The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit and The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

City to vote on assault rifle buy Cops want an M-4 in every patrol car

By Timothy Roberts

Members of the El Paso City Council appear to favor the purchase of over 1,000 assault rifles for the police department, which says it needs them to protect the city from increasingly better armed criminals.

The council will be asked on Tuesday to approve the purchase of 1,145 assault rifles at a cost of $772,646. That would supply all patrol officers with the civilian version of the M-4 military rifle. The lowest bid is from recommended bidder GT Distributors Inc. of Austin.

The money would come from a federal grant of up to $899,287, funds targeted at stimulating the economy.

The case for the purchase is usually couched in terms of the drug-cartel violence in Juárez.

“We definitely don’t want our police officers to be outgunned by any cartel operatives who might come over to El Paso,” says El Paso Mayor John Cook.

But in the wake of shootings at Fort Hood and incidents here involving soldiers, some council members say they are also concerned about errant soldiers.

Peter Pacillas, assistant chief for training and special operations, does not single out soldiers for concern. He says, “Anybody who has the capability of using a high-caliber weapon is a concern for us.”

Gun seizures
Three incidents in El Paso involving soldiers last year underscore those concerns. In each, soldiers used handguns, but police say the logical defense would be a rifle capable of shooting accurately over a significant distance.

Last April, a Chapin High School student was killed by a solider who was firing from across the street. The soldier, according to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, used a handgun. He was charged with murder.

In August, a solider was charged with shooting another solider at an El Paso bar. That, too involved a hand gun, according to the CID.

But perhaps the most notorious case cam in June, when an 18-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Bliss was charged in connection with the contract killing of a Mexican drug cartel lieutenant who also was a police informant. According to the El Paso Police Department, Michael Jackson Apodaca used a semi-automatic handgun.

According to statistics kept by the police department, the total number of guns seized by the police during searches and arrests has dropped over the last three years. What is worrisome, police say, is the increase in the percentage of those guns that are automatic or semi-automatic. Being able to fire more lead in a short period of time makes the criminal more dangerous.

Police seized 287 weapons in 2007, 265 in 2008 and only 253 in 2009. But the percentage of those weapons that are automatic or semi-automatic rose from 46.7 percent in 2007, to 50.2 percent in 2008, and to 59.7 percent in 2009.

“I feel comfortable with the request,” says Beto O’Rourke, city representative for the Westside District 8. “We are not trying to outgun the people with guns in our community, but to protect the public.”

Gang worries
Susie Byrd, District 2 representative, says she still has some questions.

“You always want police to approach any situation with an abundance of caution,” she says. “Having big assault rifles might embolden less cautious behavior.”

But she says she also worries about the violence across the border and the possible impact of military gangs.

According to the National Gang Threat Assessment for 2009, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of gang members who are in or who have come out of the military is unknown.

But, the report says, “the threat that (gang members with military training) pose to law enforcement is potentially significant, particularly if gang members trained in weapons, tactics and planning pass this instruction on to other gang members.”

A spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division acknowledges the presence of criminal gangs in the military, but says the problem is not rampant.

“We certainly recognize this is a serious issue, and each incident or credible allegation will be fully investigated,” says Chris Grey, Army CID chief of public affairs.

The population increase caused by expansion at Fort Bliss may become a factor in crime levels, says city Rep. Steve Ortega, District 7.

“If you add to that a population coming back from an extremely violent environment integrating with the civilian population, we want to make sure that the police department has all the resources it needs to make us the safest city in the nation.”

For West Side District 1 Rep. Ann Morgan Lilly, the decision was relatively easy.

“If the police are asking for them (the assault rifles) and need them, that’s OK,” she says. “(Police Chief) Greg Allen never asks for anything he doesn’t need.”

If council approves the purchase, the M-4s could be here in 90 days. Police officials say all officers will receive 40 hours of training before putting the weapons in the locked racks of their patrol car trunks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

DoDs New Rules for Gangs in the Military (not a good idea)

The DoD recently followed Congress' directive by instruction for "Handling Dissent and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces."

Under the revised instructions,contained in the NEW DoD Instruction:

"Military personnel must not actively advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or that advance,encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights."

And then there's a very short part about gang affiliations:

"Military personnel must reject active participation in criminal gangs pursuant to section 544 of Public Law 110-181 and in other organizations that advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology, or causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin; advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.

Active participation in such gangs or organizations is prohibited.

Active participation includes, but is not limited to, fundraising; demonstrating or rallying; recruiting, training, organizing, or leading members; distributing material (including posting on-line); or otherwise engaging in activities in furtherance of the objective of such gangs or organizations that are detrimental to good order, discipline, or mission accomplishment or are incompatible with military service."

That's it -- just wordsmithing . . . wow, and we waited a year and a half for that!

As noted in Can you prevent membership in organized criminal groups if you are the SecDef?, H.R. 4986: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Section 544 - became law (Public Law 110-181), and required the Secretary of Defense to prescribe regulations to prohibit the active participation of military personnel in street gangs (National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA], 2008, Sec. 544). The bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President back in January 2008, and it took until November 2009 to make it happen.

Yes, I realize there were other priorities, but at least we could do something that had a chance of working.

Legislative efforts to prohibit street gang members from joining the military were initially added to a defense-spending bill (Public Law 110-181, 2008). The legislation included the provision to add active membership in a street gang to the standing prohibition against active group membership by military members in extremist groups. The legislation was intended to extend the prohibitions of Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 1325.6, which has its history in preventing members of organizations considered subversive and openly anti-government from joining the military in the interests of the national security (Executive Order 10450, 1953). The history of this recent legislation demonstrates a lack of understanding of the requirements for limiting the negative impact of gangs on military communities.

Here's the problem.

At the time the directive was initially published in 1969, the DoD was concerned with the infiltration of anti-war and anti-military organizations. The directive focused on dissident and protest activities within the military, and especially on activities such as underground newspapers, on-post demonstrations, and serviceman organizations.

In 1986, the Secretary of Defense updated the directive. The directive's language prohibited "active" participation in "extremist organizations." This comes from language in Executive Order (EO) 11,785 issued in 1953, during the height of the Cold War, when the government feared Communist infiltration. It was later changed to forbid designating any groups as "totalitarian, fascist, Communist, or subversive" and forbade any circulation or publication of a list of such groups.

I was part of a small group of investigators who saw a gang problem in the military in the early 1990s.

We had problems linking the directive to gangs because of it's history (originally launched from an Executive Order (EO 10,450: prohibiting communist groups from infiltrating, then war protesters, now extremists.

It's pretty clear what actions they wanted to prohibit when they ask "whether the employment or retention in employment in the Federal service of the person being investigated is clearly consistent with the interests of the national security. . . not limited to:
(1) Depending on the relation of the Government employment to the national security:
(i) Any behavior, activities, or associations which tend to show that the individual is not reliable or trustworthy.
(ii) Any deliberate misrepresentations, falsifications, or omissions of material facts.
(iii) Any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, sexual perversion.
(iv) Any illness, including any mental condition, of a nature which in the opinion of competent medical authority may cause significant defect in the judgment or reliability of the employee, with due regard to the transient or continuing effect of the illness and the medical findings in such case.
(v) Any facts which furnish reason to believe that the individual may be subjected to coercion, influence, or pressure which may cause him to act contrary to the best interests of the national security.
(2) Commission of any act of sabotage, espionage, treason, or sedition, or attempts thereat or preparation therefore, or conspiring with, or aiding or abetting, another to commit or attempt to commit any act of sabotage, espionage, treason, or sedition.
(3) Establishing or continuing a sympathetic association with a saboteur, spy, traitor, seditionist, anarchist, or revolutionist, or with an espionage or other secret agent or representative of a foreign nation, or any representative of a foreign nation whose interests may be inimical to the interests of the United States, or with any person who advocates the use of force or violence to overthrow the government of the United States or the alteration of the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means.
(4) Advocacy of use of force or violence to overthrow the government of the United States, or of the alteration of the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means.
(5) Knowing membership with the specific intent of furthering the aims of, or adherence to and active participation in, any foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group, or combination of persons (hereinafter referred to as organizations) which unlawfully advocates or practices the commission of acts of force or violence to prevent others from exercising their rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States or of any State, or which seeks to overthrow the Government of the United States or any State or subdivision thereof by unlawful means.
(6) Intentional, unauthorized disclosure to any person of security information, or of other information disclosure of which is prohibited by law, or willful violation or disregard of security regulations.
(7) Performing or attempting to perform his duties, or otherwise acting, so as to serve the interests of another government in preference to the interests of the United States.
(8) Refusal by the individual, upon the ground of constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, to testify before a congressional committee regarding charges of his alleged disloyalty or other misconduct.
Note that nowhere in the document is the word "gang" used.

There is and should be a difference between keeping up with people who think that folks of another race are worthless and those who form groups with the intent of committing crime . . .

So now the DoD Reissues DoD Directive 1325.6 as a DoD Instruction. It also contains prohibitions against writing Web sites, BLOGS, and other electronic communications) during duty hours. I can definitely see a connection!

What do you think?