No Texting While Driving Tickets

No matter where you turn, it seems as though you see more newspaper and magazine ads, TV commercials, and more that texting and driving is simply, well, a stupid thing to do. Most of the pictures depict horrendous motor vehicle accidents, which if you are lucky you have yet to have to deal with.

Recently in Salt River, AZ, Officer Clayton Townsend, a member of the Salt River Police Department was killed by a distracted driver who was too busy texting their cellphone to pay attention to where she was going.
According to the reports, Officer was conducting a routine traffic stop on a Tuesday evening, having pulled a vehicle over on the northbound side of Loop 101 close to McDowell Rd. The officer was standing by the driver’s door as is the norm. Suddenly a black passenger vehicle entered the breakdown lane, striking the vehicle Townsend had pulled over before hitting the officer, causing severe head injuries.

The officer was transported to the hospital but later succumbed to his injuries later that evening. According to 40-year Jerry Sanstead, the driver of the black vehicle, he was texting when he lost control of his vehicle and after crossing two lanes of traffic, struck and killed the officer. Despite the efforts to stop people from texting while driving and causing more accidents like this one, these types of accidents have become all too familiar.

The National News
The death of Officer Townsend made national news and is just one more reason for supporting continued action towards legislation in all 50 states making it a crime to be on your cellphone texting while driving. Arizona is currently one of only three states that do not have laws in place banning texting while driving.

Let’s take a look at this for a moment if you live in Arizona, Montana, or Missouri (only applies to drivers under 21), your risks of being hit by a driver texting while you are conducting a traffic stop than in any other state. In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine any state not taking this step to protect not only their law enforcement officers but everyone else who happens to be out on the roads.

It gets worse. How could it get any worse you ask? How many of you men and women in blue spend time texting while driving? Admit it; you probably justify it by saying your texting is job-related. But, no matter how you look at it, you are just another one of those “idiots” you should be pulling over.

The only way we are ever going to stop accidents like the one that took officer Townsend’s life, leaving behind a wife and ten-month son is to do our jobs and keep working to put an end to senseless loss of life like this, is to pull over when you have to text and keep writing those tickets. If you live in one of the three states without texting and driving laws, you should work with others to get this changed. The life you save could be yours!

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Fentanyl Abuse Crisis Is Getting Worse

For those of you who are not familiar with Fentanyl, it’s a synthetic opioid that is intended to be used as an acute pain reliever in place of morphine. The big difference is that it is typically listed as being between 50 and 100 times more powerful. How powerful, a single grain of Fentanyl the size of a grain of sand is enough to give a person a heroin-like high. Two grains this size is enough to kill a healthy adult.

When used in a hospital setting, the dose is administered via a patch over 48 to 72 hours. On the street, this crystalline powder is typically mixed with other drugs such as ecstasy to achieve specific results. The extreme potency of this drug is what Fentanyl abusers seek out and what makes it so dangerous. Over 49,000 people died of Fentanyl overdose in the U.S. in 2017, and the epidemic is only getting worse.

How Did the Fentanyl Crisis Start?
One of the largest reasons behind the Fentanyl crisis is the fact that this drug is so cheap to manufacture. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of it comes from China in small shipments that are virtually impossible to catch on their way through customs. At current prices, one-kilo of Fentanyl sells on the black market for approximately $20,000, but by the time it hits the streets, that same kilo is worth $20 million.

Another major source is the number of physicians who have been over-prescribing pain medications for decades. Many gave patients open-ended refills that led to significant abuse and a thriving market for leftover medications and duplicate prescriptions. Then there is the government who still seems to be sitting on their hindquarters instead of coming up with a successful plan to open more treatment centers and safe injection sites rather than clogging up the prison system, which does no good whatsoever.

The Challenges Law Enforcement Faces with Fentanyl Abuse
First and foremost, due to the methods used by importers, customs agents have a tough time detecting the shipments due to the vast quantities of shipments coming into the U.S. from China. With prison overcrowding already pushing prisons past the point at which their seams are bursting, ineffective sentencing laws have done very little to discourage the black market.

With the number of suppliers steadily increasing, finding a new source and setting up business has never been easier. Making it almost impossible for Law Enforcement Officers to stay on top of the growing number of dealers. Merely handling Fentanyl can be dangerous as the many officers who have been hospitalized because of it. To make matters worse, an officer never knows when they will encounter the drug or under what circumstances.

Is There a Solution to the Fentanyl Crisis?
The key to solving the Fentanyl crisis lies in education. Law Enforcement Officers need to be taught more about community policing and harm reduction. At the same time, making sure officers have access to Naloxone in their drug testing kits is a good step in the right direction.

But, it takes long-term efforts like cutting back on the number of prescriptions written for these drugs, increasing the number of prescription fraud investigations, and increased funding for safe injection sites, and addiction counseling are all long-term strategies for reducing the Fentanyl crisis.

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Closed for Christmas and New Years!

In order to give our staff time to spend with their families during the holiday season, Privacy for Cops will be closed December 25, 2018 and January 1, 2019.

Support Options Limited

Beginning December 24, 2018 to January 2, 2019, support options will be limited. We appreciate your patience during this time. Happy Holidays!

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Do You Know What to Do If You Are Caught in a Data Breach?

In the past several years there have been massive data breaches in which the personal information of millions of Americans has been accessed by hackers from around the world. To make matter worse, we only hear about the significant data breaches, small ones happen every day, but no one reports those. The big question is, “Do you know what to do in the event your personal data becomes part of a data breach?”

What you need to do to protect yourself is all a matter of what type of personal information was accessed during the breach. If the breach occurred at a banking institute, federal law requires everyone affected be notified of the breach and what information was stolen. In the event of the breach occurring at a major company, only 46 states have laws requiring them to notify you.

Fake Notices
It is not uncommon for a number of “phishing” scams to pop up immediately following the announcement of a data breach. Never click on links in emails, even if they look real. Always visit the company’s website and follow the instructions listed there if any.

Your Passwords
If the breach included accessing your passwords (or for that matter even if it didn’t,” now is the perfect time to change all your passwords, even those that may not have been directly affected just to be on the safe side.

Watch Your Email
Keep a close eye on your email inbox. If you get emails requesting you divulge personal information or click on a link. Delete these immediately. If you receive a suspicious email from a company you are used to dealing with, call them for verification.

Your Credit Cards
If the loss includes your credit card information, be sure to contact your credit card companies and ask for new cards to be sent to you with new numbers. Some lenders will do this automatically, but it is up to you to protect yourself. Also, worth noting, is that since it was just the number that was stolen, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you are not responsible for any authorized purchases.

Your Debit Cards
Under the same act, you are not liable for any purchases made with your debit card following the theft, providing you report the loss within 60 days. At the same time go ahead and have your bank cancel the cards and issue you new ones. Talk to your bank about using a verbal password to access your account to keep thieves out.

Your Social Security Number
More damage can be done by identity thieves with your social security number than anything else. You only have to contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies to have them put an alert on your account. By law, they have to tell the other two. The alert will be seen by lenders who know to take extra precautions and steps to ensure it is really you they are dealing with.

These are the most important steps you can take to protect yourself should your information be part of a data breach. Be proactive by keeping an eye on your credit report. You are entitled to one free printed copy from each of the three major credit reporting agencies each year. Some credit cards like Discovery now let you check your FICO score any time you want, others like Credit Karma let you see what’s on your report at any time.

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Portable Fingerprint Scanners

For law enforcement officers, trying to identify suspects on the street can be challenging. It is far too easy for a person to give a false name and other forms of misinformation. While out on the street, officers lack the same access to resources they can use to help identify the person. This forces officers to rely on nothing more than a driver’s license or state issued ID may or may not be reliable.

Many Reasons to Need ID
There is any number of reasons why an officer might need to be able to positively identify a person on the street. Perhaps there was an incident nearby or a terrorist alert, or any one of many other criminal activities. Of course, officers all start with the same method of identification. They ask a number of standard questions such as name, address, and so forth as a means to identify them. At the same time, it gives the officer time to assess the person and how far they need to go with the identification process.

There is, of course, no way in which to determine whether the person who is being questioned is presenting a false name and ID. It is far too easy for a criminal to produce a perfect facsimile of virtually any form of identification capable of fooling the average officer on the street. This makes the whole concept of using an ID card as a valid form of identification somewhat antiquated. Plus, you have the issue of those who for one reason or another are not carrying the ID with them.

Enter the Mobile Fingerprint Scanner
Mobile bio-metric equipment is nothing new; it has been in use in smartphones, tablets, and laptops for several years. In fact, the use of this technology has been an essential security feature in devices such as these and more.

These mobile devices look a lot like something that belongs on the Starship Enterprise, yet they offer today’s law enforcement officers a chance to obtain a more accurate positive ID for anyone they stop and question. These devices allow officers direct access to the national fingerprint database where millions of fingerprints are stored digitally.
While identifying a suspect in the field has always been a problem for law enforcement officers, with so many suspects willing to lie about who they are, those days might finally be coming to an end. The latest in mobile fingerprint scanning devices bring all of the benefits of being in the office, and all the equipment police officers have access to with them out into the field.

The net result is these devices make it far easier for officers to identify every person they stop accurately. More importantly, these devices make the entire process go far more quickly, reducing the amount of time it takes to positively ID the person and allowing the officer to release them or complete the arrest and get back to keeping their respective communities safe.

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Should You Be Narrating Your Traffic Stops?

Although the practice of narrating traffic stops is not mandatory, only a small percentage of officers do so. Yet, you might be surprised at how much it can help others to see your thought process should your actions be called into question at a later date. Here’s a simple fact, there are going to be times in which a simple video recording is not going to be enough.

Exactly What Do We Mean by Narrating Your Traffic Stops?
Narrating traffic stops is a simple process in which you make use of both your in-vehicle video system and your body cam to record more than just your visible actions during a traffic stop. Instead, you add in useful commentary during to explain your actions, where and why you behaved in a certain manner.

This will provide you with more useful evidence should your actions be called into question as the narration can show your state of mind or reasoning behind making your decisions as to what steps you decide to take in a particular situation.

However, this does not mean that you need to keep a running commentary throughout the entire stop. This would, in fact, be “overkill” and might have a negative impact on the outcome of an inquiry rather than a positive one. So, as you can see, you must put some thought behind the narration of any traffic stop you make to ensure your video will have some evidentiary value.

Here are a few tips to help enhance the value of your recordings:

1. Tell Us What You Were Thinking
One of the most important things to keep in mind if you are going to narrate your video is to make sure you tell us what you are thinking before, during, and after the stop. Things like what you see that leads to initiate the stop in the first place. This type of thinking out loud can make a big difference should your actions be called into question.

2. Just the Facts
Be sure that during your narration, you stick to the facts. For example, you should not say, “Driver appears to be drunk” as this is nothing more than an opinion. Instead, you should state, “Vehicle is swerving all over the road,” this is a valid statement and is verifiable (thanks to the video recording). If you add too many statements of opinion to your recordings, you could be giving a sharp defense attorney the ability to claim that your recording is filled with unsubstantiated details and call for them to be inadmissible as evidence. Stick the facts, and you can’t go wrong.

3. Short and Sweet
Your narrations need to be kept short and sweet. You don’t need to be like the sportscasters who love to fill their commentary with “color” as a way to keep their listeners engaged. The only reason you should be adding commentary is to cover any area of the video that needs to be explained. For example, if you see a bulge in the person’s waistline, it could indicate they are carrying a weapon, your narrative should cover this. In turn, this will help explain the actions you take next. At the same time, don’t let the need to narrate distract you from what you are doing. It will take practice to master this skill, but it could make the difference in the successful outcome of an arrest and your being charged with misconduct.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

On behalf of our Board of Directors and Staff, we would like to wish you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

In order to give our families time to spend with their loved ones, we will be closed on Thursday, November 22, with limited availability on Friday, November 23. We appreciate your patience during this time.

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Having Antivirus Software Isn’t Enough – It Needs to be Current

Picture this, you’re sitting at home on the computer working on a report, and a window pops up with a reminder that there is a software update available. Without a thought, you click the “not now” or “remind me later” button and carry on. You say to yourself, “I’ll get to it later!” The problem is that you never seem to get back to it.

It’s so easy to keep putting updates off, but while some can wait for others need to be taken care of as soon as they pop up. If you skip updates to your antivirus and anti-spyware software, you leave a wealth of private information open to hackers. This could include:

• Your personal files (like that report you’re working on)
• Your address, phone numbers, social security numbers
• Your driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers,
• Your banking information
• Anything that could make it easier for a criminal to steal your identity

More Than Your Antivirus/Antispyware Software
But keeping your antivirus and antispyware software needs to be kept up to date. For example, recently the credit reporting company Equifax suffered a massive data breach that left personal information such as that listed above for approximately 143 million people open to hackers. The hackers made use of web application Equifax was using that had a known vulnerability to access the data.

A fix had been published that would have eliminated the possibility of this particular hack being successful and obtaining so much data. However, for whatever reason, the update was not installed. Talk about a hard way to learn your lesson, but at least the rest of us can learn a lot from their mistake. No matter what type of software you have on your computer when an update comes out, you should probably install it.

Software Makes You Vulnerable
A large percentage of the worst malware attacks are successful only because they can breach vulnerabilities in the most commonly used software such as browsers and operating systems. Because of this, software developers are continually working to improve their products by eliminating these vulnerabilities and make it harder for hackers to find their way in. With this in mind, it should be easy to see why, when that next update window pops up; you should hit to “Do It Now” button rather than “I’ll Never Remember to Do It Button.”

There is more to most software updates than security fixes; many contain new features or updates to existing features. Each update is designed to enhance overall user experience by removing outdated features, and in some cases speeding up overall operation by reducing the load placed on the system.

Along with this, you should also:
• Keep your security software up to date
• Set updates to automatic on all software that has this setting
• Set reminders for to check for updates on those that don’t
• Verify the authenticity of any software before you download it
• Change your passwords frequently
• State up to date on the latest threats to make sure your computer is adequately protected

Keeping your computer and everything is safe from hackers is your job, and it should be your priority. By protecting your data, you are adding yet another layer of protection for your entire family.

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Budget Cuts, Funding Shortages, Police Officers, and Safety

One of the most significant issues facing every level of law enforcement today is an extreme lack of funding. Current budget cuts continue to affect not only law enforcement officers but also every citizen of the United States as it becomes more and more difficult for police officers to do their job.

You Might be Surprised Where the Budget Cuts Hit

Most LEOs have seen firsthand at what happens when the money starts disappearing. Imagine having an officer responding to an “officer down” call and the transmission drops out of his cruiser due to “budget cuts.”  Police departments across the nation face situations like this every day as their officers wonder if their cruiser will stay running through to the end of their shift. How many times can a cruiser leave the officer stranded, before someone is injured or worse?

Retention is becoming one of the most significant issues facing many departments is attrition. More seasons officers than ever before are leaving the force to enter the private security sector or for many other careers. They leave because the risks associated with their jobs continue to increase and the budget cuts continue to prevent them from receiving well-earned pay raises.

The same applies to being able to recruit new officers. When it can take up to 10 years for the average officer to earn what a 25-year-old college graduate with a degree in electrical engineering can earn straight out of school, it’s easy to see why recruiting and keeping good officers is becoming more difficult with every round of budget cuts.

 A Lack of Protection

With a lack of available funding also comes a department’s inability to provide their officers with many of the latest technological advances available. This lack of equipment can place officers in dangerous situations that could easily have been avoided. A lack of investigative equipment can also have a dramatic impact on a police department’s ability to solve crimes, which in turn can lead to criminals being able to walk free instead of being convicted and sentenced.

Imagine having to explain to an officer’s widow why his armored vest was not new enough to offer enough protection. What do you tell an officer’s spouse when they are wounded or taken by surprise because they have to go into a situation without backup? These are the situations law enforcement officers and their family’s face every day of the year, yet budgets continue to be slashed.

Day after day our men and women in blue face life and death situations, often ill-equipped, under-supported, and under-trained to take on the role of “Protect and Serve.” The one thing you can count on is that no one is the business of law enforcement for the money. They do so as a way of giving back to the community, to make those who live in them safer, and to continue reducing crime. It is for these reasons that organizations like the National Police Support Fund and the National Police Association continue to fight for better funding.

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Challenges Faced by Law Enforcement Today

In a report released by the Heritage Foundation, there are positive indications that many of our leaders are starting to take note of the pressure and danger our police officers must face on a daily basis. A group including retired LEOs, police advocates and lawyers met in 2017 to discuss the current situation. This meeting resulted in the publication of ” Policing in America: Lessons from the Past, Opportunities for the Future.”

A False Narrative
Police across the country have been getting a lot of attention for incidences involving minorities and “marginalized” people. While no doubt, much of it is well-deserved, the report noted that perhaps it was time that law enforcement “re-branded” itself. In other words, while the inevitable rough spots are going to occur, law enforcement needs to work to re-establish their reputation as being the “good guys” so when something does happen, it is not an immediate black-eye on the rest of law enforcement.

Another issue LEOs are dealing with is the constant litany of claims of racism that seem to never quite add up. The problem with the majority of reports claiming systemic racism fail to take into account that the number of minorities involved in contact with the police tends to go up in areas where the number of crimes being reported is highest in minority communities.

Money Plays Its Role
Leaders of the law enforcement community understand something that most political leaders and economic development leaders seem to have no comprehension of. They fail to realize that in order for their communities to grow, they need to be able to offer interested parties a safe community to build their businesses in and for their employees to live in. When political leaders bow to the pressure from anti-police activists to cut law enforcement budgets, doing so will have a direct impact on everyone’s quality of life and the health of every community.

No Credit Given
There is an old adage that goes, “When we do good, no one remembers. But, when we do bad, no one forgets.” Never has this been truer than in the world of law enforcement. Rather than looking at the many things police officers are doing that are successfully reducing crime such as “stop and frisk” reducing the number of guns on the street, all the activists see, is police officers violating a person’s civil liberties. This despite the fact an LEO must follow very strict guidelines in order to “stop and frisk.” Even though overall crime rates in the U.S. are steadily declining, law enforcement still doesn’t get any credit for their hard work and dedication.

The Need for More Technology
Sufficient funding to invest in new technologies and science to help predict and solve crime could help reduce repeat offenders and put the guilty where they belong. New technologies could help improve how physical evidence is processed.

Bring in the Feds
Many of those in attendance also stated their wish that the Department of Justice stop being such a political organization and become more involved in helping law enforcement succeed all the way down to the cop on the beat. In doing so, perhaps more attention and money might become available for training and equipment.

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