TIME Law Enforcement

How Electroshock Gun Maker Taser Is Profiting From Crisis in Ferguson

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Taser sean boggs—Getty Images

But at least one analyst says the stun gun manufacturer’s market rally may be overdone

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Ben Greier

Shares of electroshock gun maker Taser are up 28 percent over the past week amid speculation that the events in Ferguson, Mo., could boost demand for the company’s cameras.

Investors are speculating that following the shooting death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, the body cameras produced by Taser will soon be de rigueur for police departments nationwide, creating a profit boom for the company.

Not so fast, says one analyst.

“I don’t see that there is going to be a massive deployment everywhere of this,” said Brian Ruttenberg, an analyst and managing director with CRT Capital Group. “And it’s not going to be quick.”

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

TIME poverty

How Ferguson Went From Middle Class to Poor in a Generation

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
A man with a skateboard protesting the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer walks away from tear gas released by police August 17, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Joshua Lott—Getty Images

The same decay that sparked unrest in one Missouri town is taking place across the country

In 1990, Ferguson, Mo. was a middle class suburban enclave north of St. Louis with a population about three-quarters white. In 2000, the town’s population was roughly split between black and white with an unemployment rate of 5%. By 2010, the population was two-thirds black, unemployment had exceeded 13%, and the number of residents living in poverty had doubled in a decade.

Demographic transformation came fast and stark to Ferguson, Missouri. So what happened?

The situation there is “really not so different than the rest of St. Louis County,” said Dr. Norm White, a criminologist with the Saint Louis University School of Social Work. “The problems we saw in the urban core have become the problems of the suburban umbrella.”

The big picture trends White describes aren’t even unique to St. Louis County. Poverty in America’s suburbs has been on the increase nationwide for decades, as the suburbs themselves have grown and affordable housing options moved farther out from urban centers. Opportunities for low-skill jobs—already diminished due to the decline in American manufacturing—in sectors like retail and construction have became more concentrated in suburbs. And its not only a matter of emigration of low income people into the suburbs. Long-term residents in some places have became poorer; suburban areas were hit particularly hard by the recession and housing crisis in the 2000s.

With respect to St. Louis in particular, White points to the razing of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project — a public works project as extraordinary a failure as was the scale of its original vision — as a key factor in the flight to the suburbs. First erected in the early 1950s, the 33, 11-story towers on 57 sprawling acres in St. Louis was designed by the architect who went on to build NYC’s now-fallen World Trade Center.

The complex was intended to be a modern, vibrant community to replace the old poverty-stricken neighborhoods of the poor. In reality, the structures became crime-plagued labyrinths left unmaintained by the city and beginning in 1972 they were torn down, jumpstarting the processes that sent the poor of St. Louis, as elsewhere, out of the city and into the suburbs in search of affordable places to live.

Like most states, Missouri allows for highly fragmented municipalities, each of which retains its own tax revenues and the power to write its own zoning laws. Newer, wealthier suburbs sometimes write zoning restrictions to ban high-density housing, and thus affordable apartments. But Ferguson, an older suburb, has no such restrictions, according to Professor Clarissa Rile Hayward of Washington University in St. Louis. The result is a town where the population of the poor is not only large but also highly concentrated.

“A decade ago, none of the neighborhoods there had poverty rates above 16%,” says Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the rapid growth of suburban poverty in America. Now every neighborhood but one in the town has a poverty rate over 20%, the point at which typical social ills associated with poverty like poor health outcomes, high crime rates and failing schools start to appear, she says.

“Ferguson is just the place that the scab got pulled off,” White, the criminologist, tells TIME. “The reason why this is so intense is that there are a lot of these little communities that have been left almost to rot. Physically the buildings are falling down. There are no social service programs.”

As to whether or not the spotlight currently shining on the problem of suburban decay will result in a renewed commitment to address poverty in the U.S., White believes politicians and the media will move on. “You listen when the fires are burning,” he said, “but you then go away when the fires are extinguished.”

TIME Crime

California Mayor Urges Cops to Wear Body Cameras After Ferguson

A Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2014.
A Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2014. Damian Dovargane—AP

Few police departments in the U.S. use body-worn cameras in the field

A California mayor is calling for the city’s police officers to use body-worn cameras following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager that has sparked violent protests in Ferguson, Mo.

In a letter on Friday, Hawthorne Mayor Chris Brown announced that he would introduce an ordinance at next week’s city council meeting mandating all uniformed officers wear cameras on their uniforms.

“I am simply not willing to gamble with a single life, or the wrongful accusation of upstanding officers,” Brown wrote.

The letter comes a week after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police, which has ignited riots and focused the nation’s attention on the St. Louis suburb. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard on Monday to help keep order. No recording of Brown’s shooting exists, and some have called for more police units to use body-worn cameras, which capture virtually everything an officer sees.

Only a handful of police departments in the U.S. use wearable cameras, due in part to their expense and the limited evidence showing that they increase transparency and curb police misconduct.

While some law enforcement agencies have praised their use—including officials in Rialto, Calif., who they’ve significantly reduced use of force incidents and complaints filed against its officers—there are very few independent studies demonstrating their effectiveness.

Each camera costs an estimated $800 to $1,000. The police department of Hawthorne, located in Los Angeles County with a population of about 84,000, has roughly 100 officers. Cameras for each could cost the agency upwards of $100,000.

TIME U.S.

Make Cops Wear Cameras

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
A police officer standing watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown conceals his/her identity on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

“Everyone behaves better when they’re on video”

Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri, by police. Eric Garner, a 43-year-old New Yorker, dies from a police chokehold. John Crawford III, 22, shot and killed by police in a Walmart outside of Dayton, Ohio.

Enough is enough. Each of these incidents has an unmistakable racial dimension—all of the victims were black and all or most of arresting officers were white–that threatens the always tense relationships between law enforcement and African Americans. As important, the circumstances of each death are hotly contested, with the police telling one story and witnesses (if any) offering up very different narratives.

Brown’s death in particular is raising major ongoing protests precisely because, contrary to police accounts, witnesses claim that he had his hands up in the air in surrender when he was shot. The result is less trust in police, a situation that raises tensions across the board.

While there is no simple fix to race relations in any part of American life, there is an obvious way to reduce violent law enforcement confrontations while also building trust in cops: Police should be required to use wearable cameras and record their interactions with citizens. These cameras—various models are already on the market—are small and unobtrusive and include safeguards against subsequent manipulation of any recordings.

“Everyone behaves better when they’re on video,” Steve Ward, the president of Vievu, a company that makes wearable gear, told ReasonTV earlier this year. Given that many departments already employ dashboard cameras in police cruisers, this would be a shift in degree, not kind.

“Dash cams only capture about 5% of what a cop does. And I wanted to catch 100% of what a cop does,” explains Ward, who speaks from experience. He used to be a Seattle police officer and his company’s slogan is “Made for cops by cops. Prove the truth.”

According to a year-long study of the Rialto, Calif., police department, the use of “officer worn cameras reduced the rate of use-of-force incidents by 59 percent” and “utilization of the cameras led to an 87.5 percent reduction in complaints” by citizens against cops.

Such results are the reason that the ACLU is in favor of “police body-mounted cameras,” as long as various privacy protections and other concerns are addressed. And it also explains growing support for the policy among elected officials. In the wake of Eric Garner’s chokehold death in July, New York City’s public advocate is pushing a $5 million pilot program in the city’s “most crime-plagued neighborhoods” as a means of restoring trust in the police.

Since 1991, when the beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department was captured on tape by an amateur videographer, small, cheap recording devices have become a ubiquitous and effective means by which citizens are able to watch the watchers. In some cases, crowd-sourced footage exonerates the police, while in others it undermines the official narrative.

Over the same period, as the Washington Post’s Radley Balko has documented in Rise of the Warrior Cop, even small-town police departments have become “militarized” in terms of the training they received and the hardware they carry. When the results aren’t tragic, they increase tensions between police and the people they serve and protect.

Mandating that cops wear cameras wouldn’t prevent all tragedies from happening but they would certainly make deaths like those of Brown, Garner and Ferguson less likely. And in difficult cases, body cams would help provide crucial perspective that would build trust in law enforcement across the board.

TIME Crime

Lone Seattle Police Officer Responsible for 80% of City’s Marijuana Citations

Seattle Police Chief
Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole salutes during a singing of the national anthem with Mayor Ed Murray at her side on June 23, 2014 Ken Lambert—AP

Cop in question reportedly issued 66 of 83 marijuana tickets handed out in the Emerald City during the first half of 2014

Seattle police chief Kathleen O’Toole has been forced to reassign an officer on her staff after the employee in question reportedly issued 80% of the city’s marijuana citations this year.

Officials are investigating the matter following the publication of the department’s first biannual report relating to marijuana enforcement, according to a statement released by O’Toole on Wednesday afternoon.

The Seattle Police Department report found that 66 of the 83 marijuana tickets issued this year was done so by a single officer, who at times would scribble peculiar notes in the margins of the citations in question.

“Some notes requested the attention of city attorney Peter Holmes and were addressed to ‘Petey Holmes,’” said O’Toole. “In another instance, the officer indicated he flipped a coin when contemplating which subject to cite.”

The police officer implicated in the incident has been taken off his regular patrol duties during the course of the investigation.

TIME justice

Spike Lee Splices NYPD Chokehold Footage With Scenes From Do the Right Thing

The director seems to be noting similarities between the death of Eric Garner and the killing by police of a character in his 1989 film

Film director Spike Lee posted a short video on Tuesday, which mixes together footage of a black Staten Island man who died July 17 after a confrontation with the NYPD, with an eerily similar climactic scene from his 1989 movie Do the Right Thing.

Eric Garner was a father of six who died after being held down and put in a chokehold by New York City police last week. An asthmatic, Garner can be heard in the video saying he can’t breathe while officers restrain him before he passed out.

Video of the incident, recorded by Garner’s friend Ramsey Orta with a camera phone, has gone viral online. The police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen in the video putting Garner in a chokehold, which is strictly prohibited by the department, has been assigned to desk duty, while two EMT’s who failed to act to save Garner’s life have been suspended without pay.

Lee titled the video, which he posted to Instagram and YouTube, “Radio Raheem And The Gentle Giant,” after the name of the parallel character in Do the Right Thing, who dies as a result of a brutal police chokehold, and the nickname given to Garner by friends in some media reports.

TIME Opinion

Todd Akin Still Doesn’t Get What’s Wrong With Saying ‘Legitimate Rape’

Todd Akin
Then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO)) address the media on September 24, 2012 in Kirkwood, Missouri. (Whitney Curtis--Getty Images) Whitney Curtis—Getty Images

He says it's a law enforcement term. It's not.

Former Missouri Congressman Todd Akin went on MSNBC Thursday morning to try to explain his much-maligned comments from 2012 in which he said abortions wouldn’t be necessary for rape victims. “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” he told a St. Louis TV station in 2012.

Akin was on MSNBC to promote his new book, Firing Back, but he also took it as an opportunity to explain his earlier flub. “Legitimate rape is a law enforcement term, it’s an abbreviation for ‘legitimate case of rape,'” he told Chuck Todd. “A woman calls a police station, the police investigate, she says ‘I’ve been raped,’ they investigate that. So before any of the facts are in, they call it a legitimate case of rape,” explained Aiken.

 

But is ‘”legitimate rape” really a law enforcement term? We asked some experts.

“I’ve taught police officers, and worked with police officers on every continent in the world, and that’s something I’ve never heard in my 50 years in law enforcement,” says Dr. James A. Williams, former Chief of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces for the U.S Department of Justice, who also worked in municipal law enforcement in New Jersey. “I’ve never heard of that. Never.”

Richard Lichten, a veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and expert on sexual assault investigations agrees:

“I have 30 years of experience, I’m qualified to testify in federal court on the way to investigate sexual assault crimes, and I’ve never heard of that,” said Lichten. “In all my life I’ve never heard of that.”

Nonetheless, Akin believes that everyone took what he said out of context. “This was intentionally misunderstood and twisted for political purposes. It doesn’t make any sense to say ‘a conservative is saying that rape is legitimate,’ that doesn’t even add up.”

But the real problem isn’t that people think conservatives are pro-rape, it’s that Akin’s comment sounds like victim-blaming. By calling some rapes “legitimate,” he is (perhaps unintentionally) implying that some aren’t. And that has lead his critics to say that Aikin wants to make sure that a woman’s claim of rape is “legitimate” and that they aren’t just making it up to get a free abortion or something.

Once the topic of abortion came up, the interview took an even more controversial turn. When asked point-blank whether rape victims should be allowed to have abortions if they get pregnant, Akin turned it around. “Should the child conceived in rape have the same right to live as a child conceived in love?” he said. “I had a number of people in my campaign that were children…who were conceived in rape.” That assertion was not immediately verifiable.

Chuck Todd (rightly) pointed out that if Akin had staffers who were conceived from rape, then wouldn’t that disprove his theory that women can “shut that whole thing down?” Yes, according to logic, but all Akin had to say was: “I believe that little children are special.”

 

 

TIME intelligence

FBI Doesn’t Know How Many Americans It Spies On

John Brennan CIA Nomination Hearing
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., listens to U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism testify at his nomination hearing to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7, 2013. Chris Maddaloni—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Intel agencies dished on how many Americans get nabbed in the surveillance dragnet

New details emerged Monday on how many Americans are spied on by the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, in a letter that also revealed how few records on domestic surveillance are held by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

A letter to surveillance-reform hawk Sen. Ron Wyden (D—Ore.) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made public Monday revealed that the NSA approved searches of the content of communications of 198 “U.S. person identifiers”—a number associated with the phone, computer, etc. of an American citizen or legal immigrant — and 9,500 searches of meta-data for U.S. person identifiers. The Central Intelligence Agency conducted “fewer than 1900″ queries associated with U.S. person identifiers, according to the letter.

But the FBI could present no hard numbers on how many American citizens it spies on, according to the letter. “The FBI does not track how many queries it conducts using U.S. person identifiers,” the letter says. In fulfilling its mandate as a domestic law enforcement agency, the letter says, “the FBI does not distinguish between U.S. and non-U.S. persons for purposes of querying Section 702 collection.”

Wyden slammed what he termed a “huge gap in oversight” in surveillance of American citizens. “When the FBI says it conducts a substantial number of searches and it has no idea of what the number is, it shows how flawed this system is and the consequences of inadequate oversight,” Wyden said in a statement.

The letter from ODNI comes after a June 5 hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill to reform domestic surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others, in which Wyden pressed National Security Agency Deputy Director Rick Ledgett to say how many “warrantless searches for Americans’ communications have been conducted” under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Section 702 of FISA regulates the monitoring of foreign communications. Though the NSA is officially prohibited from targeting the communications of innocent Americans, due to the nature of global communication in the 21st century and the scale of the mass collection, American citizens’ communications can be swept up in the surveillance dragnet. Other intelligence and law enforcement agencies can query data collected by the NSA for information about their investigations.

As a vocal proponent of reform legislation to curtail the NSA’s surveillance of Americans, Wyden was displeased with the ODNI’s response to his request. “The findings transmitted to me raise questions about whether the FBI is exercising any internal controls over the use of backdoor searches including who and how many government employees can access the personal data of individual Americans,” Wyden’s statement said. “I intend to follow this up until it is fixed.”

TIME justice

Court: Warrantless Cell Location Tracking Is Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has for the first time said law enforcement can’t snoop on phone location records without a warrant

A federal appeals court has for the first time ruled that law enforcement must have a warrant in order to track a person’s location data from nearby cell phone towers.

“There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute,” the three judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a unanimous opinion Wednesday. “That information obtained by an invasion of privacy may not be entirely precise does not change the calculus as to whether obtaining it was in fact an invasion of privacy.”

The ruling is a landmark victory for privacy activists.

“This opinion puts police on notice that when they want to enlist people’s cell phones as tracking devices, they must get a warrant from a judge based on probable cause,” said American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler. “The court soundly repudiates the government’s argument that by merely using cell a phone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights.”

The case was originally brought in Miami by Quartavious Davis, who is serving more than 160 years in prison for several violent armed robberies. Davis appealed after phone location data was used as evidence in his case, but a judge declined to vacate his sentence, finding that the police acted in “good faith” in their investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling on the question of law enforcement access to suspect cell phone location data. However, in a 2012 opinion — upon which the 11th Circuit judges based their opinion delivered Wednesday — the court found that using a GPS tracking device to follow a suspect’s location does constitute a search and thus Fourth Amendment considerations apply.

TIME Drugs

DEA Launches Nationwide Raid on Synthetic Drug Dealers

Synthetic Marijuana DEA
Synthetic Drugs confiscated, held and photographed at the D.E.A. Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Dulles, Va. on Jan. 6, 2014. Jamie Chung for TIME

The DEA has entered the second phase of an ongoing federal crackdown on synthetic drugs, making hundreds of raids across 29 states Wednesday, resulting in more than 150 arrested suspects and at least $20 million in cash and assets seized

Federal agents raided hundreds of homes, warehouses and smoke shops early Wednesday as part of a nationwide crackdown on the synthetic drug trade.

Agents have fanned out across cities in 29 states, serving nearly 200 search warrants to synthetic drug makers and sellers. According to the DEA, they have arrested more than 150 suspects and seized hundreds of thousands of packets of designer drugs.

“Many who manufacture, distribute and sell these dangerous synthetic drugs found out first hand today that DEA will target, find and prosecute those who have committed these crimes,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

The DEA said it had also seized at least $20 million in cash and assets. Investigators say the proceeds from the trade often flow to countries in the Middle East, including Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The largest sting operation focused on Alabama, and included operations in Florida and New Mexico, according to the AP.

Wednesday’s raid marks the second phase of an ongoing federal crackdown on synthetic drugs, dubbed Project Synergy, which began in December, 2012 and resulted in 277 arrests.

Drug enforcement officials warn that the drugs, marketed as “bath salts,” “spice,” or “molly,” can be laced with illegal chemicals that cause symptoms such as paranoia, vomiting and organ damage. In 2013, poison centers reported 1,821 calls related to exposure to synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana is not listed as an illegal drug, so vendors can sell it without fear of legal repercussions, as TIME reported in an April cover story on the dramatic rise of synthetic pot’s popularity.

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