Martin Kaste

NPR's Martin Kaste covers the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and western Canada, and occasionally roams farther afield. Kaste's reports and features can be heard on all of NPR's news programs and newscasts.

Politics is a big part of Kaste's beat, and he's followed the career of Alaska's Sarah Palin since well before the day she was picked as John McCain's running mate.

He also specializes in privacy issues, focusing on the government's wireless wiretapping practices, and the data-collection and analysis that goes on behind the scenes in social media and other new media.

Before moving to the West Coast, Kaste spent five years as NPR's South America reporter. He covered the drug wars in Colombia, the financial meltdown in Argentina, the rise of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the fall of Haiti's president Jean Bertrand Aristide. All told, Kaste covered the overthrow of five presidents in five years.

Kaste joined NPR fulltime in February 2000, after working in St. Paul as a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, which he joined in 1993. He's a graduate of Carleton College.

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5:47pm

Tue April 21, 2015
Law

Too Often, Some Say, Volunteer Officers Just Want To Play Cop

Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 10:58 am

Robert Bates (left), a Tulsa County, Okla., reserve deputy, leaves his arraignment Tuesday with his attorney. Bates fatally shot a suspect who was pinned down by officers, raising alarms about volunteer police officers who wear badges and carry guns.
Sue Ogrocki AP

Bob Ball is a real estate investor in Portland, Ore., but that's just his day job. For the past 20 years, he has also been a volunteer cop.

"When I was new, it was the best time of my life. I got to go out there and wear a white hat and help people and make a difference in my community, one little piece at a time," Ball says. "That's a very, very fulfilling thing to do."

This is real police work. On one occasion, Ball had to pull his gun on a guy threatening a woman with a knife.

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7:25am

Sun April 12, 2015
Race

Cop Shooting Victim's Family Calls For Calm In South Carolina

Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 11:01 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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6:09pm

Sat April 11, 2015
Around the Nation

As Scott Family Reels From Police Shooting, Hundreds Turn Out For Funeral

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 9:04 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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4:36pm

Mon April 6, 2015
Law

Police Officers Debate Effectiveness Of Anti-Bias Training

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 7:48 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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4:00am

Thu April 2, 2015
Race

More African-Americans Support Carrying Legal Guns For Self-Defense

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 10:08 am

Rick Ector trains new gun owners at a range just outside of Detroit. He supports more African-Americans getting permits to carry concealed weapons.
Martin Kaste NPR

When James Craig was a young man in the 1970s, he says law-abiding people wouldn't dream of carrying guns. But then he left town to pursue a career in policing. In the years he was gone, Michigan liberalized its gun laws, making it easier for people to get concealed-carry permits.

When he came back to become Detroit's police chief in 2013, he found a whole new reality.

"You would have thought, given the dynamic of people who carry weapons, that we were maybe in Texas," he says. "But in fact, we were in Detroit, Michigan!"

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5:37am

Mon March 30, 2015
U.S.

Open Cases: Why One-Third Of Murders In America Go Unresolved

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 10:22 pm

Detective Mark Williams (right) speaks with an officer in Richmond, Va. A decade ago, amid a surge in violent crime, Richmond police were identifying relatively few murder suspects. So the police department refocused its efforts to bring up its "clearance rate."
Alex Matzke for NPR

If you're murdered in America, there's a 1 in 3 chance that the police won't identify your killer.

To use the FBI's terminology, the national "clearance rate" for homicide today is 64.1 percent. Fifty years ago, it was more than 90 percent.

And that's worse than it sounds, because "clearance" doesn't equal conviction: It's just the term that police use to describe cases that end with an arrest, or in which a culprit is otherwise identified without the possibility of arrest — if the suspect has died, for example.

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5:12am

Mon March 30, 2015
U.S.

How Many Crimes Do Your Police 'Clear'? Now You Can Find Out

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 5:22 pm

Violent crime in America has been falling for two decades. That's the good news. The bad news is, when crimes occur, they mostly go unpunished.

In fact, for most major crimes, police don't even make an arrest or identify a suspect. That's what police call "clearing" a crime; the "clearance rate" is the percentage of offenses cleared.

In 2013, the national clearance rate for homicide was 64 percent, and it's far lower for other violent offenses and property crimes.

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6:01pm

Mon February 23, 2015
Around the Nation

Awash In Social Media, Cops Still Need The Public To Detect Threats

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 11:30 am

Some colleges and police departments are starting to use software that scans social media to identify local threats, but most tips still come from members of the public.
Ikon Images/Getty Images

On Valentine's Day weekend, Jonathan Hutson found himself exchanging tweets with somebody unpleasant: a Holocaust-denying anti-Semite, by the look of things.

Then Hutson looked up the person's earlier tweets. This guy was tweeting about shooting up a school. He said that he wanted to execute 30-plus grade-school kids."

So Hutson decided to draw the person out — "engage with him," as he puts it — to see if the threats were real.

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10:18am

Sat February 21, 2015
Law

Police Are Learning To Accept Civilian Oversight, But Distrust Lingers

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 1:48 am

Late last month, a scuffle cut short a St. Louis Board of Aldermen meeting where a committee was to discuss a proposed civilian review board for the city's police force.
Robert Cohen Courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Late last month, during a meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, a shoving match broke out among members of the public — some of them off-duty police officers.

The cause of the tension was a proposal to create a new civilian oversight authority for the police. Advocates of police reform like civilian oversight, but police officers say the boards are often politicized and unfair to them.

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4:39pm

Thu February 12, 2015
Around the Nation

Police-Involved Shooting In Washington Sparks Protest

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 6:26 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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4:54pm

Tue February 10, 2015
U.S.

Family Confirms Death Of American Hostage Held By ISIS Militants

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:53 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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7:56am

Sat February 7, 2015
Middle East

American Hostage's Parents Say They Hope She Is Alive

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 11:19 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

5:10pm

Fri February 6, 2015
Middle East

ISIS Claims Hostage American Woman Killed In Jordanian Airstrike

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 2:24 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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8:00pm

Thu January 22, 2015
All Tech Considered

Police Departments Issuing Body Cameras Discover Drawbacks

Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 1:03 pm

A Philadelphia police officer demonstrates a body-worn camera being used as part of a pilot project last December.
Matt Rourke AP

Wearable video cameras are fast becoming standard-issue gear for American police. The cameras promise a technological answer to complaints about racial bias and excessive force.

But in fact, the beneficial effects of body cameras are not well-established yet. And the police departments that rushed to buy them are now dealing with some unintended consequences.

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4:16pm

Tue January 13, 2015
U.S.

Obama's Policing Task Force Begins With Public Hearing

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 6:45 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

6:29pm

Thu January 8, 2015
Around the Nation

When Morale Dips, Some Cops Walk The Beat — But Do The Minimum

There's been a sharp decline in the number of arrests and tickets and summonses issued in New York City. Police sometimes use work slowdowns to show dissatisfaction with policies, workloads or contract disputes.
Justin Lane EPA/Landov

Police officers in New York City are not working as hard as usual.

For the past two weeks, the number of arrests, summonses and tickets issued has dropped dramatically, and many consider it a purposeful slowdown by officers who are angry at Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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4:19pm

Fri January 2, 2015
Around the Nation

Trial Of Polygraph Critic Renews Debate Over Tests' Accuracy

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 6:23 pm

A screen shot of Doug Williams from one of his videos on how to beat a polygraph test.
Screen shot/Polygraph.com

The federal government is throwing the book at one of the most vocal critics of the polygraph test.

Doug Williams, a man who makes his living teaching people how to beat the test, will go on trial in January on charges of witness tampering and mail fraud. But Williams' defenders say he's being punished by a government that has become overly dependent on polygraphs.

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5:02am

Fri December 19, 2014
Around the Nation

Transparency Vs. Privacy: What To Do With Police Camera Videos?

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 10:06 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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6:15pm

Wed December 10, 2014
Around the Nation

Why Police Departments Have A Hard Time Recruiting Blacks

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 3:16 pm

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised Aug. 11 in Ferguson, Mo. Renewed calls for police departments to hire more minorities have followed the shooting there of a black man by a white police officer.
Jeff Roberson AP

Since the Ferguson, Mo., shooting, there have been renewed calls for police departments to hire more minority officers, but it turns out it's not that simple.

Police in the U.S. are more diverse than they were a generation ago. In the 1980s, 1 in 6 officers belonged to an ethnic or racial minority. Now it's about 1 in 4. The challenge these days is finding enough recruits to keep that trend going.

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4:54am

Wed December 10, 2014
Around the Nation

Bertha, The Giant Borer That Broke, May Be Sinking Seattle's Downtown

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 6:23 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

10:32am

Wed November 26, 2014
The Salt

For Native Alaskans, Holiday Menu Looks To The Wild

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 11:19 am

Akutaq or agutak — also known as Eskimo ice cream — is a favorite dessert in western Alaska. It's made with berries and frothed with fat, like Crisco.
Al Grillo AP

When Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving meal, most tables will feature traditional fare: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries. But should you be looking for a different kind of holiday meal, head for rural Alaska.

That's where Nellie Gamechuck lives, in a village squeezed between tundra and a bend in the river in the southwest part of the state. Ask her what's for dinner on Thanksgiving, and she opens up the deep freeze. "Walrus meat, moose meat," she says. Digging down through the layers, she reaches the dessert level: salmonberries.

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3:48am

Thu November 20, 2014
Around the Nation

Officer's Death Raises Safety Concerns For Alaska's Unarmed Law Enforcement

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 2:16 pm

Mike Myers is the roving village public safety officer serving southwest Alaska villages including Manokotak. Like many officers in rural Alaska, Myers doesn't carry a gun and often doesn't need one.
Martin Kaste NPR

Americans expect police to carry guns. In most places, it's just assumed that law enforcement is always armed. But not everywhere.

One of the last exceptions to the rule is the native communities of rural Alaska, such as Manokotak, a Yupik village of about 400 in southwest Alaska. Hunters and fishermen live there in modest houses huddled along a few roads.

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4:52pm

Wed November 19, 2014
Around the Nation

Bush Pilot Helps Rural Alaskan Police Explore Isolated Villages

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 8:09 pm

Bush pilot John Bouker (right) and village public safety officer Mike Myers (left) outside Bouker's Cessna 207. Bouker transports Alaskan cops to remote areas and helps pick up prisoners.
Martin Kaste NPR

In order to reach what Alaskans call "The Bush" — villages isolated across tundra — you'll need a bush pilot. That's where John Bouker comes in.

Most of Bouker's passengers are civilians he transports to and from Alaska's remote villages. He does his job with the nonchalance of a suburban dad in a minivan dropping his kids off at the mall.

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3:26am

Thu November 6, 2014
Environment

Republican Sweep Highlights Climate Change Politics In Alaska

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 11:15 am

Oil, carried here by the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, is fundamental to the state's economy. But Alaskans also face the effects of climate change in their daily lives.
Al Grillo AP

On election night in a hotel ballroom in Anchorage, Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski picked up a chair and waved it over her head.

"I am the chairmaaaaaaaaaaan!" she shouted.

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5:38pm

Thu October 30, 2014
The Two-Way

Maker Of 'Body Cams' Used By Police Reports Spike In Sales

Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 7:31 pm

Washington, D.C., police officer Debra Domino wears a body camera at City Hall in September.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Taser International is reporting a big jump in demand by police departments for "body cameras." The company, one of the biggest providers of body cams to police departments, says 2014 sales of its "Axon Body" model are up 300 percent over last year, and sales of its more expensive "Axon Flex" camera have doubled.

And what's interesting is that this spike started well before the August shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

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5:17pm

Tue October 28, 2014
The Two-Way

FBI Spoofs News Story To Send Spyware To Suspect

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 8:06 pm

It was already known that the FBI uses spyware to investigate people — that was clear in federal documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. What hasn't been fully appreciated until now was the lengths to which the FBI will go to infect a target's computer.

"Presumably, your typical Nigerian scam email offering $10 million dollars isn't going to work," says Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU.

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5:05am

Thu September 25, 2014
Research News

For Police, A Debate Over Force, Cop Culture And Confrontation

Originally published on Mon September 29, 2014 5:00 pm

New York City police officers stand guard in Times Square earlier this month after a blog affiliated with the so-called Islamic State militants mentioned the area as a target for bombing.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Protests in Ferguson and New York this summer rekindled an old debate about how American police use force.

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5:29pm

Thu September 18, 2014
The Two-Way

Court Says Navy Investigators Illegally Scan Civilian Computers

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 6:23 pm

An appeals court ruling has offered a rare glimpse at the extent to which military police investigations reach into civilians' computers. Apparently, they scan civilian computers quite often — and to a degree that a 9th Circuit appeals court has now found violates the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act.

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6:08pm

Thu August 28, 2014
Around the Nation

Zero-Tolerance Policing Is Not Racism, Say St. Louis-Area Cops

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 11:57 pm

Police arrest a woman in Ferguson, Mo., protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown. Most officers in Ferguson and nearby Jennings are white, but the neighborhoods they police are predominantly African-American.
Scott Olson Getty Images

The protests that followed the shooting death this month of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., have rekindled long-standing complaints about racist policing, especially in the St Louis area.

Many male African-American residents there say police scrutinize them unfairly. "Every time you see a cop, it's like, 'OK, am I going to get messed with?' " says Anthony Ross. "You feel that every single time you get behind your car. Every time."

Now, police officers in and around St. Louis are becoming more vocal about defending themselves against the charges of bias.

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5:10pm

Wed August 27, 2014
Men In America

Freemasonry Still Alive And Well, And (Mostly) Men-Only

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 11:17 am

Danny Done, 26, worshipful master of the Queen Anne Masonic Lodge in Seattle. The fraternity is "a really interesting social network that's not online," he says.
Martin Kaste NPR

The members of the Queen Anne Masonic Lodge near downtown Seattle are on the young side. The guy in charge is 26.

Danny Done, the lodge's worshipful master, is lounging on his designated chair in the room reserved for private ceremonies.

His title comes with a top hat, though he avoids putting it on — he says it makes him look dorky. But he does like other aspects of Masonic regalia, like his Templar sword. Done uses it to point to a diagram on the wall that charts out the different kinds of Masonry.

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