Category Archives: Ethics

Ethical Leadership: Training for Times of Crisis

We live in an era of politicians, not statesmen. Too many leaders on both sides of the aisle view the offices they hold, not as opportunities to serve the nation and its citizens, but as vehicles to fulfill their personal aspirations. This presents a crisis of leadership at a time when it is most needed. Global restructuring has caused significant issues for our government, economy, environment and for the well being of our current and future citizens.

ford

This crisis has driven staff of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and faculty members of Western Michigan University and WMU-Cooley Law School to create a vehicle to educate and inspire students and community leaders to adopt the ethical leadership standards exhibited by President Ford throughout his life. Law students, WMU graduate students, and the public are all invited to enroll.

The goals of the “Leadership In Times of Crisis” class are:

1. Identify and evaluate the rights and duties of the major stakeholders in decisions.
2. Identify dynamic factors that have historically impacted the ethical behavior of leaders.
3. Acquire the ability to identify and distinguish between legal obligations, ethical obligations and personal and societal morals.
4. Acquire the ability to recognize on which of the above three principles a decision is based in whole, part or combination.
5. Demonstrate an ability to make a decision in a situation that has many valid competing interests that is informed, reasoned, legal, ethical and morally sound.
6. Create a personal approach for ethical decision making to utilize for the rest of the participants’ lives.

Faculty class leaders of both WMU and WMU-Cooley Law are nationally and internationally recognized experts in law and ethics. Topics include The Nixon Pardon, The Last Days of Vietnam and the NYC Bankruptcy. Original source materials will be used, as the goal is for the participants to come to know President Ford not just through his role and work, but as a person devoted to ethical and moral leadership.

The class consists of three sessions which will be held on a Saturday mornings in September, October and November 2016. Participants will be graded on the quality and extent of their participation in the discussions and work in class and on the quality of the paper that will be required which creates and outlines their personal blueprint of leadership that they will adopt in their roles as current and future leaders.

vuletich_victoriaThis blog author, Professor Victoria V. Vuletich joined the full-time WMU-Cooley faculty in 2008 after working with the State Bar of Michigan since 1999. As the Deputy Division Director of the Professional Standard’s Division, Prof. Vuletich advised attorneys regarding ethical dilemmas and practical issues they were facing. She is a frequent presenter on legal ethics issues and is a member of an ad hoc task force that advocated and proposed legislation to address the victimization of immigrants by “notarios.”

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Peacemaking Court: Restoring human relationships instead of punishment

vestrand_joanBlog author Joan Vestrand, WMU-Cooley associate dean and professor, launched a Peacemaking mediation program  in the Auburn Hills, Michigan, Avondale Public Schools.  The Peacemaking Court fosters good relations within schools and the community schools to help resolve disciplinary matters and interpersonal conflicts in a humane, supportive way.

Today, we know that the single greatest predictor of youth incarceration is a history of school discipline.  This problem has come to be known as the school-to-prison pipeline and blame for it is squarely placed on the Zero Tolerance school discipline policies that arose out of the Reagan-era mentality of “just say no.” These policies called for harsh discipline for perceived school misconduct. Although enacted in good intention, they backfired. They bred insidiously an outcome quite outside the goal – again, the school-to –prison pathway and this has led to a schoolhouse-to-jailhouse crisis across the nation. In fact, the United States leads the world in the percentage of citizens behind bars.

Peacemaking March 1.2

Under Zero Tolerance, what was once considered “normal” youth behavior and misbehavior, became justification to criminalize conduct and exclude noncompliant students from the school community. Such automatic harsh consequences, irrespective of the severity of the misbehavior or the circumstances involved, proved disastrous.  In enacting these policies, there was no consideration of their potential negative impact on the welfare of the offending student or on the culture of the school.

Even worse, the cost of Zero Tolerance is without benefit. No evidence emerged that zero tolerance policies made schools safer or improved student behavior. According to a 2008 Task Force Report by the American Psychological Association, Zero Tolerance policies failed to achieve the intended goal of creating an effective school discipline system. To the contrary, research repeatedly demonstrates that suspension, expulsion, and other punitive consequences are not the solution to disruptive or even dangerous student behaviors. What we now know is that dangerous students do not become less dangerous when excluded from appropriate school settings. Instead, it’s quite often the opposite – exclude and the safety risk escalates. Youth who are not in school are at exceedingly high risk of delinquency and crime which increases the danger to everyone.

And then there is the fiscal hit we take as a nation for every drop-out. Each year’s class of dropouts drains the country of more than $200 billion annually in lost earnings and taxes. Billions more are spent on welfare, health care and other social services that flow from the problem.  Prison costs are an example. In Michigan, for the year 2013, we spent approximately $40,000 per prisoner annually, compared to about $8,000 per student.  Clearly, it is much less costly and better for society to keep a student in school – to find a better way to address behavioral issues.

Peacemaking March 1.3

In part due to mounting societal pressure against harsh school discipline laws, Michigan’s Board of Education is seeing the light. In 2012, it asked districts to take a second look at their Zero Tolerance policies urging the abandonment of policies that exclude students from the educational process. Although the Department’s directive is advisory only, numerous districts have begun to replace punitive practices with restorative ones. Schools are shifting towards programs and policies that meet the developmental needs of youth. Punishment is giving way to practices that allow students to problem-solve, dialogue, and build positive relationships. We are realizing that to raise a healthy and productive member of society, we must provide meaningful, authentic opportunities for youth to be active participants in making decisions and resolving conflict.

Schools that are getting it are experiencing amazing results. Restorative justice works because these programs are centered on respect, responsibility, relationship-building, and relationship-repairing. The focus is mediation and agreement, as opposed to punishment. If a student misbehaves and a restorative justice system is in place, the offending student receives the chance to come forward and make things right.  Instead of a culture of punishment and mistrust, it’s a culture of accountability and responsibility – and training youth to be correct in their behavior.

What we now know is that positive discipline produces positive behavior. Schools that embrace restorative justice initiatives have seen suspensions decrease by 50% or more, and disrespect for teachers has declined.  Students are more focused on their studies and attend classes in greater percentage. The suspensions and expulsions which often led students to fall behind, drop-out, and enter the juvenile justice system, have subsided, putting a halt to the school-to-prison pipeline. As one educator has put it, the whole thing boils down to a shift in perspective.  It’s seeing the truth that “My student is not giving me a hard time – my student is having a hard time.” Marvin Berkowitz, the Director for the National Center for Character Education preaches to teachers all over the country that “we can’t teach through a rat.” Personal turmoil, problems at home, lack of support, abuse, and neglect – these rats come right into the school with the child. Berkowitz says that to get anywhere with a youth, we must first address the rats.  To ignore them is solid barrier to success. For change to take place, root issues must be exposed and dealt with.

Peacemaking March 1

Here at WMU Cooley, we are helping in this.  A few years back, we designed a high school Peacemaking Court that has our students supervising high school students in resolving peer conflict and other misbehavior in a positive way – one which avoids punishment. The project, in place at Avondale High School in north Oakland County, is a partnership with our Auburn Hills campus.  In the program, adults stand down.  Instead, high school students (the peacemakers) trained and supervised by law students, work with their peer to correct behavior and repair any harm. Using a circle process and a talking piece, the students work to build trust with their peer and to create a safe place for honest dialogue.  In other words, they give gentle nudge towards introspection and amends.

What typically begins as an intervention involving a closed-off, un-invested classmate, peer-to-peer, transforms into something very special. Typically, by mid-proceeding, comes recognition by the classmate that the care and support is genuine and the classmate starts to open up.  It’s like the budding of a flower. Demeanor changes and the classmate is now leaning into the circle and making eye contact. Responses grow considered and thoughtful. There begins the hint of a smile and more smiles, and laughter often erupts as bonds develop. The armor loosens and the guard comes down.

With this transformation, the real work – the heart work – can begin. Tender inquiries probe for root issues and solutions, including what needs to happen to repair any harm. The kids who spin this gold? Again, their one very special qualification is their co-peer status and with it their ability to identify –truly identify with their classmate. They, too, are works in progress – far from perfect with many mistakes of their own – and a personal character still very much under development. Often they have experienced similar problems. They can relate and can empathize.  By the same token, they can get very real very quickly and see past the malarkey. They have an uncanny knack for holding their peer accountable and for helping their classmate realize the errors in their ways and the harm not just to others, but themselves.  It is peer-generated tough love at its finest. The cheering and support upon pivotal insights, and recognition, and oftentimes tough reality checks, come from the heart.  And, from the smile on the classmate’s face, they are received in the same way. In these moments, hearts are expanding all around, in benefit of everyone. It’s the power of love – the true antithesis to exclusion and best remedy for broken soul.

Again, with peer peacemaking, what begins at opening ceremony as dubiousness and mistrust gives way to  a kind of evident joy that only comes from being basked in the care and support of others. For every case we’ve held, the tide has turned for the classmate involved. Troubling history of suspensions and in-school detentions for defiant and insubordinate behavior, have resolved themselves into new friendships,(the peacemakers)and better choices – ones that are kinder to self and more respectful of others.

Perhaps best of all –every student that is the subject of peacemaking, becomes a peacemaker, paying it forward. One such student, who came into the peacemaking process with a terrible attitude and two year record of discipline to show for it, and who was referred because the school had exhausted all other options, was so changed by the experience that he advocates peacemaking as first stop for every struggling student. He feels that had this happened for him, things would have been different, much sooner.  The high school is listening.  Thrilled with the results of the program, they would like to have peacemaking available every day of the week and we’ll work hard to make that happen.

It’s been a terrific community partnership with what are actually unsurprising but extremely gratifying results, for all concerned. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. The law students are learning to question the effectiveness of a punishment-based system in favor of a more humane approach – one that actually seeks to change behavior and repair relationships.  This s far cry from the law’s traditional focus on the offense, only, in disregard for any emotional factors involved.

The high school peacemakers are learning the same thing – that dispute resolution, in order to be effective, must be positive. Equally significant, in recognition that the role of peacemaker is an important one, which holds them out as an example, they have stepped up their own character accordingly.  They have strived to become what they stand for. Their personal growth is also product of the trust placed in them by the school.  After all, this program gives them a stake in their own school community – which in the past has been a rare, if not unheard of opportunity.  It empowers them with a voice and a role in what happens with their peers. They feel important and valued to have this responsibility – all very good and very necessary stuff for best school culture. There is a third aspect to their growth – one that at first blush might come as surprise, but not when we think it through: the peacemakers are helped by their classmate. It’s like the bumper sticker about rescue dogs that wisely poses the question: “Who rescued who?” Take the time to help someone else – and your own heart expands. Look what it did for the Grinch: his heart grew three sizes the day he finally put others first. A program like this helps to build empathy and respect, extremely important traits for assurance of a successful democracy in a country that embraces capitalism.

For the classmate who is the subject of peacemaking, the impact of this program is first seen on their face, and then in their change. Another benefit, though, is that upon successful completion of any amends, no record is kept of the incident.  This is how true second chances look.  No baggage, no stigma, and no scarlet letter; just reacceptance and a fresh start.  Equally beneficial, the classmate becomes part of the solution – serving as a peacemaker in future cases.

COA and Peacemakers

Our program has garnered both local and national attention and accolades.  It received the 2012 Eastern Leaders Group Leadership Award and was the subject of lectures and instruction at the St. Louis, Missouri National Center for Character and Citizenship as part of their Carnegie Project for Social Justice.  In addition, by request we have presented on the project at Native American Peacemaking conferences held in northern Michigan, sharing the information so that others may replicate the work.  Next January, we will be presenting on the project at a national conference of special education administrators in California.

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Sun has finally set on limiting post-conviction DNA testing in Michigan

Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon

Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon

Blog author, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, is the director of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project as well as the co-director of the Access to Justice Clinic for Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Professor Mitchell-Cichon has extensive practice experience in criminal and poverty law. Her litigation experience includes practicing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Ohio Supreme Court, and trial courts in both Ohio and Michigan.

The sun has finally set on limiting post-conviction DNA testing in Michigan. On December 17, Governor Rick Snyder signed SB151 which eliminates the sunset provision of MCL 770.16. There is no longer a time bar on filing post-conviction petitions for DNA testing.

Sen. Steve Bieda (blue tie) joins all the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team on the Capitol steps after a May 7, 2015 press conference introducing Senate Bill 291.

Sen. Steve Bieda (blue tie) joins all the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team on the Capitol steps after a May 7, 2015 press conference introducing Senate Bill 291.

Michigan passed its first post-conviction DNA testing law in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Professor Emeritus Norman Fell founded the Cooley Innocence Project. The 2001 law was set to expire on January 1, 2006. In 2005, the law was extended to 2011 and then extended again, with a sunset of January 1, 2016. This year, Senator Steven Bieda proposed making the law permanent.

One of the key reasons the law must be permanent is the continuing advancements in DNA technology. Today’s DNA technology can yield results that the technology in 2001, 2006, and 2011 could not. DNA testing is a powerful scientific tool that can link someone to a crime scene. Post-conviction DNA testing not only can prove factual innocence, it can identify the actual perpetrator. That is exactly what happened in Kenneth Wyniemko’s case. In 2003, the Cooley project proved Mr. Wyniemko’s innocence through post-conviction DNA testing. Five years later, the actual perpetrator was identified.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project exoneree Kenneth Wyniemko sharing his story with the press.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project exoneree Kenneth Wyniemko sharing his story with the press.

It’s no coincidence that Senator Bieda was Wyniemko’s state representative at the time. Both Bieda, now a state senator, and Wyniemko have been tireless advocates to make Michigan’s post-conviction testing law permanent. Over the years, WMU-Cooley faculty and students have educated legislators and testified before House and Senate committees. All their hard work paid off when lawmakers passed SB 151 in early December.

Since 2001, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project has screened over 5,000 cases. In October, the Department of Justice awarded the WMU-Cooley project a $418,000 grant to support our work. Making MCL 770.16 permanent could not have come at a better time.

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Each term, students from WMU-Cooley and Western Michigan University team up for a WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Orientation Day. The project accepts 6-10 especially qualified students to work with faculty experienced in criminal and post-conviction law to review and evaluate post-conviction cases for strong evidence of factual innocence and prepare appropriate cases for court action. Cooley Law School students, under faculty supervision, work directly on the project and are intricately involved in various operations of the project; such as creating screening procedures, obtaining and reviewing case histories, applying screening devices, investigating facts, interviewing involved persons, writing case time lines and summaries, performing case analyses, preparing written case evaluations and pleadings. To date, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project has exonerated three individuals: Kenneth Wyniemko, Nathaniel Hatchett, and Donya Davis.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is the only DNA-based innocence project in Michigan. The Project screens Michigan cases for strong claims of factual innocence. Law students and Western Michigan University undergraduates manage their own caseloads under Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon’s supervision, along with the support of two new staff attorneys, Ayda Rezaian-Nojani and Eric Schroeder. Former staff attorneys Bill Fleener and Cassandra Babel have supported the Project’s casework as well as our legislative efforts. Professors Norman Fell, Kathy Swedlow and Donna McKneelen made significant contributions to the Project and educated legislators over the years. Countless WMU-Cooley students have screened and developed cases, providing high quality legal representation to our clients.

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Mentor event gives law students advice on how to build a positive reputation

The Winning Edge mentor event was hosted on Nov. 11, 2015 by Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, the Standing Committee on Professionalism, the Young Lawyers Division, and the Young Lawyers Division Law Student Division.  The panel discussion revolved around professionalism and how to build a positive reputation in the law community.

The panel consisted of the Hon. LaRose from the Second District Court of Appeals, Attorney Caroline Johnson Levine with the Florida Office of the Attorney General, Attorney Michael Colgan with the firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP, and Attorney Henry Paul with the firm Henry Lee Paul, P.A.

Winning Edge Mentor Panel with WMU-Cooley law students

Winning Edge Mentor Panel with WMU-Cooley law students

The mentors brought a unique approach to professionalism from a diverse background of experiences.  The distinguished panel discussed the importance of a first impression, and how a lawyer should continually be mindful of both their attire and demeanor. The impression you make is a responsibility to be taken seriously.

The panel also discussed the concepts of reliability and accountability. All concluded that a lawyer must always take ownership of mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. Effective communication with clients, co-counsel and the public are skills that can effect a young attorney’s reputation for many years to come.

Winning Edge Panel with WMU-Cooley students: Front row (left and right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Kimberly Canals and Attorney Caroline Johnson Levine. Back row (left to right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Brandon Porter, WMU-Cooley Professionalism Director Amy Bandow, Judge Edward LaRose, Attorney Henry Paul, Attorney Michael Colgan, Student Governor Lisa Centrangolo, and student Governor Cynthia Whitman

Winning Edge Panel with WMU-Cooley students: Front row (left and right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Kimberly Canals and Attorney Caroline Johnson Levine. Back row (left to right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Brandon Porter, WMU-Cooley Professionalism Director Amy Bandow, Judge Edward LaRose, Attorney Henry Paul, Attorney Michael Colgan, Student Governor Lisa Centrangolo, and student Governor Cynthia Whitman

The panel was gracious enough to answer numerous questions from the students in attendance regarding advice on mentors, achieving goals and ethical dilemmas.  The WMU-Cooley Young Lawyers Division, as well as the student body in attendance, were grateful to have seasoned professionals and mentors available to impart valuable knowledge and to answer questions from law students.

 

 

 

 

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Day of Remembrance: Boy Scouts Honor Lives Lost in 9/11 Day Long Salute

Each year on September 11, the Gerald R. Ford Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Museum honor those who sacrificed their lives during the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, by hosting a Community Day of Remembrance and day-long Scout Salute.

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor and retired Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel, an Eagle Scout himself, joined police, fire, EMS and military personnel, including over 100 Patriot Guard motorcyclists, as the flag that was flown at the museum for the memorial was escorted into the City of Grand Rapids. Below is his speech.

Retired Brigadier General and current Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel speaks during commemoration ceremonies for Grand Rapids’ Day of Remembrance and Scout Salute at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Retired Brigadier General and current Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel speaks during commemoration ceremonies for Grand Rapids’ Day of Remembrance and Scout Salute at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

“First, if I may, let me express my gratitude to the Patriot Guards motorcycle group and their state commander for escorting the Colors brought by the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Boy Scouts.  I have been to many military funerals. And while I know, as a law professor at WMU-Cooley, that the Westboro Baptist Church has the right under the First Amendment to protest near military funerals, as a member of the military, it makes me sick. So, I am always grateful to the Patriot Guard for their selfless duty at every military funeral I have attended, creating a human buffer, no matter the weather, between the family of the fallen and the protesters.

motorcycle

The American flag represents our beliefs as a nation:  the unity of our people, the diversity of our nation.

It is symbol of what we fight for. After Iwo Jima, after 9/11, after every conflict, this flag was raised high in the sky, as a symbol of sacrifice, of American resilience and of determination. Here is how the symbolism of the American flag is generally understood:

  • A 17-year-old school boy (Robert Heft) from Saginaw, Michigan designed our flag in 1958.
  • The U.S. flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies; the stars represent the 50 states of the union.
  • The colors of the flag, perhaps, are even more symbolic: Red symbolizes hardiness and valor; White symbolizes purity and innocence; Blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

boyscouts

It is altogether fitting, then, that we reflect on those values today, a day which has been consecrated by the blood and tears of the fallen and their families. But this time, on September 11, it was not the sacrifice of the members of the military, but of our other public servants. One of the greatest lessons of 11 September 2001, was that not just the military, but Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, Emergency Management all made sacrifices for the principles which our flag represents.

Today, I want to talk about the fire community in detail, rather than the others. Yesterday, a senior fireman, Dennis Rodeman, of the  Lansing Fire Department was intentionally struck by a pickup truck and killed. Firefighter Rodeman was also a U.S. Marine, 24th Marine Regiment, who served in Fallujah, Iraq.

Two points I wish to emphasize:

  • First, what a great public servant. Firefighter Rodeman although not killed on a call, died while serving the public. He was participating in a Fill the Boot drive for Muscular Dystrophy, just as firefighters, and the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), have served so many causes and charities benefiting the public.
  • And it appears that he may have been targeted because he was a firefighter, because he was wearing the uniform. And it reminded me of the incident in western New York on Christmas Eve, when a madman set his house on fire, called 911 so that the firemen sacrificing their holiday with family and friends in the warmth of their homes, would be lured into an ambush and intentionally gunned down, because they were firefighters.

flag

Since 9/11, we have honored firefighters for their resolute courage to save as many others as possible without regard to the risk to self. But so it ever was for firefighters, LE and EMTs. America did not realise the self-sacrificial nature of the job until that day. In short, firefighters were already the equals in self-sacrifice of soldiers and police officers for, but on that day, the rest of us finally realized that fact. All three groups are symbols of the ultimate self-sacrifice for our citizens and our country.

There appears to be an epidemic of armed violence against law enforcement.

On the first day of this month, Lt. Charles  Gliniewicz  of Fox Lake, Illinois, PD was the eighth law enforcement officer shot and killed in the U.S. in 30 days and the fourth in 10 days, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The reasons are not obvious, ranging from the generations-long ostracism of socio-economic and racial sectors of our country and community, to the accessibility of firearms by those not competent to use them. What is obvious, however, is that police officers are targeted for the uniform they wear.

When I served at the Pentagon for a short two years, one of my duties was Force Protection policy. Not operations, granted, but revising the policies to protect our servicemembers. In that short time, we had four attempts or attacks on the Pentagon, with either firearms or explosives. Why? Because the building is seen, as our servicemembers are seen, as representatives, as symbols of this country.

salute

But – Now, with the death of  our Lansing firefighter it would seem that, like soldiers and police officers, because firefighters are also symbols of our country and community, they will be attacked because they are such a symbol.

Professor and Former Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel

Professor and Former Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel

To the Scouts, a few short words. My proudest moment was not pinning on these stars. It was pinning on the Eagle, to become an Eagle Scout. Scouts, you are here to honor and guard this flag, over the next 24 hours, as a symbol of our country. But know that while you are doing so, while you are sacrificing a small slice of time for this noble purpose,  you are honoring the firefighters, the police officers, and the members of the military for their sacrifices. You, Scouts, you are not just the firefighters, police officers and military of tomorrow, you are the dedicated and informed future public servants that this country always will need, because public service in all its forms is the foundation of this great country.

Because of the death of firefighter and U.S. Marine, Dennis Rodeman, I ask you to permit me to end with a benediction:

Father Mychal Judge, a FDNY Chaplain (and a Franciscan friar from my undergrad school, St. Bonaventure U), said these words in his last homily to his fellow firefighters : You do what God has called you to do.  You show up.  You put one foot in front of another.  You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery.  And a surprise.  You have no idea when you get on that rig.  No matter how big the call.  No matter how small.  You have no idea what God is calling you to.  But he needs you.  He needs me.  He needs all of us.  Father Mychal was the first victim of the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11.

May God bless us and the United States of America.”


Note:  Four shootings in 10 days is higher than normal, but shooting deaths of officers are actually down 13 percent compared with the same January-to-September period in 2014. There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year. Those figures include state and local officers, and federal agents.

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