"We should not pause and remember to thank first responders and police officers only in the wake of tragedy...We should do it every day."
--President Barak Obama at 2013 National Peace Officers' Memorial Service
Flags flew at half-staff yesterday in honor of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. President Barak Obama paid tribute to the ultimate sacrifices of officers at the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service:"
All of you in law enforcement, you devote your lives to serving and protecting your communities. Many of you have done it for your country as well. After serving two tours in Iraq as a Marine, Bradley Michael Fox retired with honor and followed his dream to becoming a police officer. He had been with the Plymouth Township Police Department in Pennsylvania for five years when he was shot and killed pursuing a suspect last September. It was the day before his 35th birthday, and six months before the birth of his son," (www.whitehouse.gov).In 2012, 127 law enforcement officers died on duty in the U.S., according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The causes of their deaths follow:
- Traffic-related incidents (50)
- Firearms-related fatalities (49)
- Job-related illnesses (14)
- Stabbings (5)
- Falls (3)
- Helicopter crashes (2)
- Beatings (2)
- Air plane crashes (1)
- Boating incidences (1)
Texas lost more of its officers (10) than any other state in 2012. Earlier this month, 25 names were added to the Texas Peace Officer's Memorial wall from the last two years, (www.kvue.com).
Since 1791, nearly 20,000 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in the U.S. Already, 2013 has seen 41 line-of-duty deaths.
“Each and every day, police officers ... step out the doors of their homes with a quiet courage and conviction to shield us from harm,” said West Virginia State Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, a former sheriff, (www.register-herald.com).
"Currently, there are 19,981 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial," (www.nleomf.org). Thank you to the over 900,000 men and women serving as sworn law enforcement officers in this country. May you return home safely at the end of each shift.
- Kallergis, Foti and Heather Kovar, "Fallen Officers Remembered with Ceremony, Parade," www.kvue.com, 5-6-2013.
- Moore, C.V., "Thin Blue Line--National Peace Officers Memorial Day Observed," www.register-herald.com, 5-16-2013.
- National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, "127 Law Enforcement Officers Killed Nationwide in 2012," www.nleomf.org, 12-27-2012.
- National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, "Law Enforcement Facts," www.nleomf.org, (accessed 5-15-2013).
- National Police Week, "About National Police Week," www.policeweek.org, (accessed 5-15-2013).
- Office of the Press Secretary, "Remarks by the President at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service," www.whitehouse.gov, 5-15-2013.
- Peluso, Paul, "President Obama Honors Fallen Officers at Memorial," www.officer.com, 5-15-2013.
This has been a week of emergencies which have attracted national attention. No doubt 911 operators/dispatchers were busy dealing with a torrent of phone calls and radio transmissions after the Boston Marathon bombings
and the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion,
(follow the links to listen to samples). Telecommunications professionals play a key role in every reported emergency. Not only was
April 14-20, 2013, a traumatic week, it was National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. We should say thank you to the people who are there to take our calls when we need help. Originally, switchboard operators handled emergency calls. Then callers dialed numbers directly...a different number for each police, fire, EMS agency. In 1937, the 999 emergency phone system began in the United Kingdom. "In the United States, the first 911 call was placed in Haleyville (Alabama) on February 16, 1968," (PoliceOne.com). The 911 system gradually spread to most places in the U.S. While many locations have the enhanced E911, some locations still have no 911 service. Emergency operators take many calls of every variety. "
In a 25-year career in a metropolitan area, the call total can be around a million...Many are mundane, many are a glimpse into hell," (Policeone.com).
Keep in mind that the operator/dispatcher has no visual on the scene. He/she must imagine what is happening, try to calm frantic callers and officers, wait patiently during the silences, and sometimes dive into the next call without knowing how the last was resolved. They hear fear and chaos on the other end of the phone or radio but can't physically do anything to end the emergency.
"Being a 9-1-1 operator/dispatcher is overwhelming. There are half a dozen screens, immense amounts of information, beeps and chirps and whatnot in our ears that all mean different things, codes to remember, directions and locations, names, call-signs, jurisdictional lines, policies and procedures, etc., etc., etc," (Officer.com, 1-9-2013).
Listen to a series of recorded calls and radio transmissions of a shooting in progress that occurred in Glendale, California (Select "Glendale Shootout Part 1" and "...Part 2").
Multiple reports of a man shooting a weapon from inside his apartment flood the call center. First, callers report hearing about 20 shots followed by more and more. Then a series of radio transmissions with officers describes a shootout with the gunman.
Public safety operators are the cruicial first step to any emergency response, yet they are often unappreciated by the public and the officers they dispatch.
According to Jeff Troyer, Executive Director, Calhoun County 911 Consolidated Dispatch Center (Michigan), "Less than 1 percent of the population can actually do this job," he said. "It's not an easy thing to be able to do. It's an environment where multi-tasking is needed, and a position that takes multi-tasking to a whole other level," (Advisor-Chronicle.com).
In what may have been the fist study looking at PTSD among 911 dispatchers/operators, 300 dispatchers were questioned about their worst calls and the effects of stress (Chicagotribune.com). Their most difficult calls are listed below: WORST CALLS
- 16.4% Unexpected death/injury of a child
- 12.9% Suicidal callers
- 9.9% Officer involved shooting/unexpected death of an adult
Although dispatchers only visualize the scenes described to them by others, they face many of the same emotional distresses that officers experience on scene. "Study respondents experienced 'one or two symptoms' of PTSD while as many as 3.5 percent had symptoms serious enough to qualify for a full PTSD diagnosis," (Chicagotribune.com).
Regardless, the call taker must remain composed. He or she must use techniques to try to calm the person on the other end of the line. Operators and dispatchers jump from one unique call to another.
"We get calls from parking complaints and barking dogs and then you have the extremes — suicides, shootings, homicides — everything you hear on the news," said Jim Jones, training coordinator for Tri-Com Central Dispatch in Kane County, Illinois, (Chicagotribune.com).
Call takers may want to reach through the phone to comfort a terrified child or help barricade the door for a trapped victim. But they can only fight crimes and crises with words.
"[They] suffer from the hypervigilance, that physiological fight, flight or freeze, without the ability to do anything about the circumstances at all. To me, this creates the most amount of stress of the occupation...9-1-1 operators/dispatchers are unsung heroes " (Officer.com, 1-10-2012). Like other emergency personnel, their shift may go from bordeom to chaos in a moment. We cannot dismiss the importance of their role in public safety.
For those who ask the questions and dispatch the helpers when we call 911--Thank you!Resources:
- Boston EMS, "Listen: 911 Call for Aid of Boston Marathon Bombings," CBSnews.com, 4-15-2013.
- Investigation Discovery, "Call 911 Videos: Glendale Shootout Part 1" and "Part 2," Discovery.com, (accessed 4-18-2013).
- Kellogg, Corinne, "A Day in the Life of a 911 Dispatcher," Advisor-Chronicle.com, 2-24-2013.
- KMOV.com, "911 Calls Released in West, Texas Explosion," KMOV.com, 4-20-2013.
- McCarthy, Jack, "Feeling the Stress of the Job," Chicagotribune.com, 6-6-2012.
- Perin, Michelle, "911 Call Takers are Behind-the-Scenes Heroes," Policeone.com, 4-16-2013.
- Perin, Michelle, "Just a Dispatcher?" Officer.com, 1-10-2012.
- Perin, Michelle, "Training a Dispatcher," Officer.com, 1-9-2013.
Beginning in 1972, women found more opportunities in law enforcement, although they still faced many barriers. Progress continues to move slowly.Equipment
In the early 70's, many women were still issued impractical uniforms that included skirts and heals. In wasn't until the late 70's that equipment belts designed for women were available.
There are still issues with uniforms, especially in departments with few women. According to Donna Milgram, executive director of the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWITTS), "Most gear is designed for male officers and is based on tests with male officers, and cut down versions don't really work for women. Improperly fitting equipment, and uniforms pose a health and safety hazard which could endanger the lives of police officers and of others" (Policeone.com)Opportunities
President Richard Nixon's 1969 executive order ending the FBI's ban on hiring women as special agents had been a step in the right direction. However, the most significant piece of legislation to usher in the modern era of law enforcement for women came in 1972.
An amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act gave the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) power to enforce anti-discrimination laws for state and local government agencies--including police departments. Women began being hired in greater numbers, attending regular police academies, and receiving promotions to supervisory positions across the country. These advances were not showing up equally in every department.
"An analysis of the UCR data showed that most of the police agencies reporting to the FBI did not employ any policewomen in 2003," (Policechiefmagazine.org). While large agencies and campus police departments integrated women into patrol positions, many small, rural departments still do not have female officers.Hiring officials say they hire the best person for the job, but complain that there are few female applicants (Pennlive.com).
Recruitment still lags behind need.
Diversity is important in law enforcement. Chief James Adams of Upper Allen Twp. Police Department in Pennsylvania said, "If you look at our client base, we have significant victims, witnesses, people we arrest, who are female. I'm not saying it's 50-50, but right now we're 100 percent male as far as sworn staff" (Pennlive.com).
Social Barriers"In 1973, a sergeant with the LAPD, Fanchon Blake, sued after she and other female police sergeants were not allowed to take the lieutenant's exam because they were women. She won. A similar lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department by Sue Bouan in 1980 was eventually settled in 1988" (Policemag.com). These lawsuits helped improve hiring and promotional practices for women. However, some of the pioneers, like Bouman,
- 1972: An amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act gave the EEOC power to enforce anti-discrimination laws for state and local government agencies.
- 1980: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) formally defined sexual harassment and classified it as a form of sexual discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- 1985: Penny Harrington became first female police chief for a major city, (Portland, Oregon).
- 1992: Jacquelyn Barrett elected as first black female sheriff (Fulton County, Georgia).
- 1993: Margaret M. Moore, first female to serve as the head of an ATF field office (Baltimore, MD).
- 1994: Beverly J. Harvard selected first African American woman to serve as chief of police for a large city, (Atlanta, Georgia).
- 1995: The National Center for Women & Policing and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives were founded.
- 1999: Women in Federal Law Enforcement organization was incorporated.
- 2003: The majority of U.S. agencies did not employ female law enforcement officers.
- 2011: Women comprise 13% of law enforcement personnel.
- 2013: Julia Pierson appointed by President Obama as first female Secret Service Director.
confronted a backlash from peers for the rest of their careers.Sexual harassment and hazing were common roadblocks for new female officers in the 1970's. Patty Fogerson, ret. detective supervisor III, worked as a police officer with the LAPD from 1969 to 1994. She talked about her early years on the department. "Phrases like sexual harassment and hostile work environment didn't exist back then. I was able to work robbery and detectives, background investigations, and was one of the first female drill instructors in the academy. I just got along and survived in the beginning, then things settled down" (Policemag.com). As of 1998, there were few mentoring programs designed to support women in law enforcement (Policemag.com).
Women in small departments where they may be the only female patrol officer sometimes find support through national organizations.Benefits of Women in Law Enforcement
Rather than having a tendency to fuel an already violent situation, female officers are more likely to use communication skills to try to calm the situation. Some victims may find talking with female officers less intimidating than reporting to male officers. Chiefs point out that there are situations in which the department may open itself up to liability when only relying on male officers in sensitive situations with female victims and suspects.
While some are concerned about women not being as big and strong as some male officers, others don't see this as a major issue. There are many tools, including tasers and firearms, that simply do not rely on strength. In most situations, all officers would be better off if they relied on tactics and skills rather than strength.
Now that women play a more active role in the military, some female applicants bring military experience and tactical skills to the job.Achievements
Although uncommon, women have served as police chiefs, sheriffs, and assistant directors of federal agencies. Women have formed supportive organizations including the International Association of Women Police, The National Center for Women & Policing, The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, and Women in Federal Law Enforcement.
There are still firsts left for women in law enforcement. In fact, Julia Pierson was just selected by President Obama to be the Secret Service director on March 26, 2013. She will be the first woman to hold that post. After working as a police officer for three years at the Orlando Police Department, she joined the Secret Service. She rose through the ranks over the last 30 years (www.cfnews13.com). Some believe that she is entrusted with changing the male-dominated culture of the agency which allowed for a prostitution scandal in 2012 (Washingtonpost.com).ProgressThe International Association of Chiefs of Police released a report on "The Future of Women in Policing" (Criminaljusticeschoolinfo.com). These were their findings:
Women's role in law enforcement has grown significantly in the last 140 years (see Women in Law Enforcement: The Early Years
- Given the variety of circumstances faced by law enforcement officers, it has been found that women can be just as effective and even more effective in certain scenarios.
- Women often show a high degree of competency in intellectual and strategic situations and can diffuse potentially dangerous situations with great skill
- Women still face discrimination, sexual harassment, and peer intimidation in their roles
- As role models at higher levels of law enforcement increase, the number of women interested increases
- The media has recently made a shift and portrayed women as competent and effective law enforcement personnel, which is helpful for changing societal assumptions
- More than two-thirds of current criminal justice students polled are in support of additional women law enforcement officers
- Women law enforcement officers are especially effective in carrying out the new community model of policing, which is less reactive and more proactive
). Yet, women hold only 13% of law enforcement jobs, and only 7% of supervisory positions (Criminaljusticeschoolinfo.com). Many small departments still have no females among their sworn officers. Unlike their male counterparts, female officers frequently feel the need to prove themselves daily. Perseverance has allowed women to make contributions and attain increasingly more powerful roles in law enforcement.Resources:
Criminal Justice School Info, "Women in Law Enforcement,"
www.criminaljusticeschoolinfo.com, (accessed 4-2-2013).Horne, Peter, "Policewomen: Their First Century and the New Era," www.policechiefmagazine.org, September, 2006.Miller, Barbara, "Female Police Officers are Rare but Sought After for Unique Skills," www.pennLive.com, 12-8-2012.
National Law Enforcement Officer Museum, "Women in Law Enforcement Photo Timeline,"
www.NLEOMF.org, (accessed 3-20-2013).News 13, "Orlando's Julia Pierson Named 1st Woman Secret Service Head," www.cfnews13.com, 3-26-2013.Scoville, Dean, "The First Female Patrol Officers," www.policemag.com, 9-21-2012.Stone, Rebecca, "Sam Browne and Beyond: A Look at Duty Belts," www.policeone.com, Nov. 2000.Wilson, Scott, "Obama to Name Julia Pierson as New Secret Service Director," www.washintonpost.com, 3-26-2013.
During National Women's History Month, let's look into how women have slowly integrated into the field of law enforcement. It took a long time before women held the same jobs as men for anywhere close to the same level of pay. And many more years before they were issued uniforms and equipment that were practical for their role as police officers. They still fight for respect.The first few women in law enforcement were hired in 1845 to be matrons. Far from patrol officers, they were civilians hired to care for women and children in police custody. It is difficult to name the first female police officer, since there is little agreement on dates and duties. Based on research publicized in 2010, it would appear that
Marie Connelly Owens was hired by the Chicago Police Department as a police officer in 1891 (Suntimes.com). In 1898, she joined others in her department in being placed on the civil service rolls as a "regular patrolman" after scoring 99% on her exam (www.fedagent.com).
In 1908, Lola Greene Baldwin was the first full-time, paid female law enforcement officer in Portland, OR. Apparently the first female to have powers of arrest at the LAPD was Alice Stebbins Wells, hired in 1910. She may have been the first person referred to as a "policewomen."
- 1845: New York City hired two police matrons.
- 1878: Many departments across the country hired police matrons.
- 1891: Marie Owens, formerly a city health inspector, was hired as a police officer for the Chicago Police Department. She served for 32 years.
- 1898: Marie Owens passed her civil service exam with a score of 99% and joined others at her department on the civil service rolls.
- 1908: Lola Greene Baldwin was sworn in as a full-time, paid law enforcement officer for Portland, OR.
- 1910: Alice Stebbins Wells was hired by the LAPD and may have been the first female with powers of arrest and the first referred to as a "policewoman."
- 1915: International Association of Policewomen (IAP) was founded. It was disbanded during the Depression.
- 1916: Anna Hart, a jail matron for Hamilton County, OH, was the first female law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty.
- 1918: Policewomen with limited powers were working in more than 200 U.S. cities.
- 1921: Mary E. Hamilton became the first female precinct leader for NYPD.
- 1948: Although 30 percent of FBI employees were women, none were special agents. They all worked in support positions.
- 1956: The International Association of Women Police (IAWP) formed as a continuation of the IAP.
- 1957: Beverly Garland starred in the first American TV police show starring a woman.
- 1960: The number of policewomen had doubled since 1950.
- 1961: In Shpritzer v. Lang, Felicia Shpritzer won her case in front of the Supreme Court of New York after females had been denied the opportunity to take the promotional exam.
- 1965: Felicia Shpritzer and Gertrude Schimmel had the two highest scores on the promotional exam and were sworn in as NYPD's first female sergeants.
- 1968: Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship of the Indianapolis Police Department were the first women assigned to car patrol duties.
- 1969: President Richard M. Nixon signed Executive Order 11478 which made it illegal to discriminate in the federal service based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or handicap.
Society took a step backward during the 30s and 40s when most employers decided that the few jobs available during the Depression should go to men. During WWII, when many men left for military service, women filled support jobs in police departments but still had limited roles. While 30 percent of FBI employees were women in 1948, they were all in support positions such as secretaries, file clerks, radio operators, fingerprint examiners, or lab technicians. Not one served as a special agent.
In the 1950s and 60s, more and more women worked as police officers rather than filling social work functions. Most notably, "The face of law enforcement across the country was forever changed in 1968 when Indianapolis Police Department policewomen Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship strapped on their guns and took control of Car 47...These two women made it quite clear that women were capable of all aspects of law enforcement responsibilities," (ICWtorchbearerawards).
President Richard M. Nixon's executive order signed on August 8, 1969, removed the FBI's ban on hiring women as special agents. "Women now held authority to carry firearms, execute search warrants, and make arrests" (NLEOMF.org).
When Patty Fogerson joined the LAPD in 1969, male and female officers shared concerns about how to work with each other. "My first partner didn't know whether he should open the door for me when we got in the car," Fogerson said. Although the term had not been coined, sexual harassment was intense in those early years (LATimes.com). Yet, she persisted and retired from the department in 1994.Also in 1969, Judith Lewis began working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "Our uniform was a skirt, high heels, and a blouse. We went through a 10-week academy vs. a 20-week academy for men. We got a 2-inch gun to carry in our purse" (Policemag.com).
Very little was equal for male and female law enforcement officers.
The first women in law enforcement struggled to earn an opportunity to try to prove themselves. It would take much more to earn respect and some semblance of fair treatment. In my next blog, I will look at progress made by women in the modern era of this male-dominated field. Resources:Boxall, Bettina, "In a Man's World: Women were a Novelty When Patricia Fogerson Joined the LAPD; 'You Just Kept Your Mouth Shut and Kept Going,' She Says," LATimes.com, 3-3-1994.
Indiana Commission for Women Torchbearer Awards, "Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship,"
Center for Women & Policing, "A History of Women in Policing,"
www.womenandpolicing.com, (accessed 3-20-2013).
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, "The Forgotten Story of Marie Connelly Owens of the Chicago Police Department,"
www.Fedagent.com, 3-15-2013.National Law Enforcement Officer Museum, "Women in Law Enforcement Photo Timeline," www.NLEOMF.org, (accessed 3-20-2013).Scoville, Dean, "The First Female Patrol Officers," Policemag.com, 9-21-2012.Spielman, Fran, "First Female Cop Hired in 1891, 22 Years Earlier Than Thought," www.Suntimes.com, 9-30-2010.
Yesterday President Barack Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAMA) into law. Not only does it reinstate the earlier VAMA provisions which helped women who suffered domestic violence and sexual assault, it also extends protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans.
"All women deserve the right to live free from fear," President Obama said, (USAToday.com)
Last year the Congress failed to come to an agreement to reauthorize the act. This year, the Senate passed the bill on a 78-22 vote which included every Democrat, every woman, and 23 of 45 Republicans. An attempt to remove the protections for new groups was eventually rejected and the bill passed the House on a 286-238 vote, (FOXnews.com).
"The Violence Against Women Act has set the standard for how to protect women, and some men, from domestic abuse and prosecute abusers and is credited with helping reduce domestic violence incidents by two-thirds since its inception in 1994," (Bostom.com).Selected VAMA Provisions
- Enables domestic violence crimes against women to be prosecuted in federal courts
- Prevents service providers from refusing services to gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual victims of domestic violence
- Offers grants for transitional housing and legal assistance
- Offers grants for law enforcement training and hotlines
- Reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act
- Allows Tribal Courts to prosecute non-native attackers of Native American women on tribal lands
- Adds stalking to the list of crimes for which protection is available to undocumented immigrants
- Supports programs to reduce sexual assaults on college campuses
- Authorizes programs to reduce the backlog of rape investigations
Native American women experience domestic violence at roughly twice the rate of the general U.S. population. Although Native American Tribes are legally sovereign nations, U.S. federal law and Supreme Court rulings have not enabled Tribal Courts to exert jurisdiction and prosecute non-native American perpetrators of crimes on their lands. This is a huge barrier to justice for Native American women, nearly
half of whom are married to non-American Indians. In fact, nearly "77 percent of people living in American Indian and Alaska Native areas are non-Indian, according to a recent Census report," (AP.org). The latest version of the Violence Against Women Act will change that in regard to domestic violence.
‘‘One of the great legacies of this law is it didn’t just change the rules, it changed our culture. It empowered people to start speaking out,’’ Obama said, (Boston.com) Resources:
Associated Press, "Congress Passes Bill Renewing Violence Against Women Act,"
FoxNews.com, 2-28-2013.Cohen, Tom, "House Passes Violence Against Women Act After GOP Version Defeated," CNN.com, 2-28-2013.Fonseca, Felicia, "Law Gives Tribes New Authority Over Non-Indians," AP.org, 3-7-2013.Jackson, David, "Obama Signs Renewal of Violence Against Women Act," USAToday.com, 3-7-2013.Lederman, Josh, "Obama Signs Expanded Violence Against Women Act," Bostom.com, 3-7-2013.Parker, Ashley, "House Renews Violence Against Women Measure," NYTimes.com, 2-28-2013.
A hostage or terrorist situation may demand more tools and tactical expertise than first responders bring to the scene. When even the local SWAT team and state crisis negotiators aren't enough, law enforcement may call in the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT).
The 30-year-old program was developed in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Extreme? No. Not after the world had witnessed terrorists abduct and murder 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 games in Munich, Germany. At the time, only the military had the assets and training to deal with such a situation, but it could not deploy within the U.S. HRT Motto: Servare Vitas
"To Save Lives"This civilian counterterrorism team
has responded to nearly 800 incidents since 1983. "When needed, the team is prepared to deploy within four hours of notification to anywhere in the U.S. in response to terrorist incidents, hostage situations, and major criminal threats," FBI.gov. On occasion, they assist the military with sensitive situations in other countries. High-Risk Missions
Recently the HRT joined local law enforcement officers near Midland City,
- Violent criminals
Alabama, to help rescue a 5-year-old boy, in an underground bunker, from his armed captor. They used military surveillance equipment to monitor activity in the 6 ft. by 8 ft. bunker. At the end of the 144-hour standoff, the boy was safe and the abductor was dead, DothanEagle.com.The HRT had built a mock bunker to train for possible entry. "The FBI Hostage Rescue Team blew the doors off the bunker and shot dead the survivalist during the daring raid...after footage from a secret hi-tech camera showed the boy's life was in imminent danger,"
DailyMail.co.uk. The press kept many details confidential until the standoff ended. Any publicity could have tipped off the abductor and endangered the boy. This tremendous success comes on the 30th anniversary of the team's founding. Not all of the team's actions are always praised. In 1993, the HRT was involved in the tragic standoff with the Branched Davidian sect in Waco, Texas. Seventy-four
of the cult's members died during the siege, CBSNews.com. To see an overview of how the Hostage Rescue Team
is supposed to work, view the FBI's new video, "Hostage Rescue Team Marks 30 Years."
Resources:Collins, Laura and Thomas Durante and Rachel Quigley, "I Can't Describe How Incredible it is to Hold Him Again,"
DailyMail.co.uk, 2-5-2013.FBI, "The Hostage Rescue Team: 30 Years of Service to the Nation,"
FBI.gov, 2-1-2013.FBI, "Hostage Rescue Team Marks 30 Years," Youtube.com, 2-1-2013.Frontline, "Waco: Chronology of the Siege," PBS.org, (accessed 2-25-2013).Griffin, Lance, "Hostage Safe, Gunman Dead in Midland City Standoff," DothanEagle.com, 2-4-2013.
Miller, John, "Behind the Scenes of FBI's Secretive Hostage Rescue Team," CBS This Morning,
Capital punishment has been a fiercely debated issue in Nebraska since the drafting of the state's constitution. If you are interested in the history of Nebraska or criminal justice, I encourage you to watch the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications show ...Until He is Dead
online. It includes an interview with descendants of the one man killed by the state of Nebraska who was later exonerated.
A total of 37 men have been executed by the state of Nebraska. Fifteen years after statehood, Nebraska conducted its first state execution by hanging, NETNebraska.org. Hanging continued to be the method of execution until 1913 when the state legislature took up the debate. They considered eliminating the death penalty. Instead, they kept it and changed the method to electrocution.After using the electric chair 15 times, Nebraska ended up being the last state in the union with electrocution as its sole method for capital punishment. When stopping that practice in 2008, the seven-justice majority of the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on the evidence of pain during electrocutions. "It is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it," CNN.com.
Although never used, lethal injection has been the only option for capital punishment in Nebraska since 2009. Time Line of Capital Punishment in Nebraska
"There is a real easy way to avoid ever getting the death penalty. Don't kill anyone else."
- First execution by Nebraska territorial court, Cyrus Tator, August 28, 1863.
- Nebraska became a state, March 1, 1867.
- First legal execution in Nebraska, Samuel D. Richards, April 26, 1879.
- Death of the only executed prisoner in Nebraska later exonerated, Jackson Marion, March 25, 1887.
- A man was hanged twice after the rope broke on the first attempt, Albert Haunstine, May 20, 1891.
- Last legal public hanging, George Morgan, October 8, 1897
- Method of capital punishment changed from hanging to the electric chair, March, 1913.
- First execution by electrocution (two men in one day), December 20, 1920
- Most notorious criminal executed in Nebraska, Charles Starkweather, June 25, 1959.
- U.S. Supreme Court blocked capital punishment, June 29, 1972.
- Nebraska Supreme Court issued rulings on four death penalty cases in one day to clarify the use of capital punishment, February 2, 1977.
- The last state execution to date, Robert Williams, December 2, 1997.
- Nebraska Supreme Court ruled electric chair violates ban on "cruel and unusual punishment," February 8, 2008.
- Lethal injection replaced electric chair as means of state execution, September 1, 2009.
--Nebraska Attorney General Jon BruningEarly death sentences were carried out by the counties. Since 1903, death sentences have been carried out at the state penitentiary. Of the 70 inmates who have sat on Death Row in Nebraska, 23 have been put to death. One, Charles Starkweather, murdered 10 people on a killing spree in 1958. It was the kind of case in which it is easy for proponents to argue the merits of capital punishment.
"The state should not kill."
--Nebraska State Senator Ernie ChambersIn one case, this state took an innocent man's life.
William Jackson "Jack" Marion was convicted of shooting to death a friend named John Cameron in 1887. The dead body was paraded into the court. The conviction came after three trials and little evidence. The Clerk of the Gage County Court recorded his sentence: "He shall be taken by the sheriff to the place of execution and be hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead" NETNebraska.org. The Omaha Bee recorded Marion's final words on the gallows, "
I have made no confession and have none to make. God help everybody. That is all I have to say" NETNebraska.org. About four years later, someone who did not believe John Cameron was the dead man found him in Kansas and brought him back to Nebraska. It was a century later, in 1987, that Governor Bob Kerry signed a pardon for Jack Marion. The history of the death penalty in Nebraska presents extreme examples of a state struggling to create a system of justice.
How does it sit with your views on crime and punishment?Resources:
Kelly, Bill, "Until He is Dead: A History of Nebraska's Death Penalty,"
NETNebraska.org, premiered 2-8-2013.Kelly Omaha
, "History of the Death Penalty in Nebraska,"
Dipity.com, 1-20-2013.Mears, Bill, "Nebraska court bans the electric chair,"
Cnn.com, 2-8-2008.Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, "Capital Punishment: Rules & Regulations," Corrections.state.ne.us, (accessed 2-20-2013).Young, JoAnne, "Nebraska Electric chair becoming historical artifact,"
As progress is made with forensic technology, it still takes time to catch up with old cases. In 1980, when John Wayne Gacy was convicted of killing 33 men and boys in the Des Plaines, Illinois area, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) did not exist. CODIS wasn't piloted for another ten years.
Since this prolific killer was known to travel extensively, it is still likely that additional murders could be attributed to him and closed for investigative agencies and victims' families.Gacy was put to death in 1994. This was before an Illinois law allowed the DNA of convicted felons to be put into the database. There had not been any provision in Illinois law to allow Gacy's DNA to be added to
CODIS as a felon.
Therefore, other states with cold cases could not attempt to match DNA samples to Gacy...until now.THE KILLERS
Cook County , Illinois, Sheriff's Detective Jason Moran became aware of vials of Gacy's blood in evidence with police and with the coroner's office. He also learned about a loophole. "Moran learned that when the state executes an inmate, the cornoner lists the manner of death as homicide. The law allows for the DNA of homicide victims to be added to the database" (CNN.com, 12-5-2012).
This loophole enabled law enforcement in Illinois to add the DNA of three executed murderers: John Wayne Gacy, Walter Stewart and Durlyn Eddmonds, to CODIS. "Among the avenues investigators are now pursuing is the case of two teenage boys who were raped and slain in Michigan in the 1970s, when Gacy's killing was at its height and he was believed to have traveled to Michigan" (
Chicagotribune.com, 1-29-2013).There is another case being looked into on the East Coast. At the same time, investigators are making plans to reexamine the Illinois property where Gacy's mother once lived.THE VICTIMSWithout CSI units collecting DNA in the 70's and 80's, identifying the decomposing remains of Gacy's victims was difficult. They had relied upon dental records and X-rays. Perhaps now his eight unidentified
victims will have names...the right names.In November 2011, DNA identified the man formerly referred to as Victim 19 as William George "Bill" Bundy, who had been reported missing in 1976.
His sister, then 19 years old, suspected that her brother had been murdered when numerous remains were removed from under Gacy's home. She said her mother, now deceased, had always been in denial, and her brother's missing persons case was not pursued aggressively back then (CNN.com, 11-29-2011)
One family had believed that a man missing for 35 years had been murdered by Gacy. He disappeared during the height of Gacy's killing stint and his abandoned car was left near Chicago's O'Hare airport. In November 2011, the family gave DNA samples. It turns out that Theodore "Ted" Szal left home on his own and is still living in Oregon (Chicagotribune.com, 10-26-2012). The mother of one boy missing from that period got other news when she paid to exhume the body whose grave she had visited routinely. She had doubted the identification because of "discrepancies she discovered in the dental records" (Chicagotribune.com, 10-26-2012). Her lawyers confirmed that DNA results showed that the remains were not her son. The orthodontist who made the original identification stands by it. There is some question of whether or not remains were mislabeled.
According to the mother's attorneys, "The identifications of all of Gacy's victims now are suspect and should be reviewed using DNA" (Chicagotribune.com, 10-26-2012).THE HOPEDetectives who investigate serial killers often wonder if all of the victims have been identified. We know that not all of Gacy's have been. Perhaps DNA and cooperation will enable victims' families to have answers, no matter how unpleasant. Occasionally the family of a person believed to have been murdered, like Ted Szal, will discover that he is alive and well, even if separated by choice. Hopefully DNA profiles of executed inmates in other states will be added to CODIS.Resources:Associated Press, "John Wayne Gacy's DNA May Help Solve Cold-Case Murders," NOLA.com, 12-3-2012.Duke, Alan, "Cold case cops find new DNA Strategy," CNN.com, 12-5-2012.FBI, "Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)," FBI.gov,
(accessed 2-6-2013).Mills, Steve, "Woman's Attorneys Say DNA Proves Gacy Victim was not Her Missing Son," Chicagotribune.com, 10-26-2012
Mills, Steve, and Patrick Svitek, "Authorities Continue Search for Gacy Victims,"
Chicagotribune.com, 1-29-2013.Wire Staff, "Illlinois IDs Gacy Victim After 3 Decades," CNN.com, 11-29-2011.
As portrayed in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
, there was a time when Puritan society would punish offenders by shaming them. Some current creative sentences are ridiculed as nothing more than public shaming. However, others believe they are more valuable than jail time for nonviolent offenders.
Some judges devise teachable moments by ordering offenders to read books, tutor students, take classes, write reports, clean parks, send letters, or repaint buildings they had tagged with graffiti. For nonviolent offenders, these may be better punishments than having taxpayers pay the bill for jail sentences in already overcrowded facilities.You may have read about the sentence given to an Ohio woman after she plead guilty for driving on a sidewalk, around a school bus, while children were exiting. In addition to a fine and suspended license, "
Municipal Judge Pinkey Carr ordered Hardin to two days of standing on a corner during rush hour traffic, holding a sign that said, Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus
" (News.Yahoo.com)Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman says, "
When done well by the right folks with the right idea in mind, creative sentencing can be a good thing. There are lots of folks for whom prison may do more harm than good, not just for themselves but for society” (Rockwallheraldbanner.com).
According to the Worcester Telegram, Massachusetts Western Worcester District Court Judge Paul L. McGill has five considerations when determining a sentence for a defendant:
- Protection of the Public
- Detriment to Society
“Jail time is one option, but we see people get released and re-offend time and time again, so obviously that doesn't work for them,” he explained. “Then we look at what else we can do” (Telegram.com).
Creative sentences are unusual punishments tailored to the crime and designed to rehabilitate the offender. Consider a few more extreme examples from the Web.
A mother and daughter (ages 56 and 35) stole a pair of gift cards from a girl in a Walmart. Rather than jail time, the two opted for probation and a 4 1/2 hour stint in front of the courthouse holding a sign that read, "I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday! Don't steal or this could happen to you!" (Publicengines.com).A Buffalo, N.Y., pizzeria owner charged with tax fraud
was sentenced to pay back taxes and deliver 12 sheet pizzas to the City Mission every Tuesday for a year (WIVB.com).
Ohio Judge Michael Cicconetti is well-known for delivering unusual sentences. In one case, he sent a man who'd been charged with disturbing the peace to sit alone in the woods for an hour of silence. He had a woman spend a night in the woods after dumping more than 30 kittens, some of which died (Newsnet5.com).
After destroying a baby Jesus statue from in front of a church, Judge Cicconetti sentenced a couple "to lead a donkey through the streets with an apology sign saying: Sorry for the jackass offense
" (Newsnet5.com). In a much harsher sentence, he sent a drunken driver to view two dead bodies from car accidents (Telegram.com).Some deride these punishments. Asked by an ABC affiliate to explain his sentences, Cicconetti said, "Can't stone 'em anymore. If they learn from it, that's what justice is all about"
(News.Yahoo.com).No we can't stone them, not literally. Are sentences like the ones mentioned here well-suited to the crime, judicial bullying, or just wacky? You be the judge.Resources:
- Browning, John, "Letting Punishment Fit the Crime," Rockwallheraldbanner.com, 7-21-2012.
- Christian Science Monitor, "10 Weird Criminal Sentences," News.Yahoo.com, 1-9-2013.
- Gunter, James, "Creative Sentencing: Public Humiliation," Publicengines.com, 11-9-2009.
- Hall, Lauran, "Creative Sentencing for Pizzeria Owner," WIVB.com, 10-19-2010.
- Ring, Kim, "Judges Turning to Creative Sentencing," Telegram.com, 1-25-2013.
- Seitz, Colleen, "Creative Sentences: Chicken Suits, Kiddie Pool, Blindfold, Jackass Offense Sign, Pigs," Newsnet5.com, 11-14-2012.
What if police officers need help? Who would they confide in about troubling thoughts or persistent nightmares? Too often, they don't turn to anyone at all.The law enforcement culture has typically rejected the notion that officers may need help in coping with stress and trauma
in order to prevent or treat depression and avert suicide."Police officers do not want to be seen as weak. So if they have depression, or any other mental illness, they are extremely unlikely to get help" (Suicide.org). Groups such as Badge of Life (BOL) are trying to change that culture. They have conducted research on police suicides to begin to get a handle on the issue.GOOD NEWS:
The 2012 BOL study found 12% fewer suicides among law enforcement officers than they did in their 2009 study.BAD NEWS: In 2012, the BOL still found 126 reported suicides among law enforcement officers, and the actual rate may be much higher (
The improved numbers are being attributed to an increase in peer counseling programs and an increase in the willingness of officers, especially younger officers, to seek professional help. "Suicides can happen in any profession, but they occur 1.5 times more frequently in law enforcement compared to the general population" (Officer.com).
"As we learn more through research and study, however, it becomes obvious that suicide is merely the tip of the iceberg in comparison to the more important issue of mental health in law enforcement" (Policesuicidestudy.com). Since depression is the leading cause of suicide, it cannot be ignored.
"Depression is 90% curable and, with the proper treatment interventions, those thoughts can go away. Eating your gun is not an option; treatment is" (LawOfficer.com).Risk Factors for Depression
Other possible causes of depression: gene
- Relationship difficulties
- Shift work
- Alcohol or other substance abuse
- Personal legal troubles
- Facing prosecution
- Negative public image
- Financial problems
- Physical pain/illness
- Inconsistencies in the criminal justice system
- Unrealistic expectations of self or by others
- Instant access to highly effective means of suicide (96+% use firearms)
tics, critical incident trauma, cumulative trauma, and even repeated adrenaline dumps.
During an emergency situation, adrenaline dumps into a person's system and allows him/her to respond with speed, strength, and focus. "However, too much and too often, it's poison to your body that has negative effects on a person's physical and emotional well-being" (LawOfficer.com).Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be caused by a single critical event or cumulative trauma. Officers who suffer from PTSD may become depressed or even suicidal. "There's no excuse for law enforcement administrators not to (be) making sure officers are followed closely for at least two years after an incident" (AAETS.org). Like depression, PTSD is treatable. Affected officers will need both a knowledgeable physician/psychiatrist, and a therapist who understands how to work with police officers (AAETS.org).
"So why don't officers simply go to their departments for help? Because they not only do not want to be seen as weak, but also do not want to be put on leave, reassigned to desk duty, have their gun taken from them, have other officers talk disparagingly about them, or be passed up for promotions in the future" (Suicide.org).Officer.com presented a podcast interview of Ron Clark, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Badge of Life. He talked about the 2012 BOL study and how to promote mental wellness and prevent suicides. "The scandal in law enforcement is that not one department has ever said...the job has caused the officer to commit suicide" (Officer.com
In the moving video, "Police Suicide, Where is the Piper?"
BOL shares the words often spoken at law enforcement memorials: "It is not how they DIED that made them heroes, it is how they LIVED."Despite these words, there is no big ceremony for a fallen officer who took his own life. No place on the National Law Enforcement Memorial. For an officer who commits suicide, it suddenly becomes a matter of how he/she died that matters.
This appears to be another symptom of the unhealthy view many in law enforcement take toward mental illness and mental wellness.The BOL suggests that police tend to their mental health as they do, hopefully, to their physical health. In a second video, "Police Suicide and HOPE," the BOL recommends annual mental health checks.
They want officers to tend to their mental wellness before they have an issue.These are signs that someone may be suicidal and in need of help:
Hopefully there are resources within a department that officers feel safe to turn to for help. Otherwise, direct them to local or national help lines.National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK Janice McCarthy lost her husband, a Massachusetts State Trooper, to suicide. She now addresses police groups about preventing suicides and the danger of viewing depression as a weakness. "Don't deny the fact that you're human," she said. "Yes, you're cops. But you're human" (APBweb.com).RESOURCES:
- Talks about suicide
- Makes statements related to hopelessness or helplessness
- Has a preoccupation with death
- Shows a loss of interest in things he/she once cared about
- Makes detailed arrangements related to insurance and finances
- Gives away valued or prized possessions
American Police Beat, "Confronting Police Suicides,"
APBweb.com, (accessed 1-22-2013).Brown, Hal, "The Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the Officer and the Family," AAETS.org, (accessed 1-23-2013)
.Caruso, Kevin, "Police Suicide Prevention and Awareness," Suicide.org, (accessed 1-22-2013).Clark, Ron, RN, MS, and Andy O'Hara, "2012 Police Suicides: The NSOPS Study," Policesuicidestudy.com, 1-4-2013.Kulbarsh, Pamela, "Police Suicides Drop in 2012," Officer.com, 1-9-2013.Peluso, Paul, "Officer Newscast: 2012 Police Suicides Study," Podcast, Officer.com/podcast, 1-16-2013.Wasilewski, Mike and Althea Olson, "Depression in Law Enforcement," Lawofficer.com, 8-10-2010.