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American Scene: Federal criticism leads to Seattle police reforms
Question of the Day
SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Thursday proposed a series of police reforms in response to a damning federal report that came after several high-profile incidents involving minorities.
Mr. McGinn and police Chief John Diaz said among the 20 initiatives to be implemented over 20 months were training for all officers on use of force standards, the development of protocol to make sure encounters don't escalate and steps to address biased policing.
"As mayor, I will be holding police leadership accountable to achieve these changes," Mr. McGinn said at a City Hall press conference.
In December, the U.S. Justice Department said inadequate supervision and training had led officers to grab weapons such as batons and flashlights too quickly, intensifying confrontations even when arresting people for minor offenses.
The department launched an investigation following the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver and other reported uses of force against minorities.
Federal investigators determined Seattle police engaged in excessive force that violated federal law and the Constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other community groups called for the inquiry after a Seattle officer shot and killed the woodcarver, John T. Williams, in 2010.
Video from Officer Ian Birk's patrol car showed Williams crossing the street holding a piece of wood and a small knife, and the officer exiting the vehicle. Off-camera, the officer quickly shouted three times for Williams to drop the knife, then fired five shots. The knife was found folded at the scene, but the officer later maintained Williams had threatened him.
White supremacist running for sheriff in panhandle
SANDPOINT — He has been an Aryan Nations member and Ku Klux Klan leader, and now Shaun Winkler wants to be the sheriff in a rural Idaho county near the Canadian border.
The white power activist is running as a Republican in the May 15 Bonner County primary to become the top law enforcement officer. Mr. Winkler said despite the white supremacist beliefs he holds as a KKK imperial wizard, his brand of justice would be colorblind.
"In the event I was elected sheriff, I would not act on racial profiling," Mr. Winkler said. "Being in the white power movement, I know how it feels to be profiled by law enforcement."
Rather, Mr. Winkler is running on a platform that includes coming down hard on sex offenders and meth manufacturers, and reducing the impact of federal law enforcement at the county level.
Cornel Rasor, chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, doesn't see much appeal to Mr. Winkler's candidacy.
"The seven people that like him will vote for him," Mr. Rasor said. "I don't think he has a chance."'
Bonner County is heavily Republican, with a large tea party following. But "there are very few Aryans here," Mr. Rasor said.
A human rights group leader urged local voters to reject Mr. Winkler.
"If the voters of Bonner County will turn out in large numbers to oppose Winkler's candidacy, they will be sending a clear message of opposition to all those who come to our great state to promote hate-filled ideologies," said Tony Stewart of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, which, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, put the Aryan Nations out of business with a lawsuit more than a decade ago.
Mr. Winkler, 33, was for years an associate of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler, who ran for mayor of Hayden in 2003, the last time an admitted white supremacist appeared on a ballot in northern Idaho. Mr. Butler received only about 50 of the 2,300 votes cast in that election, Mr. Stewart said.
Activist released from prison isolation unit
SALT LAKE CITY — Lawyers for a prominent environmental activist say he has been released from an isolation unit at a federal prison and returned to a minimum-security camp.
Tim DeChristopher is serving two years for fraudulently bidding on drilling leases near Utah's national parks in an effort to keep the parcels undeveloped.
DeChristopher called his supporters Thursday to say he was out of an isolation unit at a federal prison in Herlong, Calif. He's back in a nearby minimum-security camp with full privileges after spending 20 days in isolation.
One of his lawyers, Pat Shea, said DeChristopher was placed in confinement for an ill-advised word he used in an email to supporters. He used the word "threaten" about returning a donation that was made to his legal defense fund.
Hospital: Jail death mom was treated appropriately
RICHMOND HEIGHTS — A St. Louis hospital says it made every effort to help a homeless woman who sought treatment for a sprained ankle and subsequently died in police custody after being arrested for refusing to leave the facility.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that an autopsy showed blood clots killed 29-year-old Anna Brown in September when they migrated from her legs to her lungs.
Ms. Brown's family says authorities treated her unfairly and have hired a lawyer, Keith Link, who didn't respond to messages from the Associated Press on Thursday.
St. Mary's Health Center says its staff followed medical guidelines and performed appropriate tests. The hospital says blood clots can go undetected in a small number of cases.
Police have said officers had no way of knowing Brown's dire condition.
Judge skeptical toward anti-terror law argument
NEW YORK — A federal judge in New York says she is "extremely skeptical" that a lawsuit can succeed in striking down a law giving the government wide powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.
Judge Katherine Forrest opened a daylong hearing on the subject Thursday by saying legal precedents seemed to pave the way for the law to be found constitutional. She also surprised lawyers who brought a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of journalists, scholars and others by saying the First Amendment did not seem to be central to the law.
Judge Forrest said she did not believe all speech is encumbered by the First Amendment. The government said in court papers that fears by those who brought the lawsuit were baseless.
Lawyer: Patients terrified by clinic nurse's actions
LUFKIN — A prosecutor told Texas jurors that a nurse accused of killing five kidney dialysis patients by injecting them with bleach caused her patients to fear for their lives.
Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington presented his closing argument Thursday in the capital murder trial of Kimberly Clark Saenz. He said two patients were terrified after witnessing the former nurse inject bleach into the IV lines of two other patients.
Defense attorney Ryan Deaton told jurors that Ms. Saenz is innocent and is being scapegoated by the clinic's owner for faulty procedures at the clinic, including improper water purification.
Prosecutors say the 38-year-old Ms. Saenz caused five patients' deaths in April 2008 at the clinic in Lufkin, about 125 miles northeast of Houston. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.
Stranded man survives 10 days on snow; friend dies
RENO — A 76-year-old Colorado man survived 10 days in the remote Nevada desert by melting snow and using skills he learned as a Boy Scout, but his travel partner has been found dead.
Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado says 76-year-old James Klemovich of Littleton, Colo., was in good health near his vehicle when he was found Tuesday by military personnel holding training exercises in the area.
They found 75-year-old Laszlo Szabo of Lovelock, Nev., dead about a mile and a half away from the car.
Sheriff Machado says the two had been exploring mining interests, but got lost on March 18. They were reported missing by family members who hadn't heard from them in several days.
Officials say Mr. Klemovich was treated and released from a hospital in Fallon, Nev.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports
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