Peters, Heller Introduce the Pet and Women Safety Act

Peters, Heller Introduce the Pet and Women Safety Act

Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation Helps Protect Domestic Violence Victims and Their Pets

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2015
Allison Green (Peters)
202-834-2281
Media@peters.senate.gov
Neal Patel (Heller)
202-224-6244

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) today announced they are reintroducing the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, bicameral, bipartisan legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by violence against their pets. Multiple studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or harming their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets. U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are leading the reintroduction of the PAWS Act in the House.

“Abusers often exploit the emotional attachment victims have with their pets, leaving victims of domestic violence stuck choosing between their own safety or leaving a beloved pet in harm’s way,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will help empower victims to leave abusive situations, get a fresh start and keep their pets who are treasured members of their families.”

“I am committed to combating domestic violence and ensuring survivors are provided with the services they need to heal. No victim of this crime should have to choose between their safety and the safety of their pet, which is why I’m glad Nevada has facilities in both Reno and Las Vegas that serve victims of domestic violence, their children, and pets,” said Senator Dean Heller. “I am proud to introduce this critical legislation with my colleagues to ensure domestic violence survivors across the country receive the assistance they need to leave an abusive environment.”

The PAWS Act expands existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet, and provides grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. The bill also requires the full amount of the victim’s losses for purposes of restitution in domestic violence and stalking offenses to include any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the victim’s pet.

The ASPCA reported that a study in Wisconsin found 68 percent of domestic violence survivors reported their abusers were also violent towards their animals. A similar study found that as many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have returned to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet. A separate 2007 study found that as many as one-third of domestic abuse survivors reported they delayed leaving an abuser for an average of two years out of concern for the safety of their pet.

“Abusers frequently target their victims’ pets, which can cause victims to delay leaving dangerous situations, incur costly veterinary bills for their pets’ injuries and endure additional trauma from seeing their much-loved animals tortured,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “The PAWS Act will help domestic violence shelters across the country provide resources for victims fleeing abusive situations so they can find a welcome home for themselves and their pets.”

“No one should have to make the impossible choice between leaving an abusive situation or protecting their pet,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Government Relations. “Studies demonstrate that abusers often intentionally target pets to exert control over their partners, and as many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have reported returning to an abusive partner out of concern for the safety of their animal. The federal protections offered by the PAWS Act will provide valuable resources to give victims and their pets the security they need to escape a dangerous environment, which is why the ASPCA is grateful to Senators Peters and Heller for introducing this legislation.”

“Many states allow pets to be included in restraining orders, but what happens when a domestic violence victim must go live with family in another state where pets are not covered?” said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We must have a national policy that safeguards the pets of abuse victims, and recognizes that domestic violence impacts all members of the family—including the four-legged.”

“Too often victims of domestic violence fear leaving an abusive situation, and when violence is inflicted on their pets, victims are not only stuck in a traumatic environment, they also have to pay for veterinary bills to help their pets heal,” said David LaBahn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “The PAWS Act will provide law enforcement with the tools to ensure justice for victims of domestic violence whose pets are harmed by their abusers. I applaud Senator Peters and Senator Heller for their leadership on addressing a very important issue.”

The PAWS Act is supported by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Link Coalition, the Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) Program, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, RedRover, the National Animal Care & Control Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, YWCA USA, the American Kennel Club, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

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Prosecutors Try New Tack in Investigating Police Shootings

Moves on how to handle use-of-force cases follow controversies over killings of black men

Prosecutors across the country are looking for new ways to handle police use-of-force cases.

In Maryland, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is pushing for state legislation to give police powers to her investigators. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is creating a unit to lead police-shooting investigations, instead of having the police take the lead. In November, the Philadelphia district attorney introduced a policy to send staff attorneys to any police shooting.

The moves follow a string of failed prosecutions in cases involving fatal police shootings of black men, and several controversial decisions not to prosecute, such as in Charlotte, N.C., and Ferguson, Mo. Given their close day-to-day work with law enforcement, district attorneys can face criticism for not holding police accountable. Prosecutors, meanwhile, say it is more complicated than that; they have to assess each case on its merits and consider how a jury—often sympathetic to police—would decide.

“We’ve let a lot of this debate fall on the back of police and on the back of communities who have been upset, and we have not stepped up and taken our proper role,” said Jean Peters Baker, chief prosecutor in Jackson County, Mo., in the Kansas City area. “We’ve lost public trust because people couldn’t see what we did or why.”

Since a grand jury declined to indict the Ferguson officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in 2014, Ms. Baker, in use-of-force cases, typically bypasses grand juries and instead relies on senior prosecutors to help her decide whether to charge officers. Ms. Baker said she wants to better explain the reasons if no charges result.

The grand-jury process “has real limitations on what we are allowed by law to tell the public,” she said. Grand juries, which meet behind closed doors, don’t determine guilt, they only decide to move forward with a trial.

Since 2014, eight states have made changes to the process of investigating officer-involved deaths or alleged police abuse, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut mandates that a state agency investigate use-of-force cases, while Illinois, Utah and Wisconsin require the use of outside investigators.

Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, praised the steps being taken, “but I am not on this bandwagon of, ‘Hey, these are radical changes that are great,’ ” he said. “My view is, what took us so long?”

Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, said he doesn’t object to some steps being advocated, such as sending a prosecutor to police shooting scenes.

“As long as they do their investigation with principle and reverence for the law, we have no problem,” Mr. Pasco said. He said it makes sense for outside police agencies to lead investigations involving law-enforcement officers, though some police departments say that isn’t practical.

Since 2015, 31 officers involved in fatal on-duty shootings have been charged with murder or manslaughter, compared with 48 the prior decade, said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Even so, Mr. Stinson notes the vast majority of the roughly 1,000 fatal shootings by police each year don’t result in prosecution.

The topic will be raised at an annual meeting of prosecutors this week in San Francisco, where a raft of new initiatives is expected to be discussed that aim to improve transparency, procedural fairness and accountability on the part of prosecutors.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, District Attorney Seth Williams began sending his staff attorneys out to police shooting scenes, a longstanding practice elsewhere, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Williams also plans to meet with relatives of those killed by police at the start and end of investigations, and to publicly detail his ultimate decision.

The city is no stranger to fatal police shootings. In 2013 the police department asked the U.S. Justice Department to help it address a rise in such shootings. Earlier this month, federal officials praised the Philadelphia police department’s steps, including the creation of a unit to probe all deadly force incidents. The number of lethal police shootings dropped to five last year after reaching 16 in 2012.

Since introducing the new protocol in November, Mr. Williams’s office said it has investigated one fatal police shooting in Philadelphia, two nonfatal shootings by Philadelphia police and two incidents in which city officers shot dogs.

Mr. Williams said that while he doesn’t lack confidence in the police department’s ability to investigate its officers, the public needs greater assurances.

“I wanted the public to know we’re not just rubber-stamping the police investigation,” he said. “We’re just one catastrophe away from what happened in Ferguson,” he added.

See Original Story Here

Write to Scott Calvert at scott.calvert@wsj.com

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NEW SOLICITATION ANNOUNCEMENT: National Institute of Justice

W.E.B. Du Bois Program of Research on Race and Crime FY2017

Application Deadline:  March 31, 2017

Funding:  Up to $3 million for multiple grant awards under two categories

Solicitation:  https://www.nij.gov/funding/Documents/solicitations/NIJ-2017-12000.pdf

 

The W.E.B. Du Bois Program supports quantitative and qualitative research on the intersections of race, offending, victimization, and the fair administration of justice for both juveniles and adults. It furthers the Department’s mission by advancing knowledge regarding the confluence of crime, justice, and culture in various societal contexts. This funding opportunity seeks investigator-initiated proposals to conduct research on topics linked to race and crime in the context of violence and victimization, crime and crime prevention, and justice systems.

 

In FY2017, NIJ will give priority consideration to proposals for research on:

  • Homicide and other violence in minority communities
  • Criminal courts (including but not limited to screening and assessment, legal defense systems, and sentencing reform)

 

Funding will be available for two categories:

  1. Scholars who are advanced in their careers may apply for up to $500,000 for research (excluding projects that only analyze secondary data) with a plan to mentor less experienced researchers
  2. Fellows who are early in their careers may apply for up to $100,000 for secondary data analysis projects, or up to $150,000 for research projects involving primary data collection (a short-term residency at NIJ is optional

 

General information on applying for NIJ awards can be found at www.nij.gov/funding/Pages/welcome.aspx. Answers to frequently asked questions that may assist applicants are posted at www.nij.gov/funding/Pages/faqs.aspx. For assistance with this solicitation, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Response Center: toll-free at 1-800-851-3420; via TTY at 301-240-6310 (hearing impaired only); email grants@ncjrs.gov; fax to 301-240-5830; or web chat at https://webcontact.ncjrs.gov/ncjchat/chat.jsp.

 

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Byko: Should drug dealers be charged with homicide?

–January 5th, 2017–

When Michael Untermeyer announced his candidacy for District Attorney – something he has done before – he said something he had not said before, something attention-getting.

He wants to file homicide charges against heroin dealers who lace their product with fentanyl that can cause death to users. It’s a startling idea.

With about 900 heroin and opioid deaths in Philly last year – more than from any form of homicide – the charge would be necessary and appropriate, says Untermeyer, who spent 15 years as a prosecutor in Philly, including stints in the District Attorney’s Office and as special counsel in the Inspector General’s Office.

He also has ideas about bail – loosen it – and the law prohibiting illegal guns – tighten it – but the homicide beef for drug dealers deserves a close look.

It struck me as really unusual, but Untermeyer tells me Westmoreland County is already doing it.

But it’s not, not really, four-term Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck says.

The county did charge four people last year with “drug delivery resulting in death,” but that is a separate classification “not under the criminal homicide statute,” Peck says. That was four prosecutions, out of about 100 drug-related deaths.

Other counties are using the homicide charge, too, Untermeyer says, and he clearly wants to keep it in his arsenal.

Under Pennsylvania law, a suspect can be charged with homicide if he or she intentionally delivers any controlled substance and someone dies after using it. Untermeyer insists the statute should be used more often.

But what are the consequences of doing that?

It will require drug deaths to be treated as crime scenes, says Center City defense attorney Michael Fienman. It will require additional investigation and resources to establish a link between the drug dealer and the drugs and the person who died. An autopsy would have to be performed, says Fienman, and the medical examiner would have to testify to the cause of death. “All of this costs the city money, and the medical examiner will be cross-examined by someone like me,” says Fienman.

I ask Untermeyer about the extra resources that would be required to pay for the added work. He says he can’t answer because he’s not the DA and doesn’t know what resources are at hand.

Another prosecutorial handicap is mentioned by David LaBahn, president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

The state has to prove that the dealer was the party doing the mixing of the drug and that making it too heavy was deliberate.

Another problem, believe it or not, is getting the cooperation of the friends and family of the deceased. “Most people like their sellers,” LaBahn says. “It’s a friend, it’s a buddy,” and they might not want to give him up.

Untermeyer, 65, of Center City, ran for DA seven years ago as a Republican, even though he is a lifelong Democrat. He viewed that campaign as a way to get his ideas on the table. This time, he joins three other Democrats in challenging DA Seth Williams, who appears vulnerable because of ethics issues.

Might running multiple candidates divide the anti-Williams vote and clear a path for the sitting DA? It depends, Untermeyer says, on whether voters view Williams’ problems as minor or as a serious character flaw.

Untermeyer also has a plan for bail bond reform. His idea is to junk it.

The “failure-to-appear rate in Philadelphia is 35 percent,” says Untermeyer, while the same rate in Washington, D.C., is 11 percent.

The difference, Untermeyer says, is the result of the nation’s capital getting rid of cash bail – which is supposed to guarantee that a defendant will appear for trial – and replacing it with a point system. A judge evaluates the suspect on flight risk, degree of danger to the community, and prior criminal record.

If the suspect falls below a certain level, he is released, possibly with an ankle bracelet, possibly with orders to attend a program, says Untermeyer. Above a certain level of risk, he is incarcerated without bail until trial.

Untermeyer says the system works and would be more fair to low-income suspects who can’t make bail, while reducing the prisoner population and associated costs.

Finally, Untermeyer is endorsing a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone caught carrying a gun without a permit.

“The penalty for the first offense is minimal, maybe 30 days,” he says, which is often plea-bargained down to “maybe weekends in jail.” Untermeyer wants a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days.

He also would up the ante on straw purchasers, those illegally buying guns for others. A first offense brings a 3½-to-seven-year sentence, which is not mandatory. He’d stiffen that to “some mandatory” jail time, but he’s unsure of how long.

To be serious about Philadelphia’s gun problem requires serious penalties to show that illegal guns won’t be tolerated.

I’m not sure that Untermeyer’s remedy is strong enough, but he has placed his ideas on the table.

View Original Story Here

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Toomey Bill Targeting Heinous Forms of Animal Abuse Clears Senate

Washington, D.C. – Last week, the Senate unanimously agreed to Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) bipartisan bill, the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The PACT Act would outlaw a heinous form of animal abuse known as ‘crushing,’ where deranged individuals maim and torture animals.

Despite taking steps in 2010 to ban the sale of videos depicting animal crushing, Congress failed to make the underlying act of crushing a federal crime. This means that — even when there is overwhelming evidence that torture is taking place — federal law enforcement is unable to protect animals from abuse or even arrest known abusers. The PACT Act would ensure that individuals found guilty of torturing animals face felony charges, fines, and up to seven years in prison.

‘There is absolutely no place for the crushing of animals in our society,’ said Sen. Toomey. ‘It is blatantly inhumane and astonishingly cruel. I can’t believe this isn’t already the law. This abhorrent practice must end, and I am glad the Senate finally took the first step towards that goal. While it is disappointing that my colleagues across the aisle delayed passage of this measure until after the House of Representatives adjourned for the year, I remain hopeful that this bill will finally get enacted into law next Congress.’

On two separate occasions, Senate Republicans attempted to pass the PACT Act by unanimous consent but were blocked by their Senate Democratic colleagues. Unfortunately, by the time the Senate finally passed this legislation, the House of Representatives had adjourned for the year and therefore the bill will need to be re-introduced next Congress.

The PACT Act is endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States, National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

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Courtroom Adversaries: Policy Reform Allies

MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge Brings Defenders and Prosecutors Together to Address Jail Reform

 

Criminal justice system reform has become a priority on both sides of the political aisle and within our communities as America’s over-reliance on incarceration and racialized patterns of injustice are brought into sharper focus. The John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge has brought still greater urgency to this conversation, and is promoting models of reform in 20 jurisdictions across the country in order to change the way America thinks about and uses jails. Designing meaningful reform that will create lasting change requires participation and collaboration from all justice system stakeholders, even — and especially — those that are more used to approaching one another in an adversarial capacity.
Cornerstone spoke to leaders from two “Strategic Allies” of the Safety and Justice Challenge, David LaBahn and Jo-Ann Wallace, about why these partnerships are important. LaBahn is President and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), and Wallace is President and CEO of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA).

While defenders and prosecutors may have opposing perspectives in the courtroom, we often have many common goals when it comes to criminal justice reform. What would you say are a few of the most important shared objectives?

 

Jo-Ann Wallace: There are more than 2 million people behind bars in the United States, and we all recognize that this is unsustainable. The Safety and Justice Challenge is focused on our country’s jails, where almost half a million people are detained each year despite having never been found guilty of a crime. Many of those individuals pose no real flight risk or danger to community. The starting point for shared objectives are the Safety and Justice Challenge goals themselves: eliminating the unnecessary use of jails and racial disparities in the justice system. On the defender side, a sincere desire to make substantial progress toward those objectives is what has brought us to the table. It seems the same is true of the prosecutors on the teams. Incarceration is expensive and too often unnecessary and ineffective. Its imposition on such a vast scale is engendering mistrust in the justice system as well as harming individuals, families and communities. I believe a shared desire for fair justice systems is also motivating both defenders and prosecutors to pursue better solutions.


David LaBahn: Both prosecutors and defenders understand that our work in the courtroom is caused by conditions
outside of our control. Recidivism rates are high, and individuals who enter the criminal justice system often
don’t receive the treatment or resources needed in order to improve their circumstances. Both prosecutors and defenders agree that the criminal justice system should aim to assist and rehabilitate individuals. We believe that having treatment alternatives to incarceration is key. Those suffering need to have access to effective treatment that will combat both mental health and substance use. Through implementation of diversion and deflection programs, defenders and prosecutors can work together to achieve the most successful results, and ultimately make our communities safer
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Philadelphia District Attorney Announces Transparent, Progressive Officer Involved Shooting Protocol

Philadelphia District Attorney Announces Transparent, Progressive Officer Involved Shooting Protocol

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New procedure stresses the importance of transparency and allows public and media review

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that he is implementing a new protocol to ensure public transparency and accountability whenever an officer uses his or her weapon in the line of duty. The protocol will guide the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s (DAO) investigation when a Philadelphia Police Officer discharges his or her weapon, whether on or off duty, and require public disclosure of the investigation and its outcome.

“Using a weapon is one of the hardest things that a police officer has to do, but too often after a shooting, the public is left with more questions than answers, leading to false accusations and distrust,” said District Attorney R. Seth Williams today. “This new protocol establishes a clear, transparent, and accountable process of review for every police involved shooting. Most importantly, it requires disclosure and explanation to the public of what happened.”

“Philadelphia has been fortunate because we have not seen the problems that other communities have,” continued District Attorney Williams. “I believe that is due to the high caliber and training of our officers and the work that my office has done to fully and fairly review any and all officer involved shootings. But doing everything right if it’s closed behind doors, isn’t enough – the people of the City of Philadelphia deserve to know what happened and why.”

The new protocol ensures an independent, fair review of every police involved shooting, transparency throughout the DAO’s investigation, and accountability once it is concluded. The office’s complete investigative file will be made available to the victim’s family, civil counsel, the public and the media for independent analysis. The complete investigative file will include all of the materials the investigative team considered, with the necessary redactions for the safety of the witnesses, minus the Assistant District Attorney’s work product.

“I commend District Attorney Seth Williams and his office for the tremendous work they have done on protocols for officer use of deadly force procedures,” said David LaBahn, President and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “The procedures DA Williams announced today are forward-thinking and thoughtful, and will improve the manner in which these cases are handled from start to finish in Philadelphia. This means that the public will ultimately conclude that the process of officer use of deadly force investigations will be done with integrity and in the pursuit of justice.”

Some of the new protocol’s highlights include:

  • A Special Investigations Unit Assistant District Attorney will be present at the scene after an officer involved shooting and monitor the Police Department’s investigation, independently review the evidence, and make a decision about whether to recommend if any law enforcement personnel should face charges or discipline;
  • The District Attorney may visit with the decedent’s family members initially after an incident to explain the investigative process;
  • If, at the end of the investigation, criminal charges are filed, the DAO will announce the decision and make information available to the public as provided by law;
  • If criminal charges are not filed, the DAO will prepare a report detailing an analysis of the facts, the law of the case and the reasoning for the decision;
  • The District Attorney will notify the Police Commissioner about the outcome of investigation and meet privately with the victim’s family to communicate the decision and the reasons supporting it; and
  • The DAO’s report will be made available to the public within 60 days after the investigation is completed.

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State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Proposes Police Misconduct Reform Proposals at Coppin State University

Today, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby introduced a five-point plan to change the way in which police-involved lethal force incidents are investigated, prosecuted, and reviewed. Mosby shared her proposal in West Baltimore at Coppin State University.

She was joined by President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) David LaBahn, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the APA and Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., as well as students and members of the Coppin State University administration, faculty, and community.

While most police officers uphold their oaths to protect and serve, Mosby acknowledged police misconduct as a harsh reality and detailed changes to the process by which cases of lethal force by police officers are investigated, in an effort to create a blueprint for local law enforcement in Baltimore, in jurisdictions across the state, and possibly across the country.

“When I ran for the Office of State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, I promised to focus intently on the prosecution of violent criminals, to operate the office in a manner that addressed crime holistically, and to hold everyone within my jurisdiction—no matter your race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, or occupation equally and fairly under the law,” said Mosby.

Currently, when a lethal force incident involving a police officer occurs in Baltimore, the police department responds initially with its Special Investigation Response Team (SIRT). Mosby proposed replacing this team with a more impartial and collaborative team that would consist of a BPD investigator, an investigator assigned to the State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO), a Civilian Review Board investigator, and a Maryland State Police investigator.

Additionally, Mosby would like for SAO investigators to have full police powers so they can play a more significant role in the prosecution of police misconduct. Investigators in Maryland’s Dorchester, Garrett, and Talbot Counties all have police powers that allow them to service warrants, make arrests, and carry firearms.

“I commend State’s Attorney Mosby in her efforts to change and improve the investigative process of police misconduct cases here in Baltimore City,” said David LaBahn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA). “One of the most important requirements of our jobs as prosecutors is that the public trusts us and our work, and we are constantly working to earn that public trust and confidence. The policy reform proposals announced today, for this great city of Baltimore, address both resources needed to properly investigate and prosecute as well as provide for the necessary accountability.”

Among her proposals, Mosby would like to craft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would allow the local chief prosecutor to commission a federal review of the lethal force investigation if the prosecutor declines to charge an officer, and grant United States District Attorneys the power to prosecute cases of police misconduct under state statutes in state courts.

Mosby’s final proposals call for judges and prosecutors to play a role in the selection of a bench trial by defendants as is done at the federal level, as well as increasing civilian voting membership on the police Administrative Hearing Board, which is responsible for disciplinary action against Baltimore Police officers.

“State’s Attorney Mosby is proposing some important and necessary changes to how she will be investigating and prosecuting police misconduct, and I applaud her and these new policy reforms,” said Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors for the APA. “The role of a prosecutor is to investigate and prosecute everyone accused of a crime, not matter who they are or where they work.� These reforms will allow the public to see first-hand where police misconduct cases are in the criminal justice system, and build the necessary bridges of communication and trust.”

Howard adds that many of the proposals being made by Mosby are already in place in Fulton County (Atlanta).

Mosby believes these policies will better protect good officers and the communities they have been called to serve. The implementation of the reforms will require a combination of state laws, local laws, and MOUs, and she welcomes input from all interested stakeholders.

“The framework I’ve outlined is by no means set in stone,” Mosby concluded. “I fully expect to receive input from elected leaders, law enforcement, and social justice stakeholders. I welcome their feedback and look forward to building a diverse coalition of support around these reforms.”

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MARICOPA COUNTY PRESS RELEASE: Maricopa County Hosts 1st Regional Training for Prosecutor-Led Diversion

PHOENIX— This week, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office participated in the very first Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ Regional Training for Prosecutor-Led Diversion, held here in Phoenix.

“We have strived to develop successful diversion programs here in Maricopa County, and are proud that our programs now serve as model for other prosecutorial agencies,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “These programs serve a vital role in our criminal justice system and provide a strong rebuke of the mass incarceration myth.”

Diversion programs provide treatment options through safe and effective community-based programs to those who may have committed a criminal offense, usually based on a substance abuse issue or mental illness to which incarceration may not be the best answer.

The two-day training was offered for free through the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Center for Court Innovation.
David LaBahn, President and CEO of APA, applauded Montgomery’s leadership in developing MCAO’s diversion programs. “Having prosecutors thoroughly analyze cases to identify individuals who are in need of care versus those who require incarceration provides true service to the community.”

Robert W. Hood, Director of the Community Prosecution and Violent Crime Division for APA agreed saying, “The recently completed training in Phoenix represents an important milestone in the National Prosecutor-Led Diversion Initiative. The APA is highly appreciative of Mr. Montgomery’s willingness to host this important event and help the nation’s prosecutors build the next generation of prosecutor- led diversion programming.”

Those in attendance were able to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to develop and improve prosecutor-led diversion programs in their own jurisdictions.

View the Maricopa County Press Release

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MRI scans better than polygraph for lie detection, Penn study finds

There has been lots of talk about liars this election season, but when it comes to the dispassionate eye of science, there is no foolproof way to say who is telling the truth — yet.

But a new University of Pennsylvania study suggests that science is getting closer. The authors compared the age-old technology of polygraphs with a type of MRI scan, and found that the latter is a more accurate tool for lie detection, at least in a laboratory setting.

In their study in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the authors also found that a combination of the two methods might be even more effective.

Lead author Daniel D. Langleben, a professor of psychiatry at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, said it was too soon to say whether MRI machines, the familiar donut-shaped devices of modern health care settings, would ever become a law enforcement tool.

But the technology would be welcome if it were deemed solid enough to be used in court, said David LaBahn, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, a nonprofit group in Washington D.C.

Television has led some jurors to expect unrealistically fast and tidy answers from forensic science, a phenomenon called the CSI effect. The research suggests a way that courts could come closer to those expectations, LaBahn said.

While a polygraph relies on indirect measures, MRI scans reveal the activation of various regions of the brain’s cortex that are associated with deception, a visual that would resonate with a lay audience, he said.

“If we could get to a place where the science could be admissible (in court), that this really does show, with brain scans in these pictures, if that individual is being truthful, that would be great,” LaBahn said. “Jurors are expecting this kind of thing.”

Polygraphs, which record heart rate and the electrical conductivity of the skin, among other physiologic characteristics,  generally are not admissible in court, though they are used as a police investigative tool and in background checks.

In the hands of a skilled administrator, the polygraph is a valuable tool for correctly identifying the guilty, but too often falsely accuses an innocent, truthful person of telling a lie, said Scott Faro, an adjunct professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Temple University’s Katz School of Medicine.

Faro, who was not involved with the Penn research but has studied the issue, said the new findings strengthen the case for the use of MRI scans in conjunction with polygraphs and other measures. He and colleagues have patented such an approach.

“If you’re truly innocent, you would want to have the highest accuracy gold standard available to you, and that’s what this type of technology is suggesting,” said Faro, who also has appointments in Temple’s electrical and computer science engineering departments.

In the Penn study, 28 participants were asked to write down a number from 3 through 8 and hide it, and were told to lie about it when asked.

One by one, researchers asked each person if he or she had written down a 1, then 2, and so on through 9. Participants always said no, meaning they were telling the truth on the eight occasions when they did not have the number, and lying once when they did. The numbers 1, 2, and 9 were added to the list to serve as experimental controls.

Each person underwent the process while hooked up to a polygraph device and while undergoing a functional MRI scan, a type of scan that can be performed in high-end MRI machines. The results of each were evaluated by three raters.

Two out of three polygraph experts correctly detected the lies on 20 out of 28 occasions, whereas two out of three MRI raters correctly detected 24 out of 28 lies. Overall, the MRI raters were 24 percent more likely to detect the lie in any given participant, a difference the authors found to be statistically significant.

Moreover, when the MRI and polygraph approaches were in agreement, they were correct 17 out of 17 times, though Langleben said that finding was preliminary.

He also cautioned that the results came from an lab setting, which was artificial in several respects — among them that everyone was instructed to deceive.

“In this case, we’re not detecting liars,” he said. “We’re detecting lies. Every single participant lied, which is a big step away from natural situations.”

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