TIME White House

President Obama Honors Fallen Police Officers in D.C. Ceremony

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters following the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit at Camp David on May 14, 2015.
Kevin Dietsch—Corbis President Barack Obama speaks to reporters following the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit at Camp David on May 14, 2015.

The President delivered remarks at the 34th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Friday

President Obama took a moment on Friday to thank the members of our nation’s law enforcement amid ongoing strife between police and communities of color.

During a speech at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service held at the U.S. Capitol at the close of Police Week, President Obama honored the lives of 131 peace officers who have died in the line of duty.

“To all of the families who are here today whose loved ones did not come home at the end of a shift please know how deeply sorry we are for loss that you’ve endured and know how deeply grateful we are for your loved one’s sacrifice,” Obama said Friday.

For a little over 10 minutes, President Obama delivered a measured address to the nation’s law enforcement, acknowledging the danger the nation’s men and women in uniform face every day, while noting the mistrust that exists between police and the communities they serve. That lack of trust has come to bear in recent weeks not only through the riots and protests on the streets of Baltimore, but also with the murders of officers in Mississippi, Queens, and Brooklyn.

Sheriff’s and police officers have even placed some of the blame for the spate of police killings and tensions on Obama. “Obama started this war on police intentionally,” wrote conservative Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., in a series of tweets. “Right in line with his community agitating.”

“Your jobs are inherently dangerous. The reminders are too common,” Obama said Friday. “We cannot erase every darkness or danger from the duty that you’ve chosen.We can offer you the support you need to be safer. We can make the communities you care about and protect safer as well.”

Obama rattled off ways that could be done: more resources for officers, confronting poverty, mending relationships between police and community members. He closed by saying, “Most of all we can say thank you. We can say we appreciate you and we’re grateful for the work you do every day.”

After his speech, the President met with families of many fallen officers who were in the gathered crowd.

TIME Crime

These Two Stats Show the Big Problem With Policing in America

Policemen hold their hats at their side during a vigil service for two fellow officers killed during a traffic stop, in Hattiesburg
Lee Celano—Reuters Policemen hold their hats during a vigil service for two officers killed during a traffic stop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on May 11, 2015.

We know how many cops are killed in the line of duty, but not the number of people killed by cops

There are two sets of numbers that tell us a lot about the state of policing in America. This week, the FBI released the latest tally of cops killed in the line of duty. The grim toll in 2014 was 51 law enforcement officers who were killed while doing their jobs (the figure does not include those who died in work-related accidents). That’s an 89% rise from the year before, but still below the average of 64 deaths from 1980 to 2014.

We have those comparisons because the FBI database is considered complete and updated every year. What we don’t know is the corollary number: how many people die as a result of encounters with the police. The FBI does compile a list—the latest shows there were 461 suspects killed in 2013 by police officers, up from 397 in 2010—but it is in no way a comprehensive account because the information is provided voluntarily and only some of the nation’s almost 18,000 police departments contribute. Plus, the FBI’s list is short on details and only specifies the type of weapon used in fatal incidents. Numbers compiled by advocacy groups suggest that the number of people killed by police is much higher, although lower than it once was. According to the New York Times, for example, 91 people were shot and killed by police officers in New York City in 1971 compared with eight in 2013, which was a record low.

The lack of a reliable, comprehensive database has become a flashpoint in the debate over policing following a string of high-profile fatal incidents involving white officers and unarmed black men. These deaths have led to sometimes violent protests and a renewed focus on police use of force against minorities. And the public response helped prompt FBI director James Comey to call for better data in a speech on law enforcement and race. “The first step to understanding what is really going on in our communities and in our country is to gather more and better data related to those we arrest, those we confront for breaking the law and jeopardizing public safety, and those who confront us,” Comey said.

As the FBI’s new data on officer deaths shows, those confrontations can sometimes be fatal. The most common incident leading to an officer’s death came from answering a disturbance call (11), followed by involvement in car chases or traffic stops (10) and ambushes (8). Others were killed while involved in investigations, tactical situations or dealing with drug-related issues.

“There are certainly cases in the last year that have been directly related to the rise in tensions between police and minority communities,” says Marquette University criminology professor Meghan Stroshine, referring to incidents like one in New York City in December, in which two NYPD officers were deliberately targeted and shot “execution-style” apparently as retribution for police-related deaths of unarmed black men. “We have some cases clearly that were of a retaliatory nature or in the name of correcting perceived past wrongs.”

Just within the last two weeks, several officers have died on duty. The first NYPD officer to be killed in the line of duty since December died on May 4 after being shot by a gunman in Queens. And last week, two officers in Hattiesburg, Miss., were killed during a traffic stop. Four suspects have been charged.

TIME Innovation

What’s Behind the Russia-China Cyber Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Should we be worried about the new Internet security pact between China and Russia?

By Cyrus Farivar in Ars Technica

2. Here’s a roadmap for building an innovation ecosystem in Africa.

By Jean Claude Bastos de Morais in IT News Africa

3. What if junk food actually kills off the bacteria that keeps us healthy?

By Luke Heighton in the Telegraph

4. We’re about to lose the best way to measure how well we educate poor kids.

By Jill Barshay in the Hechinger Report

5. Want to end the War on Drugs? Don’t talk to Washington. Lobby your local police department.

By Ben Collins in the Daily Beast

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Law Enforcement

Family of Homeless Man Killed in L.A. Police Shooting Files $20 Million Claim

Heleine Tchayou
Tami Abdollah—AP Heleine Tchayou, second from right, the mother of Charly Leundeu Keunang, a homeless man who was shot and killed during a confrontation on Skid Row by Los Angeles police, speaks at a news conference outside LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 30, 2015. The family of Keunang has filed a $20 million claim against the city. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

"He did not have to die!"

The family of a homeless man who was shot and killed during a scuffle with Los Angeles police in March is suing the city, attorneys said Thursday, and seeking a $20 million for wrongful death.

“He did not have to die!” said Heleine Tchayou, mother of 43-year-old Charly Keunang, through a French translator, Reuters reports. “Charly was a thoughtful and caring son.” Keunang, originally from Cameroon, was shot and killed on March 1 after police say he reached for an officer’s gun as they tried to arrest him for suspected robbery.

The family’s claim labeled Keunang’s death “a cop-created killing in which six heavily-armed, highly-trained law enforcement officers initiated a conflict with an unarmed homeless man and then less than three minutes later, shot him six times in the chest, killing him as they held him down on the sidewalk.”

The incident, which was caught on video, came amid greater scrutiny of police tactics nationwide and sparked protests in Los Angeles.

[Reuters]

TIME Marijuana

Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.
James Lawler Duggan—Reuters DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

TIME Terrorism

Cops Shot Too Soon in Boston Bombing Manhunt, Report Finds

"Weapons discipline was lacking" during manhunt and standoff, report says

A long-awaited government report on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings praised law enforcement for their quick and effective response to the fatal attack, but noted that officers who cornered alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a boat several days later may have fired on him too soon.

The report is mostly a play-by-play of the bombing and subsequent manhunt from April 15 to 19, 2013. Much of the report details the effective coordination of law enforcement, medical personnel, marathon officials and hospital staff. For example, all the patients who went to the hospital survived their injuries, and medical tents at the finish line of the marathon were instrumental in providing on-site medical care.

But the report also details some areas for improvement, including in how careful police are when firing their guns. The report noted that “weapons discipline was lacking,” both during the firefight with the Tsarnaev brothers and during the standoff with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the boat on April 19. In that standoff, police opened fire on the boat after hearing a gunshot that they believed came from Tsarnaev, but actually came from a fellow police officer, who had fired inappropriately, the report found.

There was also an incident when officers fired on a suspicious-looking unmarked black truck that was actually driven by plainclothes officers, who were both unhurt. The report warned that “each of these incidents created a dangerous crossfire situation.”

While many different teams worked quickly and efficiently to keep Boston safe, the report also noted that there was room for improvement in coordination between city agencies, which “created confusion at times.” The report recommended that each city agency have a designated emergency representative to coordinate with other agencies, and that the city develop a more unified emergency response policy for the future.

Another area for improvement was in hospital evidence collection. The report said that hospital personnel were “intimidated” by the heavily armed police officers questioning victims and witnesses, and that there was not a streamlined procedure for gathering evidence from survivors at the hospital.

Also, the interlocking rack barriers that kept spectators from interfering with the marathon proved to be major obstacles for first responders. The report recommends the city look into alternative crowd control techniques that could be more easily disassembled in an emergency situation.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is the Taliban’s fracturing a sign of its demise or a possible turn to a more lethal strategy?

By Sundarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post

2. To fight cybercrime, President Obama needs Silicon Valley.

By Katie Benner in Bloomberg View

3. The FDA needs updated systems to review drugs — made from our own cells — that target cancer and more.

By Peter W. Huber in City Journal

4. Our high incarceration rate no longer reduces crime.

By Lauren-Brooke Eisen in USA Today

5. Better than an action movie: Catch a college lecture on your next commercial flight.

By Kim Clark in Money

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Over 570 Arrested in Super Bowl Sex Traffic Sting

Hundreds busted for soliciting sex

Correction appended

A two-week nationwide sex trafficking sting that coincided with the Super Bowl snared several hundred men seeking to buy sex, and almost two dozen pimps.

A total of 570 would-be “johns”—men who hire prostitutes—and 23 pimps were arrested during the annual “National Day of Johns” sting orchestrated by Cook County, Ill. Sheriff Thomas Dart, which involved 37 law enforcement agencies in 17 states.

Around two-thirds (64%) of the “johns” arrested for soliciting prostitutes were answering fake Backpage.com ads, and 7% were responding to fake Craigslist ads. Almost 3,000 would-be purchasers of sex have been arrested in nine similar operations since the program was started in 2011, but Sheriffs said the 2015 sting was the largest and most successful yet.

“Law enforcement is beginning to realize that arresting the girls over and over again is never going to effectively address prostitution,” said Sheriff Dart. “If there were no johns, there would be no prostitution. It’s not a victimless crime and johns need to be held responsible for their role in exacerbating the sex trade.” 68 victims were recovered in this sting, including 14 juveniles.

Dart says he hopes national sting operations can help raise awareness about sex trafficking and dissuade would-be-johns from buying sex. “Campaigns like this send such a strong message to these guys that the risk of solicitation is just not worth it,” he said.

The Super Bowl has long been a hub for trafficking and prostitution. In a separate incident, Hall of Famer and NFL Network Analyst Warren Sapp was arrested Monday morning after allegedly soliciting and assaulting a prostitute in Phoenix after the Super Bowl. He has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL Network.

Correction: This article originally misidentified the location of Cook County. It is in Illinois.

TIME technology

Police Are Pressuring Google to Turn Off Waze’s Cop-Tracking Feature

They're worried about attacks on officers

Police are lobbying Google to disable a feature on an app that warns drivers when cops are nearby, saying it could lead to more attacks on officers.

Waze is one of the technology industry’s most popular apps with 50 million users in 200 countries, CBS News reports. The software uses GPS and social networking to give drivers’ real-time traffic alerts and warnings about congestion, car accidents, speed traps and weather conditions.

The app also marks where police are stationed on maps.

Sheriffs are worried the app could be used by would-be police killers to stalk their whereabouts.

There are no known incidents of attackers using Waze in this way but in the wake of several police shootings, law enforcement groups want the feature turned off.

Google has declined to comment on the campaign.

[CBS News]

TIME Crime

The Number of Police Officers Killed by Firearms Jumped by 56% in 2014

Police salute during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem outside the Christ Tabernacle Church at the start of the funeral service for slain NYPD officer Ramos in the Queens borough of New York
© Mike Segar— Reuters Police salute during the playing of the U.S. national anthem outside the Christ Tabernacle Church in New York City at the start of the funeral service for slain New York Police Department officer Rafael Ramos on Dec. 27, 2014

Total officer deaths also rose

The number of U.S. law-enforcement officers killed by firearm-related incidents jumped by 56% in 2014, an annual report has found.

According to the report, released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) on Tuesday, 50 officers were killed by firearms, up from 32 in 2013.

In total, there were 126 officer fatalities throughout the year, a 24% increase from 2013 when 102 officers were killed.

After firearms, traffic-related incidents were the second leading cause of officer deaths in 2014, killing 49 officers.

With ambush attacks resulting in 15 deaths this year, NLEOMF chairman Craig Floyd expressed concern that antigovernment sentiment in the country was influencing individuals to carry out attacks on police officers.

“Enough is enough. We need to tone down the rhetoric and rally in support of law enforcement and against lawlessness,” he said.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com