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Archive for July, 2015

SLT Editorial: DEA Should Not Bypass Judges Or Search Warrants

dea-badgeBy Editorial Board
The Salt Lake Tribune

If the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it can’t do its job without bypassing a judge’s signature, it raises reasonable suspicions about law enforcement operating without proper oversight.

If the DEA adds that such a bypass is needed to stop Utahns from overdosing at high rates, it exposes just how shameless the war on drugs has become.

In a move that raises the specter of indiscriminate NSA phone monitoring, the federal government’s drug cops are pushing back against a Utah law that took effect this year that requires a judge to sign a search warrant for access to the state’s data base of prescriptions. Before that law, law enforcement could simply use “administrative subpoenas” that required no signoff from a judge.

It is precisely because of the abuse of such subpoenas that Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored the Utah law. The prescription data base was created in 1995 to track the blossoming problem of prescription drug abuse, particularly pain medications, and police could access it without a formal warrant from a judge.

In a notorious case, Cottonwood Heights police searched through every prescription issued to 480 Unified Fire Authority employees after pills were found missing from ambulances. If that egregious violation of privacy wasn’t enough, prosecutors eventually filed faulty charges against one assistant fire chief based on the search. He was cleared, and he’s now suing Cottonwood Heights.

DEA’s spokeswoman says the state’s new requirement “will significantly hamper our mission,” but she didn’t elaborate on how. All the Utah law asks is that the DEA get a judge to sign a warrant before the data base can be searched. That is something that could take as little as a couple of hours in a process that most of law enforcement uses daily. It also adds a measure of legitimacy to any investigation, meaning that the eventual charges have a better chance of sticking.

To read more click here. 

Mexican Immigrants Getting Injured at Alarming Rates by Jumping Border Fence

border fence photoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The treacherous trek through the 100-degree desert may not be the most difficult challenge for many immigrants who are sneaking over the border from Mexico.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that an increasing number of people are getting injured trying to jump the border fence, which has been made higher in some areas.

As a result, hospitals are seeing numerous case of injured immigrants. Most of the injuries are to the feet, ankles and spine.

“It’s the same crossing through the wall or through the desert,” said Gilda Felix, director of the Juan Bosco immigrant shelter from Nogales. “Both are difficult and dangerous.”

The exact number of people getting injured from jumping the fence is unclear, but nearly 100 case were reported so far this year by two Mexican consulates.

How FBI Tracked Down Pedophile Using Facial Recognition Technology

FBI-facial-recognitionBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Lynn Cozart eluded authorities for 19 years after he was convicted of sexually assaulting three children.

In a last-ditch effort, the FBI submitted his mug shot to the bureau’s new facial recognition technology, Next Generation Identification (NGI).

Before long, the mug shot matched a driver’s license photo from Oklahoma, Valley News Live reports. 

The match helped the FBI track Cozard down at a Walmart in Oklahoma, where he was working under a different name.

“You take a case that had a 19 year gap, or the guy was on the run for 19 years,” said Stephen L. Morris, the assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, which includes NGI.

“Technology did result in the identification of that guy because it happened to provide them a lead they were able to run down in Oklahoma,” he told CBS News. “When the task force in Oklahoma started running it down, they were able to verify the individual under a different name was one in the same as the individual working in Walmart.”

The system went live in September and reportedly cost $1 billion.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Real Sopranos

FBI Raids Allentown City Hall in Pennsylvania; Many Questions Loom

Allentown, PA

Allentown, PA

A federal grand jury investigation has prompted FBI agents to raid Allentown City Hall in Pennsylvania last week, The Morning Call reports. 

Agents spent hours collecting records dating from 2005 to present, said Susan Ellis Wild, Allentown’s solicitor.

“There are a number of things in the search warrant,” Wild said. “It was not terribly specific.”

What remains unclear is target of the investigation.

Some city officials have said they were interviewed by the FBI about city contracts, but they didn’t offer more details.

Journalists Beat FBI at Providing Accurate Info of Cop-Involved Shootings

Washington post murdersBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When it comes to compiling accurate, complete information about people killed by law enforcement, journalists are running circles around the FBI.

One of the leaders is The Washington Post, which began building a database of every person shot and killed by police or federal agents so far this year, the Marshall Project reports.

On June 26, escaped murderer Richard Matt became the 459th person this year to be fatally shot by law enforcement.

The catalog comes from local news reports, independent databases and readers. Included is a host of information such as age, race, gender and residence.

The Guardian started a similar project this year.

For years, the FBI’s tally of crimes has been criticized as inaccurate and l0w because it depends on self-reporting by police agencies.

Border Patrol Recounts Dramatic Moments Before Shooting Escapee Richard Matt

Clinton Correctional Facility

Clinton Correctional Facility

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

During the manhunt for two escaped murderers, Border Patrol agents swooped into the woods of northern New York after hearing reports of gunshots.

The agents spotted one of the escapees behind a tree. When he pointed a shotgun at them, the agents fatally shot the killer.

It was the first detailed report of Richard Matt’s death, the Burlington Free Press reports.

“Our agents were obviously expecting the worst on every one of those calls,” Chief John Pfeifer said. “Very challenging terrain, challenging weather, lot of stress. You’re dealing with some very bad individuals. Can’t thank law enforcement enough for bringing these individuals back in.”

Matt and another inmate escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dennemora and were on the run for three weeks.

Other Stories of Interest

Fentanyl-Heroin Overdose Deaths Surge

imgres

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Three months ago the mother of an Ypsilanti Township man found her young son slumped over in his bed, dead, with a syringe still in his hand. He was one of the latest victims of the deadly combination of heroin laced with the prescription drug fentanyl.

Zachary Burdette is charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit with causing this death and two others resulting from a growing epidemic of combining heroin with this pharmaceutical drug.

Earlier this year Dennis Sica was convicted in New York with the same crime, again resulting in three deaths. He named the deadly heroin-fentanyl combination “Breaking Bad.”

Outside of law enforcement and medical circles, fentanyl is a little known synthetic opiate, the most potent one available for medical treatment. The rise in the use of heroin, especially by younger and more affluent buyers, has made fentanyl a particularly useful cutting agent to increase the potency of low quality heroin, and occasionally cocaine. Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. The deadly problem is that it achieves this purpose only too well, and the result has dramatically increased overdose deaths in the last two years.

Fentanyl is often sold on the street without identifying it, as for example a “fake Oxy” pill or “hybrid smack.” It also has a dozen analogues manufactured in clandestine labs often referred to as “China White.”

In March 2015 DEA issued a nationwide alert on this danger through the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). The National Forensic Laboratory Information Service reports that the number of lab submissions containing fentanyl increased from 942 in 2013 to 3,344 in 2015. Those numbers are continuing to rise this year.

During the first five months of 2015 there were more than sixty deaths attributed to this combination in southeastern Michigan. California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania report similar numbers. Overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Canada have surged the last year. Deaths from using fentanyl are twice as prevalent in Ontario as heroin deaths and account for one-fourth of the overdose deaths in British Columbia, up from just five per cent in 2012.

The other aspect that makes the drug so desirable to dealers is its accessibility through prescription drug abuse. Fentanyl has been used by doctors since the 1960s as a particularly effective anesthetic and pain reliever. Its rapid onset character is an effective pain reliever for cancer patients. It is prescribed in several forms, including transdermal patches, oral tablets, nasal sprays and lozenges on a stick (referred to as “lollipops”).

A study in the journal Pain found that one-tenth of the users of prescription painkillers end up addicted to them, and one-fourth of the prescribed drugs end up being misused or diverted out of accepted medical use. Some law enforcement officers consider fentanyl to be the new Oxycontin. It’s cheaper, easier to get access to with the recent restrictions on Oxy, and it produces more of the high that becomes so addictive for opiate users.

Dealers can readily use these forms to combine with heroin either for injection, smoking, or snorting. But fentanyl itself cannot be so easily diluted because it has a very quick absorption rate. Even in small quantities of a single dose, it can have a variety of dangerous side effects, including hallucinations, aphasia, and respiratory depression. Under the watchful eye of a physician, the drug can be a life saver. Uncontrolled on the street, it can be a life taker.

The other danger message sent by DEA about fentanyl is that it poses a special risk for law enforcement officers because it absorbs so readily. Exposure to the drug, for example in the execution of a search warrant or undercover, either by inhaling it or by skin contact can be perilous if the officer has an allergy to opiates.

Deadly, accessible, and on the rise, fentanyl poses the latest crisis for law enforcement.