Archives for April 2009

Police, Parole and Probation Cooperation

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[Video Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi everybody and welcome to D. C. Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. You know, Parole and Probation agencies like mine walk a fine line. Part of this deals with treatment; a person comes out of the prison system or the person is on probation, we have to deal with issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, finding the individual a job, helping them find a job, mental health treatment, a place to live. There are all sorts of issues we have to be concerned with. But, in terms of our law enforcement side, some of the people who we supervise are a danger to public safety. We have to work on a cooperative basis every day with law enforcement to make sure that public safety is taken care of, because public safety is our first mission. To talk about this concept of parole and probation agencies and the cooperation between themselves and law enforcement agencies, we have two principals with us today. Thomas Williams who is the Associate Director for Community Supervision Services for my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and we have Rodney Parks. Rodney is the acting Commander of Criminal Investigations for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D. C. and to Tom and Rodney, welcome to D. C. Public Safety.

Tom Williams: Thank you, Len. Thanks for the invitation.

Rodney Parks: Thank you Len.

Len Sipes: You know, Tom, the first question is going to go to you. It is a fine line between what we do with the offenders. We have 15,000 offenders at any given day and we have to deal with the drug addiction, we have to deal with the alcoholism, we have to deal with violence and helping that person deal with a life of violence, there’s all sorts of things we have to deal with. But once that person crosses that line, once the person seems to be a danger to public safety, we have to take immediate action and that is a very, very difficult fine line to walk. Correct?

Tom Williams: Well that’s true, Len. When you think of a person coming back from prison or that’s been granted probation by the court, there are many barriers to that person’s success under supervision. As you mentioned, the housing is a big issue, trying to get that person services in terms of drug treatment services and employments are extremely important. But by the same token, there is a small group of offenders that we are charged to supervise, but unfortunately they are still in the criminal element. They just can’t seem to get away from those criminal associates that kind of lead them down to this path of committing crimes and we have a joint mission with the Metropolitan Police Department in terms of public safety and we collaborate quite a bit on a number of initiatives, a number of strategies, so that we can then ensure compliance to the extent that we can to put that person back in a situation where they can be successful.

Len Sipes: Rodney Parks, you know, I’ve been in the system for quite a few years and first of all congratulations on your assignment to Criminal Investigation for the Metropolitan Police Department, a very prestigious assignment.

Rodney Parks: Thank you.

Len Sipes: But most of my criminal justice career, parole and probation and law enforcement didn’t interact a lot. There really wasn’t a lot of information flowing between the two agencies. But with your agency and our agency, it’s a daily occurrence, correct?

Rodney Parks: Yes. The recent interaction and collaboration between the law enforcement and CSOSA has been very beneficial both for deterrence and for the investigative end to assist us in identifying, following, investigating these crimes that have occurred and the reality is there is a recidivism factor that is out there.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Rodney Parks: And some of the people under supervision, if it’s been said, you know, people won’t do what you expect but will do what you inspect. So the accountability checks are crucial to letting them know that you are back in society and we want to help you and assist you and we are watching you to do what we can to make sure that you are on that track.

Len Sipes: The story that I heard one time is that Metropolitan Police Department and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency were in a community and were serving warrants and a woman comes along and says, “What are you doing?” and we said, our people said, that we are here making sure that people who pose a risk to public safety are back into the criminal justice system. And she goes “You know what? That’s a wonderful thing. Take the ones who are posing as a danger, but help the ones who really want to be helped.” That seems to me to be the split that we have to deal with every day and she put it the best. Take the ones posing and obvious risk, but for everybody else, help them and help them the best way that you can. Either one of you want to comment on that?

Tom Williams: Well, one of the things that we do is, in working with the Metropolitan Police Department, for those folks that are just recently granted release, either from prison or coming to us for supervision on probation, we have what we call Mass Orientation where we are with MPD in our offices, we show a video tape of these things that the folks will get involved in that could be on a negative side, but also show that positive aspect, what can help them and the services end of it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: But the important thing with having the Metropolitan Police staff there with us is that they get to identify who is actually in their PSA’s, or their Patrol Service Areas.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: So that they will know as they are patrolling that area is that this gentleman was recently released on parole or probation and it’s not the type of thing that I’m going to “trail him, nail him and jail him”, but it’s the kind of situation as we were just talking about is we want to be an assistance to you. You’re coming back into the community. We need for you to be a part of the community, but there are community norms that we need for you to take care of.

Len Sipes: Right. We are going to try and do what we can for you, but if you step beyond those boundaries, we also have a mechanism to take care of you if you pose an obvious risk to public safety. Commander, what I’m going to do is go through a list and my fear in doing this list, or going through this list is the fact that the average person listening and watching to the program may not understand all of the different things that we’re talking about. But we do GPS, Global Positioning System, where CSOSA puts these devices on 800 offenders and that way we are able to track them to see if they are involved in criminal activity. Tom mentioned the Mass Orientations were we get MPD in ourselves together and we talk to individuals and we tell them, “Here are the rules. Here are the responsibilities. But here are the different things we can do to help you.” Accountability tours where MPD and CSOSA personnel go to the home, sometimes announced, sometimes unannounced, but that beat officer now knows that Jane or John Doe is out of the prison system and he was in there for robbery, and he or she spreads that word amoung fellow officers. We exchange information every single day. There are formal meetings, intelligence sharing meetings. There are joint warrant patrols, joint homicide investigations. That’s a tremendous amount of interaction that obviously is in the best interest of the public for these individuals who are questionable, or posing an obvious risk. Commander?

Rodney Parks: Yeah. No doubt, the information sharing between the two agencies is very beneficial and the GPS you mentioned has, as I say, both serve as a deterrent and an investigative benefit to us by helping to identify in the area of an offense, of a crime, of a homocide. OK, who are offenders who have been around there? And quite frankly, you can’t ignore statistics that at a lot of the victims of homicide, for instance, have several prior arrests.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Rodney Parks: A lot of offenders, the people to perpetrate homicides, have a lot of prior arrests.

Len Sipes: Because they are all caught up in the game, the lifestyle.

Rodney Parks: We cannot ignore that fact and partnering with CSOSA to give us the assistance of GPS and their people as well, who interview these individuals, and when we get someone identified or we need some background on perhaps a victim, you know to get background. They’ve been very valuable in doing that, to give us information sharing with their interviews with them and their monitoring of them.

Len Sipes: Right. Because even if the GPS, which tracks an individual, where an individual is at all times, and I can remember a sex offender in North West who was sexually assaulting young girls and we were able to place that individual at those times, at those dates, at those very locations, so, that’s the power of GPS. But also, you come up with a lot of suspects. The individual being supervised may not be part of the crime, but he was in the area when the crime occurred, so obviously we go to him and find out if he can provide us with information as to that homicide, as to that rape.

Rodney Parks: Exactly. If we were all on GPS at this particular time and an offense occurred at this particular time, at this particular location,

Len Sipes: We’d be suspects.

Rodney Parks: The information would tell us, well, they may not be the suspects, but they were people who were in the area that you need to go out and talk to.

Len Sipes: Ok. What impresses me is I talk to a police officer, we’re talking about something that’s coming down from above, from the Commanders and from Tom to your people in the field. But this particular officer, he was suspicious of the individual and in terms of dealing with stolen goods and he asked for him to be placed on GPS and he was able to tie that individual into stolen goods in the State of Maryland, and we are going to be talking about Maryland and D. C. cooperation in the second segment, but he was able to do that. Now that is an individual police officer dealing with an individual community supervision officer, what most people call parole and probation agents, individual line personnel dealing with each other to protect the public safety. That’s the most impressive thing, is that not the commander’s meetings and not the district commander’s meetings, but the individual officer, CSOSA and MPD exchanging that information. I think that’s powerful. Tom?

Tom Williams: I think it starts with the command staff moving it down to the line level, but I think that the important thing about that example that you just used is that our staff feel empowered. Both the line level community supervision officer, as we call them, as well as the line officer in MPD, they have a relationship, and when we establish our accountability tours, these two would get together and they would determine who they are going to be seeing in the community. And again, it’s not from the standpoint of, you know, we’re going to get this person and lock them up, that’s not our forte. But what we are trying to do with the law enforcement partnership is to say to the law enforcement person who’s out there 24×7, is that you need to know who’s available in your community. And if you need information, sometimes that person that you have established a relationship and a communication relationship with can assist you if you do have a crime.

Len Sipes: And in some cases that causes the person to cease and desist whatever behavior was causing us to be drawn to his attention to begin with. If he knows that all of the police officers in the area are now looking at him, and if he’s on GPS, you know, that gives a lot of people the personal fortitude, to say “Oh, I’ve got to stop. I’m getting in too deep.” So that sort of initiative does persuade people to stop doing what they are doing.

Tom Williams: I think it’s one of several strategies that modern community corrections have developed over time. You know, 5 or 6, 10 years ago you didn’t have a relationship with MPD or any law enforcement officer. You would never have a parole or probation officer or director sitting right next to a commander on a TV show because there was not that type of interaction

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: But as we start thinking about our common mission in terms of what can we do to help the public, then it just makes sense. It’s kind of smart for us to kind of collaborate on different strategies that we can actually do to help protect the public.

Len Sipes: Right. But it’s interesting that there’s an old axiom in parole and probation that the more you watch them, the more you violate them. So through this tremendous interaction, I mean, every day, every hour, interaction between ourselves and the Metropolitan Police Department, we do run the risk of increasing our rate of recidivism, which doesn’t make us look very good.

Tom Williams: Well, I mean, that whole action came from a study that was done by Rand, I think it was in the 1980s, later part of 1980s, but actually the thing about that study is that there was high supervision for high risk offenders but they did not have associated with that, the services.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: And that’s the difference with this agency. Not only do we increase supervision, high supervision, but we also offer all services and that’s what you need. You need that combination of services to try to put that person in a path where they can be successful.

Rodney Parks: And if I could add,

Len Sipes: Go ahead, please.

Rodney Parks: One thing with the more you watch them, the more you violate them.

Len Sipes: Please

Rodney Parks: We have a sort of mandate, at least from my very early years on the police department. Give people with known bad character special attention. That doesn’t mean you harass them and I tell the officers what they need to do is say hello to them. Let them know that they are identifiable to them, that we are aware of them in the community, and that we know you are in this area. So it tells them law enforcement has knowledge of them, working with CSOSA to provide us the information that we need with the accountability tours lets us know who’s around.

Len Sipes: That’s right.

Rodney Parks: And it’s just like, you know, giving you special attention. We’re not harassing you, but we’re just saying “Hi”, you become know to us because of your past record and we know who you are.

Len Sipes: And if community members come to either agency and simply say, “Look, he’s fencing stolen goods.” And you get two or three calls, we get them, you get them, obviously that person needs some extra special attention.

Rodney Parks: Right.

Len Sipes: So that becomes the real issue here, correct, is that extra special attention.

Rodney Parks: When you bring before the full team, the community, CSOSA and law enforcement to know the people in the community, know the surroundings in the community and be aware of that and pull it all together, it helps on that deterrent side and the investigative side to give us information and background.

Len Sipes: Commander, you’ve gotten the final word in the first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us on the first segment of D. C. Public Safety as we examine this interaction between law enforcement and parole and probation. Look for us on the second segment where we talk to officials from the State of Maryland. The whole idea is not just parole and probation in the District of Columbia, but what about adjacent jurisdictions? Are they cooperating in the same way that we have it between law enforcement and parole and probation in the District of Columbia? We’ll be right back.

(Music playing)

Len Sipes: Hi. Welcome back to D. C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. Continuing on our set is Thomas Williams. He is the Associate Director of Community Supervision Services for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and we have Martha Kumer. Martha is a Regional Supervisor, Regional Manager for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation under the Maryland Department of Public Safety. Tom and Martha, welcome to D. C. Public Safety.

Martha Kumer: Thank you.

Tom Williams: Thank you.

Len Sipes: Ok, on the first segment we dealt with the police and parole and probation cooperation, Tom, because again, it is inter-agency cooperation. Parole and probation used to be by themselves, didn’t do anything with anybody. Now, we are on a day-to-day basis of sharing information and sharing activities with the Metropolitan Police Department and at the same time we are on a day-to-day basis sharing information with the State of Maryland, the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation. They are right next to the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Martha, you are the person in charge of those counties for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation. What’s happening, Tom? I’m going to start off with you in terms of what we are doing with the State of Maryland.

Tom Williams: Well, I have to give Martha a lot of credit. Shortly after she was promoted to regional administrator for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, she gave me a call and she said, “Tom, do you remember that cross-border initiative that we use to have back in the late 90s?” And I say, “Yeah”. It kind of fell apart because a lot of times with a change of administration, things that were working fell off and you have to get them back again. So Martha gave me a call and said it would be great if we could have this initiative going again and what that entails is that we have offenders respectively on each side of the border that we can’t transfer because of Interstate Compact rules.

Len Sipes: Right. So we can’t transfer, that means,

Tom Williams: That means they live in another jurisdiction even thought they were sentenced in our respective courts. So we have a person who was sentenced by the D. C. Superior Court for the District of Columbia, but they live in Maryland and they are low level cases, misdemeanor cases, and Martha too has cases that originated in Prince George’s County or in Montgomery County.

Len Sipes: So you cooperate on those low level cases but you are also, you know, it’s funny. I mean you walk up Southern Avenue and, you know, that’s the dividing line. And so what, it’s an arbitrary dividing line, why can’t we have that level of cooperation where it’s seamless, we interact with the Maryland Authorities, they interact with us. Now, Governor Martin O’Malley, Martha, really has done a tremendous job in the last several years of making sure that Parole and Probation in the State of Maryland works on a day-to-day basis with law enforcement and within your various agencies, not just the City of Baltimore, where the homicide rate is almost to it’s lowest point in years. But at the same time, dealing with all of the law enforcement agencies in the State of Maryland, correct?

Martha Kumer: Well that’s correct. We have partnerships all over the state with local and with Maryland State Police, and knowing where the criminal offenders live that are under our supervision. We share information with them, outstanding warrants, types of crime that they are under supervision for, where they reside. We do joint field visits together, that’s making home visits at the offender’s home.

Len Sipes: Right, where we actually have our people from Court Services and Offender Supervision and the Parole and Probation Agents from the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation to go together in doing those home visits, which makes perfect sense.

Martha Kumer: That’s correct, along with a police officer. Prince George’s County Police have accompanied us on our field visits as well as the Mount Rainier Municipality Police have.

Len Sipes: Right, because to explain to the viewer, there are all sorts of little police departments in Prince George’s County, I think principally Prince George’s County.

Martha Kumer: Twenty-four.

Len Sipes: Twenty-four. So it’s just not a county police agency you are working with. It’s all this little municipalities in Prince George’s County. I think Montgomery County is just one community police department.

Martha Kumer: There are a few municipalities, but not the number that Prince George’s,

Len Sipes: That’s difficult to coordinate. With all of these various law enforcement agencies and you’ve got literally tens of thousands of offenders under your supervision between the two counties, that’s difficult.

Martha Kumer: It is difficult, but Chief Hilton from Prince George’s County Police works very diligently on ensuring that all of the municipalities Chiefs are meeting with him on a regular basis and they have a big meeting every month. The Governor’s office of Crime Control and Prevention is there and parole and probation is there as well.

Len Sipes: Right. Was it Governor Martin O’Malley’s edict that really put all of this in perspective? I know, Tom and I use to work for Maryland Department of Public Safety. Tom was at one time in charge of parole and probation for the State of Maryland. We were dealing with law enforcement on a fairly regular basis, but I think the Governor ratcheted the circumstances up considerably.

Martha Kumer: He really did. He’s disappointed in the crime rate in the State of Maryland. We’re number one in the Education department, as far as how well our children learn. But we’re not doing as well as we need to in the crime rate and through his Office of Crime Control and Prevention, he put Kristen Mahoney in charge of bringing law enforcement to the table along with community corrections.

Len Sipes: Right.

Martha Kumer: And it’s been very effective, I believe.

Len Sipes: You know, Tom, this whole sense of an arbitrary line between the District of Columbia that we represent and we protect and the State of Maryland. I mean, it’s silly, it’s just a street, it’s just a line, yet it’s like a wall.

Tom Williams: Yeah, a border that can’t be crossed for some reason. And one of the things I wanted to dovetail on in terms of what Martha was indicating, in terms of the types of offenders that we are actually supervising, even though they may be low-level in terms of their conviction, you will see a lot of felonies in their history. So one of the things that the Governor, as Martha explained to me, was the concern that you may have a person who has a lot of felonies in their background, burglaries, drug issues and drug dealer, that type of thing. But they are coming across the border; they are committing offenses.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: So with this initiative that we actually developed, we are able now to go unannounced to that home in another jurisdiction to say “You have a responsibility to this court’s jurisdiction. What are you actually doing?” So it’s one thing to say, “Come in here, come visit with your officer” and then say what we want you to hear, basically, or what they want us to hear. But it’s another thing to go to that environment and then see exactly what’s going on. And when we talk to the Prince George’s County Police Department, for example, when we go make these visits, we get information from the officers who say, “Well, this is what’s going on in this neighborhood”.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: Now we have another bit of information that we can this discuss with that person that we have under supervision.

Len Sipes: Right. Because if that offender lives in Prince George’s County, interacts in the District of Columbia, and that person has a history of burglary and suddenly the person comes back out of prison and lives in the District or in his neighborhood in the State of Maryland burglaries start increasing and his method of operation, what we call an M.O., matches what he use to do, that’s information that needs to be exchanged and that sets off red lights and then you all get together and do what you have to do.

Tom Williams: Let me correct you on one thing. If it’s a burglary charge, that’s a felony. We can transfer those cases. But, mainly these are folks that are coming from the court system who actually, like I said, they got a low-level case, but in their background they may have several felonies.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: Those are the kind of cases we can’t ordinarily transfer (editor’s note””per the Interstate Compact which focuses on felonies) and that’s why this relationship is so important.

Len Sipes: Ok. And that is important. I mean these low-level offenders, because you are there on I’ll say a lower level offense is theft and yet that person could have all sorts of serious violent and property crimes, weapons crimes in his past. So just because we can’t transfer him technically doesn’t mean that we’re not concerned about them.

Tom Williams: And see your viewers might be saying, “Well, It’s good that you can go over there, but don’t you have any other means to find out in the event that that person gets re-arrested? And we do. We have a relationship since we started the cross-border ,

Len Sipes: Thanks for bringing that up.

Tom Williams: is that in our respective jurisdictions, if a person who’s on Martha’s roles comes to the District and gets re-arrested, their offices would get an automatic hit notification that says, “John was just arrested, here’s the date, here’s the location”, then they would then contact us and then we can give them further information and vice-versa. We could actually do the same thing.

Len Sipes: Right. And that is important. Again, most jurisdictions in the country do not have this. That we know that if someone is arrested in the State of Maryland and he’s under our supervision, we know instantaneously that that person is arrested and if he’s arrested in the District of Columbia, Maryland gets that hit notice immediately.

Martha Kumer: Before, Len, the agent wouldn’t know about it until somebody from Pretrial Release contacted them and asked them about the offender they had under supervision that was arrested in the District or vice-versa in the State of Maryland and now we get these daily hit notices where we know that the offender was arrested in D. C. and Tom’s group knows if the offender was arrested in the State of Maryland.

Tom Williams: I’ll just give an example. We had a case that was a misdemeanor case to us in the District, supposedly lived in the District. We were visiting him in the District. He went into Martha’s region and got re-arrested, and then when that re-arrest came back, we found out that there was a different address than what we had. Now, certainly we were out there visiting him at that address, but then he gave a different address, for which we asked Martha’s staff to go out and investigate that for us, which they did.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: And then we, within a couple of days of that hit notification, we notified the Court of this new re-arrest. So we get swift action based on electronically getting information that ordinarily we would not have if it wasn’t for the electronic transfer of information.

Len Sipes: You know Martha, we’ll just focus entirely on the State of Maryland for just a second, where we are now having this information exchanged between the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Those problems also pop up with jurisdictions solely within the State of Maryland. I mean the Montgomery County Police, do they really talk to the Prince George’s County Police, do they really talk to the Baltimore County Police, to parole and probation agencies. Your agents in the various counties talk to each another. Sometimes it takes that special effort, it seems, and I’m pinpointing Governor Martin O’Malley’s issue for a second that you will all cooperate and you will all talk. But, it even applies to counties within a state, correct?

Martha Kumer: It does and the Governor’s Office is working very hard on crime mapping for all jurisdictions so that Montgomery County can see what’s going on in Prince George’s County; Charles County can see what’s going on in Prince George’s; all state-wide; and we share information with Montgomery County as to what’s going on in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County shares their information with Prince George’s County and it’s being spread out.

Len Sipes: Right, because it seems to me that if you see this steady growth of PCP use, say, through investigations, through your people and it’s coming up out of southern Maryland, it looks like it could be headed for the District. So that gives us time to adjust to the fact that we may be dealing with a PCP problem that we didn’t anticipate. That’s the sort of thing that I love about this and this concept of agencies working together. It doesn’t matter of it’s a state line between two, basically, what we consider a state here in the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, it doesn’t matter that the line is there, the information flows.

Tom Williams: Well that’s the important thing in terms of trying to re-establish now that we’ve kind of kicked this off. Our cross-border initiative, that’s what we call it, is that we meet just about every other month and we have a set agenda in terms of the things that we want to go over, in terms of our respective jurisdictions and with respect to the offenders that we have under supervision,

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: ,that reside in our respective jurisdictions. But the important thing too is that we now bring law enforcement in at the table. So we have a different strategy because we look at the number of tools that we have in our toolbox to help us to keep a person in a path that’s going to lead so success.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Tom Williams: This is another tool that we have.

Len Sipes: And the same emphasis that I made in the first segment with Commander Parks was that in many cases, you know, once that offender who is on the edge and he could be getting involved in old activities and he’s right on the edge of the whole thing. If he or she knows that they are being watched by law enforcement and parole and probation, and it doesn’t matter what jurisdiction they go to, how many counties in the State of Maryland or whether they cross the D. C. line, people are talking to each other. That in many instances I’m told directly by offenders causes them to cease and desist.

Tom Williams: Right.

Martha Kumer: That is a good deterrent because they know that traditionally they’d come in and see their agent once a month, go out, do what they want to do, come back in 30 days. Now they know that not just their agent’s paying attention to them, the agent over in D. C. is paying attention to him, the Prince George’s County Police, the Maryland State Police, Metropolitan Police.

Len Sipes: Right.

Martha Kumer: They’re not just working solo, they’ve been identified, they have a criminal past, we know what they’re on probation or parole for and we’re going to keep an eye on them.

Tom Williams: And in another example is that when we use GPS, we can use GPS to determine if a person’s going to another area and if it’s a crime issue, then we can actually contact the local law enforcement to find out what’s going on.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tom Williams: That’s another way to try to manage and control the offender to the extent that we can help them be successful.

Len Sipes: Tom, you’ve got the final word. Martha, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching us on D. C. Public Safety. Watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in our criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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