Human Trafficking-The Urban Institute

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/04/human-trafficking-urban-institute/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s show examines human trafficking. Research shows that there’s a common misperception about human trafficking. Most believe that it’s something that happens predominately outside of the US, not in our own backyards. Research from the Urban Institute tells us why so many human trafficking cases slip through the justice system and where new efforts could make a difference. Our guest today is Colleen Owens. She is a Research Associate with the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center where she directs several national and international research projects on human trafficking spanning eight countries and five continents. She currently leads a National Institute of Justice study to examine the organization, operation, and victimization of trafficking in the Unites States. Colleen Owens, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Colleen Owens:  Thank you very much for having me.

Len Sipes:  Colleen, this is just an extraordinarily important topic, because as I told you before we hit the record button, I was talking to a friend of mine who said, “What’s the topic of today’s radio show?” and I said, “Human trafficking in the Unites States.” And he said, “Human trafficking in the Unites States; is there human trafficking in the Unites States?” So answer the question for my friend.

Colleen Owens:  Yes, absolutely. There is human trafficking in the United States. I think unfortunately that’s not an uncommon reaction. I think it happens more than people realize. And there are reasons why a lot of people in the United States don’t think that it actually happens here. The way that I often describe it is that it’s sort of hidden in plain sight and that even cases that do come forward and are identified by our criminal justice system will still become hidden in the criminal justice system later on. And we can get into reasons why that is.

Len Sipes:  If you take a look at the research on rape, and it’s something undoubtedly that you have and I know Urban has over the course of years, it’s so underreported. I would imagine this equals that degree of non-reporting.

Colleen Owens:  Exactly. And I think there are differences when you look at sex trafficking versus labor trafficking, both of which happen in the United States, and no community is immune to it. But what we found in our research is that very low percentages of victims actually self-identify and come forward to law enforcement and report themselves as being victimized by labor or sex trafficking, and there are a lot of reasons why that is. So for sex trafficking victims, for example, they might perceive themselves to actually complicit in the crime of prostitution. They might view themselves, instead of being victims, they might view themselves as being criminals, violating our prostitution laws, regardless of the fact that they’re forced or that there’s fraud or coercion used to compel them into that.

Len Sipes:  So they see themselves as vulnerable to the criminal justice system. They don’t see the criminal justice system as being necessarily on their side. They see them as potentially victims of the criminal justice system.

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. That’s part of it, the other issue is, so both US citizen victims as well as foreign nationals in our country are victimized by labor and sex trafficking. And so for US citizen victims they don’t have the issue that, for example, foreign nationals might have where they might be undocumented either prior to the trafficking or as a result of the trafficking they become undocumented, and so they might fear that coming forward would mean that they’d be put in jail for being undocumented.

Len Sipes:  The website for the Urban Institute, www.urban.org. They’ve been before our microphones many times in the past and we hope many times in the future. Look for human trafficking on their website. Colleen, do we have a sense as to the extent of the problem in the United States and throughout the world?

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. Prevalence is the biggest question; it’s also the biggest unanswered question. The best statistics that we actually do have are from the International Labor Organization and they estimate that approximately 21.9 million individuals around the world become victims of labor and sex trafficking.

Len Sipes:  Wait a minute, 21.9 million, so 22 million human beings.

Colleen Owens:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  22 million human beings are victims of sex or labor trafficking.

Colleen Owens:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And explain to me what is sex trafficking and what is labor trafficking.

Colleen Owens:  So there’re a variety of laws, but within the United States our federal law, which is the TVPA, was passed in 2000, it’s been reauthorized several times, and all states now actually have state laws against human trafficking. Sometimes those state laws vary in term of the definition and also the criminalization of human trafficking. But the TVPA, our federal law, defines human trafficking as essentially the use force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into labor or services, and so that can be two broadly different things, so compelling a person into forced labor situations or into forced commercial sex situations.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So we’re talking about, what, principally labor or sex do we know?

Colleen Owens:  I’m sorry.

Len Sipes:  Are we talking about principally people being forced into labor situations or sexual situations or do we know?

Colleen Owens:  We don’t know actually. So there’s what the available statistics tell us, and that is one piece of the puzzle. So the available statistics are few and far between, but when you look at investigations that local, state, federal law enforcement have undertaken into human trafficking, they’re primarily investigations into sex trafficking.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Colleen Owens:  So that might lead some people to believe that sex trafficking is more prevalent. However, through the research that I’ve done and that I’ve done with colleagues from Northeastern University we’ve looked at, we’ve gone into communities and we’ve spoken with criminal justice actors and what we found is that primarily criminal justice actors are operationalizing human trafficking as sex trafficking and mostly sex trafficking of minors. So that means if they are looking for these cases, which is a big if, they’re primarily looking for sex trafficking of minors, and they’re not proactively out there looking for labor trafficking in communities, for the most part.

Len Sipes:  Do we have any sense, with this 22 million worldwide; do we have any sense as to the extent of victimization in the United States?

Colleen Owens:  We really don’t know. We don’t have good statistics on that. There’ve been a few attempts to get an accurate measure that have been unsuccessful. I think like a lot of crimes you’d mentioned earlier, like rape for example –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  It’s unreported.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  And so those that actually do come forward and report cases that go forward in the criminal justice system are always going to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the prevalence.

Len Sipes:  But feel free to push back –

Colleen Owens:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  If it’s not valid to make this assumption. But is it proper to suggest that out of the 22 million certainly we could say that millions of people in the United States are victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking, is that possible to extrapolate to the Unites States?

Colleen Owens:  So the International Labor Organization, which came up with that number, estimated that when you look at the United States as well as other EU, or what I think they called industrialized –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  Nations, they estimated that 1.5 million victims of labor and sex trafficking were in those countries.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Colleen Owens:  So within the Unites States we still don’t have a good count of how many victims are in our country.

Len Sipes:  Why is it that – we’re talking about something despicable, we’re talking about something disgusting, we’re talking about I’m assuming female victims.

Colleen Owens:  Both men and women, as well as children.

Len Sipes:  Does one category lead the other?

Colleen Owens:  No. And you do start to see differences when you look at labor trafficking versus sex trafficking. But again, sometimes the numbers that we see are more as a result of investigative priorities and available services and outreach to communities. And that influences who you see coming forward.

Len Sipes:  I’m making the assumption, and quickly tell me where I’m wrong or it’s not supported at all, but the overwhelming majority of what we call the sexual assault problem in the United States is male perpetrators and female victims. I do understand that males are subject to being raped, males are subject to being sexually abused, but it’s principally male perpetrators, female victims. So I can’t make that assumption here?

Colleen Owens:  Well, with sex trafficking what we’ve been seeing is that primarily the offenders been coming forward through the criminal justice system are male, but we’ve seen an increasing trend in female offenders as well.

Len Sipes:  Huh.

Colleen Owens:  And so this is a real grey area for a lot of criminal justice actors. Law enforcement officials that we’ve spoken with have talked about you have a situation where traffickers are victimizing for example female victims and then over a period of time those victims then are sort of groomed in a sense to become offenders. And so they’re used by the trafficker to then recruit other victims and to also enforce the rules and keep the victims compliant. And so they’re sort of in this victim and offender category.

Len Sipes:  So help me put it in perspective, and, again, pushback, because you’ve made, said very clearly that this is very difficult to put numbers and groups regarding this problem within context. But what we are talking about is either labor, and I’m going to stereotype now, tell me where I’m wrong, of where the person works in the house, the person is brought in from another country, the person is recruited within the United States, the person is taken to a house, the person acts as a sort of a servant within the house, or the person is recruited for sexual activities and they’re held in bondage almost and they’re moved from one location to another location. So what we’re talking about is bondage, what we’re talking about is trafficking human beings in the most significant and serious ways. We’re not talking about finding somebody for prostitution. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of people who are either coming in from outside of the country or being recruited inside of the country for sex bondage or for labor bondage, are we not?

Colleen Owens:  Yes. No. That’s exactly what it is. I mean I think at the root of our trafficking laws, they’re actually rooted in 13th Amendment principles of slavery. And so often you hear human trafficking described as modern day slavery. But really what is at the heart of it is that somebody is being, their labor is being used against their will, that person’s freedom is being denied.

Len Sipes:  I remember reading some of the literature, or the list of the literature that you provided before the program, and the word slavery did come to mind and I’m saying to myself, “Why is the word slavery not in here? Is it too politically incorrect of a word?” I don’t know where to take this topic. I’m trying to be fair and slice it right down the middle. But it strikes me as being disgusting and despicable, and it strikes me as being slavery, it strikes me as human bondage. In the cases that I’ve been exposed to throughout the criminal justice system, I’m going to be stereotypical I suppose, the women involved were held in psychological and physical bondage, they were told that if they left they would be killed, their families would be killed, they would be injured, they were threatened, they felt that they had no place to go. I mean is that what we’re talking about?

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. No. That is definitely part of what we’re talking about. I think another part where sometimes to be honest there is sort of a wide variety of different stakeholders within the anti-trafficking movement. And sometimes what you do see is that there are arguments or discussions about sort of the role of prostitution versus sex trafficking and when does something become trafficking versus when is somebody voluntarily involved in prostitution. And so –

Len Sipes:  Well, is anybody ever voluntarily involved in prostitution?

Colleen Owens:  That’s a good question. It’s sort of what our laws say and how our laws are enforced. But, yeah, I mean that a question that people debate.

Len Sipes:  I mean I know it’s legal in certain areas of the country, but for the vast majority of my exposure throughout my years within the criminal justice system, prostitution has been, I can’t use the word, “If you don’t do this and if you don’t comply with me and if you don’t give me 60% of what it is that you make, I’m going to kill you.”

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. No. That is –

Len Sipes:  I mean that to me is –

Colleen Owens:  That is 100% of trafficking situation.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Colleen Owens:  So it’s that a person is using force, fraud, or coercion. And if you’re under the age of 18 then our laws say that you don’t have to show force fraud or coercion, because the thought is that if you’re under the age of 18 you can’t voluntarily consent to the commercial sex act.

Len Sipes:  All right, are these – I’m sorry, I may have asked this question already – are these outside of the United States coming into the Unites States or recruited within the United States?

Colleen Owens:  So it’s both. So US citizens as well as foreign nationals are both groups that are victimized by human trafficking. So when you look at sex trafficking in the Unites States, US citizen victims are involved. So you have for example runaway homeless youth that are often on the street looking for a place to stay and somebody might approach them and say, “If you do x, y, and z, I’ll give you a place to stay.” And so in our laws actually we say that exchanging anything of value, so it doesn’t actually even have to be money that’s being paid, but offering someone a place to sleep or food to eat can actually be used to coerce a person into sex trafficking.

Len Sipes:  So we’re talking about very vulnerable human beings –

Colleen Owens:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  To begin with, either outside of the United States or inside of the United States. Those vulnerabilities are played on, they’re exploited, and suddenly the person ends up in bondage. And by that I mean a situation that they cannot extract themselves out of and they’re afraid to go to the authorities because they’re afraid that they may be implicated in crimes.

Colleen Owens:  Right. And I think so there’s a really important piece of what you said, this is that they feel that they’re in bondage, and I think that is often a misperception, and you see that really affects cases, even when they go forward, if they go forward in the criminal justice system, which is, well, this victim wasn’t being held in chains, they weren’t locked in a basement, therefore they could’ve left. But understanding the psychological coercion that goes into compelling a person to do things against their will is very important, and our laws protect people against that, but actually proving those cases in court and holding offenders that use primarily psychological means of coercion is very difficult.

Len Sipes:  Okay. We’re going to go back to my original question then in terms of public misperception, in terms what a person asks me about the radio show, the topic of my radio show, and I said human trafficking, and they’re going, “Where?” And I’m saying, “In the United States.” And so, but we’re going to reintroduce you. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Colleen Owens. She is a Research Associate with the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center where she directs several national and international research projects on human trafficking. The website for the Urban Institute is www.urban.org. So, Colleen, let’s go back to that question once again. If it is as you describe and if we know that 22 million human beings are involved and within the western industrialized world, the United States, Canada, and the EU, you’re talking about at least one to two million human beings. This is a significant and serious problem in the Unites States that we don’t recognize as a significant and serious problem, correct?

Colleen Owens:  Yes and no. So I think we do recognize it as a significant and serious problem in the sense that so in 2000 we passed a federal, it was the first federal to actually criminalize human trafficking. I should mention that human trafficking is not a new crime; it’s a crime that has existed for –

Len Sipes:  Centuries.

Colleen Owens:  Forever, for centuries.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Colleen Owens:  It’s just a newly defined crime and there are new penalties to combat it. It’s being taken seriously in the United States and many other foreign countries. At the time that the US law was passed this was also the same time that the Palermo Protocol was passed. So this was a sort of international movement to really take this crime seriously and to not only hold offenders accountable, but to create and provide services for those victimized by the crime. Since 2000, all states in the United States have passed laws to criminalize human trafficking, but laws vary, some states don’t criminalize sex trafficking, some have different definitions of labor trafficking, for example. So on the one hand we have taken it very seriously, but our research shows that we have a long way to go and these laws aren’t actually being enforced as they should be. So a lot needs to be done in terms of more awareness and resources to identify victims to hold offenders accountable and to provide services for those victims.

Len Sipes:  A tough, tough topic. I mean where does the criminal justice system need to go with this? I mean I’ve spent the first half of the program trying to understand the degree and the extent of the program for myself. I’m not quite sure that everybody – when you say prostitution, people very rarely ever come to grips with the fact that these are victims that are slapped, punched, threatened, have a gun held to their head, they’re in bondage. It’s just people say the word “prostitution” they really don’t understand how nasty it is for the lives of the individuals involved. So you say human trafficking, the words human trafficking roll off the tongue, and thank you very much for helping me create the context for the first half of the program. What must the criminal justice system do, in terms of the second half of the program, what must we do, and what should society do across the board, because I will constantly go back to that conversation, “What do you mean there’s human trafficking in the United States?”, so?

Colleen Owens:  Right. So that’s a big question with a lot of answers, but I mean I think first and foremost those that are in charge of enforcing our laws should be made aware of what those laws are, there needs to be a lot more training, and it needs to be on the state and local level. The federal government does do training on human trafficking and it is very helpful and they should continue to do that. But we really need more state and local training that involves both investigators, as well as prosecutors working together to understand what their laws are and then how to operationalize those laws. So what evidence do you need to collect to be able to take a case forward and prove it in court? What indicators do law enforcement need to be aware of to identify that that person is actually a victim of crime and not arrest those victims and charge them as criminals. So in sex trafficking cases, for example, victims may be arrested and charged with prostitution and in labor trafficking cases victims may be arrested and charged and placed into deportation proceedings if they’re here and they’re undocumented. And so there really needs to be a lot more awareness for criminal justice system actors. The other piece of it actually is we need to actually create spaces in the criminal justice system to bring these cases forward. So in our study that we conducted with Northeastern University on challenges investigating and prosecuting human trafficking, we found that there were actually no state labor trafficking prosecutions in our study.

Len Sipes:  What?

Colleen Owens:  And when we went to local state prosecutors and asked them about what would happen if a labor trafficking case came to your desk, they actually said, “We don’t what we would do with it. We don’t know who would actually take that case.” And so there really aren’t actors in place in our system in many ways that are even in charge of finding these cases and then bringing them forward, and the same is true with investigating labor trafficking. So we’re doing a study right now that will be released in the summer and we’re finding in our study that those victimized by labor trafficking in our sample anyway are primarily from other countries, they’re either here undocumented or they were – a significant percentage of our sample was actually brought into the United States on temporary work visa programs, they were promised certain jobs, certain hours, certain wage, some of them were promised that if they remained in the job for a certain period of time that they would have their visa extended and they could get a green card. That of course was all fraudulent –

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Colleen Owens:  And never happened, and then the person finds themself undocumented. But when you look at local law enforcement, for example, and you compare sort of the investigations of sex trafficking versus labor trafficking, sex trafficking, while there’s still a long way to go in terms of investigating those crimes, law enforcement at least has been in the business of doing investigations into prostitution.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  So they sort of it’s now requiring them to take a step back and ask, “Is this person in this situation willingly? Is this actually their choice? Are they being forced?” So that change is happening slowly. But when you look at labor trafficking, local law enforcement has never been in the business of enforcing workplace regulations or something that would even be similar to a labor trafficking situation. That’s been the business of the civil justice system, so Department of Labor. But the Department of Labor is not able to open cases criminally. So they’re not always trained to look for criminal elements. They might identify back wages, they might identify workplace hazards, but they are not trained to pull together all the criminal elements that amount to a labor trafficking situation and that would make it distinct from just, I don’t want to say just labor exploitation, because that is serious, but sort of taking it to that next step.

Len Sipes:  I’ve interviewed dozens of women in the criminal justice system who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, and I’ve interviewed them at these microphones, and I’ve interviewed them on television shows. And when I sit down with them, either before or when we hit the record button, it is routinely this, it is, and this is going to be very stereotypical, I apologize for it, but this is what I hear over and over and over again, that the women are involved in the criminal justice system in probably, I’m going to guess, 60% to 70% of the cases where a male is forcing them to move drugs. A male is forcing them to be engaged in criminal activity, and they’re doing it through physical violence, through threat, through literally a gun pointed to the head.

And these are women who’re coming from histories of sexual violence, histories of sexual abuse themselves. So they go out and they’re involved in all this criminal activity and then they’re saying to themselves, “How can I extract myself from this? How can I get out of this, because I’ve been doing drug dealing? I’m running huge amounts of drugs down the interstate 95 corridor. I carry guns. I carry false IDs. I’m just as vulnerable as the people who’re making me do this.” So they don’t come forward. So when they get caught up in the criminal justice system we find when we have them under supervision on parole and probation here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, that in many cases they are just as much victims as perpetrators. We have them on a drug charge and they come out of the prison system and we find that they’ve lived terrible lives. They’re just as much victims as anybody else in the process, even though they committed federal trafficking, drug trafficking laws. So I’m assuming that that carries over to this topic.

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. I often actually – sometimes you hear people describing the phenomenon of human trafficking through a supply and demand framework, and while I think that is valid, I actually prefer to describe through where vulnerabilities meet exploitation type of a framework. And I’ve done research in many other countries as well and I find that the phenomenon sort of looks the same through that lens no matter where you go. So it involves asking yourself in this local context, in this city in the United States, in this village in Cambodia, what are the vulnerabilities and where is the exploitation happening, where are people taking advantage of those vulnerabilities? And so for example with labor trafficking in the US, US citizens one would think they might not be at risk of labor trafficking because often a tool is to use someone’s undocumented status against them.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  But in fact there was just a big case that came out that was reported by the New York Times of US citizens with disabilities that were forced to work in a turkey processing plant for 30 years. And so we are seeing that, US citizen victims with disabilities. There are other cases, there was one in Philadelphia as well, are being used for labor trafficking scenarios. And then the same is true with sex trafficking. A lot of the vulnerabilities and the past histories of abuse are there for sex trafficking victims. You see a lot of runaway youth, a lot of youth that have been caught up prior in the criminal justice system, they may have been arrested for quality of life issues, they may have had previous records being charged with prostitution, even though technically those should be sex trafficking charges if they were under 18, or they should’ve been treated as sex trafficking victims if they were under 18. But you do see a lot of these past histories of abuse and vulnerability. And I think what really needs to happen on the front end is being able to identify those factors sooner and develop programs to prevent a lot of that from happening, because it’s as much addressing the sort of demand side of holding offenders accountable, as it is addressing the supply side, and identifying what vulnerabilities are leading victims, are sort of leading to people being victimized and how do we address those vulnerabilities?

Len Sipes:  The criminal justice system needs to understand that people are not coming forward; they’re not escaping these situations, because they feel vulnerable. The victims themselves feel vulnerable. The victims themselves believe that there’s a possibility that they’re going to be prosecuted. So that’s one of the big reasons why they don’t come forward and that’s one of the things that we have to do was to make sure that we have the sensitivity and the wherewithal and the knowledge to reach out to these individuals and offer them immunity from prosecution as long as they help us prosecute the bad guys.

Colleen Owens:  Right. And some states actually have passed on the side of minor victims of trafficking, sex trafficking, they’ve passed what’s known as safe harbor laws. So basically stating, passing additional laws that you cannot be charged crimes, quote, “crimes that are committed as a result of your victimization”. But we don’t have a lot of those laws for, for example, victims of labor trafficking that may be charged with crimes pursuant to their labor trafficking situation.

Len Sipes:  But we have a criminal justice system that sees itself as overburdened, overwhelmed. We have a criminal justice system that’s having an extraordinarily hard time processing the day to day burglaries, robberies, sexual assaults, homicides. There’s criticism directed toward cities throughout the United States and urban areas in terms of their inability to prosecute. So when something like this comes along they’re saying to themselves, “I don’t have the resources –”

Colleen Owens:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  “For this type of investigation.” Is it a matter that they’re not looking for it because they don’t have the resources?

Colleen Owens:  It’s sort of a self-perpetuating cycle I guess you could say. They’re not looking for it because they don’t have the resources, and they don’t have the resources because they’re not looking for it.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  So, right, I mean we hear that often that we need more resources, we need more resources.

Len Sipes:  More training.

Colleen Owens:  Exactly, more training. You need agencies to prioritize this, because exactly as you said, you may have people calling about the fact that their cars were broken into, and so that sort of leads the priorities, right?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  When you see what’s going on in your community and you’re making those calls for service. This is a crime that does not rely on calls for service for the most part.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  And yet when we speak with law enforcement their main approach to investigating this is to wait for calls to come in. And so it’s not being investigated basically.

Len Sipes:  But we do, I mean in general, we within the criminal justice system and society in general do need to understand that this does exist in the United States, it is an ongoing problem, it involves literally millions of human beings, and we have to take this seriously and we have to be looking for this.

Colleen Owens:  Exactly. I think if we’re a country that believes in freedom, then this is something that we need to take seriously. And it’s a serious human rights abuse. And people in our country are being abused by traffickers. And they engage in it, because for the most part it’s very low-risk.

Len Sipes:  Colleen Owens, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you were on the show today and that the Urban Institute is taking this on. Congratulations to the Urban Institute for taking a very tough topic, www.urban.org, www.urban.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Police-Parole and Probation Cooperation-Indiana University of Pennsylvania-APPA-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/06/police-parole-and-probation-cooperation-indiana-university-of-pennsylvania-appa-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The topic of today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, is Police-Probation and Parole partnerships. The question is whether law enforcement agencies cooperate with parole and probation agencies.  We have two guests today. We have Bitna Kim. She is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology in Indiana, Pennsylvania. We also have Adam Matz. He is a Research Associate with the Council of State Governments, the American Probation and Parole Association. – And to Bitna and to Adam, welcome to DC Public safety.

Dr. Bitna Kim: Thank you for having me here.

Adam Matz: Yeah, thank you.

Len Sipes:  I’ve in the criminal justice system for 42 years, and I had 6 years of law enforcement, and in the 6 years of law enforcement, I do not ever recall ever having any contact with a parole and probation agent, and it really strikes me that parole and probation and law enforcement have been behind a line. They really haven’t talked to each other that much. They really haven’t cooperated with each other all that much.  Now within the course of the last 5 years, we see some real interest from the research and from the practitioner community as to law enforcement  getting together with parole and probation agencies, sharing information, looking at re-entry, looking at making sure that people who come out of the prison system do as well as humanly possible so they don’t re-enter the criminal justice system. Adam, I’m going to start with you. The American Probation and Parole Association has taken the lead in all of this.

Adam Matz: Yes, and actually what’s kind of gotten us sort of interested in the partnership specifically is we have various sort of grant projects that we work on for the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and one of those programs is Project Safe Neighborhoods. Now Project Safe Neighborhoods or PSN has been around for a while, since 2001, but the interesting thing about that is that it’s heavily influence by prior programs, and one that stands out is the Operation Ceasefire that a lot of folks have heard of or are familiar with from Boston. Part of that Ceasefire or that gun project that happened there was really one of the first formalized partnerships between probation and police officers, and it was known as Boston’s Operation Night Light, and that’s really where we kind of tie together and that’s where APPA’s interest has really grown even more. – And then also IACP, International Association of Chiefs of Police, we’ve worked with them and they’ve had various focus groups on this topic as well.

Len Sipes: But the American Probation and Parole Association, certainly that’s the organization that has taken the lead in not just police and parole and probation cooperation but has taken the lead in terms of virtually anything involving parole and probation agencies throughout the United States, correct?

Adam Matz: Yeah, that’s true. APPA is a national and international organization. We have a membership of over 35,000 members. It’s comprised of probation and parole officers and executives from all over the country. We do two annual institutes, a lot of trainings, a lot of grant-based projects, so definitely a very big organization.

Len Sipes: All right. The website for the American Probation and Parole Association – www.appa-net.org. Bitna Kim, Assistant Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania there at the Department of Criminology, you were involved in research in terms of police officers and parole and probation agencies working closely together, correct?

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: And can you give me a sense as to what your research had to say?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Okay, so our research is – first I have to admit our limitation of the study so we focused on only probation-police partnership in Texas so it’s really hard to generalize what is involved in the United States however this study can be one of the good examples as the need for more research. So in terms of the research findings, what they found is – so this study generally test how police officers or the leaders from the police office or sheriff department, how they think about the partnership with probation or parole, so whet we found is actually they are very positive in their relations or positive experience with the probation and parole, the officer. That’s the good side for future.  However the negative finding, what we found is most of the partnerships we found in Texas is that they are informal.

Len Sipes: Is what now?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Informal – so in other words, the partnership is never formalized across the agencies. This is based on just the individual personal relationship between police officers and probation-parole officers. The problem is even though sometimes we really needed those informal partnerships however once those key people in the agencies retired or moved to another agency, the partnership is gone as well.

Len Sipes: Okay. So in other words, what you found was more of an individualized approach between the parole and probation agents and the police officers in the state of Texas rather than an organizational approach.

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s true. So what we found is actually we surveyed the random sample of almost 700 police office agencies. Among them, over 75% of the agencies had just the informal or no partnership at all. Only a few agencies had established the formalized the partnerships so that is one issue we need to look at for future study. So what they found is again the consent is the police are leaders. They think we need those partnerships between police and probation-parole however the current status of partnership what they have is informal.

Len Sipes: Okay. Well, let me see if I can summarize. You took a look at 700 law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas and you found that 70% of those agencies had an informal relationship with parole and probation, and about 30% had formal relationships, say even memorandums of understanding, and that it really comes down to the leadership of both the parole and probation entities and law enforcement as to whether or not these were really viable, working relationships.

Dr. Bitna Kim: That is correct, but once they have – so those who had the formal partnership, they dearly enjoyed the partnership. They think that they got a lot of the good relationship with the probation and parole agency.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Matz: Yeah, actually if I can add just a little extra context too that’s been kind of interesting is when you try to look at, okay, ones that are formalized, sort of why are they formalized, and what you’ll find a lot of times is that there was some sort of federal funding, grant funding that supported that sort of formal partnership. So a lot of those maybe are left over, and I know Dr. Kim can speak to it more with Texas, but they had the Project Spotlight there for a while which sort of motivated those agencies to develop these formalized partnerships.  Now we’ve talked about the Night Light in Boston when it originated in the early ’90s, that was considered the first formalized partnership, but when you think about informal, there’s been these sort of individual associations between officers for, you could probably stretch if back to the ’50s or something. So these always been these sort of informal networks that kind of occur in just a natural sort of organization setting but it’s really the past sort of 15, 20 years where we’ve started to see these formalized partnerships, and that’s really important for a couple of reasons. One is if you’re going to evaluate it and determine what kind of impact it has, it has to be formalized. It has to have some sort of logic model, if you will, to go with that.

Len Sipes: Well, but it strikes me as something that is fairly recent, I agree with you. It’s probably been on an informal basis between individual police officers and individual parole and probation agents, but you know here in Washington, D.C., we have an extraordinarily highly-structured relationship with not only the Metropolitan Police Department. We have it with the U.S. Park Police. We have it with the FBI. We have it with the CIA. We have it with the Secret Service.

We have all of these very specific involvements in terms of them and us, and when I say all these other agencies it’s 80%, 85%, 90% going to be with the Metropolitan Police Department. We meet with them on a leadership basis. Our top leadership meets with their top leadership. Our people in the field, branch chiefs meet with commanders of police districts, and there is also, I’m very proud to say, a lot of interaction because of the fact that there’s leadership from the top, a lot of interaction between individual police officers and individual community supervision officers. That’s what we call parole and probation agents in Washington, D.C.  So in D.C. it’s very structured, it’s very robust, but I just get the sense that outside of the District of Columbia, there’s really not a lot of agencies that have this type of formalized structure in terms of the relationship with law enforcement and parole and probation. Am I right or wrong, either one of you?

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. And why is that, Dr. Kim? Why is there a reluctance of law enforcement and parole and probation to sit down at the same table and to forge these cooperative understandings with each other?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Actually, that’s the need for future research. We did not find what prohibit the formation of a formal partnership so in the near future I hope we can initiate more research. However I can say what we found is those who had the formal partnership had a strong organizational culture within the agency which emphasized the importance of working closer with the other agencies, recognizing parole or probation as an integral part of the larger community rather than simply threat to public safety, the single greater predictor for success for police-probation-parole partnership.  And also the other important thing is implementing formal partnership requires strong leaders endorsement to change the organizational culture or implement the formal partnership, nurture them, grow, and be successful over the long-term.

Len Sipes: Well, that was the key finding, I think, out of the first summation that you gave of your research in the state of Texas, that it really was the leadership between law enforcement and parole and probation that really kicked off on these 30% or so of formal relationships and 70% informal. It was the leadership aspect of that that really propelled these formal relationships.

Dr. Bitna Kim: Yes.

Adam Matz: I think that’s right too. The leadership aspect is really important. There was qualitative research actually where there were some interviews done with not only police chiefs but also probation chiefs to get an idea, and also the officers within those organizations, and what kind of came out of that research was basically that if you didn’t have the support from the top, then those partnerships were never going to develop, and I think that matches with Dr. Kim was saying.  The other thing too, to think about the police organizations and Dr. Kim mentioned culture. If you think about sort of the community policing movement that happened kind of in the ’90s, that really kind of opened the door for more dialogue between police and probation and parole.

Len Sipes: Agreed.

Adam Matz: That really kind of made police a little bit more flexible, a little bit more – what’s the word – accepting of the probation and parole officer’s sort of mission which is to help. I mean, on one point it’s accountability but on the other it’s also helping these folks kind of get their lives put back together, and so that’s a big part of that. – And I think what’s interesting with these informal and formalized partnerships, the formalized are kind of concentrated in more urban areas also; and then if you think about what sort of agencies are more likely to have sort of a community policing drive to it versus maybe militaristic – and there are still a lot of militaristic type of police agencies out there that may or may not be sort of willing to partner with probation and parole, or at least not in the aspect of re-entry as we think about it typically.

Len Sipes: Well, there is also a lot of parole and probation agencies that are organized amongst law enforcement lines. They are police officers, they carry guns, so there’s a lot of parole and probation agencies that fall into that category as well.

Adam Matz: That’s exactly right, and that’s exactly a good point, and that was my thought. You took it right out of my head. You’re exactly right on that. There is a lot of diversity in probation and parole across the country. There are some places that do have a law enforcement orientation whereas others have more of a social work orientation, and I’m not sure there’s any research that really gets at which one of those two sort of camps are more likely to partners. It’d be interesting to find that out.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I’d love that, because it would strike me that those parole and probation agencies with the law enforcement orientation would cooperate on a greater degree with the law enforcement agencies because the missions become very similar, and that’s what I want to get into in the second half but I’m going to reintroduce both of you with this whole question as to how good are these partnerships, and how good are these partnerships for people coming out of the prison system, and how well people on probation do but let me reintroduce my guests one more time.  Bitna, she is Bitna Kim, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology, www.jup.edu. Adam Matz, a Research Associate with the Council of State Governments and the American Probation and Parole Association, the leading agency in this country representing parole and probation issues. Adam’s website is www.appa-net.org.  All right, so the question now becomes we have law enforcement and parole and probation cooperating with each other. You know, from the standpoint of warrant service, from the standpoint of enforcement, from the standpoint of GPS, from the standpoint of accountability, that part of it I get and that would flow back-and-forth. We work with MPD all the time on all those issues if there’s a high-risk offender or individuals under GPS supervision. By the way, the folks from the Metropolitan Police Department can track our people on GPS through their own computers in their own cars.  So from the law enforcement end of it, that I get; but from the reentry and from the assistance end, I mean it’s pretty clear from the research that successful parole and probation is one part accountability but a second part of treatment so I’m not quite sure that our law enforcement friends are going to be that supportive or that understanding on the treatment side of it. Now, am I right or wrong?

Adam Matz: You know, that’s actually a really good discussion point and it’s a really broad discussion so it’s kind of tough to kind of narrow that down, and I think to just back up just a second too, there’s multiple different types of partnerships and multiple ways to even think about this. One of them is enhanced supervision which is a joint patrol, and that’s really where you get the police officers and the probation-parole officers who go out together to do these house visits and kind of –

Len Sipes:  That’s what we do in D.C., yes.

Adam Matz: Yeah, with the accountability tours, I believe.

Len Sipes: Yes, and very successful.

Adam Matz: Yeah, and I think in that sort of example if you can get the police officers, their presence kind of does help to provide a sense of accountability. It also helps to reinforce the probation’s authority, I guess, with the offender, or the probation or parolee, and that’s probably where I would see more of the assistance in terms of the reentry as well. There were some anecdotal accounts when it came to Boston that having the officer there, they could maybe help coordinate services, suggest services for folks, also with the families in those areas.  But it’s never really clear on anything that’s been documented so far how far that really goes, and obviously I think that’s the area that needs a little more examination because, like you said, it’s very clear that accountability, the police are used to that, and probation and parole working with police on that is really probably the easiest part of it, and a lot of that can be done just with information-sharing which is another type of partnership.

Len Sipes: Well, here’s the conversation I had with a friend of mine in the Metropolitan Police Department here in D.C when we had an offender who got himself into trouble. They said, “Well, he had several drug positives, why didn’t you revoke him?” – And my response was that if we revoked everybody with drug positives or if we revoked everybody who had problems under supervision, we would revoke a lot of people. We involve intermediate sanctions where we get in, and we are progressive in terms of how we respond to an individual in terms of what we have that person do, all the way from community service work to going to a day reporting center to putting the person under various forms of GPS, and those forms of GPS can be tightened and tightened and tightened.  And what we do is we take a behavior that is inappropriate or drug-positives, and we try to fix that problem. He’s not going to work and he’s not looking for work so fine. He’s going to be on GPS until he finds a job. We find that many people come under compliance pretty quickly once they’re on GPS, and they suddenly go out and get that job, so this whole concept of intermediate sanctions is something that is hard for my friend in law enforcement to grasp but intermediate sanctions is part and parcel to good parole and probation within this country, correct?

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s correct, I think. I agree potentially between the police and probation-parole agency offering new, really good benefit and opportunity but also both sides of the practitioner agree there are lots of challenges. One of the one is I think, as you mentioned, that this is a mission distortion which means the given professional orientation becomes skewed by the influence or ideology of the particular agency. So law enforcement and correction agencies share the common goal which is the public safety by the crime reduction however each pursue this goal from the different perspective.  So police agency takes the full concern being enforcers, protecting the community by the arrest of criminal suspects in traditionally. Probation-parole agency on the other hand, is expected to both protect the community, and they heavily tag offenders by monitoring offenders and guiding them through treatment to service. Probation-parole officer especially receptive to adapting a law enforcement orientation where official focus solely on the role of the enforcement as the opposite to the probation-parole reintegration need, although by say that police-probation partnership are anticipated to result in stronger mission distortion among probation-parole officer than among police officer. Working with the probation officer within the active partnership also entailed the risk of law enforcement officer suffering from role confuse.

Len Sipes: Suffering from what, now?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Suffering from what kind of a role they have to play, in other words they’re confused in terms of their role. So I think the original research found, they examined the implementation of police-probation partnership and found that the police officer involved in the program, the partnership, they felt what they should do by this the partnership.

Len Sipes: I would imagine a lot of this is going to be an opportunity for the parole and probation agent to explain to the law enforcement officer what his or her job entails and what’s important to them, and the fact that the offender under supervision successfully completes supervision, that is extraordinarily important to the parole and probation agent. I would imagine to the police officer, he just does not want that individual to engage in any law-violating behavior at all. So it’s an opportunity for both to sit down and explain to the other person what their jobs are and the fact that those jobs mesh in terms of the long-run, which is public safety, but in the short-run requires a bit of understanding from each other.

Adam Matz: Yeah, and I think you’re right about the communication part there and the two agencies. They have to communicate which each other’s mission is, for one. I mean, they have to have some sort of inner-agency meetings to basically get to know each other and understand what the goals are. – And you mentioned intermediate sanctions, graduated sanctions, those strategies that probation and parole uses, well, the police officers are not going to be aware of that, and there’s going to be certain aspects of probation and parole that simply police just aren’t going to be in tuned to, and that’s where that communication is really important.  And part of the thing, and it’s kind of an interesting dynamic, is that for probation and parole, when you increase supervision, particularly if it’s not necessary, if it’s low-risk type offenders or moderate, however, you basically increase the odds that you’re going to revoke or there’s going to be a new offense, etc., and it’s sort of ironic in a way that if you do too good of a job, you actually make things worse for those offenders because when you revoke them, you put them back in prison, it’s like starting over, and you have to go through the whole process all over again.

Len Sipes: For those lower-level offenders in particular, yes.

Adam Matz: Yes, yeah, and that’s something I don’t think the police officers – I know they’re aware of it because there’s all kinds of examples where they’re frustrated with seeing the same folks go in and come back, go in and come back, the revolving door. You know, police officers talk about that pretty regularly, and I don’t think they quite understand everything from the probation and parole perspective on that, so really that’s just I think the communication between the two.  But I think if it’s communicated effectively, the way that the police officers can really help probation and parole – and this has been sort of talked about and written about – is really sort of functioning as extra eyes on the street because the reality is probation and parole, they’re not on the street. They do home visits somewhat regularly but it’s not every day, it’s not every week. It may not even be every month in some cases.  So the police officers, if they communicate with probation and parole, they’ll know who these folks are, and they’ll be able to reinforce with the probation officer so if they see someone out, they don’t necessarily act on it but they can report that back to the probation and parole agency, which is very helpful.

Len Sipes: Let me toss something out, and again I’m going back to the fact that I was a law enforcement office for six years and I was a spokesman for law enforcement agencies as well as correctional agencies. The Maryland Department of Public Safety was both Corrections and Law Enforcement. The average police officer wants to see the average person coming out of the prison system or the average person on probation, he or she wants to see them succeed, and will report to the parole and probation agent, “Look, Benny’s been hanging out on the corner, and we’re getting complaints from the neighbors that he’s being loud, and I suspect that he’s smoking pot again, possibly being involved. I’ve got intelligence that he’s involved in other things as well. You need to intervene in this person’s life and intervene quickly because I think we’re going to lose him.”  I think in many cases, that’s not an abnormal interaction with law enforcement officers. The vast majority of them, virtually all of them, want to see these individuals succeed under supervision and so they communicate strategies and issues to that parole and probation agent so that parole and probation agent can take the action necessary to get the person involved in treatment or at least, if nothing else, to get them off the corner.

Adam Matz: Yes.

Len Sipes: Am I right or wrong?

Adam Matz: No, I think you’re right on that, and I think in most places that’s the interaction you’ll see. Obviously if the communication is there and they know who those offenders are – there are some places in the country where there’s no communication. They don’t know the difference between people who are on probation and those who are not.

Len Sipes: Right.

Adam Matz: So for those jurisdictions where they know that and they have that information, you’re exactly right. That’s exactly what I’ve seen and that’s exactly the kind of feedback that I’ve gotten.

Len Sipes: Well Bitna, from your research, are we to be encouraged by these burgeoning relationships? Is this something that is in the best interest of public safety, the best interest of the offender? Is this within society’s best interest? Do you think these have a way of increasing and getting better?

Dr. Bitna Kim: I think. I think because state and local government across the entire United States facing reduced budget so law enforcement agency, correction agency, experience residual effects by staff reduction or declining research. However community expectation do not decline with the economy, as you know, so because of that, agencies are challenged to find a new and creative way to more with less. One way, one best way is to share resource and drive control together. I think the answer is the partnership between police and community partnership. Definitely that can be one solution what we can do more with less.

Len Sipes: Well, I agree with you there. The fact that budgets are being cut throughout the country, they’re being cut everywhere, and at parole and probation agencies as well as law enforcement agencies, that’s one way of dealing with the budget cuts, that they’re talking more and they’re creating a more effective environment for public safety, and hopefully they’re creating a more effective environment for the individual offender.  If the that offender, the person under supervision, if he or she knows that they’re being carefully watched by law enforcement, I’m going to guess and suggest that they’re going to be more careful in terms of being involved in anything nefarious. Adam?

Adam Matz: Yeah, I think, well, the budgets and everything, it seems like a few years back, it was particularly bad. It seems like –

Len Sipes: A couple of seconds left.

Adam Matz: — things have been improving but yeah, I would say particularly what’s focused here and where these partnerships can really be beneficial is with your sort of high-risk folks, and where these programs are really paying off with this is when they’re doing these sort of inner-city urban gang problems, street gang problems. That’s where I really see this coming together and [INDISCERNIBLE 00:29:16].

Len Sipes: Okay. So ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Bitna Kim. She is an Assistant Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Adam Matz, Research Associate with the Council of State Governments, the American Probation and Parole Association.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your criticisms, we appreciate your comments, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Interview With Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary-Office of Justice Programs-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/06/interview-with-acting-assistant-attorney-general-mary-lou-leary-office-of-justice-programs-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s interview is with acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary of the Office of Justice Program’s U.S. Department of Justice.  Miss Leary has 30 years of criminal justice experience at the federal, state and local levels, with an extensive background in criminal prosecution, government leadership and victim advocacy.  Before joining the Office of Justice Programs in 2009, she was Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.  She also served in leadership roles at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.  From 1999 to 2001, she held several executive positions at the Department of Justice including the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, Deputy Associate Attorney General, and Acting Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Programs. For the sake of brevity, the Office of Justice Programs oversees the work of the federal effort to evaluate fund and provide technical assistance to the country’s criminal justice system.  Before getting into the bulk of the interview, I want to provide just some of the examples of the Office of Justice Programs in terms of what they do.  Just some of the topics, bullying, DNA backlogs, domestic violence, elder abuse and mistreatment, faith-based programs, hate crimes, human trafficking, identity theft, indigent defense, mentoring of offenders, juvenile justice law enforcement tactics, prisoner reentry, victim assistance, and a database as to what works.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well thank you, Len.  It’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  I’m really happy for you to be here.  Then we had Laurie Robinson on before she left.

Mary Lou Leary:  I know.

Len Sipes:  And we had a real exciting interview, I think, and a very popular interview.  How does it feel going … and Mary Lou has left, she was the Assistant Attorney General, and now you’re in the Acting position.  That’s a lot of responsibility thrust on your shoulders.  But you’ve been in this position before.

Mary Lou Leary:  I have, Len.  It actually is quite a natural transition for me.  I was serving as the Principle Deputy Assistant General to Laurie Robinson at OJP for the three years of this administration.  And then when Laurie moved on, I stepped into the role of the Acting Assistant Attorney General.  And for me it feels just right.  I did this before during the Clinton Administration.  And it’s kind of funny, we’re into repeat performances.

Len Sipes:  Yes, we are.

Mary Lou Leary:  Because Laurie was the Assistant Attorney General during that administration.  And I came in when she left and served as the acting for the rest of the term.

Len Sipes:  But it’s such a broad, big organization.  Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Institute of Justice, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service that I worked for for five years early on in my career.  I mean, it just goes on and on and on in terms of the agencies.  Office for Victims of Crime, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Community-Oriented Policing, you have such an amazing amount of organizations under you.

Mary Lou Leary: Yeah.  Well that’s what makes this job so exciting, and really, so much fun.  There is this incredibly broad spectrum of issues.  We are the only federal agency that is dedicated to serving state, local and tribal public safety entities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And so public safety includes every piece that you could possibly find in the criminal justice puzzle.  All the systems, all the programs, it’s quite an extraordinary range.

Len Sipes:  Well one of the things that I brought up in Laurie’s interview was the fact that you get all these technical reports on CSI, Crime Scene Investigation.  All the fallacies and the fact that you watch these programs on television and most of what you see is not how it’s ordinarily done. But all these technical documents that develop all that expertise come from your shop.  You are Madam CSI.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Well, in a way.

Len Sipes:  You are.  You’re Madam everything.  You’re Madam offenders leaving the prison system, you’re Madam corrections, you’re Madam law enforcement, you are the very epitome of the criminal justice system at the federal level.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well that’s exactly what OJP does.  We cover every single issue in the criminal justice system.  And it’s wonderful that we do that and that we have that broad scope.  Because we know that the best approach to take, and the one that really works, is a comprehensive approach.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  You can’t deal with one aspect of the criminal justice system without paying attention to the whole of it.  So for instance, if you increase the number of arrests that you’re making, that’s going to have an impact.  It’s like a domino effect all the way through the system.  The pre-trial, the prosecutor’s office, the court system, the prison system, probation, parole, reentry, it all is impacted, each piece by what happens in the other.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  Nobody’s in isolation.  Everybody’s dependent on everybody else.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  So what one part of the criminal justice system does affects the other parts of the criminal justice system.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  And that is, in fact, one of the primary messages that OJP delivers to the criminal justice field.  We are all in this together and the only way we can attack these problems and have success is by working together and by being conscious of the impact that one individual agency’s actions have on the rest of the system.

Len Sipes:  There are three things I want to get to pretty quickly in the interview.  Number one, a practitioner focus.  I’ve spoken to you in the past and one of the things that you’ve been adamant about is this idea of serving the practitioner, serving the people who actually run the criminal justice system, being sure that they have the research and the facts and the technical assistance to make sense of their day-to-day lives.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes.  That is one of my primary goals at OJP.  I, myself, as a practitioner for 30 years, I was a local prosecutor, I was a federal prosecutor, I ran a national victim’s advocacy organization.  So I know how difficult it is for practitioners who are incredibly busy, to learn about what’s actually being researched in their field, and what works, what doesn’t work, what are the latest trends.  You are putting out fires all day, every day and you don’t really have the time to dig up the evidence and maybe base what you do on what is known to be effective.  And so that’s our job. We’ve got to figure that out.  We have to do the research.  We have to do the statistical analysis.  We have to read all the literature and understand the evidence about what does work in the criminal justice.  And then one of our most important jobs is translating that.  You have to make that understandable and accessible to practitioners in the field.  A mayor should be able to just go to a website or make a phone call and communicate that, “Hey, you know what we’re having a big problem with youth gangs in our city.  Do you know if anybody out there is doing something that’s been effective?  Do you know if there are any researchers who are really looking at this problem?  Help me out here.”  That’s our job.

Len Sipes:  Right.  You have said that they need to get answers.  They don’t need to get a telephone-sized book of research.  They don’t need to be given an esoteric overview, they need answers.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  But those answers better be good ones and they better be based on real evidence.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And I wanted to start the interview off with that background.  Because you are Madam criminal justice, you have served in the criminal justice system, you’ve been a practitioner.  So you’re just not a policy wonk that hangs out in DC.  You have actually served in the bowels of the criminal justice system and you know what it’s like, how difficult it is to get ahold of research and make sense of research.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Exactly.  And I think that that is one of the things that I bring to the job that, frankly, makes me effective in that position.  Because I really understand, I get it.  I know what’s happening on the streets.  I learned everything … I know about that from working with local police departments.  I ran the cops office for a while which provides police to communities across this country.  And I think it’s important to have real respect for research and science, but also to have that practical, pragmatic approach to problems.

Len Sipes:  Absolutely.  You’ve been there.  So that’s the message I wanted to get out.  But having said that, research is an extraordinarily important part of what it is that you do.  Which we say we can substitute best practices for that word research.  Research, that word is a little scary to a lot of the people in the field. What you’re trying to do is establish best practices.  Because states and localities, they’re running out of money.  The budget issue is such a huge issue throughout the country for criminal justice organizations.  They’re basically saying, “Fine, if we’ve got to deal with a 15% reduction in our budget, we’ll do what we have to do.”  But what’s the way … what does the research say … or what are the best practices to maximize what it is we do?  Is there technology; is there new ways of doing things?  What can we do to maximize what it is that we do on a day-to-day basis?  And that’s what you’re emphasizing.

Mary Lou Leary:  Right.  Well you hit the nail right on the head, Len.  It’s true that resources are really tight.  And looking ahead, we can only presume that they will be getting tighter.  And so in that climate, it’s more important than ever that you base your strategy on what is the best practice, what we know works.  And it’s just as important not to waste any time, not to waste any resources human or financial, on things that don’t work.  Because we do know a lot about what doesn’t work as well and we want to discourage the use of those approaches that don’t work.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  We’re trying to make that approach easy and accessible, understandable.  In fact, just last year, we launched something called crimesolutions.gov.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  Good.  Thank you.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s a website.  Yeah.  It’s a great tool.

Len Sipes:  Crimesolutions.gov.

Mary Lou Leary:  It is a wonderful tool.  We’ve gotten great feedback from people.  And here’s how it works.  We have a group of researchers who scour the literature and look at all the practices, and rate programs that have been used across this country to address different crime problems.  So they rate them and we put it up on the website.  So you can see what’s effective, what’s working, and what’s not.  And you can search it every which way with all kinds of different search terms.  So say you’re the chief of police, or you’re running the youth program in your community, and you want to know is there anything out there that is evidence based that has worked on this issue.  You can go to crimesolutions.gov and search.  And you will see what programs have been used in that context, and which ones have been proven effective, and which ones have not really had an effect, and which ones are still kind of in the proving stage.  And this website now has over 200 programs on it.  And if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, go back for sure, because we are adding new programs every single week.

Len Sipes:  And the thing I want to emphasize about the website is that again, it’s not this esoteric, oh my God I’ve to spend five years reading this stuff.  It gives you a very quick chart in terms of what works and what doesn’t.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And then once you’ve figured out what works, what doesn’t, then you can research it from there.  So people should not be afraid, “Oh my God, not another esoteric website or piece of research.”  It’s easy to read.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  It’s not wonky in any respect.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Mary Lou Leary:  And if you are more interested in reading the study itself, the methodology, and so on, you can do that.  You can just go deeper into the website and really get that kind of a nuanced understanding of it. But if you want something that’s quick and dirty and practical, that is your tool.

Len Sipes:  There you go.  Now you’re also talking about opening some sort of technical assistance outreach program, right.  So once they say, “Oh, geezies, peezy” this particular thing works in terms of what you said, in terms of gangs.  Here are the research in terms of where it works.  I wonder what funding technical assistance other research is available.  And so you’re now instituting a help desk, if you will.  Once they’re moving in that right direction they can talk to somebody who knows the subject well.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well, in fact, we have several ways of getting at that.  You can go on the website, ojp.gov and you can look under funding opportunities.  And then you also look at our science agency’s National Institute of Justice, and Bureau of Justice statistics to see what research reports are coming out, what statistical reports are coming out.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  But if you have a problem that you don’t really quite understand in your community and you need some expert help in assessing the problem, trying to figure out what is really going on here.  We are working on the development right now of something called the Diagnostic Center which would be kind of a companion piece to crimesolutions.gov.  Crimesolutions.gov will tell you about the programs that already exist and whether they work or don’t.  The Diagnostic Center will bring in some expert technical assistance to help you get a handle on what is my problem in my community.  And then we’ll match you will technical assistance and experts who can help you marshal the evidence-based practices to address that.

Len Sipes:  So we’re talking about a one-stop shop.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  It’s very exciting.

Len Sipes:  I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 42 years.  Why did it take us so long to do that?

Mary Lou Leary:  I know.  It is quite remarkable.

Len Sipes:  It is quite remarkable.  What you have done is significant.  It is one of the very few times in my 42 years in the criminal justice system that I’ve said that I can go to one spot, get a quick summation of the research, talk to somebody, get quick answers, that is just incredible.

Mary Lou Leary:  It’s very exciting.  And it really is the embodiment of what we have been encouraging for years.  Which is you know what criminal justice practitioners, there’s some sound research out there that could actually help you get your job done every day.  These researchers, they’re not a bunch of egg heads who don’t know how to talk to cops and other folks.  They do know and they want to talk, because they figured out all this cool stuff that you could be using to do a better job every day.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And again, with the budget situation people are looking for answers. I want to re-introduce Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.  Giving out the website, it is www.ojp.gov, www.ojp.gov.   You did a heck of a YouTube video a couple years ago when you were Director of the Office a Center for Victims of Crime.  So obviously, you’re interested in new ways of bringing material, fresh ways of bringing material to the criminal justice system.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Very interested in making all of our information easily available, quickly available.  You got to meet people where they are.  And we know from research that actually in a … not very long, most people will be accessing internet, for instance, from their mobile devices as opposed to a desktop. So if you can’t get to where the people are, your message will not be heard.  So we’re very interested in exploring the full gambit of social media, Twitter, You Tube and all kinds of things that my teenage daughter could probably tell you more about than I could. But we know that that’s the way that you got to go if you want to be helpful to people.

Len Sipes:  Your background, former prosecutor, former Executive Director for the National Center for Victims of Crime.  A lot of people are going to take — they’re going to like that.  I’ve heard people throughout the decades saying, “Too many policy wonks at OJP, not enough real people who have been in the criminal justice system.”  You’re a former prosecutor; you’re a staunch advocate of victims of crime. That brings … I’m not going to say a new perspective to the Office of Justice Programs, but it brings … in the minds of a lot of people … a refreshing perspective.  You understand how this system works, you understand criminal victimization.

Mary Lou Leary: Well I certainly do.  And I’ll tell you, having been a prosecutor for so many years, this is my dream job.  Because all those years I saw these problems that were seemingly intractable in the criminal justice system.  And you would see the same defendants.  You’d prosecute them this month and then you’d prosecute them next month for a very similar offense.  And sometimes you just kind of felt like you were just doing a clean-up operation and not really solving the problem.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And you could see that the problems that played out in the courtroom were so related to many, many other public safety issues that never came into the courthouse. So now this … OJP puts me in a position where I can actually address those issues.  And I can reach out and develop partnerships with all kinds of public safety agencies, tribal leaders, philanthropic organizations, foundations, private sector, all kinds of partners all of whom really see that this issue matters, it’s so fundamental to the way we live in this country.

Len Sipes:  One of the things that you said to me is the idea of bringing everybody to this table to maximize our impact on the criminal justice system, so whether it’s foundations, whether it’s private organizations, to take all these dollars, all that expertise, and marshal it to have the greatest impact.  And I find that interesting.

Mary Lou Leary:  Oh, it is fascinating.  And we’re really just scratching the surface.  We had a meeting at OJP with foundations, a number of foundations about 60 of them, all of whom have interest in various aspects of criminal justice.  A number of them, for instance, are really interested in kids who get involved in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  Many of them are interested in preventing kids from getting involved in that system.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Mary Lou Leary:  There’s a whole domestic violence community out there with interest in the philanthropic sector.  And we have been partnering with a number of those kinds of philanthropic groups projects that we are doing at the Office of Justice Programs.

Len Sipes:  So nobody’s out there in isolation.  It is not [PH] PIU versus the Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice.  It’s PIU in concert with the Office of Justice Programs.

Mary Lou Leary:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And that applies to the Urban Institute, that applies to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Correctional Association.  It doesn’t matter, the whole idea is let’s all work in lockstep because state and locales are hurting from a budget point of view.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s right.  And if you … what we try to do is we try to seed innovative projects around the country, new approaches to problems.  But after a certain period of time, the program has to move forward on its own and we try to seed other places.  So in order to plan for sustainability of those innovative approaches, you have to look to other places in the community, other places in the philanthropic world, and so on.  So we work with our grantees to try to educate them about that.  And we are able to facilitate communication between the philanthropic sector and grantees.

Len Sipes:  But I don’t want to get too far away from that answer, the question I had a couple minutes ago.  Your role as a prosecutor has been firmly established.  And a lot of people feel very comfortable about that.  But you’ve seen victims, talked to victims of crime, you’ve represented the National Center for Victims of Crime.  You understand the nature of criminal victimization on a very personal level.

Mary Lou Leary:  I certainly do.  This actually is a real passion of mine.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And it has been ever since I started as a baby prosecutor decades ago.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Mary Lou Leary:  I worked in the Middlesex County DA’s Office.  We had one of the very first victim/witness assistance units in the country.  And in fact, it was established by Senator John Kerry when he was the DA in Middlesex County.  And I learned from those advocates, how critically important the way you treat victims can be to their ability to recover. They need to be treated with respect and dignity.  And you need to make a victim feel safe.  And you need to make sure that a victim is heard.  That’s the most important thing.  So much more important than winning your case.  And I really feel that.  And I have really supported victims throughout my career.  And at OJP is a great opportunity to continue that. I am really excited because part of what we do, a big part of what we do at OJP, is working on victim issues through our office on victims of crime.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And we have spent the last two years talking to folks who work with victims of crime all over this country.  We’re talking to practitioners, we’re talking to researchers, we’re talking to advocates, we’re talking to cops, you name it.  Anybody who has an interest in victim issues. What’s happening in this field, what are the unmet needs?  Crime has changed so much over the years.  Now we have all these financial frauds -

Len Sipes:  Yes, we do.

Mary Lou Leary:  – and internet perpetrated crime, and stalking through the internet, through devices you place on people’s cars, and so on.  There’s just a whole new world out there.  And it will continue to evolve. So the Office of Victims of Crime is looking at that and talking with people in the field saying, “Okay, we have a lot of these needs that have been with us forever that we haven’t met yet.  How do we meet those needs better, and at the same time, deal with these emerging crime issues and these emerging needs of victims?”

Len Sipes:  And I just wanted to point out there’s a lot of people out there who will be applauding as they listen to this.  Because, again, they have this image of people at the top of the Office of Justice Programs as being stoic policy wonks.  You’re not.  You’re a real live human being who’s suffered through this issue personally, directly, and you know, you’ve tasted it, smelled it, felt it, you know what’s going on out there.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s exactly right.  And that’s why it’s so important to get out in the field and talk to people.  You have to see it, you have to talk, you have to hear it, you have to walk the walk. What we will see coming out of this big effort with Victims of Crime this summer, I believe, at the end of the summer is a report called Vision 21.  And that is to shape the path forward for the victim services field, into the 21st century and beyond.

Len Sipes:  That’s great.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  The Victims of Crime Act was passed in 1984.

Len Sipes:  Yes.  A long time ago.

Mary Lou Leary:  Things have changed a lot since then.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  They have.

Mary Lou Leary:  And it’s time to revision the way we serve victims.  So I am just so excited.  I can’t wait to see that report and to most importantly, act on the recommendations.

Len Sipes:  In the final minutes of the program, one of the things I suppose that we want to do, is to assure that regardless of whether it’s law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, the judicial system, the juvenile justice system which Attorney General Eric Holder is certainly a huge proponent in terms of this issue of tremendous violence being directed towards children.  It doesn’t matter what the issue is, your job is to be sure that the best research is being done, answering questions on the part of people at the county and state and local level, giving them access, quick access to this information via the new databases that you’re putting out.  So that’s the bottom line.  If there are questions, or if there are issues, they can come to the Office of Justice Programs for answers.

Mary Lou Leary:  Absolutely.  And they’ll find real people, and people who care very, very much about their work and about public safety in this country.

Len Sipes:  In the sense of being evidence based, we … I don’t want to get into a methodological discussion but it’s a matter of taking a look at the better research.  The research that’s fairly well done.  And trying to draw conclusions from that research.  And that’s essentially what you guys have done, in terms of crimesolutions.gov and in terms of the Diagnostic Center. Take a look at Project Hope, which is a wonderful program in Hawaii which has dramatically reduced recidivism as a parole and probation program, a substance abuse treatment program.  And what you’re doing is funding its replication in other areas throughout the country to see if the success that they had in Hawaii, which was considerable, can be replicated in Baltimore and in Des Moines, and in San Antonio.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s exactly right.  In fact, we do that a lot with different kinds of projects.  Project Hope, this probation program was developed by Steve Alm, who was a former U.S. Attorney in Hawaii.  And right away we could see that his approach was different and that it was really interesting and promising. So we worked to support that program from the get go and then we sent in a team to research and evaluate it.  Those evaluations would knock your socks off, it just made such a big and positive difference.

Len Sipes:  It does.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  So now that’s just kind of like the business of OJP.  You get good programs started, you evaluate them, if the evidence shows, ‘whoa, this really works’, then you want to get it out to as many communities as possible and tweak it to apply to the needs of that particular individual community.

Len Sipes:  And getting that information out to those communities in the right way.  That you don’t have to struggle.  It’s like, oh my God, I remember when I worked for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, this is decades ago.  The Public Safety Secretary would bring this document from NIJ, telephone-size book, plop it on my desk and go, “Sipes, I don’t have time to read this.  Give me a one-page summation.”

Mary Lou Leary:  Right.

Len Sipes:  “Just tell me if it works, doesn’t work, and why it works and doesn’t work.” Because he knew that I used to work for the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.  So he sort of figured I would know how to read this big, long, esoteric document. What you’re trying to do is to take this research and make it come alive.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes.  Make it real.  And you demonstrate that through actual programs in the communities.  Reentry is a great example of that.  We are helping communities across this country to deal with the massive return of incarcerated offenders.

Len Sipes:  Seven hundred thousand a year.

Mary Lou Leary:  Seven hundred thousand a year.  And where do they go?  They go right back to the neighborhoods that they came from.  The same environments, the same folks, the same buddies in the neighborhood. And you can’t just release people from incarceration, send them right back to that environment and expect that they are going to do just fine.  They’ve learned their lesson and now they’ll behave.

Len Sipes:  No.  It doesn’t work that way.

Mary Lou Leary:  No.  You have to provide support, and it has to start right from the moment of incarceration.

Len Sipes:  And if we did that, we could reduce the budgets of states and locals by huge amounts.  If you get just a 15% reduction in recidivism in the rate of return back to the prison system by providing programs, you’ve just saved that county, that state, tens of millions of dollars.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  And that is one of our major goals.  Not only to help them save that money, but at the same time, to improve public safety.  Because if your reentry programs really work, you will not only save money, but people in that community will be safer and you will reduce re-victimization.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the common theme throughout this entire program, reducing re-victimization.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  That is what … you’re the office of reducing re-victimization.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes, we are.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Mary Lou Leary:  And for me, that’s a wonderful orientation because I am so passionate about crime victims.

Len Sipes:  Final seconds of the program.  The law enforcement side of things, it’s people, places, little focusing on high-risk offenders, high-risk places.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  We know a lot about hot spot policing, for instance, where you look at the hot spots through your crime mapping and so on.  And that’s where you want to target your resources.  We know that works.  We know that there are innovative approaches to dealing, for instance, with youth violence.  We know that there are ways of saving money on incarceration and then reinvesting it in things that do work.

Len Sipes:  And a beauty about all this is that if you go to www.ojp.gov and if you go to the Crime Solution’s database you can get a tremendous amount of information on all of this.  Really want to express my appreciation to Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary for being with us today.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We really appreciate all of the cards, letters, comments and criticisms at times, in terms of what it is we do.  We really appreciate your participation.  And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Intelligence and Information Sharing in the Criminal Justice System-UMUC-DC Public Safety

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/09/intelligence-and-information-sharing-in-the-criminal-justice-system-umuc-dc-public-safety/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting program for you today, ladies and gentlemen—intelligence, intelligence sharing, what’s happened within the criminal justice system, the larger arena of national and local and state intelligence sharing, the lessons we’ve learned since 911, the lessons we’ve learned in terms of an exchange of information between law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, and the national intelligence apparatus. We have at our microphones, back again, Doctor William Sondervan. Doctor Sondervan, or Bill Sondervan, is the executive director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. They have an astounding 94,000 students there at the University of Maryland University College. And also joining him at our microphones today is his colleague Peter Oleson. Peter is an associate professor of intelligence studies. Let me give you a little bit of background about Peter. Senior intelligence policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense, Assistant Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was a CEO for his own consulting firm for quite some time. So we have a true expert to talk to us about this whole issue of intelligence and intelligence sharing within the criminal justice system, in the larger society. And with that introduction, Bill and Peter, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Thanks, Len.

Peter Oleson:  Happy to be here.

Len Sipes:  Alright Bill, let me give you the first go round. Just set up University of Maryland University College. You have students throughout the world. 94,000, that’s quite a few people.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Yes, actually we do. UMUC is one of the 11 universities in the University of Maryland system, and we have classes all through Maryland. We do most of the on-line learning for the university system, and we also have an agent in a European division. We have people on the ground teaching in about 26 different countries, to include Iraq and Afghanistan.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. Peter, you’re an associate professor there at UMUC, so you have this mix of people that you and your other professors teach in terms of intelligence studies. Give me this larger sense. We were discussing before the show that the listeners to this program may be a bit confused in terms of intelligence studies. What we have is the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency. We have the FBI, we have lots of organizations throughout the country at the federal level who gather intelligence information. But we’re principally, today, talking about criminal justice system, how agencies share information with each other. My agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, we share information all the time regarding high risk offenders, regarding those offenders who pose an obvious risk to public safety. We share that information with the metropolitan police department, we share that information with the FBI, we share that information with the Secret Service, we share that information with the U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies. So the bottom line in all of this, I’m presuming, is the public safety; despaired agencies getting together and sharing information to protect public safety. That, to me, is the bottom line. Am I correct?

Peter Oleson:  Oh, I think very much so. I mean, the whole investment in intelligence in the United States really was an outgrowth of the surprise at Pearl Harbor, and you know, the conviction that we should never let that happen again. And yet, of course, in 911, it did. There are really many communities when you think about intelligence. You mentioned CIA and the FBI, both of which are probably the best known for the simple reason that that’s what you see on TV and in the popular novels. But I like to think about their being indeed four different communities that deal with intelligence, and certainly the national intelligence community is one of them that comprises those that you mentioned, as well as the intelligence activities within the Department of Defense and the military services, and several other department levels of the federal government. The second community I’d really think about is the Homeland Security Community, which of course is headed by the Department of Homeland Security, and which uses intelligence, of course, for very specific reasons of keeping not only the United States safe, but our citizens overseas and our allies. The third is really the law enforcement community, which has traditionally used intelligence in limited senses to drive intelligence-led policing, but which of course has expanded greatly since 911, when we have learned that we really need to deal international terrorists, and also with international criminal organizations that will deal in drug trafficking and money laundering and many other illicit activities. But what a lot of people, I think, don’t recognize is that intelligence also is used very extensively in the private sector in large corporations, in international corporations to understand their environment, to understand their market, to understand their competitors; and in a defensive sense, to protect their own intellectual property and products from espionage by others. The Chinese seem to be particularly adept at this at present.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And also against counterfeiters.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  Yeah, I’ve worked with a large international pharmaceutical firm that uses intelligence to identify who is counterfeiting their products so that they can go after them with law enforcement; so that when you open a bottle of whatever is their medicine, you can be guaranteed that it’s not gonna poison you.

Len Sipes:  And we go on for the next half hour in terms of the IT community and Apple computer and all the rest –

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  – that are very jealously guarding their secrets and making sure that their products that are released without their competitors knowing about them.  Bill, let me go back to you for a second. One of the things that you mentioned in prior conversations with this sense of sharing intelligence within the correctional community, you were the Commissioner of Corrections for the – the Division of Correction – for the Maryland Division of Correction, part of the Maryland Department of Public Safety. Both of us worked there in terms of full disclosure, and Bill, you, in terms of running the prison system, you discovered a lack of intelligence sharing and sought to rectify that with both federal and local law enforcement agencies for a wide variety of reasons.—Number one, to keep your prisons as safe as humanly possible; number two, to share that information with law enforcement and community corrections, to be sure that those people coming out of prison, who again posed a clear and present risk to public safety, that that information was shared and that the law enforcement and parole and probation community knew how to keep an eye on that person.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly right, Len. You know, I retired from the military police in the Army, and the last job I was on the joint staff when General Powell was the chairman. And you know, we share a lot of information, a lot of intelligence all the time. And then there was a point that initially, as Assistant Commissioner for Corrections, in charge of security operations, and I came to Maryland, and it just really dawned me, it just hit me right between the eyes, that we had so much going on in these prisons. We had 27 prisons with 24,000 convicted felons, and they were doing all sorts of things, but we all worked in stovepipes.  The prisons didn’t talk to each other. The prisons didn’t talk to parole and probation. We didn’t talk to the jails, we didn’t talk to the local police, we didn’t talk to the federal authorities, and it was all in stovepipe. All the information that we gathered was very informal and it was through informants and snitches and things that the warden would pick up. And there were several big incidents that happened that just really embarrassed me as being responsible for security, and I go into a lot of them. But one of them specifically, I had one of the federal agencies came to see me, and they closed the door, and they said, “Did you realize that one of your contract chaplains happened to be an imam who was also a co-conspirator in blowing up the World Trade Center the first time around, is working in your prison as a chaplain, and he’s recruiting disaffected inmates to be terrorists.” I just about fell out of my chair! We confirmed that, and that was going on along with several other things; and we got to the point where we decided we had to do something about it. So we partnered up with the high intensity drug trafficking area, the Washington-Baltimore area, and they helped us with funding. The whole idea was to collect the intelligence, to analyze it, and disseminate it the best we could. So they gave us money, we hired two former NSA intelligence analysts to help us get going. I started a security threat group office, I appointed a captain, hired a civilian. We hired two retired civilians from the National Security Agency to help us, and we appointed a lieutenant in every prison. We started this whole process of finding out what was going on in prisons, finding ways to deal with it, taking a look at it and disseminating to others. So we were able to do a lot of really important things. Just a couple of examples, but one of the things we did was we were able to take back the inmate phone system, which goes out on a bid to the Department of Budget and Management.  We were able then to record inmate phone calls, and once you record inmate phone calls, the software exists to be able to go in and use it for intelligence purposes, to capture whatever you wanted to do. So we started doing those things, and from there, it all kind of grew, and we all started working together. We went out and we talked to police departments, we talked to the other prisons, we talked to the jail administrators, and we started partnering with everybody. We started getting onto intelligence committees. We started finding ways to work with each other, and it was really a start, and it’s really grown since then. One of the things we also did is we were able to validate gangs in the Maryland prison system. Just as an example, what we would do is every month we would put together a list of validated gang members who were going home to particular communities, and we would share that with parole and probation, and with the local police.

Len Sipes:  You know, the bottom line in all of this is because an individual hearing this program, who is not part of the criminal justice community, may say to themselves, “Oh, wait a minute, this sounds very oppressive. This sounds almost scary.” We are talking about, and I think we need to constantly bring the program back to this focus, we are talking solely about individuals who are engaging in acts while in prison – still engaging in acts, organized crime, still ordering homicides, still ordering murders, still ordering people to be victims of violent crime while in prison. And at the same time, through that intelligence apparatus, we knew that once they were released, we could no longer legally hold them when they went back into the community. We know through intelligence that they were gonna go straight back to being involved in very violent crimes, to the point where we had people followed through the law  enforcement community. So I think the focus on the whole program has to be in terms of the criminal justice or the corrections community, to remind everybody, again, we’re talking about some bad actors. We’re not talking about everybody within the prison system. We’re talking about people who pose a clear and present danger to our either national security or to our local security, correct?

Dr. William Sondervan:  Absolutely, Len. And -

Peter Oleson:  And I would add a point, Len, if I could [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes:  Yeah, Peter, please.

Peter Oleson:  – Bill, is that, you know, for those who might think along the lines of civil libertarians, that you know, once a person has been convicted and put in prison, he does not have the same rights as you and I would, as law abiding citizens in our homes. Being monitored by the appropriate authorities is both legal and most appropriate, as I think you’ve pointed out.

Len Sipes:  And something we’re obligated to do.

Peter Oleson:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  To, once again, protect public safety.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Some of the issues that also came out of that, is, you know, once I retired after serving 10 years in corrections and being a Commissioner of Correction, I came to University of Maryland University College, and was asked to put together a state of the art criminal justice program for practitioners. So the way we did that is we established an advisory board with very, very senior people in the community. And we took a hard look at our curriculum, and one of the things that everybody said unanimously is that we don’t have an intelligence component for criminal justice. We really need to have that. We need to get out of stovepipes. We need to trust each other, we need to work with each other, and we have to start collecting, analyzing and sharing intelligence if we’re gonna win and the bad guys are gonna lose. So that’s kind of – that’s what we did. And as a result of that, we put together a certificate program in our undergraduate criminal justice program that focuses on the art and science of doing intelligence. And by going through that process, that’s where I met Peter Oleson. My background is police and corrections, and I’m not really an intelligence person, except for being a consumer of intelligence while I was in the military. I had the good fortune of meeting Peter Oleson through mutual friends, and Peter then came on board, and he became the advisor of UMUC in terms of intelligence, and he’s been a great help to us in not only perfecting that undergraduate certificate in intelligence, but also a master’s program in intelligence management.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m sitting here in what is affectionately known by those of us who work here, ground zero. I’m sitting one block away from Pennsylvania Avenue, I can see the Washington monument, I can see the Supreme Court, can’t see the Whitehouse. The Congress is hidden by a building in front of me, but this is – you know, we within the Washington community, are extraordinarily grateful of everything the intelligence community does, because we know that every day, every single day when we come into downtown Washington DC—and I would imagine New Yorkers feel that way, I would imagine people through the country feel this way—is that we are extraordinarily grateful to the intelligence community in terms of protecting us. And that larger intelligence community extends to parole and probation agents, extends to police officers, extends to middle management. It extends to the national agencies, and there are many. I mean, if it wasn’t for the intelligence community, our lives would be at risk.

Peter Oleson:  Oh, absolutely, and I think what he public doesn’t know, of course, is the number of times when intelligence has in fact frustrated a plot that could have resulted in significant casualties or damage to Americans. You know, the challenge of course is that you have to be on top of it all the top, and you know, a terrorist only has to be successful once. You know, that is a very high standard. It’s one of the issues we always have in intelligence, you know, when you’re accused of an intelligence failure, that sometimes people apply an impossible standard to what’s success and what’s failure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the – oh, I’m sorry, Peter, let me just cut you off for a second.

Peter Oleson:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me re-introduce the both of you, and hold that thought for a second. Doctor William Sondervan, Executive Direction of Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. Peter Oleson, associate professor of intelligence studies, a man with an extraordinary, extraordinary background, probably the most senior intelligence person I’ll get to talk to in my career. I want to thank you both for being on the program. Both can be reached at www.umuc.edu; www.umuc.edu.  I’m sorry, Peter, I interrupted you. Go ahead with your thought please.

Peter Oleson:  Well, I was talking about how do you judge success.  I think one of the important things for anybody thinking about intelligence, is to realize that intelligence is prospective. It’s looking at what might happen in the future, and trying to give decision makers the information they need to take the appropriate action. You know, it’s not an investigative ex post facto activity.  And so you’re never always fully knowledgeable of what might happen. As a matter of fact, in intelligence analysis, I always like to use the analogy with students that it’s like putting together a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle -

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – only somebody tore the picture off the cover of the box, so you don’t really   know what the picture’s supposed to look like. And when you open up the box, you find that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the pieces are missing; and yet your job is to describe in detail what is that picture.  That’s the challenge that intelligence faces.

Len Sipes:  And Bill, that same intelligence package comes down all the way to the local level in terms of people in prison who we know. I mean, we had, when I was working for the Maryland Department of Public Safety while you were there, there was all sorts of instants, all sorts of times where we had individuals followed as soon as the person was released from the gate because we knew, we had hard, strong intelligence that person was headed straight towards a series of violent crimes in terms of an associate or in compliance or – he had accomplices; that as a group, they were gonna go out and commit violent crime. So it’s just not keeping a dirty bomb from going off on Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s keeping individuals who are avowed violent criminals from going out and hurting other human beings.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Well, it’s even deeper than that, Len. It’s not only when they leave, when they go on the outside, it’s also like you alluded to earlier, what they’re doing while they’re still in prison. They can commit crimes from behind bars, and I think a lot of people in the police field think that when an inmate gets locked and he goes behind the walls of the prison, he automatically puts on a halo and he becomes a good doobie. But that’s not the case at all. What we uncovered is that people were running drug empires, they were putting hits on people, they were intimidating people, they were defrauding people, and it goes on and on. So a big piece of that as a corrections professional–and that’s really my expertise–is to prevent that from happening while they’re in there; and in being able to share the intelligence we have with the parole and probation people, with the police people in the community, so that they can prevent the violent acts when they go out.

Len Sipes:  And I just want to be, again, re-emphasizing certain points, that what we’re talking about is not all prisoners. We’re not talking about 50 percent of prisoners. We’re talking about a sub-set that we know are engaged in acts that are obviously dangerous to public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  That’s true. A lot of the inmates don’t do that, but it’s a small percentage of them. But that small percentage can cause a lot of damage.

Len Sipes:  Well, one of the interesting things about the custodial setting, the prison setting is that the best sources of information we have are fellow inmates, because they don’t want the problems. They don’t want any trouble. They don’t want violence erupting, nor do they want violence erupting in their own home communities. The best source of information we have are the inmates themselves, because they see the intelligence sharing process as something that keeps them safe, and something that keeps their community safe.

Dr. William Sondervan:  You’re absolutely right. The majority of inmates just want to do their time. They want to be safe themselves. They want their families to be safe, and they just want to do their time, be productive. A lot of them want to work, they want to go to school. So quite frankly, a lot of the inmates want to be informants, and a lot of inmates tell prison officials what’s going on, and it’s really a good source of intelligence to put together that piece of the puzzle that Peter was talking about. You know, you have to gather intelligence from a variety of different sources, and try to make it all fit, and try to get a good picture of what’s really happening.

Len Sipes:  Peter, now, you know, there are so many intelligence related agencies that we have in this country –

Peter Oleson:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  – ranging anywhere from probably a dozen federal agencies—I think I read at one –

Peter Oleson:  17 actually.

Len Sipes:  17 federal agencies, all the way to the New York City police department that’s sending their own people overseas to gather intelligence. And they’ve been able to stop crimes, acts of terrorism from happening in New York because of that. So it’s a huge –

Peter Oleson: Indeed.

Len Sipes:  – apparatus, and the criticism before 911 is that we weren’t sharing information. Are we now sharing information?

Peter Oleson:  Well, I mean before 911, there were actually legal restrictions in sharing information–that you weren’t allowed to do it. And part of that grew out of the investigations of the intelligence community in the 1970s with the Church and Pike Committees, the subsequent executive orders and laws. And nobody in the intelligence business wanted to be criticized for doing things wrong, so, you know, they were overly conservative, in my view. Much of that has changed. The prohibitions and sharing certain kinds of information, such as grand jury information with intelligence people, has been swept away with subsequent laws. The imperative to share is being emphasized very much by senior managers. The current Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, his major theme for managing the federal intelligence community is related to integration, which really means sharing and getting the information that somebody needs to them, either for analytical purposes or for making some kind of executive decision. And I think he has pushed that ahead rather well and rather dramatically. Jim’s a strong manager. I’ve known him many, many years. The importance about sharing really has two things, and in my view, if you spent a lot of time and effort collecting intelligence and you don’t use it, you frankly wasted that time and energy.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And worse yet, you may be sitting on something that somebody else really needs. The ex post facto investigations that we have had, of 911, even back of Pearl Harbor, we had the information oftentimes that we needed, but we just didn’t put it together properly; and it didn’t get into the right hands.  That was truly the case at Pearl Harbor because neither General Short nor Admiral Kimmel, who were the commanders out there at the time, were privy to the fact that we were reading Japanese diplomatic communications, and that clearly indicated that hostilities were…

Len Sipes:  About to break out. Yes, yes, yes.

Peter Oleson:  And so they were caught unprepared, and pilloried for it, and I think somewhat unjustifiably.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, they turned out to be scapegoats, yes.

Peter Oleson:  But, you know, this is not a unique problem. It’s happened many times. In the intelligence business, you also – you always have a conundrum between the secrecy of your source and your desire to protect that source –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – whether that be an individual or a technical means that can easily be thwarted, and sharing the information. And frankly, the risk of revelation or leak goes up with the amount of sharing you do. You know, that’s the inevitable problem you have, and how you balance those takes decisions every day by a lot of people.

Len Sipes:  Well, the same thing, we have the same problem here, that a community supervision officer—what is commonly known as a parole and probation agent in the rest of the country—will gain information and it’ll be that a person is about to engage in a series of violent crimes, part of a gang retribution, share that information with MPD, at the same time having to protect their source. So, all of us at all levels of the criminal justice system suffer through that sort of ethical decision in terms of protecting the source while sharing the information.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely. There’s an interesting observation I would make also, and that is sort of how intelligence and law enforcement activities are merging since 911. I mean, it used to be in the Cold War that intelligence focused on foreign armies and foreign countries, but since the terrorist attacks, and with the growth of international criminal organizations, intelligence is increasingly focused on what the intelligence community calls sub-national groups. You know, you can say it’s individuals or small groups of individuals, which has always been the focus of law enforcement. And what you’re seeing in the case of New York City, as you pointed out, is an organization that is a police organization using intelligence, I think, quite effectively. And I might comment that Ray Kelly’s positioning of New York City police officers overseas, brings the expertise of a cop to the scene of foreign terrorist incidents, which really gives us insight and better analysis than you’re gonna get say from a CIA officer who’s stationed in the embassy, who is not a trained investigator. I mean, his purpose is entirely different. And so I think that that has benefitted not only New York, but because New York does share information, it’s benefitted all of us.

Len Sipes:  We have three minutes left in the program. Either one of you can address this question. To me, the intelligence sharing apparatus is absolutely necessary to protect me, to protect our communities, to protect our children, to protect our welfare, to protect our jobs. It’s absolutely critical, absolutely necessary. The information has to be shared, but yet many within the larger American community are a little frightened and a bit overwhelmed by the intelligence gathering and sharing process. They see it as a bit Orwellian. They see it as overbearing, that there’s a fine line to be walked in terms of protecting the public and being overly zealous in terms of the collection of information. There are endless examples of criminal justice organizations and intelligence communities who did go overboard, who did collect the wrong intelligence from the wrong people at the wrong time. So how do you address that?

Peter Oleson:  Well, Len, that’s why oversight by independent groups is absolutely essential, whether it be from the intelligence committees in Congress or whether it be things like the Intelligence Oversight Board in the Whitehouse, or shall I say, an independent group at a local community level that has all the appropriate access and who can always be a check and balance. I mean, that’s the basic nature of our government is checks and balances, and when you deal with civil liberties, checks and balances are critically important.

Len Sipes:  But I do want to emphasize in the final minutes, is that the individual intelligence officers, the individual police officers, the individual parole and probation agents also understand their constitutional duties in terms of the privacy of individuals and when it’s necessary to gather information to protect public safety. They understand that as well, correct?

Peter Oleson:  They are basically well trained but, you know, you can face ethical questions every day. This is not a simple world. It’s a very complex one, and the fact that we’ve done so well at the individual level, I think, is a remarkable testament to the American law enforcement community and the intelligence officers who support them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, we got about 30 seconds left. Go ahead and wrap up.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Len, I just wanted to add that UMUC, we’ve taken on the mission to prepare people to go into a multitude of agencies, all the criminal justice agencies, and be intelligence specialists and analysts. And part of the program, we’ve incorporated the legal and ethical issues involved in intelligence, besides the theory into practice. So our whole goal is to produce graduates that can go out in the field and be advisors to leaders of agencies and help them do these things, and do them properly.

Len Sipes:  Everybody pretty much understand the limitations and understand the roles. I think that’s what you’re trying to say. I mean –

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And that’s what everybody who’s listening to this radio show needs to understand, that it’s just not Congressional oversight. The individual officers pretty much know where they can go and where they can’t, but they gotta go where they gotta go to protect public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right, ladies and gentlemen, I really want to thank you for listening today. Our guests have been Doctor William Sondervan, the Executive Director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu.  94,000 students, that’s a huge university. Joining him today is Peter Oleson, associate professor for intelligence studies; again, a person with an extraordinary background, and to Peter, you can look at the web site. Once again, it’s the same for the University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We thank you for your interest and calls and letters, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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An Interview with Bernard Melekian, Director, US Department of Justice-Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

Welcome to DC Public Safety – radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts. We now average 200,000 requests a month.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/06/an-interview-with-bernard-melekian-director-us-department-of-justice-office-of-community-oriented-policing-services/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  We have a real treat for us to today, ladies and gentlemen. Bernard Melekian, he is the director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as the COPS office, www.cops.usdoj.gov to talk about what’s happening with the COPS office and where the COPS office is going.  Before we get into the interview with Director Melekian, I want to thank everybody once again for your calls, for your letters, for your emails.  If you want to comment in any way, shape, or form in terms of what it is that we do here in D.C. Public Safety, please feel free as you already are doing.  You can follow us via Twitter that is twitter.com/lensipes, L-e-n S-i-p-e-s.  If you want to get in touch with me directly via email, it’s Leonard, leonard.sipes@csosaid.gov.  Or you can simply go in and comment in the comment area, which most of you do, which is media.csosa.gov.  And simply comment in the comment boxes.  CSOSA stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a parole — a federal parole and probation agency here in downtown Washington, D.C.  And again, it’s my pleasure to re-introduce Bernard Melekian.  He is the executive Director, Director of U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as COPS, a gentleman with 37 years of law enforcement experience and 25 years within the Coast Guard Reserve.  Again, Bernard, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Bernard Melekian:  Thank you, Leonard, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  You know, 37 years in law enforcement, that’s enough to tell 10 billion stories.

Bernard Melekian:  At least, at least.  It’s been a fascinating career.  I feel–I do feel very blessed to have gotten to spend my adult life doing something I love doing.  And I’ve gotten to continue that here in Washington. 

Len Sipes:  You know, it is a profession.  It is a calling.  For those of us who have been in law enforcement, those of who have been in the criminal justice system, we’re passionate about what it is we do, because we see the direct benefits to so many citizens.   

Bernard Melekian:  You know, that’s absolutely true.  I think and I think it was doubly interesting is that very often the people that you help when you’re a law enforcement officer don’t see it or aren’t aware of it.  The–I’ve always teased my fire department colleagues about the fact that everyone loves them even–because they’re contribution is so tangible. 

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh. 

Bernard Melekian:  But what happens with law enforcement is very often the positive benefit is long-term or it’s unseen.  And I’ve often thought that police officers labor in an unfortunate obscurity. 

Len Sipes:  The first time I was involved with a terrible automobile accident.  And I was there by myself.  And I literally saved the individual’s life.  About a week later, his parents came in, it was a young man involved in an automobile accident.  And they were hugging me.  And they were crying.  And you know, I–from that, I’m saying, my heavens, what other profession do you have where you can make such a direct contribution to the welfare of others?  I mean, I understand that law enforcement has its own stereotypes.  Law enforcement carries its own baggage.  But for those of us who are privileged to have served in law enforcement capacities, you know, how many people come up to you in your lifetime hugging you and crying because you’ve saved the life of their child? 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, not too often. And I think your experience was probably unique or–although I suspect if I was on the questioning end of this interview, I would imagine that more people had complained to you than that family that hugged you and thanked you for your service. I think all–very often that part of what happens is that police officers intervene in people’s lives usually under negative circumstances.  Usually they’re either, you know, stopping you for apparently no reason, or a reason that may not be clear, or you’re being issued a citation that you clearly don’t deserve, or you’re–you’ve been the victim of a crime.  And the officer’s there to take a report.  But there’s not a sense that the officer can do anything tangible.  I think that–I think that one of the things that police work has done, and needs to do a better job of, is marketing itself and marketing what it is that men and women do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across this country in events large and small to make their community safer. 

Len Sipes:  And that’s the heart and soul of COPS, is it not?  The concept of connecting with the community, the idea of making sure that partners are involved, making sure that the community is involved and making sure that everybody is connected, everybody is interdependent, and the community is not out there on their own.  The law enforcement agency’s not out there on their own.  They’re interconnected.  They’re talking.  They’re solving problems together.  That’s the heart and soul of the COPS concept, is it not? 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.  And I’ve been in this business long enough, 37 years as you mentioned, to have come up under what was called the professional model of policing, which was that–which was an arm’s length sort of just the facts Jack Webb “Dragnet” model, which actually was very deliberately focused on not connecting with the community, because the focus really was to deal with how to make sure that professionalism implied absolute objectivity.  It became apparent as the years went forward, and I came in this business in 1973, became apparent as the years went forward that that system wasn’t working.  And there’s a whole long laundry list, really, of reasons why it didn’t work.  But it became clear that it–we needed to connect with the community in a way that we did not, to use or word, partnerships, I’ve always believed that community policing at the end of the day was really nothing more than building relationships and solving problems.  And it’s something the police officers do quite well.  I would argue and have argued that for most of the agencies in this country, particularly rural agencies, and small towns, that they do community policing by default and always have, and probably just didn’t call it that. 

Len Sipes:  Well that’s been my point for years, Bernard.  It is, you know, the interesting part about it is that we have been doing community policing for years.  So there’s an awful lot of police officers out there, who have spent time with community organizations, spent time with gangs in the street, spent time walking, talking.  And from that, developing good leads as to who was doing the bad stuff.  But there has to be a trust relationship between–it all comes down–it doesn’t come down to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Bernard Melekian:  No. 

Len Sipes:  It doesn’t come down to the chief of police.  It comes down to that individual police officer, whoever he or she may be, willing to interact with the community on a very personal level, not out of an officer friendly public relations approach.  We’re doing this because it works, correct?  We’re doing this because it solves crimes.  We’re doing this because it solves problems.  So that’s the heart and soul of the COPS office, correct? 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.  And I think there’s this picture, this stereotype of what community policing is, that it’s–we all go to the–the officers go to the neighborhood barbeque, and everyone holds hands and sings kum ba ya. 

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  But the reality is, and that may be a piece of it, but the reality is, for example that I guarantee you that if I look at a department that has a high crime solvability rate, particularly crimes of violence, I guarantee you that they have a solid community policing program going on because those detectives and those line officers have relationships in the community, have relationships with people who have information.  And not only have the information, but trust the officers and trust the department enough to give that information up. 

Len Sipes:  We live in a CSI world.  Too many people watch all these programs at night.  My wife–I drive her crazy because I cannot watch them in any way, shape or form because their reality, the television realty is so distant from the reality on the street.  And I think what you just said, it’s correct.  The vast majority of what is accomplished is accomplished not through neutron activation analysis, not through fingerprints, not through DNA, not through CSI investigators.  The vast majority of crimes are solved because that police officer has good, solid connections with that community.  That detective has good solid connections with the community.  Would you agree with that or disagree? 

Bernard Melekian:  I would agree with a caveat.  I absolutely agree that the relationships are critical.  And I have believed that and attempted to practice that throughout my career.  I don’t know whether it’s unfortunate or not, but the–certainly the state of the evidence required today to bring a case to trial, and to obtain a conviction has been–that bar has been raised significantly.  And in some ways, programs like CSI have contributed to that because the people who serve on juries have watched those programs as well.  

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  And they have an expectation of what it is that they’re going to see-

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  –when they get to the courtroom.  And if they don’t see it, or they don’t see some version of it, most prosecutors will tell you that the risk of an acquittal starts to climb. 

Len Sipes:  Are the juries stuck with us.  We’re just regular John Doe and Jane Doe shmucks.  We’re not the very pretty, very good looking, very well educated, very well funded–

Bernard Melekian:  Very articulate and–

Len Sipes:  Very articulate, very glib–did I say young and extremely well dressed detective, who solves–

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes: –crimes within a half an hour.  That’s television. 

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes:  The juries are stuck with you and I.  And we’re just regular–

Bernard Melekian:  And their computers, I’ve noticed, are never down. 

Len Sipes:  Yes, and they always have everything.  I mean they roll up with more equipment than I’ve seen in a lifetime.  Now the COPS office does what?  I mean, let’s set that up.  I mean you guys basically set the standard for the country in terms of what community policing is.  And we go from there please? 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, I think it’s important to–as we have this discussion, to look quickly at the history of the COPS office.  And the COPS office came into existence in 1994.  It was–its purpose was to advance community policing, a concept that had been born out of the broken windows theory and about a recognition, particularly in the nation’s urban centers that relationships with the police and the community, particularly the minority community was not what it should be, and to try to make some strides in that.
The–under President Clinton and under then Senator Biden, the office was brought into existence.  And its purpose was to advance community policing.
At the same time, because if you recall in the ’90’s, the crime rate was so significant, there was also a pledge that that office would put 100,000 additional officers on the streets of America– 

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  –for the purpose of making America’s community safer. 

Len Sipes:  Which you essentially did, the office did. 

Bernard Melekian:  And the office did do that.  Unfortunately, or the fortunate part was that it worked.  Crime did go down.  And I happen to–and while there’s a great deal of sort of back and forth about why crime went down in the 90’s, I am a very big adherent of the concept that cops count.  Cops do make a difference.  And that those 100,000 cops were in large measure responsible for that crime reduction, not the only reason, but certainly one of. 

Len Sipes:  Okay. 

Bernard Melekian:  However, the–I think then the view of the COPS office shifted from a focus on community policing, to a focus on hiring.  And–

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian: –I think most of America’s law enforcement, sheriffs and detectives and political leaders have come to see it as sort of what I only half jokingly call the federal ATM machine.  And if you can figure out what the–

Len Sipes:  I’m sorry.  That’s a great line. 

Bernard Melekian:  If you can figure out the PIN number, you can get some police officers out of it.  And that was only part of the case.  And I think sort of fast forwarding to 2009, where–and I have to tell you in 37 years, I have never seen, I’ve seen the economy rise and fall.  I’ve seen problems as we all have.  I have never seen the devastation to local law enforcement that this economic collapse brought about. 

Len Sipes:  Totally agreed.  It is happening throughout the country. 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely. 

Len Sipes:  I just read in the Chicago papers about 450 state troopers in Illinois being laid off.  Every day, because I–

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes: –subscribe to three newspaper services, every–and Google alerts.  And every day, all that–all those articles from throughout the country are pushed towards me.  And I would say at least 20 percent to 30 percent of them deal with budget cuts.  And what’s happening in the criminal justice system throughout the country is literally devastating. 

Bernard Melekian:  Yeah.  The irony is that we as a profession, we as a society, I think, had started to make some great strides, and were really positioning ourselves over the next 10 to 20 years to do something very strategic.  And instead, most chiefs and sheriffs and I’m sure court administrators and district attorneys and public defenders, no one came in this business to do less.  Everybody came into the criminal justice system to do more, to make it better, to make society better, whatever your–whatever approach–wherever you come from on that.
And instead, they’re faced with this need to cut back.  Well, in 2009, in addition to the normal COPS hiring money, the Recovery Act funds were added to that.  And so, the COPS office gave out just over a billion dollars in hiring grants. 

Len Sipes:  That’s a lot of money. 

Bernard Melekian:  In fiscal year 2009.  It is a lot of money, but the downside was, or the other side of that coin was that there were over $8 billion in requests.  We funded 1043 law enforcement agencies.  We–out of–over 7,000 agencies that filed requests.  So clearly, the gap between the need and the resources to meet that need is huge. 

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program.  Bernard Melekian, he is the director of the United States Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing services COPS program.  Now both of you are smiling.  Did I blow the last name?  Am a constantly blowing the last name? 

Bernard Melekian:  Melekian.

Len Sipes:  Melekian.  I’m sorry.  And then I’ll get–

Bernard Melekian:  All right, I will say that your pronunciation is the most common. 

Len Sipes:  Well, now I’m going to get my dozen emails from, particularly from the New York City area, going Leonard, once again, you proved that you cannot get a name correctly.  Okay, so www.cops.usdoj.gov.  And the idea here is that not only do you, the COPS office, continue to fund positions in law enforcement, but you continue to provide some sense of moral guidance as to where the law enforcement community should be going.  And consequently, the rest of us in the criminal justice system, where the community should be going in terms of its relationships to the community. 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, my hope is that, and my belief is that American law enforcement does not need Washington to provide a moral compass for how they serve the community.  What I think we do is to help articulate what community policing is, and how those federal resources should best be used.
As I said, I think there’s this view of the COPS office as a hiring arm of the federal government.  I–what I want people to–sheriffs and police chiefs and elected officials across this country to realize is that we are not going to solve the economic challenges that the cities and counties of this country face.  And we ought not to be viewed that way.  What we can do, and what we will do is to provide three or four year problem solving grants.  In other words, what is it in your community, what challenges are you facing?  Is it gangs?  Is it– I just came from a meeting in El Paso of the southwest border sheriffs who face, you know, a unique–

Len Sipes:  A lot of problems. 

Bernard Melekian:  –set of challenges–

Len Sipes:  Yeah. 

Bernard Melekian:  –that really are unique to American law enforcement.  Those are specific community problems that the hiring of additional personnel to address those problems is exactly what the COPS office was designed to do.
Adding to that, I think as we go forward, is to encourage agencies, and I think the economy is going to do this, to encourage agencies to enter into regional projects and to enter into regional collaborations and partnerships. 

Len Sipes:  Bernard, we’ve been talking a lot about the money that the COPS office provides.  And–but isn’t this more an issue about telling the rest of us, instructing the rest of us, helping the rest of us in the field understand what is important, what works, what doesn’t work in terms of community oriented policing? 

Bernard Melekian:  Yes, I think it is.  I mean, I think one of the things, community policing by definition is unique, is unique to the community that it serves.  What works in Brooklyn, Iowa is probably completely different than Brooklyn, New York.  And I think it has to be shaped that way.  I think so one of the things that we’ve tried to be clear on, the COPS office historically has never attempted to tell agencies what they should do, what community policing was for them.  But I think we do have an obligation to search out evidence based practices, look for best practices, share that information, and structure our funding mechanism, so that they become goals to strive for. 

Len Sipes:  Right.  But the best practices, I mean, there are–there’s got to be some sense of a collective whole of knowledge in terms of look, we both know, and we talked about it at the beginning of the program, stoic cops who don’t communicate with the community are people who don’t solve a lot of crimes.  There’s got to be some level of communication with the community.  And unless that level of communication is there, community oriented policing doesn’t work, correct? 

Bernard Melekian:  Yes.  And I think–I think the–it needs to go beyond that.  I think it needs to be a–that communications piece has to be combined with a level of technical competence.  And by technical competence, I refer to culturally technical, as well as sort of instrumentally technical.
Policing in America’s communities large and small today is far more complex than when I came in to this business.  We can talk about and should talk about issues of race and ethnicity, for example.  But when I–in the 1970’s, that was really America–when America talked about race, they talked about black and white.  In the department that I came from in California, there were 23 languages spoken in the school district.  How do you communicate when you can’t speak the language?  And you clearly are not going to be able to simply do that by hiring a certain number of people who can speak a particular dialect.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  There is technology out there that has to be grasped.  There are cultural sensitivity issues that have to be grasped.  And so the definition of community policing almost by default has become far broader than it was 20 years ago.  The COPS office wants to help and can help agencies identify resources, what are other departments doing, what have other departments done.  We do provide training and technical materials, but we’ve also said if you’re going to hire police officers to interact with your community to advance community policing, then we’re–we want to know exactly how you’re going to do that.  We want to measure it.  Hiring officers is an output.  Achieving community policing is an outcome.  We’re striving for outcomes.

Len Sipes:  But in essence, once again, it is the community policing, the heart and soul of it.  I mean, you have a debate in this country right now in terms of, you know, a problem oriented policing, problem solving policing.  You’re talking about targeting high risk offenders, which is something that we do with the Metropolitan Police Department here in Washington D.C., where we target high risk offenders, who are on our case loads.  There’s all sorts of forms of policing, but my guess is community oriented policing is getting away from stove pipes and recognizing once again that without the community support, it doesn’t matter what we do.  I mean, is that a reality or not?  I mean, we have to have the community support to be effective.  And through community policing, we use whatever mechanisms are available to get that community support.

Bernard Melekian:  I think you’ve touched on a very important point.  First of all, the community support is critical.  If we don’t have community support, then you simply have an army of occupation.  And that, you know, we don’t have enough police officers or the–nor is that a particularly effective way to, you know, to do business.
Having said that, all the things that you mentioned are simply styles, in my opinion, styles of providing community policing.  Problem oriented policing is very effective.  There’s a concept that’s come out of Los Angeles called predictive policing.  That’s got some interesting possibilities to go with it.
There’s a model out of Providence, Rhode Island, which I think is really where the future of policing is likely to go, called the Teaching Police Department, which pairs a department with an academic institution for the purposes of studying what that organization is doing, identifying what works, and what doesn’t work.  And if it does work, why is it working?  And then, share that with the field as a whole.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  The COPS office can facilitate that.  As departments want to undertake experimental efforts, for example, to try to address specific community problems, not again, Washington’s not going to make any effort to say this is what you should do.  But if you’re going to try this, we want to be able to measure it.  And if it works, we want to share it with the rest of the country.

Len Sipes:  Right, but do we not have that collective source of knowledge, though?  I mean, when I worked for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse as the senior specialist for crime prevention, it was my job to figure out what was happening in Albuquerque, and what was happening in Albany, and what was happening in San Francisco and whatever was working, and to build either documents or a collection of resources or referral sources.  So when another police department came in and said I’m interested in, oh, I don’t know, anti-burglary programs.  I can say, hey, he–these four cities have really interesting programs.  Go and talk to them.  I mean, there’s–somebody’s got to be at the center of all of this, dispensing the collective wisdom of what’s happening in the country.

Bernard Melekian:  You’re absolutely right about that.  And that really is what NIJ, National Institute of Justice has done a pretty good job of doing that.  But the fact of the matter is that most local practitioners very often because they’re–what they’re dealing with is so immediate, and so seemingly unique to their community, that they may not even be aware of the resources that are out there.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  And one of the things that Attorney General Holder has been very clear about is wanting to break down those stovepipes, and wanting to build mechanisms, so that information is available across the board.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  And part of the COPS office mandate in my opinion is to share with the field where those, not only what’s out there, but where they can go do their own research.

Len Sipes:  And it’s interesting because I totally agree with you, by the way, is that I’m not quite sure sitting in Washington, D.C. for probably a good part of my career is not, you know, is nothing comes out of me or anybody else, that’s particularly wonderful in terms of knowledge.  All we do is suck up the knowledge of the experiences of what’s happening at the local level, and share it with others.  I mean, it’s really what’s happening in the cities and the counties and the states throughout this country.  And they push it to us.  And we somehow, some way get the word out about what they’re doing.
The ideas, the true innovation in law enforcement is not coming from D.C.  It’s coming from the individual police departments.

Bernard Melekian:  That’s correct.  And one of the goals that I have for the COPS office is that all too often, those agencies that do unique groundbreaking effective kind of things all too often you find that when the chief leaves, so does that particular program.

Len Sipes:  And why is that?  Why is it that leaders, when they transition, a new person comes in and he wants to put his or her own stamp on the program.  There is no state of the art in terms of community based policing, where the person comes in and says oh, obviously, I need to continue doing what my predecessor did.  Why is that?

Bernard Melekian:  Well, I think one of the things that we–and one of the goals the COPS office is to really institutionalize community policing and community policing practices.  You know, one of the–in what I thought was the–a groundbreaking book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins talked about what makes a truly great organization.  And one of the things that he talked about was the fact that you have to–in order for an organization to consider itself great.  It has to be able to sustain its growth or sustain its success, whatever you’re measuring through at least one change of CEO, one change of leadership.
Because if you don’t do that, then the leader may have been very effective, but the program was a function of his or her leadership, and not a function of the idea.  One of the reasons that I’m so intrigued by the Teaching Policing Department model is if we can measure a program, if we can find ways to evaluate groundbreaking programs that work, and share them with the field in kind of a personality neutral way, I think we may be able to get buy-in, not just from the executive level, which is traditionally where sort of creative, progressive thinking at least on the surface seems to start, but really get it down to the middle management and first line supervision level, which will accomplish two things.  One, it means it actually get done because people are invested in it.  And two, it will mean that the police chiefs of 10 years from now are invested in this kind of vetting.

Len Sipes:  So in the final minutes of the program, this is what I’m hearing.  COPS is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that seems to do two things.  That seems to A, provide money to hire police officers or to fund specific programs that are truly innovative, and B, provide the leadership in terms and then to share the experience of what’s happening with law enforcement agencies throughout the country.  So whatever good things Rochester, New York is doing can be replicated in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Is that the heart and soul of COPS?

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So it is the–that sharing part of it, and that funding part of it that most people who are listening to this radio program can go to your website, www.cops.usdoj.gov.  And on the website, what I read and in terms of your magazine, the COPS magazine, through your website and through your magazine, which is free, by the way, for anybody who wants to obtain it through the website, they can get a sense of what the state of the art is in terms of community based policing?

Bernard Melekian:  Yes, that’s correct.  If you go to that website, and we’re really working very hard on updating that website and bringing the best–links to the best practices, both in terms of police departments and academic institutions in our regional community policing institutes across the country, and having the resource available for the field.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so the website, the magazine is a point of dissemination.  And the philosophically community based policing is not–doesn’t have a national definition.  Every police department for themselves have gone to figure out what community based policing means for them.  If there is an issue in terms of the Spanish speaking community, and that happens to be the priority and lots of crimes are being committed there, and you’re not getting the cooperation, that police department’s not getting the cooperation, then for that particular police department, outreach efforts to the Spanish speaking community, and sitting down and talking with them and figuring out common strategies to approach a crime problem, that would be their strategy.
In another city, it could be burglaries and figuring out the best way of communicating with citizens in that area about burglary, so they can get the information they can need to catch perpetrators.  I think–

Bernard Melekian:  I think if I could just interrupt for a second.

Len Sipes:  Please.

Bernard Melekian:  I think there is a–I think in a way, there–hopefully going forward from this point, is that there is a national definition of community policing and that’s building relationships and solving problems.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  What–and the examples that you cited are exactly on point.  In each of those cases, in spite of probably different geographical locations and certainly different sort of tactical concerns, at the end of the day, that police department needs to build relationships, whether it’s with the Spanish speaking community in one city with it’s–whether it’s a group of effective neighbors–affected neighbors in another city, there has to be a relationship there.  There has to be a line of communication there.
Now then we get into the issue of how do we do that?  That’s really tactics.  But the strategy is to build relationships and solve that community’s problem.

Len Sipes:  And it is also, in the final analysis, as we close out the program, there’s a larger sense that we within the criminal justice system, we can have an impact.  And we do have an impact.  There’s no doubt that law enforcement has an impact on the–

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  –quality of life and criminal activity within an area. But in the final analysis, we’re going to be–law enforcement is going to be much more effective if we have the full cooperation and blessing of the community.  And the only way we have the full blessing and cooperation of the community is to work with them as cooperatively as we can.

Bernard Melekian:  And really to help neighbors and residents realize that they are the solution, that ultimately, it is their commitment to their quality of life and their willingness to work with the department to achieve that, that becomes the essence of community policing.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  Our guest today has been Bernard Melekian.  He is the Executive Director–the Director, rather, of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as COPS.  The website www.cops.usdoj.gov.  Once again, we really appreciate all of the letters, all of the phone calls, all of the emails, all of the comments in the comment box, all the interaction that you provide us in terms of what you would like to see in the show.  You can feel free, once again, to reach me directly via email.  Leonard, leonard.sipes@csosa.gov.  We’re up to 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for the radio show, television show. The blog and transcripts, and we are really in your debt for all of the interaction that you have with us.  And we want you to have a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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