Saturday, April 30, 2016

Text Trap

"Police to crack down on texting while driving" by Kathy McCabe Globe Staff  April 07, 2016

Massachusetts drivers, take heed — police officers will keep a sharp lookout this month for those who illegally send text messages and check their e-mail behind the wheel.

The state’s Highway Safety Division is teaming up with state and local police in more than 140 cities and towns in a statewide crackdown on distracted driving from Friday until the end of the month. The effort is part of a national campaign called “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

“We don’t want people thinking this is just a problem for teens,” said Jeff Larason, the state’s director of Highway Safety. “Adults do the vast amount of texting while driving.”

The state has received more than $600,000 in federal funds to help local police departments cover the cost of deploying more officers, officials said. While distracted driving laws are notoriously difficult to enforce, police will be keeping a close eye on the roads.

“We’ll have keen eyes on drivers,” Salem Police Captain Conrad Prosniewski said. “Texting will be the number one thing we’ll be looking for.”

I'm glad there are no robbers, rapists, murderers, or drug dealers that need looking after or catching. 

That's not an endorsement of using the phone in the car. I never do, and despise those whom I see doing it; however, I $u$pect there are other factors at work.

Massachusetts banned texting while driving in 2010, as part of a safe driving law that also banned those under 18 from using a cellphone while at the wheel.

Enforcement has grown stricter in recent years, according to state statistics. In 2015, police handed out more than 6,100 citations, up from about 3,350 in 2013.

Distracted driving poses a significant threat to public safety. From 2010 to 2013, 184 people in Massachusetts died in crashes that were caused by distracted driving, state officials said.

One of them was Howard Stein.

Police officers say catching drivers who are texting is tricky because they typically hold their phones in their laps.

“It’s a great law, but it’s hard to enforce,” said James Graham of the Bedford Police Department, which looks for distracted drivers as part of routine traffic patrols.

Said they wouldn't be doing that when law passed!

In Cambridge, where police issued 527 texting citations last year, “spotter officers” will walk up to cars at red lights to look for people who are texting or reading e-mails on their cellphones.

“We will have an increased presence and vigilance,” said a police spokesman, Jeremy Warnick.

In Newton, officers will be deployed in both marked and unmarked cruisers.

“We mean business,” said Marc Gromada, a captain for the police department. “We’re going to be out there looking for people who are not paying attention.”

Of course, Newton has other problems now, they found swastikas in Swampscott, and there was a lynching in Concord.

Melrose police plan to keep a close watch on commuters driving to work or rushing to the train.

“We get pretty heavy traffic here, and a lot of distracted drivers,” Chief Michael Lyle said. “A lot of the times, they ignore people standing in a crosswalk.”

Arlington police plan to pursue a different enforcement strategy this month — a campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to remind people not to text while driving.

They have an app for that?

“The law allows for enforcement,” Police Chief Frederick Ryan said. “But I think the education piece is just as important as writing a ticket.”


RelatedW. Bridgewater police nab 110 drivers in 4 hours for texting

Meanwhile, just around the corner....


"Tax hike vote considered key to Ferguson deal with Justice" Associated Press  April 05, 2016

FERGUSON, Mo. — Implementation of Ferguson’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice is at stake Tuesday as voters in the St. Louis suburb consider two tax hike proposals.

Mayor James Knowles III said last week that sales and property taxes must increase if Ferguson is going to pay for changes sought by the Justice Department, whose examination after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown uncovered significant racial bias in the Missouri town’s criminal justice system.

Brown was 18, black and unarmed when he was shot during a street confrontation with white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. A grand jury and the Justice Department cleared Wilson in the shooting that spurred the national Black Lives Matter movement.

The shooting also led to a Justice Department investigation of Ferguson police and court practices. A critical report in March 2015 prompted the resignations of the city manager, police chief and municipal judge. The City Council last month agreed to a settlement that calls for the hiring of a monitor; diversity training for police; purchase of software and hiring of staff to analyze records on arrests, use of force and other police matters; and outfitting all officers and jail workers with body cameras.

City leaders say measures associated with the agreement will cost Ferguson $2.3 million over three years, including $1 million in year one.

That’s a lot for a government already facing a $2.9 million deficit due largely to fallout from the shooting, such as sales tax declines, skyrocketing legal costs and the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in court fines and fees from reforms already in place.

One ballot measure would impose an economic development sales tax, the other a property tax increase that would cost about $76 annually for a home worth $100,000.

Passage of both still won’t get the city to the break-even point, Knowles said. The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for across-the-board pay cuts of 3 percent.

Knowles said if the tax measures fail, the city would likely lay off around a dozen members of the police force, six firefighters, and close one of the two fire stations.

If police jobs are cut, Knowles said it’s hard to imagine that the city could implement the type of community policing required by the Justice Department settlement. Money to pay for things such as software and hiring of police record analysts would also be hard to come by.

In a letter to Knowles and the City Council last month, Justice Department Civil Rights Division leader Vanita Gupta said ‘‘it is not uncommon for financial or staffing challenges to arise’’ when implementing Justice Department agreements.

‘‘Provided those challenges are genuine, approached in good faith, and not pretexts for non-compliance, we are committed to working with jurisdictions to overcome those challenges,’’ she wrote.


"Ferguson official: Tax vote shouldn’t affect police reform" Associated Press  April 07, 2016

FERGUSON, Mo. — Failure by Ferguson voters to approve a property tax increase should have no ‘‘major effects’’ on the city’s agreement with the US Department of Justice or efforts to adopt community policing in the St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown was fatally shot by an officer, the city manager said Wednesday.

Ferguson voters on Tuesday approved a sales tax increase but rejected a property tax hike proposal. The taxes were meant to reduce a $2.9 million deficit and help fund changes mandated in a Justice Department agreement aimed at improving Ferguson’s criminal justice system.

Those changes will cost an estimated $2.3 million over three years.

In a statement Wednesday, City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said failure of the measure will force a close look at the city budget.

‘‘There may be some reduction in services but we do not believe there will be any major effects to the Consent Decree agreement, or our community policing model,’’ Seewood said.

Immediately after the vote, Mayor James Knowles III had said the impact of the property tax hike failure was unclear.

Ferguson is already planning across-the-board pay cuts of 3 percent for all employees. City spokesman Jeff Small said no layoffs will be immediately necessary.

The 2014 shooting led to a Justice Department investigation of Ferguson police and court practices."

Turns out the cops were squeezing them for dough, and it's a good thing Massachusetts is not Missouri.

Also see:

"Missouri state police are investigating the jail death of a former sheriff’s deputy who was facing federal and state charges of sexually abusing women and enticing a minor into prostitution. Marty Rainey was found dead Saturday morning in the Ste. Genevieve County jail, sheriff’s Major Jason Schott told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The death of the 52-year-old Rainey, who lived in Sullivan and formerly worked as a deputy in Gasconade County in east-central Missouri, appears to be a suicide, Schott said."

Who wanted to silence him?