Here are this week’s top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica’s ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and with the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to MuckReads@ProPublica.org. Sign up here to get this digest delivered to your inbox weekly.
“It’s not just bullets you need to watch out for.” Outside of the work place, gun ranges are the most common way for the public to get lead poisoning. And with an estimated 40 million annual recreational shooters and 10,000 gun ranges in America, the risk of contamination, if left unchecked, is high. The Seattle Times, through a “first-of-its-kind” analysis of occupational lead-monitoring data, found that shooting-range owners repeatedly violated workplace safety laws and the agencies that are supposed to monitor lead poisoning have been slow to act. —Seattle Times via @JimNeff4
Sick and vomiting residents. A chemical smell. A dead German shepherd. For years, state agencies ignored, dismissed, and outright botched investigations into complaints by residents in southwestern Oregon about helicopters spraying weed killers near their homes. Last October, the state got so many complaints about a single incident that officials finally acted, fining a pilot $10,000 and revoking his spraying license for a year.—Oregonian via @robwdavis
Tracking suspects in violent felonies, kidnappings … and you. This tracking device goes by names such as StingRay, Hailstorm, AmberJack, and TriggerFish. It allows police to follow the cellphones of not only suspects but also anyone within range. A Charlotte Observer investigation, using heavily redacted documents, found that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are using this secretive surveillance system—and have been for eight years. “It serves a legitimate purpose. I think the police don’t abuse it,” said a county judge who says he’s approved hundreds of surveillance requests.—The Charlotte Observer via @dougobserver
Prone restraints can be deadly for adults, too. Over the past 15 years, at least 24 developmentally disabled adults have died after being restrained, most of them at residential facilities and group homes, according to 100 Reporters. Nine of those were ruled homicides, yet charges were filed in only one of those cases. According to one disability rights advocate, “prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases they fear they can’t win, relying heavily on staffers testifying against each other.” —100 Reporters (Also read ProPublica’s coverage on schoolchildren being restrained and pinned down.)
What’s behind the deaths listed as “medical” on Rikers Island? Ninety-eight inmates have died at Rikers Island in the past five years. An Associated Press review of hundreds of documents showed that in 15 of those deaths, lack of care was cited as a factor, even as experts say “New York City is better equipped to deal with inmate health needs than perhaps anywhere else.”—The Associated Press via @JustinElliott