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November 6, 2013
By BLNW

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A BETTER BREATHALYZER ON THE HORIZON

WASHINGTON – To gauge whether suspects involved in accidents or routine traffic stops have been driving drunk, police officers pair field sobriety tests with breathalyzers, which signal the presence of alcohol in the breath. Most breathalyzers are expensive and unable to test for precise concentrations of alcohol.

Offering a better solution, Italian researchers have developed a novel idea for an inexpensive, portable breathalyzer whose colour would change from green to red with higher alcohol concentrations. But unlike current colour change-based devices, this sensor would be reusable and could also provide a precise digital readout.

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The new design is the first to use the sensing properties of opals, a type of gemstone, to detect the gas version of ethanol, the intoxicating component of commercial liquor, by inducing a change in colour that is visible to the human eye. The research team describes their new method in a proof-of-concept paper published last October in The Optical Society’s (OSA) journal Optical Materials Express.

The portable breathalyzers preferred by roadside police use expensive electronic readouts, but these devices lack the “immediate and intuitive” colour change that tells police whether the alcohol content of a suspect’s breath puts them in the legal red zone, said first author Riccardo Pernice of the Università degli Studi di Palermo in Italy.

Techniques that do use colour change to assess the level of alcohol concentration are typically less expensive, but they cannot give a precise reading of the alcohol concentration and most are use-once-and-toss. Pernice said his team’s proposed device combines the best elements of each of these two breathalyzer models.

“Our approach enables an optical, nakedeye detection as a colour change from green to red, like litmus paper,” Pernice said. “But it also potentially permits accurate quantitative measurements” with the addition of an electronic system or a colour detector.

The method is inspired by the natural behaviour of opals, gemstones whose iridescence illustrates their ability to manipulate light. Scientists use manufactured versions of opals and other photonic crystals to detect acidity or the presence of liquid ethanol, but until now little attention has been paid by researchers to detecting gaseous ethanol, the researchers said.

In their new setup, the researchers created sheets of manufactured opal about one centimetre square and just a few hundred billionths of a meter thick, as thin as some of the films on soap bubbles. The opals are pumped full of a gel tuned to respond to ethanol vapour. At increasing ethanol concentrations, the gel swells, changing the way light travels through the gel-filled opal and causing the sample to become red.

The change in colour is clearly visible to the naked eye, Pernice said, and the device is usable multiple times. After performing the measurements, researchers found that the sample gradually regained its original green colour after less than one minute of exposure in air. He added that the sensor is made of all non-toxic materials, and does not react to acetone, one of the many substances that can be falsely identified as ethanol by some breath machines.

The device is currently able to detect alcohol at much higher concentrations compared to other portable alcohol sensors. In the coming months, the researchers hope to explore the device’s use at lower concentrations as well.

(EurekAlert – Oct 08 2013)

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CALGARY’S ‘CONNECTED COPS’ RECOGNIZED

Calgary’s police service has received international recognition for using social media during the June floods to keep Calgarians informed. The CPS was awarded the honour at a law enforcement social media conference called Connected Cops last September.

The city and police worked together to get the word out during the floods and at one point the CPS twitter account exceeded the daily maximum number of tweets and was suspended for a time.

“Calgarians immediately rallied and lobbied Twitter to get our accounts back up and active,” said Digital Communication Team Lead Sean Stephenson. “They played a tremendous role in not only getting our account back up but also keeping the spirits of emergency responders high with their support, pictures, videos and incredible acts of kindness over Twitter and Facebook.”

The award was accepted on behalf of all partnering agencies and citizens who used social media to share vital information during the crisis.

(CTV Calgary – Sep 30 2013)

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PAROLEE EXPECTED TO HAVE ROUGH RIDE

EDMONTON – The National Parole Board says one of two men convicted in the deaths of four Alberta Mounties is bound to face public hostility when he is released from prison next month. The board makes the point in a report outlining special conditions that Dennis Cheeseman must abide by when he gets out Nov. 19.

The conditions include getting psychological counselling to help cope with what’s expected to be a stressful return to the community.

Cheeseman and his brother-in-law, Shawn Hennessey, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for giving gunman James Roszko a rifle and a ride the night before Roszko ambushed the officers near Mayerthorpe in 2005. Hennessey was sentenced to 10 years and four months and Cheeseman was handed seven years and two months.

Cheeseman cancelled a parole hearing set for earlier this year, opting to wait for automatic release after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

(The Canadian Press – Oct 01 2013)

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STATE-OF-THE-ART PRISON

TORONTO – A new detention centre is set to open in Toronto in the next few weeks, with space for up to 1,650 inmates, environmentally friendly features and a sweat lodge.

The Toronto South Detention Centre replaces the Toronto Jail, known as the Don Jail, and the Toronto West Detention Centre, which together could hold up to about 1,100 inmates. The new, state-of-the-art facility, which will hold people on remand and those sentenced to provincial terms of under two years, opened its doors to members of the media at the beginning of October.

Rose Buhagiar, the director of the detention centre, says there’s no specific date yet for the jail to start receiving inmates, but she hoped it would be in the following few weeks.

(The Canadian Press – Oct 03 2013)

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NO SECRETS IN CANADIAN SKIES

REGINA – When he gets back on Australian soil, Queensland police officer Sgt. Peter Blake will be holding up the Saskatchewan RCMP as a shining example of the best way to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in police work.

And he’s hoping his bosses will agree the Canadian approach will work just as well in his home state.

Blake is about to wrap up a 12-day stint in Saskatchewan as part of a worldwide Winston Churchill Fellowship study on the use of UAVs in policing.

His travels have also taken him to the UK and Germany, but he says he “learned more in the first 20 minutes” with the RCMP than in the previous month in Europe.

“These guys have been my No. 1 stop, because they lead the world in the way they use UAVs in policing,” he told the Leader- Post inside F Division RCMP headquarters on Thursday.

It’s not just how the RCMP use UAVs, he says, but how open the force is with the public, particularly compared to the rest of the world.

“A lot of police forces around the world have these things, but … why they don’t share that information with the public, I don’t know,” he said.

“The idea of this technology is very much a concern with the public, but that’s the best part of what they do here. They specifically say, ‘This is how we’re using it.’” Staff Sgt. Dave Domoney, who heads up the Saskatchewan RCMP’s UAV program, said that openness with the public has been an integral part of the program since it was piloted in 2010.

In Saskatchewan, UAVs are primarily used for taking photos of collisions and major crime scenes, as well as in search and rescue. But, he admits, they were “a hard sell off the bat,” mainly because of the public misconception that UAVs are akin to military drones. “Once we were able to show the public what we do with it, that we use it for very specific purposes, it gets easier all the time and the public is seeing them in use more and more,” he said.

“We have nothing to hide. It’s a tool and we’ve proven the tool works.” That proof was no clearer than in May this year, when Saskatchewan Mounties used a UAV near Denis to find a man who had wandered away from his vehicle, disoriented after a collision.

“They found him curled up under a tree in a snowbank,” Domoney said. “He wouldn’t have lasted the night.” That’s exactly the kind of example Blake will share with the Queensland Police Force top brass.

“For me, the information I’ve got from (Saskatchewan) is invaluable,” he said. “There’s so much I can present to the hierarchy, saying, ‘Look, here’s a proven path we can go down and here’s the evidence about how it’s working. Here’s the evidence that it helps police work and helps the community.’ “If we take a similar route to Canada, there’s no reason anyone could speak ill of what we’re doing.”

(Regina Leader-Post – Oct 04 2013)

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CORRUPTION FROM WITHIN

MONTREAL – A retired Montreal police investigator who had spent his career combating organized crime was arrested over the weekend and is suspected of leaking inside information to criminal bikers, provincial police say.

The Sûreté du Québec says they arrested Benoît Roberge, who had been on a police unit handling organized crime until his retirement. The 50-year-old Mr. Roberge has been charged with obstructing justice, breach of trust by a public officer and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.

His indictment says the offences took place in St-Denis-de-Brompton, near Sherbrooke, between January, 2010, and this month. Mr. Roberge is alleged to have leaked information from on-going police investigations to the Hells Angels biker gang in exchange for cash.

“This situation is taken very seriously,” Inspector Michel Forget of the provincial police told a press conference.

He said the former police investigator was picked up on Montreal’s South Shore on Saturday night. He was in the company of a member associated with organized crime, prompting the police to bring in the tactical squad. Mr. Roberge was a well-known officer who had worked on a joint police unit combating organized crime.

“Let’s be clear … all attempts of infiltration by organized crime will be repressed,” Insp. Forget said.

“We’ve reached the point in Quebec that we’re destabilizing the structures of organized crime. They will try by any means to harm our investigations. At no time will any police organization tolerate attempts to infiltrate them.

“We will continue to keep up the pressure on organized crime, regardless of their attempts or their tactics to hurt us.”

The investigation leading to the ex-officer’s arrest included the Montreal police, provincial police, RCMP and the Quebec revenue agency. After his retirement from the Montreal police, Mr. Roberge became last March the head of the intelligence unit at Revenu Québec. In a statement, the agency said it had suspended Mr. Roberge and was cooperating with the investigation.

Mr. Roberge was one of the province’s most experienced biker specialists and had testified as an expert witness in several court proceedings.

He was one of the former controllers of the late Dany Kane, a biker who worked undercover for the police and played a key role in the crackdown against the Quebec Hells Angels in 2001.

Mr. Kane was a member of the Rockers, the puppet gang of the Hells Angels’ Nomads, the top chapter that spearheaded the murderous biker turf war of the 1990s.

After initially working for the RCMP, Mr. Kane was eventually handled by Mr. Roberge and an SQ colleague, Robert Pigeon.

They talked to him by phone daily, debriefed him in person, got him to wear a body pack and recorded his video statements. He tipped them about upcoming biker meetings, which police secretly recorded.

Mr. Roberge also often showed up at biker gatherings, checking who visited their clubhouses.

He testified as an expert witness in a major case against the Rock Machine, in the mega- trials against the Quebec Hells Angels and in the landmark Ontario case against Hells Angels Steven (Tiger) Lindsay and Raymond Bonner, which ended with the club being deemed a national criminal organization.

Mr. Roberge was also familiar with rogue cops. He was once called to testify before a Florida court that extradited Guy LePage, a former Montreal police officer who became a Hells Angels associate and was convicted of cocaine trafficking.

(Globe and Mail – Oct 07 2013)

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COMMUNICATING FROM AFAR

OWEN SOUND – The Owen Sound Police Services are on the verge of adding another police force to its dispatch business.

The city service participated in an Ontario Civilian Police Commission hearing last week about taking on dispatch duties for the Port Hope police and expects to hear in four to six weeks if they have approval to provide the service beginning Jan. 1.

Owen Sound Police Chief Bill Sornberger said another police service is considering a proposal from Owen Sound, which would bring the total to seven police forces dispatched by the city service. The Owen Sound communications centre also handles emergency calls for 21 fire services with 26 fire halls.

“This is something that is taking off and making Owen Sound part of the conversation in a lot of different parts of the province right now,” said Sornberger. “It is making it cost efficient for us and we are making it cost efficient for the municipalities we are providing the dispatch service for.”

The dispatch service now takes in about $800,000 in revenue annually. If Port Hope and the other service are added to the mix, it will bring in more than $1 million.

The dispatch centre now employs eight full-time and 10 part-time workers, up from eight full-time employees and seven part-timers a year ago. Sornberger expects the force to add more employees.

The Owen Sound centre provides dispatch services for the Aylmer, Wingham, West Grey and Saugeen Shores police forces. The Pembroke police service, as of May, moved its dispatch service from Owen Sound to the OPP.

Sornberger said the Port Hope service contract will be for five years.

“We won’t get involved in an agreement that is less than five years and that is to protect us from sudden whims and changes,” he said.

(Owen Sound Sun Times – Oct 07 2013)

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PATCHING UP THE 9-1-1 SYSTEM

Several problems in Canada’s patchwork system of 911 services need to be fixed — such as accurately locating cellphone callers — before new methods like text messages or social media can be used in an emergency, according to a report Thursday.

The report by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) also noted that it was “unacceptable” that the number of 911 calls made in Canada each year are not tracked.

Authored by former CRTC commissioner Timothy Denton, the report noted a “large and widening gap” between what 911 services can do and what people expect they can do.

For example, some Canadians mistakenly believe that emergency responders can monitor social media sites or are always provided a precise location of a mobile phone call. In many instances, when a location is provided, it can be an approximation to the closest cellphone tower. “Simply put, if they do not know where you are, they do not know where to send help,” said the report. “Inaccurate information arising from cell towers is also a significant problem in determining where callers are.”

Denton wrote that new technologies to contact 911 will not address these issues, because there is no single authority responsible for these emergency services or different levels of funding for such services.

Despite these roadblocks, the federal regulator wants to hear from consumers about how they think text messages, picture messages, and social media can be incorporated into the 911 service.

The report cautioned that these new technologies have the potential of making the services more complicated, and could involve more training and create new legal liabilities for those who answer 911 calls.

“For example, if Canadians can submit videos, pictures or other digital assets in conjunction with 911 calls, the resources required to manage 911 calls will increase significantly. While in some cases videos or pictures may provide valuable information, too much information could be a danger,” the report said, adding that those who handle 911 calls may not have enough time to look at all of the information.

A group representing police, fire and paramedics said the use of new technologies will increase costs.

The use of new technologies could increase costs up to 30 per cent in 911 budgets, said Lance Valcour, executive director of the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group.

But Valcour said the use of new technologies to reach 911 can’t be delayed until every municipality and province is ready.

The CRTC has already asked the country’s wireless carriers to make changes to their networks and systems to support 911 emergency text messages from hearing and speech-impaired persons. That service is going to start to roll out in January.

(The Canadian Press – Oct 10 2013)

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CANADIANS MAY FILL BRIT TOP COP JOBS

The UK government has unveiled plans to allow foreign police chiefs to run forces in England and Wales, despite criticism from police officers across the country.

In a statement to MPs today, Policing Minister Damian Green announced plans to bring in chief constables from countries with a similar legal framework and policing model to the UK, such as the US or Canada.

He also revealed plans to recruit officers directly to the rank of superintendent and fast-track officers to the rank of inspector. Currently all police officers must start as a police constable and work their way up.

The BBC says the introduction of the scheme, which would see at least 20 police superintendents and 80 fast-track inspectors recruited next year, will bring to an end 180 years of tradition of bobbies starting their career on the beat.

It will also “bring to an end the policing version of the closed shop”, according to Green.

“This will open up policing to bright and talented people from all walks of life who are seeking a new challenge,” he wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The plans to recruit chiefs from abroad would also open the way for senior foreign officers such as Bill Bratton, the former New York police chief, to take over British police forces. This particular proposal was opposed during the consultation period by the three main associations representing police officers of all ranks: the Police Federation of England and Wales, the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

They argued that there is enough talent within UK police forces, that UK policing experience is crucial to running a force, and that the UK policing culture has a more restrained use of force than many other countries, such as the US.

ACPO today conceded that the police service has “nothing to fear” from direct entry. But the Police Federation, which represents officers to the rank of chief inspector, has strongly opposed the policy, and today reiterated its view. “To command a policing operation effectively, a senior officer needs first-hand experience of responding in an operational capacity to incidents they would not encounter in any other walk of life,” said its vice chairman Steve White.

Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, president of the Superintendents’ Association, has said that direct entry creates “unnecessary risks”

(The Week – Oct 14 2013)