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Traffic stops by metro Phoenix deputies plunge amid overhaul

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Sheriff Paul Penzone said with his agency still under court supervision, deputies worry their reasons for pulling over motorists will be unfairly scrutinized or they'll face internal affairs investigations. (Courtesy: YOUTUBE)

PHOENIX — Traffic stops by sheriff’s deputies in metropolitan Phoenix have dropped by more than half since a federal judge found the department was racially profiling Latinos in then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration crackdowns, and ordered a massive overhaul to rid it of biased policing.

With the agency still under court supervision, deputies worry their reasons for pulling over motorists will be unfairly scrutinized or they’ll face internal affairs investigations, according to Arpaio’s successor, Sheriff Paul Penzone, and several other people interviewed.

“It all stems from this fear and mentality that the court orders were intended to do harm to the office, instead of improving the quality of the office,” Penzone told The Associated Press.

Traffic stops by Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies have fallen 52% from 2015 to 2018, according to figures provided to the AP by the department. The dramatic decline — from 31,700 stops in 2015 to 15,200 in 2018 — raises questions about whether officers are missing evidence of illegal drugs, burglaries and other crimes that are sometimes discovered when pulling over motorists.

Penzone conceded officers may be missing criminal activity but emphasized it’s unacceptable for them to back away from their bread-and-butter duties.

The latest publicly available traffic-stop analysis for the agency by Arizona State University criminal justice researchers found deputies have made improvements but are still more likely to search and arrest Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

Brad Ruehle, president of a group representing the sheriff’s deputies, declined to comment on the decrease in traffic stop. Others said it’s normal for enforcement numbers to decline after a major ruling involving law enforcement.

The agency has been under court supervision since a judge concluded in 2013 that sheriff’s deputies racially profiled Latinos in Arpaio’s traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. The traffic stop figures go back only to 2015 because the agency adopted a new record-keeping system, and earlier figures don’t contain enough detail to make a comparison.

The overhaul includes retraining officers on making constitutional stops, establishing an alert system to spot problematic behavior by officers, equipping deputies with body cameras and holding interventions with officers flagged for having statistical differences from their peers in how they treated Latinos.

The judge in the profiling case also ordered an extensive overhaul of the agency’s internal affairs operations, which under Arpaio’s leadership had been criticized for biased decision-making that allowed sheriff’s officials to escape accountability.

While the agency is improving its compliance with the overhaul, the traffic-stop analysis covering encounters with motorists from July 2016 through June 2017 still found Hispanic drivers are more likely to be searched and arrested by deputies than white drivers. The average length of stops for Hispanic drivers is three minutes longer than for white drivers.

John Shjarback, a criminal justice professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said it’s normal to see a drop in enforcement numbers after a major court decision or a major event involving a police agency, such as a high-profile shooting involving officers.

New York saw a decline in stops after a judge ruled in 2013 that the city’s practice of stopping and frisking people without justification violated the civil rights of minorities. The number of stop-and-frisk encounters in the city fell from 685,000 in 2011 to 11,000 in 2018.

Shjarback said it’s an open question among researchers about whether such drops in enforcement lead to increases in crime.

David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies racial profiling and wrote a book on the subject, said such decreases are the result of agencies moving away from blanket-enforcement approaches that emphasize the volume of arrests, not the quality of arrests.

Harris said officers are being forced to do better work. “Now, they actually have to think about whether that’s a good idea, and I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all,” Harris said.

Joe Clure, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, which advocates on issues affecting officers, said Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies have complained to him for years about the court supervision.

Clure said deputies’ self-preservation instincts kick in when they think they are being unfairly scrutinized. “It’s just human nature,” Clure said. “You don’t want to do anything to get caught under the microscope.”

The hundreds of internal affairs investigations that have been launched also are discouraging the sheriff’s patrol deputies and jail officers from taking the initiative in their work, Clure said.

Detention officers, for instance, are doing fewer searches of inmates and cells because they fear being targeted in protracted internal investigations that could make it harder for them to find work at other police agencies, Clure said.

“The reality is that Judge (Murray) Snow is the actual sheriff in Maricopa County right now,” Clure said, referring to the federal judge who delivered the racial profiling verdict and ordered the agency overhaul.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, a former police officer who is an ally of Arpaio, said the traffic stop decrease means taxpayers aren’t getting everything they paid for.

Kavanagh doesn’t blame officers for making fewer stops but rather an oversight system that he said accuses deputies of being racist. He said it was easy to predict the result of officers facing what they see as unfair scrutiny: “You get less work.”

Kathy Brody, one of the American Civil Liberties Union attorneys leading the profiling case against the sheriff’s office, said she wasn’t advocating for the sheriff’s office to make more traffic stops but said the trend is a poor reflection on the agency.

In the past, immigrant rights advocates had argued that the agency under Arpaio pulled over Latinos for minor traffic violations, such as having a broken tail light.

“Our view is that they should be pulling people over for things that can cause a danger to the community,” Brody said.

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Marc Rettus

    April 20, 2019 at 10:39 am

    When the police are caught doing something illegal, they, just like Dindoo Nuttin in the inner city, will whine that they are being victimized.

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The Nation

NTSB provides update on 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of improvements

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Of the eight closed safety recommendations, four were closed with acceptable action taken, one was closed with acceptable alternate action taken, one was closed with a status of exceeds recommended action, and one safety recommendation was closed with unacceptable action taken. (Courtesy: NTSB)

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board has published an updated list of the safety recommendations associated with the agency’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements following the recent closure of eight safety recommendations.

Of the eight closed safety recommendations, four were closed with acceptable action taken, one was closed with acceptable alternate action taken, one was closed with a status of exceeds recommended action, and one safety recommendation was closed with unacceptable action taken.

One recommendation was closed because it was superseded by a subsequently issued safety recommendation which remains open.

The NTSB announced the 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements February 4, in which the agency detailed 267 open safety recommendations that if implemented, the panel said could help prevent accidents and the injuries and fatalities caused by those accidents.

The agency went a step further and created what it calls the “Focused 46,” a list of 46 safety recommendations taken from the 267 addressed by the Most Wanted List,  that the agency said it believes can and should be implemented during the two-year Most Wanted List cycle.

“Closing safety recommendations with acceptable action taken, resulting in improved transportation safety, is the goal of issuing and advocating for a safety recommendation,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Our safety recommendations are founded in the science of our accident investigations and are designed to prevent similar future accidents. Transportation safety is improved when recipients of our safety recommendations take acceptable action. While I’m pleased to highlight this success, I also have to highlight how much more work remains to be done, and, the lost opportunity to improve transportation safety with the unacceptable action taken on safety recommendation H-12-029.”

H-12-029 called for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish an ongoing program to monitor, evaluate, report on, and continuously improve fatigue management programs implemented by motor carriers to identify, mitigate, and continuously reduce fatigue-related risks for drivers.

In its latest correspondence to NTSB dated January 18, 2019, FMCSA wrote that it “… plans no action to establish the program ‘at the motor carrier level’ [emphasis added] as recommended by NTSB. Fatigue management information continues to be accessed via the North American Fatigue Management Program website (https://www.nafmp.com). The NAFMP website remains active and guidance concerning fatigue management continues to be accessed and used by motor carriers.  FMCSA will continue to support both fatigue-related research and the NAFMP, which includes the maintenance, improvement, and promotion of the NAFMP to encourage the voluntary implementation of fatigue management practices by motor carriers.”

The NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, now in its 30th year, identifies safety improvements that can be made across all modes of transportation to prevent accidents, minimize injuries and save lives.

Since the NTSB’s inception more than 52 years ago, the agency has issued more than 14,900 safety recommendations, and on average, more than 80 percent of them are favorably acted upon. At any given moment, the NTSB’s Safety Recommendations Division is managing the correspondence regarding an average of 1,200 open safety recommendations.

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The Nation

Tyson Foods earns James Prout/Wreaths Across America Spirit of Giving Award

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Representatives of Wreaths Across America and Tyson Foods pose with the James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award presented to Tyson Foods. Left to right are WAA Founder Morrill Worcester; Tyson Operations Manager Mike Blessing, James Shaw, Ryder Chambers, Kenny Elbe and Tyson Chaplain Karen Diefendorf; and Rob Worcester, who helps coordinate transportation and logistics. In front is Kenny Elbe Jr. Elbe, Shaw and Chambers are all drivers for Tyson. (Courtesy: WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA)

SPRINGDALE, Ark. and COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine— Wreaths Across America has recognized Tyson Foods as the fifth recipient of the organization’s annual James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award.

WAA Founder Morrill Worcester and his son Rob – a volunteer who helps coordinate transportation and logistics for the nonprofit – presented the Tyson Foods’ team with the award on July 12 at the 6th Annual Stem to Stone event held in Downeast, Maine, where the nonprofit is headquartered.

It is also where the balsam is grown to make the veterans’ wreaths sponsored by the public and placed by volunteers each December as part of the WAA’s mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.

The James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award is named in memory of James Prout, owner of Blue Bird Ranch Trucking of Jonesboro, Maine.

Prout was the first person to volunteer to haul wreaths for WAA when the program was in its infancy. The award is given annually to a deserving professional truck driver, company or organization that has supported charitable causes in a way that will affect generations to come.

Operations Manager Michael Blessing accepted the award on behalf of Tyson Foods.

“I think I speak for the entire team when I say what an honor it is to be a part of the Wreaths Across America family,” he said. “The mission is impacting lives across the country and we are humbled to play a small part to ensure the wreaths are safely delivered and volunteers are well fed and cared for each season.”

Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale and the 11th largest private carrier in the United States, started hauling veterans’ wreaths for WAA seven years ago with only two trucks.

In 2012, after waiting in line with many others to be loaded, they came up with an idea and made WAA an offer to help create a truckers’ lounge to accommodate waiting drivers. This commitment to the mission has continued and only increased since then.

In 2018, in addition to hauling 18 loads of veterans’ wreaths, they fed all 500-plus volunteer truck drivers that came to Maine to load wreaths, as well as all the loading crews, WAA staff and volunteers, and visiting Gold Star families. They also provided the food for the escort to Arlington send-off dinner.

“By having the Wreaths Across America logo on my truck I am a better driver,” said James Shaw, a long-time Wreaths Across America volunteer and professional truck driver for Tyson Foods. “I have an obligation to drive the best I can to represent our veterans and the work of this honorable organization that does so much good for our country.”

The Worcesters said the trucking industry is vital in helping WAA achieve its goal of honoring fallen soldiers each year.

In addition to transporting wreaths, Tyson Foods supports the organization through fundraising efforts for Fayetteville National Cemetery in Arkansas and other local veterans’ and non-veterans’ nonprofit organizations. Their WAA Fundraising Group is called Transportation Warriors – you can sponsor a wreath through their page here.

“Without the trucking community and their generous donations of time and services, our mission simply would not be possible,” Rob Worcester said. “The work Tyson has done continues to inspire the WAA team to improve the truckers’ lounge and overall experience for volunteer drivers coming to Maine to load wreaths. They are an amazing partner and true friends of the organization, for which we are grateful.”

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The Nation

Bills would up insurance minimum to $4.9M, require automatic emergency brakes

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The “Improving National Safety by Updating the Required Amount of Insurance Needed by Commercial Motor Vehicles per Event (INSURANCE) Act of 2019” would raise the minimum liability insurance for commercial motor vehicles from $750,000 to $4.9 million. (Associated Press: CHRISTOPHER MILLETTE/Erie Times-News)

WASHINGTON — Three Democratic representatives have introduced two pieces of legislation they say are critical to road safety.

Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois, Hank Johnson of Georgia and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania joined the Truck Safety Coalition and truck crash victims at a press conference Wednesday to place in the hopper bills related to liability insurance minimums and braking equipment requirements on commercial motor vehicles.

García and Cartwright introduced the “Improving National Safety by Updating the Required Amount of Insurance Needed by Commercial Motor Vehicles per Event (INSURANCE) Act of 2019” which the two said would ensure minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers are periodically adjusted to the inflation rate of medical costs, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Minimum insurance requirement currently is $750,000 for most carriers. Others may face higher minimum based on the type of cargo carried.

The INSURANCE Act says according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of $750,000, set in 1980 would have the same purchasing power as $4,923,153.29 in 2019, if the amount was raised to account for medical-cost inflation.

Therefore, the INSURANCE Act would set the minimum at $4,923,154 and require the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to adjust the minimum every five years for inflation relating to medical care.

Most carriers purchase the $750,000 per event minimum, some carry $1 million.

A previous proposal to raise the minimum did not materialize.

On its November 28, 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) concerning financial responsibility (translated liability insurance minimums) for motor carriers, freight forwarders, and brokers.

FMCSA sought public comment on whether to exercise its discretion to increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility, and, if so, to what levels. After reviewing all public comments to the ANPRM, FMCSA determined that it has insufficient data or information to support moving forward with a rulemaking proposal, at this time and on June 5, 2017, withdrew the proposal.

Sources tell The Trucker the INSURANCE Act will never make it out of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit to which it was referred.

“Thousands of families are suffering in silence, saddled with crippling medical care costs resulting from catastrophic crashes,” García said. “The inadequacy of the current minimum insurance requirement, left unchanged for 40 years, only further prolongs the suffering and financial strain on families that have already lost so much. The INSURANCE Act ensures that families are adequately compensated to cope with their losses and prevents taxpayers from footing the bill for negligent trucking businesses and drivers.”

Cartwright said with trucks getting bigger and highways becoming more crowded, the country has experienced too many horrific truck accidents that change Americans’ lives forever.

“And since the minimum liability insurance for trucks hasn’t changed in nearly four decades, we’ve seen how victims, their families, hospitals, and our strained social safety net are forced to foot the bill for irresponsible driving,” he said. “This bill will raise that minimum, providing necessary relief to surviving victims and to the families whose lives are shattered by a truck accident.”

García and Johnson also introduced the Safe Roads Act, which would require automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology to become standard features commercial motor vehicles.

“Automatic braking systems are a simple, common-sense solution to deploy proven crash-avoidance technologies,” Garcia said. “Rep. Johnson and I agree that we should always operate on a safety-first basis. Any further delays to implement this important, life-saving technology will only result in more preventable, tragic deaths and catastrophic injuries. We shouldn’t be in the business of putting a price tag on life – passing the Safe Roads Act is simply the right thing to do.”

“Tragically, the simple installation of automatic braking systems on all commercial motor vehicles – a $500 safety feature – might have prevented these deaths and countless others across the country,” Johnson said. “America’s roads and highways should be safe for all drivers.  Taking full advantage of technologies that are available and proven to anticipate and prevent crashes will save lives.”

The bill was also referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Both the Safe Roads Act and the INSURANCE Act are endorsed by the Truck Safety Coalition and the INSURANCE Act has the additional endorsement from the American Association for Justice, the bills’ sponsors said.

 

 

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