FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — "Head down! Hands up!”
The Quantico Special Reaction Team stormed the passenger car of a Virginia Railway Express train. Marines quickly and thoroughly inspected the car from end to end with weapons ready looking for more terrorists to add to the three they already neutralized. When they did not find any, they methodically took control of the by-standers and prepared to remove them from the stationary train.
The exercise ends here and the evaluation process begins.
It is a VRE requirement to perform such exercises at least once annually with one of the local response teams along its railways. During Saturday’s emergency drill at the VRE Crossroads Yard in Fredericksburg, Quantico’s Provost Marshals Office SRT collaborated with personnel from VRE, CSX Transportation System Emergency Response Team, FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Quantico police and fire departments, and representatives from the town of Quantico.
"The goal of the exercises is to evaluate the efficiency of the emergency operations procedures of local responders and of our own crew,” said Sharmila Samarasinghe, manager of VRE transportation services, safety and security. "We observe how they work and what deficiencies there are.”
Special Agent Jeffrey Crocker, representative of the FBI SWAT team and an evaluator at the drill, explained the importance of these exercises and the unique position of transportation organizations.
"It’s not like a bank, where you know where it is and who is going to respond to a situation,” he said. "It’s a mobile crisis site and the response team depends on where something happens. The VRE has been great about being proactive with (preparation exercises).”
The drill Saturday was based on a tabletop exercise executed Sept. 16 to see if Quantico responders could work with VRE crew members in securing a situation involving multiple armed terrorists on board a train full of hostages.
"After operating jointly with outside agencies, PMO feels very confident in our ability to react quickly to every situation,” said Capt. William Tomaszek, the Military Police Operations Officer. "We have set the training standard high with this exercise, but expect our training to continue to be more realistic and more intense with each exercise.”
Quantico military policemen played the role of the terrorist trio and began the drill Saturday by taking control of two train cars and several hostages.
The SRT cleared the cars using a dynamic entry and eliminated the threat while under observation and evaluation by representatives from each participating organization.
"The Marines were awesome,” Crocker said. "The momentum, aggressiveness and constant security was just great.”
Samarasinghe said the exercise proved a great success and that an after-action report will soon be made available to invested personnel.
"The team did very well,” said SRT commander Staff Sgt. Kenneth Morgan, who has eight years of SRT experience. "They used sound tactics, controlled the hostages well and neutralized the threat from the hostage takers.”
Morgan said the SRT is a full-time team constantly training and performing scenario drills to ensure that every member of the team makes it back home if a real situation does arise. According to Samarasinghe, this is not the only exercise the VRE holds either. She said their crossroads yard and trains are made available to different response teams for smaller-scale drills almost every other month.
"Working jointly with local law enforcement agencies has only strengthened our front to resolve a possible terrorist situation,” Tomaszek said. "With reoccurring training and reforming to the standard operating procedures in place, our ability to react to an unclear situation with multiple agencies, has and will continue to improve.”
He brought down Mafia killers in New York, drug dealers in Los Angeles and crooked politicians in Atlantic City.But in more than two decades as one of the FBI's top undercover operatives, no case confounded and angered Jack Garcia in quite the same way as his investigation of corruption at the Hollywood Police Department."What was amazing to me is that it was so easy to get cops to look the other way, to guard trucks for us, no questions asked. I'd never seen anything like it," Garcia said this week about an investigation that helped convict four Hollywood officers of trafficking large shipments of heroin.Garcia recounts the Hollywood case and his 26-year career as one of the most prolific undercover agents in FBI history in Making Jack Falcone, a new book about the more than 100 cases in which he posed as a mobster or other criminal. The FBI says he had the most undercover assignments in its history.
"The corruption is systemic throughout the whole [Hollywood] police department. We've heard from numerous sources just how corrupt these guys are," Garcia wrote. He railed against what he called transgressions ranging from officers turning a blind eye to blatant criminal activity to automatically deducting 20 percent off their checks at local restaurants.Posing as a Gambino crime family captain, Garcia effected the February 2007 arrest of Hollywood Police Sgt. Kevin Companion, Sgt. Jeff Courtney, Detective Thomas Simcox and Officer Stephen Harris on drug charges. The men, who pleaded guilty and received lengthy prison sentences, also were recorded on video dealing in what they thought to be stolen diamonds and art and protecting crooked card games, according to court records.Companion even talked about becoming a "made" Mafia member and recruiting more officers to form a criminal crew, Garcia wrote.Hollywood Lt. Manny Marino said the allegations are old and the department is being unfairly tarnished because of a few crooked officers."There are more than 300 police officers who go to work every day doing their job, and they have to keep hearing about this more than a year later," Marino said. "Anyone can say what they want in a book, and we're going to have to deal with this a long time. But all we can do is keep moving forward."Making Jack Falcone is a look at Garcia's dual life inside the FBI and the Mafia, including the agency's makeshift "Mob School," where the 6-foot-4, 400-pound, Cuban-born agent learned how to act like a mobster. Unlike most agents, he juggled four or five fake identities at a time, careful not to answer the wrong cell phone or burst into Spanish when he should be whispering Italian to his mob buddies.Garcia's greatest work came as Jack Falcone, a money launderer and hoodlum who ingratiated himself to notorious Gambino strongman Greg DePalma. Garcia was two weeks away from becoming a made member of the Mafia in 2004 when the FBI pulled the plug on the operation, citing safety and what Garcia calls "bureaucratic" infighting that still rankles him.FBI agent Joe Pistone, whose undercover persona "Donnie Brasco" led to book and movie deals, is the only other agent ever proposed for mob membership.Garcia came back to Broward earlier this year, as "Big Tony," to arrest Broward Sheriff's deputies Richard Tauber, of Boca Raton, and Kevin D. Frankel, of Lake Worth, who have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges. He used the same technique on the deputies that he had used in the much-publicized Hollywood sting."If Kevin and [Tauber] had stopped gambling and fooling around long enough to buy a newspaper, they never would have gotten caught," Garcia said, laughing, in an interview Tuesday.
Florence County Detention Center
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By Jamie RogersMorning News ReporterPublished: October 16, 2008
FLORENCE — Former Lake City police officer Shanita McKnight told investigators she called her grandmother’s residence 10 to 20 times to tip drug dealers off about police activity, a State Law Enforcement Division agent testified Thursday.
Federal authorities allege McKnight’s grandmother, Mamie Lou McFadden, and aunt, Abergail McFadden, owned and operated a nightclub in Lake City where they sold drugs to patrons.
McKnight, 35, and McFadden, 52, both of Lake City, were indicted June 26, 2007, on drug trafficking charges. McKnight also is charged with extortion for using her position as a police officer to “wrongfully obtain monies from other people.
The indictments were the result of a large-scale corruption investigation in Lake City.
McKnight and McFadden face a maximum penalty of 10 years to life in prison and fines ranging from $4 million to $8 million.
McKnight faces a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison for the extortion charge.
McFadden has entered a guilty plea and is awaiting sentencing. She is expected to testify against her niece during the trial.
SLED Criminal Investigator John Bartell told the court he and FBI Special Agent Vince Flamini interviewed McKnight during the large-scale corruption investigation in Lake City.
During that interview, McKnight told them she had never made a drug arrest during her tenure at the police department and that the agency had a policy that didn’t allow officers to make drug arrests alone.
During cross examination by McKnight’s lawyer, Joseph Henry of Columbia, Bartell said he didn’t document the Lake City policy in his notes.
Bartell also testified that the beer and wine license for Mamie Lou’s was in McKnight’s husband’s name.
On Wednesday, former Lake City police Lt. William Webb, who worked with McKnight during her tenure at the department, testified that Mamie Lou’s awas a known haven for drug activity and prostitution.
Webb is serving more than 13 years in a prison on drug conspiracy charges. His 2005 arrest was one of the first made in the investigation into corruption and drug activity in Lake City.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Debbie Barbier of the Columbia office is prosecuting the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Alfred W. Bethea Jr. of the Florence office before U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten. The jury consists of six men and six women, and the trial is expected to last as many as five days.
Former Milwaukee City Alderman Michael McGee Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 24. An all-white jury in August convicted him in federal court of nine corruption charges. McGee, an African American, faces six-and-a-half to 10 years on these federal counts; a state trial begins Dec. 1 on yet more charges.
U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert on Oct. 10 denied McGee’s request to delay the sentencing and grant him an additional 20 days to respond to a pre-sentence report.
McGee and his many supporters, almost all from the Black community, who witnessed the federal trial, say that he was entrapped, that prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves during the trial, and that the prosecution was allowed to enter fabricated evidence and attempt to pit Arab witnesses against Black ones.
McGee’s supporters have submitted to the sentencing court numerous letters that describe his strong support of poor and working people, particularly of youth, during his terms as Sixth District alderman from April 2004 to 2008. McGee fought police brutality, questioned the rapid gentrification of working-class neighborhoods, wrote a letter to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez inquiring about heating oil assistance for poor Milwaukeeans, fought to broaden affirmative action in contract bidding and city hiring policies, fought massive tax breaks for corporations in the city, and supported political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, among other progressive activities. (For background, search for Michael McGee at workers.org.)
Many questions surround this case, but the central one is: Why are the state and federal governments willing to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars railroading McGee and locking him up, possibly for years?
Why McGee has wide community support
McGee has been moved to various jails since his arrest on May 28, 2007. He has been denied bail, had his jail phones tapped by local police agencies and the FBI, been subject to racist depictions in the corporate media, and worse. Other white politicians facing similar charges over the past few years have been released on bail and served minor jail or prison terms, if any time at all.
McGee’s progressive activities have received virtually no coverage in the corporate media, although he has been a community activist for decades. Nor has the media investigated the social conditions in Milwaukee that have led to his widespread support in the Black community. It is impossible to analyze McGee’s case without putting it into a social, political and economic context—exactly what is lacking in the racist corporate media.
McGee was one of the very few politicians to actively participate in alleviating the semi-apartheid conditions that exist in Milwaukee, the most segregated city in the United States.
Consider these facts about Milwaukee:
• One in every four residents lives below the poverty level, according to federal statistics. For Black Milwaukee, semi-apartheid conditions are the norm and have gotten even worse in recent years with the dismantling of Aid for Dependent Children and welfare, as well as the introduction of charter schools.
• Infant mortality for Black babies is 21 per 1,000 live births—more than four times the rate for whites. (Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services and the Black Health Coalition of Milwaukee)
• Although Blacks comprise only 5 percent of Wisconsin’s total population of 5 million, they make up more than 50 percent of the prison population. The number of Black and Latina women in prison in the state has skyrocketed since the early 1990s. (The Sentencing Project)
• Unemployment in metro Milwaukee among African-American males ages 16 to 64 increased to 51.1 percent last year from 46.8 percent in 2006. This is probably the highest jobless rate Black men here have ever suffered, according to a just-released report by The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development. Milwaukee has the biggest gap between Black and white joblessness in the U.S. In the past, many Black Milwaukeeans had union jobs at manufacturing plants in the city. But the majority of living-wage jobs are now in the suburbs and there is inadequate public transportation to get there from the city. Many Black people in Milwaukee are ready and willing to work but don’t have vehicles, due to institutionally racist factors such as racial profiling and the court system.
• Police brutality and murder have been an ongoing fact of life for Black and Latin@ people in Milwaukee. City police and other repressive local, state and federal agencies, often with paramilitary units, occupy whole sections of the Black community. Since 1990 at least 50 Black men have been shot dead by Milwaukee city police. Even after the highly publicized Frank Jude Jr. case—a struggle against naked police brutality that McGee spearheaded—the police feel free to act with virtual impunity.
McGee was attempting to combat these conditions, often in alliance with progressive community organizations.
McGee supporters say that if he has given grounds for suspicion, it is grassroots representatives of the Black community in his district who should have the right to pass judgment, not the enemies of the people.
The government is spending huge sums on legally lynching McGee. Why aren’t these funds going to alleviate these horrendous social conditions? Aren’t the real criminals the bankers and bosses responsible for these conditions, not those like McGee who fight them? Shouldn’t the rulers be the ones on trial for all the death, misery, destitution and destruction they cause on a daily basis? Shouldn’t they be made to pay reparations?
The government and the ruling class behind it are using McGee’s case—and rabid racism—to strengthen the repressive apparatus against all poor and working people. They are trying to deflect anger away from the rapidly disintegrating capitalist system, the real enemy of poor and working people.
Langforddavis, a close friend of Dobson, was also charged in the Indictment with the unlawful possession of the weapon. The Indictment alleges Langforddavis is prohibited from possessing firearms due to his past criminal convictions on charges that include aggravated assault, robbery, and unlawful possession of a handgun.
Dobson was arrested this morning by agents of the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General and is scheduled to make an initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp at 2:00 p.m. today.
In February, Langforddavis was arrested in the parking lot of an adult entertainment club and charged by criminal Complaint for the possession of Dobson’s handgun after police officers with the Elizabeth Police Department recognized him as an individual who had days earlier misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer to the police officers by showing them a handgun strapped to his ankle. Currently, Langforddavis is free on a $250,000 secured bond with electronic monitoring.
Dobson is charged in Count One of the Indictment with disposing a firearm, loaded with ten rounds of hollow-point ammunition, to a convicted felon. Count Two charges Dobson with aiding and abetting Langforddavis’ unlawful possession of the firearm and ammunition. Langforddavis is also charged in Count Two for the unlawful possession of the weapon. Both counts carry statutory maximum prison sentences of 10 years and maximum fines of $250,000.
By JOSH POLTILOVE, The Tampa Tribune
and KRISTA KLAUS, News Channel 8
Published: October 21, 2008
Updated: 05:03 pm
TAMPA - A former Chicago police commander has been arrested at his Apollo Beach home on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Jon Burge lied about whether he and other officers he supervised participated in torture of one or more people in custody, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Burge, 60, was arrested by FBI agents from Tampa and Chicago and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury.
"The charges allege that Burge lied and impeded court proceedings in November 2003, when he provided false written answers to questions – known as interrogatories – in a civil lawsuit alleging that he and others tortured and abused people in their custody," a Justice Department news release states.
Burge appeared in Tampa federal court today and will be formally arraigned Monday morning in Chicago.
He was released from jail on $250,000 bond. Prosecutors asked a judge today for Burge to be required to wear an electronic monitoring device; the judge said that wasn't necessary. The judge told Burge to turn over his passport and guns.
Dave Couvertier, an FBI spokesman in Tampa, referred questions to federal investigators in Chicago.
Randall Samborn, an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, said prosecutors needed to file charges within five years of November 2003 to be within the statute of limitations.
In the release, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said police stations should not be a place for abuse and that there is no place for perjury in court, either.
"According to these charges, Jon Burge shamed his uniform and shamed his badge," Fitzgerald said this morning in Chicago at a news conference.
Burge hasn't worn a police uniform or badge for 15 years, and people shouldn't assume all officers commit torture, he said.
A Chicago police spokeswoman could not immediately be reached.
The investigation is ongoing.
In 2003, Illinois' governor pardoned four death row inmates he said had been tortured into false confessions in the 1980s. Each of the four had been on death row at least a dozen years. The men said members of a unit Burge ran had tortured them and they confessed to stop the abuse.
The city spent about $20 million settling those cases.
The Center on Wrongful Convictions, based at Northwestern University, represented Leroy Orange, one of the four men freed from death row.
Orange was convicted in May 1985 of killing two women, a man and a child, and he spent 17 years behind bars before being pardoned, said Rob Warden, the organization's director.
When Orange was arrested in January 1984, Burge and other officers beat him, used a typewriter cover to suffocate him and shocked him with a cattle prod, Warden said.
"Nobody emerges from an experience like this whole," Warden said. "I've met several victims of Burge's torture, and they have all been absolutely profoundly affected by this."
Richard T. Sikes Jr. represented Burge in civil cases but isn't representing him on the new charges. He told The Tampa Tribune today that due to attorney-client privilege, he couldn't discuss conversations he had with Burge regarding torture allegations.
Sikes said he was prepared if the civil cases would have gone to trial.
"But the city made the decision to settle," Sikes said. "It was their money, so it was their right."
According to The Associated Press, a 2006 report by prosecutors appointed by a Cook County, Ill., judge to investigate torture allegations said many alleged cases of police abuse were too old or weak to prosecute.
The report went into graphic detail about the alleged torture of Andrew Wilson, a convicted murderer of two Chicago police officers.
Wilson told investigators that officers kicked and beat him, burned his arm with a cigarette and put a plastic bag over his head. Wilson alleged that an officer then pulled out a black box with a crank on it. He said alligator clips were attached to his left ear and left nostril, and he received a shock when an officer cranked the box. Wilson said Burge also cranked the box to shock him and then put a gun in Wilson's mouth and clicked it.
Burge was a Chicago police officer from 1970 to 1993.
He was a sergeant from 1977 to 1980 and a lieutenant and supervisor of detectives for a violent crimes unit from 1981 to 1986.
He became a Bomb and Arson Unit commander and later led another group of detectives.
The department suspended him in 1991 and fired him in 1993, according to the release.
"The indictment alleges that, on one or more occasions … Burge was present for, or participated in, the torture and physical abuse of persons in police custody," the release states.
If convicted on the federal charges, he faces up to 20 years in prison on each obstruction of justice charge and up to five years in prison for perjury.
Doug Tjapkes, president of Humanity for Prisoners, a Michigan-based group focused on helping with prison advocacy, including the wrongly convicted, said he was heartened by Burge's arrest.
"I think the negative side of this is it paints a picture that cops are brutal, and I'd say a great majority of them are absolutely doing a wonderful job in dealing with a segment of society that many times isn't pleasant to deal with," he said. "That gives no right to that small percentage of officers to treat people, regardless of what they've done, this way."
The ACLU of Illinois, among other organizations, has long pushed for Burge's arrest. It took years, ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said, but justice finally was served.
"The system of justice sometimes moves incredibly slowly," he said. "What one hopes for is that it moves in the right direction. We certainly think today was a move in the right direction."
Burge bought his Apollo Beach home in 1994.
Asked about Burge today, Sharon Geth of Apollo Beach said he was a good neighbor.
Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra and Hidalgo County sheriff's Deputy Emmanuel Sanchez last month became the latest in a long history of border law enforcement officers accused of aiding and abetting the criminals they are supposed to fight.
Those two departments were among the many that have received money from Perry to participate in state-led border security efforts that began in 2005. Records the El Paso Times obtained under the Texas Freedom of Information Act the two counties received more than $4.8 million in state and federal grants from Perry from 2005 to 2008.
Critics of the operations say there are too few accountability measures attached to the border crime funds and worry that corrupt officers could use taxpayer money to help drug traffickers.
"We may as well just send it directly to drug dealers," said state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, long a critic of Perry's border operations. "We've been spending money against our own interests."
But Perry and the sheriffs said border efforts are working well, crime has dropped in Texas border counties and the money is accounted for.
The latest corruption charges are a black eye on the law enforcement community, said Don Reay, executive director of the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, but little
"It is something you're ever-vigilant on, but some people slip through the cracks," Reay said. "Some people are straight and then they go bad for whatever reason."
The U.S. Department of Justice last month handed down a 19-count indictment against Sheriff Guerra, accusing the lawman of conspiring with drug traffickers to move and sell marijuana and cocaine.
He faces 10 years to life in prison and up to $4 million in fines if he's convicted.
Guerra was a member of the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, which the late El Paso Sheriff Leo Samaniego helped create. The group has lobbied hard for money from state and federal officials to help combat border crime.
Records the El Paso Times obtained show that Starr County received more than $4.4 million in state and federal grants from Perry's office since 2005.
Reay said he was shocked to learn of Guerra's arrest.
"When one of ours is taken down, that hurts all of us," he said.
After the arrest, Reay said he froze funding from the Sheriff's Coalition to Starr County and requested audits to ensure the money was spent appropriately.
Hidalgo County sheriff's deputy Sanchez resigned last month and fled to Mexico after he was arrested in Georgia with nearly $1 million in alleged drug money, said Sheriff Guadalupe "Lupe" Treviño.
U.S. attorneys accuse Sanchez of participating in a large-scale drug distribution and money-laundering scheme.
Records show Hidalgo County received more than $400,000 for border operations from Perry since 2005.
University of Texas at El Paso sociology and anthropology professor Howard Campbell said his research has shown that border corruption cases are on the rise.
"The billions of dollars available to traffickers are such that they'll inevitably find the right price to bribe officials on the border," Campbell said.
It's not only local law-enforcement officials that become involved.
In 2006, El Paso FBI special agent-in-charge Hardrick Crawford was sentenced to six months in prison, convicted of making false statements about gifts he received and of concealing information about his friendship with a Juárez racetrack owner suspected of drug trafficking and money laundering.
A Laredo senior U.S. Border Patrol agent and his brother pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking bribes to allow drugs to pass through border checkpoints.
Perry is confident the millions he has doled out to local border officials for border security operations in the last three years have been used to fight crime, said spokeswoman Allison Castle.
A thorough auditing process, she said, ensures the dollars are used appropriately.
"State lawmakers stepped up and provided funding to help secure our border with Mexico, and that's what these funds are being used for," she said.
Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, chairman of the Texas Border Security Council, said audits alone wouldn't catch corrupt cops.
That doesn't mean, though, that funding to local sheriffs should be cut, Cascos said. Cutting money to law enforcement, he said, would unfairly punish border communities.
"We have to assume that everybody's honest," he said.
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has proposed creating a unit within the Texas Attorney General's Office that would investigate border corruption. The measure failed in the 2007 Legislature, but spokesman Steven Polunsky said Carona plans to try again in 2009.
While he is confident border security funds are adequately accounted for, he said, any corruption of public officials is an abuse of taxpayer dollars.
As transnational gangs become more aggressive on both sides of the border, Polunsky said he expects criminals to make more attempts to influence law enforcement officers.
"Tragically and unfortunately, people do things they shouldn't do, and that's a problem," he said.
TABOR CITY — Columbus County investigators found more than $250,000 and a kilogram of cocaine near the home of a former police officer who was arrested last week on drug charges, Sheriff Chris Batten said.
Carl David Wright, 53, accompanied officers to his home at 655 Vinegar Loop Road on Friday night and led investigators to cash buried under the house. Investigators also found drugs hidden in the woods and inside the garage, Batten said.
Wright was charged Wednesday with six counts each of trafficking cocaine by possession, transportation and manufacture. He is being held at the Columbus County Detention Center with bail set at $1 million.
A federal grand jury in Greensboro is expected to hear allegations against Wright next week, Capt. David Nobles said. If that grand jury issues indictments, the state warrants will likely be dismissed in favor of the federal charges, Nobles said.
Investigators received information that led to the search Friday. They received permission from Wright’s wife, Helen Dean Wright, to search the house, Batten said.
The money was buried under the house in water-tight containers made from old lawn mower blade boxes, Batten said. Cocaine was buried in the woods and hidden in the garage.
Helen Wright has not been implicated in any wrongdoing and investigators do not expect to charge her, Batten said.
“At this point we do not anticipate any others being charged,” Batten said.
With Wright’s arrest last week, officers obtained a search warrant to go through his house. State and federal revenue agents seized three flat-screen TVs, two lawn mowers and two vehicles — a 2002 Chevrolet Camaro and a 1997 Nissan pickup. The items will be sold to help satisfy a $39,000 tax that Wright owes for possession of the cocaine.
Officers also seized a jar of coins weighing nearly 100 pounds that contained more than $1,400. Another $4,000 was also seized. The cash was taken by the revenue agents and will be applied to Wright’s drug tax bill, Batten said.
Lumberton Police Chief Maurice Hammond's arrest on Katrina fraud charges is a blessing in disguise, Mayor Larry Strahan believes.
"I can tell you this, when we select a new chief, before I sign off on it, he's going to be qualified as a professional. This may be a blessing," Strahan said.
Two FBI agents marched into the Police Department on Monday afternoon and arrested Hammond, while two other agents delivered the news to Strahan, who lives across the street. The agents stripped Hammond of his police insignia and gun, cuffed him and hauled him away.
"I was surprised the way it was handled and I was surprised that it actually did get handled," Strahan said. "Just because you are a law enforcement officer doesn't excuse you from being prosecuted.
"I'm amazed that he thought he could get away with this."
Hammond was released after an initial appearance Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg. He is set to be arraigned Monday, also in Hattiesburg, on eight felony charges. Federal authorities say he filed a false claim with FEMA, made false statements to FEMA and the Small Business Administration, stole public funds and instigated four fraudulent wire transfers of FEMA funds totaling $19,514.
If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 105 years in prison and $2 million in fines.
The indictment said Hammond filed a disaster assistance claim for property on North Hughes Street in Poplarville, although he did not live there when Katrina hit in 2005. Hammond listed the same address in court records and answered the telephone there Tuesday. "I'll just have to talk to my attorney," he said, "I can't release anything."
Hammond's first stint with the Police Department ended years ago with his forced resignation, Strahan said. Hammond rejoined the force in August 2006 as a police officer. The Board of Aldermen voted him in as chief less than a year ago.
Hammond had been serving as police chief for about six months when Strahan was elected mayor in April. Strahan said he knew something was up before Hammond's arrest because rumors were floating around about an FBI investigation.
He said some members of the full-time police force were "excited" about Hammond's arrest. "I didn't see any tears," Strahan said.
For the time being, Strahan is in charge of the Police Department, which has four full-time officers. He has placed Hammond on administrative leave with pay. Strahan plans to ask the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday to fire Hammond and appoint a new chief.
"They have a golden opportunity to get somebody who's a professional and somebody with experience," Strahan said. "If they're not going to do it this time, I'll just veto it. It's time that we start representing the people who elected us. I don't think the board's done that to the best of their ability and until they do, I'm not going to go along with it."
Lawrence, who city records show joined the Schenectady Police Department in January 2001, was off duty at the time.
Sources say the patrolman began arguing with a patron at the popular downtown Union Street hangout, threw the first punch and hurled racial slurs at the man. Lawrence suffered a cut to the head.
When patrol officers arrived and tried to restore order, Lawrence also quarrelled and got into a physical struggle with at least one of them before being driven home by an officer, according to sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on personnel matters.
Lawrence did not return a call to his home Wednesday afternoon seeking comment, and neither did police brass.
A woman tending bar at Manhattan Exchange said the owner would not be in until late and would be too busy to call back.
It's unclear when Lawrence's 30-day unpaid suspension took effect. He had already been out on sick leave for months following a crash in January in which a motorist plowed into his cruiser while he was on duty. It was unknown if he had returned to work since the accident.
The suspension came after an internal probe conducted by the department's Office of Professional Standards.
This is not the first time Lawrence has been in trouble. In October 2006, while off duty, he was arrested after he lost control of his car, sending it flipping into a ditch near Watervliet Shaker Road in Colonie.
He also allegedly had fought with his brother-in-law, a passenger in the vehicle, who wanted to report the crash to authorities. At the time, Lawrence was placed on leave.
He had been charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, a misdemeanor, and harassment, a violation. A court clerk said Wednesday afternoon that the matter is waiting to be scheduled for a hearing before Colonie Town Justice Susan Tatro.
Over the past few years, several city officers have faced criminal charges. Some have been sent to prison for a variety of crimes ranging from drug-related charges in connection with an FBI probe to giving a stolen gun to a drug dealer to tipping off a buddy to a State Police gambling investigation.
To combat the problem, Mayor Brian U. Stratton has in recent years hired a new police safety commissioner and police chief and promised to weed out rogue cops.
A state police review of the arrest of a former stripper who blabbed to the media about her lurid liaisons with Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez has found that the troopers who arrested her acted appropriately.
Buxom hairdresser Candice Houlihan, 32, blasted the state police in July, claiming that curious troopers capitalized on her notoriety and tracked her down over a warrant for motor vehicle charges after details of her 2004 affair were splashed across Boston and New York tabloids. Her revelations were made as Rodriguez’ wife prepared to file for divorce.
Houlihan told the Herald that one of the troopers asked her during her arrest if they had ever dated.
An internal state police investigation found that the troopers acted “within the scope of their duties,” according to the 16-page report provided to the Herald through a public records request.
“(State police) could find no evidence to support or refute Houlihan’s claim that she had been arrested solely based on her notoriety,” according to a Sept. 25 letter signed by Major Daniel A. Grabowski.
One trooper said that he was talking about “current events” and Houlihan’s name came up in conversation and it sounded familiar, “possibly a name he had heard before in court,” according to the report. There were two arresting troopers.
One trooper told investigators that he recognized Houlihan’s name from hearing it in court and ran a background check that revealed a 2004 warrant on motor vehicle charges. She was arrested July 10 at her mom’s Wakefield home. Houlihan could not be reached for comment.
WASHINGTON - As the Department of Homeland Security prepares for its first transition, a series of major projects - including a communication network linking state and locals officials in a crisis, a system to scan shipping containers for terrorist weapons, and a massive border-control initiative - face serious technical delays or cost overruns.
In addition, the agency is struggling in its relationship with Congress, where it answers to dozens of committees with jurisdiction over its operations - a chaotic structure that requires a large number of personnel simply to respond to lawmakers' requests.
And with an estimated three-quarters of its headquarters staff having less than two years of experience managing the agency's $50 billion-a-year operation, there is an urgent requirement to invest in "human capital," according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior government officials.
The result, they say, is disarray at the federal department responsible for developing the nation's defenses against terrorism and natural disasters. With a variety of key security measures in limbo - the department has yet to implement laws requiring that maritime cargo be scanned for nuclear materials and that hazardous materials be rerouted around urban areas - the incoming Obama administration is facing what one adviser to the president-elect described as a "superhuman task."
"There are significant and pervasive management challenges," said David Heyman, director of the Homeland Security Program at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and coauthor of a new report, Homeland Security 3.0, a blueprint for strengthening domestic preparedness. "There is still much to be done."
The challenges identified by current and former government officials cut across the vast department, which combined 22 government entities when it opened its doors in 2003.
A major task is managing large investment programs - many of which are in trouble.
"The least progress has been made on management," said Cathleen Berrick, director of homeland security and justice at the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. "But it is very important. That is how they let contracts and oversee programs. It is such a huge challenge."
The list of problem-plagued programs includes the $24 billion "Deepwater" project to build a fleet of Coast Guard vessels, helicopters, and other high-tech gear that is experiencing major delays and ballooning costs.
The Secure Border Initiative, costing more than $2 billion this year alone, is a major effort to increase Customs and Border Protection personnel, introduce detection technologies, and construct a fence along the border with Mexico. But major elements of the project, including a network called SBInet to ensure different agencies can coordinate, have been put on hold pending further testing and development.
Meanwhile, although recent intelligence assessments have warned that a biological attack poses the greatest terror threat, signature defense measures - including the multibillion-dollar Project Bioshield to stockpile antidotes - have made only limited strides, according to Tom Ridge, the first secretary of homeland security.Continued...
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