#PolTwt: Cops tweet thousands of times in first global police tweet-a-thon

Windsor Police

Windsor police in Canada have tweeted about patrol stops and taken Twitter followers behind-the-scenes of labs in the March 22 tweet-a-thon. (Screen grab from Twitter)

Law enforcement officers have sent more than 35,000 tweets Friday in the first ever “global police tweet-a-thon.”

At least 250 agencies around the world, including the FBI, are participating in the event, which was coordinated by social media strategist Lauri Stevens.

Like an online ride-along for residents to see their patrol officers, there are only two rules: Tweet local, and add #PolTwt.

It’s ranged from a glimpse inside the 911 dispatch center to live-tweeting a traffic citation to a video about what it takes to solve a homicide.

Stevens came up with the idea more than a year ago, NBC News reports.

“Isn’t that the craziest thing?” they quoted Stevens as saying. “I had this idea and here we are. That’s the power of social media.”

Coachella Valley law enforcement are not participating.

The Cathedral City Police Department tweets occasionally, and the Palm Springs Police Officers Association has an account but hasn’t tweeted yet.

The other valley law enforcement agencies do not have accounts.


How to see the Police Tweet-a-Thon:

Dorner’s last stand

Most people probably look at the conclusion of Tuesday’s dramatic shootout with accused cop killer Christopher Jordan Dorner in the San Bernardino Mountains with a sense of relief.
If that was him in the burned out cabin in Angelus Oaks, a huge burden has been lifted from the Southern California law enforcement community and all of us who strongly support them. But it’s also hard to cheer anybody’s death, even a killer.
For me, this touches home in many ways. I’ve been skiing in the Big Bear Valley for more than 40 years. I spent Christmas there with my family at my dad’s place. (He was safe in his La Quinta home this week, thank goodness.) I usually take Highway 38 – which passes through Angelus Oaks – on my trips up the mountain. Going up 330 and cutting across on 18 is about 10 minutes faster to get to Snow Summit, but there are many more curves.
Tuesday morning, I wrote an editorial praising the law enforcement community for its efforts to protect the 50 or more people threatened by Dorner. They had no choice. This guy was well-trained, well-armed and full of hate. We also planned to support the $100,000 contribution to the $1 million reward proposed by Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit for information that might lead to Dorner’s capture. But with the standoff unfolding, we had to hold that editorial and go with one planned for the next day.
My youngest daughter was concerned because she has friends who are San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. Sure enough, one of the two deputies allegedly shot by Dorner was the husband of a friend. Fortunately, he was not the one who was mortally wounded. Her friend texted late last night that he was out of surgery and in stable condition. He’ll survive.
I share the sentiments of Joyce Reed, Big Bear Lake Resort Association board president, who sent out this statement this morning: “Our hearts go out to all law enforcement that put their lives on the line to protect Big Bear. We are especially mournful for the deputy who lost his life during this tragic incident, and we send our deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the deputy’s family.”

Chris Dorner: What you need to know about the shooting, manifesto and Big Bear

This undated photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows suspect Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles officer. (AP photo/LAPD)

In the hours after Southern California law enforcement announced they were looking for Christopher Dorner, national media saturated the digital world with reports.

Dorner, #LAPD and Big Bear have all been trending nationally on Twitter.

Here is the recap:

Did his firing from Los Angeles police prompt a manifesto?

Dorner’s longtime dream of being an officer ended in 2008 after he was fired as a Los Angeles police officer. That’s what led to a 14-page manifesto called “Last resort,” police say, that authorities believe Dorner authored.

Anderson Cooper tweeted: “Learned today suspect Christopher Dorner sent me a parcel at CNN. Inside was a note, DVD, and a coin shot thru with bullet holes.”

Dorner’s military career ended last week

Dorner, 33, left the military Feb. 1 as a Navy lieutenant, according to military records obtained by mydesert.com photojournalist Crystal Chatham.

Two people dead in Irvine on Sunday

Police say he began carrying out the plan last weekend, killing a man and his fiancée, whose father represented Dorner when he fought to keep his job.

Los Angeles Police Department officers investigate the site of a shooting Thursday in Corona. Christopher Dorner is suspected of this shooting of two LAPD officers who were sent to Corona to protect someone Dorner threatened in a rambling online manifesto. (AP photo/Nick Ut)

One Riverside officer killed, second one wounded

Police say Dorner ambushed two Riverside police officers at a stoplight, killing one of them and seriously wounding the other on Tuesday morning.

It was the eighth anniversary of Dorner’s first day on the job with the LAPD.

The Riverside officer was the second killed in the line of duty in California this year. We’ve got numbers on officer deaths and assaults here.

A burning vehicle found

Thousands of officers swarmed into Southern California and Nevada, in what may be the biggest manhunt in LAPD history.

The San Bernardino Sun reports that authorities confirmed a truck found on fire near Big Bear belonged to Dorner. 

Bear Mountain closes for the day

Big Bear Mountain issued a media statement that it would be closed for the rest of the day because of the search for Dorner.

“We are in constant contact with federal and local authorities regarding this situation,” Big Bear Mountain Resorts spokesman Chris Riddle said. “We felt it was in the best interest of the search to close Bear Mountain for the rest of the day.”

Flowers are placed on a police vehicle near the area where a shooting took place in Riverside on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Riverside County orders flags lowered, announces prayer vigil

Riverside County will lower its flags until sunset on Thursday, Feb. 17, in honor of the fallen officer.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey invited the public to a prayer vigil at 6 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 7) outside Riverside City Hall, 3900 Main St.


1 out of 5 arrested is someone on parole or probation, California study finds

Desert Sun file photo

One out of every five people arrested is on parole or probation — a lower number than law enforcement expected — according to a newly published study.

Researchers examined to what extent people on parole or probation contribute to crime (as measured by arrests).

They used data from Los Angeles, Redlands, Sacramento and San Francisco police over more than three years, ending in June 2011.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization based in Kentucky, found:

  • The majority of adult felony and misdemeanor arrests (77%) involved people who were not under supervision.
  • When looking only at drug violations, one out of every three people arrested was on probation or parole.
  • Total arrests fell by 18 percent. Meanwhile, the number parolees arrested fell 61 percent, and people on probation declined 26 percent.

The data shows there’s a “small fraction” of parolees who are “contributing disproportionately to drug-related crime,” Redlands Police Chief Mark Garcia said this week in a news statement about the study.

As a whole, though, Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel said:

“Our assumption has been that people under probation and parole were driving our arrest activity, but the data suggests otherwise,” he said.

“This new information opens up opportunities for law enforcement agencies, which are grappling with huge budget cuts, to work with partners in probation and parole to be more efficient and targeted in our prevention, intervention, and enforcement efforts.”

The study was paid for by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Fund for Nonviolence and the Rosenberg Foundation.



Riverside County jails break record of 6,001 inmates released early

Riverside County jails have released a record number of inmates early this year and prepared Wednesday to send more inmates out the door early.

So far this year, 6,183 inmates have been released early countywide due to overcrowding. That surpasses the county record for most inmates ever released in one year — 6,001 inmates in 2007.

“It’s not something we brag about,” Chief Deputy Raymond Gregory told my colleague Erica Felci. “It shows the mass of this huge crisis.”

There are 3,906 beds countywide.

All 353 beds at the jail in Indio were filled this morning, and Gregory was working on a plan late Wednesday morning about which inmates would be released early if the jail is overcrowded tonight.

“It kind of shows that we don’t nearly have the correct size for the activity we have in Riverside County,” said Gregory, who oversees jails for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The Supreme Court has given the state until June 2013 to reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates. The state has warned it does not expect to meet that deadline.

To make matters worse, the already overcrowded county jails now must house most felons — except for those jailed for a serious, sex or violent crime — who previously would have been sent to state prison.

The state Legislature handed that responsibility to counties last year as part of a broader state budget plan to close a $26.6 billion gap.

Sheriff Stan Sniff has repeatedly warned that Riverside County jails, like many across the state, would be “overwhelmed” by the burden of housing felons.

“The system is so overloaded. We’re not close. We’re way, way, behind. That’s what’s added to our misery, when you’re seeing some terrible surges in crime,” Sniff previously told us.


Related story: Gov. Jerry Brown has also battled a federal court order to lay out a timetable for reducing the nation’s worst prison overcrowding. See more here.

Marijuana arrests happen every 42 seconds, analysis of FBI data shows

A total 12,408,899 people were arrested last year — with one marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds, according to analysis of FBI statistics released last week.

The No. 1 arrest charge in the U.S. was drug abuse violations. More than 81 percent of the 1,531,251  arrests stemmed from possession, while the remainder were for sales and manufacturing.

Marijuana possession made up 660,000 arrests, or or 43.3 percent of all arrests under the drug abuse violations category.

Counting all drugs, not just marijuana, police made one drug arrest every 21 seconds, according to analysis from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group  comprised mostly of law enforcement, judges and prosecutors.

“Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between $1.5 – to $3 billion just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests,” said LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics officer.

Overall, the number of total arrests and the number of drug abuse arrests continues to drop annually. The top three arrest charges remained the same, though larceny-theft moved ahead of DUI arrests in 2011:

  1. Drug abuse violations: 1,531,251 arrests in 2011 (a 6.6 percent drop from 2010)
  2. Larceny-theft: 1,264,986 arrests (a 0.5 percent increase)
  3. Driving under the influence: 1,215,077 arrests (a 14 percent decrease)

See the 2011 nationwide arrest data here. See the data broken down by state here. See more analysis of the data from the FBI here.

Mary Bono Mack campaign ad makes unexpected TV star out of officer

When Rep. Mary Bono Mack released her latest campaign ad Friday, it made an unexpected TV star out of one valley officer.

The ad shows clips of law enforcement from across the valley and state speaking during a press conference outside the Palm Springs Police Department on Monday.

Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association President (Sgt.) William Hutchinson, who’s one of two people featured in the TV commercial, said he was caught off guard by appearing in a campaign ad — and told the Bono Mack campaign so in an email Friday.

“I understand it, but I would have liked to have had a call, at least, to get a heads up,” he told us.

Hutchinson insisted the only aim of the officers — who have not endorsed either candidate in the tight Congressional race — is to have their message heard and their questions answered.

“This is not a coordinated effort between Mary Bono Mack’s campaign and law enforcement,” he said. “This is law enforcement’s voice, and she is using it for her own agenda.”

Neither campaign responded to email inquiries Friday or Saturday about the press conference. Candidates usually send cameramen to events on both sides.

Dr. Raul Ruiz spokesman Patrick Boland has blocked this Desert Sun reporter’s Twitter account from following his account, so I could not send him a direct message to inquire that way.

Fewer marijuana plants seized in California than last year

Law enforcement are on pace to seize far fewer marijuana plants in California this year than last year — the second consecutive decline.

California Watch, a nonprofit reporting group, summed up the figures as the end of marijuana growing season approaches:

The latest figures show that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are on track to eradicate an estimated 1.5 million plants from outdoor gardens – mostly on public land – down from a decade high of about 7.3 million plants in 2009.

This year’s seizures would be the lowest since 2004, when a little more than 1.1 million plants were eradicated, according to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics.

The report attributes the drop to a variety of factors, including an effort to prosecute growers and a federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Some say growers have moved out of state (to places like Nevada, North Carolina or Wisconsin), to smaller garden plots on private land or underground.


How much would marijuana be worth if it was legalized? See our previous report here.

Palm Desert police field few tips in Grant Virgin’s hit-and-run crash

More than a week after 16-year-old Grant Virgin was critically injured, Palm Desert police have fielded only three tips about the hit-and-run crash.

None of the tips have panned out so far, Lt. Bill Sullivan told my colleague Sherry Barkas today.

The Palm Desert High School junior was walking toward a friend’s house when he was struck about 7:35 p.m. Sept. 10 at Deep Canyon Road and Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert.

Several witnesses saw the driver get out of her car, survey the damage to her car and look at the boy lying in the road, Capt. Kevin Vest said. She then drove away. Other drivers called 911, blocked off the road and tried to help the teen.

Chances are high that hit-and-run drivers in a case like this will get away, police told us — unless someone can lead investigators to the car.


How Grant is doing

The crash caused devastating injuries to Grant, breaking bones from his skull to his heel and crushing his aorta. Only 10 percent of people with his kind of aorta damage survive the initial injury. Even fewer live past the ride to the hospital. Fewer yet survive the transfer to another hospital.

Grant remains hospitalized at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Doctors began easing the sedation Tuesday, hoping Grant will wake up in the next few days so they can reevaluate the injuries to his brain.

“Grant is trying to open his eyes. He will open them a sliver when you ask him,” his mom, JJ Virgin, wrote on her Facebook page this morning. She has been detailing his progress.

His parents have been overwhelmed by emails, Facebook messages, text messages and Tweets. Both say they regret they haven’t been able to respond to everyone, but are blown away by the support.

“Were it under different circumstances, I don’t know if I could handle the heartwarming,” his father, John, told me.

When I met with Grant’s dad last week, I asked what his family needs: “Prayer,” John said. “Prayers are powerful medicine.”

Read more of John’s interview here.


About the driver, her vehicle

Because of the time and location of the crash, Vest said the driver who hit Grant likely lives and works in the Coachella Valley.

Witnesses described her as a Hispanic woman, about 30 years old. She was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed about 150 pounds. She had black, shoulder-length hair.

The vehicle was a two-door, white car made in the early 2000s.

Palm Desert police ask anyone who knows anything about the crash, or has seen a similar vehicle with front-end damage, to call investigators at (760) 836-1000.

Anonymous tipsters can call Valley Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-7867 or email PalmDesertStation@RiversideSheriff.org. Refer to case T122540079.

Riverside County jails release 4,000 inmates early as state fights early releases

UPDATE: Riverside County has since broken its record of 6,001 inmates released early. See more here.

As Gov. Jerry Brown battles the federal court over when jails will determine their schedule for releasing inmates early, Riverside County is on pace to tie its all-time record for the number of early releases.

Riverside County jails have already released 4,000 inmates early this year, Sheriff Stan Sniff told us last week.

That means we could hit the record for most inmates ever released in one year — 6,001 inmates in 2007.

“The system is so overloaded. We’re not close. We’re way, way, behind. That’s what’s added to our misery, when you’re seeing some terrible surges in crime,” Sniff said.

The Supreme Court has given the state until June 2013 to reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates. The state has warned it does not expect to meet that deadline.

Jails across the state were supposed to decide this month when to schedule the early release of hundreds, if not thousands, of prison inmates.

The Aug. 17 deadline was imposed early this month by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the state has made insufficient progress in reducing the nation’s worst prison overcrowding.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has protested the federal court order, calling the timetable unwarranted.

To make matters worse, the already overcrowded county jails now must house most felons — except for those jailed for a serious, sex or violent crime — who previously would have been sent to state prison.

The state Legislature handed that responsibility to counties last year as part of a broader state budget plan to close a $26.6 billion gap.

Nearly one year into the realignment law, California Watch — a nonprofit an investigative journalism group — examined how Fresno County and San Francisco are handling the unprecedented overhaul.

Fresno County jail population has shot up by 30 percent because of the realignment plan — one of the highest increases in the state, the group found:

Many county jails have limited facilities because they were designed for short stays. Fresno’s jail even faces a class-action lawsuit alleging poor medical care.

Still, some lower-level offenders are getting long sentences, only now, they have to serve them at the county jail. This inmate will spend five years locked in the oldest part of Fresno’s jail. Amy Granados has done time before, but in state prisons. She says that was pretty easy.