Texas firefighter stabbed while fighting blazes along interstate

From the Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas firefighter was stabbed in the thigh early Monday morning by a man accused of starting the multiple fires firefighters were putting out along Interstate 35 in Austin, authorities said.

Austin Fire Department shift commander Eddie Martinez told the Austin American-Statesman that the firefighter’s injuries weren’t life-threatening.

Martinez said the man accused of starting the fires had walked onto the interstate, and as firefighters tried to remove him from the roadway, he became agitated and stabbed the firefighter.

The fire department said on Twitter that the injured firefighter was treated at a hospital and released and that now “he’s home and doing ok.”

Fire officials say the suspect was arrested on the scene.

Authorities did not immediately say what object the firefighter was stabbed with.

Lanes on Interstate 35 near the incident were closed for a time but had reopened by 5:45 a.m.

Thousands evacuate from Nova Scotia wildfires

From the Associated Press

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Wildfires in Canada’s Atlantic coast province of Nova Scotia have caused thousands to evacuate.

Thick plumes of heavy smoke fill the Halifax sky as an out-of-control fire in a suburban community quickly spread, engulfing multiple homes and forcing the evacuation of local residents, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday May 28, 2023. (Kelly Clark/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Halifax Regional Municipality said late Monday that preliminary estimates indicate approximately 200 homes or structures have been damaged, based on initial visual inspections by first responders.

Halifax deputy fire Chief David Meldrum said an estimated 14,000 people were told to flee their homes, most of which are about a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Halifax.

As firefighters spent a second day battling a wildfire in suburban Halifax, some residents from evacuated subdivisions received the grim news that their homes were among those destroyed by the wind-driven flames. Katherine Tarateski said police told her her home was burned down and they couldn’t find her pets.

Tarateski said she was with her husband Nick and their young daughter Mia at a family gathering on Sunday when they heard about the approaching fires and rushed back to their home in Hammonds Plains to save their dog and cat. But when they arrived police had already blocked their street.

“The house can be rebuilt,” she said. “But my pets … I’m just devastated. It’s hard.”

Fire officials said the out-of-control fire, which started Sunday in nearby Upper Tantallon, has destroyed or damaged dozens of homes, though there hadn’t been any reports of deaths or injuries.

By early afternoon, Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources confirmed the wildfire covered about 8 square kilometers (3 miles). Meldrum said firefighters had concentrated on battling spot fires in residential areas in order to protect buildings and prevent the fire’s spread.

“This fire has not been contained, this fire is not under control,” he said. “It did not spread appreciably and that is thanks to weather, the work of the firefighters on the ground and the work of the air units.”

However, Meldrum stressed a change in weather conditions forecast for Tuesday could complicate things.

David Steeves, a forest resources technician with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, said the fire was helped by a lack of rain and a wooded area thick with softwood trees, which provide a volatile fuel source. “It was perfect conditions for a fast, quick, dangerous fire,” Steeves said.

No additional evacuations were ordered Monday, despite challenging conditions. In all, about 200 firefighters were battling the fire on Monday.

Florida police search for 3 gunmen who wounded 9 at crowded beach on Memorial Day

By TERRY SPENCER from the Associated Press

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Police launched a search Tuesday for three suspects they believe to be the gunmen who opened fire along a crowded Florida beachside promenade on Memorial Day, wounding a 1-year-old and eight others while sending people frantically running for cover.

A police officer shines his flashlight downward as he pauses on Hollywood Beach while investigating a shooting Monday, May 29, 2023, in Hollywood, Fla. Multiple people were injured Monday evening when gunfire erupted along the beach boardwalk. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Hollywood police sought the public’s help in identifying the gunmen, who ran from the scene during the chaos of hundreds of people fleeing for their lives and diving for cover as shots hit bystanders.

Two people involved in the altercation that led to the shooting have been arrested on firearms charges, police said. Five handguns have been recovered, with one of them reported stolen in the Miami area and another in Texas, they said.

Police and witnesses said the shooting began as a group of people fought in front of a busy stretch of shops on the Hollywood Oceanfront Broadwalk about 7 p.m. Monday.

The sound of gunshots sent witness Alvie Carlton Scott III ducking for cover behind a tree before he fled on foot at the command of a police officer. Another witness, Jamie Ward, said several young men were fighting when one of them pulled a gun and started firing.

The shooting upended busy holiday weekend festivities at the popular beach destination where there was already a heavy police presence to oversee the big crowds.

Police spokesperson Deanna Bettineschi said four children between the ages of 1 and 17 were hit, along with five adults between 25 and 65. Six of those shot remain hospitalized in stable condition, while three have been released, police said.

The names of those arrested and those wounded have not been released.

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said that he was “deeply saddened and angered” by the shooting. Dozens of officers are assigned to the beach on busy holiday weekends and that meant there was an immediate response and multiple people were detained, Levy said in a statement.

“People come to enjoy a holiday weekend on the beach with their families and to have people in complete reckless disregard of the safety of the public and to have an altercation with guns in a public setting with thousands of people around them is beyond reckless,” he said.

Videos posted Monday evening on Twitter showed emergency medical crews responding and providing aid to multiple injured people.

Hollywood Beach is a popular beach destination about 11 miles (17 kilometers) south of Fort Lauderdale and 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Miami. The beach was expected to see more visitors than usual because of the Memorial Day holiday.

1st Maryland Police Department to Deploy Body Camera Analytics

Automated Body Camera Review Platform Empowers Police to Optimize Officer Training

CHICAGO, May 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Truleo, the leading provider of automated body camera review and analysis technology for law enforcement, today announced that the Elkton Police Department has signed on to utilize the company’s body camera data analysis platform.

Truleo's body camera analytics was recently featured on CNN

Image: Truleo’s body camera analytics was recently featured on CNN

Truleo processes body camera videos for departments across the country to help automate supervision, facilitate coaching, and promote police professionalism. The technology automatically detects critical events such as uses of force, pursuits, frisking, and non-compliance incidents, and screens for both professional and unprofessional officer language so supervisors can then praise or review officers’ conduct.

Like most departments in the U.S., Sergeants in the Elkton Police Department manually conduct random body camera reviews each month on a small percentage of the videos, but Truleo’s body camera analytics platform will automatically scan 100% of all videos for insights that are designed to provide a more comprehensive review that can facilitate coaching. This “precision guided audit” is designed to save the Sergeant’s time and create a more efficient performance review process.

“Body cameras merely capture and store data. The overwhelming academic evidence now shows that it is the insights buried in that data that is the key to improving outcomes for both officers and the community,” said Anthony Tassone, CEO of Truleo.

About Truleo

Truleo was recently featured on CNN. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBoqK1MmNs

To learn about investing in Truleo visit https://www.startengine.com/offering/truleo

Truleo analyzes police body camera videos using A.I. to help promote police professionalism. Truleo partnered with FBI National Academy alumni to build models that detect critical events and deconstruct officers’ language into professionalism metrics to help agencies promote best practices, train new officers, and mitigate risk. To learn more about Truleo’s mission to improve trust in the police with body camera analytics, visit www.truleo.co.

Steer on the run for weeks lassoed, captured on Detroit-area freeway

From the Associated Press

HOLLY, Mich. (AP) — A team of wranglers — including one on horseback — chased down and captured a wayward steer named Lester across several lanes of a Detroit-area freeway.

State police in-car video shows the tail-end of Sunday afternoon’s chase on northbound Interstate 75 in Holly, about 57 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.

A rider on horseback and three people in two ATVs can be seen chasing Lester in and around fields and woods along the east side of the freeway as the state police car follows slowly behind on the shoulder.

At one point, Lester races from near a clump of trees toward the freeway lanes and is quickly cut off by one of the ATVs before running behind the vehicle and into traffic. Three vehicles pass the steer as it runs into the northbound lanes.

The rider on horseback catches up and lassos Lester, which then runs into the median and hops a guardrail onto the freeway’s southbound shoulder before it is stopped.

“Eventually after much tom foolery, the critter was captured and removed from the freeway,” the state police wrote on the agency’s Twitter page. “Troopers reopened the freeway and things quickly got back to normal. The bovine was not charged and is back in the pasture with a story to tell all the other livestock.”

Lester had been on the lam for several weeks from a ranch where Lester and four other bovine were relocated after escaping from pens at an animal rescue facility in Rose Township, said Bill Mullan, a spokesperson for Oakland County.

Another agency called in wranglers who initially captured the group, but Lester escaped again and was on the loose until his recapture Sunday.

Chirping sounds lead airport officials to bag filled with smuggled parrot eggs

By Freida Frisaro from the Associated Press

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. (AP) — The 24 bright green baby parrots began chirping and bobbing their heads the second anyone neared the large cages that have been their homes since hatching in March.

The Central American natives, seized from a smuggler at Miami International Airport, are being raised by the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation — a round-the-clock effort that includes five hand feedings a day in a room filled with large cages.

At just 9 weeks old, these parrots have already survived a harrowing journey after being snatched from their nests in a forest. They are almost fully feathered now and the staff has started transitioning them from a special formula to a diet of food pellets and fruit.

“You ready to meet the children?” asked Paul Reillo, a Florida International University professor and director of the foundation, as he led visitors Friday into a small building tucked behind a sprawling house in Loxahatchee, a rural community near West Palm Beach.

“They are hand-raised babies,” he said, as the chicks squawked and looked inquisitively at the visitors. “They’ve never seen mom and dad; they’ve been raised by us since they hatched.”

It was the hatchlings’ faint chirping inside a carry-on bag at the Miami airport that brought them to the attention of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The passenger, Szu Ta Wu, had just arrived on TACA Airlines flight 392 from Managua, Nicaragua, on March 23, and was changing flights in Miami to return home to Taiwan, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Miami.

Officers stopped Wu at a checkpoint. He was asked about the sound coming from his bag, which Reillo later described as a “sophisticated” temperature controlled cooler.

Wu reached in and pulled out a smaller bag and showed the officer an egg, the complaint said. The officer then looked inside and saw more eggs and a tiny featherless bird that had just hatched.

He told the officer there were 29 eggs, and that he did not have documentation to transport the birds, according to the complaint.

Wu was arrested, and on May 5 pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling birds into the United States. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced Aug. 1.

A lawyer who could speak on his behalf was not listed on court records, but Wu told investigators through a Mandarin interpreter that a friend had paid him to travel from Taiwan to Nicaragua to pick up the eggs. He denied knowing what kind of birds they were.

The officer took the bag and contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By then, eight of the birds had already hatched or were in the process of hatching.

It didn’t take long for federal officials to reach out to Reillo.

“They didn’t know what these things were and wanted my advice on it,” Reillo said. Baby parrots are featherless, so it’s difficult to properly identify them.

He helped set up a makeshift incubator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s aviary at the airport in a mad dash to save the now-hatching parrots.

The next day, Dr. Stacy McFarlane, a USDA veterinarian who initially tended to the birds and eggs at the airport, and other officials, delivered the baby parrots and remaining eggs to Reillo’s conservatory.

“At that point we were off to the races,” he said. “We’ve got all these eggs, the chicks are hatching, the incubator’s running and by the time it was all said and done, we hatched 26 of the 29 eggs, and 24 of the 26 chicks survived.”

USDA regulations required the birds to be quarantined for 45 days, meaning that Reillo and his team had to scrub down when entering and leaving the room.

But they still weren’t sure which of the 360 varieties of parrots they were dealing with.

A forensics team at Florida International extracted DNA samples from the eggshells and the deceased birds to identify the species. They discovered the 24 surviving parrots were from eight or nine clutches and included two species — the yellow naped Amazon and the red-lored Amazon.

Both birds are popular in the trafficking and caged-bird industries because they are pretty and have a nice temperament, Reillo said.

The trafficking pipeline out of Central America is well established and has gone on for years, he said.

“In fact, the biggest threat to parrots globally is a combination of habitat loss and trafficking,” Reillo said, adding that about 90% of eggs are poached for illegal parrot trade.

BirdLife International lists the yellow-naped Amazon as “critically endangered” with a population in the wild of between 1,000 and 2,500. The red-lored Amazon is also listed as having a decreasing population.

“The vast majority of these trafficking cases end in tragedy,” Reillo said. “The fact that the chicks were hatching the first day of his travel from Managua to Miami tells you that it’s extremely unlikely that any of them would have survived had he actually gotten all the way to his destination in Taiwan. That would have been another 24 to 36 hours of travel.”

Reillo is now faced with the challenge of finding a permanent home for the birds, which can live 60 to 70 years, or longer. He said he’s working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on a plan “to have the birds fly free and help restore their species in the wild.”

“Parrots live a long time. They are sentient creatures. They’re highly intelligent, very social, and these guys deserve a chance,” he said. “The question will be where will they wind up? What is their journey going to be? It’s just beginning.”

Fire destroys Days Inn hotel in Kittery as firefighters work to find missing people

From the Associated Press

KITTERY, Maine (AP) — A fire destroyed a Days Inn hotel in Kittery Wednesday afternoon, and firefighters worked to find one to two people unaccounted for in the blaze.

Firefighters douse the smoky remnants of a Days Inn in Kittery, Maine, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Kittery Fire Chief David O’Brien said firefighters are chasing down reports of two missing people. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via AP)

Kittery Fire Chief David O’Brien said the call on the fire came in at 12:03 p.m. He said the fire at the $1.6 million hotel went to five alarms.

“It is a total loss,” he said. “There is nothing left of the building.”

O’Brien said firefighters are chasing down reports of missing people. “At this point, we have one possibly two that are unaccounted for,” he said.

O’Brien said one firefighter was injured with cuts. He also said a passerby was injured but didn’t provide additional details.

Flames tore through parts of the roof, and smoke could be seen from more than a mile away. Part of the building also collapsed.

O’Brien said the fire was under investigation. The size of the fire, the size of the building, wind and lack of water all made it challenging to fight the blaze, he said.


This story has been corrected to say the fire took place on Wednesday afternoon, not Thursday.

Milwaukee faces bankruptcy, police cuts if aid deal can’t be reached

By SCOTT BAUER from the Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Not reaching a deal on a massive bill increasing state aid to Wisconsin’s local governments will only increase the chances that Milwaukee runs out of money, forcing deep cuts to police and fire protection, while smaller communities around the state will also struggle to pay bills, state lawmakers were warned Tuesday.

The urgent warnings came as Republican leaders who control the Senate and Assembly disagree on a key part of the plan — who determines whether the Milwaukee city and county can raise the local sales tax to pay for pension costs and emergency services.

That disagreement has increased fears that the bill being worked on by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, local communities, the GOP-controlled Legislature and groups representing police and firefighters among others, is in jeopardy of not passing.

“Without question, my city’s budgetary situation is dire,” Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson told senators at a hearing Tuesday. Without an increase in state aid, the city faces potential bankruptcy in 2025 when federal COVID-19 relief funds run out.

Wisconsin state law does not allow for cities to declare bankruptcy, which means the Legislature would have to vote to allow Milwaukee to take that step if no deal is reached and the city runs out of money as projected.

Milwaukee is the only city in America of its size that can’t currently raise additional money by raising sales taxes, Johnson told lawmakers in arguing for giving it that power.

“My city is on a path to catastrophic budget cuts,” he said.

Bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Mary Felzkowski, said without the additional money provided under the plan Milwaukee would be forced to cut 545 police officers and more than 200 firefighters in order to offset pension costs that are rising faster than the rate of inflation.

“I don’t think that’s healthy for the city,” she said. “That is not something I want to see happen.”

Republicans on the Senate committee said they worried that crime would increase in Milwaukee and spread to outlying communities.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers working closely on the proposal urged further compromise to reach a deal.

The Assembly passed a bill last week that would require voters in the city and county to approve any increase. The Senate version of the bill would allow for local elected officials to vote on approving an increase.

Johnson, Milwaukee’s mayor, urged lawmakers to allow for the city to approve the sales tax increase. Putting it in the hands of voters, with so much at stake, “adds a significant element of uncertainty,” he said.

But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last week that the Assembly would not pass a version of the bill that does not require voter approval of a higher sales tax. He declared that he was “done negotiating.”

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard, in a rare public show of bipartisanship, said her talks with Senate Republicans on the measure have been productive.

“While Speaker Vos may have drawn a line in the sand, my caucus certainly hasn’t and we will continue to negotiate in good faith for the betterment of our local communities and our state,” Agard said in a statement.

The wide-ranging bill as passed by the Assembly increases state aid to all towns, cities, villages and counties by at least 15%, except for Milwaukee which would have increases capped at 10% but with the ability to raise more through sales taxes.

Under the bill, Milwaukee could levy a 2% sales tax, and Milwaukee County could add 0.375% sales tax to its current 0.5% sales tax.

In a significant change to current law, aid to local governments, known as shared revenue, would be paid for with 20% of the money the state collects from the sales tax. Future increases in aid would then be tied to sales tax, rather than requiring the Legislature to vote on increasing it.

The shared revenue program to fund local governments, created in 1911, has remained nearly unchanged for almost 30 years, despite overall growth in tax revenues. Shared revenue for counties and municipalities was cut in 2004, 2010 and 2012 and since then has been relatively flat.

City of London Police Strengthens Safety with Body-Worn Cameras from Motorola Solutions


Motorola Solutions (NYSE: MSI), a global leader in public safety and enterprise security, today announced that City of London Police will roll out VB400 body-worn cameras to its entire police force.

“City of London Police is dedicated to ensuring London is a safe and attractive destination, and the body-worn camera roll out will help our officers continue to serve and protect those who live in, work in and visit the city,” said Superintendent Neal Donohoe, City of London Police. “The new video technology will capture valuable incident footage that provides an objective record to promote transparency and accountability while also helping to keep our officers and communities safe.”

Known for its modern approach to policing, the City’s police force relies on advanced technologies to maintain safety and security throughout London’s bustling Square Mile which hosts around 8,000 residents and 513,000 transient commuters who travel in and out of the City each day. The new VB400 body-worn cameras will integrate seamlessly with the police force’s existing ecosystem of technologies to maximize end-to-end safety, security and productivity. Collaboration with the Pronto mobile digital policing platform will align video footage with other incident report information and connectivity with a wide range of sensors will automate recording when critical events occur, such as an officer pressing the emergency button on theirMXP600 TETRA portable radio.

Designed to streamline an officer’s workflow, after a shift, officers simply place the VB400 into its dock where it will automatically upload footage of the day’s events into VideoManager evidence management software. VideoManager will store the data in-country and organize it with time, date and location details along with supporting incident data reported by officers.

“We’re proud to support City of London Police with an ecosystem of public safety technologies that help officers form a more complete picture of everything that’s happening around them,” said Fergus Mayne, country manager for U.K. and Ireland at Motorola Solutions. “Ultimately, clear and timely information helps them to work more efficiently and make better-informed decisions, leading to better safety and security outcomes for all.”

This is the latest in a series of Motorola Solutions’ body-worn camera deployments both within law enforcement and enterprises globally, including French Gendarmerie and National Police, London Ambulance Services, Malta Police, U.K.’s National Highways and rail operators, MetrôRio and Swedish Rail.

About Motorola Solutions

Motorola Solutions is a global leader in public safety and enterprise security. Our solutions in land mobile radio communications, video security and the command center, bolstered by managed & support services, create an integrated technology ecosystem to help make communities safer and businesses stay productive and secure. At Motorola Solutions, we’re ushering in a new era in public safety and security. Learn more at www.motorolasolutions.com.

View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20230524005235/en/

Police departments can go farther and faster with the new Trikke Positron 72V XL

The ultimate patrol vehicle now comes with more power for police forces that need it.

“All three wheels are now identical, providing extra grip and cushion for riding the not-so-smooth terrain of inner-city streets.”— Gildo Beleski, CEO

The all-new Positron 72V XL

BUELLTON, CA, USA, May 18, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — Trikke Professional Mobility is proud to introduce the Trikke Positron XL, the 72-volt, battery-powered electric patrol vehicle made for those times when law enforcement needs to amp up its capabilities to keep up with the increasing challenges of community policing.

The Positron is quickly becoming the personal electric vehicle of choice for more and more police departments, from the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police in Northern California to the Wheeling, West Virginia PD. Be it through already-existing models — the standard 60V AWD and the Elite 72V — the Positron’s high-performance features are an ideal solution for reliable green transportation. Each three-wheel vehicle comes complete with all-wheel drive, full suspension, and disc brakes, and serves as a stealth-like, emission-free transport for all-weather, continuous operation both indoors and outdoors and on and off-road. The Positron’s maneuverability and versatility make it an excellent tool for navigating crowded areas and interacting with the community. In congested locales, it can provide a faster response time than cars, making it an efficient and effective option for any operation.

“But sometimes more is better,” says Gildo Beleski, CEO of Trikke Tech, Inc, Trikke Professional Mobility’s parent company. “The newest model, the Positron XL, is fitted with new shoes and the much-sought-after wider wheels for navigating rough terrain with comfort, confidence, and increased safety.”

Beleski, the Positron’s chief engineer, notes that the XL frame has a longer wheelbase while the deck is two inches longer and one inch taller. The result: the steering geometry has been improved for working effortlessly with the new tires.

Additionally, the wider tires allow for heavier riders (up to 350 lbs) and can be ridden with lower air pressure, which makes the XL more forgiving when hitting irregularities such as potholes and bumps.

“The power and torque have been increased to a whooping 3.5KW – a 17% increase over the Elite version,” notes Beleski, “and the XL employs new heavy-duty, custom brakes with larger brake pads for enhanced stopping power.”

While the standard and elite models remain the best options for mixed use indoors and outdoors — the new Positron XL is now the ultimate tool when it comes to conquering the (sometimes) mean streets of the city.

Visitors to the annual NSA (National Sheriffs’ Association) conference at the Devos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids. MI, will be able to get an up-close and personal look at the Positron 72V XL, to be showcased in the Trikke Professional Mobility booth # 746 from June 26-29.

To learn more about the Trikke Positron XL or to schedule a demo, click here.

About Trikke Professional Mobility

TRIKKE Professional Mobility is a US-based manufacturer and distributor of rugged professional-grade personal patrol vehicles with all-wheel-drive and a proprietary cambering design for efficiently moving around large campuses, congested areas, and public events. TRIKKE vehicles are quiet and ergonomic, with high-torque electric motors and heavy-duty construction. The frame folds flat for easy deployment and storage in a small footprint, and the lithium-ion battery can be swapped out for quick recharging. These vehicles are designed for around-the-clock operations and are currently in use by many police departments around the US. TRIKKE leads the law enforcement industry in reliable alternative transportation.

LA volunteer police officer hospitalized after getting stung on face by swarm of bees

From the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A volunteer police officer responding to a report of a bee swarm was hospitalized after getting stung multiple times on his face and collapsing onto the street in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

A TV news helicopter recorded dramatic video of the attack Monday afternoon in the Encino area as the man flailed around while trying to swat the bees away. He tripped and fell, hitting his head on the ground.

The uniformed volunteer officer was treated for a fractured eye socket and bee stings to his face and eyes, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement Tuesday. He was in stable condition, the statement said.

The officer and his partner were assisting with traffic control when the attack occurred, police said.

A professional bee-removal service was called to the neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley northwest of downtown LA, the city’s fire department said.

Tennessee governor signs off on eliminating community boards with police oversight power

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI from the Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed off on legislation that will gut Tennessee’s community oversight boards and instead replace those panels with review committees that have no power to investigate police misconduct allegations.

FILE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee responds to questions during a news conference Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. The Republican Lee says he plans to call the Tennessee’s legislature into special session in August to consider ways to further tighten Tennessee’s gun laws. (AP Photo/George Walker IV, File)

Lee, a Republican, quietly enacted the measure after the GOP-dominated General Assembly easily pushed through the proposal during this year’s legislative session despite objections from local officials and Democratic lawmakers. They have pointed to the killing of Tyre Nichols — who died after a brutal beating by five Memphis police officers — as a reason to maintain police accountability across the state.

Under the new law, which goes into effect July 1, community oversight boards will now be transformed into “police advisory and review committees,” which will only allow the mayor-appointed members to refer complaints to law enforcement internal affairs units rather than allowing the board to independently investigate the complaints.

Republican lawmakers pushed for the bill as part of a long string of proposals targeting Nashville and other left-leaning cities this year in an attempt to undermine local authorities. Supporters argued that the law was needed to provide uniformity across the state and said, without showing evidence, that some community oversight boards had hindered police investigations.

This is the second time over the years that Republican lawmakers have sought to limit community oversight boards. In 2019, the Legislature required community oversight board members to be registered to vote and prohibited limiting membership based on demographics, economic status or employment history. Additionally, while documents provided to the community oversight boards were deemed confidential, the board’s subpoena power was reduced.

The move came as Nashville voters approved creating a community oversight board just the year before that had subpoena power.

Separately, Knoxville has had a police review committee since 1998 — which includes subpoena power, but it’s never been exercised — and Memphis established its civilian law enforcement review board in 1994 but cannot subpoena officers to come in and testify.

Lee signed off on the contentious bill as he continues to move through the remaining bills passed in the legislative session that ended last month. He has never vetoed a bill in office, but occasionally he has let bills become law without signing them to signal his disapproval or concern over a change.

This week, Lee signed the proposal he backed to raise the minimum teacher salary gradually up to $50,000 for the 2026-2027 school year, while also banning educators from deducting dues for professional organizations from their paychecks. The second component takes aim at the Tennessee Education Association.

In recent days, he also signed bills that protect teachers from lawsuits if they don’t use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns; block state economic incentives for companies when unions try to use the simpler “card-check” method to unionize, with an exception for a big Ford project; and a series of business tax cuts paired with three months of tax-free shopping on many grocery items.

In the wake of a deadly school shooting in March, Lee also has signed off on increased protection from lawsuits for companies in the gun industry, while also approving funding for a variety of school safety upgrades. Lee has announced a special legislative session in August in which he hopes lawmakers will pass a proposal to remove firearms from people judged dangerous to themselves or others.

More than a dozen people, 3 dogs rescued from apartment fire in downtown Portland, Oregon

From the Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Firefighters rescued over a dozen people and three dogs from a dramatic apartment building fire Tuesday in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Portland Fire & Rescue work at the scene of a major apartment fire in downtown Portland, Ore., Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Firefighters rescued people and at least one dog from a dramatic, three-alarm apartment fire in downtown Portland on Tuesday before they were ordered to fall back. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP)

Portland Fire & Rescue tweeted about 10:45 a.m. that they had responded to the blaze and shortly after said rescues were underway. Fire officials said before noon that firefighters had been for a time told to pull back because of the fire’s growth. Crews then did one of several checks to make sure all the firefighters were accounted for, officials said.

Rick Graves, told The Associated Press Tuesday that the department was confident everyone got out of the building, which had about 50 units and was built in 1910. A few cats may have perished, he said.

Photos and video posted by the fire agency showed black smoke pouring out of the four-story building and firefighters helping residents and even a dog down ladders to safety.

Several times, windows exploded as the fire ripped through the structure. Authorities were concerned the building might collapse or the flames might spread to another structure just feet away, Graves said. Huge plumes of thick smoke were visible from most areas of the city.

Graves said they moved fire trucks to areas that would be safe should the building collapse. One firefighter was hit in the forehead with glass while standing across the street. The injury was minor, and the firefighter returned to fighting the blaze, Graves said.

Portland General Electric also cut power to the area at the fire bureau’s request.

The fire in the city’s core also posed dangers for drivers. Transportation officials closed Interstate 405 for about two hours, and surface streets were closed in the immediate area because of low visibility from heavy smoke.

John Rosenthal lives several blocks from the building. “It’s just nonstop hoses going in there,” he said of firefighters flooding the building with water.

From Blake Stroud’s apartment about a half mile away, he could see a smoke plume “oscillating between white and dark smoke,” he said.

More than dozen rescued from major apartment fire

Firefighters rescued more than a dozen people and two dogs from a dramatic apartment fire in downtown Portland (16 May 2023)

“At the bottom of the plume you could see the flames,” he said.

The cause of the blaze wasn’t immediately known, but it appears to have started on the third floor and jumped to the fourth, Graves said.

Around 1 p.m., Graves said the fire had “maxed out” but likely would burn until Wednesday.

It’s unlikely residents will be allowed back inside, he said.

A complaint filed with the Bureau of Development Services late last year said the apartment building didn’t have smoke, gas and carbon-monoxide detectors, had exposed electrical wiring and had “severe leaks” leading to mold and mildew, records show.

Ken Ray, a spokesperson for the fire department, confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive the existence of the complaint and said inspectors had been investigating the issues before the fire Tuesday.

New Zealand police say hostel fire that killed 6 was arson, launch homicide investigation

By NICK PERRY from the Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand police said Wednesday they believe a fire that killed at least six people in a Wellington hostel was arson and launched a homicide investigation.

Morning light bathes the scene Wednesday, May 17, 2023, after an apartment fire at Loafers Lodge in Wellington, New Zealand. A fire ripped through the hostel in New Zealand’s capital Tuesday, killing multiple people and forcing others to flee the four-story building in their pajamas in what a fire chief called his “worst nightmare.” (George Heard/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Police Inspector Dion Bennett said they haven’t yet arrested anybody but they have a list of people they want to speak to and hope to quickly identify any suspects or persons of interest. He declined to say if they had found accelerant or other evidence of criminal behavior at the scene.

Police said there had been a couch fire at the Loafers Lodge hostel about two hours before the large, fatal fire on Tuesday. They said the couch fire was not reported to emergency services at the time, and they were investigating to see if there was any link between the two fires.

Bennett also told reporters there was more reconnaissance and examination to be done in some unstable parts of the four-story hostel building and his “gut feeling” was the death toll could rise.

The homicide investigation represents a change in outlook by police, who on Tuesday said they didn’t believe the fire was deliberately lit.

Bennett said police had accounted for 92 people who were in the hostel and had a list of fewer than 20 others who remained unaccounted for, although were not necessarily missing. Police had earlier said they expected that the final death toll would be fewer than 10 people.

News outlet RNZ identified Liam Hockings, a journalist, as one of the hostel’s residents who was missing. RNZ said Hockings is the brother of the BBC presenter Lucy Hockings.

The fire ripped through the building early Tuesday, forcing some people to flee in their pajamas. Others were rescued by firefighters from the roof or dived from windows.

The Loafers Lodge offered 92 basic, affordable rooms with shared lounges, kitchens and laundry facilities to people of a wide range of ages. Some people were placed there by government agencies and were considered vulnerable because they had little in the way of resources or support networks. Others worked at a nearby hospital.

Emergency officials said the building had no fire sprinklers. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said that under the nation’s building codes, sprinklers were not required in older buildings that would need to be retrofitted.

“I have asked the minister for housing to look particularly at issues around building regulations to see whether there’s anything more that we should be doing right at this point,” Hipkins told reporters Wednesday.

Italian police dog with fine nose for cocaine sniffs out drugs hidden in banana shipment

By FRANCES D’EMILIO from the Associated Press

ROME (AP) — With the help of a high-leaping dog with a fine nose for cocaine, Italian police seized more than 2,700 kilos (about 3 tons) of the drug hidden in 70 tons of boxed bananas shipped from Ecuador, authorities said Tuesday.

Police estimated that the cocaine, which they described as of the finest quality, could have brought traffickers more than 800 million euros ($900 million) in street sales if it had reached its ultimate destination in Armenia.

Customs police became suspicious about two containers on a cargo ship that recently arrived at the port of Gioia Tauro, in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula and a stronghold of a ’ndrangheta organized crime clan.

Police told Italian state radio that documents and a background check indicated the shippers of the bananas weren’t in the business of moving that much fruit.

Officers used scanning machines and the dog, named Joel, to uncover packets of cocaine hidden in boxes stacked meters-high in container trucks.

Joel leaped high and eagerly when the officers opened the back doors of the truck, and pawed furiously at the unloaded boxes to try to move the bananas aside, police recounted.

Had the drug eluded detection, the containers with the cocaine would have continued through the Mediterranean to a Black Sea port in Georgia for eventual transport to Armenia, authorities said.

They didn’t specify just when the container ship arrived in Gioia Tauro.

But customs police said that said just days before the seizure, customs police at the same port found some 600 kilos (1,320 pounds) of cocaine in six container trucks also laden with exotic fruit from Ecuador. Those shipments had been destined for Croatia, Greece and Georgia, the customs police said.

Anti-Mafia investigative police aided in the seizure of the the cocaine.

The Gioia Tauro port, one of Italy’s busiest, has long been under the watch of anti-Mafia investigators because of its proximity to towns where the ’ndrangheta has bases. The crime clan is one of the world’s most powerful cocaine traffickers.

Since the start of 2021, and including the latest seizure, customs police at the port have intercepted and seized a total of 37 tons of cocaine, the police said.

Suspect detained after blast at residential building in Germany injures police, firefighters

From the Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German police have detained a suspect in connection with an explosion at a residential building that injured dozens of first responders on Thursday, some of them seriously, officials said.

An injured police officer is taken to an ambulance in front of a high-rise building in Ratingen, Germany, Thursday May 11, 2023. A senior security official says at least a dozen people have been injured in an explosion at a residential building in western Germany. Herbert Reul, Interior Minister of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said that 10 firefighters and two police officers were injured in the blast at a high-rise building in the town of Ratingen. (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP)

Police said two officers and three firefighters received life-threatening injuries in the blast at a high-rise building in the town of Ratingen. Four firefighters were seriously injured and 22 police officers suffered minor injuries, they said.

The body of a dead woman was recovered from the building, police said. The identity of the person and the circumstances of her death weren’t immediately known.

Firefighters and police were initially called to the building in the morning after being alerted about the possibility of a person in distress inside a 10th floor apartment.

Police said they were still investigating what caused the blast, which happened shortly after the suspect opened the apartment door. The man then started a fire, preventing police from entering the unit.

Following the explosion, heavily armed officers took up positions around the site, with television footage showing police snipers on a balcony across the road from the building as smoke poured out of a top-floor apartment.

Hours later, a 57-year-old German man was detained on suspicion of homicide, police said.

The interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Herbert Reul, said social media posts indicated the man had shown an affinity for ideas downplaying the threat posed by the coronavirus.

Ratingen is located on the northeastern outskirts of Duesseldorf, the state capital.

Kentucky governor hails law enforcement successes in fight against spread of illegal drugs

By BRUCE SCHREINER from the Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday highlighted law enforcement successes in blocking the spread of illegal drugs in Kentucky, offering an election-year response to Republican criticism of his record in fighting back against the deadly drug scourge.

FILE – Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a news conference Louisville, Ky., April 10, 2023. Beshear on Thursday, May 11, 2023, highlighted law enforcement successes in blocking the spread of illegal drugs in Kentucky, offering an election-year response to Republican criticism of his record in fighting back against the deadly drug scourge. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

Beshear pointed to the seizure of 142 pounds (64 kilograms) of fentanyl in the past seven months and discussed the work by the state’s Counterdrug Program in supporting seizures of fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.

The governor also pointed to advances in addiction recovery services as he focused on a comprehensive response to drug woes in a state where drug overdose deaths have surpassed 2,000 per year.

“At this point, we all know somebody that’s not only been touched by addiction, we all know somebody that we have lost to addiction,” Beshear said during his weekly news conference.

Republicans say the state’s illegal drug epidemic worsened during Beshear’s tenure. State Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard said in a recent statement that drug addiction continues to have a “devastating impact” on communities, and that Beshear has “failed to address this crisis adequately.”

The state’s drug woes emerged as a leading issue in the GOP gubernatorial primary, where a dozen candidates are competing for their party’s nomination. Beshear faces nominal opposition in his party’s primary. The primary election is next Tuesday, but three days of in-person, no-excuse early voting started Thursday.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft has made fighting drugs, especially fentanyl, a centerpiece of her campaign. Attorney General Daniel Cameron, another leading GOP gubernatorial contender, points to the nearly $900 million his office secured for Kentucky to fight the opioid epidemic, as part of settlements with companies for their roles in the opioid addiction crisis.

There’s a running debate — which could continue into the general election campaign — about who deserves credit for holding drug companies accountable for the drug crisis.

Cameron has given credit to the office he leads, saying at a campaign stop Wednesday in Shelbyville that “it’s one thing to talk about these issues, it’s another thing to lead on them.”

On Thursday, Beshear said he has fought back against the state’s addiction problems since his term as attorney general, which preceded Cameron’s term. While in that position, Beshear filed multiple lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Beshear recently pointed to statistics showing that drug overdose deaths in Kentucky fell by 5% in 2022, which he attributed to drug treatment efforts. This is the first decline in drug overdose deaths in four years.

Kentucky has increased the number of treatment beds by 50% during Beshear’s term, according to the governor. His administration is seeking support and oversight of mobile crisis intervention service providers in another initiative to help people overcome addiction. The state’s GOP-dominated legislature also has focused on efforts to combat the drug crisis.

Meanwhile, Beshear noted that hundreds of Kentucky National Guard soldiers have been deployed to the nation’s southwest border during his term as governor. The governor has declared in the past that a “strong national security requires strong border security.”

Craft has been outspoken in blaming border security problems for the flow of illegal drugs to Kentucky.

Beshear on Thursday signed the state’s 2024 Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities Plan. He said the action will pave the way for federal funding to back the counterdrug program in Kentucky.

The governor also offered a slew of statistics to showcase drug interdiction successes.

From Oct. 1, 2022 to May 1 of this year, the counterdrug program team supported law enforcement in the seizure of 88,253 fentanyl pills, Beshear said. During the prior fiscal year, only 5,100 fentanyl pills were seized, he said.

Fentanyl has been partially blamed for the state’s high death toll from drug overdoses.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr., who joined the governor at the news conference, said law enforcement agencies will continue working together to “develop innovative ways” to combat the spread of illegal drugs causing the deaths of Kentuckians.

“Here in Kentucky, we continue to send a strong message to drug traffickers that our focus will be upon you if you distribute such poisons in our state,” he said.

Funeral for slain Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy draws 3,000 mourners

From the Associated Press

HUDSON, Wis. (AP) — Some 1,500 law enforcement officers from several states were among 3,000 mourners paying final respects Friday to a Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot by a suspected drunken driver during a traffic stop.

Law enforcement members comfort each other after St. Croix County Deputy Kaitie Leising’s body was carried into a Baldwin, Wis., funeral home Sunday afternoon, May 7, 2023. Leising was shot and killed during a traffic stop Saturday. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

The funeral for St. Croix County Sheriff’s Deputy Kaitlin “Kaitie” R. Leising was held in the gymnasium of Hudson High School while a montage of photos from her life were shown on a large screen overhead. Leising’s family, including her wife, Courtney, and their 3-month-old son, Syler, stood to the side of the casket, hugging visitors.

In less than a year with the sheriff’s office, Leising earned commendations and the admiration of her colleagues, Sheriff Scott Knudson said.

“There was so much to like about Kaitie,” he said, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Services lasted more than six hours as officers first arrived for three hours of visitation, then sat for the funeral before silently marching to the high school parking lot for an honor guard, gun salute and helicopter flyover. A law enforcement procession drove the casket to a private gathering of family in Baldwin, Wisconsin.

Courtney Leising said she was “completely heartbroken” that their son will grow up without Kaitlin. Leising’s sister, Jordyn Stevens, remembered her as inspiring and confident, with a competitive streak that went beyond golf and basketball to board games and cribbage.

Mourners included a large delegation from the Pennington County, South Dakota, Sheriff’s Office, where Leising worked before moving to St. Croix County last year.

Leising, 29, was slain May 6 in Glenwood, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Minneapolis. Leising and the driver she pulled over, Jeremiah Johnson, were discussing field sobriety tests when he drew a handgun and shot her, the Wisconsin Department of Justice has said. She discharged her weapon three times, but none of the rounds hit Johnson before he fled to a nearby wooded area. Leising was pronounced dead at a hospital.

An hour after the shooting, an officer heard a gunshot in the woods. Johnson, 34, killed himself, investigators said.

Leising’s death was the third fatal shooting of an on-duty law enforcement officer in western Wisconsin in a month, the Star Tribune reported.

Fire chief: 4 hurt in explosion at Madison condo building

From the Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Four people were injured in an apparent explosion at a Madison condominium building Tuesday evening, the city’s fire chief said.

One person was taken to an area hospital by ambulance, and three other people transported themselves for treatment of minor injuries, Madison Fire Chief Chris Carbon said.

There are no reports of any missing people, but firefighters were searching the rubble to make sure no one else was inside, Carbon said.

The building is no longer habitable, Carbon said.

The explosion occurred around 6 p.m., he said.

One of the units in the building was believed to be the origin of the explosion, and Carbon said at least six units were affected. The entire building was uninhabitable, Carbon said.

Greek police rescue new group of migrants from border islet

From the Associated Press

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A group of 17 stranded migrants, including eight children, have been rescued from a tiny islet in the river that runs along Greece’s northeastern land border with Turkey, police said Wednesday.

A police statement said the migrants were left on the islet in the Evros River by a smuggler who had ferried them across from the Turkish side in a boat. All 17 were in good health, the statement said. They identified themselves as Syrians, police said.

Wednesday’s rescue came a week after a similar incident involving 39 migrants found stranded on an Evros islet. In both cases, police said the migrants phoned humanitarian groups for assistance, who in turn notified Greek authorities and members of the European Union’s Frontex border agency stationed in the area.

The Evros is a major crossing point for thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa seeking a better life in Europe, who mostly pay smugglers to ferry them to Greece. The Greek authorities are planning to extend a fence designed to stop illegal crossings that currently covers part of the Evros border.

Humanitarian groups have accused Greece of sending migrants caught crossing the Evros illegally back to Turkey without allowing them to claim asylum, in breach of international law. Greece denies that.

UK police under fire over coronation protester arrests

By JILL LAWLESS from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — An anti-monarchy group says it plans to take legal action against London’s Metropolitan Police after several of its members were arrested as they prepared to protest the coronation of King Charles III.

Members of the anti-monarchist group Republic stage a protest along the route of the procession ahead of the coronation of King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. (Sebastien Bozon/Pool via AP)

Civil liberties groups are accusing the police, and Britain’s Conservative government, of stifling the right to protest with new powers to clamp down on peaceful but disruptive demonstrations.

The police force expressed “regret” late Monday that the activists were prevented from protesting, but defended its handling of the coronation, which drew hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of London — hundreds of protesters among them.

Police arrested 64 people around Saturday’s coronation, most for allegedly planning to disrupt the ceremonies. Four have been charged, while most were released on bail. Six members of anti-monarchist group Republic were let go and told they would not face any charges.

Republic chief executive Graham Smith said three senior police officers came to his house and apologized in person for the arrest that saw him held in custody for 16 hours.

“I said for the record I won’t accept the apology,” Smith said, adding that the group “will be taking action.”

The U.K.’s recently passed Public Order Act, introduced in response to civil disobedience by environmental groups, allows police to search demonstrators for items including locks and glue and imposes penalties of up to 12 months in prison for protesters who block roads or interfere with “national infrastructure.”

Police said the Republic members had items that could be used to “lock on” to infrastructure. Republic said the items were ties for their placards and police acknowledged its “investigation has been unable to prove intent to use them to lock on and disrupt the event.”

“We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route,” police said.

London police chief Mark Rowley defended his officers’ actions.

“Much of the ill-informed commentary on the day is wholly inaccurate. For example, protest was not banned,” Rowley wrote in the Evening Standard newspaper. “I want to be absolutely clear: our activity was targeted at those we believed were intent on causing serious disruption and criminality. Serious and reliable intelligence told us that the risks were very real.”

The Conservative government also defended the way police handled the protests.

“This was the context: a once-in-a-generation national moment, facing specific intelligence threats about multiple, well-organized plots to disrupt it,” Policing Minister Chris Philp said.

“We had specific intelligence that people planned to disrupt the coronation by creating a stampede of horses and covering the ceremonial procession in paint,” he said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party, requested “further clarity” from the force. He said the right to peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy.

Conservative lawmaker David Davis said the new powers of arrest were too broad.

“No one wants a day ruined, but the right to put up placards is virtually absolute in British democracy,” he told the BBC on Tuesday.

The Metropolitan Police force was already under intense pressure after a series of scandals involving its treatment of women and minorities. Confidence in the force plummeted after a serving officer raped and killed a young woman in London in 2020.

An independent review commissioned after the murder of marketing executive Sarah Everard said the force was riddled with racism, misogyny and homophobia. This year, another officer pleaded guilty to 48 rapes and dozens of other serious crimes committed over a 17-year period. ___

California city’s police car fleet going all-electric

From the Associated Press

SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A small Southern California city is transitioning to an all-electric police car fleet.

The city of South Pasadena is acquiring 20 Teslas for patrol duties, administration and detective work, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The plan includes 10 Tesla Model Y vehicles, 10 Tesla Model 3 cars and more than 30 charging ports at South Pasadena City Hall, including some for public use.

Some vehicles are already in use and others still need to be outfitted, Deputy City Manager Domenica Megerdichian told the Times.

While many Americans aren’t yet sold on going electric, South Pasadena took the plunge after a lengthy study.

“We have been investigating this transition for five to six years and determined that these electric vehicles will be the best operationally for us,” South Pasadena Police Chief Brian Solinsky said in a statement.

The transition is expected to be complete by next February.

South Pasadena has a population of about 26,000 in an area of 3.4 square miles (8.81 square kilometers).

Out-of-control wildfires cause evacuations in western Canada

From the Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Fire crews battled wildfires threatening communities in western Canada on Sunday as cooler temperatures and a bit of rain brought some relief, but officials warned the reprieve came only in some areas.

In this photo provided by the Government of Alberta Fire Service, a burned section of forest in the area near Edson, Alberta, smolders, Saturday, May 6, 2023. (Government of Alberta Fire Service/The Canadian Press via AP)

Officials in Alberta said there were 108 active fires in the province and the number of evacuees grew to about 29,000, up from approximately 24,000 Saturday, when a provincewide state of emergency was declared.

Two out-of-control wildfires in neighboring British Columbia also caused some people to leave their homes, and officials warned that they expected high winds to cause the blazes to grow bigger in the next few days.

Provinicial officials in Alberta said the weather forecast was favorable for the next few days, with small amounts of rain and overcast conditions. But they cautioned that hot and dry conditions were predicted to return within a few days.

“People have called this season certainly unprecedented in recent memory because we have so many fires so spread out,” Christie Tucker with Alberta Wildfire said at a briefing. “It’s been an unusual year.”

Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said accurate damage reports were not yet available because conditions made it difficult to assess the situation. There were of buildings destroyed in the town of Fox Lake, including 20 homes, a police station and a store.

In northeastern British Columbia, officials urged residents to evacuate the areas around two out-of-control wildfires near the Alberta border, saying there were reports of some people staying behind.

“This is impeding the response and putting their lives and the lives of firefighters at risk,” said Leonard Hiebert, chairman of the Peace River Regional District.

A third fire in British Columbia was burning out of control 700 kilometers (430 miles) to the south, in the Teare Creek region, and some residents near the village of McBride were evacuated.

Chicago police officer fatally shot after working her shift

From the Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — An off-duty Chicago police officer was shot and killed early Saturday as she headed home on the city’s Southside after her shift.

The officer was shot about 1:42 a.m. in the city’s Avalon Park neighborhood, police said.

She was found wounded by another officer who responded to an alert from the city’s gunshot detection system, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The second officer rushed her to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. The slain officer had been with Chicago police about three years.

No arrests have been made.

Relatives identified the slain officer to the Chicago Sun-Times as Areanah Preston, 24.

“She was trying to make a change on this Earth,” her father, Allen Preston, told the newspaper.

Preston, who lives in Los Angeles, described his daughter as a “beautiful soul” who “always saw the best in people.”

“This was my baby. Everything I did was for her,” he said. “I don’t know what to do, right now. I’ll be dealing with this for the rest of my life.”

Late Saturday morning, more than a dozen family members gathered outside Areanah Preston’s home.

“She was a definite role model with a career path that just didn’t stop,” said her aunt, Sonia Rawsk.

Areanah Preston earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration from Illinois State University.

Professor Charles Bell told the Sun-Times that she was “very passionate about making a difference and showing young people that policing is a profession that can make a difference in the community.”

“She was very aware of a lot of the problems that in her opinion had manifested in the Chicago community,” Bell added. “She was a reformer. She saw a problem and she was dedicated to making a difference.”

Police: Tennessee boy stole school bus, drove on interstate

By TRAVIS LOLLER for the Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A 14-year-old in Tennessee stole a school bus on Saturday and drove it around Nashville before police were able to capture the teen as he tried to turn it around in the middle of Interstate 40, according to police.

The teen took the bus from Kipp College Prep in the Antioch neighborhood. He drove it across town to West Nashville where he hit a diesel fuel pump and allegedly tried to run someone over at a service station at around 4 p.m., according to a news release from the Metro Nashville Police Department.

From there, the teen allegedly drove onto I-40 heading west, hitting a car in the process. Officers pursued the bus on the interstate as it traveled at speeds of 60 mph and 65 mph, police said. They deployed a spike strip near exit 192 to try to stop the bus.

“The teen evidently saw the spike strip, slowed the bus, and attempted to turn around in the middle of the west bound lanes,” according to police.

As the teen was trying to make the turn, officers ran up to the bus, broke out the door glass, and used a Taser to capture him. He was taken into custody and placed in juvenile detention. The teen is charged with vehicle theft, aggravated assault, evading arrest, reckless driving, driving without a license, leaving the scene of a crash, and failure to report a crash.

Littlest intruder: Toddler crawls through White House fence

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A curious toddler on Tuesday earned the title of one of the tiniest White House intruders after he squeezed through the metal fencing on the north side of the executive mansion.

U.S. Secret Service uniformed division police officers carry a young child who crawled through the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, Tuesday, April 18, 2023. The toddler earned the title of one of the tiniest White House intruders after he squeezed through the metal fencing on the north side of the executive mansion. Officers walked across the North Lawn to retrieve the child and reunite him with his parents on Pennsylvania Avenue. (AP Photo/Nancy Benac)

U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division officers, who are responsible for security at the White House, walked across the North Lawn to retrieve the tot and reunite him with his parents on Pennsylvania Avenue. Access to the complex was briefly restricted while officers conducted the reunification. Officers briefly questioned the parents before allowing them to continue on their way.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officers “encountered a curious young visitor along the White House north fence line who briefly entered White House grounds.”

“The White House security systems instantly triggered Secret Service officers and the toddler and parents were quickly reunited,” he said in a statement.

It may be the first successful intrusion onto the complex since the White House fence was doubled in height to roughly 13 feet (3.96-meters) in recent years after a series of security breaches. While taller, the new fence has an additional inch of space between pickets, for a total of 5½ inches (12.7 centimeters) between posts.

Older children have sometimes become stuck in the iconic barrier, which has also been the scene of demonstrations, with protesters chaining themselves to the fence.

Vampire straw gets passenger arrested at Boston airport

From the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — An airline passenger was arrested for carrying a self-defense weapon known as a vampire straw through security at Boston’s Logan International Airport, authorities said Tuesday.

Arman Achuthan Nair was detained Sunday evening and charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, Massachusetts State Police said in a statement. A trooper was alerted after the 10-inch-long (25-centimeter-long) titanium straw with a beveled end was found in Nair’s backpack.

The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t allow vampire straws to be carried onto a flight. The company that makes the straw bills it as a self-defense weapon since it can be used like a dagger. It also can be used as a straw to slurp down smoothies and other drinks.

“These items are not allowed in passenger carry-on bags,” the TSA said Monday in a tweet that included a photo of the straw. “A passenger found that out yesterday.”

Nair, 26, of Chicago, posted bail and is scheduled to be arraigned May 30 in East Boston Municipal Court. A phone and text message seeking comment was left with his attorney. A phone number could not be found for Nair.

Canada contract accord ends strike for most public workers

From the Associated Press

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Canadian government reached a tentative contract agreement Monday with its largest workers union, ending a 12-day strike by more than 120,000 public servants.

FILE – A flag flies as Public Service Alliance of Canada members walk the picket line outside government buildings, April 21, 2023 in Gatineau, Quebec. The Canadian government has reached a tentative contract agreement with its largest workers union, ending a 12-day strike by more than 120,000 public servants. The four-year deal reached Monday, May 1, affects a majority of the Public Service Alliance of Canada workers, including immigration workers, administrative personnel across various agencies, maintenance workers, port workers and firefighters. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP, file)

The four-year deal affects a majority of the Public Service Alliance of Canada workers, including immigration workers, administrative personnel across various agencies, maintenance workers, port workers and firefighters.

But some 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers remain on the picket line.

Chris Aylward, the union’s national president, said in a statement that group “held the line” and “secured a fair contract that keeps up with the cost of living, increased protections around remote work and creates safer, more inclusive workplaces.″

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier called the deal “fair and competitive.”

“We negotiated, we compromised and we found creative solutions,” she told a news conference.

Fortier said the deal will increase wages 11.5% over four years and will cost Canadian taxpayers CDN$1.3 billion (US$96 million a year).

The union said the contract agreement secured wage increases totaling 12.6% compounded over four years, along with a one-time, pensionable CDN$2,500 (US$1,896.00) lump sum payment that represents an additional 3.7% of salary for the average union member in Treasury Board bargaining units.

It said members will have access to additional protection when the employer makes arbitrary decisions about remote work, and that managers will have to assess telework requests individually, not by group, and provide written responses.

The union said the tentative deal also addresses its demands regarding seniority rights in the event of layoffs. Also, when there are layoffs, an employee who can carry out work that is being conducted by a hired contractor will not lose their job.

Fortier said talks with the tax agency workers continue.

“They’re still at the table and negotiating as we speak and we’re looking forward to see how this will unfold,” she said.

Public servants had hit picket lines at locations across the country for a dozen days in what the union said was one of the biggest job actions in Canadian history.

Service disruptions loomed large during the strike, from slowdowns at the border to pauses on new employment insurance, immigration and passport applications.

Initial negotiations on a new collective agreement had initially begun in June 2021, and the union had declared an impasse in May 2022, with both parties filing labor complaints since then.

Brazilian police probe deadly shooting on Indigenous land

From the Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s federal police said Sunday they are investigating a shooting that killed one and wounded two Yanomami Indigenous people, saying the main suspects were illegal gold miners working in that area of Roraima state.

A Yanomami Indigenous youth paints his face while traveling on a bus to a civic center to attend an event related to the annual Free Land Encampment protests, in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil, Tuesday, April 25, 2023. The Free Land Encampment protests by Indigenous groups, held annually in Brazil’s capital, demand that the government protect their rights. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

A police statement said in a statement that the incident took place Saturday and added that the government sent members of the Air force and the Indigenous issues agency FUNAI to help with the probe.

Earlier this year, Brazil’s government pushed illegal gold miners out of Yanomami territory, saying their mining had caused widespread river contamination, famine and disease for one of the most isolated groups in the world.

Brazil’s government estimated about 20,000 people were engaged in illegal mining in February, often using toxic mercury to separate out gold. Since then, several federal police and military raids have made it harder for gold miners to reach that area.

An estimated 30,000 Yanomami people live in Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory, which covers an area roughly the size of Portugal and stretches across Roraima and Amazonas states in the northwestern corner of Brazil’s Amazon.

Kyrgios helps police catch man who allegedly stole his Tesla

From the Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Tennis star Nick Kyrgios helped police catch a man who allegedly stole his Tesla at gunpoint from a home in Australia’s capital city, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

FILE – Australia’s Nick Kyrgios plays a forehand return to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during an exhibition match on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 13, 2023. Kyrgios has helped police Tuesday, May 1, 2023, catch a man who allegedly stole his Tesla at gunpoint from a home in Australia’s capital city. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

The ABC said court documents showed the 2022 Wimbledon finalist used the Tesla app to track and slow down the vehicle as police pursued it on Monday morning in Canberra.

The ABC said documents from court proceedings Tuesday allege a man pointed a gun at Kyrgios’ mother, Norlaila Kyrgios, demanded the keys for the car and asked her how to drive it. When he got into the car, she fled and screamed for help. Kyrgios, who was nearby, telephoned a police emergency number and helped them track the vehicle.

The police pursuit ended when the car entered a school zone but a man was arrested soon after with help from a police tactical response team.

A 32-year-old man was denied bail Tuesday after appearing in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court on five charges relating to the incident, including aggravated robbery, driving a stolen vehicle, furious driving, and failing to stop for police.

Kyrgios reached the final at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year but hasn’t played a competitive match at the elite level since withdrawing from a tournament in Japan last October because of a left knee injury.

The 28-year-old Australian has a career-high ranking of No. 13.

Man sentenced to life in death of NYC ambulance driver

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A 31-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Wednesday for killing a New York City emergency medical technician by running her over with her own ambulance.

FILE – In this photo provided by the New York City Mayor’s Office, pallbearers from the New York City Fire Department carry the casket of fallen FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo into St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, in the Bronx borough of New York, March 25, 2017. Jose Gonzalez, convicted of murder in the death of Arroyo when he ran over her with her own ambulance in 2017, has been sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in New York. (Michael Appleton/New York City Mayor’s Office via AP, File)

Jose Gonzalez was convicted of first-degree murder last month in the March 2017 murder of Yadira Arroyo, a 14-year Fire Department veteran and mother of five, in the Bronx.

Prosecutors said the fatal encounter started when Gonzalez grabbed the back of Arroyo’s ambulance and rode on it, then jumped off and stole a man’s backpack.

The robbery victim flagged down the ambulance and Arroyo got out and spoke briefly to Gonzalez, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said.

Gonzalez then jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance, backed up over Arroyo and drove forward, dragging her across an intersection, Clark said. Arroyo was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The case against Gonzalez was delayed by psychiatric evaluations to determine his fitness to stand trial. He was convicted on March 8 after a month-long trial.

Clark said in a statement that the sentencing “closes a long and difficult chapter for the victim’s family and her FDNY colleagues, who have waited for justice for six years.”

The Daily News reported that Arroyo’s mother, Leida Rosado, said in court before the sentencing, “At night, before I close my eyes, Yadi is the last thought on my mind. Taken from me in the most savage way.”

Gonzalez told the courtroom, “I apologize to the victim’s family. I never knew what was going on.”

Gonzalez’s attorney had sought a sentence of 20 years to life.

US Grassroots Effort Brings Supplies to Ukraine First Responders–Firefighters Come to US to Plead Cause for More Local Citizen Support

PRESS RELEASE: Paid content from PR Newswire

INDIANAPOLIS, April 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Polsky Foundation is pleased to announce the Help Ukrainian Firefighters In Need Project has brought three Ukrainian firefighters to the United States to attend the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC). The conference will take place from April 24-29, 2023 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The firefighters, Roman Kachanov, Oleksii Chernomorchenko, and Serhii Bilous, have been working in an active war zone amidst constant fires and threats to their lives. Ukrainian firefighters have become some of the best in the world, but they cannot combat such an incredible undertaking alone.

That’s why for the last 14 months, the Polsky Foundation has undertaken the effort of supporting firefighters and those they are serving in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine Fire Service has conducted nearly 82,000 visits to Ukrainian victims, amounting to 196 visits a day. The Polsky Foundation, lead by Tonya Polsky and Yana Feyganova, coordinated more than 200 tons of firefighter/EMS equipment that has been shipped to Ukrainian firefighters. The group’s effectiveness in supporting the emergency personnel during an active war has been acknowledged with support, but more is still needed, the Polsky and Feyganova said.

“Lives and families are at stake, and the firefighters are receiving support from local people in the United States for them to continue helping war victims,” Feyganova said. “They may be a whole continent away, but they are feeling and receiving our support. This war is very personal to us and to many who are helping.”

This conference offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to meet highly motivated and involved Ukrainian first responders who have devoted their lives to protecting and serving others in the war zone. The conference will provide an opportunity for the Ukrainian firefighters to share their experience, meet with US firefighters, promote awareness of the war and challenges they face in Ukraine, and gain potential support to help this important cause.

The Polsky Foundation hopes to accomplish the following goals during the tour:

  • Raise awareness of the conflict in Ukraine among fire professionals in the United States of America.
  • Raise awareness and visibility of the valiant and innovative work that the firefighters’ methods in Ukraine have been doing.
  • Establish meaningful connections with prospective as well as current sources of funding and equipment donations.
  • Make it possible for firefighters to express their gratitude to current and potential donors.
  • Raise the profile of The Polsky Foundation in the media by highlighting its work on the fireman initiative and its support of first responders in Ukraine.

In addition to attending the FDIC Conference, the Ukrainian firefighters will also be meeting conference organizers, sponsors, dignitaries, and local fire departments in Chicago, New York City, and Washington D.C. The Polsky Foundation invites interested individuals to visit their website or contact them for more information and ways to help this important cause.

For more information and to help support the effort, please contact:


View original content: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-grassroots-effort-brings-supplies-to-ukraine-first-respondersfirefighters-come-to-us-to-plead-cause-for-more-local-citizen-support-301809839.html

SOURCE The Polsky Foundation

Pollution lawsuit could curb use of aerial fire retardant

By MATTHEW BROWN from the Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A legal dispute in Montana could drastically curb the government’s use of aerial fire retardant to combat wildfires after environmentalists raised concerns about waterways that are being polluted with the potentially toxic red slurry that’s dropped from aircraft.

FILE – An aircraft drops fire retardant to slow the spread of the Richard Spring fire, east of Lame Deer, Mont., on Aug. 11, 2021. A legal dispute in Montana could drastically curb the government’s use of aerial fire retardant to combat wildfires. Environmentalists have sued the U.S. Forest Service over waterways being polluted with the potentially toxic red slurry that’s dropped from aircraft. Forest Service officials have acknowledged more than 200 cases of retardant landing in water. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

A coalition that includes Paradise, California — where a 2018 blaze killed 85 people and destroyed the town — said a court ruling against the U.S. Forest Service in the case could put lives, homes and forests at risk.

An advocacy group that’s suing the agency claims officials are flouting a federal clean water law by continuing to use retardant without taking adequate precautions to protect streams and rivers.

The group, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, requested an injunction blocking officials from using aerial retardant until they get a pollution permit.

The dispute comes as wildfires across North America have grown bigger and more destructive over the past two decades because climate change, people moving into fire-prone areas, and overgrown forests are creating more catastrophic megafires that are harder to fight.

Forest Service officials acknowledged in court filings that retardant has been dropped into waterways more then 200 times over the past decade. They said it happens usually by mistake and in less than 1% of the thousands of drops annually, and that environmental damage from fires can exceed the pollution from retardant.

“The only way to prevent accidental discharges of retardant to waters is to prohibit its use entirely,” government attorneys wrote. “Such a prohibition would be tantamount to a complete ban of aerial discharges of retardant.”

Government officials and firefighters say fire retardant can be crucial to slowing the advance of a blaze so firefighters can try to stop it.

“It buys you time,” said Scott Upton, a former region chief and air attack group supervisor for California’s state fire agency. “We live in a populous state — there are people everywhere. It’s a high priority for us to be able to use the retardant, catch fires when they’re small.”

Forest Service officials said they are trying to come into compliance with the law by getting a pollution permit but that could take years.

“The Forest Service says it should be allowed to pollute, business as usual,” said Andy Stahl, who leads the Eugene, Oregon-based group behind the lawsuit. “Our position is that business as usual is illegal.”

A ruling from U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen is expected sometime after the opposing sides present their arguments during a Monday hearing in federal court in Missoula.

Christensen denied a request to intervene in the case by the coalition that includes Paradise, other California communities and trade groups such as the California Forestry Association. The judge is allowing the coalition’s attorney to present brief arguments.

As the 2023 fire season gets underway, California Forestry Association President Matt Dias said the prospect of not having fire retardant available to a federal agency that plays a key role on many blazes was “terrifying.”

“The devastation that could occur as a result of the Forest Service losing that tool could be just horrific,” Dias said.

More than 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of fire retardant were used during the past decade, according to the Department of Agriculture. It’s made up of water and other ingredients including fertilizers or salts that can be harmful to fish, frogs, crustaceans and other aquatic animals.

A government study found misapplied retardant could adversely affect dozens of imperiled species, including crawfish, spotted owls and fish such as shiners and suckers.

Health risks to firefighters or other people who come into contact with fire retardant are considered low, according to a 2021 risk assessment commissioned by the Forest Service.

To keep streams from getting polluted, officials in recent years have avoided drops inside buffer zones within 300 feet (92 meters) of waterways.

Under a 2011 government decision, fire retardant may only be applied inside the zones, known as “avoidance areas,” when human life or public safety is threatened and retardant could help. Of 213 instances of fire retardant landing in water between 2012 and 2019, 190 were accidents, officials said.

The remaining 23 drops were necessary to save lives or property, they said.

Stahl’s organization suggested in court filings that the buffer zones be increased, to 600 feet (182 meters) around lakes and streams.

In January — three months after the lawsuit was filed — the Forest Service asked the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a permit allowing the service to drop retardant into water under certain conditions. The process is expected to take more than two years.

Forest Service spokesperson Wade Muehlhof declined comment on the case.

No injuries after massive fire put out at Louisiana sawmill

From the Associated Press

BOGALUSA, La. (AP) — Firefighters from departments across southeast Louisiana and nearby areas of Mississippi worked for hours before extinguishing the flames from a massive fire at a sawmill on Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore early Monday.

The fire at the site of Hood Industries, north of Bogalusa, started about 10 p.m. Sunday. No injuries were reported.

Pearl River County firefighters said in a post on Facebook that the “large and dangerous” blaze was under control around 3:30 a.m. Monday.

It is still unclear how much damage was caused by the fire or what had started it.

The sawmill on Highway 21 is one of the largest employers in Washington Parish with additional locations in Mississippi and Georgia.

Georgia city suspends 6-member police drug unit amid inquiry

From the Associated Press

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — A middle Georgia city has suspended its police department’s six-officer narcotics unit after the district attorney began investigating alleged misconduct.

Houston County District Attorney William Kendall told local news outlets Monday that he began investigating after he was told of the unspecified allegations against Warner Robins officers on April 11, getting assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Kendall said no one has yet been charged, but he said if the investigation finds illegal activity, he will ask grand jurors to consider indictments.

“This is just like any other case for us, regardless of whether police officers are involved,” Kendall said. “If people are found to have violated laws, then we’ll hold them accountable.”

The district attorney said he could know by May whether he will seek indictments.

Kendall said if no illegal activity is found, the matter will be returned to the department for an internal inquiry into possible violations of department policy.

Warner Robins Police Chief Roy Whitehead said he placed the six officers on paid administrative leave on April 12. Whitehead said none of the officers can do police work while prosecutors are investigating and that the police department has given prosecutors “full access.”

“We take these matters very seriously, and we will ensure that the appropriate actions will be taken as a result should the district attorney find any wrongdoing,” Whitehead said in a statement.

Police: Man causes disturbance at airport, assaults officer

From the Associated Press

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A man caused a disturbance at a checkpoint at the Burlington International Airport and assaulted a police officer after he was taken into custody for refusing to leave, police said.

The 63-year-old man became agitated and disruptive at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint Wednesday after his hands were swabbed during a routine security procedure. police said. The checkpoint had to be closed briefly. Police and South Burlington Fire Department personnel tried to calm the man and offered him medical care, which he refused, police said.

Airport officials said the man would not be allowed to fly and needed to leave the airport, which he refused to do, police said. He was taken into custody for unlawful trespass and disorderly conduct and transported to police headquarters. A judge ordered that the man be released with conditions. The man then refused to leave the holding area and assaulted an officer, police said.

He then tried to kick and bite officers and head-butted a fire department employee as they attempted to take him to the University of Vermont Medical Center for a mental health evaluation, police said. He was admitted to the hospital.

Some UK nurses end strikes but others vow more walkouts

By JILL LAWLESS for the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — A British nursing union on Friday rejected a pay offer from the government, dashing hopes of a quick end to a months-long wave of public-sector strikes that has disrupted schools, hospitals and services.

People take part in a rally in Trafalgar Square in support of striking NHS junior doctors, as the British Medical Association holds a 96-hour walkout in a dispute over pay, in London, Tuesday April 11, 2023. (Kirsty O’Connor/PA via AP)

However, another major health union voted to accept the deal.

The Royal College of Nursing said its members would walk out again later this month. after 54% voted to reject the offer of a lump sum payment for 2022-23 and a 5% raise this year.

General Secretary Pat Cullen said members would strike for 48 hours starting April 30. For the first time, the walkout will include nurses working in intensive care, emergency rooms and cancer wards.

“What has been offered to date is simply not enough,” she said, adding: “Until there is a significantly improved offer, we are forced back to the picket line.”

In contrast, Unison, which represents health workers including ambulance crews, hospital porters and some nurses, said 74% of its members voted to accept the offer

“Clearly health workers would have wanted more, but this was the best that could be achieved through negotiation,” said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “Over the past few weeks, health workers have weighed up what’s on offer. They’ve opted for the certainty of getting the extra cash in their pockets soon.”

A wave of strikes has disrupted Britons’ lives for months, as workers demand pay raises to keep pace with soaring inflation, which stood at 10.4% in February.

Firefighters and London bus drivers have reached deals to keep working. But many other professions remain locked in pay disputes. Ambulance crews, teachers, border staff, driving examiners, bus drivers and postal workers – as well as doctors and nurses — have all walked off their jobs to demand higher pay.

Unions say wages, especially in the public sector, have fallen in real terms over the past decade, and a cost-of-living crisis fueled by sharply rising food and energy prices has left many struggling to pay their bills.

Thousands of junior doctors in the state-funded National Health Service held the final day of a four-day walkout on Friday. The early-career medics are seeking a 35% pay increase, a demand the government calls unreasonable.

Civil servants also announced a new strike on Friday after rejecting the government’s offer of a pay raise of 4.5% to 5%. The Prospect union said its members, who include weather service staff and health inspectors, will walk out on May 10 and June 7.

Indianapolis firefighters rescue dozens from apartment blaze

From the Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Firefighters in Indianapolis rescued dozens of people from a fatal blaze in a multilevel apartment building early Monday morning.

Multiple people called to report the fire in the three-story, 44-unit building around 4:45 a.m., the Indianapolis Star reported.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames. They used ground ladders to rescue at least 30 people from the building, the Indianapolis Fire Department tweeted. Other residents escaped by leaping from balconies.

Emergency responders discovered a dead woman in the building. Nine people were hospitalized, including four children. A firefighter also suffered a minor injury.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Alabama police searching for clues in shooting that killed 4

By KIM CHANDLER and JEFF AMY from the Associated Press

DADEVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Students at a small-town Alabama school, its flag flying at half-mast Monday, returned to class as investigators worked to piece together what happened at a Saturday night shooting that killed four people, including two Dadeville High School students.

The 485-student school is a center of civic life in Dadeville, population 3,200, where “Home of the Tigers” is painted on the water tower. The melee at a teenager’s birthday party also injured 28 at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio, were the teen-age sister of one of the victims was celebrating her Sweet 16.

The weekend was marked by a series of high-profile shootings in the U.S.. One left two people dead and four wounded Saturday in Louisville, Missouri; another resulted in four men being shot — one fatally — in Los Angeles; and a third left two women wounded at Lincoln University in southeastern Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t clear if all of the 28 people injured in Alabama were shot, although Heidi Smith, spokesperson for Dadeville’s Lake Martin Community Hospital, said 15 people with gunshot wounds were received there. Others were taken to other hospitals.

The dead include Marsiah Emmanuel “Siah” Collins, 19, of Opelika; Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23, of Dadeville; Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, 18, of Camp Hill and Shaunkivia Nicole “Keke” Smith, 17, of Dadeville, Tallapoosa County Coroner Mike Knox told The Associated Press on Monday. Relatives had identified Dowdell and Smith on Sunday.

Tallapoosa County Superintendent Raymond Porter said counselors would be present at the school Monday. Smith said her hospital and others would provide at least some of those, saying students “are going to arrive today to a tragedy.”

“It’s going to be a tough time for graduation and for these kids and we will be here for them and their families for the duration,” Smith said.

It’s also unclear who may have started the shooting and why, or whether investigators have made any arrests. Sgt. Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency did not take questions during news conferences Sunday. Officials repeatedly asked others to come forward with information on the shooting.

Dowdell was a Dadeville High School student who planned to attend Jacksonville State University to play football.

Michael Taylor, an assistant coach, said he met Dowdell when the boy was 9 and coached him in youth football. Taylor said the team was invited to Atlanta to play in the stadium used by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

“He did some amazing things there, and he never stopped doing them since then,” he said. “He was the No. 1 athlete in the school.”

Smith was also a Dadeville High senior who managed the basketball and track teams.

Collins had played football at Opelika High School before graduating in 2022, his father, Martin Collins, told AL.com. Collins was an aspiring rapper and his father said Collins planned to attend Louisiana State University, where the father is a law student.

Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party, told WBMA-TV the party was stopped briefly when attendees heard someone had a gun. He said people with guns were asked to leave, but no one left. Cooper said when the shooting began some time later, some people took shelter under a table where he was standing, and others ran out.

At least five bullet holes were visible in the windows of the front of the dance studio Sunday. Investigators combed the scene for more than 12 hours, including climbing onto the roof of the one-story brick building to look for evidence.

The shooting sparked what Mayor Frank Goodman said was a “chaotic” scene at the town’s small hospital, where emergency workers, relatives and friends swarmed on Saturday. Smith said six people were treated locally and have been released, but said others were transferred to larger hospitals in Birmingham, Montgomery, Opelika and Columbus, Georgia. She said transfers by helicopter were slowed by stormy weather Saturday.

“It’s very traumatic in a health care setting, in an emergency room setting when you have one gunshot wound come through, but when you have 15 and they’re all teenagers, our staff has been through a lot,” Smith said.

Antojuan Woody, from the neighboring town of Camp Hill, was a senior and fellow wide receiver with Dowdell on a Dadeville Tigers football team that went undefeated before losing in the second round of the playoffs last year. He said he and Dowdell had been best friends for all of their lives.

He described the victims “as great people who didn’t deserve what happened to them.”

Tallapoosa County Superintendent Raymond Porter said counselors would be present Monday at the system’s schools. Flags flew at half-staff outside Dadeville High Monday as an electronic sign displayed information about the prom and make-up days to take college entrance exams.


Amy reported from Atlanta.

Secret Chinese police outpost revealed in NY; 2 men arrested

By LARRY NEUMEISTER and ERIC TUCKER for the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Two men have been arrested on charges that they helped establish a secret police outpost in New York City on behalf of the Chinese government, and more than three dozen officers with China’s national police force have been charged with using social media to harass dissidents inside the United States, the Justice Department said Monday.

The cases, taken together, are part of a series of Justice Department prosecutions in recent years aimed at disrupting Chinese government efforts to locate in America pro-democracy activists and others who are openly critical of Beijing’s policies.

One of the cases concerns a local branch of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which operated inside an office building in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood before closing last fall amid an FBI investigation. The two men charged with establishing the outpost were acting under the direction and control of a Chinese government official, and deleted communication with that official from their phones after becoming aware of the investigation, according to the Justice Department.

The men, identified as “Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, were arrested at their homes on Monday morning. It was not immediately clear if they had lawyers who could comment on their behalf.

At no point did the men register with the Justice Department as agents of a foreign government, U.S. law enforcement officials said. And though the police outpost did perform some basic services, such as helping Chinese citizens renew their Chinese driver’s licenses, it also performed a more “sinister” function, including helping the Chinese government locate a pro-democracy activist of Chinese descent living in California, according to the officials.

“New York City is home to New York’s finest: the NYPD,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said at a news conference announcing the arrests. “We don’t need or want a secret police station in our great city.”


Tucker reported from Washington.

No known threats to Boston Marathon, but police are prepared

By MARK PRATT from the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — There are no known threats to this year’s Boston Marathon, but on the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attack that killed three spectators, federal, state and city law enforcement leaders said Thursday that they are prepared for anything.

Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox, left, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, attend a news conference in Boston, Thursday, April 13, 2023, to discuss public safety at the Boston Marathon. The race on Monday, April 17, is the 10th anniversary of a terrorist attack at the finish line that killed three spectators. (AP Photo/Mark Pratt)

“At this point in time, the FBI is not aware of any specific or credible threats targeting this year’s race,” Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI’s Boston office, said at a news conference. “And while we’re confident in this assessment at this particular time, we are asking you to remain vigilant because we all know how quickly the threat landscape can change.”

Law enforcement agencies are more coordinated and prepared than ever to respond to any emergency, officials said, but the public remains the first line of defense. Spectators have been urged to report anything suspicious.

In addition to the multitude of uniformed police officers along the marathon’s route, plainclothes officers will also be dispersed throughout the crowds, officials said.

Bomb squads, hazardous material teams and SWAT units will also be standing at the ready to respond to any emergency situation, police said.

“As you can see, we have a multilayered approach and a well-coordinated plan by both the city, state and federal partners,” Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said.

Spectators were urged to take public transportation not just to the marathon, but to the annual Patriots’ Day Boston Red Sox game and a possible Boston Bruins playoff game, Cox said.

Marathon fans should also be prepared to pass through security checkpoints in some areas where they will be subjected to bag checks, authorities said.

In addition to the three people killed in the 2013 attack, 17 people lost limbs and nearly 300 others were injured when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded at the finish line, putting a violent end to that year’s race.

Those victims and their families will be on everyone’s minds this year, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said.

“This year’s 10-year anniversary, the marking of a decade since the horrific attacks, brings with it another set of emotions and reflections,” she said.

Baltimore police hope reform can coexist with lowering crime

By LEA SKENE for the Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore police leaders hope to show that crime reduction and police reform aren’t mutually exclusive as they push to overhaul the troubled department.

Praise for the city’s police has been hard to come by in recent years. Baltimore has a court-enforceable agreement with the federal government to reform its police department, known as a consent decree, which began in 2017 after the U.S. Justice Department discovered longstanding patterns of excessive force, unlawful arrests and discriminatory police practices.

But on Thursday, the federal judge overseeing the consent decree said it’s clear reform is possible.

“Now the question is: Will the job be completed here?” U.S. District Judge James Bredar said at a quarterly review hearing. “City and police leaders now know what to do, but will they find and allocate the necessary resources?”

The police department has already overhauled its training and technology, improved efficiency despite a deepening manpower shortage, and strengthened accountability measures to address officer misconduct, according to agency leaders.

Crime in Baltimore is also trending downward: Violent crime has decreased about 16% since 2018 and property crime about 26%, according to a report the department released this week.

“We’re demonstrating we can do it, both reform and crime fighting,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said during the court hearing. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Other law enforcement leaders from across the country are taking note and trying to emulate Baltimore’s accomplishments, Harrison said, calling his department “the greatest comeback story in America.”

The bigger challenge is rebuilding trust with Baltimore residents, whose deep-seated skepticism comes from decades of negative experiences with police. Harrison’s critics, including leadership of the city’s police union, also argue some reform efforts are hobbling officers’ ability to prevent crimes.

“The narrative is changing, but it is slow and it is hard,” Harrison said in an interview Wednesday.

The federal investigation that led to the consent decree was launched after Freddie Gray’s 2015 death from spinal injuries while in Baltimore police custody. Not long after the decree was announced, the Gun Trace Task Force scandal revealed abuse and corruption inside an elite plainclothes unit. Settlements from lawsuits connected to the task force have cost the city more than $22 million.

Harrison was appointed police commissioner in 2019, a tumultuous time for the department. He moved to Baltimore from New Orleans, where he also led a embattled police department implementing court-ordered reforms.

He highlighted a number of recent accomplishments to show how far the department has come, including decreased use of force, fewer complaints from civilians and more gun seizures. He also said the department is doing more to engage with the community.

One of the city’s flagship anti-violence programs, the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, offers services to people most at-risk of becoming involved with gun violence. It also uses law enforcement action to create what officials called a combination of positive and punitive consequences.

Keko Thompson, 36, said the program changed his life. He agreed to accept services not long after losing his cousin to gun violence. With support from a life coach and others, he started working in a warehouse six months ago and got his forklift certification — the longest he’s ever stayed at a job.

“I have given myself a chance, something I’d never done,” he said during a news conference alongside city and police leaders Wednesday.

Baltimore’s homicide rate is down about 17% compared to this time last year, according to police department statistics.

Still, the homicide rate remains among the highest in the nation and shootings of children and teens have increased within the past few months.

Harrison said the drivers of gun violence extend far beyond policing. Reducing violence in the long term will require a robust effort, he said, one that addresses underlying social challenges like poverty, addiction, mental illness, housing instability and struggling schools.

UK junior doctors begin 4-day strike, seeking hefty pay hike

From the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Tens of thousands of doctors walked off the job across England on Tuesday, kicking off a four-day strike billed as the most disruptive in the history of the U.K.’s public health service.

People take part in a rally in Trafalgar Square in support of striking NHS junior doctors, as the British Medical Association holds a 96-hour walkout in a dispute over pay, in London, Tuesday April 11, 2023. (Kirsty O’Connor/PA via AP)

The walkout by junior doctors, who form the backbone of hospital and clinic care in the National Health Service, is due to last until 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Picket lines formed outside major hospitals and hundreds of doctors marched past the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. residence to Parliament, chanting “We are off to Australia” — in reference to doctors’ higher wages abroad.

Junior doctors — those in the first years of their careers — make up almost half of all NHS doctors. Health service bosses say as many as 350,000 scheduled operations and appointments will be canceled during the walkout. Senior doctors and other medics have had to be drafted in to cover for emergency services, critical care and maternity services.

Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, said the walkout “is going to be the most disruptive period of strike action that we’ve seen this winter, probably the most disruptive period of action in NHS history.”

The British Medical Association, the doctors’ trade union, is seeking a 35% pay raise to make up for what it says are years of below-inflation increases. The union says newly qualified medics earn just 14.09 pounds ($17) an hour — the U.K. minimum wage is just over 10 pounds an hour — though salaries rise rapidly after the first year.

“Four of my close friends went to Australia and New Zealand to work and never came back,” said Dr. Mike Andrews, standing on a picket line outside the Royal London Hospital. “I can’t leave because of my family but I am worried about how I am going to do my job in a week, a month, a year’s time when we can’t staff the wards already because they are leaving.”

Dr. Vivek Trivedi, co-chairperson of the union’s junior doctors committee, said the walkout could be stopped if Health Secretary Steve Barclay made a “credible offer” on pay. The government says it is willing to negotiate if the strike is called off, but calls the 35% demand unaffordable.

A wave of strikes has disrupted Britons’ lives for months, as workers demand pay raises to keep pace with soaring inflation, which stood at 10.4% in February.

Nurses, ambulance crews, teachers, border staff, driving examiners, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off their jobs to demand higher pay.

Unions say wages, especially in the public sector, have fallen in real terms over the past decade, and a cost-of-living crisis fueled by sharply rising food and energy prices has left many struggling to pay their bills.

RoboCop? No, RoboDog: Robotic dog rejoins New York police

By KAREN MATTHEWS for the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City officials unveiled three new high-tech policing devices Tuesday, including a robotic dog that critics called creepy when it first joined the police pack 2 1/2 years ago.

The new devices, which also include a GPS tracker for stolen cars and a cone-shaped security robot, will be rolled out in a manner that is “transparent, consistent and always done in close collaboration with the people we serve,” said police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who joined Mayor Eric Adams and other officials at a Times Square press conference where the security robot and the mechanical canine nicknamed Digidog were displayed.

“Digidog is out of the pound,” said Adams, a Democrat and former police officer. “Digidog is now part of the toolkit that we are using.”

The city’s first robot police dog was leased in 2020 by Adams’ predecessor, former Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the city’s contract for the device was cut short after critics derided it as creepy and dystopian.

Adams said he won’t bow to anti-robot dog pressure.

“A few loud people were opposed to it and we took a step back,” the mayor said. “That is not how I operate. I operate on looking at what’s best for the city.”

Adams said the remote-controlled, 70-pound (32-kilogram) Digidog will be deployed in risky situations like hostage standoffs starting this summer.

“If you have a barricaded suspect, if you have someone that’s inside a building that is armed, instead of sending police in there, you send Digidog in there,” he said. “So these are smart ways of using good technologies.”

The tracking system called StarChase will allow police to launch a GPS tag that will attach itself to a stolen car so that officers can track the vehicle’s location. The New York Police Department’s pilot program for using the system will last 90 days, officials said.

The Autonomous Security Robot, which Adams compared to a Roomba, will be deployed inside the Times Square subway station in a seven-month pilot program starting this summer, police officials said.

The device, used in shopping centers and other locations for several years, will at first be joined by a human partner, police said.

Civil libertarians and police reform advocates questioned the need for the high-tech devices.

“This latest announcement is just the most recent example of how Mayor Adams allows unmitigated overspending of the NYPD’s massively bloated budget,” said Ileana Mendez-Penate, program director of Communities United for Police Reform. “The NYPD is buying robot dogs and other fancy tech while New Yorkers can’t access food stamps because city agencies are short-staffed, and New Yorkers are getting evicted because they can’t access their right to counsel.”

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said: “The NYPD is turning bad science fiction into terrible policing. New York deserves real safety, not a knockoff RoboCop.”

Roots and Wings Executive Director to Become Riviera Beach Chief of Police

Michael Coleman is a Former Delray Beach Police Captain

“His leadership of our two key programs, Project UpLift and the Above and Beyond Awards, has done so much for the community, and we wish him nothing but the best in his new endeavor.”— Ted Hoskinson, Founder of Roots and Wings

DELRAY BEACH, FL, UNITED STATES, April 6, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — Roots and Wings, a Delray Beach based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, announced today that their Executive Director, Michael Coleman, has been offered and accepted the position as Chief of Police for the town of Riviera Beach. Coleman was selected to replace Nathan Osgood and has amicably resigned his post at Roots and Wings.

“We want to sincerely thank Michael for his time at Roots and Wings,” said Ted Hoskinson, Founder of Roots and Wings, “His leadership of our two key programs, Project UpLift and the Above and Beyond Awards, has done so much for the community, and we wish him nothing but the best in his new endeavor.”

A long-time South Florida resident, Coleman previously served for five years as Director of Neighborhood and Community Services for the City of Delray Beach before joining Roots and Wings.

He also served as Division Commander for the Delray Beach Police Department, where he forged collaborative relationships with Delray Beach business, education, and government leaders to protect and build “community” in the city.

“I am honored to have been selected as the new police chief of Riviera Beach,” Coleman said. “I am committed to working closely with the community and the department to ensure the safety and security of all residents.”

About Roots and Wings

Roots and Wings is a Delray Beach based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education in the extended South Florida community by supporting students who most need help in learning to read and providing encouragement for the teachers who are working hard each day to influence and inspire children to learn. Learn more at https://rootsandwingsinc.org.

Melissa Perlman
BlueIvy Communications
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Study seeks to understand police recruiting and retention

By MATTHEW BARAKAT from the Associated Press

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A police force and university in northern Virginia are teaming up for what they say will be a first-of-its-kind study that will seek over the next 20 years the assess the challenges police agencies face in recruitment and retention.

Police departments across the country are reporting that they cannot hire officers fast enough to replace those retiring or resigning. An annual survey of nearly 200 agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum shows that resignations increased by 47 percent from 2019 to 2022.

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis announces a study, Friday, April 7, 2023, in Faifax, Va., in conjunction with George Mason University that will seek over the next 20 years to shed light on police recruitment and retention. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat)

The Fairfax County Police Department, which is participating in the study announced Friday, is emblematic of the trend. Police Chief Kevin Davis said the police force is more than 200 officers short of the 1,484 officers it is authorized to employ, though he said a larger-than-normal academy class of 58 will soon fill some of the gap.

Davis said at a press conference Friday that the study will help agencies like his understand what police need to do to attract the best recruits and keep them on the force.

“We think over time, and hopefully over many years, we’ll learn a lot more about who wants to become part of this profession and why,” Davis said.

The study, led by George Mason University, will not only follower officers throughout their careers, but will also look at applicants who decide for whatever reason against becoming officers.

Cynthia Lum, a professor with GMU’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, said that while recruitment and retention are key issues in the policing profession, there’s a lack of academic studies assessing the reasons.

“These are questions that have existed for decades about why people join the police department, why they leave,” she said. “And I feel like we’re just still guessing. And we’re guessing because we don’t have these types of studies.”

Lum said the plan is to continue the study for 20 years, though long-term funding will still have to be secured.

The National Policing Institute is providing initial funding. Its president, Jim Burch, said the lessons learned in Fairfax will be relevant across the country. But he said he’d like to see this sort of study replicated across the country.

For a profession that faces accusations of racism, especially in recent years, Burch said it will be important for the study to address applicants’ and officers’ views on race. He said he’s confident that academics have the skills and tools necessary to get an honest assessment of those views. And Lum emphasized that the study will be independent and officers will have the ability to speak freely and at times anonymously about their views.

Davis said he thinks the quality of officers entering the profession is better than it was when he started 30 years ago. He said that stems in part from recruitment efforts that seek to draw from a broader pool of the population. That extends beyond racial demographics. As an example, Davis said his force used to provide a salary bump for applicants with criminal justice degrees. That has been changed to incorporate graduates who had different academic interests.

“We hired psychology majors, sociology majors, and we’re looking for a greater representation of the community,” he said.

Police arrest suspect in arson fire at LA police station

By STEFANIE DAZIO from the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A woman was arrested Friday after she pushed a burning shopping cart into a Los Angeles police station, damaging the lobby, authorities said.

This image released Friday, April 7, 2023, by Los Angeles Police Department Southwest shows fire damage to the Southwest Community Police Station’s front lobby after an arson attack in Los Angeles. Police are seeking an arson suspect who set a fire that damaged the Los Angeles police station late Thursday, authorities said. No one was injured in the blaze. (LAPD Southwest via AP)

Mishauna Eaton, 30, was arrested on suspicion of arson and was being held on $250,000 bail, police said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether she had a lawyer to speak on her behalf.

Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson Annie Moran had stated earlier Friday the suspect was a man.

No one was injured in the incident that occurred shortly before 11:30 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Community Police Station.

Nicholas Prange, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department, said firefighters were summoned to the scene for what was described as a rubbish fire.

Photos showed the lobby with a blackened ceiling and walls, as well as broken windows.

“Due to an arson fire set last night, Southwest front lobby operations will be closed indefinitely,” the LAPD’s Southwest Division said on Twitter Friday. “Community members who would like to meet with an in-person officer or detective may visit any local station.”

Police didn’t immediately mention a possible motive for the arson.

The station is roughly a mile (1.61 kilometers) from Los Angeles’ famed Exposition Park, which includes museums and sports stadiums.

NY patient’s ambulance joyride ends when police spike tires

From the Associated Press

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — A patient stole the ambulance that had taken him to a New York City hospital and took it on a 25-mile (40-kilometer) joyride that ended when state police used a spike strip to stop him, authorities said.

The incident unfolded early Thursday after a 47-year-old man was taken to Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital in Manhattan for observation, police said.

The ambulance he had ridden in was sitting outside the hospital unlocked, unoccupied and with the keys in the ignition when the man left the facility just before 5 a.m., a New York City police spokesperson said. The man got in and drove off, police said.

The ambulance was tracked by GPS heading north through Westchester County on Interstate 87, police said.

State troopers spotted the ambulance near Tarrytown and tried to stop it, the New York state police said in a news release. The driver failed to stop, and the troopers gave chase, police said.

The runaway ambulance was finally stopped when troopers put a tire-spiking device on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge that spans the Hudson River, police said. The ambulance’s tires deflated when the man tried to cross the bridge.

The man was arrested on charges including grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and driving while intoxicated, police said. Information on his attorney wasn’t immediately available.

A spokesperson for the Mount Sinai hospital system declined to comment on the joyride.

Police: Man in Puerto Rico steals ambulance after accident

From the Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A man involved in a car accident Monday in Puerto Rico’s capital fled the scene in an ambulance that had arrived to help him, police said.

The incident occurred when the unidentified man hit another car on one of Puerto Rico’s busiest highways in a minor fender-bender, Police Lt. Elvis Zeno told The Associated Press.

An ambulance was called out of precaution, and when the police officer at the scene was surveying the damage and taking notes, the suspect jumped into the ambulance and fled, he said.

Police pursued the suspect from San Juan to the nearby city of Caguas but found only the abandoned ambulance, authorities said.

Zeno said it’s the first time he has heard of such an incident, adding that he wasn’t that surprised: “People have lost their values. They don’t value life or safety.”

Police were still looking for the suspect on Monday evening, noting that he was traveling alone when the accident occurred.

French police hit by claims they’re too tough on protesters

By ELAINE GANLEY from the Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — For French authorities, police are protectors ensuring that citizens can peacefully protest President Emmanuel Macron’s contentious retirement age increase. But for human rights advocates and demonstrators who were clubbed or tear-gassed officers have overstepped their mission.

A man in a Paris protest march lost a testicle to an officer’s club, and a police grenade took the thumb of a woman in Rouen. A railroad worker hit by grenade fragments lost an eye.

FILE – Police officers scuffle with protesters during a demonstration in Lyon, central France, on March 23, 2023. French authorities see the police as protectors ensuring that citizens can peacefully protest President Emmanuel Macron’s contentious retirement age increase. But to human rights advocates and demonstrators who were clubbed or tear-gassed, officers have overstepped their mission. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)

“Where is your humanity?” a woman shouted at officers who knocked an apparently homeless man to the ground in Paris, kicked him and used vulgar language while ordering him to get up and go. A video posted on Twitter shows another passerby helping the man to his feet in the scene last month near the Place de la Bastille.

The violence adds to anger in the streets and complicates efforts to invite dialogue between the government and labor unions, who are planning an 11th round of nationwide demonstrations Thursday.

The protests, which began in January, gained momentum after Macron’s decision last month to push a bill to raise the retirement age through the lower house of parliament without a vote. The common French reference to law enforcement officers as “forces of order” has been turned on its head. Now the question is whether police represent force or order.

Jarred by the bad publicity, authorities have shifted to damage control by offering accolades for security forces.

“There is no police violence,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Wednesday on RTL radio while condemning “individual acts” of officers who use disproportionate force. “Can’t we occasionally thank the forces of order?” he pleaded.

The minister said Sunday in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche that since the start of the protests, 38 officers and gendarmes are being investigated by internal inspection units.

Concerns about police brutality have reverberated beyond France. Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights and the Council of Europe — the continent’s main human rights body — are among organizations that cited excessive use of force by police during what has been a largely peaceful protest movement.

French police are sent into demonstrations with stun grenades and rubber bullets which are prohibited in most European countries, according to Sebastian Roche, an expert on security forces with France’s National Center for Scientific Research.

Demonstrations and potentially mutilating weapons are a combustible combination, Roche said, because “the temptation will be very big to use these armaments” especially when police come under a cascade of objects hurled at them, including Molotov cocktails.

The strategy is “at once very violent” and in some aspects illegal, Roche said, citing cases in which demonstrators were detained en masse and released without charges the next morning. Lawyers’ and magistrates’ associations have said such practices are an abuse of the law.

Jonas Cardoso, a 20-year-old student, was among more than 100 people detained during a March 23 protest in Paris.

“I spent hours in a cell for four people with nine other protesters. I slept on the floor,” he told The Associated Press. Cardoso denied any wrongdoing and was released without charges.

Worse, Cardoso said, is that violence may beget more violence.

“If the government doesn’t listen to us, the violence will rise. Our worst fear is that someone will die while protesting,” the young man said.

Videos of police brutality posted on social media largely fail to capture violence by black-clad ultra-leftists or anarchists who infiltrate the protest marches, destroy property and attack police officers.

“There are troublemakers, often extreme left, who want to take down the state and kill police and ultimately take over the institutions,” Darmanin said after a protest in March that turned especially violent.

The ranks of these provocateurs have grown, bolstered by opportunists and some leftist students. The intruders work in small, highly mobile groups, appearing and disappearing in formations known as black blocs.

Black blocs are not a new phenomenon, but they represent a danger to police. In one dramatic video posted on social networks, an officer is seen crashing to the ground after being hit with a paving stone. Colleagues dragged him away.

Violence by and against police is not limited to Paris, or to protests over Macron’s retirement plan.

Gendarmes and militants opposed to an artificial water basin recently clashed in rural France. Four people — two gendarmes and two protesters — were hospitalized in serious condition.

According to French policing rules, the use of force “must be absolutely necessary, strictly proportionate and graduated.”

“Of course, the police response is proportionate,” Paris Police Chief Laurent Nunez insisted in a television interview. Police intervene only when black blocs move into action, he said.

“Without police, demonstrations wouldn’t take place,” he said, insisting on their role as guardians of peace.

However, some protesters have found themselves trapped by police tactics such as encirclement, in which officers surround marchers so police can chase down troublemakers. But protesters stuck inside the police bubble can’t escape tear gas fumes.

Roche said the latest tensions show that France has “an accumulation of (police) crises that no other European country has.”

He cited the 2018-2019 Yellow Vest protests for social and economic justice where a brutal police response left two people dead, and multiple protesters lost eyes. Next came a debacle during last year’s Champions League Cup final when British soccer fans were gassed by police at the Stade de France.

Amnesty International’s France chief, Jean-Claude Samouiller, said last week at a news conference that France should improve its policing strategy and cited “a doctrine of de-escalation and dialogue” observed in Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

Compared with other European countries, Samouiller said, the two protest deaths in France in recent years put the nation at the bottom of the class, in the category of “bad student.”


Associated Press writers Jade Le Deley and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.

Distraction, speeding, alcohol drive up 2021 traffic deaths

By TOM KRISHER from the Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — Nearly 43,000 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2021, the highest number in 16 years with deaths due to speeding and impaired or distracted driving on the rise.

FILE – Emergency workers work the scene of a fatal accident on Aug. 24, 2021 in Tulsa, Okla. Nearly 43,000 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2021, with deaths due to speeding and impaired or distracted driving on the rise. The 2021 final numbers, released Monday, April 3, 2023 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, confirmed earlier estimates showing a 10.5% increase in deaths over 2020. (Michael Noble Jr./Tulsa World via AP, File)

The 2021 final numbers, released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, confirmed earlier estimates by the agency showing a 10.5% increase in deaths over 2020. That’s the highest number since 2005 and the largest percentage increase since 1975.

Data shows a 12% rise in fatal crashes involving at least one distracted driver, with 3,522 people killed. That prompted the agency to kick off a $5 million advertising campaign in an effort to keep drivers focused on the road. Agency officials said such cases likely are under-reported by police.

The number of pedestrians killed rose 13%, and cyclist fatalities were up 2% for the year. The number of unbelted passengers killed rose 8.1%, while fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving were up 14%.

Speeding-related deaths increased 7.9%, while crash deaths involving large trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds were up 17%.

At a news conference Monday in Seattle, NHTSA focused on distracted driving fatalities, which speakers said are entirely preventable if people stop using their cell phones, eating, or doing other things that divert attention from the road.

“Remember it only takes a moment to change your life forever,” said Sophie Shulman, NHTSA deputy administrator.

Steve Kiefer, a retired General Motors executive whose son, Mitchel, was killed in a 2016 distracted driving crash, said cell phones are a primary cause of distraction. But technology is available to prevent it including “do not disturb” modes, as well as apps and in-car systems that watch drivers to make sure they’re paying attention.

“All of this technology is available today, and there’s no reason we can’t use it and roll it out quickly,” Kiefer said.

Distracted driving deaths are related to America’s addiction to cell phones, said Kiefer, who started a foundation with the goal of ending distracted driving. He said 90% of people are aware of the danger of distracted driving, yet 80% admit to doing it. In 25 states with laws against hand-held cell phone use, traffic deaths, crashes and insurance rates have dropped, he said.

“We believe that legislation will change behavior,” Kiefer said.

Mitchel Kiefer was driving from home to Michigan State University on Interstate 96 when traffic slowed and his car was hit from behind by a driver who was distracted by her phone, Kiefer said. His car was knocked across the median and into oncoming traffic, where he was killed instantly.

The crash was not reported as involving a distracted driver, illustrating how distracted driving deaths are under-reported, Kiefer said.

Part of the increase in crash deaths is due to people driving more as the coronavirus pandemic waned. NHTSA reported that the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled increased 2.2% to 1.37 in 2021.

NHTSA also estimates that 2.5 million people were injured in crashes during 2021, up 9.4% from 2020.

The agency said it will release preliminary 2022 traffic death data in the coming weeks. NHTSA estimates that 31,785 people were killed in crashes from January through September last year, down 0.2% from the same period of 2021.

Officers ‘arrest’ alligator walking near Tampa Bay stadium

From the Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa police officers were called to a commercial part of town because of a disturbance, but it wasn’t a public brawl or anyone behaving in a disorderly manner. It was a 9-foot (2.7-meter) alligator Wednesday night ambling down a street not far from Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The urban gator whipped its tail several times when an officer first approached it, poking with an outstretched baton. A half dozen officers along with a crowd of spectators watched as lights from squad cars flashed on the blocked off street, according to bodycam video released by the Tampa Police Department.

The officer then fashioned a noose from a yellow rope and lassoed it around the top of the gator’s mouth.

“Ready?” one of the officers said. “You want to jump on him?”

And that’s what they did, as one officer went for the head with outstretched hands and another officer weighed down the rest of the alligator’s body. A third officer was recruited to help weigh the gator down.

The officer keeping the gator’s mouth shut asked his colleagues for a towel to cover its eyes and some duct tape to wrap its mouth. They also taped together the gator’s legs. “Behind his back, like you’re handcuffing him,” an officer said.

Phil Walters, an alligator trapper contracted with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Nuisance Alligator Program who was called in to assist the officers, said he was impressed with the job done by Tampa’s finest before he arrived at the scene.

“And they did a great job,” Walters told Tampa television station WFLA. “They had that thing taken care of for me.”

Minneapolis leaders approve agreement to revamp policing

By STEVE KARNOWSKI from the Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved an agreement with the state to revamp policing, nearly three years after a city officer killed George Floyd.

FILE – Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey answers a question during a press conference on July 20, 2022, at Currie Maintenance Facility in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis City Council on Friday, March 31, 2023, approved an agreement with the state to revamp policing, nearly three years after a city officer killed George Floyd. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP, File)

The state Department of Human Rights issued a blistering report last year that said the police department had engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade. City leaders subsequently agreed to negotiate a settlement with the agency.

The City Council approved the court-enforceable agreement Friday on an 11-0 vote, but not before several members expressed harsh criticism of the Minneapolis Police Department and other city leaders over the years.

“The lack of political will to take responsibility for MPD is why we are in this position today,” council member Robin Wonsley said. “This legal settlement formally and legally prevents city leadership from deferring that responsibility anymore. And I hope this settlement is a wake-up call for city leaders, who the public has watched rubber-stamp poor labor contracts, have signed off on endless misconduct settlements, and then shrugged their shoulders when residents asked then why we have a dysfunctional police department.”

The state agency launched its investigation shortly after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes, disregarding the Black man’s fading pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked mass protests that spread around the world. It forced a national reckoning on racial injustice and compelled the Minneapolis Police Department to begin an overhaul.

Chauvin was later convicted of murder. He and three other officers who were at the scene are now serving prison terms.

Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero signed the agreement after the council vote and were expected to brief reporters later Friday morning.

The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating whether Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination, and that investigation could lead to a separate consent decree with the city.

The state settlement, which still requires court approval, runs over 140 pages. It contains sections governing the use of force; stops, searches and arrests; the use of body-worn and dashboard cameras; training; officer wellness; responding to mental health and behavioral crises; and others. It also requires the appointment of an independent evaluator to monitor compliance.

Honolulu officials release investigation into ambulance fire

By AUDREY McAVOY from the Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — An investigation has found that an ambulance fire that killed a patient and critically injured a paramedic last year originated in a portable oxygen cylinder’s regulatory assembly, Honolulu officials said Wednesday.

Honolulu Emergency Medical Services hired Emergency Care Research Institute, an independent nonprofit organization based in Pennsylvania, to study the cause of the fire.

The investigator’s report said the exact cause could not be determined but contamination or particulates within the oxygen cylinder could have caused the fire.

The fire killed a 91-year-old patient being transported to a hospital. Emergency services said it continues to send its condolences to the family of the patient.

The fire also critically injured a Honolulu paramedic, who is still healing.

“Paramedic Jeff Wilkinson is recovering at home and we keep him in our thoughts,” EMS spokesperson Shayne Enright said in a statement.

The report said investigators quickly determined the fire originated from an oxygen source because of the widespread damage within the ambulance box. No other devices were being used when the fire began, the paramedic told investigators.

Investigators didn’t find any other readily identifiable ignition sources like faulty electronic equipment.

The report said oxygen regulator fires are rare but they have received the attention of government agencies and other organizations.

Police search for tiger stolen from home in northern Mexico

From the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Northern Mexico has developed such a habit of exotic animals and violence, that people not only keep tigers as pets, they steal them.

Prosecutors in the violent northern state of Sonora said Tuesday they are searching for a full-grown Bengal tiger named Baluma. They said the 5-year-old male tiger was stolen Monday from a home in the state capital, Hermosillo.

They said the owners had the proper paperwork needed to keep the animal.

Prosecutors distributed photos of the big cat resting in its cage alongside a dog, hoping residents will phone police if they see the tiger.

Mexico has long had a problem with people keeping — and occasionally losing control of — large cats, which are sometimes found at drug traffickers’ residences and are occasionally seen wandering loose.

Police: Nashville school shooting suspect was former student

By JONATHAN MATTISE and TRAVIS LOLLER from the Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities say they believe the 28-year-old female shooter who killed three children and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday was a former student.

Children from The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., hold hands as they are taken to a reunification site at the Woodmont Baptist Church after a deadly shooting at their school on Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Jonathan Mattise)

The violence at The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school for about 200 students from preschool through sixth grade, marks the latest in a series of mass shootings in a country growing increasingly unnerved by bloodshed in schools.

The suspect — who was wielding two “assault-style” rifles and a pistol — also died after being shot by police. Authorities said she was from the Nashville area. Her motive in the attack has not been determined.

The killings come as communities around the nation are reeling from a spate of school violence, including the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last year; a first grader who shot his teacher in Virginia; and a shooting last week in Denver that wounded two administrators.

President Joe Biden called on Congress again to pass his assault weapons ban in the wake of the Nashville shooting.

“It’s heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare,” he said.

First lady Jill Biden also spoke about the slayings on Monday.

“I am truly without words. And our children deserve better,” she said during a National League of Cities conference in Washington. “We stand – all of us, we stand – with Nashville in prayer.”

The tragedy unfolded over roughly 14 minutes. Police received the initial call about an active shooter at 10:13 a.m.

Officers began clearing the first story of the school when they heard gunshots coming from the second level, police spokesperson Don Aaron said during a news briefing.

Two officers from a five-member team opened fire in response, fatally shooting the suspect at 10:27 a.m., Aaron said. He said there were no police officers present or assigned to the school at the time of the shooting because it is a church-run school.

The Covenant School’s victims were pronounced dead at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. One officer had a hand wound from cut glass.

Other students walked to safety Monday, holding hands as they left their school surrounded by police cars, to a nearby church to be reunited with their parents.

“In a tragic morning, Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting,” Mayor John Cooper wrote on Twitter. “My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Our entire city stands with you.”

Jozen Reodica heard the police sirens and fire trucks blaring from outside her office building nearby. As her building was placed under lockdown, she took out her phone and recorded the chaos.

“I thought I would just see this on TV,” she said. “And right now, it’s real.”

On WTVF TV, reporter Hannah McDonald said that her mother-in-law works at the front desk at The Covenant School. The woman had stepped outside for a break Monday morning and was coming back when she heard gunshots, McDonald said during a live broadcast. The reporter said she has not been able to speak with her mother-in-law but said her husband had.

The Covenant School was founded as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in 2001, according to the school’s website. The school is located in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood just south of downtown Nashville, situated close to the city’s top universities and home to the famed Bluebird Café – a beloved spot for musicians and song writers.

The grade school has roughly 50 staff members. The school’s website features the motto “Shepherding Hearts, Empowering Minds, Celebrating Childhood.”

Top legislative leaders announced Monday that the GOP-dominant Statehouse would meet briefly later in the evening and delay taking up any legislation.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee said he was “closely monitoring” the situation, while Democratic state Rep. Bob Freeman, whose district includes The Covenant School, called Monday’s shooting an “unimaginable tragedy.”

“I live around the corner from Covenant and pass by it often. I have friends who attend both church and school there,” Freeman said in a statement. “I have also visited the church in the past. It tears my heart apart to see this.”

Nashville has seen its share of mass violence in recent years.

On Christmas Day 2020, a recreational vehicle was intentionally detonated in the heart of Music City’s historic downtown, killing the bomber, injuring three others and forcing more than 60 businesses to close.

A man shot and killed four people at a Nashville Waffle House in April 2018. He was sentenced in February 2022 to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In September 2017, a masked gunman opened fire at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, walking silently down the aisle as he shot unsuspecting congregants. One person was killed and seven others were wounded. The gunman was sentenced in 2019 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

NJ takes over Paterson police after crisis worker’s shooting

From the Associated Press

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s attorney general said Monday that his office has taken control of the police department in the state’s third-largest city, Paterson, less than a month after officers there fatally shot a well-known crisis intervention worker during a tense standoff.

Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a news release that his office had assumed control of all police functions without delay, including the division that investigates internal police matters. His announcement didn’t mention the shooting of 31-year-old Najee Seabrooks directly, but it reflected activists’ concerns about how the department was being run.

“Due to a number of events and concerns relating to the Paterson Police Department, there is a crisis of confidence in law enforcement in the City of Paterson,” Platkin said. “People throughout Paterson deserve a public safety system that protects and serves all members of its community.”

Isa Abbassi, a 25-year veteran of the New York Police Department currently serving as the chief of strategic initiatives there, will take charge of Paterson’s police department in May, Platkin said. In the meantime, a New Jersey State Police officer will service as the interim head of the department.

It isn’t clear how long the takeover will last. Platkin said the takeover is a first step in making the city safer and more just.

In addition to the takeover, he said he’s implementing a handful of other changes. They include a program that pairs a police officer with a mental health screener in an unmarked vehicle to respond to 911 calls about mental or behavioral health issues.

He also said the state will revamp its protocols statewide for dealing with people who have barricaded themselves in a room or building — as Seabrooks had done for more than five hours before he was killed. Platkin also formed a “working group” to study and make recommendations on interactions between police officers and violence intervention officers.

The standoff started about 8 a.m. March 3 when police were called to Seabrooks’ brother’s apartment where he had been holed up in the bathroom. Seabrooks, who was a crisis intervention worker and mentor with the nonprofit Paterson Healing Collective, had called 911 at least seven times and told dispatchers that people were threatening him and he needed immediate help.

Police arrived soon after and talked to him through the door, offering to get him water and calling him “love” in one instance. But the tension increased when he told police he was armed with a “pocket rocket” gun and a knife.

Police shot Seabrooks when he emerged from the bathroom with a knife, according to the attorney general’s office.

His death shook his co-workers, who were at the scene and texting with him, Seabrooks’ boss at the Paterson Healing Collective Liza Chowdhury said. She said Seabrooks had been texting with colleagues, asking to see them, but that police blocked the co-workers from entering the apartment.

In the weeks since his death, anti-violence advocates organized a vigil calling for a number of reforms, including the creation of a civilian review board. The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has called on the Justice Department to investigate the city’s police department, and the ACLU of New Jersey said the shooting shows the need to invest in non-law enforcement responses to mental health calls.

‘Scream as loud as you can’: 5 boys rescued from NYC tunnel

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Five mischievous boys had to be rescued after they crawled through a storm drain tunnel in New York City and got lost, authorities said.

In audio released by the fire department, 911 dispatchers work to pinpoint the boys’ exact location and then tell them to scream once rescuers are close enough to hear.

“Now you can scream as loud as you can,” a dispatcher says. “They want you to scream and yell.”

The five boys, aged 11 and 12, crawled into a storm drain on Staten Island at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, fire department officials said at a news conference Wednesday.

The boys walked about a quarter mile and then called 911 when they couldn’t find their way back, officials said.

“We’re stuck in the sewer,” one of the boys says on the recording. “You’re stuck where?” a dispatcher responds.

A second dispatcher says he is familiar with the area and tries to determine exactly where the boys are. “Once you went down, was the sewer left, right, straight — where was it?” the dispatcher asks. “I need you to guide me.”

When sirens can be heard, the dispatcher tells the boys to scream. At first the boys fear that the rescuers aren’t stopping.

“It sounded like they went past us,” one boy says.

The dispatcher assures the boys, “They’re not going anywhere, we’re going to get you out of there.”

Soon an emergency responder can be heard saying “We might have hands on the kids right now,” and then, “We have all five children removed from the sewer.”

Firefighters said the boys were in the tunnel for about an hour. The boys and one firefighter were taken to a hospital for evaluation, but none had significant injuries, officials said.

“Amazing that the cellphone worked in the tunnel,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens told reporters. “That was a key component of us finding them.”

Daunting recovery underway in tornado-devastated Mississippi


ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) — Help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the U.S. after a deadly tornado wrought a path of destruction in the Mississippi Delta, even as furious new storms Sunday struck Georgia, where two tigers briefly escaped their badly damaged safari park.

Damage is visible Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Rolling Fork, Miss., after a tornado ripped through the community. Emergency officials in Mississippi say several people have been killed by tornadoes that tore through the state on Friday night, destroying buildings and knocking out power as severe weather produced hail the size of golf balls moved through several southern states. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through several towns on its hour-long path late Friday. One man was killed in Alabama after his trailer home flipped over several times.

Search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through the debris of flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced.

Jarrod Kunze drove to the hard-hit town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, from his home in Alabama after hearing about the storm, ready to volunteer “in whatever capacity I’m needed.”

“The town is devastated,” Kunze said. “Everything I can see is in some state of destruction.”

Kunze was among several volunteers working Sunday morning at a staging area, where cases of bottled water and other supplies were being prepared for distribution.

“Sharkey County, Mississippi, is one of the poorest counties in the state of Mississippi, but we’re still resilient,” Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said Sunday. “I feel confident that we’re going to come back and build this community back bigger and better for our families and that’s what we’re hoping and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

“Continue to pray for us,” he added. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we certainly thank everybody for their prayers and for anything they will do or can do for this community.”

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi early Sunday, making federal funding available to the areas hardest hit.

The recovery efforts in Mississippi were underway even as the National Weather Service warned of a new risk of more severe weather Sunday — including high winds, large hail and possible tornadoes in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

A tornado reportedly touched down early Sunday in Troup County, Georgia, near the Alabama border, according to the Georgia Mutual Aid Group. Affected areas included the county seat of LaGrange, about 67 miles (about 108 kilometers) southwest of Atlanta.

“Many buildings damaged, people trapped,” the agency said on Facebook. In nearby West Point, roads, including Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris. “If you do not have to get on the roads this morning please do not travel.”

Two tigers “briefly escaped” early Sunday from their enclosures at Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia, after the park sustained extensive tornado damage, the park announced on its Facebook page. “THE TIGERS ARE SAFE!,” the park added. “Both have now been found, tranquilized, and safely returned to a secure enclosure.” It added that none of its employees or animals were hurt.

Following Biden’s declaration, federal funding can be used for recovery efforts in Mississippi’s Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties, including temporary housing, home repairs, loans covering uninsured property losses and other individual and business programs, the White House said in a statement.

The twister flattened entire blocks, obliterated houses, ripped a steeple off a church and toppled a municipal water tower.

Based on early data, the tornado received a preliminary EF-4 rating, the National Weather Service office in Jackson said late Saturday in a tweet. An EF-4 tornado has top wind gusts between 166 mph and 200 mph (265 kph and 320 kph), according to the service. The Jackson office cautioned it was still gathering information on the tornado.

The tornado devastated a swath of the town of Rolling Fork where 2,000 people live, reducing homes to piles of rubble and flipping cars on their sides. Other parts of the Deep South were digging out from damage caused by other suspected twisters. One man died in Morgan County, Alabama, the sheriff’s department there said in a tweet.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a briefing that 25 people were confirmed killed in Mississippi, 55 people were injured and 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. High winds, hail and strong storms were expected for parts of Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

“How anybody survived is unknown by me,” said Rodney Porter, who lives 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Rolling Fork. When the storm hit Friday night, he immediately drove there to assist. Porter arrived to find “total devastation” and said he smelled natural gas and heard people screaming for help in the dark.

“Houses are gone, houses stacked on top of houses with vehicles on top of that,” he said.

Annette Body, who drove to the hard-hit town of Silver City from nearby Belozi, said she was feeling “blessed” because her own home was not destroyed, but other people lost everything.

“Cried last night, cried this morning,” she said, looking around at flattened homes. “They said you need to take cover, but it happened so fast a lot of people didn’t even get a chance to take cover.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency and vowed to help rebuild as he viewed the damage in the region of wide expanses of cotton, corn and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds. He spoke with Biden, who also held a call with the state’s congressional delegation.

More than a half-dozen shelters were opened in Mississippi to house those who have been displaced.

Preliminary information based on estimates from storm reports and radar data indicate the tornado was on the ground for more than an hour and traversed at least 170 miles (274 kilometers), said Lance Perrilloux, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Jackson, Mississippi, office.

“That’s rare — very, very rare,” he said, attributing the long path to widespread atmospheric instability.

Perrilloux said preliminary findings showed the tornado began its path of destruction just southwest of Rolling Fork before continuing northeast toward the rural communities of Midnight and Silver City and onward toward Tchula, Black Hawk and Winona.

The supercell that produced the deadly twister also appeared to produce tornadoes causing damage in northwest and north-central Alabama, said Brian Squitieri, a severe storms forecaster with the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

In Georgia, Rachel McMahon awoke Sunday morning to news from her dad that the Troup County motel he’d been staying in was totally destroyed in the storm. She said her dad, who is disabled and has a hard time moving around, took shelter in the bathtub when the tornado hit.

He was badly shaken up, but not injured. She went to check on him and had to walk the last half-mile because of downed trees blocking the road.

“SO thankful my dad is ok,” she posted on Facebook, along with photos and videos of the damage: houses with gaping holes in their roofs, massive tree trunks snapped in half and powerlines dangling every which way.


Associated Press journalists Leah Willingham in Charleston, West Virginia; Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; Lea Skene in Baltimore; Jeff Martin in Woodstock, Georgia; Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

Nurses, paramedics reach pay deal to end England strikes

By BRIAN MELLEY from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Unions representing more than a million health care workers in England, including nurses and paramedics — but not doctors — reached a deal Thursday to resolve months of disruptive strikes for higher wages.

FILE – Junior doctors hold placards on a picket line outside St Mary’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, March 14, 2023. Unions representing hundreds of thousands of nurses, ambulance crews and other health care workers in England reached a deal Thursday, March 16, 2023, to resolve months of disruptive strikes for higher wages, though the pact didn’t include doctors. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

The announcement came as early-career physicians spent a third day on picket lines and the day after U.K. Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt announced a budget that included no additional money for labor groups that have staged crippling strikes amid a punishing cost-of-living crisis and double-digit inflation.

Any strike actions will be halted while rank-and-file members vote on whether to accept an offer of a lump sum payment for the current year and a 5% raise next year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was good deal for National Health Service staff who persevered through the pandemic along with patients and taxpayers. He encouraged other striking unions to come to the bargaining table.

“We don’t want disruption for patients, we don’t want disruption for schoolchildren in our classrooms,” Sunak said during a visit to a London hospital, where he met with nurses. “Today’s agreement demonstrates we are serious about this and we can find workable solutions.”

But the head of the Royal College of Nursing, one of at least five unions supporting the deal, said the pay offer would not have come if nurses hadn’t made the difficult decision to go on strike, forcing the government to negotiate.

“It is not a panacea, but it is real, tangible progress, and the RCN’s member leaders are asking fellow nursing staff to support what our negotiations have secured,” Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen said.

Unite, the largest trade union in the U.K. but with a smaller presence in the health care field, blasted the government for months of “dither and delay” that caused unnecessary pain to staff and patients and said it would would not recommend the deal but let workers vote on it.

“It is clear that this government does not hold the interest of workers or the NHS at heart,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said. “Their behavior and disdain for NHS workers and workers generally is clear from their actions. Britain has a broken economy and workers are paying the price.”

Unions argue that wages in the public sector have failed to keep pace with skyrocketing food and energy costs that have left many households struggling to pay their bills.

Inflation in the U.K. reached a 40-year high of 11.1% in October before dropping in January to 10.1%.

A wave of strikes by train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors and postal workers since last summer has created havoc for residents.

Firefighters, who canceled a planned strike, and London bus drivers recently reached deals to keep working. But many other professions remain locked in pay disputes. Tens of thousands of teachers, civil servants and workers on the capital’s subway system all walked off the job on Wednesday.

Some have criticized health care workers for jeopardizing lives, though ambulance crews said they responded to the most urgent calls and emergency rooms were staffed.

The health care workers, including midwives and physical therapists, had been in talks since they held what organizers said was the largest strike in the history of the country’s National Health Service last month.

The labor actions echo the economic unrest that has rippled across in France, including over the government’s plan to increase the retirement age.

The U.K.’s lackluster economy is likely to avoid a recession this year, though growth will still shrink. The International Monetary Fund last month said the country would be the only major economy to contract this year, performing even worse than sanctions-hit Russia.

It was not immediately clear where the funding for raises would come from because they weren’t in the budget Hunt announced Wednesday and The Department of Health and Social Care had recently claimed raises above 3.5% were unaffordable.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said they would look for cost savings and the funding would ultimately be up to the Treasury and would not come at the expense of patients.

If the Treasury doesn’t provide the additional money, the overburdened public health system could be forced for a second consecutive year to cut spending or positions, said Ben Zaranko of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, an independent think tank that analyzes U.K. government fiscal and economic policies.

“There must be a risk that the NHS is asked to make heroic efficiency savings to absorb these costs, struggles to do so, and instead has to be bailed out in 6 months or a year’s time,” Zaranko said. “That would hardly lend itself to sensible financial planning.”

A ratified deal with nurses and others will ease some of the pain on the state-funded public health system, which has been beset by winter viruses, staff shortages and backlogs from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deal only applies to workers in England because Scotland and Wales have semiautonomous governments in charge of health policy.

6 missing after Montreal building fire that included Airbnb

From the Associated Press

MONTREAL (AP) — Montreal’s mayor vowed Monday to tighten regulation of Airbnb as a search continued for six people missing after a fire swept through a building that included Airbnb units in a historic city section where they are banned.

Firefighters continue the search for victims Monday, March 20, 2023 at the scene of last week’s fire in Montreal. Montreal’s mayor is vowing to better regulate Airbnb in her city as the search continues for six people missing through a building that included Airbnb units in a historic city section where they are banned. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

Firefighters initially thought there was one person missing in the blaze Thursday in the eastern Canadian city. However, reports emerged later of illegal Airbnb units in the more than 130-year-old building, and authorities updated the missing over the weekend to seven, including some from the United States.

Montreal police reported pulling the body of a woman from the rubble Sunday evening.

Montreal police Inspector David Shane said the six who are still missing are from Quebec, Ontario and the U.S., adding that investigators have contacted their families. The fire also injured nine people, including two who were hospitalized.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the building included illegal Airbnb units as well as an architect’s office. Plante said Airbnb should have demanded that unit owners provide a permit number from the Quebec provincial government.

“What happened here is a complete tragedy,” Plante said. “Clearly, we would not be in this position if we had been dealing with a company that took its responsibilities seriously and said to these owners ‘You don’t have a certificate, you cannot rent your unit.’” And that would force people who want to act illegally and don’t pay taxes to not escape their responsibilities.”

Plante said she planned to work with the Quebec provincial government to tighten regulations on short-term rentals.

Firefighters have said several apartments in the building were being used as Airbnb rentals, and police they didn’t know how many of the missing were tourists. San Francisco-based Airbnb is “washing its hands” of the problem of illegal rentals in cities across Quebec, Plante said.

Nathan Rotman, Airbnb’s regional policy lead for Canada, said in a emailed statement: “We are assisting law enforcement as they investigate. We are also engaged with the mayor’s office.”

Alexandre Bergevin, a lawyer for the building’s owner — Emile-Haim Benamor — said on Sunday that Airbnb rentals in the building were not being operated by his client but by tenants, adding that steps had been taken to stop the practice.

Montreal fire operations chief Martin Guilbault said firefighters would begin dismantling the second and third floors of the building Monday.

Shane said the police force’s fire unit used a drone to help locate the body of the woman that was removed Sunday.

“The assumption is that there are six more people inside,” Shane said. “The different steps we’ve taken (suggest) these people who are still missing are probably in the rubble, unfortunately.”

City officials said Airbnb-style, short-term rentals are illegal in the Old Montreal neighborhood where the building is located. The fire took place at the Édifice William-Watson-Ogilvie, built in 1890, the city said.

Bergevin said in a text message Sunday that the alarm system had been replaced in 2019 and was regularly tested.

Shane said no one has been charged in connection with the fire and that the cause remains under investigation.

Cedar City Police Updates Camera System with New LensLock, Inc. Partnership

The Cedar City Council Approved 5-Year Deal Covers Body Camera Equipment for Officers, Dash Cameras for Vehicles and Fixed Cameras for Interview Rooms

“Lenslock offered a cohesive system for vehicle, body and interview room cameras, where footage is uploaded to cloud storage and easily accessible.”— Police Chief Darin Adams

CEDAR CITY, UTAH, UNITED STATES, March 20, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — The Cedar City Police Department announced a new rollout of LensLock’s police camera system following an exhaustive market evaluation. Ongoing challenges with their existing camera system prompted a “critically important” hardware and software upgrade. Police Chief Darin Adams submitted several bids to the Cedar City Council. With Adams’ input, the council ultimately selected LensLock citing strong field testing, an intuitive, cohesive system and easily accessible cloud storage.

“The devices offered by the company have tested well and appear to be user-friendly, Adams said. Additionally, Lenslock offered a cohesive system for vehicle, body and interview room cameras, where footage is uploaded to cloud storage and “easily accessible.” -Police Chief Darin Adams

The 5-year deal covers LensLock’s body cameraspolice dash cameras and fixed cameras as well as periodic hardware updates through the contract duration. In addition to the hardware rollout, LensLock’s digital evidence management system is included free, with customer support and cloud-based unlimited storage. Implementation is expected to start in the spring of 2023 beginning with officer body cameras, followed by in-car cameras for police cruisers.

About LensLock, Inc.
LensLock, Inc. is a privately held, law enforcement technology company specializing in body-worn and in-car dash cameras. As a Microsoft Azure Government Cloud partner, LensLock’s secure video cloud management solution is FBI CJIS-compliant, reliable, user-friendly, and affordable.

LensLock’s mission is to make the lives of law enforcement officers easier and safer. LensLock builds innovative, cost-effective technology solutions specifically designed for law enforcement agencies, and delivers best-in-class service each and every day.

Honolulu police officers charged after alleged crash coverup

By AUDREY McAVOY from the Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu prosecutors on Thursday filed charges against four police officers alleging a cover-up in connection with a high-speed car chase that they say resulted in a crash and a traumatic brain injury to the driver of another car.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said the charges are the result of an exhaustive investigation and review of the evidence.

“These charges demonstrate that it is important to seek justice even when those believed to have committed crimes are the very people we expect to uphold the law,” Alm said in a statement.

Prosecutors charged Officer Joshua Nahulu with a felony, saying he drove a vehicle involved in a collision resulting in serious bodily injury and failed to stop at the scene. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The prosecutor’s office charged Officers Erik Smith, Jake Bartolome and Robert Lewis each with one felony count for hindering prosecution and another felony count for conspiracy. The first charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, the second by up to one year.

Rick Sing, an attorney for Nahulu, declined to comment. Court records did not list attorneys for the other defendants.

The police officer’s union, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Court documents allege the events occurred in the early hours of Sept. 12, 2021. The four officers were dispatched to respond to a noise complaint at a Waianae beach park at 3:30 a.m. when they saw a white Honda exit the parking lot to Farrington Highway.

A civil lawsuit filed against the city and several officers last year by Jonaven Perkins-Sinapati and representatives of his passengers alleges Nahulu, Smith and Bartolome separately chased the Honda at high speeds using two marked Honolulu Police Department vehicles and one vehicle subsidized by police.

The lawsuit alleges the officers never commanded Perkins-Sinapati to stop during their pursuit nor did they turn on their blue lights and sirens. The lawsuit says the chase continued until the Honda “left the roadway and crashed, causing serious, life-threatening injuries.”

Nahulu, Smith and Bartolome drove past the crash scene without stopping and the trio then met with Lewis at nearby Waianae Intermediate School, prosecutors allege in court documents.

From the school, Smith, Bartolome and Lewis were dispatched to the crash site. But when they arrived, they claimed to have no prior knowledge of what led to the collision, the charging documents say.

The lawsuit filed seeks unspecified damages. The case is pending in Circuit Court in Honolulu.

Ukrainian firefighters on risky mission to save lives, homes

By MSTYSLAV CHERNOV and EVGENY MALOLETKA from the Associated Press

KOSTIANTYNIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — Thick grey smoke pours from the roof as the firefighters arrive at the brick house, one of several homes hit by Russian shelling in a residential neighborhood of Kostiantynivka.

A rescue worker speaks on the phone while his team puts out a fire in a house which was shelled by Russian forces at the residential neighbourhood in Kostiantynivka, Ukraine, Friday, March 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province has come under intense bombardment in recent days amid a Russian push to capture nearby Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces have held on during a grinding battle that started last summer.

Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces are attacking Kostiantynivka with cluster bombs and missiles. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk province, said one person was killed and at least three civilians wounded after several rounds of Russian shelling on Saturday.

An attack on the city a day earlier injured eight people and destroyed or damaged more than a dozen houses. The barrages have overwhelmed local firefighters, who take great risks putting out fires in buildings and cars even as the shelling continues.

The air is heavy with smoke and the sharp smell of explosives as the firefighters unfold a hose. They smash the windows of the brick house and spray water from the outside.

There are no people inside, but a dog is trapped in a cage in the backyard. A firefighter opens the gate and the dog runs out amid the smoke and debris.

The chief of the unit calls on his team to stop what they’re doing.

“Attention everyone. Air raid!” he shouts.

The firefighters take cover behind the house. They sit quietly as explosions go off in the near distance. One lights a cigarette.

It’s unclear whether the blasts are a new wave of attacks or secondary explosions caused by fires in the area. Either way, the explosions are getting too close, and the leader of the team orders everyone back to the truck.

As they run down the dirt road, another loud explosion rocks the neighborhood, sending a cloud of smoke toward the sky not far from the house they just left.

Texas Republicans propose state immigration police force

By ACACIA CORONADO from the Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Texas are proposing legislation that would make it a state felony to cross the border from Mexico illegally and create a new border police force that could deputize private citizens, the latest in the state’s continued push to test the limits of the federal government’s authority over immigration.

FILE – Officials take pictures along the U.S.-Mexico border, May 11, 2021, in Roma, Texas. Texas lawmakers are proposing laws that would make it a felony to cross the border from Mexico illegally and create a new border police force that could deputize private citizens in a continued push to test the limits of the federal government’s authority over immigration.(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, file)

Civil rights organizations, immigration advocates and Democrats immediately decried the proposals, which began drawing attention after Friday’s deadline for filing bills in Texas’ ongoing biennial legislative session.

“I think the underlying fact that it is going to allow people to question our being American in our border communities and across Texas is unacceptable,” said Texas state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, chairwoman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Since President Joe Biden took office, illegal crossings have soared. Many migrants have turned themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents and were released in the U.S. to pursue their cases in federal immigration court.

The Republican proposals in the Texas Legislature would continue pushing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s massive, $4 billion border mission known as Operation Lone Star. That has included the governor heavily increasing patrols near the border with Mexico, gridlocking traffic with increased commercial truck inspections, and building more barriers along the international boundary, echoing former President Donald Trump’s unfished campaign promise.

The effort also has included directing officers to detain migrants who trespass on private property and bused thousands of migrants to Democrat-led cities, including New York and Washington, D.C. The moves have put a spotlight on Abbott, who aides say is weighing a run for president.

Bills filed this session would allow a newly created unit of state police to arrest, detain and deter people crossing into Texas illegally, construct more and maintain existing barriers between Texas and Mexico and return immigrants to Mexico if they are seen crossing into Texas.

State border officers would serve at the direction of a chief, who would be appointed by the governor. According to a draft bill, which will have to pass reviews by both of the state’s Republican-controlled legislative chambers before the end of May, the chief will be able to employ licensed state and local police officers to serve on the border force, as well as “law-abiding citizens” without felony convictions.

Private citizens employed by the force would be allowed to participate in “unit operations and functions” and have the same criminal and civil liability immunity on the job as the licensed officers. But, they will not have arresting power, unless trained and authorized by the governor, according to the bill’s current form.

People arrested for crossing into Texas illegally would face up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines for each violation.

The proposal cites a U.S. constitutional clause on state powers when facing invasion and imminent danger and follows numerous calls from former Trump administration officials and sheriffs in several South Texas counties for Abbott to declare what they have called an “invasion” under this clause.

Neave Criado said language such as “invasion” matters and has been used by individuals such as the North Texas man who drove to El Paso and killed 23 people in a racially motivated rampage.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, said in a statement that “addressing our state’s border and humanitarian crisis” was a priority. Phelan said the proposed border police as well as a proposed Legislative Border Safety Oversight Committee, which would provide border safety policy recommendations and oversight to the new policing unit and work on issues in South Texas, were a “must-pass issue.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Civil rights organizations and state Democrats quickly denounced the legislation. The proposal also drew comparisons to a 2017 “ban on sanctuary cities” that allowed police to ask a person’s immigration status and threatened sheriffs and police chiefs with jail time if they refused to cooperate with federal authorities to enforce immigration law.

That proposal was signed into law and but was later challenged in court and is pending a resolution, according to Alexis Bay, legislative coordinator with the Beyond Borders at the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Bay said the powers and immunity that would be conveyed to private citizens serving on the proposed border force is unlike anything seen in recent Texas history.

“It is designed to create racial profiling,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told The Associated Press on Monday. “Something that is just horrendous.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.

Tensions at the border with Mexico remain high. Over the weekend, video showed hundreds of apparent Venezuelan migrants brush past Mexican National Guard members while trying to cross a bridge into El Paso, Texas, before being blocked by U.S. agents.

Authorities said Sunday that at least eight people were killed when two migrant smuggling boats capsized off the coast of San Diego in one of the deadliest maritime human smuggling operations ever off of U.S. shores.


WV law makes obstructing police, ‘causing death’ a felony

By JOHN RABY from the Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s governor on Monday signed a bill that makes interfering with a police officer and causing their death a felony punishable by up to life in prison.

The bill that passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature was named after Charleston Patrol Officer Cassie Johnson, who was fatally shot in December 2020 as she was responding to a parking complaint.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill in his reception room before Johnson’s family and two dozen Charleston police officers.

“Losing Cassie, it’s touched everybody’s heart,” Justice said.

The law, which is effective in June, calls for the same possible penalties as a murder conviction. The distinction is the bill doesn’t require the state to prove the traditional elements of murder, which include premeditation or malice.

The law comes in the midst of a national uproar over police brutality prompted by the fatal beating in January of Tyre Nichols by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee.

The bill did not explain what would constitute obstruction, although state code defines it as someone who threatens, or forcibly or illegally interferes with, impedes or hinders an officer acting in their official duties. It allows for parole after 15 years in prison. It also applies to probation, parole and corrections officers, as well as courthouse security, firefighters, emergency medical service workers and fire marshal employees.

Joshua Phillips, of Charleston, was sentenced last year to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder in Johnson’s death. He also got six more months for drug possession.

A resident had said that Phillips parked his sport utility vehicle on her property, according to a police complaint.

Johnson, 28, was worried about her safety because Phillips had pulled a gun, prevented Johnson from getting to her service revolver and struggled with her before shots were fired, prosecutors said.

Phillips fired six shots, according to testimony at the trial. Johnson was shot in the neck.

Large fire battled at industrial facility in North Carolina

From the Associated Press

DUDLEY, N.C. (AP) — Firefighters responded to a large-scale fire that engulfed at least 30 acres early Saturday at the National Salvage and Service Corp. industrial site in Dudley, North Carolina.

Stacks of railroad ties are engulfed at the 30-acre site of the fire at the National Salvage yard on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 in Wayne County, N.C. The Wayne County sheriff’s office says no injuries have been reported, and no evacuations have taken place in the area. (Aviel Smolka/The Goldsboro News-Argus via AP)

The Goldsboro News-Argus reports that firefighters from 23 departments responded to the fire, which was first reported at about 1:27 a.m.

“The caller said when they saw it, it was three stories high,” said Joel Gillie, Wayne County spokesman.

No injuries were reported but two homes off Genoa Road, in the vicinity of the fire, were evacuated to ensure the safety of residents.

“We ended up evacuating two homes just out of precaution,” he said.

The cause of the fire is unknown pending an investigation, Gillie said.

“We’re waiting to hear on that,” said Tim Rushenberg, spokesman for National Salvage and Service Corp., which recycles railroad ties at the site. “We want to know what happened as much as anyone else.”

The company, which employs a staff of four at the Dudley site, recycles railroad ties in coordination with railroad companies, including CSX, which operates the railroad near the industrial site.

New Zealand declares emergency as Cyclone Gabrielle eases

From the Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday after Cyclone Gabrielle battered the country’s north in what officials described as the nation’s most severe weather event in years.

People move away from flood water in Hastings, southeast of Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. The New Zealand government declared a state of emergency across the country’s North Island, which has been battered by Cyclone Gabrielle. (Paul Taylor /Hawkes Bay Today via AP)

A firefighter was missing and another was rescued with critical injuries after they were caught in a landslide overnight near the country’s largest city, Auckland, authorities said.

Auckland was swamped two weeks ago by a record-breaking storm that killed four people.

The national emergency declaration enables the government to support affected regions and provide additional resources, the government said. It is only the third national emergency ever declared.

The country was lashed by intense rainfall overnight that forced evacuations of 2,500 people and brought widespread flooding, road closures including the main route between Auckland and the capital Wellington, and left communities isolated and without telecommunications.

Weather conditions eased Tuesday as the weather system tracked southeast over ocean away from New Zealand, a nation of 5 million people.

But 225,000 homes and businesses remained without power and people were continuing to be evacuated, emergency services reported.

The power grid had not experienced such damage since 1988, when Cyclone Bola became one of the most destructive storms to ever hit New Zealand, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Hipkins could not yet say how the scale of the latest destruction compared to Cyclone Bola.

“Certainly, the reports that we’ve had is that it’s the most extreme weather event that we’ve experienced in a very long time,” Hipkins told reporters in Wellington. “In the fullness of time, we’ll know how it compares with Cyclone Bola.”

Hipkins said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had phoned offering his country’s support and assistance. The Australian government also said New Zealand’s near-neighbor was ready to provide support where and if needed, Hipkins said.

The national state of emergency includes six regions where local emergencies had already been declared. They are Auckland, as well as the regions of Northland, Tairawhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay.

A weather station in the Hawke’s Bay and Napier region recorded three times more rain overnight than usually falls for the entire month of February, MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said.

“It’s going to be wet, sodden devastation around there,” Ferris said. “We’ve seen the worst of the storm now. We’ve just got to get through today.”

Hipkins said the military was already on the ground on the hardest-hit northern reaches of the North Island helping with evacuations and keeping essential supplies moving.

“I want to acknowledge the situation New Zealanders have been waking up to this morning,” Hipkins told reporters. “A lot of families displaced. A lot of homes without power. Extensive damage done across the country.”

“It will take us a wee while to get a handle on exactly what’s happened and, in due course, helping with the clean-up when we get to that point,” Hipkins added.

Much of Auckland ground to a halt Monday as train services were canceled, libraries and most schools were closed, and authorities asked people to make only essential trips.

Air New Zealand canceled all domestic flights to and from Auckland through Tuesday morning, as well as many international flights.

International and domestic flights had resumed Tuesday afternoon at Auckland Airport, but disruptions and delays were expected for the next few days, Hipkins said.


This story corrects the scope of New Zealand’s emergency declaration. It was nationwide, not just for North Island.

Trikke Positron Set to Make Global Debut at International Police Summit

From the Associated Press

The mobility vehicle offers several advantages over traditional forms of patrolling.

“Our vehicles offer law enforcement a mobility solution that bridges the gap between traditional squad cars and foot patrol.”— Gildo Beleski, CEO

BUELLTON, CA, UNITED STATES, February 15, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — Trikke, the industry leader in reliable alternative transportation for law enforcement agencies, is thrilled to be an exhibitor at the World Police Summit, the self-described “world’s largest convention for policing and law enforcement officials,” from March 7-9, 2023, at the World Trade Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The summit will include over 200 speakers, 250 exhibitors, and more than 15,000 attendees who will explore emerging technologies and cutting-edge solutions designed to redefine the future of policing.

“Visitors will meet the best electric personal patrol vehicle in its category,” said Gildo Beleski, Trikke CEO and Chief Engineer. “Our flagship model, the Positron 72V Elite, has speeds of up to 44 mph, and can go as far as 35 miles on a single charge.”

Trikke has been a frequent exhibitor at law enforcement and security-related shows, including the annual gatherings of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs Association, and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. However, this will be the company’s first foray into a trade show on the world stage.

“We hope to expose our products and technology to quite a different market,” said Beleski. “Also, we want to establish commercial partnerships with local representatives and learn how we can customize our vehicles to their needs.”

Trikke Professional Vehicles are prevalent in the United States, but recently, the UAE Armed Forces obtained a fleet of Positrons. Additionally, the Dubai World Trade Centre — the home of the summit — deploys the Trikke Defender for its security patrols.

“Our vehicles offer law enforcement a mobility solution that bridges the gap between traditional squad cars and foot patrol,” said Beleski. “The Positron can navigate sidewalks, streets, parking garages, and hallways, and allows for a quicker response time than cars in congested areas.”

To learn more about Trikke Electric Patrol Vehicles, click here.

About Trikke Professional Mobility

Trikke Professional Mobility is a US-based manufacturer and distributor of rugged professional-grade personal patrol vehicles with all-wheel-drive and a proprietary cambering design for efficiently moving around large campuses, congested areas, and public events. Trikke vehicles are quiet and ergonomic, with high-torque electric motors and heavy-duty construction. The frame folds flat for easy deployment and storage in a small footprint, and the lithium-ion battery can be swapped out for quick recharging. These vehicles are designed for around-the-clock operations and are currently in use by many police departments around the US. Trikke leads the law enforcement industry in reliable alternative transportation.

Ana Lucia Darace
Trikke Professional Mobility

Arrest made in stolen yacht rescue, ‘Goonies’ fish incident

By GENE JOHNSON and RIO YAMAT from the Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — A stolen yacht. A dramatic Coast Guard rescue. A dead fish. And the famed home featured in the classic 1985 film “The Goonies.”

In this photo provided by the U.S Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, Coast Guard personnel help carry a swimmer from a rescue helicopter after he was rescued from the mouth of the Columbia River after his boat was capsized by a giant wave on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, at Coast Guard Base Astoria, Ore. A newly minted Coast Guard rescue swimmer saved the man’s life at the mouth of the river between Oregon and Washington state. (AET1 Kyle Turcotte/U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest via AP)

Combined, Oregon police called it a series of “really odd” events along the Pacific Northwest coast spanning 48 hours that concluded Friday night with the arrest of a Canadian man.

Jericho Wolf Labonte, 35, of Victoria, British Columbia, was taken into custody in the northwestern Oregon resort town of Seaside, police said in a news release.

He’d been pulled from the ocean hours earlier by a Coast Guard swimmer, just after the yacht he was piloting capsized amid high waves. He was briefly hospitalized for mild hypothermia.

Labonte was discharged before authorities in nearby Astoria, Oregon, saw the rescue video and said they recognized him as the same person who covered over security cameras at the “Goonies” house and left the fish on the porch.

Police in Seaside, about 17 miles south of Astoria, said they found Labonte on Friday evening at a homeless shelter where he was staying “under an alias,” and arrested him on charges of theft, criminal mischief, endangering another person and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

He’s also wanted in Canada for “other cases,” Seaside police said.

It wasn’t immediately clear Sunday whether Labonte had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

“It’s been a really odd 48 hours,” Astoria Police Chief Stacy Kelly said Friday.

Police had been looking for Labonte since Wednesday, when an acquaintance alerted them to a video Labonte posted on social media of himself leaving a dead fish at the “Goonies” house and dancing around the property, Kelly said. The Victorian home was recently sold to a fan of the film, after being listed for $1.7 million.

Friday afternoon, before Labonte’s arrest, the Coast Guard shared stunning video of the rescue by Petty Officer 1st Class Branch Walton, a newly minted rescue swimmer from Greenville, South Carolina.

The 35-foot (11-meter) yacht had been reported stolen by its owner Friday afternoon. As the swimmer approached, a large wave slammed into the vessel, rolling it over and throwing a man, later identified as Labonte, into the water.

The mouth of the Columbia, the largest North American river flowing into the Pacific Ocean, is known as “the graveyard of the Pacific” for its notoriously rough seas.


New Zealand police find 3.5 tons of cocaine in Pacific Ocean

By NICK PERRY for the Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand police said Wednesday they found more than 3 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate.

In this undated photo supplied by the New Zealand police, a shipment of cocaine floats on the surface of the Pacific Ocean with Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui behind. New Zealand police said Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 they found more than 3 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate. (NZ Police via AP)

While they had yet to make any arrests, police said they had dealt a financial blow to everyone from the South American producers of the drugs through to the distributors in what was the nation’s largest-ever drug seizure.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the cocaine had been dropped at a floating transit point in 81 bales before it was intercepted by a navy ship, which was deployed to the area last week. The ship then made the six-day trip back to New Zealand, where the drugs were being documented and destroyed.

Coster said the wholesale value of the 3.2 tonnes (3.5 tons) of cocaine was about 500 million New Zealand dollars ($316 million) and it was likely destined for Australia.

“We believe there was enough cocaine to service the Australian market for about one year, and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years,” Coster said.

He said police, customs and the military found the drugs after launching Operation Hydros in December in collaboration with international partner agencies to identify and monitor the movements of suspicious vessels.

Coster said they were continuing to investigate the case with other international agencies.

Bill Perry, the acting comptroller of the New Zealand Customs Service, said the haul illustrated the lengths that organized syndicates were going to in order to smuggle drugs in the South Pacific.

“We see perhaps this is just an indication that the transnational organized crime groups are testing the market in different ways, so as agencies, we need to collaborate,” Perry said.

Amid soaring crime, Memphis cops lowered the bar for hiring


Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Memphis, Tenn., Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in advance of the release of police body cam video showing Tyre Nichols being beaten by Memphis police officers. Nichols later died as a result of the incident. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Memphis, Tenn., Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in advance of the release of police body cam video showing Tyre Nichols being beaten by Memphis police officers. Nichols later died as a result of the incident. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Beyond the beating, kicking, cursing and pepper spraying, the video of Tyre Nichols’ deadly arrest at the hands of young Memphis police officers is just as notable for what’s missing — any experienced supervisors showing up to stop them.

That points to a dangerous confluence of trends that Memphis’ police chief acknowledged have dogged the department as the city became one of the nation’s murder hotspots: a chronic shortage of officers, especially supervisors, increasing numbers of police quitting and a struggle to bring in qualified recruits.

Former Memphis police recruiters told The Associated Press of a growing desperation to fill hundreds of slots in recent years that drove the department to increase incentives and lower its standards.

“They would allow just pretty much anybody to be a police officer because they just want these numbers,” said Alvin Davis, a former lieutenant in charge of recruiting before he retired last year out of frustration. “They’re not ready for it.”

The department offered new recruits $15,000 signing bonuses and $10,000 relocation allowances while phasing out requirements to have either college credits, military service or previous police work. All that’s now required is two years’ work experience — any work experience. The department also sought state waivers to hire applicants with criminal records. And the police academy even dropped timing requirements on physical fitness drills and removed running entirely because too many people were failing.

“I asked them what made you want to be the police and they’ll be honest — they’ll tell you it’s strictly about the money,” Davis said, adding that many recruits would ask the minimum time they would actually have to serve to keep the bonus money. “It’s not a career for them like it was to us. It’s just a job.”

Another former patrol officer-turned-recruiter who recently left the department told the AP that in addition to drawing from other law enforcement agencies and college campuses, recruits were increasingly coming from jobs at the McDonald’s and Dunkin’ drive-thrus.

In one case, a stripper submitted an application. And even though she didn’t get hired, it reinforced the message that “anyone can get this job. You could have any type of experience and be the police.”

“There were red flags,” said the former recruiter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel and hiring. “But we’re so far down the pyramid nobody really hears the little person.”

Many young officers, before ever walking a beat with more experienced colleagues, found themselves thrust into specialized units like the now-disbanded SCORPION high-crime strike force involved in Nichols’ arrest. Their lack of experience was shocking to veterans, who said some young officers who transfer back to patrol don’t even know how to write a traffic ticket or respond to a domestic call.

“They don’t know a felony from a misdemeanor,” Davis said. “They don’t even know right from wrong yet.”

Memphis police did not respond to requests for comment about their hiring standards.

Of the five SCORPION team officers now charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ Jan. 7 beating, two had only a couple of years on the force and none had more than six years’ experience.

One of the officers, Emmitt Martin III, 30, a former tight end on the Bethel University football team, appeared to have had at least one arrest, according to files from the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission, a state oversight agency. But the date and details of the case were blacked out.

The section for arrests in the agency’s file for another officer, Demetrius Haley, 30, who worked at a Shelby County Corrections facility before joining the force, was also redacted from the state records. Haley was sued for allegedly beating an inmate there, which he denied, and the case was dismissed because papers had not been properly served.

“If you lower standards, you can predict that you’re going to have problems because we’re recruiting from the human race,” said Ronal Serpas, the former head of the police in Nashville and New Orleans and the Washington State Patrol. “There’s such a small number of people who want to do this and an infinitesimally smaller number of people we actually want doing this.”

Memphis, in many ways, stands as a microcosm of the myriad crises facing American policing. Departments from Seattle to New Orleans are struggling to fill their ranks with qualified officers amid a national movement of mounting scrutiny and calls for reform in the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

Boosting staffing was a major goal of Memphis police Director Cerelyn Davis when she took over in June 2021, with her department announcing it was aiming to increase staff from 2,100 to 2,500, close to the size of the force a decade ago. Instead, the police ranks have dropped to 1,939 officers — like the city, majority Black — even as the population has increased and the number of homicides topped 300 in each of the past two years.

A big part of the reason for the dwindling ranks is that more than 1,350 officers either resigned or retired over the past decade — more than 300 in the last two years alone.

In an interview with the AP last week, Davis said a lack of supervisors was a particular concern, noting that 125 new supervisor slots have been approved by the city but still not filled.

Davis said the department is investigating, among other things, why a supervisor failed to respond to Nichols’ arrest despite department policy that requires a ranking officer when pepper spray or a stun gun has been deployed.

“If that had happened somebody could have been there to intercept what happened,” Davis said.

“Culture eats policy for lunch in police departments,” she added. “If you don’t have the checks and balances you will have problems.”

Michael Williams, former head of the Memphis Police Association, the officers’ union, said strict supervision is essential, especially for the specialized teams like SCORPION.

“Why would you have an elite task force that you know is designed for aggressive policing and you don’t cover your bases? They may have to shoot someone. They may have to kick someone’s door down. They may have to physically restrain someone,” Williams said. “You should have experienced people around to restrain them and keep them from going down a dark path.”

Longtime observers of the Memphis police say this is not the first moment of reckoning for a department with a history of civil rights abuses.

After the 2015 death of Darrius Stewart, a 19-year-old Black man fatally shot by a white police officer, activists and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, called on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a “pattern or practice” investigation of civil rights violations in the department. Such inquiries often result in sweeping reforms, including staffing and training overhauls.

Carlos Moore, an attorney for Stewart’s family, warned the Justice Department at the time of a deadly trend that preceded Stewart’s death. “There have been over 24 suspicious killings of civilians by officers of the Memphis Police Department since 2009,” he wrote in a 2015 letter obtained by AP, “and not one officer has been indicted for killing unarmed, largely Black young men.”

The Justice Department decided not to open such an inquiry for reasons it didn’t explain at the time, and it declined to comment this week.

“The Department of Justice missed a golden opportunity to properly investigate the Memphis Police Department,” Moore said in an interview. “It was just as corrupt then as it is now.”

Thaddeus Johnson, a former Memphis police officer who is now a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University, said the missed chance for federal intervention allowed the problems of the department — soaring crime, community distrust and chronic understaffing — to fester until they exploded.

“A deadly brew came together,” he said. “But that same mixture is in many other places, too, where the bubble just hasn’t burst yet.”


Condon and Mustian reported from New York. News researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed.

Police chief of Huntington, WVa resigns, citing family

From the Associated Press

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — The police chief in Huntington, West Virginia, has resigned after a little more than a year on the job, the mayor announced Monday.

Mayor Steve Williams said Karl Colder resigned for undisclosed family reasons.

“Out of respect to him and his family, I will have no further comment,” Williams said.

Williams said Deputy Police Chief Phil Watkins has been promoted to police chief. His appointment will go before the City Council on Feb. 13. Watkins would be the Ohio River community’s third police chief in less than three years. Ray Cornwell served as police chief from April 2020 until his retirement in July 2021.

Colder became Huntington’s first Black police chief in November 2021. Before that he had a 32-year career with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

Powerful quake rocks Turkey and Syria, kills more than 2,500


ADANA, Turkey (AP) — A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, killing more than 2,500 people and injuring thousands more as it toppled thousands of buildings and trapped residents under mounds of rubble.

A man carries the body of an earthquake victim in the Besnia village near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful earthquake has caused significant damage in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared. Damage was reported across several Turkish provinces, and rescue teams were being sent from around the country. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

Authorities feared the death toll would keep climbing as rescuers searched through tangles of metal and concrete for survivors in a region beset by more than a decade of Syria’s civil war and a refugee crisis.

Residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside in the rain and snow to escape falling debris, while those who were trapped cried for help. Throughout the day, major aftershocks rattled the region, including a jolt nearly as strong as the initial quake. After night fell, workers were still sawing away slabs and still pulling out bodies as desperate families waited for news on trapped loved ones.

“My grandson is 1 1/2 years old. Please help them, please. We can’t hear them or get any news from them since morning. Please, they were on the 12th floor,” Imran Bahur wept by her destroyed apartment building in the Turkish city of Adana. Her daughter and family were still not found.

Tens of thousands who were left homeless in Turkey and Syria faced a night in the cold. In Turkey’s Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicenter, people took refuge in shopping malls, stadiums and community centers. Mosques around the region were opened to provide shelter.

The quake, which was centered on Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said such a disaster could hit “once in a hundred years.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said official do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise.

The quake piled more misery on a region that has seen tremendous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the area affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.

In the rebel-held enclave, hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the White Helmets, said in a statement. The area is packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments.

Strained health facilities quickly filled with injured, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organization.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles). Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude one struck more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

The second jolt in the afternoon caused a multistory apartment building to topple face-forward onto the street in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa. The structure disintegrated into rubble and raised a cloud of dust as bystanders screamed, according to video of the scene.

Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast.

In Turkey alone, more than 3,700 buildings were destroyed, authorities said. Hospitals were damaged, and one collapsed in the Turkish city of Iskenderun.

Bitterly cold temperatures could reduce the time frame that rescuers have to save trapped survivors, said Dr. Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University. He added that the difficulty of working in areas beset by civil war would only complicate rescue efforts.

Offers of help — from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money — poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO. The vast majority were for Turkey, with Russian and even an Israeli promise of help to the Syrian government, but it was not clear if any would go to the devastated rebel-held pocket in the northwest.

The Syrian opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the enclave as “disastrous.”

The opposition-held area, centered on the province of Idlib, has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes. The territory depends on a flow of aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

At a hospital in Idlib, Osama Abdel Hamid said most of his neighbors died. He said their shared four-story building collapsed just as he, his wife and three children ran toward the exit. A wooden door fell on them and acted as a shield.

“God gave me a new lease on life,” he said.

In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were brought to a hospital.

Television stations in Turkey aired screens split into four or five, showing live coverage from rescue efforts in the worst-hit provinces. In the city of Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble, and one could be seen lying on a stretcher on the snowy ground.

In Adana, 20 or so people, some in emergency rescue jackets, used power saws atop the cement mountain of a collapsed building to saw out space for any survivors to climb out or be rescued.

“I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble of another building in Adana earlier in the day, as rescue workers tried to reach him, said a resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavuz.

In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household belongings and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while excavators dug through the rubble below.

More than 1,600 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with more than 11,000 injured, according to Turkish authorities. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to over 539 people, with some 1,300 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In the country’s rebel-held northwest, groups that operate there said the death toll was at least 380, with many hundreds injured.

Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by telephone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”


Alsayed reported from Azmarin, Syria, while Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Bassem Mroue and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut, and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Albuquerque police tweets slammed by some as intimidation

From the Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Albuquerque Police Department is making no apologies for official tweets that have been criticized by some, including city officials, as inappropriate.

The department’s Twitter account has been questioned over biting responses such as “Calling out your b.s. is public service” and “You only complain and never offer solutions,” KOAT-TV reported Thursday.

Most of the tweets were in response to Doug Peterson, whose company is considered the largest landlord in the city. He recently took to Twitter to complain about crime and homelessness in downtown.

Police Chief Harold Medina said the department will “push back” on social media when it comes to people spreading misinformation and cyberbullying.

He told the broadcaster that although some of the tweets might not be in line with the city’s policy, others “bluntly point out differences.”

“And I’m okay with that,” he said.

Two city councilors who also are former police officers want the tweets toned down.

“The department thinks that harassing and intimidating people is community policing; they’re on the wrong path,” City Councilor Louie Sanchez said.

Peterson, the landlord, says he wasn’t trying to attack the police, just the policies of the mayor and police chief.

“I have supported APD, and I still support APD very much,” he said.

One tweet that generated controversy came in July after the death of a 15-year-old boy caught in a SWAT standoff in a home that later caught fire. Some used Twitter to blame the police for the boy’s “murder.” In response, the department account tweeted: “didn’t know a fire could murder someone.”

In that case, Medina said he told department spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos to take a different tone. But Medina continues to stand behind tweets that respond to seeming inaccuracies.

Mayor Tim Keller also echoed that sentiment.

“APD has its own social media policy,” his office said in a statement. “We support their efforts to pushback on misinformation on social media.”

The embattled department is in the middle of revamping its use-of-force policies under approval of the U.S. Department of Justice. Officers will begin training on the new policies over the next quarter, according to authorities.

The goal of city leaders is to see a decrease in officer-involved shootings. There were 18 shootings by Albuquerque police officers last year and 10 of them were fatal. That number caused Department of Justice attorneys and community stakeholders to raise concerns at a federal court hearing in December.

DMI is set to showcase its digital solutions at the World Police Summit in Dubai

Hosted by Dubai Police between March 7 – 9 2023 at the Dubai World Trade Center, UAE

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA, January 31, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — Digital Mobility Inc. (DMI), a Canadian public safety software company is proud to announce its attendance at the World Police Summit between March 7-9, 2023 in Dubai, UAE, hosted by Dubai Police.

World Police Summit

At the summit, DMI will showcase its extensive suite of digital solutions developed for law enforcement agencies. Including its flagship product Intelligent Mobile Patrol ® (IMP) eNotes solution which is making a significant impact in the digitalization of Police work in Canada.

Visitors at the World Police Summit in Dubai are invited to visit DMI at Stand 7B11.

About Digital Mobility Inc.
The Toronto-based company Digital Mobility Inc. (DMI) specializes in eNotes and public safety ICT solutions.
An agile business that prioritizes its clients and is driven to offer solutions that are sustainable, scalable, and reasonably priced.

The digital solutions by DMI are created in collaboration with active and retired law enforcement personnel as well as other public safety professionals to achieve time-saving efficiencies through enhanced workflow, service integration, quick access to data, and workload reduction. Not only frontline staff members but also internal and external stakeholders would gain from these.

About World Police Summit
The World Police Summit is the platform where the security industry can engage with global trends impacting policing and law enforcement and address the challenges and futuristic trends around crime prevention, forensic science, anti-narcotics, police innovation and drones.

The World Police Summit Exhibition is a unique global law enforcement marketplace brimming with cutting-edge policing and security technologies, services and solutions.

The Exhibition and Conference will provide an unrivalled opportunity to explore the latest thinking, innovative products and technological advances across the global security industry.


Amir A.
Digital Mobility Inc.

Fully clothed bathing burglar found in Seattle bathroom

From the Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — A man suspected of breaking into a Seattle home has refused to come clean about his intentions, even though police found him fully clothed in a bathtub filled with water.

A woman returned to her home Friday night to find a window smashed and an unknown man inside the house, according to the Seattle Police Department.

She remained outside the home and called police. Upon their arrival, officers instructed anyone inside to come out. When they got no reply, they went in to search the home — and found a suspect in a bathroom.

“The man was clothed but very wet, and the bathtub was full of water,” police said in a statement.

The 27-year-old man was arrested for residential burglary and refused to explain his actions, including his choice of a bathing spot, police said.

Firefighters put out flaming breakfast at their own station

From the Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The smoke was coming from inside the fire station.

Firefighters in suburban Atlanta returned from a call Sunday to find their own breakfast was in flames.

The Times of Gainesville reports that a Hall County fire crew accidentally left the stove on when they left the station to respond to a house fire on Sunday morning.

Other firefighters returned to the Flowery Branch station to find smoke and a small fire.

Fire officials say the stove’s fire suppression system put out the blaze while firefighters tried to grab a fire extinguisher.

The stove was lightly damaged, while no one was injured.

Obnoxiously loud car? A traffic camera might be listening

By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN for the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — After the relative quiet of the pandemic, New York City has come roaring back. Just listen: Jackhammers. Honking cars and trucks. Rumbling subway trains. Sirens. Shouting.

Cars drive through Manhattan on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in New York. After the relative quiet of the pandemic, New York City has come roaring back. Just listen: Jackhammers disrupt the peace and fleets of honking cars, trucks and buses again clog thoroughfares as millions of denizens return to the streets — their voices and clacking heels adding to the ear-splitting din. In one of the world’s noisiest cities, the cacophony has returned louder than ever. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Over the years, there have been numerous efforts to quiet the cacophony. One of the latest: traffic cameras equipped with sound meters capable of identifying souped-up cars and motorbikes emitting an illegal amount of street noise.

At least 71 drivers have gotten tickets so far for violating noise rules during a yearlong pilot program of the system. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection now has plans to expand the use of the roadside sound meters.

“Vehicles with illegally modified mufflers and tailpipes that emit extremely loud noise have been a growing problem in recent years,” said City Council member Erik Bottcher, who heralded the arrival of the radars to his district to help reduce “obnoxious” noise.

New York City already has one of the most extensive noise ordinances in the country, setting allowable levels for a host of noisemakers, such as jackhammers and vehicles.

A state law known as the Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution Act, or the SLEEP Act, that went into effect last spring raised fines for illegal modifications of mufflers and exhaust systems.

Because police officers often have other priorities, offenders have gone their merry, noisy way. The new devices record the license plates of offenders, much like how speedsters are nabbed by roadside cameras. Vehicle owners face fines of $800 for a first noise offense and a penalty of $2,625 if they ignore a third-offense hearing.

City officials declined to reveal where the radars are currently perched.

A year ago, Paris, one of Europe’s noisier cities, installed similar equipment along some streets.

Evidence is clear that noise affects not only hearing but mood and mental health, not to mention possible links to heightened risks of heart disease and elevated blood pressure.

“You listen to the noise out there, it is nonstop — the horns, the trucks, the sirens,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams bemoaned during a recent press conference that blamed an expressway for noise and illness. “Noise pollution makes it hard to sleep and increases the risk of chronic disease.”

Nearly a decade ago, one of Adams’ predecessors, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, launched a war on noise, releasing 45 pages of rules that covered chiming ice cream trucks and how long a canine can continuously yap (five minutes during the wee hours of the night, 10 during most of the day) before its owner gets in the doghouse.

In 1905, the New York Times had declared the metropolis “a bonfire of sound that is rapidly spreading beyond control of any ordinary extinguisher.” The article asked: “Is there any relief possible?”

A global pandemic more than a century later answered that question. For a few months in the spring of 2020, the roar of vehicles on city streets stopped as people stayed in their homes.

The silence allowed people to hear birdsong again — though it was often interrupted by wailing ambulance sirens and, at night, bursts of illegal fireworks.

“As quiet as it was during the lockdown, it was a very uncomfortable quiet. It was a scary quiet because it carried a lot of implications with it,” said Juan Pablo Bello, the lead investigator of Sounds of New York City, or SONYC, a New York University endeavor to study urban noise.

Bello and his team initially hoped to collect data on the dissonance of routine urban life but the coronavirus intervened. Instead, they monitored the acoustical rhythms of a city under lockdown.

The number of noise complaints actually grew during the pandemic, but some experts say that was a symptom of homebound people becoming hypersensitive to their uneasy environments.

Complaints over noisy neighbors nearly doubled in the first year of the pandemic. Many other complaints were attributed to cars and motorcycles with modified mufflers.

Still, some people say efforts to quiet loud vehicles go too far. Phillip Franklin, a 30-year-old Bronx car enthusiast, launched an online petition to protest the state’s noise law.

“The majority of us live here in New York City, where noise is a part of our daily lives,” said his petition, which asserted that quiet vehicles pose dangers to inattentive pedestrians.

“Fixing potholes is a lot more important than going after noisy cars,” Franklin said in an interview.

Loud noise, hitting 120 decibels, can cause immediate harm to one’s ears, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even prolonged noise above 70 decibels can eventually damage hearing. A roaring motorcycle is about 95 decibels.

Firms specializing in architectural acoustics have multiplied. Designing new buildings or retrofitting old ones with anti-noise technology is now a booming business.

At the Manhattan offices of the environmental engineering firm AKRF, the company has what it calls the “PinDrop” room — suggesting a space so quiet you might hear a pin drop — that has an audio system that simulates the erratic symphony of sounds that the city’s denizens must endure.

While architectural drawings might render the use of space, acoustical renderings depict how sound and noise might fill a space.

“So if it’s for sleeping, we want you to be able to sleep. If it’s for listening, we want you to be able to hear,” said AKRF acoustical consultant Nathaniel Fletcher.

Even with sound barriers, tight-fitting windows and noise-dampening insulation, there’s only so much that can be done about the racket. Most New Yorkers come to peace with that.

“I think people developed an appreciation for the fact that it’s a messy, noisy city,” said Bello, the NYU researcher. “We like it to be active, and we like it to be lively. And we like it to be full of jobs and activity, and not this sort of scary, quite unnerving place.”

Police: Shooting that killed 2 at youth program was targeted

By SCOTT McFETRIDGE and JOSH FUNK from the Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The killing of two students at an alternative education program designed to help at-risk teenagers in Des Moines was a targeted attack that stemmed from an ongoing gang dispute, police said, and an 18-year-old has been charged.

Law enforcement officers stand outside a school housing an educational program called Starts Right Here that is affiliated with the Des Moines school district, following a shooting Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Police say two students were killed, and an adult employee was seriously injured in the shooting at the school dedicated to helping at-risk youth. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

The teenagers killed in Monday’s shooting at the Starts Right Here program were both males, ages 18 and 16, police said. The program’s founder, 49-year-old William Holmes, was seriously wounded and underwent surgery.

Holmes, an activist and rapper who goes by the stage name Will Keeps, had left a life of gangs and violence and has been dedicated to helping youth in Des Moines, according to information from a regional community development group.

Preston Walls, 18, of Des Moines, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, police said. He is also charged with criminal gang participation, and authorities said the shooting was the result of an ongoing gang dispute. Walls was on supervised release for a weapons charge and he removed his ankle monitor 16 minutes before the shooting, police said.

“The incident was definitely targeted. It was not random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt. Paul Parizek said.

Walls entered a common area where Holmes and the two students were, police said. Walls had a 9mm handgun with an extended ammunition magazine with him, they said.

Holmes tried to escort Walls away from the area, but Walls pulled away, “pulled the handgun and began to shoot both teenage victims,” police said in a statement. Holmes was standing nearby and was also shot, and Walls ran away, police said.

Officers who responded saw a suspicious vehicle leaving the area and stopped it, but Walls ran away and was arrested a short time later. Police said a 9mm handgun was found nearby. The ammunition magazine, which has a capacity of 31 rounds, contained three.

The Starts Right Here board of directors said in a statement that classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week and that grief counselors will be available.

“These actions are contrary to all that we stand for and point out more must be done,” the board said. “These two students had hope and a future that will never be realized. We can no longer say this type of violence doesn’t happen in Des Moines. Sadly, it does.”

Mayor Frank Cownie said the two other people in the vehicle with Walls are also teenagers. They were taken into custody and released without charges.

Cownie said he spoke to the victims’ family members. “But there is little one can say that will lessen their pain. Nothing that can be said to bring them back, those who were killed so senselessly,” he said.

Walls has not yet appeared in court.

Last year, Walls was charged with three counts alleging that he knowingly resisted or obstructed a West Des Moines police officer while armed with a firearm and intoxicated, court records show.

His attorney in that case, Jake Feuerhelm, said that in the incident last May, Walls was part of gathering of young people that police approached. While they were trying to sort out what was happening, Walls, who was 17 at the time, took off. Because he was armed while fleeing from police, he was charged, Feuerhelm said.

In December, he was placed under the supervision of the Department of Correction’s Youthful Offender Program, a type of diversion in which he could avoid a felony conviction if he completed the intensive supervision successfully.

Feuerhelm said he didn’t know whether Walls was part of the school program.

Starts Right Here is an educational program that helps at-risk youth in grades 9-12 and is affiliated with the Des Moines school district.

“The school is designed to pick up the slack and help the kids who need help the most,” Parizek said.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, the economic and community development organization for the region, says on its website that Keeps came to Des Moines about 20 years ago from Chicago, where he “lived in a world of gangs and violence” before finding healing through music. He founded Starts Right Here in 2021.

The partnership said the Starts Right Here movement “seeks to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive circumstances using the arts, entertainment, music, hip hop and other programs.” The program teaches financial literacy, along with communication and job interview skills.

The school’s website says 70% of the students it serves are members of minority groups, and it has had 28 graduates since it began. The school district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any given time.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who serves on an advisory board for Starts Right Here, said she was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting.”

“I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff works to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families.”

The shooting was the sixth at a school in the U.S. this year in which someone was injured or killed, but the first with fatalities, according to Education Week, which tracks school shootings. The website said there were 51 school shootings last year involving injuries or deaths, and there have been 150 since 2018. In the worst school shooting last year, 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

In a separate shooting outside a Des Moines high school last March, one student was killed and two other teens were badly injured. Ten people, who were all between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the shooting, were charged afterward. Five of them have pleaded guilty to various charges.

Swift firing of police is rare, but could become more common

By STEVE LeBLANC for the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The speed with which five Memphis police officers were fired following the traffic stop of a man who later died in a hospital is unusual but could become more common, according to those studying police and criminal justice issues.

A portrait of Tyre Nichols is displayed at a memorial service for him on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols was killed during a traffic stop with Memphis Police on Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

The five Memphis Police Department officers were fired Friday, less than two weeks after the Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols, 29, Officials said the five were dismissed for excessive use of force, failure to intervene and failure to render aid.

It’s rare for a police department to act so quickly, said David Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. Investigations can sometimes go on for up to a year, he said.

“It never happens this quickly,” Thomas said.

All five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith – are Black, as was Nichols. The decision to fire the officers followed a probe by the Memphis Police Department. Nichols died three days after the traffic stop.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also is looking into the force used in the arrest.

One recent turning point has been the advent of police body cameras, which can be quickly reviewed, along with cellphone video taken by passersby, said Thomas, who served 20 years as a police officer in Michigan and Florida.

“In the old days, you’d have the officer’s word. If the victim was still alive, you’d have their testimony, If someone had died, you’d have the medical examiner’s report. All of that would play a role,” he said. “With body cameras, the evidence is right there.”

Nichols was arrested after officers stopped him for reckless driving, police said. There was a confrontation when officers approached Nichols, and he ran before he was confronted again and arrested, authorities said. He complained of shortness of breath and was hospitalized.

Relatives have accused police of beating Nichols and causing him to have a heart attack. Authorities said Nichols experienced a medical emergency. Relatives have pushed for the release of police body camera footage and called for officers to be charged.

Body cameras can only tell a full story if they are on and working throughout an entire incident, Thomas said. Some officers may forget to turn them on. Others may deliberately turn them off.

“Law enforcement can no longer act with impunity,” he said. “Absolutely, officers will be let go more quickly.”

Typically before a firing, officials will determine if an officer has violated a department’s general orders, which set out the procedures and regulations officers are meant to follow, said Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University in Ohio.

“The seriousness of the job action is based on the severity of the violation,” said Oliver, who spent 28 years in law enforcement, 16 of them as a police chief, including as chief of the Cleveland Police Department.

Firing an officer is the most severe job action, Oliver said, suggesting that department officials feel confident they can support the decision.

“There is far more scrutiny of police today,” he said. “When I was in policing there was less of a likelihood that something a police officer was doing would be caught on video.”

Oliver added that many times videos will confirm police acted properly. “I would say that’s the majority of times,” he said.

While unusual, it’s not unheard of for a city to fire an officer before criminal charges are filed, but that’s not necessarily the end of the story, said Stephen Rushin, a Loyola University Chicago law school professor who has studied police contracts.

Cities often give officers the ability to appeal disciplinary action, including termination of their employment, Rushin said.

“In many agencies, the initial decision to fire an officer begins a lengthy appellate process that can take months to complete,” he said. “At the end of this process, it is not uncommon for an officer to be rehired on appeal.”

Authorities search for motive in Lunar New Year massacre

By AMY TAXIN and DAMIAN DOVARGANES from the Associated Press

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) — Authorities searched for a motive for the gunman who killed 10 people at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations, slayings that sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities and cast a shadow over festivities nationwide.

A body is seen on the driver’s side of a van as authorities investigate, in Torrance, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. Authorities say the driver, the suspect in a California dance club shooting that left multiple people dead, shot and killed himself. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday in the van that authorities say he used to flee after attempting to attack a second dance hall. The mayor of Monterey Park said Tran may have frequented the first dance hall that he targeted.

The massacre was the nation’s fifth mass killing this month, and it struck one of California’s largest celebrations of a holiday observed in many Asian cultures, dealing another blow to a community that has been the target of high-profile violence in recent years.

It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Law enforcement officials said the rampage could have been even deadlier. A man whose family runs the second dance hall confronted the assailant in the lobby and wrested the gun from him, The New York Times reported.

Authorities have shared little about Tran.

“We do understand that he may have had a history of visiting this dance hall and perhaps the motivation has to do with some personal relationships. But that’s something that I think investigators are still uncovering and investigating,” said Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo. Public records show Tran once had addresses in the city and neighboring ones.

But the mayor and LA County Sheriff Robert Luna stressed that the motive remained unclear for the attack, which also wounded 10 people. Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, Luna said all of the people killed appeared to be over 50. No other suspects were at large, according to the sheriff.

The suspect was carrying what Luna described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, and a second handgun was discovered in the van where Tran died.

Within three minutes of receiving the call, officers arrived at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, according to Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese.

There, they found carnage inside and people trying to flee through all the doors.

“When they came into the parking lot, it was chaos,” Wiese said.

About 20 minutes after the first attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra.

Brandon Tsay was in the lobby at the time, and he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he thought he was going to die.

“Something came over me. I realized I needed to get the weapon away from him, I needed to take this weapon, disarm him or else everybody would have died,” Tsay said. “When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle.”

Once Tsay seized the gun, he pointed it at the man and shouted: “Get the hell out of here, I’ll shoot, get away, go!”

The assailant paused, but then headed back to his van, and Tsay called the police, the gun still in his hand.

While Luna told reporters on Sunday that two people wrested the weapon away from the attacker, Tsay, who works a few days a week at the dance hall his grandparents started, told The New York Times that he acted alone. Stills from security footage shown on “Good Morning America” showed only the two men struggling for the gun.

The suspect’s white van was found in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans.

After surrounding the vehicle for hours, law enforcement officials swarmed and entered it. A person’s body appeared to be slumped over the wheel and was later removed. Members of a SWAT team looked through the van’s contents before walking away.

Congresswoman Judy Chu said she still has questions about the attack but hopes residents now feel safe.

“The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said Sunday at a news conference.

“What was the motive for this shooter?” she said. “Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns and was it through legal means or not?”

Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles and is composed mostly of Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans. The shooting happened in the heart of its downtown where red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner that proclaimed “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”

The celebration in Monterey Park is one of California’s largest. Two days of festivities, which have been attended by as many as 100,000 people in past years, were planned. But officials canceled Sunday’s events following the shooting.

An Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S. shows that 2022 was one of the nation’s worst years, with 42 such attacks — the second-highest number since the creation of the tracker in 2006. The database defines a mass killing as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.


Associated Press journalists Andrew Dalton, Jae C. Hong and Eugene Garcia in Los Angeles and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Implements Category-Leading Software Technology, eSOPH

From the Associated Press

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, USA, January 18, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department recently transitioned to the innovative eSOPH background investigation system by Miller Mendel, Inc. and in doing so, the agency joined the largest public safety background network in the nation.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department expects to process at least 500 applicants per year using eSOPH. In addition to taking advantage of eSOPH’s industry-leading standard functionality and one-click access to the National Decertification Index, the department will utilize eSOPH’s optional Smart Fax, integrated Social Media Screening and On-Demand Credit Reporting features.

eSOPH, which stands for electronic Statement of Personal History, has been used by city, county, and state police agencies across the nation to conduct over 100,000 pre-employment public safety background investigations. Agencies using eSOPH report saving up to 50 percent of their time per background investigation. By transitioning to eSOPH, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is now connected to over 165 agencies using the software nationwide.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is the primary provider of law enforcement services for Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. The department covers a total area of 526.1 square miles that encompasses everything from high density urban locations to rural areas. With over 1450 full-time sworn members, the department responds to more than 950,000 police calls per year on average. The Mission of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is to provide community-based police products to the public so they can experience a safe and peaceful Nashville.

Miller Mendel, Inc. (“MMI”) creates, sells, and supports its software technology solutions for local, state, and federal public safety agencies and is the holder of two patents ( U.S. Patent No. 9070098 and U.S. Patent No. 10043188 ) related to the features of its flagship product, eSOPH. Our primary focus is to turn past practices used by city, county, and state governments into efficient and cost-effective electronic solutions. MMI is known for creating category-leading systems and providing responsive, exceptional support to all our clients. We place great pride in straightforward and transparent operational practices that foster a high level of respect and praise from our government clients.

Miller Mendel, Inc

UK nurses stage new walkout as strike wave intensifies

By JILL LAWLESS from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of nurses in Britain walked out Wednesday in a new protest over pay, with no end in sight to a wave of strikes that has piled pressure on the U.K.’s overburdened public health system.

Nurses hold banners and placards as they picket during a strike over pay, outside the University College Hospital, in London, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Two 12-hour nursing strikes on Wednesday and Thursday affect about a quarter of hospitals and clinics in England. Emergency care and cancer treatment will continue, but thousands of appointments and procedures are likely to be postponed.

With more walkouts by nurses planned for next month — and ambulance workers announcing a new slate of February strikes — the Conservative government is under growing pressure to lift its opposition to substantial raises for health care staff.

“It’s a job that I love, but I need to pay my bills,” said intensive care nurse Nav Singh, on a picket line in London. “Nursing students don’t want to be nurses, experienced nurses are leaving, there will be no-one left and I don’t blame them, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off their jobs in recent months to demand higher pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Inflation in the U.K. hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October, driven by sharply rising energy and food costs, before easing slightly to 10.5% in December.

The nurses’ union has been seeking a pay raise of 5% above inflation, though it has said it will accept a lower offer.

Pat Cullen, head of the Royal College of Nursing union, urged health officials to “get round a table and let’s stop the strikes so we don’t have to continue this into February.”

“I would say to the prime minister this morning: If you want to continue to have strikes, then the voice of nursing will continue to speak up on behalf of their patients and that’s exactly what you will get,” she told ITV.

The British government argues that double-digit public sector pay increases will drive inflation even higher.

“Unaffordable pay hikes will mean cutting patient care and stoking the inflation that would make us all poorer,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote in the Independent newspaper.

The government also has angered unions by introducing a bill that will make it harder for key workers to strike by setting ”minimum safety levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a walkout.

The nursing union has announced two more strike days next month, when disruption across the economy looks set to intensify. Feb. 1 is shaping up to be the most disruptive day yet, with walkouts by teachers, train drivers, civil servants and university staff.

The GMB union said Wednesday that 10,000 ambulance call handlers, paramedics and other staff across most of England will strike on February 6 and 20 and March 6 and 20.

“Our message to the government is clear — talk pay now,” said GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer accused the government of presiding over “lethal chaos” in the state-funded National Health Service, with many patients waiting hours for ambulances in emergencies.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the health system was dealing with “unprecedented challenges,” but insisted the government was spending extra money to relieve the pressure — though he did not mention staff demands for higher pay.

“We are investing more in urgent and emergency care to create more bed capacity, we are ensuring that the flow of patients through emergency care is faster than it ever has been,” Sunak said in the House of Commons.

PRESS RELEASE: Paid content from EIN Presswire | Newsmatics

San Diego Police Foundation to Hold Women in Blue Event to Drive Awareness and Increase Gender Diversity in Policing

From the Associated Press

The LeadHER. MentHER. SupportHER Luncheon, Honors 3 on International Women’s Day March 8, 2023

“Since the inception of the Women in Blue initiative, SDPD has increased the number of females sworn in to nearly 17% and as a result, exceeds the national average of 12%,”— Sara Napoli, President, and CEO of the San Diego Police Foundation.

SAN DIEGO, CA, USA, January 17, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — The San Diego Police Foundation will convene regional business and community leaders to honor the achievements of San Diego Police Department (SDPD) female leaders to elevate awareness of the importance of increased gender diversity in policing. The 12th annual Women in Blue luncheon: “LeadHER. MentHER. SupportHER,” will be held on March 8, 2023, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Additional event details are at www.womeninblue.org.

“Since the inception of the Women in Blue initiative, SDPD has increased the number of females sworn in to nearly 17% and as a result, exceeds the national average of 12%,” stated Sara Napoli, President, and CEO of the San Diego Police Foundation. “Yet, there is more effort and awareness needed to achieve gender parity, which is critical, as police departments operate best when they reflect the communities they serve.”
The Women in Blue initiative provides funding for training, mentoring, collaboration, and networking opportunities for aspiring female leaders in law enforcement, including grants for women in blue to attend the Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Symposium (WLLE).

“Since SDPD leads the nation in the percentage of female officers in its ranks, we strongly believe that the Women in Blue initiative has been and will continue to be critical to creating a more inclusive and diverse department,” said Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen, the highest-ranking active-duty female officer at SDPD. “Research suggests that women officers excel in areas of seeking better outcomes for crime victims, especially violence against women, facilitating community policing, and de-escalating violent confrontations; they are also less likely to use force. Bringing the strengths of men and women together makes the department a better place to work, and therefor positively impacts the communities SDPD serves.”

As part of a concerted effort to increase women in the department’s ranks, SDPD Chief David Nisleit has signed the 30×30 Pledge, a national movement to advance the representation of women in all ranks of policing, with a specific goal of achieving 30% women in recruits in training academies by 2030.

SDPD’s Chief Nisleit will keynote the luncheon. The Rita Olsen Legacy Scholarship will also be awarded to a rising SDPD female leader, and three accomplished women in policing will be honored at the event. This year’s 2023 honorees are:
1.) SDPD Captain, Julie Epperson
2.) SDPD Police Dispatch Administrator & 911 Communications Operations Manager, Mellissa Santagata
3.) SDPD Sergeant, Lorraine Tangog

About The Event:
The annual Women in Blue luncheon, now in its 12th year, elevates inclusion, leadership, and the empowerment of women and propels the advancement and representation of women in all ranks of policing. Women in Blue is a fundraiser for the San Diego Police Foundation to support SDPD by cultivating positive community engagement and helping fund vital equipment and specialized training that ensures peace and safety for all.
Proceeds from the Women in Blue luncheon supports the mission of the San Diego Police Foundation, which includes support for SDPD’s peer mentoring program, the Women’s Leadership Conference, efforts to recruit more females to the ranks of SDPD, the Women’s Recruiting Expo, as well as scholarships to empower women and inspire the next generation of women in blue.

Individual tickets for the luncheon are $150 and tables are $1,500. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Cathy Abarca at (619) 232-2130 ext. 110 or cathy@sdpolicefoundation.org. For more information on the event, please call (619) 232-2130 or visit https://womeninblue.org.

About San Diego Police Foundation:
Since 1998, the San Diego Police Foundation, a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has funded equipment, training, and outreach programs to ensure that those who protect and serve San Diego have what they need to do their jobs safely and with excellence. The Police Foundation is dedicated to preventing crime, saving lives, and making our community a safer place to live and work by providing resources not otherwise available to the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). Learn more about the San Diego Police Foundation at https://sdpolicefoundation.org/.

Cheryl Goodman
+1 858-999-5373
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Former police captain acquitted of tax fraud, sold firearms

From the Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former police captain in New Hampshire has been acquitted by a jury of filing a false income tax return deriving from profits earned from selling firearms.

Michael Wagner, who was with the Salem Police Department, was indicted in 2020, accused of buying 36 assault rifles using his police discount from Sig Sauer Academy in Epping in 2012 and 2013 and reselling them at a profit that was omitted from his tax return.

The sales took place shortly after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.

Prosecutors said Wagner evaded $5,000 in taxes.

He was found not guilty Friday following his trial in U.S. District Court in Concord.

Wagner’s lawyers said the verdict validated the defense’s central theme that the Internal Revenue Service investigation was disorderly and unfairly targeted Wagner because he was a police officer.

“The tax fraud charges were not supported by the evidence, and we are grateful for the jury’s decision,” his lawyer, Mark Lytle, said in a statement.

Wagner and other Salem officers were named in letters from the attorney general’s office in 2019 saying they were under investigation following a department audit. He was not charged with any other offenses.

US, Ukraine top military chiefs meet in person for 1st time

By LOLITA C. BALDOR from the Associated Press

A MILITARY BASE IN SOUTHEASTERN POLAND (AP) — The top U.S. military officer, Army Gen. Mark Milley, traveled to a site near the Ukraine-Poland border on Tuesday and talked with his Ukrainian counterpart face to face for the first time — a meeting underscoring the growing ties between the two militaries and coming at a critical time as Russia’s war with Ukraine nears the one-year mark.

In this image provided by the U.S. Army, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley meets with U.S. Army leaders responsible for the collective training of Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. At left is Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Hilbert, who is the commanding general for the 7th Army Training Command. Milley visited the training site in Germany for Ukrainian forces and met with troops and commanders.(Staff Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna/U.S. Army via AP)

Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met for a couple of hours with Ukraine’s chief military officer, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland. The two leaders have talked frequently about Ukraine’s military needs and the state of the war over the past year but had never met.

The meeting comes as the international community ramps up the military assistance to Ukraine, including expanded training of Ukrainian troops by the U.S. and the provision of a Patriot missile battery, tanks and increased air defense and other weapons systems by the U.S. and a coalition of European and other nations.

It also marks a key time in the war. Ukraine’s troops face fierce fighting in the eastern Donetsk province, where Russian forces — supplemented by thousands of private Wagner Group contractors — seek to turn the tide after a series of battlefield setbacks in recent months.

Army Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for Milley, told two reporters traveling with the chairman that the two generals felt it was important to meet in person. The reporters did not accompany Milley to the meeting and, under conditions set by the military, agreed to not identify the military base in southeastern Poland where they were located.

“These guys have been talking on a very regular basis for about a year now, and they’ve gotten to know each other,” Butler said. “They’ve talked in detail about the defense that Ukraine is trying to do against Russia’s aggression. And it’s important — when you have two military professionals looking each other in the eye and talking about very, very important topics, there’s a difference.”

Butler said there had been some hope that Zaluzhnyi would travel to Brussels for a meeting of NATO and other defense chiefs this week, but when it became clear on Monday that it would not happen, they quickly decided to meet in Poland, near the border.

While a number of U.S. civilian leader s have gone into Ukraine, the Biden administration has made it clear that no uniformed military service members will go into Ukraine other than those connected to the embassy in Kyiv. Butler said only a small group — Milley and six of his senior staffers — traveled by car to the meeting.

He said that the meeting will allow Milley to relay Zaluzhnyi’s concerns and information to the other military leaders during the NATO chiefs’ meeting. Milley, he said, will be able to “describe the tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and what the military needs are for that, and the way he does that is one by understanding it himself but by also talking to Zaluzhnyi on a regular basis.”

Milley also will be able to describe the new training of Ukrainian forces that the U.S. is doing at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The chairman, who got his first look at the new, so-called combined arms instruction during a nearly two-hour visit there on Monday, has said it will better prepare Ukrainian troops to launch an offensive or counter any surge in Russian attacks.

More than 600 Ukrainian troops began the expanded training program at the camp just a day before Milley arrived.

Milley and Zaluzhnyi’s meeting kicks off a series of high-level gatherings of military and defense leaders this week. Milley and other chiefs of defense will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, and then the so-called Ukraine Contact Group will gather at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Thursday and Friday. That group consists of about 50 top defense officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and they work to coordinate military contributions to Ukraine.

The meetings are expected to focus on Ukraine’s ongoing and future military needs as the hard-packed terrain of the winter months turns into muddy roads and fields in the spring.

After several months of losing territory it had captured, Russia in recent days claimed it took control of the small salt-mining town of Soledar. Ukraine asserts that its troops are still fighting, but if Moscow’s troops take control of Soledar it would allow them to inch closer to the bigger city of Bakhmut, where fighting has raged for months.

And in a barrage of airstrikes over the weekend, Russia struck Kyiv, the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the southeastern city of Dnipro, where the death toll in one apartment building rose to 44.

Western analysts point to signs that the Kremlin is digging in for a drawn-out war, and say the Russian military command is preparing for an expanded mobilization effort.

San Luis picks lieutenant to fill in as police chief

From the Associated Press

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — The border city of San Luis has named a temporary police chief until a permanent pick can be found.

The Yuma Sun reported Friday that Lt. Miguel Alvarez will fill the role.

Alvarez, 43, has been with the San Luis Police Department for 18 years. He also is a criminal justice instructor at Arizona Western College.

He has not ruled out applying for the job himself.

Chief Richard Jessup, who has been police chief since 2018, is now retired.

The San Luis City Council recently approved an ordinance that tasks the city administrator with selecting the new police chief. In the past it was the city council who did the hiring.

Mayor Nieves Riedel says the new ordinance is to prevent politics from influencing hiring decisions.

Rescuers seek survivors after storms kill 9 across South

By KIM CHANDLER and JEFF MARTIN from the Associated Press

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Rescuers raced Friday to find survivors in the aftermath of a tornado-spawning storm system that barreled across parts of Georgia and Alabama, killing at least nine people, and inflicted heavy damage on Selma, a flashpoint of the civil rights movement.

Luther Owensby looks out from the front porch of his storm-damaged home Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Jackson, Ga. Powerful storms spawned tornadoes across Georgia Thursday night. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

A better picture of the damage was expected to emerge later in the day as authorities surveyed the scarred landscape. At least 35 possible tornado touchdowns were reported across several states, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The National Weather Service, which was working to confirm the twisters, said suspected tornado damage was reported in at least 14 counties in Alabama and five in Georgia.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power in both states, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide.

One tornado cut a 20-mile (32-kilometer) path across two rural Alabama communities Thursday before the worst of the weather moved across Georgia on a track south of Atlanta.

Searchers in Autauga County found a body after daybreak near a home that had been badly damaged, authorities said. That death brought the toll to seven in the county about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Selma.

At least 12 people were taken to hospitals, Ernie Baggett, Autauga County’s emergency management director, said as crews cut through downed trees looking for survivors.

About 40 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged, including several mobile homes that were launched into the air, he said.

“They weren’t just blown over,” he said. “They were blown a distance.”

In Selma, a city etched in the history of the civil rights movement, the city council met on a sidewalk using lights from cellphones and declared a state of emergency.

A 5-year-old child riding in a vehicle was killed by a falling tree in central Georgia’s Butts County, said Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director James Stallings. He said a parent who was driving suffered critical injuries.

Elsewhere, a state Department of Transportation worker also was killed while responding to storm damage, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said. He gave no further details.

Kemp surveyed some of the worst storm damage Friday by helicopter. In some areas, he said, rescue teams had to dig into collapsed homes to free trapped survivors.

“We know people that were stranded in homes where literally the whole house collapsed, and they were under the crawl space,” Kemp told reporters.

The governor said the storm inflicted damage statewide, with some of the worst around Troup County near the Georgia-Alabama line, where dozens of homes were hit and at least 12 people were treated at a hospital.

In Spalding County, south of Atlanta, the storm struck as mourners gathered for a wake at Peterson’s Funeral Home in Griffin. About 20 people scrambled for shelter in a restroom and an office when a loud boom sounded as a large tree fell on the building.

“When we came out, we were in total shock,” said Sha-Meeka Peterson-Smith, the funeral home’s chief operational officer. “We heard everything, but didn’t know how bad it actually was.”

The uprooted tree crashed straight through the front of the building, she said, destroying a viewing room, a lounge and a front office. No one was hurt.

The tornado that hit Selma cut a wide path through the downtown area, where brick buildings collapsed, oak trees were uprooted, cars were tossed onto their sides and power lines were left dangling.

Plumes of thick, black smoke from a fire rose over the city. It wasn’t clear whether the storm caused the blaze.

Selma Mayor James Perkins said no fatalities were reported, but several people were seriously injured. Officials hoped to get an aerial view of the city Friday.

“We have a lot of downed power lines,” he said. “There is a lot of danger on the streets.”

Mattie Moore was among Selma residents who picked up boxed meals offered by a charity downtown.

“Thank God that we’re here. It’s like something you see on TV,” Moore said of the destruction.

A city of about 18,000 people, Selma is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Montgomery, the Alabama capital. It was a flashpoint of the civil rights movement where state troopers viciously attacked Black people who marched non-violently for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.

Malesha McVay took video of the giant twister, which turned black as it swept away home after home.

“It would hit a house, and black smoke would swirl up,” she said. “It was very terrifying.”

Three factors — a natural La Nina weather cycle, warming of the Gulf of Mexico likely related to climate change and a decades-long eastward shift of tornado activity — combined to make Thursday’s tornado outbreak unusual and damaging, said Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University who studies tornado trends.

La Nina, a cooling of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide, was a factor in making a wavy jet stream that brought a cold front through, Gensini said. But that’s not enough for a tornado outbreak. The other ingredient is moisture.

Normally the air in the Southeast is fairly dry this time of year, but the dew point was twice the normal level, likely because of unusually warm water in the Gulf of Mexico, which is likely influenced by climate change, Gensini said. That moisture hit the cold front, adding up to killer storms.

In Kentucky, the weather service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck Mercer County and said crews were surveying damage in a handful of other counties.


Martin reported from Woodstock, Georgia. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Sara Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; Seth Borenstein in Denver; and photographer Butch Dill in Selma, Alabama, contributed to this report.

UK ambulance workers walk out, joining wave of strike action

By SYLVIA HUI from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Around 25,000 U.K. ambulance workers went on strike Wednesday, walking out for the second time since December in an ongoing dispute with the government over pay.

An ambulance worker take part in a strike in London, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Around 25,000 U.K. ambulance workers went on strike Wednesday, walking out for the second time since December in an ongoing dispute with the government over pay. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The industrial action by paramedics, drivers and call handlers was the latest in a wave of strikes in recent months that has crippled the country’s rail network on some days and strained the U.K.’s overburdened public health system.

Health officials have warned that the impact of Wednesday’s strike will be worse than the one held in December because more staff, including call handlers, are walking out. People were advised to call in cases of life-threatening emergencies — such as cardiac arrest or a serious road accident — and ambulances will still respond to such situations.

But less urgent cases won’t be prioritized and some people will have to make their own way to hospitals.

Union leaders say some of the lowest-paid public health workers, including call handlers and drivers, are close to falling below the national minimum wage.

“When people accuse us of putting the public at risk, I would say it is this government that has put the public at risk by refusing consistently to talk to us. There is no offer on the table,” Christina McAnea, general secretary of the UNISON union, told striking workers outside an ambulance station in Sheffield in northern England.

Scores of other workers, including nurses, train and bus drivers and postal workers, have in recent months joined the strikes — the biggest in decades in Britain — to demand better salaries as inflation soars to the highest levels the U.K. has seen since the early 1980s. Inflation rose to 11.1% in October, before coming down slightly to 10.7% in November.

Wages, especially in the public sector, haven’t kept pace with the skyrocketing cost of living.

The strike action comes at a time of severe strain for the U.K.’s National Health Service, which has reported record demand on urgent and emergency care services this winter.

Officials have blamed the pressures on a surge of flu and other winter viruses after two years of COVID-19 restrictions. But the opposition Labour Party and many health workers say the problems run much deeper. Years of underfunding and staff shortages partly caused by a post-Brexit lack of European workers in the U.K. have combined to cause a public health crisis, they say.

Paramedics have described waiting outside hospitals on a daily basis for patients to be seen, and patients being left in hospital corridors for hours waiting to be transferred.

“People are waiting longer because we can’t get to them. It’s a lack of capacity in every department,” said Ian Grimble, an assistant ambulance practitioner.

Government officials met withtrade union leaders on Monday, but there has been no breakthrough in negotiations. Union leaders have also been angered by government plans to introduce legislation to set “minimum service levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a strike.

“No one denies the unions freedom to strike, but it is also important to balance that with people’s right to have access to lifesaving health care,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Reno hiring first female police chief in city history

From the Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The city council has confirmed Reno’s first female police chief in the city’s history.

Kathryn Nance is a 26-year veteran of the Stockton Police Department in California.

City Manager Doug Thornley nominated Nance to replace retiring Reno Police Chief Jason Soto. The city council unanimously ratified and confirmed her appointment on Wednesday. She’s expected to be sworn in next month.

“Today is a monumental day for the Biggest Little City,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said.

“With over 26 years of law enforcement experience, Chief Nance will be an invaluable member of our public safety team,” she said in a statement.

Nance said she’s been “overwhelmed by the genuine kindness and sense of community I’ve experienced in Reno thus far, and I could not be more excited to get to work.”

“I look forward to jumping right in and working with the RPD team to support the community’s needs, while also strengthening the department and providing stability for staff,” she said in a statement.

Soto spent more than 25 years with the Reno force before announcing his retirement effective later this month.

Nance most recently served as Stockton’s deputy police chief of operations, responsible for nearly 400 sworn and professional employees and a $107 million budget, Reno officials said.

She’s also served as chief of logistics, a police captain of strategic operations and a lieutenant in patrol and special investigations. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is pursuing a master’s degree in education she expects to obtain later this year.

Nurses go on strike at 2 big New York City hospitals

By JENNIFER PELTZ for the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of nurses went on strike Monday at two of New York City’s major hospitals after contract negotiations stalled over staffing and salaries nearly three years into the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses stage a strike in front of Mt. Sinai Hospital in the Manhattan borough of New York Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, after negotiations broke down hours earlier. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The privately owned, nonprofit hospitals were postponing nonemergency surgeries, diverting ambulances to other medical centers, pulling in temporary staffers, and assigning administrators with nursing backgrounds to work in wards in order to cope with the walkout.

As many as 3,500 nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and about 3,600 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan were off the job. Talks were set to resume Monday afternoon at Montefiore, but there was no immediate word on when bargaining might resume at Mount Sinai.

Hundreds of nurses picketed, some singing the chorus from Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” outside Mount Sinai. It was one of many New York hospitals deluged with COVID-19 patients as the virus made the city an epicenter of deaths in spring 2020.

“We were heroes only two years ago,” said Warren Urquhart, a nurse in transplant and oncology units. “We was on the front lines of the city when everything came to a stop. And now we need to come to a stop so they can understand how much we mean to this hospital and to the patients.”

The nurses union, the New York State Nurses Association, said members had to strike because chronic understaffing leaves them caring for too many patients.

Jed Basubas said he generally attends to eight to 10 patients at a time, twice the ideal number in the units where he works. Nurse practitioner Juliet Escalon said she sometimes skips bathroom breaks to attend to patients. So does Ashleigh Woodside, who said her 12-hour operating-room shifts often stretch to 14 hours because short staffing forces her and others to work overtime.

“We love our job. We want to take care of our patients. But we just want to d it safely and in a humane way, where we feel appreciated,” said Woodside, who has been a nurse for eight years.

The hospitals said they had offered the same raises — totaling 19% over three years — that the union had accepted at several other facilities where contract talks reached tentative agreements in recent days.

Montefiore said it had agreed to add 170 more nurses. Mount Sinai’s administration said the union’s focus on nurse-to-patient ratios “ignores the progress we have made to attract and hire more new nurses, despite a global shortage of healthcare workers that is impacting hospitals across the country.”

The hospitals said Monday that they had prepared for the strike and were working to minimize the disruption.

“We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community,” Montefiore said. “This is a sad day for New York City.”

Mount Sinai called the union “reckless.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul urged the union and the hospitals late Sunday to take their dispute to binding arbitration. Montefiore’s administration had said it was willing to let an arbitrator settle the contract “as a means to reaching an equitable outcome.”

The union did not immediately accept the proposal. In a statement, it said Hochul, a Democrat, “should listen to the frontline COVID nurse heroes and respect our federally-protected labor and collective bargaining rights.”

A lineup of other city and state Democratic politicians, including Attorney General Letitia James, joined a midday union rally Monday, flanked by workers carrying signs with such messages as “Patients Over Profits” and “Will Work for Respect.”

Both hospitals had been getting ready for a walkout by transferring patients, including intensive-care newborns at Mount Sinai.

Montefiore and Mount Sinai are the last of a group of hospitals with contracts with the union that expired simultaneously. The Nurses Association had i nitially warned that it would strike at all of them at the same time — a potential calamity even in a city with as many hospitals as New York.

But one by one, the other hospitals struck agreements with the union as the deadline approached.

Nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ratified a deal Saturday that will give them raises of 7%, 6%, and 5% over the next three years while also increasing staffing levels. That deal, which covers 4,000 nurses, has been seen as a template for the negotiations with other hospital systems.

Nurses at two facilities in the Mount Sinai system also tentatively agreed to contracts Sunday. But there was no such pact at the system’s flagship hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Tennessee National Guard rescues Appalachian Trail hikers

From the Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee National Guard says it has used a military helicopter to rescue two hikers who were stranded on the Appalachian Trail.

In a news release, the Guard says the hikers were stranded on Dec. 31 due to sheer cliffs and drop-offs during early morning darkness in the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area, south of Johnson City.

The Guard says the Greene County Sheriff’s Office requested the air support after deputies were unable to reach the hikers.

The crew from the 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Knoxville consisted of two pilots, a crew chief and two flight paramedics. They made the rescue that morning and administered aid during the brief flight to the hospital.

The Guard says the hikers have recovered from minor injuries.

UK govt urges unions to end strikes, vows to curb walkouts

From the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The British government on Thursday dangled the prospect of public-sector pay hikes next year in an attempt to end strikes by nurses and ambulance staff that have piled pressure on an already overburdened health system.

Trains are stored at a sidings in Ely, Cambridgeshire, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, during a strike by the Aslef union in a long-running dispute over jobs and pensions. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

The government invited union leaders for talks on 2023-24 pay rates and promised a “cooperative spirit” – while also saying it will introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make it harder for key workers to walk out.

The Conservative administration said it will set ”minimum safety levels” regarding staffing for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a strike.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the new law would “restore the balance between those seeking to strike and protecting the public from disproportionate disruption.” Some Conservative lawmakers have argued for an even tougher law that would ban strikes by essential health care workers.

Unions condemned the planned law. The GMB union, which represents some ambulance staff, said its members “should have the right to stand up for themselves and the health service we all depend on.”

The government said it hopes to sit down with union leaders to discuss evidence on pay and working conditions that will be submitted to the review bodies that oversee salaries in parts of the public sector.

Britain has seen months of strikes, including a walkout by train drivers on Thursday that scuttled journeys across the country.

Rail workers, like others who work in the public sector, say wages have failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of living. Inflation in the U.K. soared to a 41-year high of 11.1% late last year, driven by sharply rising energy and food costs.

Nurses, airport baggage handlers, ambulance and bus drivers and postal workers were among those who walked off their jobs in December to demand higher pay.

Ambulance staff are set to strike again on Jan. 11 and 23, while nurses will do the same Jan. 18-19.

SC town’s police chief to resign, cites medical reasons

From the Associated Press

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina town’s police chief has submitted his resignation after serving less than four months as the head of the force.

Moncks Corner Police Chief David Brabham said unspecified medical reasons sparked the decision, town spokesperson Steve Young confirmed Wednesday to WCSC-TV.

“I’m glad I was able to end my law enforcement career where it started, with the Moncks Corner Police Department,” Brabham said in a statement. “But sometimes God has other plans, and I appreciate the trust and support I received from Mayor (Michael Lockliear) and Council. I will miss working with the men and women of the department. Their professionalism made my transition into the department easy.”

The town announced on Aug. 29 that it had hired Brabham, 48, to fill the post left vacant when Police Chief Rick Ollic retired. He was sworn in on Sept. 15.

Before serving in Moncks Corner, he had been a major with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office and had more than 27 years of law enforcement experience.

While only with the town for a few months, Young said Brabham had worked to improve officer retention and recruitment.

“We are sorry to see Chief Brabham go,” Lockliear said. “Even in his short tenure with the Town we could see that he was focused on improving the department for our community and for the officers with whom he served. This had to be a difficult decision for him, and we certainly wish him the best.”

Brabham will continue to serve as chief until a permanent or interim successor is named or until Jan. 31, whichever comes first, Young said.

Philippine police chief offers to quit over drug-linked cops

By JIM GOMEZ for the Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine national police chief said Thursday he has tendered his resignation to encourage nearly a thousand other ranking police officials to do the same to regain public trust after some enforcers were arrested due to illegal drugs, further tainting the police force’s notorious image.

Philippine Police Chief, Police Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., gestures during a news conference at Camp Crame police headquarters, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Metro Manila, Philippines. The Philippine national police chief said Thursday he has offered to resign to encourage nearly a thousand other top police officials to do the same to regain public trust after some enforcers were arrested due to illegal drugs and further tainted the police force’s notorious image. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Wednesday appealed to all police generals and colonels to submit their “courtesy resignations” in a drastic move to improve the police force’s image after law enforcers in the frontlines of the drug crackdown were caught engaging in drug dealing.

Police Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. told a televised news conference that those who would submit their “courtesy resignations” — offers to voluntarily resign from the force — would stay in their jobs unless President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. decides to accept their resignation after an investigation. Azurin dispelled fears of a massive loss of leaders that could paralyze the 227,000-member force.

He also defended the police top brass, saying less than 10 of more than 100 generals were currently being investigated for alleged links to illegal drugs. He said some fellow officials opposed the move and lamented that just a few misfits were ruining the image and careers of a majority of decent officers, including hundreds of full colonels.

“Our organization is on trial here,” Azurin told a nationally televised news conference.

The call by Abalos for top police resignations sparked questions and concerns because, for years, an internal police disciplinary office along with a police commission has been investigating and helping prosecute officers accused of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, as well as those accused of crimes and corruption under the government’s anti-drug campaign.

Others said the move could demoralize police officials who carry out their work properly.

“While this process may be outside the disciplinary machinery of the Philippine National Police, this will be undertaken due to the exigency of the situation,” Azurin said.

He asked a five-member committee, which would be formed to assess possible links of police generals and colonels to the illegal drugs trade, to be fair and objective.

The national police force’s image took a blow in October, when a police sergeant was arrested for drug pushing and for helping conceal nearly a ton of methamphetamines, a powerful and prohibited stimulant in Manila. A regional chief of the country’s main antinarcotics agency and his men were implicated in a brazen drug dealing that happened in his office in December.

The alarming arrests bolstered concerns over a police force that former President Rodrigo Duterte used to enforce his brutal anti-drugs crackdown, which left more than 6,200 mostly poor suspects dead based on police estimates and sparked an International Criminal Court investigation as a possible crime against humanity.

Duterte himself had once described the police force as “rotten to the core” but still proceeded to harness law enforcers nationwide to carry out his extra tough anti-drug campaign. In 2017, he ordered the police to stop all anti-drug operations amid mounting criticisms after rogue anti-narcotics officers were accused of strangling to death a South Korean businessman in the main police camp in the capital region. He later allowed the police to resume anti-drug raids.

Human Rights Watch said the call for top police resignations could work against the government’s anti-drug campaign.

“It is a cynical ploy that allows abusers to evade accountability, especially because Abalos invoked the defects of the criminal justice and judicial systems to try to justify his idea,” said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch.

Marcos Jr. had said he would continue his predecessor’s anti-drug campaign but would do it differently, including by focusing on the rehabilitation of drug users and avoiding the use of excessive force.

In an interview with The Associated Press in New York in September, Marcos redirected his criticism to law enforcers when asked if Duterte went too far with his lethal drug crackdown.

“His people went too far sometimes,” Marcos had told the AP. “We have seen many cases where policemen, other operatives, some were just shady characters that we didn’t quite know where they came from and who they were working for. But now we’ve gone after them.”

Marcos has not taken aggressive actions to prosecute his predecessors over the massive drug killings. He teamed up with Duterte’s popular daughter, now Vice President Sara Duterte, in an alliance that has been credited for helping him win the presidency in the 2022 elections.

Florida sheriff: Burglars call 911 to get help moving stuff

From the Associated Press

POINCIANA, Fla. (AP) — Two people in Florida were arrested after one of them made a 911 call to get help with moving their belongings from a home they were burglarizing, authorities said.

Deputies responded to a home Saturday after a 911 call was made but nobody spoke, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. At the home, the deputies concluded that nobody lived there, but they found a male suspect and his girlfriend inside the home after entering it through an unlocked door.

Deputies had been searching for the male suspect after identifying him from security video as a burglar at a Dollar General store in Poinciana, Florida, where several items were stolen earlier in the day, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Poinciana is about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Orlando.

While talking to deputies, the female suspect told them that she had called 911 for the purpose of having law enforcement help them move their belongings from the house they were burglarizing. They also wanted to get a ride to the airport so they could spend the weekend in New York, the sheriff’s office said.

“Deputies DID help them with their belongings, and DID give them a ride, but it wasn’t to the airport … it was to the Polk Pokey,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “And they are welcome to stay there all weekend long. The Polk Pokey is much better than New York anyway.”

The male suspect was charged with burglary and theft related to the store and also burglary of a residence. The female suspect was charged with burglary of a residence, according to the sheriff’s office.

Hundreds attend funeral for Connecticut firefighter

From the Associated Press

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters gathered with family and friends Tuesday for the funeral of a Connecticut firefighter who died from heart problems while battling a house blaze last week.

North Haven Firefighter Matthias Wirtz’ wife, Barbara Cardito, center, surrounded by family watch members of Wirtz’ engine company escort Engine 9 to Saint Barnabus Church in North Haven, Conn., for his funeral on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (Arnold Gold /Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

Matthias Wirtz, a 22-year veteran of the North Haven Fire Department, was remembered as family man who was dedicated to serving the community. He was 46.

Firefighters from across the region lined a street in North Haven in the rain as a procession including the fire engine Wirtz drove and bagpipers made its way to St. Elizabeth of Trinity Parish at St. Barnabas Church. A large U.S. flag hung from two fire ladder trucks.

Speaking during the service, North Haven Fire Chief Paul Januszewski described Wirtz’s last moments before Wirtz collapsed on Dec. 26 while operating a fire engine outside the burning home. He said there was distress in Wirtz’s voice as he responded, “Roger, ready for water,” his last words on the radio.

“He was hurting, but he wasn’t going to say anything to anybody because he knew his brothers were inside looking for occupants,” Januszewski said. “He knew that failure wasn’t an option. And he was putting everybody else above himself, just what he has done his entire life.”

“He would not want to be called a hero. I can tell you that,” Januszewski said. “But I don’t know what else to call him at this point.”

Wirtz received numerous letters of commendation over the years. He was among the Connecticut firefighters who responded to the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

His cremains were to be entombed at a local cemetery.

Wirtz is survived by his wife and mother.

The state chief medical examiner’s office determined Wirtz died of heart problems.

The fire displaced 13 residents of the multifamily home. No one else was injured. The cause remains under investigation.

Massachusetts police reform panel suspends 15 officers

From the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts panel created in 2020 partially in response to nationwide calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has suspended 15 police officers from around the state who face allegations of misconduct.

The law allows the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to suspend the certification of any officer who faces felony allegations.

The officers whose suspensions were announced Tuesday include one accused of repeatedly using a stun gun on a pregnant woman during an arrest, one charged with using a baton to strike a man in custody, and another charged with getting paid for details he did not work.

A law enforcement officer whose certification is suspended can request a hearing before a commissioner within 15 days. A suspension order is in effect until a final decision or revocation is made by the commission.

“We continue to make progress to meet the directives of the statute and add information to the database that is of great public interest,” commission Executive Director Enrique Zuniga said in a statement. “POST will suspend the certification of an officer who is arrested, charged or indicted of a felony and will revoke the certification of an officer who is convicted of a felony.”

Two of the suspended officers are from Fall River, and the others are from Holyoke, Springfield, Needham, Lowell, Woburn, Somerville, West Springfield, Stoneham, Natick, Watertown, Worcester, the State Police and Fitchburg State University.

The nine-member commission was established as part of a 2020 criminal justice reform law to create a mandatory certification process for police officers, and to focus on efforts to improve public safety and increase trust between members of law enforcement and the public. Its members include law enforcement personnel, a judge, lawyer and social worker, and civilians.

Gang leader freed in Mexico prison attack that killed 17

From the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities on Monday raised the death toll from an attack on a state prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas to 17, a brazen operation that appeared designed to free the leader of a local gang.

A Mexican soldiers stands guard outside a state prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sunday Jan 1, 2023. Mexican soldiers and state police regained control of a state prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas after violence broke out early Sunday, according to state officials. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Twenty-five inmates escaped in the attack.

Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said 10 of the dead were prison guards who were attacked by gunmen who arrived early Sunday in armored vehicles and fired on the entrance and inside dormitories.

Rodríguez identified the inmates who escaped as being with the Mexicles gang, which she associated with the Caborca Cartel. She said the Mexicles’ leader was among the fugitives. The Mexicles have been one of Juarez’s main gangs for decades and for many years were known to work with the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Caborca Cartel had been led by drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero who was recaptured in July.

Mexican National Guard stand guard outside a state prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sunday Jan 1, 2023. Mexican soldiers and state police regained control of a state prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas after violence broke out early Sunday, according to state officials. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said the soldiers and state police who retook control of the prison found 10 “VIP” cells outfitted with televisions and other comforts. One even had a safe filled with cash.

Authorities also found cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana inside the prison.

Sandoval said two other gunmen killed after attacking local police a short time before the attack on the prison were likely a diversion. They were not included in the 17 dead, which were made up of 10 guards and seven inmates.

In August, a riot inside the same state prison spread to the streets of Juarez in violence that left 11 people dead.

In that case, two inmates were killed inside the prison and then alleged gang members started shooting up the town, including killing four employees of a radio station who were doing a promotion at a restaurant.

Violence is frequent in Mexican prisons, including in some where authorities only maintain nominal control. Clashes regularly erupt among inmate of rival gangs, which in places like Juarez serve as proxies for drug cartels.

Police: 5 guns recovered after police chief killed, 2 hurt

From the Associated Press

BRACKENRIDGE, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say five guns were recovered from a man shot and killed by police after a chase and gunfire that killed a western Pennsylvania police chief and wounded two other officers.

The police chief and another officer were shot blocks apart Monday in Brackenridge, an Allegheny County borough northeast of Pittsburgh, authorities said. The suspect was later shot and killed in Pittsburgh after he crashed a carjacked vehicle and exchanged gunfire with police, authorities said.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the governor-elect, said slain Brackenridge Police Chief Justin McIntire “ran towards danger to keep Pennsylvanians safe — and he made the ultimate sacrifice in service to community.” The second officer was in stable condition with a leg wound and a third officer was hit by suspected shrapnel.

Allegheny County police said Tuesday that state police had tried to stop Aaron Lamont Swan Jr., 28, of nearby Duquesne, on Route 22 on probation violations involving weapons Sunday evening, but he fled.

Police said Harrison Township officers spotted him Monday and gave chase, and he fled again on foot. Police said he was spotted again about 2 p.m. Monday and officers from a number of departments pursued him for several hours through various neighborhoods.

Another foot pursuit began in Brackenridge after an officer spotted him about 4:15 p.m. Monday, and shots were fired in two locations that left McIntire dead and the Tarentum officer wounded in the leg. Police said Swan then walked into a home and demanded the inhabitant’s car keys, fleeing in the vehicle.

After multiple police departments and a SWAT team responded for the suspect now considered armed and dangerous, the stolen vehicle was spotted in Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood. After a short pursuit the car crashed in the city’s Homewood-Brushton neighborhood and Swan again fled on foot into a wooded area.

While police set up a perimeter, Swan left the wooded area and ran into a housing development, firing at officers while fleeing, police said. Swan fired additional shots and police returned fire. Swan was declared dead at the scene. A Pittsburgh officer had a minor injury from what is believed to have been shrapnel, police said.

Five guns believed to have been used by Swan during the case were recovered, four in Brackenridge and one in Homewood-Brushton, police said. Allegheny County police will investigate the shooting of the suspect and turn their findings over to the county’s district attorney, authorities said.

On Monday evening, dozens of police cars lined the southbound lanes of Route 28 as a procession of officers brought McIntire’s body to the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office. Dozens of officers from departments across the county lined Pittsburgh streets as the procession passed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“He’s going to be sorely missed, there’s no doubt about that,” fire Chief Rick Jones said of McIntire on Monday evening, noting that McIntire grew up in the borough, The Post-Gazette reported.

“(He) loved his job, loved his community,” said Dave Miller, a firefighter and fire police captain with Pioneer Hose, told the Tribune-Review. “He was a hell of a guy.”

McIntire’s wife, Ashley, expressed heartbreak at her family’s loss. Describing him in a Facebook post as her best friend, she wrote that her entire world was gone “in the blink of an eye.”

“I am literally broken. I just want someone to tell me this nightmare is over … ,” she said. “I can’t even put into words how great of a person my husband was. He was my person. I love you with all my heart. Until we meet again.”

German police union calls for action after New Year attacks

From the Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s biggest police union called Tuesday for concerted action to prevent a repeat of the violent excesses seen in Berlin and other cities during the New Year’s celebrations, in which officers, firefighters and medical personnel were attacked with fireworks.

A woman with a child look to a burned-out bus standing beneath a residential building in the district Neukoelln in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. People across Germany on Saturday resumed their tradition of setting off large numbers of fireworks in public places to see in the new year. The bus was set on fire during the New Year’s celebrations. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Police in the capital recorded dozens of attacks and said 41 officers were injured. Online videos showing people firing rockets and throwing firecrackers at police cars and rescue vehicles drew widespread condemnation from German authorities.

The head of the GdP union, Jochen Kopelke, said there should be an “immediate debate” about the causes and consequences of such attacks, adding that they “must not be repeated at the next turn of the year.”

Kopelke said it was important to discuss the facts of what had happened and avoid blanket accusations against particular social groups.

Some conservative and far-right politicians have noted that some of the attacks took place in areas of Berlin with large immigrant communities.

Christoph de Vries, a lawmaker with the center-right Christian Democrats, wrote on Twitter that to tackle the issue of violence toward police officers and firefighters it was necessary to “talk about the role of people (with the) phenotype: West Asiatic, darker skin type.”

His comments drew accusations of racism, but De Vries said he was “ironically” referring to recent guidance by Berlin police on how to describe suspects’ ethnicity and this should not distract from “the necessary discussion about migration policy and glaring deficits when it comes to integration.”

Berlin police have so far said only that out of 103 suspects released from detention, 98 were male.

The German government’s top integration official, Reem Alabali-Radovan, condemned the New Year’s attacks and called for those responsible to swiftly be punished “with the full force of our laws.”

In an interview with the Funke media group, she also called for the perpetrators to be judged “according to their deeds, not according to their presumed origins, as some are doing now,” warning that this could cause further divisions in society rather than address the social causes of the problem.

The attacks have also reignited a debate in Germany about the use of fireworks around New Year. The tradition suffered a blow during the pandemic, when the government banned their sale in an effort to ease the pressure on hospitals and discourage large public gatherings.

Experts say the absence of such a ban may have contributed to the scale of violence and large number of fireworks injuries — including at least one death — seen this year.

The GdP union’s regional head in Berlin, Stephan Weh, suggested it was time to consider a nationwide ban on pyrotechnics, saying the attacks in the capital had shown how they can be used “as weapons against people.”

UK sending 1,200 troops to fill in as ambulance crews strike

By JILL LAWLESS from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The British government said Sunday it will dispatch 1,200 troops to fill in for striking ambulance drivers and border staff as multiple public sector unions walk off the job in the week before Christmas.

FILE – A train arrives a platform at Clapham Junction station in London, on Dec. 14, 2022. The British government said Sunday Dec. 18, 2022 it will dispatch 1,200 troops to fill in for striking ambulance drivers and border staff as multiple public sector unions walk off the job in the week before Christmas. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

Ambulance crews are due to strike on Wednesday, joining nurses, railway staff, passport officers and postal workers, who are all staging a series of walkouts in the coming weeks.

The U.K.’s most intense strike wave for decades is a response to a cost-of-living crisis driven by soaring food and energy prices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some 417,000 working days were lost to strikes in October, the highest number in a decade.

Unions are seeking pay increases to keep pace with inflation, which was running at 10.7% in November, down slightly from 11.1% in October but still a 40-year high.

The Conservative government argues that double-digit raises would drive inflation even higher, and has tried to pin blame for disruption on union leaders. In the tabloid Sun on Sunday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded union chiefs “Grinches that want to steal Christmas for their own political ends.”

Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden said “it would be irresponsible to allow public sector pay and inflation to get out of control.”

“We’re making progress with the economy. Don’t put that at risk with these unaffordable demands,” he told the BBC.

The government is calculating that public opinion will turn on the unions as people across the U.K. face postponed hospital appointments, canceled trains and travel delays during the winter holiday season. But opinion polls show a high level of support for the workers – especially nurses, whose strikes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are the first in the 100-year history of their union, the Royal College of Nursing.

Nurses and ambulance crews say they will still respond to emergencies during their strikes.

“We’ve given a commitment that our members will scramble off picket lines and get into ambulances if there are emergencies that need to be covered,” said Onay Kasab, national lead officer of the Unite union.

But Matthew Taylor, who heads health service body the NHS Confederation, said patients will be at risk, and called on both government and unions to compromise.

“We’re in the middle of winter and we have a health service which, even on an ordinary day without industrial action, is finding it difficult to cope,” he told the BBC. “So there are going to be risks to patients. There’s no question about that.”

Suburban Detroit cop shoots, kills armed man in police lobby

From the Associated Press

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A suburban Detroit police officer fatally shot a man Sunday in a police station lobby after he pulled out a handgun, pointed it at the officer and attempted to fire the weapon, police said.

The Dearborn officer fired multiple rounds, striking the man, about 3:30 p.m. ET during the confrontation, which began as the officer was sitting behind the desk in the front lobby of the Dearborn Police Station.

The 33-year-old man was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. The man’s name was not immediately released by authorities.

No one else was injured and police said the station’s lobby remains closed to the public during the initial shooting investigation.

Michigan State Police are investigating the shooting in Dearborn, which is located west of Detroit in Wayne County.

Police Chief Issa Shahin said authorities hope to provide answers to the “many questions” about the shooting in the coming days, WXYZ-TV reported.

“What I want to make very clear is that I extend my sincerest condolences to the individual who lost his life here,” Shahin said.

Police: Gunman kills 5 near Toronto before officer kills him

By ROB GILLIES from the Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — A 73-year-old man shot and killed five people at a suburban Toronto condominium building before police officers killed him, authorities said.

York Regional Police tactical officers stand in the lobby of a condominium building in Vaughan, Ontario, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. Police said multiple people are dead, including the suspect, after a shooting in a unit of the building. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)

Chief James MacSween of the York Regional Police said one of his officers fatally shot the gunman at a condo in Vaughan, Ontario.

Police did not disclose a possible motive for the attack or release the names or ages of anyone who was killed, including the alleged assailant. But Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which gets involved when there is a death or serious injury involving police, said Monday that the alleged attacker was 73.

“Horrendous scene,” MacSween said late Sunday. “Six deceased. One of them is the subject. The other five are victims.”

One person who was shot by the attacker was hospitalized and was expected to survive, the chief said.

MacSween said he didn’t know whether the shooter lived at the condo building.

York Regional Police say officers were called to the Vaughan, Ontario condo for an active shooting around 7:20 p.m. Sunday.

Police evacuated the building on Sunday, but MacSween said there was no further threat to the community. Residents were allowed to return home early Monday.

Resident John Santoro said police went floor to floor to try to find out if anybody else was involved.
“When I opened my door, police were in the corridor. There were two officers right outside my door in the elevator lobby,” he said.

Mass shootings are rare in Canada, and Toronto has long prided itself as being one of the world’s safest big cities. Vaughan is just north of Toronto.

Canadians are nervous about anything that might indicate they are moving closer to the gun violence situation in the U.S., where mass shootings are common.

“Everybody is horrified,” Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said. “To wake up to this news this morning or see it last night, we are in absolute shock. … This is something I never thought I would see here.”

8 hurt in fire at NYPD warehouse where evidence is stored

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Eight people suffered minor injuries Tuesday in a fire at a New York Police Department warehouse that houses DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as cars, e-bikes and motor scooters, police and fire officials said.

Firefighters battle a blaze at a warehouse in the Brooklyn Borough of New York on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 in New York. Eight people suffered minor injuries in the fire at a New York Police Department warehouse that houses DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as cars, e-bikes and motor scooters, police and fire officials said. (WABC via AP)

The fire at the Erie Basin Auto Pound, a low warehouse situated atop a long, curving breakwater on the Brooklyn waterfront, broke out at around 10:30 a.m., FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said.

The volume of fire quickly overwhelmed firefighters who had gone inside to battle the blaze and then had to retreat and fight it from the outside, Hudgens said. The effort included drones as well as boats spraying water into the warehouse from the harbor, he said.

The fire, which sent a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles (kilometers), was still going Tuesday afternoon and might take days to bring under control, Hodgens said.

Hodgens said three firefighters, three emergency medical workers and two civilians suffered minor injuries.

Police Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, who joined Hudgens at a briefing at the fire scene, said the facility is used to store DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as e-bikes, motorbikes and cars. “It’s mainly evidence but we store other things there as well,” he said.

The police have sometimes used the warehouse for public events in which they have crushed illegal motorcycles, scooters and ATVs seized from people operating them illegally.

Maddrey said that once the fire is under control, police property specialists will go inside and see what has been destroyed and what can be salvaged. “We don’t know the severity of the damage inside,” he said.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of the fire department’s chief of department as Hudgens in the second and third references. His name is John Hodgens.

Deputy dressed as Grinch gives onions to speeding drivers

From the Associated Press

MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — Several motorists who were speeding through an elementary school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway received an odorous onion as a reminder to slow down from a county sheriff’s deputy dressed as the Grinch.

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Colonel Lou Caputo, right, costumed as the Grinch, leans on the shoulder of Deputy Andrew Leird, left, as he uses a laser speed detector to check speeds of motorists traveling through a school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, in Marathon, Fla. For drivers slightly speeding through the area, Caputo offers them the choice between an onion or a traffic citation. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

Col. Lou Caputo, a 37-year veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office who conjured up the concept more than 20 years ago, was back on the streets Tuesday.

Drivers who travel about 5 mph or less above the school zone’s speed limit can choose between traffic citations and an onion presented by the Grinch. Those speeding beyond that likely receive a costly ticket.

“It’s about education, awareness that our school zones are still operating even though it’s the holiday season,” Caputo said. “We want people to slow down.”

Caputo said he portrays the fictional character created by children’s author Dr. Seuss to give motorists a “gift” but also to call attention in a nice way to the need to obey speed limits in school zones.

“It catches them off guard,” Caputo said.

“But when I give them a clear choice of a citation or the onion, they will take the onion. And I’ve had them eat the onion right in front of me.”

Keys schools remain in session through Dec. 16.

Border Patrol agent dies in ATV accident during Texas patrol

From the Associated Press

MISSION, Texas (AP) — A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent died Wednesday after an all-terrain vehicle accident while patrolling along the border in south Texas, according to the agency.

An ATV vehicle is removed from the scene where an off duty border patrol agent was killed on Wednesday Dec. 7, 2022 in Mission, Texas. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP)

The accident happened about 1 a.m. near Mission, Texas, along the border with Mexico, Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement. The agent was tracking a group of people who had crossed the border illegally.

Fellow agents found the man unresponsive, began life-saving efforts and called for an ambulance, the statement said. The agent died at a hospital.

“The death of an Agent who died while securing our nation’s border is a tremendous loss for our organization and our nation, our prayers are with his family and co-workers during this difficult time,” said U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz in the statement.

The agency did not release the identity of the agent and declined further comment.

The Texas-Mexico border has seen multiple deadly accidents in recent years stemming from immigration-related pursuits.

In June, four migrants died and three other people were injured after a Jeep being pursued by Border Patrol agents crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer on the interstate near the Texas border city of Encinal.

In January, Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent Anthony Salas died after being involved in a single vehicle traffic accident near Eagle Pass while working with U.S. Border Patrol to transport six people who had illegally immigrated to the U.S.

Last year, an Austin man was charged in the deaths of eight migrants after a deadly crash near the border city of Del Rio following a police chase.

Fire out at Iowa plant where explosion injured several

From the Associated Press

MARENGO, Iowa (AP) — It took nearly all night, but firefighters extinguished a fire that tore through an asphalt shingle recycling plant at Marengo in east-central Iowa.

Firefighters work to control a blaze at a grain elevator, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Marengo, Iowa. An explosion has caused injuries and an evacuation of people near the operation. The explosion and fire happened about 11:15 a.m. Thursday in Marengo at a grain elevator owned by Heartland Crush. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP)

Firefighters worked until 4 a.m. Friday to extinguish the fire, Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said. The fire broke out following an explosion at the C6-Zero plant shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday. C6-Zero recycles used asphalt shingles into biofuel.

Gray said multiple people were injured, including 5 people who were taken by ambulances to a hospital in Iowa City and others who were driven to hospitals in private vehicles. He did not have an exact count of the number of people injured, nor did he answer questions about what caused the explosion. Gray said he expected to release more information by the end of the day Friday.

Gray told the Des Moines Register that at least one person was in serious condition at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ burn unit. Iowa State Patrol Senior Trooper Bob Conrad told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that at least 30 people were in the plant when the explosion happened.

People living and working near the plant were evacuated, and residents a safe distance from the fire were urged to stay inside to avoid exposure to smoke. Those evacuated were allowed to return to their homes around 7 p.m. Thursday, Gray said.

Marengo is about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Des Moines.

MARENGO, Iowa (AP) — It took nearly all night, but firefighters extinguished a fire that tore through an asphalt shingle recycling plant at Marengo in east-central Iowa.

Firefighters worked until 4 a.m. Friday to extinguish the fire, Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said. The fire broke out following an explosion at the C6-Zero plant shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday. C6-Zero recycles used asphalt shingles into biofuel.

Gray said multiple people were injured, including 5 people who were taken by ambulances to a hospital in Iowa City and others who were driven to hospitals in private vehicles. He did not have an exact count of the number of people injured, nor did he answer questions about what caused the explosion. Gray said he expected to release more information by the end of the day Friday.

Gray told the Des Moines Register that at least one person was in serious condition at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ burn unit. Iowa State Patrol Senior Trooper Bob Conrad told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that at least 30 people were in the plant when the explosion happened.

People living and working near the plant were evacuated, and residents a safe distance from the fire were urged to stay inside to avoid exposure to smoke. Those evacuated were allowed to return to their homes around 7 p.m. Thursday, Gray said.

Marengo is about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Des Moines.

German police seek help in solving bull sperm heist

From the Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Police in western Germany are appealing for help in cracking a potentially very cold case.

Authorities say about 60 containers of bull sperm were stolen from a farm in the town of Olfen, 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of Cologne, late Monday or early Tuesday.

Police said in a statement Wednesday that while it’s unclear how the rustle happened, the precious cargo needs to be supercooled with liquid nitrogen at –196 Celsius degrees (–320 Fahrenheit) so it isn’t spoiled.

They are seeking tips from the public that might lead to the recovery of the sperm, which was intended for artificial insemination.

Baltimore fire chief resigns as fatal fire report released

From the Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s fire chief resigned Friday, the same day as the release of a report that reviewed the department’s response to a January vacant rowhouse fire that left three firefighters dead.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced that he decided to accept Chief Niles Ford’s resignation immediately to position the fire department for the necessary changes. Ford had led the department since 2014.

“There are no words or actions that will fill the void or ease the pain felt by the family, loved ones and colleagues of these three heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the people of Baltimore,” Scott said in a statement.

The 314-page report by a board comprised of officials from area fire departments aimed to make recommendations to prevent future tragedies, not find fault, news outlets reported. It notes that many of its recommendations could also be found in previous reports about close calls and deaths in the department. The table of contents states that a message from Ford would appear on page 4, but that page is blank.

“There must be a renewed commitment to leadership, accountability, safety, and professionalism at every level of the Department to bring these recommendations to fruition and solve some of the chronic issues the Department has been dealing with for years,” the report stated.

Four firefighters were battling a blaze inside the home on Jan. 24 when part of the three-story building collapsed, officials said.

Paramedics/firefighters Kenneth Lacayo and Kelsey Sadler were pulled from the fire and taken to a trauma hospital, where they were both pronounced dead. Lt. Paul Butrim was recovered from the building and pronounced dead at the scene. EMT/firefighter John McMaster was initially put on life support, but he was released from the hospital a few days later.

The firefighters’ deaths were later ruled homicides and the blaze was classified the blaze as “incendiary,” meaning it was set or spread into an area where flames shouldn’t be and involves a violation of law, intentional or not. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said a person of interest was identified.

The report released Friday described the challenges that department members faced that day as extreme, saying that they had never been experienced in the department’s 65-year history. It identified communication and leadership problems at the fire scene, stating that the incident commander was “overwhelmed and reached task saturation because command was not expanded.”

The report also found that there was no program to notify firefighters about vacant and unsafe homes or standard procedures for battling fires or coordinating EMS responses at vacant buildings.

The mayor said an accountabililty program will be established to ensure that the recommendations are properly implemented and that the department is committed to protecting residents’ lives and doing so in a way that protects those who “selflessly serve others on a daily basis,” Scott said.

Officers who defended Capitol from Trump supporters honored


WASHINGTON (AP) — Law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 were honored Tuesday with Congressional Gold Medals nearly two years after they fought supporters of then-President Donald Trump in a brutal and bloody attack.

From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pray during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the “heroes” as she opened the ceremony in the the stately Capitol Rotunda, which was overrun that day when Trump supporters roamed the halls trying to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.

In bestowing Congress’ highest honor, Pelosi praised the heroes for “courageously answering the call to defend our democracy in one of the nation’s darkest hours.”

To recognize the hundreds of officers who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the medals will be placed in four locations — at U.S. Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. President Joe Biden said when he signed the legislation last year that a medal will be placed at the Smithsonian museum “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.”

The ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda comes as Democrats, just weeks away from losing their House majority, race to finish a nearly 18-month investigation of the insurrection. Democrats and two Republicans conducting the probe have vowed to uncover the details of the attack, which came as Trump tried to overturn his election defeat and encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” in a rally just before the congressional certification.

Awarding the medals is among Pelosi’s last ceremonial acts as she prepares to step down from leadership. When the bill passed the House more than a year ago, she said the law enforcement officers from across the city defended the Capitol because they were “the type of Americans who heard the call to serve and answered it, putting country above self.”

“They enabled us to return to the Capitol,” and certify Biden’s presidency, she said then, “to that podium that night to show the world that our democracy had prevailed and that it had succeeded because of them.”

Dozens of the officers who fought off the rioters sustained serious injuries. As the mob of Trump’s supporters pushed past them and into the Capitol, police were beaten with American flags and their own guns, dragged down stairs, sprayed with chemicals and trampled and crushed by the crowd. Officers suffered physical wounds, including brain injuries and other lifelong effects, and many struggled to work afterward because they were so traumatized.

Four officers who testified at a House hearing last year spoke openly about the lasting mental and physical scars, and some detailed near-death experiences.

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges described foaming at the mouth, bleeding and screaming as the rioters tried to gouge out his eye and crush him between two heavy doors. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.” Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said a large group of people shouted the N-word at him as he was trying to keep them from breaching the House chamber.

At least nine people who were at the Capitol that day died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Two police officers died by suicide in the days that immediately followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after one of the rioters sprayed him with a chemical. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.

Several months after the attack, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the insurrection had died by suicide. The circumstances that led to their deaths were unknown.

The June 2021 House vote to award the medals won widespread support from both parties. But 21 House Republicans voted against it — lawmakers who had downplayed the violence and stayed loyal to Trump. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections.

Pelosi, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell attended the ceremony and awarded medals. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee also attended.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, has been handed out by the legislative branch since 1776. Previous recipients include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and Robert Frost. In recent years, Congress has awarded the medals to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who became a leading advocate for people struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and biker Greg LeMond.

Signing the bill at the White House last year, Biden said the officers’ heroism cannot be forgotten.

The insurrection was a “violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people,” and Americans have to understand what happened, he said. “The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.”

US police rarely deploy deadly robots to confront suspects

By JANIE HAR and CLAUDIA LAUER from the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The unabashedly liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots last week after supervisors approved limited use of the remote-controlled devices, addressing head-on an evolving technology that has become more widely available even if it is rarely deployed to confront suspects.

A police officer uses a robot to investigate a bomb threat in San Francisco, on July 25, 2008. The liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, after supervisors approved limited use of the remote-controlled devices, addressing head-on an evolving technology that has become more widely available even if it is rarely deployed to confront suspects. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 on Tuesday to permit police to use robots armed with explosives in extreme situations where lives are at stake and no other alternative is available. The authorization comes as police departments across the U.S. face increasing scrutiny for the use of militarized equipment and force amid a years-long reckoning on criminal justice.

The vote was prompted by a new California law requiring police to inventory military-grade equipment such as flashbang grenades, assault rifles and armored vehicles, and seek approval from the public for their use.

So far, police in just two California cities — San Francisco and Oakland — have publicly discussed the use of robots as part of that process. Around the country, police have used robots over the past decade to communicate with barricaded suspects, enter potentially dangerous spaces and, in rare cases, for deadly force.

Dallas police became the first to kill a suspect with a robot in 2016, when they used one to detonate explosives during a standoff with a sniper who had killed five police officers and injured nine others.

The recent San Francisco vote, has renewed a fierce debate sparked years ago over the ethics of using robots to kill a suspect and the doors such policies might open. Largely, experts say, the use of such robots remains rare even as the technology advances.

Michael White, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, said even if robotics companies present deadlier options at tradeshows, it doesn’t mean police departments will buy them. White said companies made specialized claymores to end barricades and scrambled to equip body-worn cameras with facial recognition software, but departments didn’t want them.

“Because communities didn’t support that level of surveillance. It’s hard to say what will happen in the future, but I think weaponized robots very well could be the next thing that departments don’t want because communities are saying they don’t want them,” White said.

Robots or otherwise, San Francisco official David Chiu, who authored the California bill when in the state legislature, said communities deserve more transparency from law enforcement and to have a say in the use of militarized equipment.

San Francisco “just happened to be the city that tackled a topic that I certainly didn’t contemplate when the law was going through the process, and that dealt with the subject of so-called killer robots,” said Chiu, now the city attorney.

In 2013, police maintained their distance and used a robot to lift a tarp as part of a manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, finding him hiding underneath it. Three years later, Dallas police officials sent a bomb disposal robot packed with explosives into an alcove of El Centro College to end an hours-long standoff with sniper Micah Xavier Johnson, who had opened fire on officers as a protest against police brutality was ending.

Police detonated the explosives, becoming the first department to use a robot to kill a suspect. A grand jury declined charges against the officers, and then-Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown was widely praised for his handling of the shooting and the standoff.

“There was this spray of doom about how police departments were going to use robots in the six months after Dallas,” said Mark Lomax, former executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. “But since then, I had not heard a lot about that platform being used to neutralize suspects … until the San Francisco policy was in the news.”

The question of potentially lethal robots has not yet cropped up in public discourse in California as more than 500 police and sheriffs departments seek approval for their military-grade weapons use policy under the new state law. Oakland police abandoned the idea of arming robots with shotguns after public backlash, but will outfit them with pepper spray.

Many of the use policies already approved are vague as to armed robots, and some departments may presume they have implicit permission to deploy them, said John Lindsay-Poland, who has been monitoring implementation of the new law as part of the American Friends Service Committee.

“I do think most departments are not prepared to use their robots for lethal force,” he said, “but if asked, I suspect there are other departments that would say, ‘we want that authority.’”

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin first proposed prohibiting police from using robot force against any person. But the department said while it would not outfit robots with firearms, it wanted the option to attach explosives to breach barricades or disorient a suspect.

The approved policy allows only a limited number of high-ranking officers to authorize use of robots as a deadly force — and only when lives are at stake and after exhausting alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through alternate means.

San Francisco police say the dozen functioning ground robots the department already has have never been used to deliver an explosive device, but are used to assess bombs or provide eyes in low visibility situations.

“We live in a time when unthinkable mass violence is becoming more commonplace. We need the option to be able to save lives in the event we have that type of tragedy in our city,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement.

Los Angeles Police Department does not have any weaponized robots or drones, said SWAT Lt. Ruben Lopez. He declined to detail why his department did not seek permission for armed robots, but confirmed they would need authorization to deploy one.

“It’s a violent world, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

There are often better options than robots if lethal force is needed, because bombs can create collateral damage to buildings and people, said Lomax, the former head of the tactical officers group. “For a lot of departments, especially in populated cities, those factors are going to add too much risk,” he said.

Last year, the New York Police Department returned a leased robotic dog sooner than expected after public backlash, indicating that civilians are not yet comfortable with the idea of machines chasing down humans.

Police in Maine have used robots at least twice to deliver explosives meant to take down walls or doors and bring an end to standoffs.

In June 2018, in the tiny town of Dixmont, Maine, police had intended to use a robot to deliver a small explosive that would knock down an exterior wall, but instead collapsed the roof of the house.

The man inside was shot twice after the explosion, survived and pleaded no contest to reckless conduct with a firearm. The state later settled his lawsuit against the police challenging that they had used the explosives improperly.

In April 2020, Maine police used a small charge to blow a door off of a home during a standoff. The suspect was fatally shot by pol