Friday, August 29, 2014

Court Approves Police Reform Agreement in Portland, Oregon

Today, the United States won court approval of a settlement agreement to reform the ways in which the Portland Oregon Police Bureau (“PPB”) interacts with individuals with actual or perceived mental illness.   The agreement was entered jointly by the United States and the city of Portland, Oregon, with the approval of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform (“AMA Coalition”) and Portland Police Association (“PPA”).   The agreement addresses constitutional claims in a civil action filed by the United States pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.   In today’s order, the court approved the agreement with the requirement that the parties appear for periodic hearings to provide the court progress on implementation of the agreement.   
The agreement requires changes—many of which PPB has already begun to implement—in PPB’s policy, training, supervisory oversight, community-based mental health services, crisis intervention, employee information systems, officer accountability and community engagement and oversight.   The agreement also calls for innovative new mechanisms for ongoing community involvement in the implementation of reforms.   In addition, the agreement establishes an independent compliance officer and community liaison (“COCL”), who will be responsible for synthesizing data related to PPB’s use of force, reporting to the city council, the Justice Department and the public and gathering input from the public related to PPB’s compliance with the agreement.   Finally, the agreement lays the framework for a community oversight advisory board (“COAB”), which will be a crucial mechanism for civil engagement in the reform process.
“We are committed to continuing to work with our partners in the community throughout the reform process to ensure full implementation of the settlement agreement,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran for the Civil Rights Division.   “We applaud the city’s efforts to implement portions of the settlement agreement during the pendency of the litigation.   We are pleased to provide the court information about reforms through ongoing periodic hearings.   We are also appreciative of the continued collaboration with the AMA Coalition and the participation of the PPA to resolve these issues to enable the entry of the settlement agreement.   We look forward to the positive changes that these civil rights reforms will bring about for the people of Portland.”
“Today’s decision is the culmination of significant work on the part of all parties to reach such a groundbreaking resolution for the citizens of Portland ,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall for the District of Oregon.   “We are very grateful to the court for entering this order, and look forward to continued collaboration with the city of Portland, the Portland Police Bureau, the Portland Police Association, the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform , and all citizens of Portland to ensure the letter and the spirit of this agreement are upheld.”
The United States’ complaint followed an investigation, launched on June 8, 2011, and conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.   The investigation focused on whether PPB engages in unconstitutional or unlawful policing through the use of excessive force, with a specific focus on the use of force against people with actual or perceived mental illness or in mental health crisis.  
In a September 2012 findings letter detailing the outcome of the 14-month investigation, the Justice Department found that most uses of force by PPB officers were lawful and reasonable, but it also found reasonable cause to believe that PPB engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, in certain contexts.   Following the release of the findings letter, the United States and the city engaged in settlement negotiations resulting in the settlement agreement, which the city council voted to approve.   The city fully cooperated with the United States throughout its investigation and was eager to address problems identified in the United States’ findings letter regarding Portland Police Bureau’s policies, practices, training and supervision through entry of the settlement agreement.
On Dec. 17, 2012, the United States initiated a lawsuit against the city and, with the city’s cooperation, concurrently filed a joint motion asking the court to approve the negotiated settlement agreement and conditionally dismiss the case.   Specifically, the United States’ complaint alleged that PPB engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force on individuals with actual or perceived mental illness by:   (1) too frequently using a higher level of force than necessary; (2) using electronic control weapons (“ECWs”), commonly referred to as “Tasers,” in circumstances when such force is not justified, or deploying ECWs more times than necessary on an individual; and (3) using a higher degree of force than justified for low-level offenses.
Both PPA and the AMA Coalition subsequently moved to intervene in the suit, seeking to join the case as parties and objecting to the proposed settlement agreement.   The court partially granted PPA’s motion to intervene and granted the AMA Coalition enhanced amicus status, allowing the AMA Coalition to participate in the litigation.   The court then ordered all parties to mediation to attempt to resolve PPA’s and the AMA Coalition’s objections to the settlement agreement.   Such mediation efforts have resulted in a memorandum of understanding with PPA and a separate agreement previously reached with the AMA Coalition.  
Following a fairness hearing on the settlement agreement, the court previously found that the settlement agreement is substantively fair, reasonable and adequate.   The court found, however, that it needed a procedure to receive information on the city’s implementation of reforms on at least an annual basis.   In today’s ruling, the court required the parties and COCL to file quarterly reports with the court and required the parties to appear for periodic hearings to describe to the court the progress being made toward achieving substantial compliance with all provisions of the settlement agreement and any obstacles or impediments toward that end, and to respond to the court’s questions on these issues.  
The assigned attorneys in the United States Attorney’s Office in Portland were Bill Williams, Adrian Brown and David Knight.   From the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., the assigned attorneys were Laura Coon, Jonas Geissler and Michelle Jones.

Career Offender Sentenced to Fifteen and a Half Years for Methamphetamine Trafficking Conviction

Defendant Prosecuted Under Federal "Worst of the Worst" Anti-Violence Initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – Jonathan Madrid, 28, of Roswell, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.  Madrid was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison to be followed by four years of supervised release.

Madrid was arrested on June 25, 2013, based on a criminal complaint charging him with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.  On April 4, 2014, Madrid pled guilty to an indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in Chaves County, N.M., on June 6, 2013.

Court filings reflect that Madrid was charged based on evidence developed by an ATF investigation.  As part of that investigation, ATF executed a federal search warrant and searched the vehicle that Madrid was driving on June 6, 2013.  As a result, agents seized multiple small baggies of methamphetamine, a digital scale and $168.00 from Madrid’s pocket.  ATF also seized a firearm from the trunk of the vehicle and ammunition from the cab of the vehicle.  According to court filings, Madrid had previously been convicted of possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence, trafficking in a controlled substance, aggravated sexual assault of a child and felon in possession of a firearm.

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said that Madrid was being prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution.  Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with assistance from the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Y. Armijo of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office prosecuted the case.

Detroit Gang Leader Convicted for Planning Armed Robbery by Gang Members

A leader of a street gang that operated on the east side of Detroit was found guilty today by a federal jury of aiding and abetting an armed robbery.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan and Special Agent in Charge Steven Bogdalek of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Detroit made the announcement.

Christopher LaJuan Tibbs, 39, was convicted after a three-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman.

The evidence at trial established that Tibbs, also known as Chief Fatah, was the leader of the Michigan branch of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords – a violent street gang that operated primarily on the east side of Detroit.   The Mafia Insane Vice Lords was a local faction of the national Vice Lord gang that originated in Chicago.   Tibbs helped plan an armed robbery of a Little Caesars restaurant in Redford, Michigan, in September 2013.   Tibbs sent subordinate members of the gang to commit the crime and took a majority of the proceeds from the robbery.

The case was investigated by ATF, with assistance from the Redford, Michigan, Police Department, the Detroit Police Department, and the Chicago Police Department.   The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant United States Attorney Louis Gabel of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Oakland Police and U.S. Marshals Arrest Fugitive After 13 Years on the Run

San Francisco, CA - Carlos Alberto Cervantes, 39, was arrested by The U.S. Marshals Service along with Mexican Authorities in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Cervantes is wanted by the Oakland police Department for two counts of homicide from 2001.

In August of 2001, Mr. Cervantes allegedly got into a dispute with two individuals over a car stereo, which Mr. Cervantes was hired to install. The two individuals then reportedly suspected Mr. Cervantes of joyriding in the vehicle and demanded their money returned. During the course of Mr. Cervantes returning the money, he is accused of shooting both individuals in the head.

Oakland Police began searching for Mr. Cervantes and ultimately, due to their close professional relationship, began working the case with the U.S. Marshals Service led Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force. The team of investigators had ascertained that Mr. Cervantes had fled to the Guadalajara region of Mexico. U.S. Marshals in Mexico, working alongside Mexican law enforcement officials, spotted Mr. Cervantes walking out of a residence. Investigators established that Mr. Cervantes is a United States citizen, and, based upon the outstanding arrest warrants, petitioned the Mexican government to deport him back to the USA. Armed with the deportation order based on the homicide warrants, law enforcement effectuated his arrest without incident. Mr. Cervantes was flown into the United States and is now being housed at the Los Angeles County Jail.

Don O’ Keefe, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of California, stated: “The U.S. Marshals Service along with their partners, both domestically and internationally, will always strive to collaboratively bring fugitives to justice, no matter where they may try to hide”.

Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent stated, “This is an excellent example of law enforcement collaboration. Human life is our top priority. We are tenacious. Our perseverance in this case should send this message to criminals: we never give up.”

The Northern California Fugitive Task Force is a division of the Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force and is part of a network of U.S. Marshals task forces across the country.

Federal Grants to Local Fire Departments Offer Up-to-Date Equipment and Training to Stations Large and Small

New York, NY -- The Atlantic City Fire Department has some 250 full-time firefighters and six fire stations serving a southern New Jersey population of 40,000.  The department received last month a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) of almost $490,000 to replace personal protective equipment ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and years of on-the-job use.  The local share of the grant brought the total to $543,400.

This week, the Milmay Volunteer Fire Company, in an unincorporated community of 1,500 in Buena Vista Township, also in Atlantic County, was awarded a similar bounty.  It received $9,168 (local share $482) to replace its deteriorated personal protective equipment for its 20 volunteers: boots, helmets, hoods, gloves, coats, and pants, all at least 15 years old.  Fire Chief Eric Hensel said, “the rubber on the boots was cracked, the helmets outfitted with non-adjustable headbands, straps frayed, and the gloves contaminated with soot or grease.”

Chief Hensel added that, “not only was our equipment old, but we were suffering financially from a straight-line wind storm that occurred several years ago.  It tore the roof off of our 70-year-old fire house, and caused some $500,000 in damage.”  Insurance helped, he said, but it left the department with little cash.

The Director of Grants for Region II of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Dale McShine, announced the Milmay grant at regional headquarters here today.  FEMA administers the AFG program, she said, “and it is most gratifying that these awards help firefighters protect their communities, of whatever size, and whether or not they are full-time or volunteers.”

“All of our firefighters are volunteers and we have a small community and a small budget,” Chief Hensel said.  “And regardless of a fire company’s size, you still face the same issues: one person’s injury or life lost is the same.  This grant will help us do our jobs,” he added.

FEMA’s AFG program has been aiding firefighters and other first responders since 2001.  “The program provides critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards,” said Tania Hedlund, FEMA’s Grants Branch Chief.  In 2012, the AFG provided funding of $25,340,000 for FEMA’s Region II (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).

For further information, please contact William H. Douglass at FEMA: 212-680-3665 or 917-561-3223.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.