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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6:40pm

Mon July 27, 2015
Around the Nation

The 'Shock Of Confinement': The Grim Reality Of Suicide In Jail

Originally published on Tue July 28, 2015 5:41 pm

A cell at New York's Rikers Island jail. About 1,000 people die in American jails every year, and about a third of those are suicides.
Seth Wenig AP

The case of Sandra Bland has raised anger and suspicions nationwide since she was found dead in a jail cell in Hempstead, Texas, two weeks ago. Bland's family and supporters have rejected the medical examiner's finding of suicide, and the criminal district attorney for Waller County, Texas, says he's recruited two outside lawyers to assist in the investigation of her death. The local investigation has been reviewed by the FBI, and local prosecutors have pledged to bring the case to a grand jury next month.

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5:49am

Wed July 22, 2015
Law

Sandra Bland Video Shows An Argument With Police Officer

Originally published on Wed July 22, 2015 6:22 pm

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

5:37am

Tue July 21, 2015
Law

A Death In A Texas Jail Stirs Suspicion

Originally published on Tue July 21, 2015 3:04 pm

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

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4:03pm

Fri July 17, 2015
News

A Suicide Or Something Else? Young Woman's Death In Jail Incites Suspicion

Originally published on Fri July 17, 2015 7:39 pm

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

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5:02am

Thu July 16, 2015
Law

Is It Possible To Let More People Out Of Prison, And Keep Crime Down?

Originally published on Thu July 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Inmates at California's Chino State Prison exercise in the prison yard in 2010. A proposition that was passed in the state last year reclassified certain crimes, releasing thousands of inmates earlier than had been anticipated.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

President Obama has made incarceration reform a White House theme this week. On Monday, he commuted the sentences of 46 mostly nonviolent drug offenders; and on Tuesday, he spoke about reducing the prison population in a speech to the NAACP.

"The United States is home to 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's prisoners," Obama said. "Think about that. Our incarceration rate is four times higher than China's."

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4:39pm

Wed July 1, 2015
U.S.

Nationwide Crime Spike Has Law Enforcement Retooling Its Approach

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 9:30 am

Metropolitan Division officers finish another "rollback" operation. They searched the apartment of a paroled armed robber and gang member. These rollbacks are a cornerstone of the Metro Division's strategy of tracking people who may re-offend, and suppressing crime before it happens.
Martin Kaste NPR

Crime in America may be on the rise again. It's too early to talk about a national trend, but there have been troubling spikes in shootings and murders in big cities such as New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles.

Until recently, crime decreased steadily for two decades, and the national murder rate is half what it was in the early 1990s — so police departments are under pressure to crack down. But at the same time, their tactics are under more scrutiny from the public, and they have to be careful not to appear too heavy-handed.

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5:04am

Wed June 17, 2015
U.S.

Scammers Turn To Caller ID 'Spoofing' To Pose As Police

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 6:18 pm

Most people know to hang up on con artists supposedly calling from the power company or the IRS, demanding money. The problem is, there's little the police can do — even when the scammers go so far as to impersonate the police themselves.

The fake police scam, or "spoofing," has been making the rounds for the last year or so.

Cmdr. Joseph Chacon of the Austin Police Department's intelligence division says they saw a wave of these calls this spring from people claiming to be Austin police.

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6:20pm

Fri May 29, 2015
All Tech Considered

As Police Body Cameras Increase, What About All That Video?

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 7:09 pm

Taser International is now selling police departments the technology to store videos from body cameras.
Patrick T. Fallon Bloomberg via Getty Images

You know what a pain it can be storing and organizing the millions of videos you've shot on your smartphone. Now imagine you're a police officer, and you wear a body camera every day.

Police cams have suddenly become a big business. In the months since Ferguson, share prices for the camera manufacturer Taser International have doubled. But in the long run, the real money is in selling police a way to store all that video.

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4:33pm

Wed May 27, 2015
All Tech Considered

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 7:52 pm

License plate scanners have helped police locate stolen vehicles and have even assisted in murder investigations. But with their ability to track a person's every move, skeptics worry about privacy.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

License plate scanners have become a fact of life. They're attached to traffic lights, on police cars — even "repo" staff use them. All those devices have created a torrent of data, raising new concerns about how it's being stored and analyzed.

Bryce Newell's laptop is filled with the comings and goings of Seattle residents. The data comes from the city's license plate scanner, acquired from the police through public disclosure requests. He plugs in a license plate number, uncovering evidence of long-forgotten errands.

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3:29am

Thu May 14, 2015
U.S.

Police Rethink Tactics Amid New Technologies And Social Pressure

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 9:24 pm

Officers stand watch at the intersection of West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue as protesters walk for Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van.
Jabin Botsford The Washington Post/Getty Images

This week in Washington, thousands of sworn officers gathered for National Police Week, an annual commemoration of the lives of officers who've died on the job.

This year it was hard for participants to escape the shadow of the anti-police protests of the past nine months. One of the week's events, a memorial bicycle ride, even was rerouted away from Baltimore, to make sure the nearly 2,000 officers participating in the ride wouldn't become targets.

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6:35pm

Thu May 7, 2015
U.S.

What Happens When A Police Officer Doesn't Shoot?

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 10:15 am

Law enforcement officers have come under pressure over the past few months to rethink how they use deadly force, as a result of the string of videos of shootings by police.

But recently, police have been talking about another video — one that shows an officer not shooting.

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7:20pm

Fri May 1, 2015
U.S.

Law Enforcement Reacts To Baltimore Officer Criminal Charges

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 9:18 pm

A Maryland state trooper stands guard near a CVS pharmacy that was destroyed during rioting in Baltimore this week.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

The surprise announcement of criminal charges in Baltimore Friday morning definitely got the attention of police officers. The decision has been welcomed by protesters, but it's causing dismay for law enforcement across the country.

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5:02pm

Tue April 28, 2015
Around the Nation

Baltimore Officials Face Criticism For Slow Response To Riots

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 9:22 pm

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

5:47pm

Tue April 21, 2015
Law

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

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 6:21 pm

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

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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

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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

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4:00am

Thu April 2, 2015
Race

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

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 2:26 pm

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

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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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