News Roundup

The SOG is closed for a holiday tomorrow, so the News Roundup is coming to you a day early.  This week’s top news story is the bombing of the airport and a metro station in Brussels.  USA Today has full coverage of the attack here.  Three explosions were reported and at least 34 people were confirmed dead in the attack at the time of writing.   According to USA Today, the Islamic State has taken credit for the attack and Belgium’s federal prosecutor confirmed that the bombings were the work of terrorists.  WRAL has a story about a local man who was in Brussels Airport and survived the bombing.  Keep reading for more news.

Prosecutor Discontinues Use of Grand Juries in Officer-Involved Shootings.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that “Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will eliminate the long-standing and secret use of a grand jury in police-involved shootings.”  The announcement was made in connection with the ongoing investigation of the death of Jamar Clark, a black man who was “shot in the head during a scuffle with two white Minneapolis police officers” in November of last year.  The incident sparked protests and garnered widespread media attention.  Rather than use a grand jury, Freeman and other top prosecutors in his office will determine whether to file charges in the cases.  This blog has discussed grand jury issues in officer-involved shootings here and here.

Inmates Receive Overdose Antidote Upon Release.  Heroin continues to be a hot news topic with the Associated Press reporting that some jurisdictions are starting to provide the overdose antidote naloxone to certain soon-to-be-released inmates.  Some research suggests that addicts are especially vulnerable to overdose immediately after being released from incarceration because their tolerance has diminished while locked up but they often return to their previous dose immediately upon release.  The AP’s report contains examples of mixed reactions to the practice.  The News Roundup has previously reported on heroin and naloxone here and here.

Study Says Black Male Drivers More Likely to be Pulled Over in Durham.  WRAL reports that a study performed by RTI International revealed that black male drivers “were disproportionately pulled over by officers” in Durham.  According to the report, “the odds of a stopped [male] driver being black were 20 percent higher during daylight than times of darkness.”  The research was conducted using an approach that assumes that it is easier to determine the race of a motorist in the daytime.

Disproportionality in stops declined over the six-year period of the study, and disproportionality “varied by different units within the organization.”  The greatest disproportionality was found in the Department’s High Enforcement Abatement Team, while there was no evidence of disproportionality in the Traffic Services unit.  The study, funded independently by RTI but conducted with the cooperation of the DPD, is available here.

Prison Financial Services.  The New York Times has an op-ed from a former inmate this week discussing the “prison-commercial complex.”  The piece notes that “an order from the Federal Communications Commission that caps rates for United States prison telephone calls went into effect” last week, but goes on to argue that otherwise there is “little check” on the $1.2 billion industry that caters to correctional institutions.  The article takes aim at the system of prison financial services and the countless fees associated with nearly all transactions in prisons.

Peace Officers Memorial Day.  The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Peace Officers Memorial Day Ceremony is scheduled to take place on May 5 at the Colonial Baptist Church in Cary.  The ceremony honors fallen law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty.  More information about the ceremony including instructions for registering to attend is available at this DOJ webpage.  The webpage also features a list of fallen North Carolina law enforcement officers that dates back to 1804.  Thanks to all the North Carolina officers who put their lives at risk to protect the public.

iPhone Unlocked.  Ars Technica reports that an unexpected development in the standoff between Apple and the FBI over unlocking an iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attacks has resulted in a stay of a court order that would have forced Apple to help the FBI unlock the phone.  Apparently, the government “learned of [a] new unlock technique this weekend” that appears promising.  Everybody from Edward Snowden to John McAfee has chimed in with explanations of viable but complicated hacks for the reported four-digit passcode.  I’m betting that the FBI took a flyer and tried “1,2,3,4.”

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