Crime

Wilfredo Lee / AP

The federal government doesn't track how often or what happens when police shoot civilians, and there's no official national database to show how big or complex the problem is.

Journalist Ben Montgomery said he learned a lot by requesting documents from more than 400 jurisdictions in Florida alone. In six years and more than 800 shootings, not one incident resulted in criminal charges.

Matt Rourke / AP

Philadelphia's police commissioner is challenging Attorney General Jeff Sessions for blaming immigrants for much of the nation's violent crime.

Commissioner Richard Ross says "young men from here" who are hopeless and dealing with poverty are a bigger problem.

Ross also says he doesn't think local law enforcement "belongs in the immigration business." He says it's tough enough for police to build bonds with local residents without having them worry about their immigration status.

Susan Walsh / AP

James Comey wasn’t the nation’s embattled former FBI Director in 2002, but the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. He was giving a speech to a group of fellow attorneys -- men and women with impeccable courtroom records. 

Comey was not impressed.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

It's an oft-repeated mandate: law enforcement needs to change for the 21st century. But what does "21st century policing" actually mean, and how would a forward-thinking department be different than what most jurisdictions have now?

Eric Risberg / AP

The FBI has used the same protocols to process DNA for the last 20 years. It requires a human analyst to make comparisons based on subjective choices and simplified genetic samples.

Mark Perlin's product, True Allele, uses a different method. It's a program that lets computers process every high and low point in a piece of DNA – no comparisons or required.

On this episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, host David Harris talks to Perlin about the program and how DNA analysis can be more powerful, faster and accurate.

New York Times

Police chiefs have to lead officers toward strong relationships with the communities they serve, but in the past, the same department may have participated in or enforced racial discrimination.

That history can prevent healing and can make police reform a nonstarter.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo last month written by his predecessor, Eric Holder. Sessions told prosecutors that not only will they abide by previously set mandatory minimum prison sentences, they would seek the harshest punishments possible.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Automatic license plate readers – those cameras on police cars and light poles that capture plate numbers – have been in widespread use since the 1990s. But some argue regulations for how and how long police can use and store that information hasn’t kept up with the technology.

Eric Gay / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to renew the National Commission on Forensic Science in April, effectively ending federal efforts to standardize how crime scene evidence is interpreted by local law enforcement agencies. It's not because the problems were solved. 

States Offer Breaks To Minority Marijuana Entrepreneurs

May 31, 2017
Eric Risberg / AP

Andre Shavers was sentenced to five years on felony probation after authorities burst into the house where he was living in one of Oakland's most heavily policed neighborhoods and found a quarter ounce of marijuana.

Evan Vucci / AP

The Trump administration has promised a return to "tough on crime" criminal justice policies, including a recent memo that instructs federal prosecutors to reverse Obama-era reforms meant to curb mandatory minimum sentences.

Final Cosby Jury Selections Made In Allegheny County

May 24, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

**UPDATED: 6:12 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Half of the new jury pool being questioned Wednesday in Bill Cosby's sexual assault case said they've formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence, and another knows Cosby or his family.

All 12 jurors and six alternates have been chosen this week for the case starting June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. Those who have opinions weren't necessarily disqualified if they convinced the judge they could put that aside and focus on the evidence.

Cosby's lawyers have complained about prosecutors striking two black women.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

**UPDATED: 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Monday that Pittsburgh Police officers don't have to live inside city limits.

Matthew Apgar / The Chronicle via AP

The exposure of wrongful convictions began in 1989, and it upended the idea that guilty verdicts were always trustworthy. When there’s a wrongful conviction, what has to happen to get a court to exonerate someone?

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Marissa Boyers Bluestine, legal director for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

Matt Rourke / AP

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack "billed taxpayers for $34,000 worth of groceries, two leather cuff link boxes, flags and thousands of dollars of candy and snack bars while living at his state-operated mansion and collecting a $162,373 salary." 

Chicago Police Department / AP

The last few years have exposed major problems in policing: use of force, high-tech surveillance and a systemic lack of transparency. Some police tactics have even been called undemocratic, because the public isn’t involved on the front end.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Americans who live in high-crime neighborhoods often get portrayed as anti-police, but an Urban Institute study released in February shows something different: strong respect for the law and a willingness to help with public safety.

United Artists / Library of Congress

If you’re a registered voter or have a driver’s license, odds are, you’re eligible for jury duty. But just because you’re called, doesn’t mean you’ll serve.

Research from the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina shows that some people get dismissed from the jury pool a lot more often than others.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Wake Forest School of Law professor Ron Wright, who’s finding those exclusions make a big difference in the outcome of some cases.

Associated Press

The state House has passed a bill to keep certain drug and violent crime offenders in prison longer.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

In March 2015, then-Police Chief Cameron McLay committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a six-city pilot project to help heal cities’ fractured relationships with communities of color.

Part of that agreement is set to include racial reconciliation training, which asks police and citizens to speak plainly about their issues.

Paul Sakuma / AP

Efforts to oversee police several decades ago resulted in hundreds of complaint review boards that investigate when an officer or civilian come forward about a specific case. But a new type of oversight is gaining traction – one in which appointed civilians look at whole departments and how they do their jobs day-to-day. 

David Goldman / AP

Families of people hurt or killed by police would not learn the identity of the officer involved for 30 days or until the completion of an investigation under a new bill making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When a group of people is given great power to watch over the rest of us, how do we make sure they use that power correctly?

Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board was created in 1997 to do just that. 

Charles Krupa / AP

President Donald Trump has called for a return to “law and order” policing and shown support for stop and frisk and heavy use of force. Many modern police leaders aren’t buying in.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris looks at one non-member, nonpartisan organization that conducts field studies with real cops to find more nuanced data-driven ways to reduce crime.

Judge Rules Bill Cosby Case To Be Decided By Outside Jury

Feb 27, 2017
Bill Fraser/Bucks County Courrier Times / via AP Pool

 A jury from outside the Philadelphia suburbs will be brought in to decide the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting a defense request to move the trial itself because of worldwide media reports that brand the actor a "serial rapist."

Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said jurors will remain sequestered during Cosby's June trial on charges that he drugged and molested a former Temple University employee in 2004.

Steelers' Joey Porter Fined $300 Over Dispute Outside South Side Bar

Feb 21, 2017
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police

Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter has been fined $300 after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct stemming from a dispute with a bar bouncer and a police officer last month.

Porter entered the plea Tuesday in City Court in Pittsburgh, ending a case in which he originally faced a serious felony charge of aggravated assault for allegedly grabbing the officer's wrists outside a bar after a bouncer denied him entrance Jan. 8.

Wystan / Flickr

From Obama-era task forces to widespread protests, the idea of community policing has become part of our national conversation. 

On this week's episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talked to Jerry Clayton, the elected sheriff of Washtenaw County, Mich. Now in his third term, Clayton started overhauling the department of 400 officers eight years ago with service and sustainability in mind.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The number of Pittsburgh police officers is on track to reach its highest number in 15 years, city officials said just one day after installing new Chief Scott Schubert.

On Friday, a class of seven new Pittsburgh police officers were sworn in – all experienced and coming from other regional departments.

Mayor Bill Peduto said the city has made intentional efforts to attract outside talent.

A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project / Pittsburgh Foundation

Youth need more of a say in shaping the juvenile justice system they're a part of, according to a report released Monday by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

LM Otero / AP

In recent years, DNA tests have proved something surprising: people sometimes confess to terrible crimes that they definitely did not commit. One reason seems to be traditional American methods of police interrogation. 

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