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Martin Kaste

A couple of summers ago in Poulsbo, Wash., in a crowded park before a fireworks show, a man named Stonechild Chiefstick was bothering people, according to police. They got complaints about him seeming intoxicated and "doing crazy stuff."

At first, the cops just talked to him about it. But when they got a report that he'd threatened someone with a screwdriver, they went to arrest him. The encounter ended with police shooting and killing him.

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To talk about what this verdict might mean for law enforcement going forward, we are joined by NPR's Martin Kaste, who has been talking with his sources in police forces around the country.

Hi, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

This year's tax season comes with an extra source of stress: Will you find out that scammers claimed government money in your name?

Unemployment benefits fraud was rampant in 2020 as the government rushed to send out COVID-19 relief. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General has estimated the amount of benefits stolen was at least $63 billion, based on earlier patterns of unemployment fraud. But a lot of the fraud is coming to light only now, during tax time.

Law enforcement agencies around the country are dealing with the fallout of off-duty officers who took part in the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally that turned into a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol.

So far, more than 30 off-duty officers have been placed at the rally. In some cities, that fact has shaken confidence in the police.

The acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, says "hundreds" of people may ultimately face charges related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, which interrupted a session of Congress and left five people dead.

Sherwin spoke with NPR's Martin Kaste in an exclusive interview Saturday evening about the multiagency investigation, the challenges officials face and what they'll be looking for.

Several state capitols saw pro-Trump protests today, too, though none of them were nearly as violent as the mob at the U.S. Capitol.

Some legislatures closed public access to their capitols as a precaution. That was the case in Georgia, when armed protesters gathered outside the capitol there. Georgia's secretary of state was pressured by President Trump to overturn presidential election results.

"No-knock" search warrants, which allow police to force their way into a home with the element of surprise, have attracted criticism since the height of the "war on drugs" in the 1980s and 90s. But it wasn't until this year that the death of Breonna Taylor galvanized that criticism into a national movement to ban the raids.

Nov. 3 promises to be an Election Day unlike any other, and public safety entities say they're preparing for tensions and the possibility of violence.

Poll workers are usually the first line of defense in case of disputes between voters, though they may be backed up by private security guards. Some local election authorities say they'll be adding guards, and Washington state's King County says it will post guards to ballot drop boxes that in other years have been unattended.

Secret Service agents generally don't talk publicly about their work, for obvious reasons. But privately, they've been grumbling.

"I think there is a lot of frustration," says J.J. Hensley, a novelist who used to work for the Secret Service. He's still in touch with colleagues, and says it's been a tough campaign season for them.

"Agents are already worrying about guns and knives and bombs," Hensley says. "Now they have to worry about COVID-19."

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As U.S. law enforcement departments are accused of racist policing, one of the most common responses by the people in charge has been to have officers take "implicit bias" training.

The training usually consists of a seminar in the psychological theory that unconscious stereotypes can lead people to make dangerous snap judgments. For instance, unconscious associations of African Americans with crime might make cops quicker to see them as suspects.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced police will no longer require people to wear masks in public, unless the absence of a mask presents a "serious danger."

One of the few silver linings to this pandemic is that in most places, there's been less crime.

"Calls for service are certainly down," says Sgt. Adam Plantinga of the San Francisco Police Department. "No open bars means there's fewer late-night brawls, and people are home more, so burglars are having a tougher time of it."

Police departments across the country are facing a new reality in the era of coronavirus. As familiar categories of crime fade, officers are being asked to handle unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable new assignments.

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Medical rationing is not something Americans are accustomed to, but COVID-19 may soon change that.

The specter of rationing is most imminent in New York City, where the virus is spreading rapidly and overwhelming hospitals with patients.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has 2,200 ventilators in its state stockpile. Current COVID-19 case projections suggest the state may not have enough of the machines, which help critically ill people breathe, as soon as next week.

As COVID-19 spreads, public health officials are telling people to stay home if they feel sick. But in jails and prisons, that's not an option.

Robert Greifinger is a physician who spent 25 years working on health care issues inside the nation's prisons and jails, and he says the "social distancing" advice we're all hearing right now isn't so simple behind bars.

"There are crowding issues, ventilation issues, security issues where people have to be checked and monitored fairly frequently," Greifinger says. "So it's really hard to do."

The Trump administration has revived the debate over "end-to-end encryption" — systems so secure that the tech companies themselves aren't able to read the messages, even when police present them with a warrant.

"It is hard to overstate how perilous this is," U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a speech last fall. "By enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield, the deployment of warrant-proof encryption is already imposing huge costs on society."

Cybercrime is booming, and victims are often at a loss about where to get help.

In theory, Americans should report the crimes to the FBI, via its Internet Crime Complaint Center. In practice, the feds get hundreds of thousands of complaints a year, and have to focus on the biggest cases.

But the other option, calling the police, can seem even less promising.

Over the last generation, gun rights have expanded in America, especially the right to carry firearms, both concealed and in the open. The big exception to this expanding gun culture has been New York City.

The secret to comedy, according to the old joke, is timing. The same is true of cybercrime.

Mark learned this the hard way in 2017. He runs a real estate company in Seattle and asked us not to include his last name because of the possible repercussions for his business.

"The idea that someone was effectively able to dupe you ... is embarrassing," he says. "We're still kind of scratching our head over how it happened."

Gregg Bennett is an entrepreneur in Bellevue, Wash., and he knows a bit about tech. So when his smart phone started acting funny one day last April, he got a bad feeling.

"I was having trouble getting into my email account. And all of a sudden my phone went dead," he says. "I look at my phone and there's no signal. And I go, 'Oh no, something's happened here.'"

An annual survey that asks Americans about crimes they've experienced showed that the rate at which those surveyed said they had been raped or sexually assaulted nearly doubled from 2017 to 2018.

The 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), released Tuesday, is managed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Justice Department, and asks people if they've been victims of crimes — even if they didn't report them to police.

Updated 9:30 a.m. ET

Law enforcement in Dallas on Monday shot and killed a masked gunman carrying a military-style rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition. Authorities later identified the man as 22-year-old Army veteran Brian Isaack Clyde of Fort Worth.

No one else was seriously hurt in the shootout, which took place outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse around 8:40 a.m. ET. However, some glass panes on the building were shattered.

The man who killed 12 people in a municipal building on Friday in Virginia Beach, Va., fired many rounds — "well into the double digits" — and when officers caught up with the suspect, it took a "long gun battle" to stop him, according to Police Chief James Cervera.

One reason may have been the suspect's gear.

Authorities recovered a .45-caliber handgun with multiple extended magazines that were emptied, Cervera said at a weekend news conference. "The suspect was reloading extended magazines in that handgun, firing at victims throughout the building and at our officers."

More guns are being stolen out of cars in America, particularly in states that have made it easier for people to carry firearms on the road.

There are no reliable national numbers, but an NPR survey of a sampling of police departments reveals steady increases in reports of guns stolen from vehicles.

In Atlanta, the number rose to 1,021 in 2018 from 439 in 2009.

In St. Louis, it increased to 597 from 200 in the same period.

Tyson Timbs won his Supreme Court case in February, but he still doesn't have his Land Rover.

"I want my truck back. I've always wanted it back," says Timbs, whose Land Rover was seized by police in Indiana. They took it after he was arrested for selling a small amount of heroin to undercover cops. He served a period of house arrest and probation for the drug crime — punishments he accepted.

But Timbs never accepted that police were entitled to his $42,000 vehicle, which he'd bought with proceeds from an insurance settlement.

Investigations into the causes of the two Boeing 737 Max crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, have focused on software — and the possibility that it was autonomously pointing the planes' noses downward, acting without the pilots' consent.

It's a nightmare scenario. It's also a reminder that software is everywhere, sometimes doing things we don't expect.

This sank in for a lot of people four years ago, during the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. It turned out that software inside the cars had been quietly running the engines in such a way as to cheat on emissions tests.

The Democratic-led House Thursday approved another piece of legislation to broaden federal gun-control legislation. The bill gives the FBI more time to do background checks on gun purchasers. It comes a day after the chamber passed a bill extending the checks to private firearms sales.

Both measures face long odds at becoming law.

The latest bill would extend the time sellers have to wait before completing a gun sale. Like Wednesday's measure, it passed largely along party lines — 228 to 198.

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