Martin Kaste

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy, as well as news from the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to general assignment reporting in the U.S., Kaste has contributed to NPR News coverage of major world events, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 uprising in Libya.

Kaste has reported on the government's warrant-less wiretapping practices as well as the data-collection and analysis that go on behind the scenes in social media and other new media. His privacy reporting was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 United States v. Jones ruling concerning GPS tracking.

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

Prior to joining NPR in 2000, Kaste was a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul for seven years.

Kaste is a graduate of Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota.

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All Tech Considered
2:33 pm
Wed May 27, 2015

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners

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

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 5:11 pm

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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U.S.
1:29 am
Thu May 14, 2015

Police Rethink Tactics Amid New Technologies And Social Pressure

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

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 7:24 pm

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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U.S.
4:35 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

What Happens When A Police Officer Doesn't Shoot?

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 8:15 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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U.S.
4:23 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

Law Enforcement Reacts To Baltimore Officer Criminal Charges

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

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 7:18 pm

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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Around the Nation
3:02 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

Baltimore Officials Face Criticism For Slow Response To Riots

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 7:22 pm

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

Law
4:25 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 4:21 pm

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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Race
5:19 am
Sun April 12, 2015

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

Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 9:01 am

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

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Around the Nation
4:09 pm
Sat April 11, 2015

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

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 7:04 pm

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

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Law
2:36 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

Police Officers Debate Effectiveness Of Anti-Bias Training

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 5:48 pm

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

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Race
2:00 am
Thu April 2, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 12:26 pm

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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U.S.
3:37 am
Mon March 30, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 8:22 pm

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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U.S.
3:12 am
Mon March 30, 2015

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

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 3:22 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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Around the Nation
3:31 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 9:30 am

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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Law
8:18 am
Sat February 21, 2015

Police Are Learning To Accept Civilian Oversight, But Distrust Lingers

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

Originally published on Sun February 22, 2015 11:48 pm

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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Around the Nation
2:20 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Police-Involved Shooting In Washington Sparks Protest

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 4:26 pm

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

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U.S.
2:47 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Family Confirms Death Of American Hostage Held By ISIS Militants

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 6:53 pm

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

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Middle East
5:56 am
Sat February 7, 2015

American Hostage's Parents Say They Hope She Is Alive

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 9:19 am

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

Middle East
3:49 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

ISIS Claims Hostage American Woman Killed In Jordanian Airstrike

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 12:24 pm

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

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The Two-Way
7:07 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Arrested For Resisting Arrest — Yes, It's Possible

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 8:42 am

Earlier this week in a San Francisco courthouse, a deputy public defender named Jami Tillotson challenged police who were trying to take pictures of her client, and the police handcuffed her and took her away. The public defender's office angrily accused the officer of intimidation, but what caught our attention was the reason for her arrest.

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All Tech Considered
6:01 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Police Departments Issuing Body Cameras Discover Drawbacks

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

Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 11:03 am

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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U.S.
2:16 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Obama's Policing Task Force Begins With Public Hearing

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 4:45 pm

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

Around the Nation
4:21 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

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

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 4:29 pm

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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Around the Nation
1:43 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Trial Of Polygraph Critic Renews Debate Over Tests' Accuracy

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

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 4:23 pm

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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Around the Nation
3:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 8:06 am

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

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Around the Nation
4:07 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Why Police Departments Have A Hard Time Recruiting Blacks

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

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 1:16 pm

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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Around the Nation
2:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:23 am

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

The Salt
9:19 am
Wed November 26, 2014

For Native Alaskans, Holiday Menu Looks To The Wild

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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Around the Nation
1:48 am
Thu November 20, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 12:16 pm

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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Around the Nation
2:52 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Bush Pilot Helps Rural Alaskan Police Explore Isolated Villages

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

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 6:09 pm

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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Environment
1:26 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Republican Sweep Highlights Climate Change Politics In Alaska

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

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 9:15 am

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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