DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Who Killed Theresa?: 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Surete du Quebec Documents



This is interesting. I never noticed it. This is a list the Surete du Quebec gave me some years ago cataloguing who was interviewed in Theresa's case.  Take a look at the title: The SQ can toe the cop-speak line all they want about "suspicious death", but they know she was murdered.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Criminal Investigative Failures



The Wallet, the wallet... haven't I told you this story?



It's called the least-effort-principle:

Why would someone wait six months to discard the wallet? Six months to have all that evidence around them: why would someone expose themselves to that level of risk?  The logical thing would be to get rid of it as soon as possible. Also, all the contents of the wallet were found intact, and the water damage of the contents was consistent with prolonged exposure to elements. 

I find it hard to believe that someone would travel around with it for six months and risk  losing track of some of the contents. 

But in case your still not convinced:

I bought an identical wallet on Ebay some five years ago (same era, same color, etc...). I buried it in the snow on November 3, 20xx at the same location where the original wallet was found. Six months later I had the police dig it up. Police confirmed that the "dummy" wallet showed the same evidence of deterioration as the actual wallet. Therefore, the wallet had been left there for six months.

Don't get seduced by pet theories and intuition. It can kill an investigation. 

JJA

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

All-A-Twitter



I have a Twitter app on my blog now (look down to right).  If you want to subscribe to my Twits, just click on the dingle-hopper down there.

I'll update you on your cell, etc... with whatever garbage I'm trolling in the name of Justice.

(ya, I'm sure that gets your heart all a-pitter-patting)

JJA

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Patterson chooses Gillibrand: It's Personal For Me Too.

What do you get when you have an card toting member of the NRA elected to the U.S. Senate in New York?

A hot-tempered and confusing political mess. Yesterday's appointment by Gov. David Patterson of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to Hillary Clinton's vacated Senate seat has  ignited the ire of gun control advocates.  "I don't think someone with a 100 percent NRA rating should be the next senator from New York," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy. 

What, you say? Republican v. Republican? Yes. This is a cornerstone issue where gun rights and control advocates come head to head with the party's schizophrenia in a Mano-a-Mano battle between the party's meek and macho yin and yang. So it may seem odd to see Republicans opposing the NRA (which has been branded with the Association's John Wayne swagger), but this is also the party that is typically tough-on-crime, anti Miranda, and definitely in favor of getting the bad guns out of the hands of the bad guys so that police can flex their full enforcement braggadocio .


Kristen Gillibrand

Carolyn McCarthy is no stranger to gun violence having lost her  husband  in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road shooting massacre.  And I believe her when she says this is a personal issue for her. It is also a polarizing issue, and being personally vested does not always mean you are best suited to fight the fight. Personal issues lead to passions, and then lack of clear thinking, mistakes, regrets, and finally a worse situation than the one you started with. The passionate ones are not always the best problem solvers. Sometimes they shriek so loud from their personal experience that they fail to persuade, and ultimately become inter-meshed with the problem. 

McCarthy is not alone, and the issue is serious. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not in favor of Gillibrand's appointment noting that the she "has actively opposed the efforts of New York City, and cities around the state and nation, to enact commonsense measures that keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals."

I do not own a gun, but I think people are entitled to own guns, provided they follow the rules and laws. And I agree with Democrat Jay Jacobs that ultimately Gillibrand is a Centrist and is willing to work with people.  By contrast, McCarthy's confrontational style seems out of synch with our new Administration. I think it would be best for McCarthy to sit this one out, and allow someone less divisive to broker the common ground.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Richard Jenkins - Everything is Illuminated


Ok, here's the deal... back when I was an actor I was in a movie called Trapped In Paradise. (a not-so-good movie, but people still recognize me for it) The stars were Nicolas Cage, John Lovitz and Dana Carvey, but my charge was with Richard Jenkins.  Richard played the FBI special agent chasing the stars over a bank robbery, and I was one of his seconds.

This was 8 weeks of filming in and around Niagara Falls Canada / US in the bleak of winter.

And I might add I remember a particular evening-off spent in St Catherines where I got the hibbies over being in the locale of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo.

So that's how I met Richard and we remained friends. Not long after filming wrapped Richard gave me the opportunity to meet his agent in New York. I travelled by train and stayed in NYC with a then undiscovered writer-friend. The meeting with the agent was a bust, but at least I had the opportunity.


A year later:  Sony Pictures is auditioning for Crimson Tide. Jenkins gets me an audition. I have to fly to LA for it. I'm sandwiched b/w Ric Schroeder and William Macy in my audition slot.  I don't get a part in the film.



Bottom line: (aside from my flaming out as an actor of course) Richard Jenkins is a stand-up guy. I saw his production of The Miser at Trinity Rep in the early 90s... it was outstanding.  This is a man who has paid his dues in dozens of character roles. He is deserving. 

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My Friend Richard Jenkins has been Nominated for an Academy Award


Performance by an actor in a leading role

Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (Universal)
Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

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Yer Mourning Newz

Bush twins offer advice to Sasha, Malia Obama 




"So like, if it's four AM and you need to get your munch on? The White House cook is totally cool... and like you can go bowling anytime? and omg WHERE did you get that scarf, it's totally Fetch...  ttfn"

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"Th-th-th-that's all folks!"
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"the bad news for the [press] pool is there's 12 more balls."


The new President's a funny guy.

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The Bridge to Nowhere:




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Obama 'to get spy-proof smartphone'

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

All The President's iPods


CBC radio conducted a pole to select songs President Obama should include on his iPod that give him a flavor of Canada. For the most part I am in agreement with what they came up with (an early draft had no Quebec content). 


I would only add this... if you want to understand the Quebec soul, you should look no further than Les Cowboys Fringants, La Grand-Messe.  It's inexplicable why this is absent from consideration.

Here are the final 49 (49th parallel... get it?):


Arcade Fire: Rebellion (Lies)

The Arrogant Worms: Canada's Really Big

Barenaked Ladies: If I Had $1,000,000

Beau Dommage: La complainte du phoque en Alaska

Daniel Bélanger: Rêver mieux

Measha Brueggergosman: I'm Going Up a Yonder

Michael Bublé: Home

Bruce Cockburn: Wondering Where the Lions Are

Leonard Cohen: Democracy

Leonard Cohen: Suzanne

Jesse Cook: Mario Takes a Walk

James Ehnes: Barber Violin Concerto

Glenn Gould: Goldberg Variations

Great Big Sea: Ordinary Day

The Guess Who: American Woman

Harmonium: Pour un instant

Ben Heppner: We'll Gather Lilacs

Ian & Sylvia: Four Strong Winds

Karkwa: Oublie pas

Moe Koffman: Swingin' Shepherd Blues

Diana Krall: Departure Bay

k.d. lang: Hallelujah

Daniel Lanois: Jolie Louise

Daniel Lavoie: J'ai quitté mon île

Raymond Lévesque: Quand les hommes vivront d'amour

Gordon Lightfoot: Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Gordon Lightfoot: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Malajube: Montréal -40°C

Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now

Joni Mitchell: A Case of You

Mes Aïeux: Dégénérations

Marjan Mozetich: Affairs of the Heart

Parachute Club: Rise Up

Oscar Peterson Trio: Hymn to Freedom

Oscar Peterson: Place St. Henri (from Canadiana Suite)

The Rankin Family: Rise Again

Sam Roberts: The Canadian Dream

Stan Rogers: Northwest Passage

Rush: Closer to the Heart

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Universal Soldier

Shad: Brother (Watching)

Stompin' Tom Connors: The Hockey Song

Marie-Jo Thério: Évangeline

The Tragically Hip: Wheat Kings

The Tragically Hip: Bobcaygeon

Gilles Vigneault: Mon pays

The Weakerthans: One Great City!

Neil Young: Rockin' in the Free World

Neil Young: Helpless

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Strain and the Economy


"These are desperate times, desperate measures are called for"

Well maybe not so desperate measures. 

Though some "experts" caution us that suicide attempts are not on the rise, there certainly are some recent indicators suggesting stress and strain in the current economy are causing some people to go over the edge.

In Saguenay, Quebec Marc Laliberte and Cathie Gauthier murdered their 3 children and then Gauthier apparently assisted her husband's suicide on New Years Day.  Both adults had recently been laid off from work and were experience increasing pressure to pay their bills.  
France's Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet took his own life after losing more than a billon dollars in the fallout from the Madoff affair.  What started half comical ended all tragic when Marcus Schrenker attempted to fake his own death by crashing his private plane into a Florida Swamp.  The Indiana financier who apparently bilked his clients of millions, was later found in pup tent in a park, his wrists slashed muttering, "death, death".  And in Louisiana Danny Pratt confessed to the murder of his 2 1/2 year old son after initially telling police that the child had been kidnapped by gunmen.  Pratt's motive? He did not wish to pay child support.

(Add to the list Chicago real-estate powerbroker Steven L Good and German billionaire Adolph Merkle who both took their lives earlier this month)

So what do these cases tell us, if anything?  They all are about money, and they all involve some elaborate and extreme plans to get out of what the perpetrators considered very desperate situations.  Also, money woes are effecting everyone: the very rich, middle class and very poor.


Last week NPR weighed in on the subject with a report from financial historian John Steele Gordon who called the correlate between money-strain and suicide "factoids" and "bunk".  Gordon claimed psychologists have no evidence that the suicide rate goes up in tough economic times (though he was unable to provide any data).  This led to a backlash of complaints from listeners:  

"Your blithe guest needs to do his homework. "

"Mr. Gordon uses official data on suicides rates to dispel the myth, then later mentions that we shouldn't believe official data on suicides. "

"My Great Grandfather killed himself on October 29, 1929 because of the crash. He was a banker in Syracuse, New York. He didn't actually jump out of a window, he shot himself. But I was a little upset to hear that apparently the stock market suicides were a myth. Just because it didn't happen right there on Wall Street doesn't mean it wasn't happening elsewhere."


I don't know the official statistics for suicide and the economy, but even if it is true that these are outliers - special cases that get all the attention while distracting us from the real facts - I do not think they should be be taken lightly. Outliers are often frontier indicators of new trends in the making. A recent spike in celebrated suicide attempts may be an indicator of a new trend in our national health picture. We would all be wise to monitor it carefully.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Wallet


Allo Police photo of wallet from April, 1979

Professor Pierre Blackburn from Sherbrooke University, who specializes in heuristics and is reading Criminal Investigative Failures writes,

"...and when was the wallet found ? did it not automatically discredit the overdose theory ?"

I have discussed this frequently, but it is always worth repeating. The simple answers are, "A week after the body was found", and "No".

The lead inspector, Roch Gaudrault reasoned that finding the wallet by the side of the road, 10 miles away from where the body was found was irrelevant. To quote the detective, "Wild animals could have carried the wallet there".

Wild animals... traveling 10 miles... being careful so as to not allow the contents to spill from the wallet.... being careful not to leave any bite marks... wild animals, carefully using the organized travel patterns of humans, keeping to the roads, and leaving the evidence by the side of a road.

The kicker here is that M. Gaudreault, after retirement became and "expert" adjunct professor at Sherbrooke University, influencing an entire generation of new cadets on what he considered proper policing procedures.  That's right, the same cegep / school where Professor Blackburn now teaches students on psychology, heuristics and the dangers of cognitive bias. 

There is some good in all of this. Professor Blackburn has been granted permission to translate two chapters from Kim Rossmo's book into French. It is his goal to use the chapters as a module for teaching new students about cognitive bias traps, and proper policing technologies. 

Full circle.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yer Mourning Newz

Sully




That's what this recession needs, a hero. Something to distract us from the truth that our nation is going to hell-in-a-hand-basket. God, the press will be chewing on this to our eternal oblivion, as we slide down the economic spiral to the inevitable doomsday scenario of the quartering of the nation (as prophesied by Russian propaganda-niks):



You want a hero-pilot? I got your hero-pilot... Porkins:



Yes, Porkins
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"Welcome to Circuit City, were service is..." Bankrupt!  And how 'bout Nortel: their whimpering death only took 10 years. Geologic Ages have died faster. 

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What are the odds? In fact that's just what the non-profit director asked when she told CNN, "With a [rape] ranking that high, it's ironic that the person who wins is a convicted sex offender,"

She was referring to Alaska's ranking as the worst in the nation for number of rapes.  Where's the irony? Someone had to win, with a ranking that high chances were it might have been a sex offender.

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Even my 8-year-old got this one right



We were discussing the Fab Four, the Liverpool Lads, the Magical Mystical Men.... I said, fill in the blanks... When you're a child and silly your favorite Beatle is...

Ringo.

You grow older and are all about love and your favorite is...

Paul.

You reach adulthood and you're all about rebellion so your favorite is...

John.

And in final maturity when you become wise your favorite is...

George

(actually I think the last one came more from the process of elimination)

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Rossmo's Criminal Investigative Failures

Chapter 7 -  Narrative: Judgment, Heuristics, and Biases in Criminal Investigations

David and Nelson Stubbins



This chapter on the necessity for investigators to form theories of how crimes were perpetrated (narratives) and the trappings of heuristics (cognitive shortcuts) which are required in quick decision-making is a must read for all of us wishing to practice clear thinking to achieve optimal conclusions. 

The authors are a psychologist and professional in organizational development respectively. Their chapter begins with the oft cited sailors' warning, "Hic Sunt Dracones"... Here Be Dragons, which even Disney's Captain Barbosa offers as a logical explanation for the unknown, at a loss to provide any other rational conclusion.  


Cap'n Barbosa. Or as we call him, Bardolino Barolo Barbera Barbosa

Yesterday I was trying to explain to my daughters the fallacy of this type of reasoning. We have begun a project of cataloguing money we find in the street as a method to teach them about statistics and probability. I had noted that thus far I had found the most money (16 cents) while going out for morning jogs. This led one of them to the conclusion that joggers must be better finders of money. It was certainly an explanation, but not the best one.  Jogging did not imply finding money; the fact that I had covered more ground then them while out for 4 miles each day was perhaps the better fit (Correlation without causation).  Still, we've done this for a week: we need more data. And we have to be open to all sorts of ideas and creative thinking (maybe dragons, but let's keep looking).

The problem of course in real life is that investigators don't have the luxury of time afforded formal research studies. They have to use heuristic techniques to find sometimes the "best fit" for a theory when a full-proof, irrefutable conclusion can't be found. This can lead to errors, at the worst it can lead to false accusations and convictions.

Narrative mistakes come to mind when I consider my sister, Theresa's investigation.  Despite evidence to the contrary, initial investigators focused on an idee fix of a drug overdose and conspiracy / cover-up by student friends of the victim.  From this point all evidence that supported that theory was considered (drugs on campus, no apparent violence to the victim), and anything working to dis-confirm it was discarded (the victim was not a habitual drug user, the way in which the victim was found was more indicative of a sex crime).  Confirmation bias continued as investigators made the decision to focus their interviews almost exclusively on students (of 200 witness statements, close to 180 were from students).  When the investigation reached a dead end, investigators did not go back and re-scrutinize their narrative with logic and analysis; instead they followed what appeared logical for their theory to fit: Wait... in time one of the student conspirators will crack and come forward.  


Corporal Roch Gaudreault (right) at the scene of the crime, 1978

25 years later when two investigators who worked on the original case were questioned, their first responses were very different and telling.  Private detective, Robert Beullac was careful to state, "well there were two theories, one of a drug overdose and one of a serial sexual predator"  The officer for the Surete du Quebec, the official investigating police force, Corporal Roch Gaudreault was much more definite in his response: "I am still convinced of a drug overdose".

As the authors state, "Once a story starts to form, it is increasingly more difficult to step back and see how alternative narratives also explain the evidence." This idea is beautifully articulated in chapter 8 of Criminal Investigative Failures, Who Killed Stephanie Crowe? a case-study documenting the and tunnel-visioning of the Escondido Police Department into thinking a group of boys (including the victim's teenage brother) conspired to murder a 12-year-old girl in the face of conclusive evidence that she was murdered by a local drifter.  The story is particularly galling in light of testimony by FBI Senior Special Agent Mary Ellen O'Toole in support of the Escondido theory in which specific forensic blood evidence against the drifter was deemed "irrelevant" by O'Toole. One wonders how author Gregg O. McCrary, a former FBI agent who provided expert witness testimony against Escondido, managed not to blow his top in the face of such a textbook case of bureaucratic narrow-mindedness and groupthink.


FBI SSA Mary Ellen O'Toole

Consider this. The name of this website is "Who Killed Theresa", yet the chapter in Criminal Investigative Failures is entitled, "What Happened To Theresa Allore". The change in title was a well thought out consideration by editor Kim Rossmo. We don't know what happened to Theresa. Maybe she did commit suicide or was involved in some drug conspiracy. Maybe the evidence that would confirm those stories has been lost. Circumstantial evidence points to a theory that she was sexually assaulted and murdered, like two other young girls in that region at that time, but there is no conclusive evidence. 


Private detective, Robert Buellac (now deceased)

Yes, I play more to this theory, but that has to do with some personal motivations more than bias. Theresa suffered enough humiliations through bias and poor vetting, I am not willing to let those humiliations continue without conclusive evidence. But I am always open to the one narrative that will best fit all the evidence and finally allow this mystery its full and proper resolution. 

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yer Mourning Newz

Bye Bye



Veronique Cloutier and Louis Morissette? Get out your garlic, Blackula is coming.

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"Malt joy and ginger despair are all in the queue to be served on this, the quarter-of-a-millennium mark since Arthur Guinness first put velvety blackness in a pint glass."



Dylan Thomas it's not. Read Bono's New Year's appreciation of Sinatra. Like what we needed was another appreciation of Sinatra.  Write as another like Beautiful Day and all will be forgiven.

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Good Lord, the Mother Nature Network revived Captain Planet!

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Dr. Itiel Dror on Confirmation Bias

Dr. Dror contributed an article to Criminal Investigative Failures. The following is an article by him on confirmation bias with forensic evidence (which is supposed to be bias proof). Not so fast says Dror. 


The article originally appeared in the Summer issue of the UK's Police Review (apologies for the formatting errors):

Biased brains

The way police officers and staff examine evidence is always at risk of
being far from impartial. Itiel Dror investigates how unconscious human
bias can inadvertently influence how scientific evidence is interpreted

How is it possible that highly skilled and
professional police forensic experts
make mistakes?

Examination of evidence by forensic examin-
ers, investigations by detectives, or considering
which action to take as police constables, all
have one thing in common: they rely heavily on
human thought processes and the brain.
Thought processes and perception are far
from perfect because the way people internally
understand, interpret, evaluate and judge infor-
mation highly depends on how thought proc-
esses are structured and brain mechanisms. Too
often people overemphasise the role of the in-
formation itself and neglect to understand the
crucial role that the human mind plays in under-
standing and interpreting this information.
People’s brains process information, but they
do not have the resources and capacity to deal
with all the information they receive. Therefore
they have evolved to take ‘short cuts’.
This means prioritising and selectively ex-
amining information, actively and dynamically
processing, and other mechanisms that form
the basis of intelligence. As people become
more experienced and highly skilled, they in-
creasingly develop and rely on these short cuts.
Examining one piece of evidence is used to
guide the search and processing of further in-
formation, piece after piece, in a way that they
all fit together to solve a puzzle. Knowing where
to look, what questions to ask, paying attention
to the important things and knowing where to
find them, is what distinguishes experts from
novices.

However, as one piece of information guides
people’s search and evaluation of subsequent
information, so they can also be led astray.
Once people have a belief or a hunch of what
the data may suggest, a theory or hypothesis,
this has powerful and profound effects on how
they perceive it, the way they process the in-
formation and the mental representations they
form of this data, how they evaluate and inter-
pret this information, and their judgements and
decision making.

Diminished objectivity

These effects can take many different forms and
influence people in a variety of ways. For exam-
ple, confirmation bias is when people notice and
give more weight to information that is consist-
ent and supports certain interpretations and not
others. Conversely, people do not notice, dis-
miss, or give less weight to other information
that does not fit (or even contradicts) the in-
terpretations they unconsciously support. Con-
firmation bias is only one example of the way
people think that diminish experts’ objectivity.
Escalation of commitment and momentum,
conformity and group think, prophecies that
fulfil themselves and wishful thinking are just
a few other psychological and cognitive phe-
nomena where experts unavoidably and uncon-
sciously can lose objectivity and be selective and
biased.

Myself and my research team of David Charl-
ton, Ailsa Peron, Ina Schmitz-Williams and Peter
Fraser-Mackenzie set up to experimentally ex-
amine effects of context on forensic experts. In
a series of studies undertaken over several years
we provided forensic evidence and examined
whether its evaluation by forensic experts was
solely based on the evidence itself.

For example, we would present fingerprints
from a crime scene, and observed if the conclu-
sion by forensic experts on whether they match
depended on if the suspect confessed to the
crime. We consistently found that such contex-
tual information affected the judgement and
decisions made by qualified and experienced
forensic examiners.

In a couple of these studies we presented
identical fingerprints to the same fingerprint ex-
perts, but provided a different external context
for them each time. We found that the context
in which evidence is presented, such as that
described above, can cause the same forensic
examiner to reach conflicting decisions on iden-
tical evidence. Our data and research findings
from these studies suggest that such influences
are most powerful when the quantity and qual-
ity of the evidence is low, and that these effects
occur at a subconscious level without the foren-
sic examiner being aware of them.

Practical evidence

Are confirmation bias and thought process influ-
ences an academic issue existing purely within
the theories of the human mind and brain?
Well, try to say this to Brandon Mayfield, an
Oregon attorney who was arrested for killing
191 people and injuring more than 1,800 in the
March 2004 Madrid train bombings.
Based on a latent fingerprint left at the crime
scene by the real Madrid bomber, Ouhnane
Daoud, FBI fingerprint experts positively identified
Mr Mayfield as the bomber. Even an independ-
ent forensic expert appointed to his defence team
concluded that it is a definite match.

In May that year, after Daoud was identified as
the owner of the fingerprints, the FBI acknowl-
edged the error and partly attributed it to confir-
mation bias. Mr Mayfield was released from cus-
tody and has since recieved an apology from the
federal goverment and was awared USD2 million
in compensation.

The issue of questionable objectivity and bias
when examining evidence within a leading con-
text is not limited to fingerprints or to investiga-
tions in the US.

For instance, CCTV evidence was recently used
in the Old Bailey in the case of Levi Bellfield who
was convicted of the murders of Amelie Dela-
grange in 2004 and Marsha McDonnell in 2003
in southwest London. He was also found guilty of
the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy in 2004.
One piece of evidence in in the attempted
murder charge relied on a CCTV image of a car.
However, there was only a single frame from the
CCTV footage that contained the registration
number, and this was of extremely low quality.
Initial examination of the image by detectives
(with minimal context) was able to conclude very
little information about the number plate.
However, when the image was presented to
forensic experts along with a suspect’s registra-
tion plate (for example, that of the accused), then
the forensic imagery examination of the CCTV
image was conducted within a potentially influ-
encing and biasing context.

The Met was eventually forced to admit in
court that detectives had failed to properly exam-
ine the CCTV footage and four officers were later
formally reprimanded by the force after a review
by the Independent Police Complaints Commis-
sion.

Possible solutions

I believe these examples show that there is no
question that forensic experts and police offic-
ers (like everyone else and like experts in other
domains) are susceptible to bias and other influ-
ences. So what can be done about this? The solu-
tions to this problem, both in the forensic domain
as well as in the larger context of policing, is two-
fold.

The first solution is the development and im-
plementation of best practice in the field. An
example of this is for forensic experts to try to
examine evidence without potentially biasing in-
formation being given to them.

Best practice needs to be scientifically based
and validated by experts in thought processes
and not by forensic experts.

When this is not possible (which does happen
due to operational requirements), the aim should
be to first examine the evidence without the con-
text, clearly documenting the more objective and
independent analysis, and only then to allow the
introduction of the additional contextual and po-
tentially biasing information.

Contextually biasing influences come in many
different forms. Another example of such context
and how it can be managed is the proactive steps
taken by Kevin Kershaw, the head of forensic
services at Greater Manchester Police who is cur-
rently on secondment to the National Policing Im-
provement Agency to work on these issues. He is
actively working to combat this bias and protects
his forensic examiners from being unduly influ-
enced by buffering them from the investigating
detectives.

The second solution is training. There is gener-
ally an alarming lack of training in this area. For
example, in the Levi Bellfield case, both CCTV im-
agery forensic experts stated under cross-exami-
nation in court that they acknowledge the exist-
ence of confirmation bias, but had no training in
this area.

The Fingerprint Society, Hampshire Constabu-
lary, and Greater Manchester Police are examples
of a professional body and forces who have pro-
vided some training in this area.

Forensic evidence is an integral and important
part of policing and the criminal justice system. It
is relied on more and more, and it is vital to make
sure that this, as with other police processes and
decision making, is as professional and objective
as possible.

Understanding the human brain and mind,
and the structure of thought processes, is vital
to ensure the highest quality in judgement and
performance.

Dr Itiel Dror is a senior lecturer in cognitive
neuroscience at the University of Southamp-
ton. He has worked with the US Air Force
and police forces across the world

Web subscribers can read related articles, including:
Surveillance – moving target (PPR, 28 March 2008)
Crime analysts (PR, 7 May 2008)
www.policereview.com

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gazette Editorial on RCMP Report

I am glad to see The Gazette weighing in on the RCMP report, but enough of the calls for a civilian oversight board. It didn't happen with the Poitras Commission Report, and it won't happen here.

The solution is not more oversight by the public. We hire government management to do a job. The public shouldn't have to then turn around and hold their hands. Hire the right people, hold them accountable. Replace them if they falter. 

Accountability is what is lacking here, not more public involvement. That's why we pay taxes. People have enough to worry about right now just making it through the end of the month. Is it too much to ask that the government relieve us all of the burden of worrying about Federal public safety? Work the problem, and give the public what it pays for: an accountable Federal police force.


RCMP promises are no longer good enough

THE GAZETTE
JANUARY 10, 2009

It won't have come as a complete shock to the ordinary citizen in this province to learn that the RCMP's Quebec division is rent with toxic divisions, its management and operations structures in need of a complete overhaul.

Evidence of RCMP incompetence has been thick on the ground in the province for decades. To take three memorable examples, there were the 1971 infiltration of FLQ cells and the fraudulent "manifesto" released by the RCMP, urging greater violence; the 1972 barn-burning by the RCMP security service; and the 1973 RCMP break-in to steal a list of Parti Québécois members.

Those incidents might seem like history, of no relevance to today, but as a report by The Gazette's William Marsden shows this week, the force's current failings look a lot like a continuation of that history: poor communication, careerism run amok, management that turns a "blind eye to mediocre performance, incompetence and especially reprehensible actions when it suits them."

This latest report, by three Université de Montréal professors, is just one in a series. In recent years, there have been two other major internal inquiries into what is wrong inside the RCMP. These exercises in hoped-for self-improvement usually follow egregious instances of incompetence.

To take, once again, just a couple of highlights: Four RCMP officers were murdered in Alberta by a man the force had known was dangerous for decades. In 2007, four RCMP officers left Robert Dziekanski writhing on the floor of the Vancouver International Airport within 30 seconds of their arrival. He died after being Tasered by inexperienced officers.

The RCMP at its best is a world-class organization, capable of carrying off complex assignments. It was instrumental in bringing an end to Quebec's biker wars. And Project Colisée, another enormous success, resulted in a series of spectacular arrests of Montreal mobsters, including Nicolo Rizzuto.

A federal police force should be the most sophisticated, skilled and competent law-enforcement body at our disposal. The RCMP's job is key to the running of a democracy such as Canada's. The agency enforces federal laws, including drug-trafficking, terrorism and domestic security.

We might have greater confidence in the RCMP's effort to remake itself, if it was monitored by an independent civilian oversight body. But instead of a tough, independent monitor, we're given sporadic reports promising long overdue changes. It's not good enough. We need to see the changes.

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King's Hall, Compton



FYI:  The King's Hall, Compton website is back up, which must mean the management company is somewhat (again) aggressively interested in selling the place (the last asking price I saw was $1 million, but that was long before the current recession).



You will understand when I say that for me the photos are absolutely beautiful, and also haunting and creepy. I feel compelled to look at them, yet at the same time I feel a bit icky after I've done so.


(for those of you new here, my sister Theresa was murdered while in residence as a student at this place in the late 1970s. Her body was found adjacent to a field about a mile away).



The place is managed by Daniel James Desindes, a nice guy who I have met. I frankly don't quite understand how he has the emotional faculties to reside here. It's got The Shining all over it, but more power to Daniel for doing it.

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Parts and Labour



So we were talking about my new crush, Parts and Labour (yes, Anon I do love that synthesized bagpipe sound)...

If you recall I was riffing on how great the drumming was. Well imagine my shock when I later found out the original drummer was replaced with a more conventional guy who seems to have been instructed to just keep time.



Yes, virtuoso, Christopher Weingarten is no longer with P&L, he went off to write a book about Public Enemy...  So I wrote Chris. Here's some of what I said:

"Chris:

You left the band? Ah sh*t... this bites. I just learned about you! Look, I'm almost 45, live in North Carolina and don't get out much anymore, but...

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE your drumming! I have a drum set that's been collecting dust for 30 months. After xmas I picked up the sticks and tried to follow you.. couldn't on most (the paradiddle on GOLD... I'm three weeks out), but just knowing I could participate on Long Way Down was complete pleasure, and a release from my daily drudge working for the government.

I Know that you've inspired someone who is jaded. Are you still playing? (Of course you are, but where?)

If you ever make it to the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC let me know..."


Yours Truly circa 1980... look at the size of that cowbell!


So (and you know where I'm going with this, right?)... CHRIS WROTE ME BACK!:


"Damn! Thanks, man! That means so much for me to hear that! Wow!

You'd probably be sad to know I haven't played drums more than two or three times in the course of the last 18 months.

I'm working on a book and a career and zzzzz boring, but I'm probably gonna start a metal band this summer if (here's hoping) my book is done and whatnot. I miss playing so much right now. :/ I'll be sure to let you know.

PS: the paraddidle on "Gold" is more like RLRRLRRL with reversed placement (ie, the RIGHT hand on the snare and the LEFT hand on the hi-hat). Bass drum is just four on the floor the whole way thru.

Wow, thanks agaiN!"

How cool is that! (and that paradiddle thing is tricky, believe me)

Chris is a long time music contributor to the Village Voice and blogs over at Poisson d'Avril. Check him out

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Quebec RCMP Slammed for Incompetence

So my first reaction is... there are 668 Quebec-based RCMP officers? What are they doing? There are regional forces in Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec City. The Surete covers 15 districts. Yes, I know the rural north of Quebec is vast, but big enough to justify close to 700 sworn officers?

The meat of the report slams the RCMP for croneyism, bad senior management, failure to discipline, unethical conduct, and on and on and on. Is anyone surprised by this?

Thanks to Anon for the tip:

Que. RCMP A Mess

BY WILLIAM MARSDEN, MONTREAL GAZETTE
JANUARY 8, 2009

MONTREAL - A secret RCMP report indicates that the Quebec division of Canada’s most vaunted police force is a mess of bad management, poor employee communications and rotten promotion procedures that reward cronyism and sycophants while keeping good officers down.

“The system favours development of careerism, which members explain is a genuine plague that taints relations and decisions within the RCMP,” the report states.

This careerism often interferes with sound police work, it says:

“It creates ‘individualists’ that invest in projects and initiatives not out of interest or for their intrinsic value, but simply to garnish their promotion file with ‘good examples.’ ”

The report cites officers who claimed that competition for promotion has destroyed the force’s teamwork by creating a system where everybody is out for his or her own career interests.

Quoting RCMP officers, it says that the promotion procedure at the RCMP “fails dismally at ‘putting the right people in the right places.’ ”

Officers also told the report’s authors that RCMP managers turn a “blind eye to mediocre performance, incompetence and especially reprehensible actions when it suits them.”

The report claims that senior officers are not trained to handle disciplinary problems. They also cover up bad conduct to “preserve the image and reputation of the RCMP and avoid, at all costs, conflicts with members that could attract media attention,” it says. “From the members’ standpoint, ‘image policing’ weighs too heavily among management’s concerns.”

The RCMP said Wednesday that they would not comment on the report.

It was written by three professors at the Universite of Montreal’s Research Group on Language, Organization and Governance.

The writers interviewed 668 Quebec-based RCMP employees of whom 85 per cent were officers and the rest civilians. The interviews were voluntary and confidential and were held between Sept. 21, 2007, and Aug. 29, 2008.

The RCMP commissioned the report as part of its effort to address serious problems within the force that came to light over the mismanagement of its pension funds as well as such operational tragedies including the murder of four officers in Alberta in 2005 and the death of newly arrived immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

The report confirms the findings of two earlier studies that indicated the national police force is in turmoil.

Both of the earlier reports - one called Rebuilding the Trust: Report of the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP, the other a study by Dr. Linda Duxbury entitled The RCMP Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: An Independent Report Concerning Workplace Issues at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - recommended a major overhaul of the Mounties.

The authors of the report said their study should give senior RCMP officers “additional reasons to take these diagnoses and the spirit of their respective recommendations very seriously.”

The authors found that the Mounties’ senior officers seem unaware of the gravity of the problems inside the force because they live in a different reality from that of the rank and file.

Officers claimed that the senior ranks treat the force as a business rather than a police force.

“They forgot that the essence of their work is to be police officers,” one officer told the authors.

The writers conclude: “Our observations clearly reveal that a large chasm separates - more gravely than we initially anticipated - the perspectives and realities of the members and managers in the C Division,” the Quebec division of the RCMP.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Montreal v. Toronto

Nuff Said.  


It's been over 40 years. Toronto hasn't won anything. Chicago will be the last Original Six team to win again before the Laughs. Toronto may want to rethink (again) their business model; appealing to elite TO Lawyers and Execs isn't working. Find another way hosers.

Original Six rivalry dies lonely death

BY RED FISHER, THE GAZETTE JANUARY 9, 2009

Are you as tired of reading and/or hearing as I am about the Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry? What rivalry? Are you kidding me?

File and forget it. It's dead, unless you're among those who in some twisted way imagine that the non-stop nonsense you watched in last night's Canadiens' 6-2 laugher over the Maple Leafs is the real deal ... that it's an extension of the Original Six rivalry. This circus wasn't played period by period. Put it all together and what you had was a sentence.

How's this for starters: 17 penalties to the Leafs, 15 to the Canadiens, including an abuse- of-officials bench penalty 11:11 into the second period.

Trust me on this: There was nothing about this game to remind anyone about the Original Six rivalry between the Canadiens and the Leafs.

Not the four 10-minute misconducts assessed each team, not the two fighting majors to each team. Not the 72 minutes in penalties to the Leafs, not the 68 minutes to the Canadiens.

Okay, so Mike Komisarek and André Deveaux did a little pushing and shoving and mouthing off at the end of the first period - but that's not remotely what the Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry was all about. Neither were the hard stares Alex Kovalev gave Leafs rookie Luke Schenn in the second period. Or the thrashing Jamal Mayers delivered to Tom Kostopoulos in the 12th minute of the second period, followed seconds later by Brad May out-punching Francis Bouillon.

The Montreal-Toronto rivalry was the late Dick Irvin taking his Canadiens into that city and tossing darts at everything Maple Leaf.

It was the Leafs putting a price on Maurice Richard's head and the Rocket taking on all comers ... and showing all of them what drove him to the mountain top.

It was Dickie Moore leading the charge off the Canadiens bench and going after Frank Mahovlich after the latter had shot the puck directly into an onrushing Henri Richard's face.

It was Toe Blake and Punch Imlach taunting one another before, during and after games - all the while hoping their players were feeding off it.

What the Canadiens-Leafs Original Six rivalry was all about were players and coaches of exceptional quality completely dedicated to winning.

Anything less was unacceptable during the regular season when they met 14 times, now and then in back-to-back games. The heat was raised to another level in the playoffs.

That's the rivalry the Canadiens were celebrating last night as part of their centenary, but whatever it is you were watching had nothing to do with the fierce, unforgiving competition of the 1940s and the three decades that followed.

Several Canadiens and Maple Leafs legends were part of the parade preceding the game.

Vincent Damphousse was there, and so were Steve Shutt and Pete Mahovlich (wearing what appeared to be a neatly-trimmed white beard, if you want to believe that.)

Guy Lapointe and Phil Goyette also paraded onto the carpet leading to centre ice - followed by Jean Béliveau who, as you'd expect, had the folks saluting him with a long, standing ovation. Félix Potvin, Wendell Clark, Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming and Johnny Bower represented the Maple Leafs and, as you'd also expect, received a mixture of boos and applause.

Do not, however, even think for a mini-second that what you were seeing last night had anything to do with what was described as the "greatest rivalry" in NHL history. Béliveau was there for all of it, and so was Bower, but the puck stops there.

Sadly, perhaps, what didn't stop during the first two periods was the nonsense involving the players. Endless jawing among the players and discussions among the officials that accomplished nothing.

It was not hockey's finest hour, but as you'd expect, the crowd appeared to be having a good ol' time, because the home boys were sticking it to the Leafs on the scoreboard. They were enjoying it up to almost the very end when, with fewer than two minutes remaining, Sergei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski had to be separated by the officials and did some pushing of their own against the linesmen.

The sounds you hear are the hanging judges in Toronto trying to determine how long these two will be suspended for physical abuse of officials.

rfisher@thegazette.canwest.com

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NC Probation Problems Via Robert Guy

Ya... I think I called this right 9 months ago:


Outgoing probation chief: More needed than leadership change
Posted: Today at 11:41 a.m.
Updated: Today at 6:24 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The outgoing director of the state probation system says new leadership, alone, won't fix the issues facing the troubled institution.

"They've got to find the money to provide the resources for these probation officers," Robert Guy said this week. "They've got to find the money to provide the pay raises to keep good people. If we do not do this, then it's going to get worse before it gets better."

WATCH VIDEO
Outgoing chief: Challenges await next director
After 12 years as head of the Division of Community Corrections, Guy is retiring from the post, effective Feb. 1 – a decision he made late last year after more than 10 months of controversy and heavy scrutiny of how effectively the agency tracks offenders on probation.

Problems were brought to public attention in the wake of the shooting deaths of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato in January and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson in March.

Two suspects from Durham who are charged in the slayings were on probation at the time of the crimes, and an internal probe into their case files found their managing officers overlooked them, partly because of being overworked and undertrained.

Durham and Wake counties' probation offices were disorganized, inefficient and "in a crisis situation" with their work forces at the time, according to investigative reports.

Since then, though, Guy says the program has undergone numerous changes, including new district management and a stronger leadership team.

"There are multiple things we've accomplished," Guy said. "We've put very good people in positions of management. We've had problems, but they've been addressed."

In addition, the General Assembly has allocated $2.5 million for jobs to alleviate understaffing and to fill more than 160 vacant positions across the state. Probation officers are also using a new $75,000 Web-based information system to help them more efficiently track their caseloads.

And despite the negatives of the system, Guy says his staff does a lot of good that the media have ignored.

"They don't talk about those lives we save every day, how many victims we've protected from being victimized again," he said. "The success stories don't get told."

Guy has also been the target for criticism from local leaders, some of whom have said the probation issues are an embarrassment to the state and have called for Governor-elect Beverly Perdue to "clean house" in her administration.

Her transition office announced last Friday that Guy would not return. He said he was told the administration likely would not ask him to stay on in his role.

Guy maintains the blame can't be placed on only him, however.

"As the head of the agency, I've accepted the responsibility. But at the same time, the system has to accept the responsibility of our failures," Guy said.

The work that probation officers do is limited, in part, by resources – funding and staffing needs, he says. Judges' decisions in courts, where offenders are sentenced, and state laws, which shield juvenile criminal records, are also factors that play into the broken system.

"From the Legislature that passes the policy and writes the laws to the whole, entire court system that's underfunded, I think there's some room for improvement there," Guy said.

And the community plays a part, too, in the form of job skills and training programs – partners Guy says the agency does not have.

"Everybody thinks this is a state problem or a probation problem. No, it's a community problem," he said. "It's everybody's responsibility in the community to do something about this."

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Something New

Into 2009... and let me tell you my new favorite band:


Parts & Labor

God do I love the incessant drone of this Brooklyn based trio...



...now made quartet by the addition of guitarist Sarah Lipstate:



My introduction was their first release, Mapmaker, but it's their new release, Receivers with the relentless, Ramonesesque Nowheres Nigh that is getting all the attention:



There are commercial elements here of New Order, REM, Green Day (read: The Who), with anthemesque overtones of early eighties Big Country, all put together in the most uncommercial fashion.  And it's hard not to like a drummer who puts Jimmy Chamberlain on the run with some simple paradiddle rhythms pounded to perfection:




Yes, I was introduced to them by Sound Opinions, and yes that leaves me behind the curve, but hey!... I've got children listening to Pink and Linkin Park: it's hard to keep up. 

But when I get it right I get it right.

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National Crime Prevention Strategy

Interesting piece given that South Africa has been one of the few (only?) governments to develop a comprehensive strategic long term plan for crime prevention, and now they're saying it failed:


Pretoria - Government's National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) has failed in part because of its lack of understanding of the relationship between crime and its underlying causes, an Institute for Security Studies (ISS) report revealed on Wednesday.

Speaking at a seminar on the state response to the crime problem, senior researcher Johan Burger said that he was "adamant" that the strategy had failed.

He said this was because socio-economic problems such as unemployment, poverty, lack of education and the absence of adequate social services - which were considered the biggest threat to national security - had not formed part of the overarching strategy.

"If a national threat, why not a national strategy?" said Burger.

"It shows that government is not performing in terms of its Constitutional mandate."

He said the "depressing" lack of conviction, commitment and support to implement the NCPS had also been its downfall.

Phenomenon not unique to SA

He said while there had been a positive downward trend in crime it had been at a slower rate than recorded in 2002/2003 to 2005/2006. This raised legitimate concerns about why it had decreased especially since the police force had expanded in numbers.

He said however that this was not a strange phenomenon unique to South Africa.

"It's all the police's fault, the sooner we grasp this truth the better... It just proves that increasing the police's numbers is not going to solve the crime problem."

He said police claimed that most murders and social contact crimes - which have shown a decrease but are still high above the international norm - were committed by people who were known to the victims.

According to the police, a relatively high number of these crimes happened in residences, normally beyond the reach of conventional policing.

"This implies the police can do little, if anything, to prevent these particular types of crime," Burger said in the report.

Commandos

The phasing out of the commandos had also left a security vacuum.

Senior researcher Henri Boshoff said it was most worrying that the commandos were closed down even in places where there was almost no substitute in place.

"Rural areas were left particularly vulnerable in a view of the importance of the commandos for their security and the rural Protection Plan, built around the commandos, is for all practical purposes defunct."

He said in terms of government's promise to increase personnel it had been able to expand police numbers by about 30 000 over the last five years.

"As far as other aspects of the replacement promise are concerned, however, government directly or indirectly... failed to keep its promises," said Boshoff.

He said it was not a matter of re-deploying commandos at this stage but sector policing - if implemented properly - could fill the security vacuum.

Civil rights initiative AfriForum, which had approached the ISS to undertake the independent study, said it would be taking legal steps against the government.

"The ISS report now provides a scientific basis on which the government can be held accountable in court for its neglect to combat crime effectively," said CEO Kallie Kriel.

He said he had handed the ISS report to a legal team with the instruction that they should look into ways it could be used to take the government to court.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Yer Mourning Newz



SOS! A politician has lost faith in another politician! We're doomed!:

Layton no longer trusts Harper

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It's call character research ya GD Pudknocker...:

Actor Sam Shepard charged with drunken driving

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Yes folks, Fergie - the most over-documented celebrity in pop music - has got her groove back. Good to know:

Fergie et Josh Duhamel: la pop star retrouve la forme pour son mariage

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Prince prévoit lancer 3 albums en 2009:

Terrific: will they all suck less than Emancipation?

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"Those of you in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you rattle your jewelry":

Renowned Rainbow Room Can't Afford to Serve Food

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Madoff Investor's Suicide Was an 'Act of Honor'...:

Oh you French, you're so chivalrous, you got burned like the rest of us; deal with it.

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This morning's Ebay bargain:




RARE 3v Lg Book set Indian Jesuit Relations 1858 Quebec

Only $900!

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Oh come on, forget about it! It's like saying, "where to find the best Labatt product in Quebec"!:

Where to get Toronto's best poutine



Besides... Is that guacamole and peppers on top? What-the-hell? Sure and add some ginger-ale to my beer while you're at it ya Bay street bumpkin.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

A lot of Questions, Few Answers

I don't know what to think of this yet. In light of the current economic situation, realistically how much reform / resources will come to the rescue of NC's ailing probation system? Is this really a failure of leadership as Councilman Brown suggests? Seems to me that Guy is being scapegoated for broader failings along all agencies in the criminal justice system. Will a more top-down, military style leadership really help to improve the situation?

Very complex problem...

Probation chief is retiring from the job

Robert Guy

Robert Guy, the director of the Division of Community Corrections, told WRAL News on Saturday that he submitted his retirement paper three weeks ago.

Governor-elect Beverly Perdue announced Friday that Guy would not be returning to his post as director of the Division of Community Corrections in the new administration.

Guy in a telephone interview on Saturday said his office received a call from Perdue’s transition team on Friday indicating that he would not be asked to stay in the position.

Guy has been the director of the division for the past 11 years.

The Division of Community Corrections came under fire last year following the slayings of Eve Carson, the student body president at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato. One suspect who is charged in both deaths and a second suspect who is accused in Carson's death were on probation at the time of the two killings, but their probation officers failed to keep close tabs on them.

“The failed leadership of the past cannot lead us into the future,” Durham City Councilman Eugene Brown said Friday. “So that’s the good news that he’s (Guy) gone.”

Guy has acknowledged his department made mistakes, but he said decisions by judges, limited funding and state laws often hindered the department's efforts.

On Saturday, Guy said Perdue and her staff did not meet with him or retiring Correction Secretary Theodis Beck prior to the announcement.

Beck was expected to stay in the position until his retirement on Feb.1 but decided Dec. 31 would be his last day, Guy said.

Perdue announced that retired Marine Col. Alvin Keller Jr. will be the secretary of the Department of Correction.

"It is what it is where we are today, and so my point is start now and move forward," Perdue said in announcing Keller's appointment.


An assistant attorney general who previously served as a chief circuit military judge for the Navy and Marines, Keller said he wants more cases of rehabilitation with fewer cases of repeat offenders.

Keller's career contrasts with that of Beck, who worked his way up through the department ranks and was secretary for 10 years.

Perdue said she still has great confidence in Keller, who arrives following recent criticism of the Easley's administration's handling of the probation system.

"He's got enough military background to understand the ranking order, the pecking order. He's got the ability to make rules and get followed and make things happen," Perdue said. "He's got a tremendous depth of judicial knowledge and legal knowledge and he has a lifetime of government experience."

Incoming Correction Department leaders will ask the National Institute of Corrections, a federal organization that helps state and local governments with correction issues, to work with field probation officers early this year, said Jennie Lancaster, whom Perdue on Friday named the department's chief operating officer.

"People who are being placed on probation will have to understand that there are adverse consequences for not following the conditions of their probation," Keller told reporters.

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