National / International News

Body cameras spread, changing how cops do their job

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:59

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has announced a $20 million Justice Department pilot project to provide body cameras to selected police departments nationwide, to help encourage and study their use.

While dash cams that record from inside a police car are now widely deployed nationwide, body cams are currently in use in a small minority of police departments. The systems are expensive—with an initial investment for cameras, and ongoing costs for data storage and technology management.

The police department in Rialto, California, has been using body cams since 2012. They're small, cigarette-lighter-sized video cameras mounted to a helmet or uniform, with built-in data storage for videos, connected to a small battery pack. The cameras — Rialto’s are supplied by Taser International — are supposed to be turned on by the officer before any significant encounter with a member of the public, a witness or a suspect. That means everything from a routine traffic stop, to a domestic dispute, to a robbery in progress.

Rialto was the subject of one of the first controlled academic studies of the impact of body cams on policing.

Rialto police chief Tony Farrar was studying for a master’s degree at the Cambridge University Institute of Criminology in the U.K. in 2012. He worked with several of his professors to craft a study on the roll out of body cams in his police department. Farrar obtained approximately $100,000 in state and federal grants to purchase cameras (at about $1,000 each, plus the hardware and software necessary to upload and store video from each officer’s shift).

Farrar says the results of that initial study were impressive—so impressive, he outfitted the entire department, all 106 sworn officers in the small Southern California city of 100,000, in 2013.

“We’ve got less officer complaints, less times that we have to use force,” says Farrar. Complaints against police by civilians declined by 88 percent in the first year body cams were being worn, according to the Cambridge study; use-of-force by police declined by 60 percent. Violent incidents against the police also declined — the Cambridge researchers speculate that people interacting with police know they’re being videotaped, and moderate their behavior as a result. Farrar says the department’s rate of successful prosecution improved, because of better evidence being gathered on the body cams.

Farrar’s conclusion: “Hopefully, we have an increase in public trust and credibility and the overall legitimacy of policing.”

Still, not everyone in the department was on board to hit the streets “packing video.” Farrar says, “some of the more seasoned officers had a few more questions.” A young patrol officer in the department, Randall Peterson, who is a former Marine with two and a half years on the force, agrees. He says there was “controversy” when the body cams were rolled out.

But he himself quickly came to accept them as a valuable addition to his standard procedure and gear when he goes out patrolling his beat. On a recent day shift, he was looking for witnesses and a suspect in an alleged assault. If he found them, he planned to videotape everything that transpired. For the suspect in particular, he says, “there’s a huge potential for him to either make a spontaneous statement that he did commit the offense, or, say he decides he wants to run or fight, then it’s going to catch any offense that he commits after the fact during my contact.”

“A big part of my job is protecting myself from civil liability,” says Peterson. “And why not help myself? That’s how I see it.”

Chief Farrar says all the videotaping hasn’t crimped his veteran officers’ style—on patrol or at headquarters.

“Officers sometimes have a very unique way of relieving stress and tension, and pulling pranks on each other,” says Farrar. “I went downstairs to briefing the other day and they kind of ripped me apart. We don’t arbitrarily search videos looking for officers that did something wrong or may have said something wrong.”

Police departments grapple with body camera costs

Officer Peterson feels comfortable in his privacy while on the job. He says he videotapes what’s required, and is careful to control his mode of expression in front of civilians. But, “I have the ability to turn the camera off when I want to tell a joke to my partner. And I honestly should have the professionalism to realize that if I’m in front of the public, I should probably keep my inappropriate jokes to myself.”

Chief Farrar says he absolutely does want his officers to be conscious that they’re being recorded, to temper their behavior in stressful law enforcement situations.

“If you have a long foot chase, or a long car chase, or you make a very good arrest, the officers want to congratulate each other or whatever,” says Farrar. “But I don’t think it’s appropriate to be high-fiving at the end of a car chase.”

However, inhibiting police officers from acting as they otherwise would, absent a camera recording their every word and move, is seen as a problem by law enforcement officers who oppose mandatory use of body cams. And it’s also a concern shared by some criminal justice experts.

Professor Maki Haberfeld chairs the program in law, police science and criminal justice administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Haberfeld predicts that increasingly ubiquitous video-monitoring of police, plus police officials, prosecutors and civil rights lawyers scrutinizing all that video for evidence of misconduct, will make officers on the beat afraid to use adequate force when they need to.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they will second-guess themselves, they will hesitate, and it can potentially create a danger,” she says.

Haberfeld is also skeptical as to whether more videotaping will really help good cops defend their use of force, or protect the public when bad cops go over the line.

“Things can be understood out of context even if they’re recorded,” says Haberfeld. “This is going to be scrutinized against standards that are totally unrealistic, by people who do not understand how police work is done properly. Certain situations appear to be abusive when they’re not.”

Of course, police could just turn off their video recorders when they’re in a dangerous situation, or if a situation has the potential to make them look bad. But that would violate police policy in most jurisdictions where body cams are in use.

And, in response to the potential for police to fail to record incidents or attempt to manipulate what has been recorded, some critics of police behavior are already calling for body cams to be set or designed to record all the time, throughout an officer’s shift. Then officers wouldn’t have to turn the cameras on to record an incident; in fact, they wouldn’t be able to turn the body cams off.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on-camera every minute of the day,” says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a public-interest legal group formerly affiliated with the ACLU. “It should only be done where it’s really necessary. But there are cases where it may be necessary, like police officers. It’s literally a matter of life and death, and experience has shown that we can’t detect police abuse any other way.”

VIDEO: High-wire wedding at Wookey Hole

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:58
Two circus performers tie the knot while balanced on a high-wire 25m (80ft) in the air.

Girl's 'massive bruise was fatal'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:52
A four-year-old girl died at the hands of her father after she suffered one huge bruise from her stomach to her ankles, a court hears.

No tourist spots for China officials

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:49
The Chinese government publishes 21 pictures of scenic tourist spots where civil servants are banned from meeting.

'Into The Wild' Author Tries Science To Solve Toxic Seed Mystery

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:49

Jon Krakauer has long been haunted by the question of how the subject of his book died in the Alaskan wilderness. In a journal, he and a scientist show that the seeds he consumed can contain a toxin.

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England pick Rashid and Wood for ODI

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:18
England's Adil Rashid and Mark Wood return from the West Indies early and are in the squad for the ODI against Ireland.

VIDEO: Royal Opera House's Polish production

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 11:08
For the first time in its history the Royal Opera House in London is staging a production sung in Polish.

Reaction To Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby's Remarks

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:42

On Friday, Mosby announced that the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide. She is charging the city police officers with a range of offenses — including second-degree murder and manslaughter.

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Reaction To Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby's Remarks

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:42

On Friday, Mosby announced that the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide. She is charging the city police officers with a range of offenses — including second-degree murder and manslaughter.

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Urine For A Surprise: Your Pee Might Reveal Your Risk For Obesity

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:30

There are clues about your activity level and metabolism in urine. Researchers hope to one day predict obesity risk by tracking the different levels and ratios of certain molecules in pee.

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Your Wallet: What are you chasing?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:21

What are you chasing in your financial life? Retirement? Savings?

Will you catch it? Tell us about your race.

You can write to us here

Or on Marketplace's Facebook page.

Or on twitter ... We're at @MarketplaceWKND


Love rival killer jailed for stabbing

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:12
A man who killed a minicab dispatcher in a "ferocious" attack in a row over a woman in east London is jailed for 28 years.

Police give new Harris evidence to CPS

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:12
A "full file" of further allegations against entertainer Rolf Harris is being considered by prosecutors, the BBC understands.

VIDEO: Could this battery end energy bills?

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:11
Telsa Motors, the US company which makes electric cars, has unveiled a new battery it says can power homes using solar panels.

Trott not suited as opener - Boycott

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:09
Jonathan Trott should be replaced as an England opener after another duck, says Geoffrey Boycott.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Unveils Home Battery — Is $3,000 Cheap Enough?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:05

With a sleek surface and a depth of only about half a foot, the Powerwall can be mounted on a garage wall or another surface, indoors or outside.

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Building a more accessible home, no matter your budget

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:02

When Staff Sergeant Matt Dewitt came home from Iraq, what he wanted most was to be able to take care of his family — to live comfortably at home with his wife and two young children, taking care of them as he always had. But the war left him wounded — both of his arms were amputated below the elbow.

Staff Sergeant Matt Dewitt. 

Courtesy This Old House

In his former home, day-to-day tasks became harder than usual. Simple things, like giving his kids a bath, were impossible; Dewitt couldn't independently use the spigots or change the water temperature. 

Dewitt's story echoes that of many people who, after an injury, illness or onset of disability changes their life, find themselves seeking a more accessibly designed home. 

In Dewitt's case, the solution was a new home, built through a joint effort by the nonprofit Homes For Our Troops and PBS's "This Old House."

Armed with about $400,000 from Homes For Our Troops, the "This Old House" team built the Dewitt family a new home from the ground up. The entire house was designed with accessibility in mind: keyless entry, touchless faucets, temperature sensors, and rooms and showers without thresholds. Building this way uses a principal called Universal Design, and includes modifications meant to meet a wide variety of needs. 

The Dewitt home. 

Courtesy This Old House

"This Old House" host Kevin O'Connor says building or modifying a home to meet the needs of a person with a disability is a complex process.

"The first thing that really should happen with any renovation is to do an assessment," he says. "You want to actually figure out: what are their needs? Are they in a wheelchair? If they're not now, will they be in the future? Are they an amputee? Do they have a caregiver with them, and is that caregiver there part-time, or full-time?"

O'Connor says the best assessments are done alongside a healthcare provider — a doctor or therapist who can speak to their patient's specific needs and make sure they're being met, with the goal that someone can live in their home "comfortably and independently."

For people adapting their home without help from outside groups or grants, modifications can be expensive. O'Connor says that there's a wide range of costs for renovations, the most expensive of which involves making a two-story house wheelchair accessible with an elevator or lift. 

Fernando Hernandez, who was paralyzed at 19 by a tumor on his spine, has dealt with a broad spectrum of adaptations with varying costs.

When he first started using his wheelchair, Hernandez was attending USC, and he moved from his apartment into an accessible dorm. His family moved into a more accessible house, but it still had two stories, so they spent about $17,000 on a lift. Other modifications to that home brought the grand total closer to $30,000. 

When Hernandez moved into his own home three years ago, he was working with a much different budget.

"I wanted to do very little modification to the house," he says. "I definitely was looking for a one story house, and wide door openings, and an open concept house."

Hernandez modified his home by adding a few short plywood ramps his friend built to help him go more smoothly over thresholds and small steps. Instead of widening his doorways — something O'Connor says can cost about $450 per door — he bought special hinges for about $5 each. They pull the door outside of the frame, allowing a few inches of extra space to get through in a wheelchair, something that Hernandez says is important to him, since he's six-foot-six. 

Hernandez made his home more accessible with aesthetics in mind, and some of his favorite accessible furniture wasn't made especially for people in wheelchairs, but serves two purposes. His headboard, for example, includes a bar to help him transfer in and out of bed, and his dining table is pedestal style, so he can roll right up to any spot. As accessible design becomes more mainstream, people designing and furnishing homes with accessibility in mind have more options, and lower costs.

One exception? The bathroom.

"The bathroom is one of the big areas that does require quite a bit of expense," Hernandez says, "and definitely money well spent if you do all the safety things that you need to."

In his bathroom, Hernandez has a shower bench, a couple grab bars for stability and a wheelchair bathroom bench, which sits over the toilet. Hernandez says that even the bathroom renovations were doable on a DIY budget: grab bars cost about $25 to $100, depending on size and type, and his shower bench was about $100. 

O'Connor says even for people without disabilities, renovating accessibly is important, and is becoming more so as people purchase homes with plans to stay there as they age.

"Right now in this country, there are well over 40 million people who are 65 or older, and in my experience, that is the population that is driving these changes." O'Connor says. "It's making people think 'Hey, if we're going to renovate, maybe we should get rid of the bathtub, and maybe we should put in a curb-less shower'...and we are seeing that from perfectly able-bodied young people thinking forward. These changes are coming to the American home."

As accessibility in the present and the future becomes more important to people, universal design becomes more prevalent in buildings and houses. Universal design is the reason behind the increase in the number of homes with master bed and bathroom suites on the ground floor. It includes touches as obvious as open floor plans and as small as paddle door handles, which may be easier on arthritic hands than round knobs. 

O'Connor says that big building companies are already taking note, and that accessible options are out there for people who want them.

"There's no doubt about it that this is already there," O'Connor says. "People probably don't even know that they are buying features that would be considered universal design."

To learn more about the Dewitt home and the "This Old House" veterans project, tune in to "This Old House" on PBS starting May 14. 

Land a job with help from virtual reality

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-01 10:01

Albert "Skip" Rizzo is a pioneer in virtual technology. His newest program is the the Virtual Interactive Training Agent, or VITA.

It was developed by the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, in partnership with the Dan Marino Foundation. The interactive aims to help people navigate a job interview. For people on the autism spectrum, Rizzo says, job interviews can be particularly daunting.

VITA helps people practice questions with a virtual interviewer.

"We can set them to have three different behavioral dispositions. They can be that really nice, light-touch job interviewer, the neutral interviewer or the real stress interviewer — the real son-of-a-B," Rizzo says. "We can have people practice how they will respond to these types of characters under a range of conditions."

Aaron Brown-Coats went through the VITA program as part of the curriculum at the Dan Marino Foundation, and says working with the virtual characters helped change the way he interacts at his own job.

Play vital for children, says Hunt

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 09:45
Children are arriving at school unable to speak properly because parents are not playing and talking to them enough, Labour's Tristram Hunt has said.

Baltimore Mayor: 'No One Is Above The Law In Our City'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 09:37

As Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke, people in west Baltimore celebrated. The mayor also instructed her police chief to suspend all officers facing felony charges.

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