Detroit Police lab shut down after probe finds errors
By BEN SCHMITT, FREE PRESS
An audit of the Detroit Police firearms lab revealed a 10% error rate in ballistic evidence, and has resulted in the the complete shutdown of the police department’s crime lab, law enforcement officials announced today.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the results of the audit could lead to numerous appeals of criminal cases involving firearms evidence in the city of Detroit. “The problem is even further compounded with this incompetence possibly resulting in perpetrators of crimes - even violent crimes - going uncharged,” Worthy said. Worthy was joined at a news conference this morning at police headquarters by Detroit Police Chief James Barren and Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. Barren announced the complete shutdown of all operations at the Detroit Police Crime Lab, indefinitely. All testing will now be conducted by the State Police.
The audit also revealed that the firearms lab met only 42% of required compliance with evidence criteria established by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. Former Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings suspended all firearms testing at the departmental lab in April after discrepancies showed up in the ballistics evidence. Questions about the Detroit lab were raised after defense attorney Marvin Barnett determined that police mishandled evidence in a shooting case. Bully-Cummings closed the unit and requested the State Police to conduct an audit.
Rescue crews practice during Wednesday drill
Locomotion commotion. It's a not-so-serious name given to what is supposed to be a real-life emergency drill involving a train carrying hazardous chemicals. Emergency crews involved with the drill knew they were responding to a train derailment. But once the arrived, they found out there was much more to the scenario.
The initial call was for a train derailment with an explosion. When crews arrived and did some investigating, they discovered a suspicious backpack at the explosion site. They also discovered two men in camouflage had opened the valves on the train tanker, which was carrying a hazardous chemical.
The scenario quickly turned from an accident to an act of terrorism. The Michigan State Police Bomb Squad was called in, as was a HAZMAT team. Ss you can imagine, dozens of emergency departments took part in the drill put on by the Bay County Emergency Management Department. And some of them don't work together regularly, which meant communication problems. Those problems came in the form of not having the right radios, and some emergency responders not being on the correct radio frequency. But that's why practice makes perfect. "Logistically, when you have 300-plus people that you're moving from station to station, there's issues there," said Bay County Emergency Management coordinator Chris Izworski. "(They are) agencies working together that oftentimes don't work together. Overcoming those obstacles of communication, that's a positive. And it is also a hurdle today, so I think we did well." The drill was meant to be as real as possible.
Riot police at Sawyer
Michigan State Police Training
The Michigan State Police are making sure they're ready to handle all types of civil disturbances. Tactics like riot control and crowd dispersal are part of training sessions that have been going on at Sawyer. A total of 180 Upper Peninsula troopers are receiving the two days of instruction. They drill with batons, gas masks, and riot helmets while learning formations that focus on working as a unit. It prepares them to mobilize anywhere in the state.
According to State Police Training Coordinator Don Horn, "Troopers in this training will learn how to better protect themselves with assistance of a partner on either side of them, and the goal is for officers not to be injured as well as the public." The training is intended to deal with situations from unruly crowds at sporting events to political rallies and demonstrations similar to incidents at the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
Sex with sheep not registry worthy
By Trace Christenson, Battle Creek Enquirer
A Battle Creek man in prison for having sex with a sheep won't have to register as a sex offender. The Sex Offender Registry Act does not apply to Jeffrey Haynes because his victim was not a human, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided in a ruling released Tuesday.
Haynes, 45, is serving 30 months to 20 years after pleading no contest in February 2006 to sodomy. Prosecutors alleged he had sex with the animal in Bedford Township on Jan. 26, 2005. As part of his sentencing, Haynes was ordered by Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Conrad Sindt to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison. He became eligible for parole on Aug. 12 but remains an inmate at the Parr Highway Correctional Facility in Adrian. Sindt agreed with Assistant Prosecutor Tamara Towns, who argued at the sentencing it was possible Haynes would prey on children or vulnerable adults. "He is a predator," Towns told the judge. But Haynes said at the time he was not violent and would not assault children.
"I take full responsibility for what I did wrong," Haynes said. "I am sorry for what I did. But I am not a child molester and would never touch a child. The prosecutor is being real hard on me for what I did. But I should not be treated as a child molester." Sindt disagreed and said, "this act is so representative of someone who is sexually perverted that I will order he register on the sex offender list."
The three-member panel of the appeals court on Tuesday voted unanimously to reverse the sex list registration requirement. In their opinion, the judges ruled the statute on sexual registry, as written, applies to human victims. "As already noted, we must enforce the Legislature's intent as expressed in the plain language of the statute and use dictionary definitions to ascertain their plain, ordinary and generally accepted meanings," the appeals court wrote. "Certainly, if one gives the language of the statute its plain and common usage, it is patent that the sheep that was the object of the defendant's 'abominable and detestable crime against nature' is not a victim under (the statute).
"Our job is to enforce the clear and unambiguous terms of the statute as written," the court continued. "If the Legislature chooses to amend or revise (the statute) to require an individual to register as a sex offender for violating (the statute) by sexually assaulting an animal, it may."
Prosecutor John Hallacy said while his office argued Haynes should be placed on the registry, the appeals court decision "was very well reasoned and very well written. It exposes a situation of a particular crime with a particular set of facts that is not covered by the sex offender registration act."
Hallacy said his office will not appeal the decision and emphasized the message from the court that the Legislature can correct the problem. "This was something that the Sex Offender Registration Act was meant to encompass and the Legislature didn't include it," Hallacy said. Haynes was charged after the owner of the farm found him on the property and found one of her sheep was injured. He was charged after police sent a DNA sample taken from the sheep to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab.
Demotions lead to 2 cops' retirement
BY BEN SCHMITT, FREE PRESS
Chief James Barren demoted both assistant chiefs to the rank of commander Wednesday, prompting the pair to retire from the department. Assistant Chiefs Ralph Godbee and Robert Dunlap told the Free Press that they retired Wednesday.
The demotions were the first in a series of administrative moves Barren is expected to make in the department and come as the Michigan State Police is expected to release findings today in an audit of the department's crime lab.
Former Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings, who retired the same day as ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to felony charges in the text-message scandal, suspended all firearms testing at the departmental lab in April after discrepancies showed up in ballistics evidence. The demotions would have been effective today, thereby allowing theassistant chiefs to retire with their ranks and vested pensions. However, they will not receive full 25-year pensions because they did not have enough time on the job.
Dunlap served more than 22 years with the department. Godbee served 21 years.
"Based upon a decision that was made to demote me, I'm gonna retire," Dunlap, 42, said in an article first reported on freep.com. "When you look at myself and Ralph Godbee, we both worked very hard. We worked our way up through the department. We sacrificed the majority of our lives for this department." Godbee, 40, said he has no ill feelings. "I wholeheartedly support the chief in his efforts," he said. "I wish the mayor well, and I love the city of Detroit."
Barren, who was named chief last week by Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr., could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The replacements for both assistant
chiefs had not been made public Wednesday. Officer John Bennett, an ardent Barren supporter, said such administrative changes aren't unusual when new officials take over. "I think this is the beginning of the chief putting people in place and I'm looking forward to what he has in store for us," Bennett said. Godbee joined the department at age 19 and was commanding officer of former Mayor Dennis Archer's security team. He has worked in the recruiting, personnel and risk management divisions. He also worked in the precincts as a patrol officer. He was named assistant chief in March 2007.
Dunlap quickly rose through the ranks of the department, working at the former 4th Precinct in Southwest Detroit and on the gang squad, tactical operations and in the housing division. Bully-Cummings promoted him to assistant chief in November 2006.
Godbee said he is considering enrolling in law school. Dunlap said he was unsure of his future.
In August, both assistant chiefs organized a birthday lunch for then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at Seldom Blues restaurant at which a group of the department's top brass all gave money as presents. The lunch came two months after Kilpatrick's birthday.
Washtenaw Sheriff's Department finds solution to soaring overtime costs: Charge the townships
By Tom Gantert, Ann Arbor News
September 22, 2008
After struggling for years with overbudget overtime costs in the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department, county officials appear to have found a way to slash it - just charge the townships.
Rather than pay the overtime tab, some township officials have decided they'd rather reduce service. For residents, that can mean a longer wait for a police car to arrive.
In the first eight months of the year, Washtenaw County reported a 26 percent drop in overtime in the sheriff's department - not including overtime for the jail - compared to the same period in 2007.
Under the county's new policy, the 13 townships and villages contracting for police service are now billed for all overtime, including hours previously picked up by the county. In 2007, the county provided a contracted amount of hours to each township and then charged townships $10,000 for overtime for each deputy, which didn't always cover the total costs. With the new contracts that started Jan. 1, the county charges townships a straight fee for each deputy and then charges the townships for all applicable overtime.
The contract fees have been a matter of controversy since the county began efforts to identify and recover more of the costs roughly a decade ago.
Much of the overtime was the result of providing fill-ins when deputies assigned to contracting communities had time off or were or sick leave. Scio Township is one of the communities that made the decision to lower its level of police service rather than pay the overtime premium. From January through August, if one of the township's five deputies was had time off or was out sick, Scio Township did without a replacement. During those times, there were eight-hour shifts without any contracted deputy patrols. That meant state police and deputies paid for by the county were available only on an emergency basis.
That would have made longer delays for services for all non-emergency 9-1-1 calls. For instance, if a deputy was needed for a report for something like a dog bite, the wait could be several hours.
Police service was among the major issues in Scio Township's crowded primary election.
Last month, township officials changed their policy and agreed to pay overtime for replacements. Scio Township also recently agreed to hire two more deputies.
Assessing the cost of overtime to townships appears to have reduced the county's costs by more than $331,000 between January and August. This year overtime costs for the sheriff's department, not including the jail, ran $928,412 through the end of August, compared to $1.26 million for the same period last year.
Still, the debate may not be over.
County officials say the overall cost of contracted deputies is still not met by the townships that receive the services. The county estimates that contracting townships pay $136,503 of the total cost of $183,427 for each deputy. That total cost includes overhead and supervision. The gap doesn't sit well with county Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor, who represents Ann Arbor. "We are still subsidizing them," Gunn said.
Like other municipalities that maintain their own police departments, Ann Arbor residents pay taxes for its own city police and also help pay for county deputies.
"We are still paying twice," Gunn said. "I think townships are responsible to provide their own police services."