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The U.S. Supreme Court began churning out opinions Wednesday, producing four decisions — as many as the justices have produced over the past 4 1/2 months combined.

The topics were varied, touching on subjects ranging from gun control to whistleblower protection and terrorism.

A "muddle" on guns?

In a week highlighted by the national gun control debate, the court ruled that a North Carolina man who pleaded guilty to illegal firearm possession may still appeal his conviction on constitutional grounds.

Steve Ruark / AP Photo

New info from the Department of Corrections finds Georgia’s incarceration rate of black men dropped by 30 percent in the last eight years. But a huge imbalance still exists in our state prisons. African American men still make up nearly two thirds of Georgia’s prison population. We talk about this trend with Bill Rankin, Reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As a police corruption trial in Baltimore reveals major allegations of misconduct, the city's police commissioner-designate is announcing changes.

Darryl DeSousa says the department is starting a new police corruption unit, as well as an Inspectional Services and Integrity Division that will conduct random polygraph tests for police in specialized units.

On one level, it looks like all is mostly back to normal in the small, rural community of Rancho Tehama in Northern California. But just below the surface it's clear people here are still grappling with the aftermath of a local man's murderous rampage nearly three months ago that killed five and wounded 12 others.

Trina Singleton picked up the newspaper the day after her son was murdered in Southwest Philadelphia.

"Violent day in Philly: 10 people shot, three of them fatally," read the headline.

Based on initial information from police, the article never revealed the fact that one of those three was Singleton's 24-year-old son, Darryl.

He was skinny and had a trim goatee. He wore Malcolm X-style glasses. At the time of his death, he was in school studying to be an EMT.

Emily Jones / GPB News

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office will help patrol unincorporated areas around Savannah starting Feb. 1, the county announced Friday.

 

That is when the joint Savannah-Chatham police department will split into two separate forces after working together since 2005.

 

The new Chatham County Police Department does not have enough officers to do the job on its own. Chief Jeff Hadley said that’s in part because hiring officers takes time.

 

"Why did he even have a gun?" — it's a common refrain in America, often after mass shootings by people who legally aren't supposed to have firearms.

One of the worst recent examples was the massacre in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church last November, in which 26 people were killed by a man whose domestic violence conviction should have barred him from buying guns.

Recent FBI investigations relevant to the 2016 presidential election have become the latest battleground in our deeply divided and partisan politics.

Some Republicans, disappointed by the lack of charges over Hillary Clinton's emails and distressed by the continuing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, suddenly perceive corruption in the FBI. Democrats counter that the casting of doubt on the nation's top national law enforcement agency is an unprecedented outrage.

In suburbs just outside the city of Chicago, some police officers are paid fast-food wages; they work part-time patrolling high crime areas, just so they can use their badge to get better paying security jobs.

Many police chiefs say the low-wages and part-time positions are consequences of inadequate funding. That means departments can't pay for ongoing training, can't afford to fire problem officers and don't have the capacity to investigate police shootings.

A fatal police shooting in Kansas late last month focused attention again on how so-called swatting — prank 911 calls designed to get SWAT teams to deploy — puts lives at risk and burdens police departments.

There are more than 7,000 911 centers in the U.S. and, according to the National Emergency Number Association, they receive about 600,000 calls a day. Authorities don't track swatting calls nationally, though the FBI has been monitoring the practice of those types of fake calls for about a decade.

Emily Jones / GPB News

Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Jack Lumpkin said Thursday the department is poised to move forward as he leaves for Dekalb County.

He said violent crime rates have gone down during his three-year tenure, and that more citizens are working with police to solve crimes. He also touted the department's increased focus on intelligence-led policing.

Lumpkin's departure comes as the joint police department prepares to split, with separate forces set to serve the city of Savannah and unincorporated Chatham County beginning Feb. 1.

President Trump took office in January, vowing in a dark-toned inaugural to end what he described as "this American carnage" fueled by gangs, drugs and street violence.

America did see historic carnage in 2017, but critics say it had far less to do with gangs and drugs than with disturbed individuals with easy access to firearms.

Courtesy of Amy Soeldner

For the first time, Atlanta has a police officer dedicated to cases of animal cruelty. The position was created in October. And the first cop to fill the post is Senior Patrol Officer Amy Soelder. She’s a 22 year veteran of the force, and joins us in the studio.

The police response to the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 followed protocol, but more training and better coordination are needed moving forward, according to a new 200-page review from the Justice Department and the Police Foundation.

Alfred Thomas, the Charlottesville, Va., police chief who faced an onslaught of national criticism over his department's handling of deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in August, announced his retirement Monday.

In a statement, Thomas wrote, "I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly."

Emily Jones / GPB News

On February 1, Savannah and Chatham County will no longer share a police force. Local leaders voted earlier this year to end the merger, and create a separate Chatham County Police Department for the unincorporated areas. Jeff Hadley was sworn in as chief of that department last week.

A spokesman for Savannah Chief Jack Lumpkin deferred any questions on the demerger to elected officials.

"He's going to do well, and we'll be partners," Lumpkin told GPB at Hadley's swearing in.

Some interview highlights:

Wikipedia

The Supreme Court is leaving in place a lower court ruling that a federal employment discrimination law doesn't protect a person against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

The court on Monday declined to take up the question of whether a law that bars workplace discrimination "because of...sex" covers discrimination against someone because of their sexual orientation.

Why Would Someone Rob A Dollar Store?

Dec 7, 2017
Mike Mozart / Flickr/CC

If you noticed a lot of dollar store robberies over the summer, you were onto something. Here in Macon, there was a string of armed robberies at stores like Family Dollar and Dollar Tree. But why would somebody target a dollar store?

Diana Robinson / flickr

According to new FBI data released last month, there were more than 6,100 reported hate crimes in 2016, up by more than 270 from the year before. Georgia reported a drop in hate crimes during that period.

Emily Jones / GPB News

Chatham County's new police chief took his oath of office Monday. Chief Jeffrey Hadley will oversee a major change in policing the Savannah area.

Hadley will lead the county police department as it separates from the City of Savannah. After years of disputes over funding and jurisdictions, local leaders voted earlier this year to end the merged police force.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

An independent review of Charlottesville's handling of the white nationalist rally there in August found that law enforcement and city officials made several significant mistakes, resulting in violence and distrust.

The city commissioned the report, which was prepared by Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia. In conducting the investigation, Heaphy said his team pored through hundreds of thousands of documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and reviewed countless hours of video and audio.

Emily Jones / GPB News

Thirty Savannah residents face federal charges following an investigation of two rival gangs, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

 

The gangs operate in a small neighborhood southwest of downtown, known as Cuyler-Brownsville.

 

US Attorney Bobby Christine said since January, there have been more than 600 reports of shots fired in that neighborhood - and residents have said they’re scared.

Emily Jones / GPB News

As Chatham County and the City of Savannah get ready to separate their joint police department, some community groups are pushing to keep the force together.

 

Several groups spoke out against the separation Monday, including the Young Democrats and Republicans, and the National Action Network.

 

Antwan Lang of the Savannah Jaycees said his group has met with city and county leaders, some of whom he said are not putting public safety first.

 

Cybercrimes Present Unique Challenges For Investigators

Nov 13, 2017
Mike Stewart / AP Photo/File

The federal investigators looking into the breach that exposed personal information maintained by the Equifax credit report company are used to dealing with high-profile hacks and the challenges they present.

Left Bank Books

A new book explores why so many young men of color wind up in prison. “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” is the work of Yale Law School Professor James Forman, Jr. His father was a leader of SNCC -- the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Forman, Jr. is a graduate of Atlanta’s Roosevelt High. He joins us in the studio. 

Courtesy of Heather Coggins via AP

In 1983 a black man named Timothy Coggins was found murdered, in Spalding County, Georgia. He had been stabbed and mutilated to the point of disfigurement. No arrests were made until now. We get an update on this cold case from Fred Wimberly of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Nelson Helm.

The names of black men and boys such as Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice, are often rallying cries during protests over alleged police misconduct.

The nurse who was roughly arrested at a Salt Lake City hospital has settled with the city and the university that owns the hospital for $500,000.

Updated at 4:27 p.m. ET

It took less than 24 hours after Tuesday's terrorist attack in New York for the finger-pointing to begin.

And the first fingers are being aimed at what had been an obscure State Department immigration program called diversity visas.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the accused terrorist, Sayfullo Saipov, entered the U.S. with such a visa, after winning a yearly lottery in which up to 50,000 foreigners are awarded green cards.

A new poll out this week from NPR finds that 60 percent of black Americans say they or a family member have been stopped or treated unfairly by police because they are black. In addition, 45 percent say they or a family member have been treated unfairly by the courts because they are black. The poll is a collaboration between NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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