Driving without insurance? Police in Michigan can now tell just by running your plate | MLive.com

Like the state police in this article, we have seen more and more imagesinstances of drivers without insurance.  And prior to this law we couldn’t check.  We long suspected that some people were getting a binder or  proof of insurance and then cancelling.  It is a problem for everyone to have uninsured motorists on the road.  So we see this as a good change -many other states already have this in place.

Driving without insurance? Police in Michigan can now tell just by running your plate | MLive.com.

Controversial landline telephone bill passes Michigan House | MLive.com

I was disappointed to see that the Michigan House of Representatives has passed this piece of legislation making it  easier for phone companies to get out of the business of maintaining landline phone lines.

The preservation of universal service that provides a reliable basic telephone service for all customers at reasonable rates is a matter that directly affects the safety and well-being of Michigan residents. According to FCC data, AT&T provides landline services to 45.2% of Michigan residents and 90% of Americans 65 and older still have a landline service. Already, Section 313 of the Michigan Telecommunications Act (as amended in June 2011) allows a provider to withdraw from an area subject to a review by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Nevertheless, in the two years since the current law has been in place no provider has attempted to withdraw services using the existing process. 

During a power outage the only reliable telephone service is landline service.

Police chiefs around the state have spoken out against this move by the phone companies.  We have concern that many areas of our state still do not have the infrastructure for basic internet service in place.  This makes the option for voice over internet phone service an impossibility. That leaves expensive cellular service as the only available option and service in many of these areas is still somewhat unreliable.

Controversial landline telephone bill passes Michigan House | MLive.com.

Ordinance Changes in Auburn Hills

Last night at the City Council meeting action was taken by the Council that impacts local businesses.council

First, the Council, at our request, repealed Article III of Chapter 10 of the City Code, “Mechanical Amusement Devices, Pool Tables and Entertainments.”  This ordinance created a licensing process for businesses, open to the public, who wanted to have pool tables, claw machines, video games, things like that.  The businesses were required to pay a fee and undergo inspections by our fire, police and building departments.  Each machine or device required a fee.  The ordinance was first enacted back in the 1980’s when the Council was concerned for young people hanging around arcades.  Times and technology have changed.  We have about 14 establishments in the city that fell under the ordinance.  Council voted unanimously for the repeal.

Secondly, we asked them to replace that ordinance with a new one regulating smoking lounges.  Here is a link: 2013 Smoking Lounges Ord.

On August 5, 2013 City Council voted to place a moratorium on the opening of new smoking lounge businesses in the City for 180 days while staff studied the issue.  Ultimately we recommended that the City license the smoking lounges.  We proposed an annual license with a fee to be determined, which would allow the City better management of these businesses.

Since the State of Michigan enacted Public Act 188 of 2009 to prohibit smoking in public places smoking lounges have become increasingly popular. Cigar Bars and Tobacco Specialty Retail Stores that qualify and were in existence on May 1, 2010, are exempt from the smoking in public prohibition.  Currently there are 2 established lounges with 1 in development. THe state guesses that there are about 200 of these exemptions around the state, no new ones are being granted. Before the moratorium licenses could be transferred into the City at any time without limit from anywhere in the state.

Adverse impacts associated with these establishments have been identified such as large numbers of patrons during the evening and night-time, crowds overflowing into parking areas and impeding on nearby businesses, leaving behind trash, broken alcohol bottles and debris, incidents requiring police response, fights, alcohol possession on unlicensed premises, traffic, noise, and complaints from neighboring businesses and residents.  The purpose of this ordinance is to regulate smoking lounges for the public health, safety, and welfare of the City.  We are also aware that other neighboring communities have been experiencing the same issues and several have acted to pass ordinances setting limits on the lounges.

The ordinance  is  designed  to  establish  reasonable  and  uniform  regulations  to  prevent potential adverse impacts.  It sets a mandatory closing time and does not allow any more transfer of licenses into the city.  Currently there are 2 smoking lounges with one in development.  The lounges currently operating have 180 days to apply for licensing but the closing time will apply to them immediately upon written notice from us.

 

Mitch Albom: 4 a.m. closing time won’t make us chic | Detroit Free Press | freep.com

Did you see Mitch Albom’s commentary in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press?  I have to agree with him.  I’m not seeing how extending the drinking hours until 4 am will improve anything.  The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (of which I am a member) also believes that it will not be an improvement for communities.  I know that you won’t be surprised to learn that not everyone uses their best judgement after a few drinks and many come into contact with the police.   Alcohol enforcement – drunk drivers, alcohol service enforcement, other kinds of disorder issues related to alcohol–are big issues for us.  Many times our shifts are keyed to closing time.  We may schedule fewer officers when we know that we’ll have lesser activity at the late hour.  But if we have to hold people on overtime we often release them after bar closing hours since things quiet down and settle down.   If the closing time goes to 4am we won’t have that respite anymore.  As he points out it is more likely that we’ll be mixing the over imbibed drivers with the weekday early traffic which starts building around 5 am.  I realize that it will be lucrative for some establishment owners but I believe it will be burdensome on the communities and on the general public.  It deserves serious consideration by the Legislature.

Mitch Albom: 4 a.m. closing time won’t make us chic | Detroit Free Press | freep.com.

How to Keep Bad Cops on the Beat

If you are a reader of this blog you’ll recognize how frequently I talk about keeping the confidence of the public which is critical to our ability to do our job.  You’ll also recall that I serve on the untitledMichigan Commission on Law enforcement Standards–in fact, I’m currently in my 2nd year as its chair.  I was appointed by Governor Snyder and previously appointed by Governor Granholm after being nominated by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police who I represent on the Commission.The mission of MCOLES is lost on many people including currently licensed law enforcement officers.  Simply put — our mission, as set in 2 Michigan statutes, is to

“…serve the people of the State of Michigan by ensuring public safety and supporting the criminal justice community…. leadership through setting professional standards in education, selection employment, licensing, license revocation and funding….”

Other state have similar bodies that are often called POST organizations–Police Officer Standards and Training.   I realize that some might find this to be an arcane government bureaucracy kind of thing.  But it is much more than that.  We can’t keep your confidence and be effective in our communities if you don’t trust us.

How to Keep Bad Cops on the Beat.

I came across this interesting article which looks at POST organizations like MCOLES and shows what an effective organization can do and what happens when it doesn’t do its job.  If there isn’t an effective “police of the police,” serious problems are visited upon the communities and the residents of those communities with little or no avenue of redress.  MCOLES is a state agency with about 18 employees and an executive director who is selected by the 15 member Commission.  There are about 19,000 police in Michigan.

In Michigan, MCOLES is charged by state statute to be the “police of the police.”  MCOLES can take an officers license to practice under certain conditions and we are one of the states mentioned in the article that can only de-license an officer upon conviction or plea of guilty to a felony.  So there has to be a conviction for a felony (serious) crime, not a charge, but a conviction and then the officer is offered due process again through the state’s administrative court system asking them to show cause why they should not lose their license.  Ultimately these cases come before the Commission where an official action has to be taken.  There are approximately 20 de-licensing actions that occur annually.  Most are uncontested, since there has already been a conviction in a court of law.  Many are incarcerated.

While I wouldn’t advocate creating a whole new bureaucracy to deal with every potential offense by a police officer in some sort of parallel universe to internal department discipline, I do think there is more that the public expects from us.   I think there are some crimes, when convicted (undergone all due process offered under the law) that should require that an officer lose his/her license although it is a misdemeanor crime.  For example, a larceny (theft) plea that lowers a felony charge to a misdemeanor would mean that an officer convicted of a misdemeanor larceny could keep his/her job.  There are are offenses for which a guilty plea could put an officer on the sex offender list but would not cause them to lose their license.  I think the public expects more from us.

Currently there is some legislation that was introduced by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, R, from southwest Michigan, at our request.  It would give the Commission more ability to deal with cops who have been convicted of crimes in a court of law.

The vast, vast majority of Michigan police are highly ethical people who provide selfless service to their communities, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. But there are a few who have made poor choices and do not deserve to wear the same badge.  MCOLES helps us keep credibility and serves this state to the best of its ability under its limited budget and authority.

Is This Really What We Want?

UPDATE 2-Ex-Microsoft manager plans to create first U.S. marijuana brand | Reuters.

I found this interesting article in the business publication Reuters.  While Michigan has “medical” marijuana as legal, it has presented some very problematic issues for communities and law enforcement.  Colorado has legalized marijuana and clearly this former Microsoft manager is betting on marijuana being legalized in other states and so would become a new industry.

There are continuing efforts in Michigan to legalize marijuana.  As a result, I think we have to ask ourselves whether this is in the best interests of our community and families.  “Medical” marijuana was sold to the voters as being a remedy for the very sick implying that only a few individuals would be “prescribed” marijuana.  Instead a whole industry grew up that communities found problematic and distasteful as evidenced by the actions of the Attorney General (who determined that dispensaries/stores were illegal and forced them all to close) and the activities in the legislature to define how Michigan residents want to deal with this issue.

Here is another example of the problematic side of “medical” marijuana. Children in Colorado treated for accidental marijuana ingestion in food.    I’m sure we have the same problem here but I have no statistics on the subject to report.

How important is the influence of a relatively small amount of investors vs. healthy communities?

Michigan law to require police to video record interviews – theoaklandpress.com

An interesting article on a new Michigan law.  Here in Auburn Hills we have been recording interrogations in major felony cases for more than 10 years.   We believe it is an important aspect of police credibility.  The community must believe that we act in ethical ways when we investigate crime.  You want us to be both effective (find the perpetrator) but then be legal and ethical in our pursuit of justice.

Michigan law to require police to video record interviews – theoaklandpress.com.

Michigan Enters Fight Against Human Trafficking

Yesterday I was proud to stand with Attorney General William Schuette as he announced that he intends to engage Michigan in the fight against human trafficking.  I was part of his press conference today announcing his new commission. As the Chair of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, I think police need more training on this important topic-right now there is little or none.

This is a heinous and disgusting crime against men, women and children in this country and in our state.  Essentially it is modern-day slavery and it does happen here.  It is hard to see the victims of this crime who frequently are afraid to approach the police for fear of deportation and prosecution for crimes like prostitution.  Their traffickers convince them that they have no value and that the police will not help them.  It is a hidden crime–it is in the lawn care business or among farm workers, sex trade workers and among people working in the kitchens of restaurants or other service businesses.  It is around us but we don’t recognize it in many cases.

RED FLAGS:  INDICATORS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

  • Restrictions of freedom of movement of the worker
  • Especially long work hours
  • Little or no pay
  • Harsh working conditions
  • Security measures in the work area
  • Worker exhibits fear, anxiety
  • Poor physical health
  • Worker has signs of physical or sexual abuse
  • The worker is not in control of his/her money or identification
  • The worker cannot speak for him/herself
  • The worker has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Auburn Hills has not prosecuted any cases to date, but our officers have had the limited training that is available to us at current and have some knowledge of this crime.  I am hopeful that more resources will be made available and new laws passed that can help us identify victims and prosecute the perpetrators.

One of the participants of the press conference, Jane White, of the MSU Human Trafficking Task Force, told a story of an 11 year old girl, here in Michigan, who was chained in the backyard of a home. This child was illegally brought from Mexico for the purpose of babysitting younger children.  She was not enrolled in school and was treated like an animal.  A neighbor eventually reported the situation.

Here is some information I took from the Attorney General’s Fact Sheet:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s statistics on human trafficking, 2,515 incidents of human trafficking were recorded nationwide between January 2008 and June 2010.  Of those incidents, 1,016 involved the sexual exploitation of a child, 1,218 involved the sexual exploitation of adults, and 350 involved labor trafficking.  Each year the Federal Government publishes the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report in order to release progress, allow for suggestions, and polish any current methods.

  • Human trafficking is not a choice. A person cannot consent to become enslaved. Victims want to escape, but cannot.
  • Human trafficking is not smuggling. Smuggling is transportation; trafficking is exploitation.
  • Human trafficking does not require that a victim be moved over state or international borders.
  • Approximately 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. every year.
  • Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry.

Children are especially vulnerable:

  • 40 percent of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child.
  • Between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation in the U.S. with an average age of 11 to 14 years old.
  • It is estimated that 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet.

Other states are much further ahead than we are in identifying and prosecuting these cases.  I was glad to be part of such an important event today.

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