Mental Health Training for Police

Across the Sacramento, California area, police officers are learning how to handle people who have mental illness. Law enforcement from twenty-two different departments recently took part in what is considered a “train the trainer” course in which they learned de-escalation techniques. They talked about how to look for certain behaviors and how to distinguish between developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and substance abuse.

Ensuring Officers are Equipped to Handle Mental Illness

Training is another tool for police officers who now seem to be responding to more and more calls related to mental illness. You never know what is going to happen and mental illness can be scary and is hard for most of us to understand. Imagine how difficult it is for law enforcement officers. They don’t know if someone is genuinely suffering from mental illness and really needs help, or if they are acting or pretending with intentions to harm them or try to get away. Ensuring that officers are equipped to deal with the various things they come across on the street is so important.

Reality Check

In May this year, officers encountered a man who was threatening to jump off a highway overpass. Their training came into play and created a positive outcome in which they were able to stop the man from jumping. It could have turned out negatively if officers had not had this training and responded differently.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn reported that his department has seen a steady uptake in calls to the 911 center related to people with mental illness. More than 6,000 calls already this year. On average there are 35 mental health calls per day.

Bravo to the Departments Providing Training

With these types of statistics, it is apparent that mental illness is a complex issue with no single solution. And it seems that one of the biggest challenges for law enforcement is what to do with people once they have been identified. The best outcome is to resolve the situation without anyone being injured—including themselves. But realistically, this can’t always happen. So, the more informed and educated our officers are about this issue, the better off the communities they serve will be as a whole.

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Thousands of LAPD Police Officers Info Stolen in Data Breach

A recent data theft of approximately 2,500 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is being investigated after their personal information was compromised last week. This includes the names, birth dates, email addresses, partial employee serial numbers, and account passwords of these officers; along with thousands of more police officer applicant’s information that were reportedly compromised by the breach.

In today’s climate, online safety of our personal information is a serious concern. It is hard to conceptualize the impact that the data breach will have on these officers and their families over time. And hopefully, the breach doesn’t extend beyond what has been reported by the media.

The LAPD says it is “taking steps to ensure the department’s data is protected from any further intrusions,” and that “the employees and individuals who may have been affected by this incident have been notified.”

Thinking about how it would feel to be an officer and receive a notification that your personal information has been stolen (from your employers’ database) is an unsettling thought. We entrust that when we provide certain required information to our work place that it will be kept safe from discovery by outside individuals. Knowing that it could possibly be compromised would provide such an uneasy feeling and would definitely have us pausing before providing such personal and confidential information.

Recommendations:
• Monitor your financial accounts
• Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
• Look into credit monitoring services

Identity theft is on the rise. And since we don’t yet have any further information on how this happened, we recommend taking the steps above to help ensure the extend of the breach doesn’t get worse.

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Do Police Have the Right to Search Your Trash?

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We’ve all heard that one before. And the way most laws currently read, we have no right to an expectation of privacy when it comes to our trash – especially trash that sits outside in front of our homes on the street. Law enforcement officers are well within their rights to rummage through our garbage at will.

What about important documents?

Important documents should be shredded in your home or taken to a facility that can shred and dispose of them for you. Other items can be taken directly to a disposal facility where they are rendered unidentifiable.

Your Fourth Amendment Rights

According to the Fourth Amendment, members of the public are protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures” without an officer having a search warrant issued and signed by a judge. In general, this means law enforcement officers at any level, including federal, state, local, and government cannot simply enter a person’s home or business without probable cause or a warrant. However, this protection does not apply to anything you put in the trash cans out by the curb.

Many people carry receipts, notes, pieces of paper, and any number of things they plan to dispose of at a later time in their pockets. According to the law, these items are also protected under the Fourth Amendment, meaning that law enforcement officers cannot legally search a person or seize any items in a person’s pocket or in sealed trash bags in the back of a parked car without a warrant or they risk being in violation of the person’s Fourth Amendment rights.

According to the law, your right to privacy on your property extends out to what is called a “curtilage” or the area the immediately surrounds your home. This so-called “curtilage” does not however extended as far as the curb where you routinely place your trash for pick up. Since federal courts have stated that a person does not have a “right to privacy” regarding trash left on the curb for pick up, law enforcement has free reign on rummaging through it without the need for probable cause or a warrant.

Once a person’s trash is placed at the curb for pick up, it is no longer protected from being searched by any member of law enforcement at any level. On top of this, anything found in that trash may be used as evidence if the person is charged with a crime.

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Safety Tips for the 4th of July Holiday

Should you trust free WIFI?
The fourth of July is a peak travel week at airports, hotels, train stations, and rental car companies. Most of them offer free WIFI—but should you trust it? Cyber criminals are hoping you do, because it can be the back door to your data. Personal information, credit cards, airline, and hotel loyalty programs are information they would love to get their hands on.

We try so hard to look for free WIFI, that our cell phones, laptops, and smart devices have become a huge security risk. Last year, half a billion travelers had their personal information compromised world-wide. From passports, credit cards, and hotels to frequent flyer information, fake signals can be setup by criminals looking to steal your personal information.

It’s very difficult to know if free WIFI is legitimate
Someone wanting to steal your information could label the WIFI “free airport” or “free coffee shop,” for example. And one simple click can give hackers access to everything on your phone. Even if you stay off WIFI, you could still be at risk. Hackers are now targeting public USB charging stations with viruses that steal your computer data and intercept your cell phone signal. So, what should you do?

Seven Tips to Avoid Public WIFI Traps:
1) Stay off networks you don’t know!
2) Avoid public charging stations and instead carry a personal rechargeable battery
3) Shred your used airline tickets and luggage tags
4) Shred your hotel key instead of returning it to the front desk (they don’t need it back)
5) Look for signs at airports and double check the free WIFI they offer. If you are not sure, ask an employee. Same with hotels – look for the instructions in your room and if you are unsure, ask the front counter representative.
6) Regarding ATM safety – get money directly from your bank or an airport or even cash back from a grocery store. Avoid the ones casually on the street which can be easily hacked.
7) Use a credit card when traveling versus a debit card. You don’t want someone to have easy access into your bank account.

Personal data has never been more at risk. A hacker can setup a table anywhere and lure you into their trap. Especially if you have kids. It’s even more tempting to use public WIFI, so the best thing to do is use the tips above to keep your information safe. Better to be safe than sorry.

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Police Officers and Social Media

Have you heard the news recently about 72 police officers in Philadelphia who have been placed on administrative leave over allegations that they made offensive racist comments on their social media posts?

There was an investigation after a database site called The Plain View Project ousted them to the public. This watchdog group compiled screenshots of the posts and shared them online. According to the media, the database site contains more than 5,000 Facebook posts from 3,500 current or former police officers from eight police jurisdictions across the country. These posts contain racist, misogynist, and violent comments.

Officers are entitled to due process just like any other citizen. But when the integrity of an Officer is compromised, the entire department that the Officer is associated with is then compromised. People start to question their intentions, and any kind of negative posts not only undermine public trust and confidence in law enforcement, but hostility begins to build up as well.

All law enforcement officers should undergo some type of anti-racism training, social media training, mental illness training, and Autism/ASD training. It is critical that they learn how to work with those who have learning disabilities without regard to their ethnicity, gender, or religious affiliation.

When it comes to social media posts, Police Officers are especially vulnerable and really need to think before posting anything online. They risk putting themselves and their family members safety at risk.

Let’s hope this will all get figured out soon. We absolutely need and value our police officers, and it already seems like there is a shortage of them on the streets. We wouldn’t want them to be taken off the job during a time of increased violence in our country.

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Search and Seizure

In the United States, we are entitled to certain freedoms. Freedom to come and go as we please, freedom to eat what we want, go where we want, so on and so forth. But when it comes to the government, there are limits to certain privacies. For example, when a search warrant is justified, police officers are allowed to search YOU, your home, car, boat, office, or other personal property in order to look for evidence of a crime. It offers the question, what rules do LEOs have to follow when it comes to search and seizure? Because after all – search and seizure laws of the Fourth Amendment are all about privacy.

A few notes:
• A search or seizure is reasonable if the police have a warrant from a judge based on probable cause.
• Certain intrusions are more severe than others, and each type of search or seizure must meet certain requirements to be deemed reasonable.
• There is no expectation of privacy when an item or location is in plain view. If an Officer pulls over a person driving a car, and notices a weapon on the floor, there’s been no search under the Fourth Amendment. It’s not a reasonable location that bears privacy with respect to the gun, because it was in plain sight.

In general, search and seizure laws are pretty straight forward. They are necessary for police officers to protect and serve our community. But that doesn’t mean it should be misused. The Constitution was made to protect the people, so if anyone believes they have been the victim of unreasonable search and seizure, they should contact an experienced civil rights attorney to discuss their options.

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German Shepherds and K-9 Units

German Shepherds. Considered to be one of the best workers around the globe, this breed is canine royalty. They are also one of the most beautiful, confident, and smartest dogs around. They are highly trainable, so their ability to learn commands is one of their greatest attributes. Always willing to put their life on the line for their family or their fellow Police Officers, German Shepherds are the preferred dog for law enforcement and military units world-wide.

First-Rate Choice for Law Enforcement Safety
German Shepherds are not only utilized as Police Dogs, but also vastly recognized as service dogs. Their loyalty and commitment make them a first-rate choice for law enforcement safety, because they always put the needs and well-being of the Officer and their loved ones first.

What is a K-9 Unit?
K-9 units are a specialized group of law enforcement officers. Not only do they perform their usual duties as Officers, but they are also responsible for using service dogs to perform the responsibilities of a police officer.

The care and training of their canine partner to enforce the law and apprehend criminals, doesn’t end when they leave work. The dog is the police officer’s partner at home too. That means that when they get home, their family is also prepared to take care of the dog and make sure he/she is cared for even when the family goes on vacation.

Specialized Tasks:
• Detect illegal substances, chemicals, and explosives
• Identify individuals who were in contact with illegal substances
• Track and rescue kidnapped or missing persons
• Locate buried or submerged bodies or human parts

Fun Facts:
• German Shepherds were originally created to herd sheep
• They didn’t start becoming popular until the 1900s

It certainly makes us feel better knowing these strong, yet gentle creatures are on our side, and working for the good and safety of the good guys.

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Popular Technology Raising Red Flags

Protecting the Safety of the United States
Used by police departments around the country, facial recognition software that is offered in real time, is a valuable crime fighting technology with law enforcement. In fact, it is a key element in order to get information early — not only for officer safety, but public safety as well.

Surveillance cameras help identify people by their facial features and record people on busy streets. It’s incredibly helpful to LEOs when they are looking for a criminal. But it goes beyond that. This is about protecting the safety of the people of the United States. Terrorists are constantly trying to get into this country. They change their identities, grow beards, wear eye glasses, and wear hats to try and conceal themselves. With facial recognition technology, they would be caught right away. The cameras would see past the beard and hat and would be able to immediately pickup the eyes, length of the nose, jaw bones, etc. Without this, we will be left counting on people to recognize them on the street. Thinking logically, Is that really going to happen?

Privacy Concerns
San Francisco, California is officially banning city agencies, including the police from using facial recognition technology. They are the first city in the nation to take this step. But it isn’t going without controversy. For one thing, the technology is not full proof. Critics say it tends to mis-identify women and people of color, which is a serious privacy and security concern. Oakland and San Jose, California are considering similar measures as well. But do every day people really want this to go away? It seems this might be the first step towards what could very well be a national policy.

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PFC Closed on Memorial Day

Privacy for Cops will be closed on Memorial Day. In honor of the veterans who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, and who selflessly gave of themselves to protect our freedom, we remember you.

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Robocalls and the “One-Ring” Scam

As most of you probably know, robocalls are hitting our phone lines more than ever. And may of them are scammers trying to steal our money and personal information. Between Medicare scams and IRS imposters, to now robocalls, our privacy feels like its under attack.

If you receive a call and they ask you to press a number to get yourself off their call list, just hang up. DON’T ENGAGE! If you get an email that asks for your personal information, don’t reply. Delete it or put it in your spam email box.

Fraud Prevention Tips:
• Don’t answer. If you don’t recognize the number, and it’s a legitimate caller, they can leave a message.
• Hang up on illegal robocalls.
• Use a call blocking app or ask your carrier if they have call blocking service
• Ask a tech-savvy family member or friend for help navigating this process
• Report unwanted calls to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

Finally, a warning about the “one-ring” scam. That’s when you get a phone call from a number you don’t know. The call stops after only one ring, because the scammer is hoping you will call back. It’s really an international number and will appear as a charge on your phone bill, but the money is going straight to the scammers pocket.

Be smart, trust your gut, and don’t give scammers the satisfaction of engaging. Until the government can figure out a way to stop this mess, protect your privacy using the tips mentioned above.

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