Public trust of the police

Moderated by Rick Badie

Accountability, trust, transparency. We expect it from our police departments and, in light of recent killings, some are taking steps to deliver. Agencies are moving to independent investigations of officer-involved killings and shootings. Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers recently announced the GBI would investigate actions that result in death or serious, life-threatening injury. Today, an official for a state law enforcement group applauds such policy shifts. The companion essay capsulizes ways we can deter scammers. Finally, we revisit a recent conversation on healthy living.

Opinion: Independent queries of police build public trust

By Frank V. Rotondo

Use of force by a law enforcement official, where fatalities or serious injuries occur, has been the focus of disharmony throughout our country for decades. A law enforcement officer’s use of deadly physical force requires a thorough investigation as to whether the officer used reasonable force to stop unwanted or illegal conduct.

All people, individuals or groups, affected by police use of deadly physical force bring to the table a unique perspective based on life experiences, preconceptions and biases. The investigation following such incidents must be meticulously scrutinized. Any perception of partiality by law enforcement will taint the investigating department. This is especially true if an agency elects to conduct its own criminal investigation involving “one of their own.”

Given the current public perception of law enforcement, it is now essential for many departments to request an outside, independent law enforcement agency to investigate officer-involved use of deadly physical force.

Professional law enforcement agencies investigate crime every day. Therefore, when they request an independent investigation, they should be praised for their forethought in knowing that, if they conducted their own investigation, criticism may follow.

Fortunately, in Georgia, law enforcement agencies can request the services of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The GBI is nationally recognized as a premier investigative unit that is well-staffed and well-trained, and it stands ready and willing to assist. Its Law Enforcement Use of Force and Custodial Death Investigation Manual is the template many states follow when they conduct a comprehensive and court-worthy investigation.

When the GBI concludes an investigation, its findings are released to the CEO of the requesting law enforcement unit and are simultaneously offered to the local prosecutor. Once the active investigation is cleared for release, the GBI investigation becomes public record.In addition, when a department asks an outside agency to conduct a criminal review, the way is cleared for that department to conduct its own administrative investigation following stipulations of Garrity v. New Jersey. In that 1967 Supreme Court decision, police officers and other public employees were deemed to have the right to be free from compulsory self-incrimination. That case led to what is commonly called “Garrity Warnings.”

The Garrity case is complex, but what it generally means is two separate investigations may be conducted: One to determine if an officer-involved incident warrants criminal action, and the second to determine if an officer violated departmental policy, which could result in employment sanctions.

By requesting an outside agency to conduct a deadly physical force investigation, a police department avoids the intermingling of criminal and administrative investigations. Generally, only very large agencies have the resources to successfully separate the two investigations.

President Barack Obama empanelled a group of distinguished citizens and law enforcement leaders to address policing concerns in the United States. Their findings, in the recently released “Interim Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” cite citizen concerns that police are using too much force. There were numerous recommendations for building more community trust between the police and the citizens they serve.

Why bring in a well-respected, state-consulting, independent investigative unit to investigate and make transparent its findings? To build public trust and faith in today’s law enforcement professionals by proving that, as a whole, they are doing what is right for the public they serve.

Frank Vincent Rotondo is executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

Opinion: Protect your castle from criminals

By Greg Bettis

Is there a conversation of finances today that does not include the words “fraud” or “scam”?

Whether the discussion is in the corporate boardroom or your living room, the words still bite the same. Scam artists around the globe defraud millions of people each year. Billions of dollars are lost to con artists who have learned their craft very well, through telemarketing scams, mail fraud, home repair fraud and credit scams.

You’ve worked hard. Now, you should put equally focused thought into protecting you and your families. How does one keep others from getting personal information?

Stop giving it to them.

Con artists, scammers and jerks will enter your castle if you let them. How do they get in? You let them in. You bring them in with the mail, on the computer or through the telephone.

Think about your mail. After returning from the mailbox, check your mail to sort the legitimate from the suspicious. Mail offers often come with a promise to deliver a service or goods or sometimes very large sums of money. All you have to do to receive this amazing offer is call a telephone number and provide your Social Security number or a personal bank account number.These offers may look authentic and even display common company logos. They are designed to fool you into giving them the key to open your personal information.

Maybe you invite them in through your computer. We’ve all received the email about a person in another country who needs a friend in America to hold several million dollars for him while waiting for a passport to arrive. Email offers are numerous today due to the number of people who own and use home computers for business and fun. The con artist hopes to target someone who is ready to earn something free; he usually asks you to provide “seed money” or “show good faith” by giving personal information.

Other popular offers are for discounted medications that promise increased cognitive function, virility, anti-aging, etc. Delete the suspicious email without opening it. You know it’s “too good to be true.” Are you willing to let someone inside your castle?

Sometimes we let them in by staying on the telephone with them longer than is reasonable. That’s when they’ve taken over the conversation and are almost inside your walls. If you do not know the caller, ask, “Who are you calling?” or “Who do you wish to speak with?” This makes them identify themselves. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, hang up. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into conversations with strangers about business offers or vacation packages that require you to reveal your name, address, Social Security number or bank account information.

Often con artists come to the castle door. A person at your home should be there for a legitimate reason. If it’s a stranger, be cautious and establish the person’s identity. If the person says he or she is a company representative, ask for identification, and call the company to verify. If the person produces identification but you still are not sure of the validity of the visit, telephone his or her business office for confirmation. If you still feel uncomfortable, do not open the door, and ask the person to return in 30 minutes. This will allow you time to contact a friend or relative to be present when the individual returns.

Face to face, it’s easier for that person to pressure you into giving information or signing something that will harm you. If someone does not comply with your request, call the police.

Common fraud schemes are very inviting and usually offer something too good to be true. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Your home is your castle. Protect it well.

Greg Bettis is a detective with the Holly Springs Police Department.

Opinion: Better health for Atlanta moms, babies

By G. Kim Sumpter

Preparing to be a new mom wasn’t supposed to be like this. Recently divorced, Lily moved to be closer to friends, but she couldn’t find a place of her own. Lily was pregnant and couldn’t get stable work. The stress of having to relocate and find a safe, comfortable home plus employment placed Lily at risk of having a low birth weight baby — a newborn weighing less than 5.5 pounds.

Though Lily had just moved to Georgia, she was not alone. Thousands of moms-to-be have low birth weight babies, and many of these babies do not make it to their first birthdays. Seventy percent of infants who die in their first year of life were born low birth weight.

Georgia’s low birth weight rate is one of the worst nationwide and runs 10.6 percent in greater Atlanta, according to the 2015 County Health Rankings released last month. That broader view of health has helped guide United Way of Greater Atlanta in its commitment to ensure more babies are born at healthy weights. The effort, Babies Born Healthy, is expected to save $30 million in health care costs over three years.More than saving money, the network helps families avoid the heartache that often comes with a low birth weight infant. We do this through our MOMS Program, which employs trained home visitors to support and educate moms-to-be in the comfort of their homes. This help is provided for up to two years after a newborn joins the family. Plus, the program supports new parents as they create and achieve financial goals.

MOMS home visitors befriended Lily. They assessed the safety of her home and taught prenatal care and parenting skills. Most importantly, Lily’s caseworker helped her land a job where she could use her nursing skills and find a place to live. Her home visitor continues to meet with her each month, and will do so for nearly two years after the birth of her healthy baby. Lily says the difference in her stress level is “like night and day.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta is improving lives by increasing the caring power — not charity — of our local communities to advance the common good. Thanks to the County Health Rankings, we have a road map to guide decisions about improving health in metro Atlanta.

We work to engage and bring together people and resources to drive sustainable improvements in the well-being of children, families and individuals. Our Babies Born Healthy Network works with local, state-based and national organizations to find solutions to reduce the number of low birth weight babies and improve the health of the region’s mothers and their families.

G. Kim Sumpter is director of Babies Born Healthy Network of the United Way of Greater Atlanta.


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