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Ferguson, Justice Department close to agreement

WASHINGTON The Justice Department is close to an agreement with the Ferguson, Missouri, police department on a deal that would bring sweeping changes to the agency, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The overhaul, once finalized, could avert a civil rights lawsuit that federal officials have the option to bring against departments that resist changing their policing practices. The person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the agreement still requires final approval by the city but involves changes including more thorough training of police officers. Such deals also generally require the appointment of a monitor to oversee a police department s compliance.

Ferguson city officials cautioned that no deal was imminent, and said that while significant progress had been made they remained concerned about the cost of a deal they fear could bankrupt an already financially troubled community.

We want to get it past us, but at the same time we re not going to agree to anything we don t think is appropriate or we can t afford, said Mayor James Knowles III. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson declined to discuss those concerns or the timing of any resolution, but said in a statement that negotiations to create a court-enforceable consent had been productive. Another person familiar with the process, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two sides had made a lot of progress since the release of a harshly critical federal report earlier this year.

The department believes that in order to remedy the Justice Department s findings an agreement needs to be reached without delay, Iverson said in a statement. The federal government launched an investigation into Ferguson s policing protocols last year after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer put the department under national scrutiny.

Though the officer, Darren Wilson, did not face state or federal charges, the federal investigation into the police department found sweeping patterns of racial bias within the force. A Justice Department report issued in March, based on interviews with police leaders and residents and analysis of data on stops, searches and arrests found that officers routinely used excessive force, issued petty citations and made baseless traffic stops. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder called the report a searing portrait of the department and said, It is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg.

The Justice Department has undertaken more than 20 investigations of troubled police departments, most recently Chicago and Baltimore, in the last six years in search of systemic civil rights abuses. Many of those investigations end with a consent decree in which the police force commits to an overhaul of its practices. The Justice Department has the ability to sue when talks break down. Knowles and Councilman Brian Fletcher said the council recently notified the Justice Department that the city would not agree to a settlement until residents have input into the process. Fletcher said he was not aware of any response. Fletcher said he was concerned the agreement could bankrupt the city. He said the annual cost of a monitor, additional police training and other costs associated with the agreement could amount to $500,000 to $750,000.

Ferguson is already struggling financially due to several factors related to the fallout from Brown s death, including overtime costs for officers during months of unrest, loss of revenue from self-imposed municipal court reforms, legal costs from protester lawsuits and the DOJ negotiations, declining property values and other factors.

We are over $2 million deficit spending before the implementation of the agreement, Fletcher said. The only way possible (to afford the settlement) would be through extensive cuts in personnel and expenses or a tax increase, or a combination of both.

Knowles has cited significant changes over the past 16 months, including a community policing effort that seeks to work with residents rather than simply respond to crimes, and several reforms in the municipal court system.

BY ERIC TUCKER[1] and JIM SALTER, Associated Press

References

  1. ^ ERIC TUCKER (www.twitter.com)

Jury finds Adrian Daou guilty of killing Jennifer Stewart

Adrian Daou was condemned to life in prison on Wednesday for the 2010 axe killing of Jennifer Stewart, a 36-year-old Vanier mom he chose as his perfect score in a murder plot for notorious hip-hop fame.

Daou wanted to trade his dead-end job as a crack dealer for the life of a billionaire rap star and figured he needed to kill the frail and tiny Stewart, weighing just 80 lbs and turning tricks to feed her crack habit. He said he wanted to kill so he could nail down the real killing rhymes. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder after deliberating for three days.On Wednesday, her parents trembled the moment the foreman read the guilty verdict.

Their brief victim-impact statement was read in court by an emotional John Monette, the lead detective on the case. Their precious daughter had met her end in the most violent way and nobody deserves to die like that, her parents wrote in their statement.

The guilty verdict brought some justice for Jen, they said. We love and miss you, Jen.

When Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger afforded Daou, 24, the opportunity to say anything before the mandatory sentence was passed, he simply replied, No. Maranger described the slaying as the senseless, vicious murder of an innocent human being. Daou will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

The case was anchored in Daou s confession to police in February 2013 after he d spent 22 days in an isolation cell at the Ottawa Carleton Regional Detention Centre, where he was serving a sentence on a drug conviction. He had told an older guard that he d like to confess to a murder. In his first of what would be a series of confessions, he said he had used a military knife to kill Stewart, when in fact she was killed with an axe. Police have yet to recover the weapon used to kill Stewart and have no DNA linking Daou to the killing. In fact, the jury heard, another man s DNA was found on Stewart s body. Daou, who was suicidal and under a psychiatrist s care at the time, was relieved to be out of the the hole and asked police who provided him with plenty of coffee and pizza during his interview if he could get an overnight transfer out of isolation at the provincial jail to a federal prison.

Nine days later and still desperate to get out of Innes Road jail, Daou confessed to another killing, but detectives had already solved that homicide through DNA evidence.

The jury was also shown a Canadian Tire receipt for the items Daou said he used in the slaying, including an axe, that he said he bought about two weeks before killing. A search of Canadian Tire records found one matching the four-item transaction, from two months before the killing. Police were unable to retrieve security video of the purchase.

Daou s defence team Robert Carew and Annik Wills told the jury that his confession was unreliable and that there wasn t a shred of physical evidence against their client. Wills said the Crown said detectives had held back details that only Stewart s killer would know but that all the facts Daou gave police were readily available in newspaper stories. Court heard that he was reading stories about the slaying online when he told an ex-girlfriend he was the killer.

Wills also said the axe the prosecutors held up for the jury wasn t the actual weapon but one police purchased to show jurors what it looked like. She also reminded them police never bothered to track down and interview the man who Daou said dumped the weapon, beyond leaving a single voice mail.

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Cooperative Strategy Forum Focuses on Pacific Maritime Security

HONOLULU, December 16, 2015 Gaining a better understanding of each other s viewpoints and fostering improved future collaboration was the focus here Dec. 14, as representatives from 10 partner nations gathered for a two-day cooperative strategy forum.

The forum, co-hosted by the chief of naval operations, took place at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

In a keynote speech, Navy Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, shared his expectations of those operating in the waters of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Responsible, Safe Compliance With International Law

I m focused on the behavior of all naval and maritime forces in the region, not on any specific country, Swift said. I expect all naval and maritime forces, including my own, to operate responsibly, safely and in full compliance with international law.

Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons operations, plans and strategy legal advisor and oceans policy advisor for the chief of naval operations, explained how the forum builds relationships and strengthens collaborative efforts between the United States and its allies.

This forum is designed to facilitate an exchange of views among all our allies and partners in the region, Gibbons said. This exchange of views helps us to understand each other s approaches to the challenges in the region but it also facilitates personal relationships between the attendees. Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Odom, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies military professor and Cooperative Strategy Forum organizer, said that the center also benefits from these types of multinational events.

Maintaining Regional Cooperation

One of the top three priorities in our curriculum, both in workshops and courses that we teach, is now maritime security, he said. For us to hold an event here where you have the leaders or representatives of the leaders of the navies throughout this region discussing ways to cooperate on maritime issues is clearly quite an opportunity for us.

As part of the event, Swift explained why maintaining cooperation between partner nations in the region is important.

Today, all Indo-Asia-Pacific nations benefit from a rising tide of prosperity, the admiral said. We all have major stakes in this region s continued success, especially at sea, where so much of our trade, investment and interaction take place. Swift then offered his thoughts on the way ahead for the region.

I m convinced the continued promotion of the rules-based system that evolved over the past 70 years remains the best way forward for all nations in this region, large and small, to continue to rise peacefully, confidently, securely, and economically, he said. My concern is that after many decades of peace and prosperity at sea, we may be seeing the leading edge of a return of might makes right to the region. Such an approach may once again impact the vibrant but vulnerable, waters of Southeast Asia.