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Drug dogs ready to start working at high schools
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 9, 2005 12:00 AM
SCOTTSDALE - Everything is on track for drug-sniffing dogs to search Scottsdale high schools once classes begin Aug. 22.
The dogs recently made their first practice run through three of the Scottsdale Unified School District's high schools.
District officials were on hand at Chaparral and Desert Mountain high schools as Scottsdale police planted drugs in a locker. They watched as the dogs quickly sniffed out the drugs.
"Those dogs are darn good," Scottsdale Superintendent John Baracy said.
Monday, the dogs roamed Coronado High School.
The random searches will happen while students are in class. The dogs will be used primarily to search school lockers. The searches will not disrupt the educational setting, Baracy said.
The program will be evaluated after one year.
The Scottsdale School Board voted in May to use the dogs for random searches on high school campuses as a response to an investigation by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who said a drug ring was targeting Scottsdale students because of their wealth.
A practice run will also be conducted at Saguaro High School before school starts. The district is still talking with Phoenix police about conducting searches at Arcadia High School, which is part of the district but within Phoenix city limits, Baracy said.
The dogs are one part of the district's program to deter drug use. District officials also plan to phase in a new drug-prevention curriculum this fall.
Scottsdale isn't the first district to use dogs to combat drugs. The neighboring Paradise Valley School District had drug-sniffing dogs on its high school campuses in the late 1990s, but officials stopped the searches after they failed to turn up drugs.
Reach the reporter at ofelia .firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-6879.
Police probe unmarked-car theft
By Katie McDevitt, Tribune
August 9, 2005
Tempe police are investigating a commander whose unmarked police car was stolen Saturday when he drove a female friend and her daughter to Phoenix and left the car running while he walked them to their door.
Cmdr. Thomas Long, who oversees downtown Tempe and is also a SWAT commander, called Phoenix police about 11 p.m. from the 3600 block of East Clarendon Avenue after he turned around and saw his 1998 gold Chevrolet Lumina driving off.
Long had driven the pair home and left his car running at the woman’s driveway after giving them a late-night tour of the Tempe police station after his shift.
Phoenix police have not located the car.
"It’s a bad thing and no one is happy about it," said Laura Forbes, assistant Tempe chief of police. "Given what I know right now, this is not something he would be terminated for, but after we investigate it further, I will take the appropriate action."
Forbes is Long’s supervisor and will oversee the internal investigation of the commander, who she called "a very good employee." The city manager’s office is helping in the investigation, which could result in anything from a report of unsatisfactory performance to suspension, Forbes said.
"He may have potentially made a bad mistake," she said.
What’s already known: Long wasn’t supposed to be using his car for personal reasons while off duty, shouldn’t have been driving people around for personal reasons, and wasn’t supposed to leave his car unsecured, said Tempe police Sgt. Dan Masters.
Long, who has been on the force for 17 years, declined comment when reached at home. Chief Ralph Tranter did not return calls.
"We’ll get this thing straightened out," Forbes said. "We’re worried about his car and his weapons, so we’re putting a blitz out."
Police are warning people to be aware of anyone carrying a police identification card that reads Thomas Long, although the card has been deactivated for entering the Tempe police building. They are also asking people to be on the lookout for a gold Chevrolet Lumina with the license plate 334BRW.
1 police ID card 1 set of keys 1 cell phone 1 Glock 30 with loaded magazine, 45-caliber, serial number CKV690 2 holsters 6 uniforms 1 set of Commander oak pins 5 SWAT T-shirts A Tempe Police Department duffel bag filled with SWAT uniform items Several pieces of personal mail
Contact Katie McDevitt by email, or phone (480) -898-633
Taser's role in 2 deaths examined
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 9, 2005 12:00 AM
Two Valley men who died over the weekend after being shocked with Tasers in confrontations with police bring the number of deaths in the United States and Canada following stun-gun strikes to 147.
The men, both of whom exhibited bizarre behavior and refused to follow police commands, were the fourth and fifth people to die in police-custody incidents involving Taser since Aug. 1.
Autopsies will determine the cause of death in each case and whether the Taser strikes played a role.
The two deaths come about a week after a Chicago medical examiner for the first time named Taser as the primary cause of someone's death and less than a month after an Illinois police department filed a class-action lawsuit claiming company officials misled law enforcement agencies about the safety of its weapon.
Scottsdale-based Taser International, which maintains that its stun guns have never caused a death or serious injury, has been fighting to overcome safety concerns that this year have caused some police departments to stop using Tasers, led to a drop in the company's stock price and resulted in state and federal inquiries into the company's safety claims.
"We know that over 7,800 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. continue to deploy Taser devices to prevent numerous injuries and save lives every day," Taser Vice President Steve Tuttle said in a statement Monday. "Until all the facts surrounding these recent incidents are known, it is crucial that the public understand that it is inappropriate to jump to any conclusions on the cause of these unfortunate deaths."
On Sunday, an unidentified man died in a confrontation with Phoenix police after tearing up the restrooms of a taco restaurant on Seventh Street and locking himself in a women's stall.
Police say the 47-year-old man displayed great strength, kicking and swinging his arms at three officers who were trying to arrest him.
"A struggle lasting five minutes or longer took place," Phoenix police Sgt. Randy Force said in a statement. "Officers reported that the suspect threw them around easily and (the officers) were nearly exhausted by the time they finally subdued him."
During the struggle, officers deployed Tasers five times for five seconds each time, said Sgt. Lauri Williams, a Phoenix police spokeswoman.
The Taser, which uses electricity to override the nervous system and incapacitate a suspect, normally works by firing two darts from distances of 21 feet. But it can also be used as a hand-held device, in which officers push the probes of the stun gun directly against a suspect's skin. According to Force, officers carried the man outside. Although he had been breathing fast before and after being shocked with the Taser, his breathing slowed. Paramedics transported him to a Phoenix hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The incident is similar to the July 15 death of Ernesto Valdez, the last suspect to die in the custody of Phoenix police after being shocked with a Taser before Sunday. Valdez broke into a Church's Chicken restaurant after closing time, chased out the employees, began throwing himself at the walls and fought with police. During the struggle, Valdez was shocked three times with a Taser.
To date, seven men have died in the Valley after police Taser strikes.
On Friday, a 38-year-old man died after being shocked by Glendale police outside of a minimart. The man, Olsen Ogodidde, was sleeping in the back of a car that wasn't his.
When police ordered him to come out, he reportedly refused to move. Officers attempted to remove him and shocked him in an arm and a leg with a Taser before he was arrested, said Officer Mike Peña, a Glendale police spokesman.
Officers suspected that Ogodidde was impaired by an unidentified substance and called paramedics to take him to the hospital, where police say he had a seizure and died.
The two Valley cases over the weekend followed three deaths in California last week involving suspects who were shocked by police during struggles with officers in Sacramento, Fremont and San Jose.
Police and Taser officials caution that the sequence of events involving the deaths is typical of violent suspects who fight with police and then die in custody whether a Taser is used or not.
"It is the safer use-of-force alternative available for law enforcement agencies to subdue violent individuals who could harm law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves," Tuttle said. "We are prepared to help the investigations of these tragic incidents."
For years, Taser officials have publicly said the stun gun was never cited in an autopsy report.
But an Arizona Republic investigation last year revealed that Tasers have been cited repeatedly by medical examiners in death cases and that Taser did not start collecting autopsy reports until April.
Of the 147 cases of death in the United States and Canada after a police Taser shock since 1999, coroners have cited Tasers in at least 18 deaths.
They cited the stun gun as a cause of death in four cases and a contributing factor in 10 cases.
In four other cases, medical examiners said Taser could not be ruled out as a cause of death.
Reporter Jack Gillum contributed to this article.
bottom line - being a cop is not a dangerous job. well it is about as dangerous as any other job that involves driving a car. and for jobs that drive a car your more likely to get killed in a car accident
Aug 9, 8:44 PM EDT
Traffic Accidents Biggest Threat to Police
By REBECCA CARROLL
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Officer David Scott was in hot pursuit of a robbery suspect when he swerved to avoid a car trying to get out of his way. His police cruiser crossed into oncoming traffic and was slammed by a pickup truck.
Scott and his rookie partner in the Clarksville, Tenn., police department, Yamil Baez-Santiago, were killed. The truck driver suffered minor injuries.
The incident is part of a worrisome trend in law enforcement - more officers are being killed in traffic accidents. Twice in recent years - 1999 and 2003 - car crashes topped guns as the No. 1 killer of on-duty officers.
While year-to-year variations are common, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks fatalities, said the trend becomes apparent when the numbers are spread over many years. For example, in the decade ending last year, 477 officers died in auto accidents. That was up 29 percent from the 369 of the previous decade and 40 percent from the 342 killed the decade before that.
There's no single reason for the increase. Some is due to more police cars on the roads - 52 per 100 county and city officers in 2003 compared with 49 in 1997, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. There also are more deaths from high-speed chases.
Advocacy groups say there are other reasons too.
Suzie Sawyer, executive director of Concerns of Police Survivors Inc., believes more criminals are using their vehicles to run down officers, though she has only anecdotal evidence. Her group provides emotional support for relatives of police officers killed in the line of duty.
Memorial Fund spokesman Bruce Mendelsohn points to more drivers using cell phones and other devices that can distract them from the road and make them oblivious to police cars. But he also said officers and their departments may share some of the blame.
Nearly all law enforcement officers receive driver training. But the standards vary and refresher courses are rarely mandated. Mendelsohn said that leaves some officers ill-prepared for the dangerous driving situations they face. His organization is pushing for more training.
He also said officers can help themselves by buckling up and wearing body armor. Many don't, complaining the safety devices are cumbersome and restrictive.
"There's absolutely no doubt in our minds that officers who wear their (body armor) are more protected, both from shootings and from injuries they can sustain from auto accidents," Mendelsohn said. "Step two is providing better training - high-speed driver training, certainly, is expensive, but that cost is nothing compared to the death of an officer."
Mendelsohn also suggested police departments outfit their vehicles with the kind of seat belts race car drivers use. They latch in front of the driver's chest, not at the lower right hip, allowing more freedom of movement.
Mike Robb of the Homeland Security Department's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., helps run a driver training program for federal officers.
Robb's training puts officers in the vehicles they'll be using on the job so they can learn to be comfortable driving powerful machines that may differ significantly from their civilian cars. He also tries to prepare officers to make split-second decisions about how to pursue a criminal without endangering the public.
"There's a stress that goes with these responses," he said.
Ronald McBride, a retired Ashland, Ky., police chief who now consults for the DuPont Survivors Club, which pushes for officer safety, said greater use of body armor would cut down on traffic deaths. He cited one case where an officer was thrown from his vehicle, then run over by it, but survived. The officer's doctor believes the armor was a lifesaver.
"They're uncomfortable physically and they're uncomfortable psychologically," McBride said of the vests. "But the cold hard truth is body armor saves lives."
On the Net:
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.com
Concerns of Police Survivors Inc.: http://www.nationalcops.org/
Aug 9, 8:45 PM EDT
Officer Killed in Tennessee Courthouse
By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
Associated Press Writer
KINGSTON, Tenn. (AP) -- An inmate considered to be "extremely violent" escaped Tuesday after his wife gunned down and killed a guard who was escorting the shackled prisoner outside a courthouse, authorities said.
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