Archive | November, 2011

Man shot in the head in Lynn

29 Nov

Emergency services responded to an alley near 16 Newhall Street and found a male in his 30’s with a single gunshot wound to his head just after 2:00 PM. The man was transported to Salem Hospital by ambulance. Medflight was requested to fly the man to a Boston hospital.

Lynn Police stopped two suspects in the area shortly after the shooting, but it is unknown if any arrests have been made.

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Fatal accident on Lincoln Street in Worcester

27 Nov

A 47 year old Worcester woman was killed when she was struck by a car while crossing Lincoln Street at 4:30 Saturday afternoon.

The full press release:

On Saturday November 26, 2011 at approximately 4:37 pm Worcester Police Officers responded to the area of 148 Lincoln St for report of a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian. Upon arrival officers discovered a single car accident involving a pedestrian who had suffered severe injuries. Paramedics arrived and the victim was transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center – University Campus where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The victim has been identified as a 47- yr-old Worcester resident. Her identity is being withheld at this time pending notification of next of kin. The exact cause of death has not been determined and is pending results of an autopsy to be performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston.

The Worcester Police Accident Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and has initiated an investigation. Preliminary results of the investigation have determined a 2004 Chevrolet Classic operated by a 50-yr-old Worcester resident, was traveling south on Lincoln St when it struck the pedestrian who was crossing the roadway from east to west in front of the on coming vehicle. The operator was the sole occupant of the vehicle at the time of the accident and remained on scene until officers arrived. The Chevrolet sustained right front end and windshield damage. At the scene of the accident Lincoln St is a two lane roadway divided by double yellow lines with a posted 30 mph speed limit. The investigation by the Accident Reconstruction Team is on-going at this time.

Why did the cops do that, part 2: Pepper Spray

21 Nov

There’s been a lot of talk about the use of pepper spray lately, usually in the context of police officer spraying peaceful protesters at one of the Occupy protests.

Here’s an example from Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Keith Olbermann implying that the police use of pepper spray was cowardly:

And another video, from a protest at the University of California-Davis, where a police lieutenant uses a large can of pepper spray on a group of protesters:

I think many people have criticized this use of pepper spray without an understanding of why it is used and what it does. For the purposes of this discussion, the issue of whether or not the protesters should have been allowed to remain is irrelevant. In both instances, police were ordered to evict people from a particular place.

For background, I have been trained in the use of non-lethal/less-lethal force. I have been pepper sprayed and tear-gassed as part of this training, so I know what each feels like, and understand the effects firsthand.

Pepper spray is capsaicin oil suspended in a medium in a pressurized can. Essentially, it is “hot pepper oil”. When sprayed on a person’s face, it can cause pain, force the eyes to tear up and close, and make it difficult to breathe. It can make your eyes run and make you cough. The effects usually start to wear off after 15-20 minutes and are gone within an hour. Many police departments policies provide for a person who has been pepper sprayed to be given a change of clothes and access to water to clean their face off with.

Police have few options when ordered to move people who refuse to be moved. 200 pounds of dead weight is actually pretty difficult to move, and the problem is compounded when dealing with protesters who link arms together or employ other means to remain in place. If you don’t believe me, have a friend go completely limp, and attempt to drag them 100 feet or so. A question I commonly hear is “Why can’t a couple of cops just grab a person and drag them away?”. Well, that might work for one or two people, but the protesters almost always outnumber the cops, and it wouldn’t work at all for protesters who have linked arms together.

So we have a situation where protesters have been ordered by the police to disperse, and are refusing. In the past, doctrine would have had officers charging in with batons, delivering blows until the protesters were too injured to remain in place. Another option is the application of what is known as “pain compliance”, through the use of a minimal amount of physical force. For example, an officer could place the edge of his hand under a protester’s nose, and then lift up. In theory, this will cause enough pain that the person stands up to avoid it, and can then be removed. This can be effective, but can also lead to injuries, both among police and demonstrators. If someone used such a technique on you, you would probably have a hard time remaining peaceful. So, pepper spray is used as a non-physical way of gaining compliance through pain. As an added bonus, people who have been sprayed are incapacitated to a degree, which affects their ability to fight with the police if they were so inclined.

People seem especially outrage that demonstrators are being sprayed in the eyes, or from close range, or that pregnant women or women in their 80’s are being prayed.

Pepper spray is designed to be applied to the face, primarily to the eyes, nose and mouth. Studies have shown that direct exposure to pepper spray does no damage to the eyes. The eyes are generally the most affected by pepper spray, so that’s where it goes.

Pepper spray is generally used within six feet. It’s a liquid spray, so the precise application of it can be tricky. Spraying from closer helps to ensure that it is delivered accurately, and that only the people you intend to spray get sprayed. A good blast of spray has the same affect regardless of distance (i.e., it doesn’t hurt more when done closer). In the video from Tulsa, the police are seen holding a protester’s head while applying the spray. If they didn’t, he could just keep moving his head to prevent the police from delivering the spray effectively.

Pepper spray works the same, and isn’t any more or less effective or dangerous, on pregnant women and old ladies. If you are ordered by the police to disperse or be pepper sprayed, and you refuse to disperse, they aren’t going to spray everyone but you.

Questions and comments are always welcome, and if anyone has way to move protesters that doesn’t involve hurting them, we’re all ears.

Part one of this series, which discusses the police detaining someone who appears to be crazy, can be found here.

Why did the cops do that?

7 Nov

Whenever I read a news article about the police, there are always a slew of comments asking why the police acted the way they did. Reading through those comments, it’s apparent that while some of them are just from people who will always hate the police no matter what, others have formed opinions based on a misunderstanding of how the police are supposed to handle a given situation. For example, in an article like “Police shoot, kill deranged machete-wielding man”, you’ll see people ask questions like “I don’t understand, if they had just gotten to know him, they would realize he’d never hurt anyone. Besides, they had 10 big officers there, all heavily armed and wearing bullet-proof vests. Why were they so scared of one man? Couldn’t they have done anything else?”. You can see where the person is coming from, but because they have misconceptions about what happens in these situations, they go away thinking the police are murderers and cowards.

I’m going to post a series of blog entries attempting to address why situations play out like they do. Obviously if you’re the type that thinks everything the police do is wrong anyways, this probably isn’t for you. I’d love to answer questions about why the officers may have taken a specific action, but I’m generally not interested in debating with a reader over whether or not a given policy is correct. Without further ado, here’s today’s entry:

For the first example, we’ll discuss a scenario that happened in Boston, and was recently posted on UniversalHub. To summarize, someone observed an older gentleman out late at night near the Faulkner Hospital and out of concern for his safety, called the police. According to the man’s account of the incident, he was out for a jog, but he admits that he may have looked like an escapee from a nursing home. The man refused to answer questions posed by the officer, and was handcuffed, put into an ambulance and taken to the Faulkner Hospital ER, where he was held against his will until a doctor determined he was alright, and then released.

It’s obviously not a crime to jog, or to suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other mental illness. There is, however, a significant public interest in caring for people who cannot take care of themselves, or who are in danger of hurting themselves or others. Many of these people willingly check themselves into a hospital for an evaluation, but others refuse to go. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 123, Section 12, allows for emergency, involuntary hospitalization of a person in this situation. This can be initiated by a police officer, doctor, psychologist, or certified mental health nurse. This form is completed, including justification as to why the applicant feels it is necessary, and the person is generally restrained and taken to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation. They will be evaluated by a doctor within two hours, and the doctor will then make the determination whether to release the person, or to authorize them to be held against their will for up to three days. At this point, the patient has the right to have an appeal before a court, and also to agree to a voluntary admission (under certain conditions), instead of involuntary.

In this specific case, police were tasked with making a judgement about the man’s condition. The only way to do this is by conversing with the patient. Generally, you would be asked things like, “What is your name/address”, “Do you know where you are”, “What is today’s date/what day is it?”, “Do you know who the president is”, that sort of thing. According to his account, the man refused to answer the questions, or gave answers that to the police may have seemed rambling or disconnected (I’m doing this for your children.).  Of course, this is perfectly within the man’s rights when dealing with the police, but the officers have no way of knowing whether the man is unwilling to answer these questions, or unable to based on his mental condition. It sounds like the police explained to the man why they were there, but even though he hadn’t committed a crime, the man kept asking to be handcuffed, which could easily be seen as a cry for help. Also, through experience, police officers have learned that a person asking to be handcuffed usually has a good reason. So, as far as the police could tell, the man was unable to answer questions, behaved oddly, and the situation seemed strange. Based on their observations, they decided the man needed medical care, and they put him in an ambulance and sent him to the emergency room. From there, per the man’s account, the police were no longer involved, and the rest of the Section 12 scenario played out.

There are multiple scenarios in which the police, under the rubric of general public safety, can detain you against your will without a crime being committed. The most common of these is when an intoxicated individual is placed into protective custody (commonly known as “the drunk tank). Section 12’s as detailed above, are also common, especially for people believed to be suicidal. In a third example, a court may issue a warrant for a drug addict to be forced into rehab, and police may be called upon to execute that warrant. Another common example is a CHINS (CHild In Need of Services) warrant, issued for a runaway or truant juvenile. In each of these examples, because the person is not under arrest or being charged with a crime, their rights are different than what you may be accustomed to. For example, because police aren’t questioning you and you aren’t under arrest, you won’t be read a Miranda Warning. Unlike the usual voluntary encounter with police, you aren’t free to leave unless you’re being arrested or charged.

If you are ever stopped by police due to a mental health concern, you have two options:

1) Answer their questions to the best of your ability, and if there is no reason for them to be concerned, they will let you go.

2) Remain silent and take a free ride to the emergency room. Once there, you can have a chat with a doctor. Of course, you can remain silent there, too, in which case they’ll just keep you longer.

Comments, questions, and criticisms are always welcome.

DISCLAIMER: My post addresses general policies and laws. I do not speak for the police officers on scene that night, or for any police department.

Military aircraft monitoring in the Boston area

1 Nov

You may not think of Boston, or New England in general, as a hotbed of Air Force and Navy activity, but this can actually be a fairly active area for listening to military airplanes. Both Maine and New Hampshire have very active Air National Guard refueling wings which can be heard almost daily. Fighter wings from Massachusetts and Vermont can be heard frequently, and I’ve heard the RI National Guard flying, too.
Besides these, the majority of the military aircraft deploying to, or returning from overseas pass over the region, and can often be heard communicating with air traffic control. Some can’t make the trip without gassing up, and you can hear mid-air refueling over Maine, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia.

The first thing you’ll need, obviously, is a capable receiver. You’ll want one that receives the UHF military air band, 225-400 MHz. Not all scanners have this capability. I use a Uniden BCD396XT and an Icom IC-R20. An aftermarket antenna will probably also give you a signal boost. If your scanner doesn’t have the UHF air band, you can still hear military flights as they contact air traffic control. If your new, just be aware that most commercial airlines use callsigns; SPEEDBIRD213 isn’t some cool new stealth bomber, it’s just the British Airways flight into Logan.

Most of the milair transmissions happen very fast. Ever with a fast scanner, if you’re scanning a couple hundred channels at a time, you’ll probably miss a lot. I’d recommend either dedicating a scanner to listening to milair, or use the “priority” feature on your scanner to concentrate on, and frequently scan, the most likely channels.

The ScanNewEngland wiki is a great starting point to find military frequencies active in the area. You’ll also want to check out the mid-air refueling routes in the area, and program in those frequencies. Lastly, you’ll want to program in the UHF air traffic control frequencies for the Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center and the Boston Consolidated TRACON. Military flights contact air traffic control on VHF and UHF, but UHF is only used by military flights. If you listen to VHF & UHF, you’ll hear every flight, military and civilian. You may also want to be proficient in quickly adding a frequency, as the pilot will often announce over the air which ATC frequency he’s using or going to use next.

A website run by the FAA will even tell you when there are going to be military exercises in the area, or when a certain refueling area will be active. 

For example purposes, here’s the transmissions I noted this morning. Blanks indicate where I missed a callsign.

11:18 PACK61 on 321.0

11:23 PACK61 & 62 (NH Air National Guard KC-135R’s) on 321.0MHz (PACK Control Com 2), climbing to 21,000, receivers will be in formation at 19,500, are running 15 minutes late. Receivers will also be linking up with TEAM21 (KC-10A from the 305th Air Mobility Wing). Will also be using 282.7MHz (AR-204 alternate) during refueling.

11:33 TEAM21 & KILLER1 (MA ANG F-15) on 338.2MHz (Boston ARTCC GDM36)

11:38 RAGE1 (Likely Navy F-18) on 338.2, dropping from 41,000

11:45  ___531 on 269.2 (Boston ARTCC PVD34)

11:46 ______ requests Uniform (UHF frequency assignment) on 307.9 (Boston ARTCC BOSOX47)

12:51 PACK61 on 321.0MHz, 15 minutes out from landing, Code 1, 35k fuel remaining.

13:34 PACK62 on 321.0MHz 15 minutes out, Code 2, two maintenance write ups for bad battery on one piece of equipment (IGY-2?), FLS no go on MMR2, 25k fuel remaining. Requests air stairs.

Good luck! I’m more than happy to answer any questions, or take any suggestions!