Monday, August 9, 2010

Mayor's First Day Festival gets students off on right foot

By Suzanne Normand Blackwood • THE TENNESSEAN • August 9, 2010 ville Mayor Karl Dean said he shakes more hands at the Mayor's First Day Festival than at any other time during the year. And there was a whole lot of hand shakin' going on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena as the festival celebrated its 11th year. The event was designed to kick off the school year with live entertainment and educational activities for children. More than 100 booths offered information for parents, and local businesses and community organizations sent kids home with bags stuffed full of free school supplies. "I got some magnets, a highlighter and some pencils … a notebook, a water bottle … some good stuff," said Jake Rosen, a fifth-grader at Abintra Montessori School. Ella Dunn, who brought her three great-nephews, found information on Boy Scouts and programs offered by the YMCA. Dunn said there also was a lot of information about various social programs, such as adult education and health care. Children's entertainers FunikiJam and Kevin Kidd entertained audiences, while mascots mingled with kids. Volunteers, many of them members of the Mayor's Youth Council, dashed about taking care of various tasks. Dean said he was pleased with the turnout, which despite the heat was comparable to last year's attendance of 20,000. "I think it's a great indication of the level of interest in public education," Dean said. "It shows (parents') commitment to making sure their kids get off to a great start."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nashville loses video of 1,300 traffic stops

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Metro Nashville police say a computer software problem has blanked about 1,300 police dashboard camera videos. The loss puts prosecution of some DUI and aggressive driving cases in doubt. The president of the software provider, however, said the program worked correctly. The Tennessean quoted police officials who said the video erasures occurred when the department tried to install a flawed electronic update to its system in May. Police spokesman Don Aaron said the majority of the lost video was recorded traffic stops and the department believes electronic evidence of some DUI arrests no longer exist. "We are pretty incensed," said police spokesman Don Aaron. The prosecutor's office says the loss could hurt cases. "Once we identify each case that has an associated video that has been lost, it definitely hurts the prosecution of the case," said Assistant District Attorney Kyle Anderson, head of the prosecutor's Vehicle Crimes Unit. "It's always problematic going forward when there was a piece of evidence that existed and it no longer does." Reached at her office in Lenexa, Kan., on Friday, Laura Owen, President and Chief Operating Officer of ICOP Digital, Inc., said the company's product wasn't at fault. "ICOP's software performed exactly as it was designed to do, given the settings that were applied by the Nashville police department," she said. Owen said the erasure came not from hard drives in the police cars, but when the data was downloaded to digital servers for storage. The original loss was close to 1,600 files, but some of the data has been recovered, Owen said. The remaining files are not retrievable. That was possible because of a "safe delete" feature of the software that allows deleted files to be recovered, based on the maximum number of days the user selects, Owen said. The department has used the$100,000 system for more than a year. It was purchased in late 2008 and has been installed in six cars used by the DUI squad, four cars used by the aggressive driving unit and two cars assigned to the fatal crash team. ___ Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Metro Nashville patrolman accused of rape while on duty

Metro Nashville police beef up homeless patrols

Complaints bring more police to park By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • August 7, 2010 Downtown residents and business owners frustrated with the homeless hanging around Church Street Park complained to the mayor's office, prompting police to bring in officers from other parts of the city to help with patrols. The e-mails, many from people who expressed disgust at seeing the homeless sleeping on park benches, washing their clothes in public fountains and using street corners as toilets, prompted the mayor's office to ask for the extra patrols. "My assumption is that we are the benefactors of the closure of Tent City," said Bob Watson, a Nashville architect and five-year resident of The Cumberland downtown. "The situation has improved, but I'm concerned that time will go by and we'll be forgotten because we're not making any noise right now." Resident RJ Stillwell, also of The Cumberland, shares Watson's concern. "We need to be looking at a concerted effort between everyone to find solutions for the homeless, not just temporary fixes,'' said Stillwell, a seven-year Nashville resident. Before the May flood washed away the homeless encampment called Tent City, members of the Metro Key Alliance, an arm of the Metro Homelessness Commission which is working is to end homelessness, already had begun searching for a permanent housing solution. Until one emerges, Metro police say they will increase their presence along Church Street. All six of the city's precincts are sending teams downtown to help, Metro police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said. There were more than enough downtown officers to handle the patrols, Central Precinct Commander Damian Huggins said, but officials decided to bring in additional units to show an increased presence. "The continuous shift change of officers rotating in and out can create an even greater appearance of officer presence, more so than the same number on fixed post spread out in any given area,'' Huggins said. The mayor's office asked for the extra patrols after the e-mails began to circulate in mid-July, spokeswoman Janel Lacy said. Many included comments from multiple residents and business owners. "Guests and visitors complain constantly about being harassed," Ed Mroz, general manager of the Sheraton Nashville Downtown, wrote in one e-mail. "I have been forced to hire staff to do nothing but prevent homeless people from entering the facility, using the restrooms, sleep in our fire escapes and interface with our out-of-town visitors." Mroz said the situation has improved, but it isn't resolved. "They are still here. I know they are working on it, and I'm very supportive of them, but we would like to see a solution sooner rather than later. "We have all of this investment in downtown, in trying to bring people to Nashville, but people won't feel comfortable here if they are always fighting the homeless. This will be a key component of making sure people return," Mroz said. On Friday afternoon, George Boone, 68, shared a shaded bench in Church Street Park with two other homeless men. Three police officers stood on the opposite street corner. "I've heard about the complaints that some of the residents here have and I agree with some of them,'' said Boone, who has lived on the streets of Nashville for 10 years. "Some people do stupid things down here that reflect on all of us. It's pretty bad when people can't sit out here on the benches and enjoy the park without getting begged for money. They can get pretty aggressive too when they don't get it.''

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bond lowered for Antioch woman in 'worst' case of animal cruelty

By Juanita Cousins • THE TENNESSEAN • August 3, 2010 function(){ A judge lowered bond for an Antioch woman accused of allowing her four children to live in horrid conditions among dog feces and corpses during her preliminary hearing Tuesday morning. Dorothy Kifer, 37, is charged with 18 counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one count of aggravated child neglect stemming from a July 15 visit Metro Police, Metro Animal Control, and the Departments of Children Services and Health made to her home which has now been condemned. Metro Police Detective Thomas Rollins testified that he found Kifer’s children - ages 18 months, 1, 4 and 6 – covered in feces, bug bites and wounds. Inside the Maxwell Road home with little furniture and no air conditioning, there were 15 dogs with their matted hair covered in feces and two dead dogs. It appeared the other dogs had been feeding on the corpses, Rollins said. Animal Control Officer Billy Biggs and Judge Leon Ruben both called it the “worst” case of animal cruelty they have witnessed in their careers that span nearly three decades. Ruben lowered Kifer’s bond from $420,000 to $210,000 after her husband testified he could not afford to post more than $2,000. Jesse Kifer told the court that he had no knowledge of the living conditions because he had been in Iraq on duty as a National Guardsman since February and returned to Fort Campbell the day his wife was arrested. Dorothy Kifer pleaded guilty last year in Dickson County to animal cruelty. Since 2004, the Department of Children Services has had seven cases with Kifers involving their children being kept around dogs, feces and urine, said assistant district attorney Allen Grant.

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