Tag Archives: communicate

Miami officers fired for ‘jokes’ about target practice in primarily black neighborhoods

Three police officers were fired for making comments on a group chat about using Miami’s primarily black neighborhoods for target practice.

Officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes and Bruce Alcin were fired on Dec. 23, after an internal affairs investigation concluded that they violated department policies, said the Miami Herald, citing documents it obtained.

The remarks angered local civil rights activists keeping tabs on a department that is currently scrutinized by the U.S. Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive force.

“It’s indicative of the casual conversations and comments that young and even more seasoned police officers are used to making without a lot of repercussions,” said Julia Dawson, an activist who has been part of law enforcement oversight panels in Miami.

The Miami police department confirmed that officers Bergnes, Valdes and Alcin were fired, but did not explain the reasons behind the dismissals.

In a statement, Chief Rodolfo Llanes said an internal affairs investigation found the officers’ actions “inconsistent with the mission and values of our department.”

Attorney Stephan Lopez, who represents the three officers, told The Associated Press that his clients were joking and that the comments were taken out of context. He said Alcin is African-American and Valdes has a black grandfather.

“They wanted to make an example out of this. But they made an example of the wrong people,” Lopez said. “These guys didn’t shoot anybody. They were clearly joking around. They are kids. You don’t terminate them the day before Christmas Eve.”

The incident happened June 30, when the three officers responded to other rookie colleagues’ questions about shooting ranges in a WhatsApp chat they often used to communicate, the paper said. According to documents obtained by the Herald, the officers-in-training shared department information on that thread.

It said the documents show Bergnes sarcastically suggested the friend looking for a shooting range try a Bank of America, adding “they’ll even give you some cash.” He then suggested Model City — the police district that includes Liberty City and handles the bulk of the city’s shootings — as another location.

Valdes suggested a particular intersection in the Overtown community, according to the paper. It added that Alcin followed up, saying Valdes “wouldn’t understand” until he’s worked there.

The next day, an officer warned them that their words were offensive even though she didn’t think they were racist. “Your words can come back to bite you,” she allegedly wrote.

A sergeant learned of the conversation and ordered one officer to apologize. He also wrote a memo to a lieutenant about the matter, according to the Herald. Internal affairs began an investigation and concluded on Dec. 19 that they broke social media, courtesy and responsibility rules, the paper said.

Lopez, the attorney, said it’s too early to say whether he will file a lawsuit for wrongful termination or negotiate to get their jobs back. The officers were still on probation after being sworn in earlier this year.

Javier Ortiz, president of the police union, said he didn’t agree with the “joking texts” but that it wasn’t enough for dismissal. He said the city manager would “rather focus on text messages than the senseless killings and violent crime.”

The incident came months after the city of Miami agreed to go under supervision of the U.S. Justice Department to reform its policing after a series of police shootings from 2008 to 2011. The agreement followed a report that questioned 33 police shootings, including seven black men and teenagers who were killed in a short time.

 

Facebook app sends self-destructing photos, messages

Facebook is taking another stab at ephemeral mobile messaging with an app called Slingshot.

The app is designed to appeal to fans of Snapchat and other messaging apps that let people send self-destructing messages to friends.

Slingshot draws inevitable comparisons to Snapchat. Facebook even tried to buy Snapchat’s maker – for $3 billion, according to published reports. But there are some key differences between the two.

– AVAILABILITY:

Facebook began making Slingshot available on June 17 to U.S. users, though the company accidentally released it last week in Apple’s app store, giving some vigilant Facebook watchers an early glimpse before the app was removed from the store. Slingshot works with both Apple and Android devices. A Facebook account isn’t required.

– HOW IT WORKS:

After downloading, you can sign up either with a Facebook account or your mobile phone number. You add contacts based on your Facebook friends and phone contacts.

Opening the app takes you to its camera, which has a “shoot” button for taking a snapshot and a “selfie” button for, you guessed it, a selfie. After taking a photo, you can type a message of up to 140 characters on it, or draw a picture. You can then send it to some or all of your Slingshot contacts.

– UNLIKE SNAPCHAT:

On Snapchat, people can see a photo sent to them by tapping on it and holding their finger down until it disappears, always within a few seconds. On Slingshot, you can see a message only if you send one back. Until you do, you’ll only see a pixelated preview of what’s in store. Facebook product designer Joey Flynn says this gives it a “reciprocal, kind of community feel.”

Unlike with Snapchat, there is no time limit on when a message disappears. Once you are done looking at it, you can flick it off to the side and it self-destructs, much the same way you’d reject a potential mate on Tinder’s dating app.

Slingshot also allows reaction shots. This splits your screen in half and lets you snap a photo to return to the sender. In this case, the recipient won’t have to send back a message to view your response.

– SECOND TAKE:

Facebook had a previous Snapchat-like app called Poke, but it never caught on.

Slingshot is the second app to come out of Facebook’s Creative Labs, an internal project designed to develop separate apps in a startup-like environment.

The first app from the lab was Paper, a social news reader that came out in February. The effort comes as Facebook seeks to broaden its reach beyond its 1.28 billion users by splintering off some of its functions to separate apps – and creating stand-alone apps for entirely new features and audiences.

Ten people have been working on Slingshot since January. It grew out of a December hackathon at Facebook where people were trying to figure out out “new ways of sharing,” Flynn says.

Flynn says he thought of his two brothers, both of whom are “non-technical, they don’t live in San Francisco.” The three communicate on iMessage, the iPhone’s built in-messaging system, and Flynn would often send photos and messages to his brothers to no response other than a “seen” receipt. Slingshot, he says, is intended to make sharing stuff more reciprocal.

– THE PROSPECTS:

Even Facebook acknowledges that its Creative Labs apps are starting small and might not reach an audience that Facebook itself reaches. The idea is to offer something for everyone.

But with a plethora of social sharing apps out there, Slingshot faces fiery competition – not just from Snapchat but also Instagram, which Facebook owns, and WhatsApp, which Facebook is buying for $19 billion. The challenge will be to show how it’s different.