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After stop and frisk, the NYPD reinvents policing yet again

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Eleven minutes later the suspects have been cuffed, and the police have seized heroin, crack, thousands in cash and eight cell phones full of communications between alleged drug dealers. Months of police work have disrupted a major drug operation — all without stopping and frisking random members of the public on city streets, the controversial “stop-and-frisk” tactic that sparked mass protests before the NYPD had to scrap it.

It’s what the nation’s largest local police force calls Precision Policing — a fresh take on law enforcement that replaces confrontation with more community engagement and more transparency.

“Reach out to people that don’t like you.”

New York is the nation’s safest big city. During the past 25 years the crime rate has fallen from historic highs to lows not seen since the early 1960s.

But despite that drop in crime, friction between the NYPD and the residents of New York’s tougher neighborhoods, especially teen males, only seemed to get worse. Part of the problem was tactics like “stop and frisk,” which allowed officers to search anyone they believed might commit a crime.

“A lot of people don’t do anything wrong,” said Brooklyn resident Shanasia Maddox, “and they still get harassed by the cops.”

“I mean pulled over, stop and frisk, being patted down, anything the cops would do to stop you.”

Sometimes, she said, it’s “just you looking at them the wrong way.”

The NYPD prepares for a series of early morning raids in Brooklyn.
The NYPD prepares for a series of early morning raids in Brooklyn.NBC News

The NYPD is trying to change its relationship with the public with a reinvented version of neighborhood policing, as envisioned by the two men who put the program together, Commissioner James O’Neill and Chief of Department Terrence Monahan.

Monahan, who oversees 36,000 uniformed cops, said, “I’ve asked my cops, ‘Reach out to the people in the community that don’t like you.’ ”

Monahan says the crisis of trust between the police and the people they serve had already taken a hit around 2011 because of stop and frisk. That year saw the highest number of stops of civilians by the NYPD, nearly 700,000.

But things got worse in 2014 after the police shooting of an unarmed man in Ferguson, Missouri, and the unrest that followed, and then the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, who died after a chokehold by an NYPD officer.

“It all culminated,” said Monahan, “in the assassinations of [Wenjian] Liu and [Rafael] Ramos, two of our police officers sitting in a radio car.” The officers were shot and killed on Dec. 20, 2014, two weeks after a grand jury declined to indict the officer who had held Garner in a chokehold. According to Monahan, a “deranged” man decided to murder Liu and Ramos “only because they wore this blue uniform.”

Stephanie Gosk of NBC News with NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan.
Stephanie Gosk of NBC News with NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan.NBC News

Monahan said the murders were a turning point. “We had to change the way we policed. Crime had been going down but cop morale was low, communities didn’t have trust in us. We had to come up with a new system of policing to try and change that dynamic.”

Precision Policing — investigations that target the small percentage of offenders who do most of the crime in the city — results in cases that take crime off the street with fewer stops of non-offenders.

Random police stops have plummeted — down 98 percent from their peak.

The overhaul has also included removing cops who cause problems. The NYPD told NBC News that 89 uniformed officers were terminated in 2017 and a total of 216 have been terminated or forced out since 2014.

In the once crime-ridden upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, NBC News did a ride-along to see Monahan’s vision of neighborhood policing play out.

Neighborhood Coordination Officers or NCO’s Natalie Lebron and Amber Guzman visited a local playground filled with kids after school and interacted with them.

Said Lebron, “We want them to know that if something does come up or if there’s ever an emergency, they can feel comfortable to call us and contact us. It’s not just a stranger who’s going to show up to their door.”

She says she and her partner Officer Guzman made it a point to meet every business owner along 11 blocks of Broadway in their assigned stretch of the local precinct.

The relationships are important, said Lebron. “People feel a little more at ease. Like, ‘Okay, I can file a report,’ or, ‘I’ll file the report, because things are gonna get done.’

“We drive by and they say hi. So it kind of feels natural for everyone to be seen with us, talking.”

City Council Member Donovan Richards, who was born and raised in the Queens neighborhood he represents, says the NCO program is a start.

“You can really start to see the change now, but there’s still a whole lot more work that has to be done,” said Richards.

Richards chairs the council’s Committee on Public Safety and had some tough interactions with the police when he was stopped as a 13-year-old.

He said, “At that time I had no idea that you shouldn’t go into your pockets, because weapons were drawn on us. And that is an experience I will never forget.”

Richards says he’s not sure some relationships can be repaired but he says you have to try.

“I think these one-on-one daily interactions with the community are going a long way in repairing a lot of the damage that was done by the NYPD in our communities under prior administrations.”

Chief Monahan says the NYPD is committed to making it work.

“It’s been said many times, it’s hard to hate up close. You may hate just a blue uniform, but when you know that person, know them as a human, it’s different.“

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Donald Trump ‘has come to the realisation that NATO is very valuable’ | World News

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Donald Trump “has come to the realisation that NATO is very valuable,” the outgoing US ambassador to the alliance has told Sky News.

Kay Bailey Hutchison also said that if the US president wins a second term, he will honour the commitment demanding that all NATO countries come to the defence of another if called to.

The Article 5 commitment has only been invoked once – by the US after the 9/11 attacks.

Donald Trump attends a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
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Donald Trump has previously criticised NATO

Speaking from Brussels, Ms Hutchison said that NATO was stronger because of the pressure Mr Trump put on the alliance early in his presidency.

“The president has been very clear that he asked our allies to step up, and they are,” she said.

“We all know that we have more to do to get the capabilities needed to become the security umbrella for our transatlantic alliance, but we are doing that.”

Mr Trump described NATO as “obsolete” shortly before taking office and threatened to withdraw the US from the transatlantic alliance if more countries didn’t meet the minimum spending requirements of 2% of GDP.

Asked how Mr Trump would react if NATO joint-spending fell as a result of financial pressures from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Hutchinson urged members to keep to their commitments.

She said: “I don’t think we can afford to go in the other direction. We can’t afford to let a health crisis become a security crisis. If we are going to look at what our adversaries are doing, like Russia and a rising China – they’re not stopping their malign hybrid attacks; they’re not stopping the Belt and Road initiative; they’re not in any way lessening their defence capabilities.”

US NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison looks on as she attends a session at the Fortune Global Forum event in Paris on November 18, 2019. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images)
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Ms Hutchison says NATO can’t afford to go backwards

She also urged leaders to be “clear-eyed” about China “taking over port after port, including in Europe”.

“The belt and road initiative is one more area where we see China use economic power for taking assets when predatory loans cannot be repaid and we consider that malign activity,” she said.

“We’ve got to stand together and understand the importance of security is what has kept our economies strong and it will rebuild the economies when this COVID has been defeated.”

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Trump calls Germany ‘delinquent’ over NATO

On Russia, Ms Hutchison said that NATO’s actions had limited Russian behaviour, which “would have been more aggressive had we not taken that stand after Crimea”.

“We know Russia is trying to divide us with many areas of aggression,” she said.

“I think we are making a difference and the deterrence we are producing is the signal to Russia that we would like for them to become a legitimate partner, we would like to trade with Russia, we would like to have partnerships. But they would need to change their behaviour to achieve that.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) greets US President Donald Trump upon arrival for the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Mr Trump at a NATO summit in the UK last December

Ms Hutchison conceded that Russia was ahead of the US in developing hypersonic missiles, but said the US would catch up.

“Certainly we are going to get the defences for all missiles that we know Russia are producing,” she said.

“We know they have built up more missiles. We have not violated the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, they have. So they are ahead on those.

“But we are going to catch up and we are going to deter against all their missiles, whether intercontinental or shorter range.”

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Near-indestructible beetle is so tough it can survive being run over by a car | Science & Tech News

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The key to making stronger buildings and planes could lie in the anatomy of a crush-resistant insect that can survive being run over by a car, scientists have found.

To understand the secret behind the impressive strength of the inch-long diabolical ironclad beetle, researchers tested how much squishing it could take – and discovered it could handle about 39,000 times its own weight.

The study, led by engineers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and Purdue University, found the insect has two armour-like elytron that meet at a line, called a suture, which runs through the abdomen.

Native to desert habitats in Southern California, the diabolical ironclad beetle has an exoskeleton that’s one of the toughest, most crush-resistant structures known to exist in the animal kingdom. UCI researchers led a project to study the components and architectures responsible for making the creature so indestructible. Jesus Rivera / UCI
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The species is native to Southern California. Pic: Jesus Rivera/UCI

This unusual structure is layered and pieced together like a jigsaw, said Purdue civil engineer Pablo Zavattieri, who was part of a group of researchers that used CT scans to inspect the insect and run it over with a car.

The exoskeleton is thought to be one of the toughest structures known to exist in the animal kingdom.

Professor Zavattieri said that when compressed, it fractured slowly instead of snapping simultaneously.

“When you pull them apart, it doesn’t break catastrophically. It just deforms a little bit,” he said.

“That’s crucial for the beetle.

“This work shows that we may be able to shift from using strong, brittle materials to ones that can be both strong and tough by dissipating energy as they break. This beetle is super tough.”

The findings could inspire stronger structures and vehicles made with materials such as steel, plastic and plaster.

That’s because engineers currently rely on pins, bolts, welding and adhesives to hold everything together – techniques that are prone to degrading.

A cross section of the medial suture, where two halves of the diabolical ironclad beetle’s elytra meet, shows the puzzle piece configuration that’s among the keys to the insect’s incredible durability. Jesus Rivera / UCI
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The curvy line in the middle of the body is key to its strength. Pic: Jesus Rivera/UCI

Diabolical ironclad beetles are commonly found in Southern California’s woodlands and can withstand pressure such as bird pecks and animal stomps.

Other local beetles were crushed by a third of the weight it could hold, previous research had found.

The study, published in Nature, is part of an $8m project funded by the US Air Force to explore how the biology of creatures such as mantis shrimp and bighorn sheep could help develop impact-resistant materials.

Brown University evolutionary biologist Colin Donihue, who was not involved in the study, said it was the latest effort to solve human problems with secrets from the natural world.

Velcro, for example, was inspired by the hook-like structure of plant burrs, while artificial adhesives took a page from super-clingy gecko feet.

Professor Donihue said endless other traits found in nature could offer insight, saying: “These are adaptations that have evolved over millennia.”

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Coronavirus: Oxford vaccine trial will continue in Brazil after death of volunteer | World News

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The University of Oxford says it will continue its COVID-19 vaccine trial in Brazil, following the death of a volunteer.

The Brazilian health authority said on Wednesday a volunteer in the clinical trial of the potential vaccine – which has been licenced to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca – had died.

But the university said an independent review had revealed no safety concerns.

“Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue,” a spokesman said.

Sky News has approached AstraZeneca for comment.

The volunteer, who is understood to be Brazillian, didn’t receive the vaccine, it is understood.

While, Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that the volunteer had been given a placebo and not the trial vaccine, although this hasn’t been officially confirmed.

AstraZeneca shares turned negative and were down 1.7% after the news broke on Wednesday evening.

A spokesperson from the company said: “We cannot comment on individual cases in an ongoing trial of the Oxford vaccine as we adhere strictly to medical confidentiality and clinical trial regulations, but we can confirm that all required review processes have been followed.

The race for a vaccine

“All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities.

“These assessments have not led to any concerns about the continuation of the ongoing study.”

AstraZeneca and Oxford University are thought to be among the front runners in a global race to produce a coronavirus jab. The UK Government have signed a deal for 100 million doses.

The vaccine is in phase 3 trials – the last stage before a drug is declared safe – in multiple countries.

In September the UK trial was paused over possible dangerous side effects but it was later restarted when the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority declared it safe to continue.

Brazil has the second deadliest outbreak of coronavirus, with more than 154,000 killed by COVID-19, following only the United States.

It is the third-worst outbreak in terms of cases, with more than 5.2 million infected, after the United States and India.

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