeditation and intent. It is caused by extreme recklessness. Manslaughter is "the unlawful killing of another person without premeditation or so-called 'malice aforethought' (an evil intent prior to the killing)" (Dictionary.law.com). Manslaughter is generally divided into voluntary and involuntary.


  • First degree murder: intentional and premeditated
  • Second degree murder: non-premeditated, caused by extreme recklessness or during a fight
  • Voluntary manslaughter: intentional, non-premeditated killing which occurs during the "heat of passion"
  • Involuntary manslaughter: no intent to kill; death caused by negligence or with intent to behave in a reckless, violent manner which causes death

"Voluntary manslaughter includes killing in [the] heat of passion or while committing a felony" (Dictionary.law.com). It is the intentional but unplanned killing of another. It is when someone kills when provoked by current circumstances.

For example, the person who returns home to find his/her spouse in bed with a lover might respond right away with deadly violence. That would generally be considered voluntary manslaughter...intentional but not premeditated, in the heat of an emotionally-charged moment (NOLO.com). If that same person who witnessed the affair waits a week before ambushing and killing either party involved, the scorned killer would most likely be charged with first degree, premeditated murder.

"Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a death is caused by a violation of a non-felony" (Dictionary.law.com). It is caused by recklessness or criminal negligence. It differs from second degree murder by having a lesser degree of recklessness. (See a YouTube example of the difference from Law Bound Prep - Labs at this link).

If two people were in an argument that escalated until one pushed the other who stumbled and then fell down a flight of stairs to his death, the unintentional recklessness might be considered involuntary manslaughter (NOLO.com). Randomly shooting a weapon into the air that results in someone's death would most likely be classified as involuntary manslaughter.

Killing a person with a car is often in its own class of involuntary manslaughter. "In response to the increasing number of homicides caused by drunk drivers, some states have created a distinct offense for deaths caused by drunk driving. These are commonly referred to as, inter alia, 'vehicular manslaughter', 'manslaughter with a vehicle,' 'negligent homicide manslaughter,' or 'DUI manslaughter' (Alanformanlaw.com). The possible prison time for someone found guilty of vehicular manslaughter ranges from 8 to 30 years in Tennessee up to life imprisonment in Washington state.

"[This was] a case that many legal analysts said was doomed by Florida prosecutors' decision to pursue a hard-to-prove second-degree murder conviction against Zimmerman," LAtimes.com. Near the end of the trial prosecutors encouraged jurors to consider the lesser offence of involuntary manslaughter, but the case had not been developed in that direction.

Did Zimmerman commit a crime when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin? The jury in this trial said no. I can't help but wonder whether or not further direction on the definition of manslaughter would have affected the jury's decision.

"The frustration that many Americans have felt over the verdict was reflected in 'Justice For Trayvon' rallies that were held in numerous cities over the weekend," (NPR.org). This case and this verdict will continue to raise questions about state laws, judicial procedures, and justice.


<![CDATA[Please Don't Let Me Go: Courage in Cleveland]]>Sat, 08 Jun 2013 00:40:13 GMThttp://www.lauralcooper.com/pursuit-of-justice-blog/please-dont-let-me-go-courage-in-clevelandPicture
A month after the surprising rescue of three women abducted long ago and one girl born into captivity in a Cleveland home, we can reflect on the courage of that day.

First, a standing ovation for Amanda Berry who found some way to get to the front door and gain the attention of neighbors on May 6, 2013. Despite the ever-present danger to her life, she saved her daughter, Gina DeJesus, Michele Knight, and herself.

A tribute to Amanda and her co-captives. While facing terror and deprivation, these young women garnered enough resiliency and courage to survive a ten- to twelve-year ordeal. "Three women found alive after a decade in captivity endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises while walking to a garage steps away," www.officer.com.

A hug to Jocelyn (age 6), Amanda Berry's daughter born in captivity, who never knew any other life until last month. May she know the pleasures of freedom and childhood that were kept from her for her first six years.

Cheers to the families of the missing girls turned women who suffered for so long and yet, as much as circumstances allowed, dared to hope for a miracle. Thankfully that miracle came.

A huge high-five to neighbor Charles Ramsey, and possibly other neighbors, who responded to things that didn't look or sound right at 2207 Seymour Avenue. Thank you for taking action.

A salute to the officers who first responded to the scene: Anthony Espada, Barbara Johnson, Michael Tracy, Michael Simon, John Graves, Matt Cavanaugh, and the rest of the Cleveland Police Department. Three of the officers described finding the missing women and the impact on themselves in the video, "Cleveland Patrol Officers Recount Finding Missing Women." When Michelle Knight ran from Officer Espada to Officer Johnson, she grabbed hold of Johnson and said, "Please don't let me go. Please don't let me go." They didn't.

An apology to the family of the accused in this abduction and torture case. If only the accusations and blame could be washed away and directed only where they belong...only toward the one man accused of these crimes, Ariel Castro.

Kudos to the Cleveland community which is doing what it can for these crime survivors in the wake of the tragedy. They have initiated the Cleveland Courage Fund for the four victims of this series of crimes. It will provide financial support now and into the future. An Ohio lawmaker has proposed a bill that would provide abduction survivors with a lifetime of medical care, a college education, and $25,000 annually, (www.abcnews.go.com). I hope the community will also help protect the privacy of these four survivors.

Elizabeth Smart, who had been held captive for nine months as a teenager, told Good Morning America, "I think it’s so important to respect their privacy to try to help give them every chance they can to find their own way, to find their own pathway back to some sense of well-being," www.latimes.com

Jaycee Dugard, a woman who had been abducted as a child and then held captive for 18 years, made this statement to the LA Times: "These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world...This isn't who they are. It is only what happened to them. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More then ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope."

May the survivors begin their life-long recovery while the justice system continues the process of investigating and prosecuting the accused for his unconscionable acts.

Two ways you can act:
  • Cleveland Courage Fund: Make a direct contribution to the four who suffered most from this series of crimes. One-hundred percent of the funds will go to the three women and one child allegedly held captive by Castro. The fund had $850,000 as of June 7, 2013. Donate here: http://www.clevelandfoundation.org/about/cleveland-courage-fund/
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: Support the NCMEC in its ongoing efforts to locate missing children in the United States. You can help in many ways. Donate funds, stay informed, and/or spread the word about missing children in your area. Learn more here: http://www.missingkids.com/home


Andolsen, Rita, "Cleveland Courage Fund Continues to Grow," www.wkyc.com, 6/7/2013.

Barr, Meghan, "More Details Come to Light in Ohio Kidnappings," www.officer.com, 5/9/2013.

Kiska, Paul, "Cleveland Courage Fund for Gina, Michelle, Amanda Climbs to $750,000 With More Ways to Help," www.newsnet5.com, 5/28/2013.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, "Statement from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on Recent Ohio Recovery," www.missingkids.com, 5/7/2013.

Ng, Christina, "Abducted Cleveland Women Bill Would Provide Them an Income, Education and Health Care," www.abcnews.go.com, 6/5/2013.

Pearce, Matt, "Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard React to Cleveland Kidnapping," www.latimes.com, 5/7/2013.

Plain Dealer staff, "Cleveland Police Video Interviews Officers Who Rescued Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight," www.cleveland.com, 5/17/2013.

Yenko, Athena, "Police Recounts Emotional Cleveland Rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina de Jesus, Michelle Knight," www.au.ibtimes.com, 5/20/2013.