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$95,000 report ‘kept from public review,’ consultant claims

Here is the final report (jail study) issued by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) on the criminal justice system in Blount County.

Here are the key points to reducing the jail overcrowding according to Alan Kalmanoff JD, the Executive Director of the ILPP, the organization paid to do the criminal justice system assessment.

Here is the open memo to the Blount County Commission, Corrections Committee and Citizens from Alan Kalmanoff.

Here is the June 2014 Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Audit stating that the number of federal prisoners needs to be reduced and that we should look at alternative and pre-trial sentencing solutions.

The Daily Times published a story today on the matter with my comments included.  At the October Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting, I made a motion to forward the ILPP report to the full commission because that report had never been formally released to the public.  However, the full commission has not heard from the study consultant.

My statement:

“As the commissioner who made the motion to have a full commission presentation from the jail consultant on the Criminal Justice System Assessment Report, I am troubled that the meeting was canceled.  Obviously, some county officials aren’t happy with the conclusions of the independent report.  The report was suppose to be heard by the full commission last year, yet there has been no presentation to the commission and it has been delayed once again.  Nearly $95,000 of taxpayer money has been spent.  We owe it to the people of Blount County to have a thorough public discussion on our justice system and jail overcrowding problem.

The report makes some of the same recommendations that the Tennessee Corrections Institute makes including reducing the number of federal prisoners and providing more pre-trial release and alternative sentencing programs.  The report points out that our jail may be unconstitutional and that we could face legal action if we don’t reduce our jail population.  The jail overcrowding situation is dangerous not only to the inmates but to the taxpayers who may be forced to fund an unnecessary jail expansion.”  Commissioner Tona Monroe

Article: http://www.thedailytimes.com/news/report-kept-from-public-review-consultant-claims/article_1b6a1d8c-b18c-570d-b856-5376242592da.html

NMA E-Newsletter #321: Radar Fails Under Scientific Scrutiny … Again

NMA E-Newsletter #321: Radar Fails Under Scientific Scrutiny … Again

Most longtime NMA members understand the weaknesses of using radar to measure vehicle speeds. However, less experienced drivers and even the courts regard radar as foolproof. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we have fresh evidence that further erodes radar’s patina of infallibility.

A member of the NMA Board recently attended a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and was kind enough to forward us this description of one of the research presentations titled “Testing of Police Radar”. The research was conducted by two professional engineers, one of whom previously worked for one of the radar manufacturers.

The gist of the presentation is that, despite 30 years of technological innovations, radar still suffers from the same reliability and performance issues that have made it unacceptable as evidence in a court of law. The researchers state that radar cannot meet the requirements of the Daubert test, which is a set of standards trial judges use to determine whether or not expert testimony is based on valid scientific reasoning and methodology:

The reality of police radar is that it fails when subjected to the Daubert test. In this regard, police radar operation should be repeatable—this research demonstrates that it is not a repeatable technique and is, in fact, subject to operator interpretation when multiple targets are present.

The researchers tested several radar unit brands and units. With only one target, the units were pretty consistent in their speed measurements. However with multiple targets, there was no guarantee as to which vehicle’s speed was displayed. They observe that “the radar units can well read different speeds … the decision to issue a citation is highly dependent upon the operator, relative to the instrument.” This refers to one of radar’s biggest downfalls: it can’t distinguish one vehicle from another.

The researchers further explain that radar can pick out either the strongest signal or the fastest signal, depending on road conditions and the mix of vehicles on the road. It cannot, however, pick out the speed of the nearest vehicle. They point out that radar “gun sights” intended to aid target acquisition are useless. They also note that one radar manufacturer allows the officer to black out the displayed speed of the police vehicle in moving mode to conceal from the motorist that the officer was exceeding the speed limit.

Even though the researchers come from a technical/scientific background, they have the presence of mind to point out that radar speed enforcement encourages policing for profit. The NMA has been making this argument for years, but we have seen few other observers make the same connection between shoddy speed enforcement and revenue generation. The researchers further warn that using unreliable radar readings as an excuse to conduct a traffic stop and execute a questionable vehicle search raises Fourth Amendment questions:

But some jurisdictions use strict traffic enforcement as the basis of presumptive traffic stops—they will issue a warning for the traffic violation and instead are looking for a reason to search a vehicle for contraband.

Can anyone say civil forfeiture?

Overall, the study further supports the conclusion that radar speed measurement is unreliable, easily misused and often abused for revenue purposes. In the NMA’s “Fight That Ticket!” e-book, we show you how to use the many kinds of radar error to undermine the officer’s scripted testimony. When you prove to the court that what the officer has testified to is physically impossible or technically violates proper radar procedures, the prosecution’s case will be seriously compromised.

Supporting members can download “Fight That Ticket!” at no charge from the members’ area at www.motorists.org. Non-members can download it here for only $9.95.

Traffic court is a dysfunctional money making scam

“Ferguson does not even rank among the top 20 municipalities in St. Louis County in the percentage of its budget drawn from court fines and fees.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/us/ferguson-became-symbol-but-bias-knows-no-border.html

It’s not just Ferguson, Missouri that is the problem.  Frequently traffic courts are dysfunctional scams designed to enhance public treasuries while shirking due process and failing to teach people how to improve driving habits in ways that actually improve public safety.

 

HasbamaCare – It’s Uncontrifuted!

photo credit: midsouthsentinel.com

photo credit: midsouthsentinel.com

by: Eric Holcombe

Video is linked below to the lecture Doug Overbey gave to the Senate Health & Welfare Committee as he played the Establishment “administration” role of selling Insure TN as anything-but-ObamaCare.

Doug Overbey insults the Health & Welfare Committee – and then goes down in flames. Of course, this is the final vote after a good amount of behind the scenes vote counting in the House so it was all over but the crying. Give Doug a listen as he:
1) Questions the Senators’ motivation for serving in their office – that somehow listening to their constituents is not representing them or making their communities better. He sets this up with the straw man that he knows that is why the majority of them would say they initially sought public office.
2) States that the current system is “broken” and the Senators are “doing nothing” by not voting for HasbamaCare. By the way, “NO” is the default vote. Our representatives should only ever vote “YES” if they are sure the legislation is: constitutional, actually desired by their constituents (not just the ones that own the liquor stores in Pigeon Forge), there is a sound funding mechanism, etc.
3) Whines that he has served on Health & Welfare committees for 14 years in the House and Senate (but of course is somehow not responsible for the current “broken” system and “doing nothing” for 14 years as he calls it) but now is having to present the Establishment’s bill to make the sale.
4) Reminds them that Gov. Haslam has his finger on the pulse of Tennesseans and points to his re-election as evidence of same. Live by the vote-for-me-instead-of-Obama sword, die by the vote-for-me-instead-of-Obama sword.
5) Tells the Senators they are supposed to ignore you and instead vote on whether HasbamaCare is good “policy” (after he just said Gov. Haslam is so “in touch” with all the constituents).
6) Creates new word: “uncontrifuted”.
Senator Overbey has consistently demonstrated that he believes the legislators are above the people rather than public servants. I remind you of his “we have the legislative authority” statement lobbying for the continued unconstitutional (and therefore illegal) selection of judges back when the Republicans wouldn’t simply “do nothing” and let the illegal Tennessee Plan sunset when they first won majority. This attitude of we-know-better-than-the-peasants, so let’s force “policy” isn’t representing the constituents. It’s tyranny – and that’s “uncontrifuted”….

 

December 2014 Commission Report

Commission reports are coming out later than anticipated because the commission meetings can generate more questions than answers.  In an effort to do through reporting, the reports are delayed while seeking answers.  All commissioner were present at the commission meeting.

Animal Shelter
There were three items on the agenda regarding the animal shelter. A couple of people have contacted me in states of confusion about these votes thinking that all three were one issue.  Hopefully this report will clear up any confusion.

The first was a request for a second animal control officer.  Currently there is only one person performing the duties of an animal control officer.  There is a need for another animal control officer.  However, I voted against the measure because the previous director of the shelter worked in the field doing animal control service.  A new director was hired and given substantially more pay than the previous director, yet he does not have the same job responsibilities.  The new director now handles paperwork that was previously done by the Mayor’s assistant.  With the new director getting substantially more pay, he should be on call to fill in for the other animal control officer.  Additionally the last part time employee was made full time this year.

Furthermore, the animal shelter budget has been steadily increasing; rising nearly 37% since FY11.
FY 11 $223,942
FY 12 $263,901
FY 13 $272,625
FY 14 $320,387
FY 15 $355,426 (appropriated)

Thus, with increases in the staff hours, budget and pay for the director I didn’t feel it was wise to add more to the shelter budget.  Government spending can quickly spiral out of control and I didn’t want to add more to a budget which has been growing so rapidly.  Commissioners Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted no.  The rest voted yes.

The second item was a request for $12,000 for a new commercial washer and dryer along with the installation costs.  $6,000 was paid for with donations, the other half with tax money.  The donation account had about $8,200 in it and the director told the commission that he had no plans for the additional donation money.  Thus, I made a motion to amend to use $8,000 of donation money and thereby use $2,000 less of tax revenue.  The common sense motion was defeated 7-14.
Akard – yes  Allen – yes  Archer – no  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – yes  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – no  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The question was asked of me why the Commission would reject this amendment when there was no plan to use this money.  I don’t know but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the director put in a request for a new phone system utilizing the leftover donation money.

The resolution passed 20-1 with my vote for it because the equipment was needed.  However, there was another problem with this request that likely stems from purchasing.  The county only received one bid for the washer and dryer.  There are five employees in purchasing.  There is no reason why these people can’t obtain more bids.  I will work toward more accountability from purchasing.

Furthermore, the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee have been operating as one body for several years.  The purchasing portion of the packets routinely say for “information only.”  The Mayor and commissioners serving on the Purchasing Commission have not been doing their jobs in demanding more from our purchasing employees.  Tell the Mayor that you would like to see more effort from the Purchasing Commission.  273-5700 emitchell@blounttn.org

The third vote approved funds for a shelter vet and vet tech.  The funds were provided by Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation.  The vet will now be a county employee.  I wanted to look at making the vet serve through independent contract labor rather than being a county employee because the county health care benefits are so rich.  However, there wasn’t time this year since the funding will kick in with the new year.  Thus, I voted for it and am looking into regulations for contract labor to see if this idea is feasible in the future.

The hard work and dedication of the volunteers and donors is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Judicial Commissioners – Business as usual
The Commission was back to business as usual, with several commissioners pencil whipping the appointments of Judicial Commissioners.  Judicial Commissioners have great powers including issuing issuing arrest warrants and setting bail, but the county commission takes a lackadaisical approach to these important appointments.

There were no resumes in our packets.  I made a motion to postpone the matter for one month so that we could be furnished resumes.  The motion failed 6-15.
Akard – no  Allen – no  Archer – yes  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – no  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – yes  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The terms of the appointments are for one year and automatically renew unless the commission passes a resolution to stop the automatic renewal.  Amendments to require annual approval by the commission failed.  Previous terms have been 4 years.  Judge Bill Brewer told the commission that the shorter terms were necessary to prevent having to use an ouster suit to remove a non-performing judicial commissioner.  He said that the county almost had to pursue one to terminate a judicial commissioner.  When I questioned him on the matter, he retreated telling me that it wasn’t as bad as he made it sound, that the reason for poor job performance was excessive absences and that the judicial commissioner had quit.  When I asked him who recommended this judicial commissioner to the county commission he gave the convenient answer that he didn’t remember.

The statute governing judicial commissioners says:

No member of the county legislative body of any county to which this subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i) applies shall be eligible for appointment as a judicial commissioner

One of the nominees is a City of Alcoa Commissioner.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to appoint someone serving in a legislative capacity to also serve in another branch of government.

Judge Brewer informed the commission of the training required to be a judicial commissioner.  He also told us that the county attorney suggested that we do the annual appointments and that the judicial commissioners are subject to discipline by the Court of the Judiciary.  There are problems with what he told the commission.  There is no county attorney and the Court of the Judiciary was abolished by the state legislature in 2012.  Honestly, I think Judge Brewer could stagger into the commission room and slur his words and that the Commission would rubber stamp the appointments.  Only Commissioners Cole, Miller and I voted no.

Rules – Petty Politicians
Please read this article about the petty politicians serving on your commission.  Resolutions are now required to go through the Agenda Committee unless at least 2/3 of the commission votes to add the resolution to the agenda of the commission meeting.  The Agenda Committee is still optional per board rules.  I made a motion to amend Rules 12 to fix this.  Chairman Jerome Moon declared my motion out of order.  I challenged the rule of the chair but only 4 other commissioners joined me in following the rules.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe showed respect for the democratic process.  The rest did not.  That wasn’t the only time that chairman Moon cut me off.  He cut my microphone off while discussing the Judicial Commissioners.  He has repeatedly cut my microphone off.   jmoon@blounttn.org

War Memorial
The commission approved plans for updating Blount County War Monuments.  This should be neat to see when it’s completed.

Up next: Budget Committee and Purchasing Committee nominations
It’s high time that we demand more accountability from the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.

Happy New Year!