TIME National Security

Police, NSA Investigating Report of Shots Fired

This Sept. 19, 2007 file photo shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md.
Charles Dharapak—AP The National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md., on Sept. 19, 2007

Damage was reported to the National Security Agency building

(FORT MEADE, Md.) U.S. Park Police are investigating whether a reported shooting along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway caused the damage that was reported to a nearby National Security Agency building.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lelani Woods said that the NSA reported damage to one of its buildings close to the parkway on Tuesday. She said it is too early to say whether the damage is related to the report of gunfire nearby.

NSA spokesman Ian Brennan says no injuries have been reported, and that state and local authorities are investigating.

Earlier Tuesday, Maryland Transportation Authority Police were investigating shots fired on the Inter-County Connector about 12 miles from the NSA. Police say one vehicle was hit, and one person was injured by broken glass.

Police would not say whether the shootings were related or whether the NSA was targeted.

TIME Education

Teach for America Passes a Big Test

But the number of new teacher applications are down this year, for the second year in a row

New teachers who sign up with Teach for America (TFA) for two-year classroom stints in some of the nation’s highest-poverty schools are just as effective as other teachers in those same schools, and sometimes more so, a new study finds.

That’s good news for the national nonprofit, which has come under fire in recent years as battles over education reform have become increasingly contentious.

Critics accuse TFA, which is closely aligned with the charter-school movement, of devaluing the teaching profession by pushing its recruits — mostly young, bright-eyed college grads — into classrooms without adequate experience or training. The organization’s supporters, meanwhile, argue that these new recruits fill a vital role in some of the highest-poverty schools, which are often unable to find teachers at all.

The findings released Wednesday conclude that TFA’s first- and second-year elementary school teachers, who average just over a year and a half of teaching experience, were as effective as their counterparts in the same schools, who averaged 13.6 years of teaching experience, as measured by their students’ test scores in reading and math. A small subset of those TFA teachers — ones in pre-K through second-grade classrooms — were found to be slightly more effective in teaching reading than the national average in those grades.

The study, conducted by the research group Mathematica Policy Research, was required as part of a $50 million U.S. Department of Education grant that TFA received in 2010 to help it recruit and place more teachers in the neediest schools. It was designed to measure the quality of the new teachers recruited and trained between 2011 and 2013.

The study looked at 156 lower elementary school teachers — prekindergarten through fifth grade — from 36 schools across 10 states. TFA teachers were compared with non-TFA teachers at the same school, in the same grade level, who covered the same subjects. The study’s authors noted the results reflect similar findings in previous, large-scale random studies, published in 2004 and 2013.

TFA had planned to use the Department of Education grant to increase the size of its teaching team by more than 80% by September 2014, but fell short of that goal, according to the study. By the 2012–13 school year, it had increased its teaching pool by only 25%, from 8,217 to 10,251 teachers nationwide. The number of new applications are down this year, for the second year in a row.

TIME Education

Virginia Women’s College to Close Due to ‘Insurmountable’ Financial Challenges

Sweet Briar College on Oct. 25, 2006 in Sweet Briar, Virginia.
Charles Ommanney—Getty Images Sweet Briar College on Oct. 25, 2006 in Sweet Briar, Virginia.

Amid declining interest in single-sex higher education

Sweet Briar College, a private women’s college in rural Virginia, announced Tuesday it will close in August due to “insurmountable financial challenges.”

The school’s board of directors came to the decision after a year-long study concluded there was no viable way for the women’s college to continue its operations, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The college’s president, James F. Jones, said the school had been offering tuition discounts to buffer against decreasing enrollment, as interest in single-sex education declines, and as small liberal arts colleges continue to face financial pressures.

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Sweet Briar enrolled 700 women this year, 93 fewer than two years ago.

“The liberal arts college sector is embattled now on so many different fronts,” Jones told the Times-Dispatch. “The diversity of American higher education—the fact that there are so many different schools of all sorts of hues—is really imperiled right now.”

Sweet Briar will provide an on-campus college fair to help students in the transfer process, while also offering assistance to students admitted to Sweet Briar for this fall.

[Richmond Times-Dispatch]

TIME Crime

Homeless Ex-Convict Killed by LAPD Was Wanted, U.S. Marshals Say

Charley Saturmin Robinet after his arrest for robbery in February 2000.
Ventura County Sheriff's Office /AP Charley Saturmin Robinet after his arrest for robbery in February 2000.

Man had active warrant for violating probation in a bank robbery case

(LOS ANGELES) — A homeless ex-convict killed on Skid Row by Los Angeles police had an active warrant for violating probation in a bank robbery case, a U.S. marshal said Tuesday.

The federal warrant was issued Jan. 9 for 39-year-old Charley Saturmin Robinet after he didn’t provide monthly reports to a probation officer in November, December and January, Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Cordova said.

A law enforcement official identified Robinet as the man killed Sunday by police. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Robinet was released from prison on May 12 after being convicted in 2000 for holding up a Wells Fargo branch and pistol-whipping an employee to pay for acting classes.

During the confrontation Sunday, Robinet tried to grab a probationary officer’s gun before three officers shot him, authorities said.

Robinet was a French national who was convicted of three federal charges. He had served roughly 14 years for the bank robbery, the official said.

Robinet acknowledged 15 years ago that he was in the U.S. illegally but his immigration status at the time of his death is unknown.

He was arrested in the bank robbery along with an accomplice and a getaway driver after they tried to rob the bank in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

The three officers who fired their weapons on Sunday in the videotaped struggle were veterans of the Skid Row beat who had special training to deal with mentally ill and other people in the downtrodden area, police leaders said.

But the rookie officer who cried out that the man had his gun, leading to the shooting, had considerably less experience, and police didn’t immediately say how much training he had received in dealing with mentally ill people. All officers must go through at least an 11-hour course.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said some of the veteran officers had “completed our most extensive mental illness training over a 36-hour course.” Initial signs showed the officers used what they had learned during the confrontation, despite the outcome, he said.

“The way you have conversations, the way you offer options, the way that you give some space, the body language that you portray, the way that you escalate, all of that is part of the training,” Beck said Monday. “I will make judgment on that when I review the totality of the investigation, but on the face of it, it appears they did try all of that.”

The shooting was captured on video but exactly what happened remained unclear. The footage has been viewed by millions of people online.

Several dozen people rallied Tuesday in protest of the shooting. There was a moment of silence, and participant Patrisse Cullors declared the shooting site to be “sacred ground.”

Footage showed the homeless man reaching toward the rookie officer’s waistband, Beck said. The officer’s gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon, Beck said.

“You can hear the young officer who was primarily engaged in the confrontation saying that ‘He has my gun. He has my gun,'” Beck said. “He says it several times, with conviction.”

The three other officers then opened fire.

The man who was shot was black, as is the rookie officer who was just short of completing his probationary year on the force, police said.

The violence had echoes of the August police shooting of 25-year-old Ezell Ford, whose death in a struggle with Los Angeles officers brought demonstrations in the city. Ford was unarmed. Police said he was shot after reaching for an officer’s gun.

Video was taken came from multiple perspectives, including two witnesses recording from their phones and cameras worn by two of the officers who fired their weapons.

Beck said officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the homeless man refused to obey their commands and became combative.

A security camera outside a homeless shelter about 75 feet away showed the man pushed over a neighbor’s tent and the two people had a dispute. When officers arrived, they tried to speak to the suspect.

He turned and jumped into his tent, and officers appeared to pull it up and over him to roust him from inside. The man jumped out flailing and kicking before ending up on the ground.

Beck said officers didn’t know if the suspect was arming himself. Stun guns “appeared to have little effect, and he continued to violently resist,” Beck said.

One witness began filming from a closer perspective.

As the man took swings, four officers wrestled him to the ground. The struggle became blurry and distant, but shouting could be heard, followed by five apparent gunshots.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general and the city’s district attorney are investigating the shooting.

Two of the officers suffered minor injuries, including the rookie officer, who is on crutches. All four officers are on paid leave.

TIME LGBT

Alabama Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriage

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered the state's judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, saying a previous federal ruling that gay-marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution does not preclude them from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The all-Republican court sided with the argument offered by a pair of conservative organizations when they appealed a decision last month by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile, who ruled that both Alabama’s constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Six justices concurred in the 134-page opinion, which wasn’t signed, but the court’s most outspoken opponent of gay marriage, Chief Justice Roy Moore, recused himself.

Immediately after Granade’s ruling, Moore told probate judges across the state they were not obliged to issue same-sex marriage licenses. His stance created widespread confusion, prompting some judges to refuse to issue the licenses and others to shut down their operations for all couples, gay and straight, until they could get a clear answer.

Justice Jim Main agreed with the result but said he has concerns about procedural aspects “of this highly unusual case.”

In a dissent, Justice Greg Shaw said it was “unfortunate” that federal courts refused to delay gay marriage in the state until the U.S. Supreme Court could settle the issue nationally. But, Shaw said, the state Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to consider the issue.

The court released the decision while Gov. Robert Bentley and most state leaders were assembled in Montgomery for the state of the state address. A spokeswoman for Bentley said the administration was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said he was “very excited” about the decision blocking judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We are concerned about the family and the danger that same-sex marriage will have. It will be a devastating blow to the family, which is already struggling,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said the decision will give “some stability” in Alabama until the U.S Supreme Court rules later this year. An attorney couples who filed suit to allow gay marriages said the court showed “callous disregard” in the decision and overstepped its bounds by declaring that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages is constitutional, something the justices hadn’t been asked to consider.

“It is deeply unfortunate that even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The court’s ruling Tuesday came in response to a request from the Alabama Policy Institute and the Baptist-run Alabama Citizens Action Program to halt same-sex unions after Granade’s ruling.

TIME Military

Pentagon Calls Briefing on Mosul Offensive a Mistake by CentCom

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey listens to testimony during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing
Joshua Roberts—Reuters Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey listens to testimony during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015.

It now appears likely the offensive won't begin this spring

(WASHINGTON ) — A U.S. military officer’s media briefing about plans for an Iraqi-led ground offensive in Mosul, including its expected timing, amounted to a mistaken disclosure of “military secrets,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.

The briefer, whose presentation for reporters at the Pentagon on Feb. 19 was authorized by U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. wanted the Iraqis to launch the offensive in Mosul in April or May, although he also said it might go later.

“That clearly was neither accurate information nor, had it been accurate, would have been information that should be blurted out to the press,” Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “So it’s wrong on both scores.”

It now appears likely that the offensive will not begin this spring, with Iraq’s security forces requiring more time for U.S.-organized training. It has been widely known for months that the offensive is in the planning stages and that it would likely mark a decisive moment in the campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from Iraq.

Islamic State fighters overran Mosul last June. Iraqi government forces folded quickly, leading to the start of a U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq in August.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was testifying alongside Carter, said he had discussed the Mosul briefing with Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command.

“He’s conducting an internal inquiry,” Dempsey said, adding that he is confident Austin will “take the appropriate action.” He did not say what that might be.

The briefing was done by an officer at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. He spoke by phone to a group of reporters in the Pentagon on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by Central Command.

The episode is remarkable in at least two respects. It was unusual for the U.S. military to disclose in advance the expected timing of an offensive as well as details about the makeup of the Iraqi force that would undertake it. And it was curious that a secretary of defense would wait nearly two weeks after such a briefing to denounce it publicly for having spilled military secrets.

Asked about it by reporters twice last weekend, Carter was more circumspect.

“The important thing is that it will get done when it can be done successfully,” he said last Friday, referring to the Mosul offensive. “And even if I knew exactly when that was going to be, I wouldn’t tell you.” Asked to comment again the following day, Carter said it’s important to keep the public informed, “consistent with security and other considerations.”

On Tuesday he was more pointed and expansive in directly criticizing Central Command.

“It is important that we be open as a department — not with military secrets and not with war plans, which was the mistake made in this case — but we do try to keep the country informed of what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s about protecting them. It is a democracy. And so, openness is important but it has to have limits when it comes to security matters, and those limits obviously weren’t respected in this case.”

TIME justice

Ferguson Reviewing Federal Report on Police Force

Police are deployed to keep peace along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Police are deployed to keep peace along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Report culminates probe after Michael Brown shooting last summer

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson says it’s received a copy of the Justice Department report on its investigation into the police force.

The city issued a statement Tuesday saying it would wait to comment about the investigation that law enforcement officials say found sweeping patterns of racial bias.

The report culminates a probe into a police department that commanded national attention after an officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, last summer.

The city says Justice Department officials supplied a copy of the report to the mayor, city manager, police chief and city attorney during a meeting Tuesday in downtown St. Louis.

The city’s statement offered no details. The city says it’s reviewing the report and will comment Wednesday after the Justice Department makes it public.

TIME justice

U.S. Faults Ferguson Police for Racial Bias

Protesters drop a mirrored casket in front of a line of police officers in front of the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo. on Oct. 10, 2014.
Robert Cohen—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Getty Images Protesters drop a mirrored casket in front of a line of police officers in front of the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo., on Oct. 10, 2014

The report is scathing, but the big question is what comes next

The violent protests in Ferguson last August were driven by the indelible image of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, lying in the street after a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot him dead. But the outrage in Ferguson, and the national debate that accompanied it, were also about something harder to see: racism, and the allegation that Ferguson’s largely white cops were deeply, systematically and violently prejudiced against black residents.

Now, as one of his last acts as U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder has painted a picture of Ferguson’s entrenched racism that is clear and unmistakable. A Justice Department investigation opened after Brown’s shooting has found routine patterns and practices of racism in Ferguson, including the excessive use of force and unjustified arrests, officials said Tuesday. The findings are scathing in their detail:

In 88 percent of the cases in which the department used force, it was against African Americans. In all of the 14 canine-bite incidents for which racial information was available, the person bitten was African American.

In Ferguson court cases, African Americans are 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge, according to the Justice review. In 2013, African Americans accounted for 92 percent of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued.

The investigation also turned up bigoted emails, like one from November 2008 that reportedly said President Obama wouldn’t complete his first term as President because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported another racist message, from May 2011, reading: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.'”

The Justice Department spent 100 days in Ferguson collecting such details, and the report is an end in itself, putting an official stamp on the town’s problems that some had found easy to dismiss. But when it comes to fixing the harsh reality of racism in Ferguson, it’s not clear transparency will be enough.

The question now is whether the report will deliver reform in the beleaguered St. Louis suburb. The Justice Department under Holder has significantly increased the number of pattern or practice investigations, and some past settlements with police departments have led to dramatic improvements. But others say the department’s lack of enforcement powers mean reform depends on local politicians, and worry Ferguson’s leaders won’t bring change.

Under the 1994 law authorizing such “pattern or practice” investigations, the Justice Department has little enforcement power to fix the problems it finds. As a rule, it enters into contracts with the offending force, which agrees to increase transparency and data collection and to provide better training and supervision.

Police officials and their unions often resist reform, several studies have shown. The Justice Department has “very few sticks they can use,” to get past such obstacles, says Elliot Harvey Schatmeier, a lawyer at the New York City office of Kirkland & Ellis and the author of one such study.

Others say that in many cases, the attention brought by the investigations is enough. In Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Los Angeles, Justice Department investigations led to successful reforms, says Chris Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations and a criminal-justice scholar. More important, Stone says, “They’ve established a national standard for what good policing looks like.”

Holder’s Ferguson findings, Stone says, have the potential to lead to a similar blueprint for smaller, suburban police forces around the country, which have typically been hard to reform.

By the same token, though, a failure in the high-profile Ferguson case could set back the effort to reform small police departments. Holder has established with clarity the problem in Ferguson. But without local political buy-in, the town that came to symbolize 21st century police racism in America could end up symbolizing its resistance to reform too.

TIME Crime

Feds Raid California ‘Maternity Hotels’ for Birth Tourists

Federal agents walk past the Carlyle Apartments, the location of a suspected "baby tourism operation," in Irvine, Calif. on March 3, 2015.
Bob Riha Jr.—Reuters Federal agents walk past the Carlyle Apartments, the location of a suspected "baby tourism operation," in Irvine, Calif. on March 3, 2015.

The crackdown marked the first large-scale federal probe of birth-tourism in the U.S.

Southern California apartment complexes that doubled as “maternity hotels” for Chinese women who want made-in-America babies were raided early Tuesday, capping an unprecedented federal sting operation, officials said.

NBC News was on the scene as Homeland Security agents swept into The Carlyle, a luxury property in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms who allegedly forked over $40,000 to $80,000 to give birth in the United States.

“I am doing this for the education of the next generation,” one of the women told NBC News.

None of the women were arrested; they are being treated as material witnesses, and paramedics…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Law

Tamir Rice’s Family Says Cleveland’s Response to Lawsuit Is ‘Very Disrespectful’

The city's response blamed the boy's death partly on his failure to avoid injury

The family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer in November, said Tuesday they felt disrespected by the city’s response to a lawsuit over his death.

The city’s response, filed on Friday, had blamed the boy’s death partly on his own actions, stating it had been caused “by the failure … to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

“The city’s answer was very disrespectful to my son, Tamir,” Samaria Rice, the boy’s mother, said at a news conference alongside attorneys, according to Cleveland.com. “I have yet not received an apology from the police department or the city of Cleveland in regards to the killing of my son. And it hurts.”

The family’s attorney, Walter Madison, said the response as written places an adult-like responsibility on children. Cleveland officials have remained mostly silent about the lawsuit, aside from Mayor Frank Jackson, who on Monday apologized for the way the response’s phrasing made it seem like the boy was at fault over his own death.

Rice was killed Nov. 22 after officers responded to reports of someone in a park with a gun, shooting him less than two seconds after their arrival. The boy was later found to have been holding a pellet gun.

[Cleveland.com]

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