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2003 Christopher Columbus Fellowship Scholar Recipients, Washington, D.C.
2003 Christopher Columbus Fellowship Scholar Recipients, Washington, D.C.
2003 Christopher Columbus Fellowship Scholar Recipients, Washington, D.C. (left to right): Joany Jackman, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University; James A. Thomson, V.M.D., Ph. D., Diplomate A.C.V.P., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Michael B. Cantor, Ph.D., of WayPoint Research Inc.; Frances S. Ligler, D.Phil., D.Sc., of the Naval Research Laboratory; and Chief William B. Berger, J.D.

Florida Police Chief of the Year William B. Berger has earned a national homeland security award for his role as team leader of the Be SAFER disaster and emergency preparedness program. Berger, police chief in North Miami Beach, is immediate past president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

He received the 2003 Homeland Security Award in the information-sharing category from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation. The foundation is an independent, Albany, New York-based federal agency established to "encourage and support research, study, and labor designed to produce new discoveries in all fields of endeavor for the benefit of mankind."

SAFER stands for Strategic Actions for Emergency Response. Developed by the nonprofit, Miami Beach-based National Self-Defense Institute (NSDI), the program consists of a one-hour training session to help citizens prepare for disasters and emergencies and be vigilant for signs of terrorist activity in their communities.

"As a volunteer, Chief Berger has made an invaluable contribution in helping develop and launch our program, which is just one year old," said Terri Harris, executive director of NSDI. "He has also played a key role in ensuring the success of train-the-trainer seminars at various Florida locations." Early Be S.A.F.E.R. advocates have included the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and police departments of major cities around the state. A national launch took place in May at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Community Policing Institute at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, at which instructors from Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic states received training.

To date, the program has produced 231 instructors from 105 agencies who now have public education materials to serve 23,100 people in their communities. Instructors include representatives from law enforcement, public safety, emergency medical services, Crime Watch, and the clergy. Other Christopher Columbus awards went to innovators of an ultrasensitive detector for biological threats, improved detection of weapons in X-ray images, and noninvasive detection of pulmonary pathogens following a bioterrorist event.

For more information about Be SAFER, call Terri Harris at 305-577-8211.

2004 Annual IACP Conference Workshop Planning Under Way
The 111th Annual IACP Conference will be held Saturday, November 13, through Wednesday, November 17, 2004, in Los Angeles, California, USA. The planning for the educational opportunities at the conference is under way now.

The IACP Education and Training Committee, which is responsible for planning the education activities, will meet at the end of March 2004 to finalize the educational plans for the conference. For a workshop to be considered, a proposal must be submitted to the committee at IACP headquarters by Monday, March 8, 2004. Application forms are available online at the IACP Web site,

Applications are also available by calling Gareth Rees at IACP headquarters at 800-THE-IACP, extension 312, or by sending an e-mail message to

The educational tracks for the law enforcement executives' workshops are as follows:

  • Leadership

  • Organizational development

  • Executive program briefing

  • Management

  • Motivational

  • Personal development

  • Contemporary issues

  • Community policing

  • Technology

  • Personnel issues

  • Education and training

  • Operational issues

  • Homeland security

  • Legal
Of course, other suggestions are welcome, and the workshop proposal form allows for these suggestions.

All workshop proposals are subject to an evaluation process. The applications are reviewed and awarded points based on timeliness, appropriateness, and relevance to audience. The committee also evaluates proposals with an eye toward their overall content to ensure that only state-of-art programs are presented.

Questions about the workshops should be directed to Charles Higginbotham (extension 217; e-mail higginboth@theiacp.>org) or Gareth Rees (extension 312; e-mail, both at IACP headquarters, 800-THE-IACP.

Black Boxes in Automobiles Aid in Crash Investigations
A device that tells a car when to fire the air bag in a crash can also help investigators determine what caused the crash. The finding by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University could lead to safer cars and help police and insurance companies determine who was at fault.

The VCU Crash Investigation Team studied eight crashes to verify the accuracy of data from onboard event data recorders, the so-called black boxes that more and more law enforcement agencies are tapping to help determine the cause of mysterious crashes. Before this study, not much was known about their reliability.

One of the case studies involved a 2001 Corvette that ran off a winding road in rural Virginia on a clear, dry day and crashed, instantly killing the 55-year-old driver. By plugging a laptop computer into the black box that fired the powerful car's air bags, VCU crash investigators were able to verify what happened five seconds before impact.

The palm-sized device, located in the car's dashboard, indicated the driver was not wearing a seat belt, did not brake, floored the accelerator, and traveled at about 90 miles per hour in a 25-miles-per-hour speed zone. "For a person to be going that fast and not wearing a seat belt, plus accelerating into the turn altogether indicated he intended to go that fast," said VCU Crash Investigation Team leader David O. McAllister.

By comparing the data with the physical evidence at the crash site and information from the driver's family that he was emotionally disturbed at the time of the crash, VCU investigators concluded the cause was likely suicide.

"The capability of downloading data from black boxes is tremendously significant to a law enforcement officer who is investigating a crash because of the ability to correlate precrash data with physical evidence and to state confidently what the vehicles' speeds were at the time of the crash," said VCU Transportation Safety Training Center Director Robert J. Breitenbach.

Although retrieving information from the black box is a revolutionary development in crash investigation, the data must be compared with physical evidence at the scene before investigators draw any conclusions. Also, crash data currently can be read by investigators only from select General Motors and Ford vehicles built after 1993 and a handful of import cars. Not all automobile manufacturers provide the necessary access codes to their black boxes.

For more information call Robert J. Breitenbach, director of the VCU Transportation Safety Training Center, at 804-828-6235, or send an e-mail message to

Identify Theft in Student Aid Programs
Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime, and identity thieves have targeted U.S. Department of Education federal student aid programs that involve millions of students at thousands of institutions of higher learning nationwide. The department processes more than 11 million applications for student financial aid and disburses more than $60 billion a year in federal student aid funds.

The Education Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) serves as its law enforcement arm. With regional offices and more than 70 special agents, the OIG investigates allegations of identity theft involving federal student aid funds in conjunction with the U.S. attorney general's office. Within the last year and a half, OIG investigations conducted along with other federal, state, and local police have resulted in more than $1 million in court ordered restitutions. And the numbers continue to grow.

The methods that these perpetrators use vary from the fraudulent use of personal information belonging to family members and friends to conspiracies that involve groups who have access to student information. Identity thieves have also used the identities of deceased individuals and prison inmates to apply for and obtain federal student aid. Beginning in 2002 the department began checks of Social Security numbers (SSNs) against Social Security death records to identify the fraudulent use of SSNs formerly issued to deceased individuals.

A recent example of student identity theft resulted in a 26-count indictment against an individual in U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, for his role in allegedly defrauding the Department of Education of more than $160,000 by submitting fraudulent student loan applications in the name of his mother and brother. The indictment also charged that the individual prepared and submitted approximately 2,370 additional student loan applications requesting disbursement of approximately $43.8 million. These applications were prepared using multiple fictitious identities that claimed attendance at various colleges in the United Kingdom.

OIG collaboration with the Mesa Police Department, Mesa Community College, the Social Security Administration, and U.S. Secret Service recently resulted in a four-count indictment against another individual. This individual was indicted in the District of Arizona for assuming more than 50 different identities to obtain approximately $313,416 in federal student aid. The investigation revealed that many of the victims were prison inmates.

Crimes such as these have led Secretary of Education Roderick Paige, Inspector General Jack Higgins, and Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Theresa Shaw to launch an identity theft prevention initiative to alert students who are particularly vulnerable to this type of financial crime. The Web site provides information about how to prevent and report identity theft that involves federal student aid funds. The OIG has increased its data mining efforts to identify potential trends and patterns involving identity theft and other crimes involving fraud against the student aid programs. As a result of data mining, the OIG was also able to help other federal law enforcement agencies identify foreign nationals with terrorist links who fraudulently obtained student aid.

The OIG will continue in its efforts to combat identity theft by conducting investigations involving individuals who steal personal information to commit fraud within federal student aid programs. The OIG seeks to expand its role in preventing student aid identity theft by working with other law enforcement agencies and teaching students about the long-term economic threat this crime poses.

For more information send a message to Sharon Jones-Davis, program management analyst, Office of Inspector General, Investigation Services, U.S. Department of Education, at

Check and Card Fraud Guide Available
This problem-oriented policing guide, available either in print or in an electronic file retrieved from the Internet, covers fraud involving all types of checks and plastic cards, including debit, charge, credit, and so-called smart cards. Each can involve a different payment method.

The guide (NCJ 202523) provides assistance to police working on local parts of an international problem. It identifies a series of questions to help analyze the local problem, and it reviews responses to the problem and what is known about the responses from evaluative research and police practice. For availability and ordering information, call the U.S. Department of Justice Response Center at 800-421-6770 or download a copy of the file from


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 1, January 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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