A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Look Into The Future

A friend recently sent me this picture.

The caption below the picture reads "Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a "home computer" would look like in the year 2004. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use."

The commentary is significant in its meaning.
Despite the fact that the scientists admitted in the narrative that some of the technology wasn't cost effective to develop for a "home computer" and other componets were not yet available, they were willing to vision and look to the future of what might be. They were willing to take a chance, to risk ridicule to publicly share their vision of the future.

Some people would call it "day dreaming." I remember more than one time being scolded by a teacher or relative about my "farfetched" ideas that dealt with future electronic gadgets I often wrote about in writing assignments in elementary school.
A more applicable description, in my opinion, in looking to the future would be a phrase I like to use...."Forward thinking."

I grew up with pictures like the one above, reading in elementary school about what would be possible in the early 21st Century. Some of it has surpassed anything predicted, others have not....yet.

When it comes to vision...forward thinking, if you will...one has to look at what could be and not be constrained by what cannot be today. The concept is no less important in policing.

About a week ago, I referenced a book I purchased entitled Scene of The Crime: photographs from the LAPD achieve by Ellroy & Wride (ISBN 0-8109-5002-2). If one looks at the photos and the narratives describing investigations and police techniques of the 1930's and compares them to new digital technology and new investigative techniques, imagine the reaction of a detective of that era when they learned that the absolute identification principles of fingerprints would one day be usurped by DNA. There would probably be some skepticism.

We can learn a lesson from the photograph above. The vision of a 2004 home computer was portrayed in a 1954 technology perspective. Even though the "model" is not even close to what I'm using right now on my portable computer to compose this entry, the vision has made today's technology possible because others believed it was possible.

Forward thinking will allow us build the future. As a police administrator, I feel it is as much my responsibility to look forward for 5, 10, or even 20 years when planning for services and operations as it is for next month or next year. Often, there might be some variables in the process but the photo above is a good reminder of why we have to continue to look to the future.

What changes do you see in the next 50 years?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Identity Theft

One of my grandfathers ran a gas station and Plymouth and Desoto dealership in the 1940's. On more than one occasion he told me about the problems he encountered in collecting past due amounts and insufficient fund checks. One of his favorite sayings was "In God we trust...all others pay cash."

At least in my grandad's day, you were pretty sure who the identity of the person who owed you money was. You knew which door to knock on to collect. With today's technology, you may actually be dealing with a fictional person--picture and all.

A recent article in the Denver Post talks about counterfeit reality. It's a good article and I would suggest you click on the link and view it. It's an eye-opening bit of information.

No one is immune. I got a call the other day from a credit card company asking me if I had purchased some less than desirable merchandise over the Internet to the tune of about $2000. I had recently been traveling and used the card at a number of restaurants so I'm guessing someone wrote down the number and went on a shopping spree. Fortunately, I have fraud protection limits on my card so they called me. Not everyone is so fortunate. Even if you eventually catch the erroneous billings, it can take months or even years to get them straightened out.

When you select credit/debit cards, inquire about fraud protection and your liability limits. Keep in mind they don't always apply in other countries.

When you use your cards at stores, clerks should not write anything down but should either instruct you to swipe them or they should swipe them through their registers. If you are someplace where they still use the old imprint method, make sure you get the carbons.

Restaurants are harder because they generally take the card away to process it. Anyone can write down information, including your security code and expiration dates off the card. If you are away from home you may want to consider paying in cash or obtain a temporary card with a smaller prepaid balance for traveling purposes only.

You can go to the VISA website and view their suggestions for fraud prevention. Just keep in mind it comes from their perspective.

With the holiday season firmly underway. Protect yourself. Manage your cards and identity. Be careful where you buy. Try to do business with local businesses or places you can physically return to if there is a problem. If you are going to shop by mail, phone, or Internet. Make sure they provide a secure means of purchasing and using your credit card information.

By taking a few precautions, you can help make sure your holiday season can be enjoyable.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Officer Down

Officer Mark E. Vance of the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department was killed on November 27th when he was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officer Vance had served as a full time officer with the Bristol Police Department for 1.5 years and had previously served as an auxiliary officer for 4 years. He is survived by his 9-year old daughter, his mother, and a brother. To view Officer Vance's memorial page, click here.

Officer Down

Police Officer William Rivera of the New York city Police Department was killed on November 24th when he fell 20 feet from a rooftop while in pursuit of a burglary suspect. Officer Rivera had served with the New York City Police Department for 12 years and is survived by his daughter and fiancee'. You can view his memorial page by clicking here.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Have a Safe and Enjoyable Holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Officer Down

Special Agent Phillip Lebid of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, was killed on November 22nd in a traffic accident. You can view Agent Lebid's memorial page by clicking here.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Shots Fired - Officer Down 2-28-1997

While I was in Los Angeles, I was invited to tour a number of facilities related to local law enforcement agencies. One of the locations was a converted police station that now houses local law enforcement memorabilia. One of the most stark displays at the location was the one that depicted the North Hollywood bank robbery on February 28, 1997. By the time the gunfight was over, two heavily armed suspects who used body armor and automatic weapons were shot and killed but not before they wounded 15 people, including 10 police officers. To view a short film clip from CNN, click here. To view the CNN article in its entirety, click here.

If you check the video clip and companion article, pay close attention to the white four-door General Motors product car. I'll show you a closeup of the photo later on.

If you would like to hear a clip from the actual radio dispatch, click here to go that that location.

If you are interested in a timeline of events involving the robbery, click here.

If you listen to the section of the dispatch radio traffic posted above, you will be struck by the calm demeanor by the officers and dispatchers despite the fact they are taking fire and their associates are being shot.

It is also clear that the police were out-gunned.

I was able to view the vast amount of ammunition and automatic weapons the two bank robbers possessed both on their person but also in their vehicle. It was also explained to me that they wore heavy duty bullet resistant vests similar to what police officers wear. The photographs of the spent shell casings at the location were quite vivid.

What was equally impressive was the fact that the officers didn't back down but remained to draw the fire to protect people in the area and to contain the suspects to prevent their escape. The officers did their jobs well, no one died other than the robbery suspects.

I was also impressed with the skill that crime scene technicians used to reconstruct the scene to determine just what had happened. In looking at some of the crime scene photos and accounts, I was impressed with the methodical process that was used through photography and forensics. This was a large area and shell casings, weapons, clothing and other items had to be collected, documented, and photographed.

If you have an interest in crime scene photography and/or history of investigations, you might be interested in a book recently published entitled Scene of the crime: photographs from the LAPD archive / introduction by James Elroy, essay By Tim B. Winde. For you book type folks, the ISBN number is 0-8109-5002-2. You can also learn more about LAPD history by going to www.lapdonline.com and www.fototeka.com.

Ok, so back to the bank robbery. Remember the picture of the white vehicle I told you to pay attention to? I got a closeup of it. It's posted below.

You have to look very close but you will see numerous shot or bullet markings on the vehicle, especially in the windshield. If you recall the vehicle in the news photos, the trunk lid was up. The photo I took of the trunk deck didn't come out well because of the lighting but there are almost as many holes in the trunk deck as there in the windshield.

These photos are one of the squads that was at the scene as well. Note the size of the holes in the vehicle.

The tires had been replaced but I viewed what was left of them. Many holes in the tires, rims and if you could see the interior of the vehicle, bullet holes through the seats, headreasts, door panels and most of the interior.

These vehicles serve as a vivid reminder of the unpredictable hazards of police work. If you spoke to most of the officers who responded to the alarm that day, I'm sure they would have told you they didn't expect this. Yet, their training, courage, and dedication came through that day.

This incident was a wakeup call for law enforcement agencies throughout the country. It was probably one of the first incidents where criminals used serious assault-type weapons and armor against civilian police. One can only speculate where and how the multiple assault weapons were obtained by the two suspects.

I should probably qualify the fact that I will not provide the names of the robbery suspects. Their deeds do not warrant disclosure or reconition of what they did that day.

As much discussion that is given to concerns of terrorists acts, I would submit to you that U.S. law enforcement officers have been dealing with terrorists of one sort of another for quite some time. For the most part, thanks to the dedication of the fine men and women involved with law enforcement, we can continue to enjoy a level of safety without sacrificing freedom not often found anyplace else in the world.

I hoped you found the history of this particular incident interesting.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

We're Not The Only Ones Trying To Stay Warm

I was talking to our Community Service Officer, Kris Wilson, last week and he reminded me that we have seen an increase in wildlife calls within the past couple weeks pertaining mostly to possums and raccoons, getting into open garages, outbuildings and under modular homes.

We are actually restricted in what we can do with wildlife. If it appears sick or ill, we can remove the animal, but if they are simply visiting your yard or passing through, the animals are usually protected. Often, if they are causing damage, we can get permission from DNR, (Department of Natural Resources) to loan you a live trap, or you can hire a licensed tracker to assist you. I would suggest that you go to the Minnesota DNR website to learn more.

You can help wildlife out by adhering to a couple of suggestions:
  1. Don't feed them (on purpose or inadvertently by leaving your pet's food out or through bird feeders - feeding deer and geese also feeds everything else)
  2. Try to keep doors closed and enclosures tight around outbuildings and modular homes.

We will continue to assist and answer questions with respect to wildlife. Kris Wilson does an outstanding job in this area and is knowledgeable with respect to wildlife and how to best coexist with them.

The benefits of living in a more rural setting also includes sharing space with the "critters" once in a while. Mild winters have allowed populations to increase substantially. Helping to not encourage unwanted visitors like raccoons and possums by feeding them or providing easy shelter access will be better for them as well.

Thanks for your help!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Why The Gloom?

Recently, a person asked me why I've posted information about officers who have been killed in the line of duty. It's a good question and one that I can readily answer.

Most people are surprised to find out just how many officers are killed while working as peace officers. You can go to the Officer Down Page to view more information or the Law enforcement Officer Memorial Page on this subject. The numbers represent those under United States jursidiction who have been killed. If those of you from other countries know of sites for your respective countries, please send them to me and I will gladly post those as well.

Each May, we take time to remember those law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The reality is that their families must go on without their son, daughter, husband, wife, partner, mother or father every single day. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand how terrible and lasting this loss is. It is a grief that is constantly brought to mind when one views another person in uniform, looks at a police car, hears about a police news item and on and on.

It is fitting and appropriate that each person who sacrifices their life for the safety for others is remembered and recognized for their dedication and sacrifice. It is appropriate for us to remember them as well as those who continue to serve in our thoughts and prayers.

It is unfortunate that these entries appear with some frequency. I would encourage you to go to the Officer Down Page and leave a note of thanks and encouragement to the friends and family of the fallen officer. It really means a lot to the families.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


I attended a seminar conducted by Mr. Jack Harris. Mr Harris spent over twenty years with the Tuscon, Arizona Police Department, retiring as a Captain in 1994. In law enforcement circles, Mr. Harris is considered a good source of information with respect to management and behavioral science. He is well known for helping people develop skills they can use in real-world situations.

I've heard Mr. Harris before. He is one of the kind of presenters who you can listen to multiple times because each presentation is different and takes a different angle but always carries the same theme of developing accountable and well-run law enforcement organizations.

This session talked about supervisors and managers. The title was "Keeping Good People Good."

In addition to the normal reminders of communication and accountability, Mr. Harris also spoke about the challenges of supervisors supporting their staff, even when it becomes uncomfortable to do so. He spoke about why managers don't manage. Some of the items he spoke about were:

  • Supervisors/Managers become apathetic and give up
  • It's difficult to manage friends and peers
  • The issue of the "experience gap"
  • Fear of the appeal process, litigation, and other administrative issues
  • Lack of administrative support
  • They are allowed to not manage.

Some of the suggestions Mr. Harris provided to counteract these issues were based on the premises that the skills that made someone a good police officer, are not the same skills that will make them a good supervisor. He also said the key to good police supervisory effectiveness is not what you know; rather, it is how well you apply what you know to real-life situations.

Mr. Harris said that the following skills go a long way in keeping good people good:

  • Changing how we view others in order to help them adapt as needed
  • Skill development that reflects the real need not the perceived need
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Refusing to accept mediocrity
  • Setting the example and being a role model
  • Separating business from personal
  • Preventing problems and strong emphasis on problem solving.

Mr. Harris said that a supervisor's resolve to helping keep good people good has to be stronger than the discomfort that temps them to not supervise. I find this statement to be significant.

Harris continued that one must have the courage to communicate. He said that without it, personal discomfort overpowers professional responsibility. He stated that it is the manager's job to tell people the truth, not what they want to hear and to provide them with honest feedback about their performance and how they are meeting expectations. Harris said that to problem-solve often requires early intervention and courage on the supervisor's part to take an ethical stand toward accountability. He went on to give examples of how supervisors he has worked with complain about various employees who underperform and often fail in career-ending missteps stating they were not surprised to see the employee "crash and burn." Harris went on to say that when he looked at these employees' evaluations, they generally reflected good or superior performance because the supervisors lacked the courage for any number of reasons to confront the issues and work to resolve them. He said that often the supervisors would tell him that they felt they would lose standing with their staff if they corrected them.

Harris took the time to remind us that it is more important to have the respect of your employees and coworkers than simply being liked by them. He also emphasized how one poor attitude on the part of a supervisor who in unhappy or is out of step with the organization can devastate morale across the entire department.

Mr. Harris also talked about the challenges of balancing the need for accountability and management and that it is not an easy task. He said that unfortunately, we often "educate by what we tolerate." He went on to explain that tolerating unacceptable performance and behavior allows issues to continue and become more complex and get worse. It gives tacit approval to the inappropriate actions and confuses people. It increases liability exposure of the organization and exposes mangers to personal liability.

Harris also said he feels we ought to be careful about using labels. He feels we use terms like "mentor" and "coach" too much and without qualification. He believes it is more important to know the job and lead by positive example.

Mr. Haris left us with a number of things to consider:

  • Set high standards
  • Don't confuse style with substance
  • Don't confuse activity with accomplishment
  • Over-supervision leads to resentment
  • Use mistakes as teaching opportunities
  • "Walk the talk" - honor your commitments
  • Make decisions, monitor the results and fine tune them if necessary.

Mr. Harris concluded with this thought: "It is not enough to just hire good people, we have to strive to keep good people good."

We've been fortunate in Northfield to have hired some very good people and will continue to do so. The challenge, in changing the basic philosophy of policing as we have done over the past five years, is to provide members of our department with the tools and support necessary to be successful. Support does not mean "do your own thing" or not be accountable, but rather I feel it is incumbent on a police chief to develop a vision based on the direction given by council and the community and strike a successful balance within the department. It also means making adjustments, even when it is not so popular to keep the mission and vision viable.

It means providing clear communications to supervisors to assist in their execution of day-to-day functions with that vision in mind to accomplish long term goals and objectives. This type of latitude makes it a bit more of a challenge for our supervisors but I am fully confident that they will continue to be up to the task as will our staff to undertake the challenges of proactive policing and problem solving.

I would continue to encourage you as community members to communicate to us how we are doing. As in the past, I will continue to meet with various groups throughout the year from elementary students to senior citizens and hopefully everywhere in between to keep the vision and mission in line with the concerns of the community. I welcome opportunities to speak to various groups, whether a civic organization or neighborhood meeting. Whether it is through this web log, my email address, by phone (645-4477) or in person, I hope you will continue to communicate and partner with us to keep our community a desirable place in which to live.


I'll have one opportunity yet this evening to draft one more entry before I head back to Northfield. As much as it is good to exchange ideas with peers and learn new things, it is also good to look forward to returning home.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Tactical Issues

Today, most of the activities and topics centered around search, rescue and dealing with threats against our communities. Courtesy of LAPD and the LA Sheriff's Department's personnel, an excellent demonstration of highly trained special response personnel a number of scenarios and response options to rescue victims of an assault or threat.

I won't go into specifics but I did include a few general photos that of which I thought may be of interest.

I was impressed with the precision in which the exercises were executed. It was clear that the two departments work and train well together. Despite the population differences between LA and Northfield, the scenarios portrayed here today, could just as easily take place in our community. Obviously, we don't have the access to the large volume of aircraft provided in this demonstration; however, we are fortunate in Northfield to have excellent working relationships with two well-trained emergency response teams and have agreements with others in the event of an emergency. We are also very fortunate that the Minnesota State Patrol does maintain an air wing that includes both fixed wing aircraft as well as helicopters. The Rice County Sheriff's Department has a water rescue unit as does the Northfield Fire Department.

The exercises today again reinforced the need to have good working relationships between the various public safety organizations to be prepared to deal with any type of emergency that may arise.

Crime Report

On Monday morning, I attended the General Assembly meeting for the IACP. The keynote speaker was Attorney General John Ashcroft. The AG spoke to a number of issues, primarily reflecting on the previous four years. He cited a number of statistics that show significant decreases in violent crime activities across the United States. Attorney General Ashcroft said that crime is at a 30 year low with respect to violence.

What I found more significant was his observation that the primary reason for the marked reduction in crime was the result of the efforts of neighbors working in their communities with their police to identify crime activity and support efforts to prevent crime.

I watched the local news here Monday night to see what kind of coverage the appearance of Ashcroft and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly received. There was the mention of their presence and some short soundbites but little substance. It will be interesting to see what the local papers have today (Tuesday). I did notice that CSPAN - 2 showed a presentation that the FBI Director Robert Mueller was making to a local L.A. group. His message: how techniques developed to combat terrorism is leading to intelligence on other types of criminal activity, such as gang and drug crimes. This is a big topic in Los Angeles. According to Director Mueller, there are over 100,000 known gang members in Los Angeles alone. Director Mueller also emphasized the need to continued working relationships between the "Feds" and state and local law enforcement.

I can't speak for this part of the country regarding cooperation between different law enforcement agencies; however, as I've said before, we certainly enjoy a good working relationship between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. That relationship is enhanced by the partnerships we have formed locally with our respective communities. The effective channels of communication is a big factor in keeping our communities safe. As I attend various seminars and classes, it's reassuring to hear that the recommendations toward more crime-free communities are already in place in our neck of the woods.

I'll end this entry with something Commissioner Kelly said. In describing their preparation for the Republican National Convention earlier this year, he said their success was very dependent on the assistance they received from other neighboring jurisdictions. If a city the size of New York is dependent on their neighbors, it strikes me that we need to continue to strengthen our relationships with our neighbors to develop new ways to better serve the members of our communities.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Officer Down

Officer Robert F. Grim, of the Ormond Beach, Florida Police Department was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver on Friday, November 12th. Officer Grim was a 36 year veteran of law enforcement. You may view Officer Grim's memorial page by pressing here.

Broken Windows

I attended a four-hour session today that featured James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. This unlikely duo ignited quite a conversation 22 years ago when they wrote their Atlantic Monthly article about this topic. Since you have to pay to see the Atlantic Monthly article (so much for freedom of the press), I've linked to a site that will give you the gist of the article.

For you 'Oles' out there, you will be happy to know that George Kelling is a 1956 alum of St. Olaf College, obtaining a B.A. in Philosophy. Both Kelling and Wilson are credited with changing the way we police in the United States. The 1982 article changed the way we look at policing.

The basis of the theory was that if we pay attention to the small things, IE., broken windows, graffiti, junked vehicles and such, it will prevent crime. The theory has evolved so that we now know that it is not so much the maintenance that prevents crime, but rather the collaboration between the neighborhood and the police and recognizing that such problems are not police problems, but rather community problems.

The concepts of Wilson and Kelling, combined with the theories of Herman Goldstein, provide the basis of problem solving and what is more commonly referred to as "community policing."

In fairness to the "traditionalists" out there, there are detractors of the theories of Wilson and Kelling as well as Goldstein. Perhaps that's another blog opportunity.

It's not the best picture but the two gentlemen at the table with the mics are (L) Wilson and then Kelling. They spoke to a crowd of probably 250 to 300 people sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

There was a lot of Q&A between the audience and Kelling and Wilson as is the format of PERF seminars and gatherings. Both Kelling and Wilson stand by their theory. They feel it is evolving and will stand future challenges.

One of the topics had to do with officer discretion. Kelling referred to a recent study by the Rand Corporation on Racial Profiling that was conducted in Oakland,California. At issue was whether officers were profiling traffic offenders. You can click on the link above to view a summary of the study.

The basis of the conversation at Sunday's meeting emphasized the need for police administrators to develop appropriate guidelines for managing discretion for not only the critical and high risk situations police officers face, but also the day-to-day issues to assist them in future challenges.

In addition to the presentation by Kelling and Wilson, discussion also focused on recent incidents involving less lethal tools such as Tasers and impact weapons that serve as intermediate defense measures for officers prior to the use of deadly force. The discussion was interesting and will help drive future policies at the national level with respect to model policies and training.

I've said it before...it's good to see law enforcement administrators as well as others in the criminal justice field discussing the broader scope of policing and the challenges we will face on an international level to better prepares us for the needs of our respective communities.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

High Calling

On Saturday, I attended a training session conducted by Michael J. Nila, M.B.A. Mr. Nila is a retired commnader from the Aurora, Illinois Police Department and is currently a full-time senior consultant for Franklin Covey, working with police agencies across the country to design and deliver training and consulting solutions.

Mr. Nila provided a two-hour training session on the application of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was particularly interested in the presentation since we introduced the concept to our police supervisors about 18 months ago.

The session was informative. I learned that Stephen Covey just introduced his 8th Habit recently. For those of you who follow Covey, his new book covering this topic is aptly titled "The 8th Habit."

It was good to hear a reaffirming message that policing is changing rapidly and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future (not just in technology) but in how we are perceived by those we serve and by ourselves and that overall, we are meeting the challenge.

One of the key themes of the presentation centered on the need to remind those in the police service that what they do is important. It is a honorable tradition and demands people of high moral character in which to meet the demands of the service and maintain the bond of trust with our communities.

Dr. Covey writes about policing as a "Noble Profession."

"Policing is one of America's most noble professions. The actions of any police officer, in an instant, can impact an individual for life, and even a community for generations. Given this realization, every police officer must be centered on what is important. Service, justice, fundamental fairness -- are the foundational principles in which every police action must be grounded. The nobility of policing demands the noblest of character, the timeless principles upon which the 7 Habits are based create an opportunity for officers and organizations to center on principles which ensure their actions are truly of service to our communities."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

International Chiefs of Police Association Conference

The International Chiefs of Police Association (IACP) annual conference started yesterday in Los Angeles, CA. I'm fortunate to be able to attend the conference. It truly is an international conference with representation across the globe.

The conference brings between 15,000 to 20,000 people to the host city each year. The conference has many training sessions, seminars, and liaison meetings in all disciplines of criminal justice.

In addition, each conference hosts the largest criminal justice technology exposition anywhere in the world.

I took some time before the training sessions this morning to browse the exposition area. It is large enough that one can't get through in in a couple hours so I concentrated on vehicles today and will show additional areas as the conference progresses. Because of security concerns, I will be limited in showing detail in some areas.

These two shots will hopefully give you a perspective of the size of the exposition hall

There are a number of specialty vehicles used in different jurisdictions some in which you may be familiar and some that might surprise you.

Traditional police vehicles

And new designs that will be released later in 2005

Vehicles that help you get around quickly and with ease....

And others that have taken on a new use in recent years.

There are also new types of technology for making police vehicles more visible as shown below.

There are also new tools in fighting drunk drivers - a mobile breath testing unit and holding cell. Sort of a variation of the "have wheels will test and arrest" as shown below.

Some of the vendors use different things to catch attention as shown below.

Hopefully I've been able to give you a glimpse of future police vehicles. During the next several days, I'll try to provide a few other pictures that will hopefully be of interest to you. The future holds new opportunities to improve public safety and nurture continued community efforts to prevent crime and enhance our quality of life.

Officer Down

Officer Robert F. Grim, of the Ormond Beach, Florida Police Department was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver while investigating a minor traffic accident. You can go to Officer Grim's memorial page by pressing here.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Officer Down

Sergeant James Johnson Sr. of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina was shot and killed on November 11th. We had responded to a shots fired call. The gunman had been firing at people over a longstanding disagreement over property lines.

You may go to Sergeant Johnson's memorial page by clicking here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Remember Those Who Serve

A Day To Remember......

Today is a day to remember those who have sacrificed so the rest of us can be free. Take time today to remember those courageous men and women who have served in our armed forces, past and present. Keep them in your thoughts.

Their willingness to serve the cause of freedom is something we should never forget.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Great "Kids"

Really, young adults would be a better description....

Three of our explorers took time to take a picture with me.

The Law Enforcement Explorer Program is something very important to me. I've been involved in Law Enforcement Explorers for about 22 years now. During that time, I've seen kids who were really on the edge pull themselves back and go on to be extremely successful adults. I've seen other kids who knew where they wanted to go, grow and go on to be highly successful, educated professionals in many occupations.

The fact that Northfield had a new Explorer Program in place in 1999, when I was looking at the chief's job here was part of what sold me in taking the job. Policing is an occupation where we so often see the worst of a community, being around these young adults is energizing and helps us all to keep perspective.

Just like our Police Reserve Officers, the Explorers are a bargain in Northfield. Unlike many communities nationally, the city doesn't really support them other than providing a place to meet and officers to help them with their projects. The Explorers buy their own uniforms and equipment and raise the money to attend training conferences and competitions. In exchange, they donate hundreds of hours to assist with community activities like the Defeat of Jesse James Days, St. Olaf Christmas Concert and other events that require traffic control. They assist with crime prevention activities and support Neighborhood Watch, National Night Out and the McGruff Program. They assist with summer youth safety camps and help around the office answering phones and doing administrative chores that we don't have the regular staff to address the specific needs.

In short, our Explorers and Reserve Officers save the city thousands of dollars of time each year. In exchange, they learn something about responsibility, respect, cooperation and teamwork and community service.

Four of our Explorers posed during a break in the training at the National Explorer Competition this year in Atlanta, GA

Most of the teens involved in Explorers are active in school activities, hold down part-time jobs in addition to dedicating time to the Post. They are required to undergo a background check and interview process similar to what police officer candidates undergo during a recruiting process.

During my experience as an advisor for an Explorer Post, I've seen the participants build mentoring relationships with police staff and community members. Many have gone on to participate in various aspects of the criminal justice system as well as other successful occupations. It is a great opportunity to encourage kids to learn about policing. It's a great opportunity to build trust and communication with another part of our community. It's a great opportunity to allow kids from diverse backgrounds to gain equal footing for future policing careers.

Northfield Explorers represented Minnesota Explorers at the National Conference this year in Atlanta, GA during the presentation of the colors during the ceremonies.

Sergeant Ted Berg and Officer Jody Spinner help with the administration of the organization but it's pretty much up to the kids to decide what they want to learn about and what direction they would like to go. Perhaps some of our current Explorers will share some comments about their experiences. If any of my former Explorers are checking in, I would appreicate any comments they would like to provide as well.

Next time you see one of our Explorers out working in the community, take a minute to thank them for their dedication and contribution to our community.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Citibank Phishing Scam

I got this tonight at my police department email address:

I've said it before and my apologies if you are getting tired of it...Businesses and financial institutions do not solicit information from you by email that they already have in their files.

Always check with your financial institution by phone or in person about questions with respect to account numbers, balances and such.

You can go to Fraud Watch to learn more about these kinds of scams.

Think Before You Drive

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon...

I was traveling to St. Paul yesterday via I35E . As I approached the I35 split, I realized the driver of the black SUV next to me decided he needed to be in my lane as he obviously had been not paying attention to where he was while busy talking on his cell phone. Without warning, he moved into my lane...the problem was I was occupying the space he wanted to move into.

Twenty-four years of law enforcement experience has taught me at least one thing and that is to recognize a driver who is not attentive. This guy was not paying attention. Given his previous weaving in and out of lanes and speeding, it was no surprise he crossed three lanes of traffic and a median suddenly nearly causing four accidents. I had already anticipated his moves and had slowed so getting out of his way didn't' require any emergency maneuvers on my part. Unfortunately that wasn't the case with a couple other motorists who were also busy talking on their cell phones. Panic stops, swerving, honking horns and near collisions abounded.

The guy cut across a median to continue on 35W rather than 35E. Let's see, how many signs and how many miles before the split does one have to move safely across multiple lanes of traffic?

The incident reminded me of how oblivious many drivers are to the hazards they cause. I often get calls from motorists who are unhappy with the fact that one of our officers gave them a ticket for a traffic violation. They aren't complaining about the officer's behavior or anything having to do with the officer. They just think it isn't "fair" they got a ticket. There are always the excuses...they were late and should have gotten a break, the traffic lights don't stay green long enough, the people in front of them were going too slow...stuff like that. Most of them involving being late, in a hurry and stuff like that. Basically things that make people take unnecessary risks like the one I experienced.

Last week, while driving down Division, I watched a vehicle roll through the stop sign at 5th and Division, nearly hitting a pedestrian and nearly striking my vehicle. When I stopped the driver, his explanation for his driving conduct was that he didn't know I was a cop. He admitted seeing the pedestrian and my vehicle. He was in a hurry. I was not surprised to see a copy of a previously issued ticket sitting on the passenger seat next to him.

The intent of traffic enforcement (that means tickets and warnings), is to prevent accidents. We know that speed is the primary contributor to most accidents. Inattention and risky maneuvers are a close second. The intent of stopping motorists who violate laws is to attempt to change their driving behavior. Those who get enough of those citations ultimately will lose their license.

So, what's the point to my rather disjointed recap of my driving experiences?

Watch out for the other driver. Drive defensively. Slow down and stay away from distractions. A cell phone is a distraction. Try to avoid initiating a phone conversation while driving and tell anyone who calls you that you will call them back when you can do so safely.

Don't be the type of driver I've described above. Do not assume that everyone else will watch out for you. One of these days, you will meet someone just as aggressive and you will find yourself intimately involved with them when your vehicles collide.

Allow yourself enough time to get to your destination safely. Don't drive faster than conditions allow. With winter approaching, allow extra time for weather.

We offer a driving refresher class in Northfield. If you would like to attend you can call our office at 507-645-4477. Some insurance companies will give you a discount for taking the 8 hour class. Our community service officer, Kris Wilson teaches the class. Most of those in the class are there because they took the option of attending the class instead of paying for a ticket. We provide this option in the hope that we can provide information that will help them be a more reasonable driver.

Our goal, help everyone get where they need to go safely.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Sharing Concerns

Last week, I traveled to Mankato as did a number of law enforcement executives from the area to meet with Michael Campion, Commissioner of Public Safety along with a number of other state level public safety individuals to discuss issues facing law enforcement in this part of the state.

Commissioner Campion has been Commissioner a relatively short period of time but I have been impressed with his honesty and direct approach to the business of public safety. His theme of local control and being a resource to local law enforcement agencies to partner to keep our respective communities safe is a very welcome approach.

Most of the faces around the table were familiar to me. So were the bulk of the concerns: lack of funding, too few officers to respond to an increasing demand by our communities for service, and homeland security issues. The conversation was constructive and informative. It's good to connect with other chief law enforcement officers occasionally to see what is going on in with other administrators and their organizations. Southeastern Minnesota has a good network of communication and shared resources that is beneficial during major events and emergencies.

It was also good to hear that Commissioner Campion is working hard to keep the multi-jurisdictional drug task forces and gang strike task force in place. Both of these functions serve Minnesota well in the attempt to control and reduce drug and gang activity in Minnesota.

Colonel Anne Beers of the Minnesota State Patrol was also present to talk about their ability to provide support throughout the state. The State Patrol is a good partner for Northfield, providing assistance in locating a trooper in the Northfield area with a drug dog and assisting with special enforcement waves and assistance to our officers when no other backup is available. Additionally, the air wing of the State Patrol has assisted us on several occasions during pursuits and photographing crime scenes from the air to provide the future ability to draw true scale diagrams. Despite funding cutbacks, Colonel Beers pledged to continue to provide assistance.

Faribault Police Chief Mike Lewis and myself took the opportunity to share the drive down and back. It gave us the opportunity to discuss common concerns and future joint endeavors. Collaborative efforts between Faribault, Northfield, and the Rice County Sheriff's Department has shown good results. Participating recently with the South Central Drug Investigations Unit, we successfully removed over 70 known drug dealers from both Northfield and Faribault.

Chief Lewis and myself continue to work toward common efforts that benefit both communities and save operational costs. Some of the areas we have already identified and taken advantage of are: training, sharing resources during major events, and joint investigative activities on criminal cases of mutual interest. We are both fortunate to have city administrators who are supportive of our efforts to maximize efficiencies and effectiveness, allowing us to work "outside of the box."

I'll hopefully have the opportunity in this space in the future to expand on some of the new possibilities that await us.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


This bit of information from Media Watch came to me by email via the Parent-Community Network. I thought it might be of interest to you.

If you are interested in viewing the details press here.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Officer Down

Special Agent Jay Balchunas, of the Wisconsin Department of Justice died on November 5th from gunshot wounds he received a week earlier when he was shot outside of a gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Agent Balchunas had served with the agency for five years and nine years earlier with the Milwaukee Police Department.

To view Agent Balchunas' memorial page, press here.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Think Snow

I know, It's hard to think about snow right now with the nice weather.

Staff at the police department are busy putting reminders on vehicles parked downtown and other areas that the winter parking ban will soon start. November 15th to be exact. Starting on that date, vehicles are not allowed to park on the street from 2 am to 6 am.

If you choose to park on the street you will most likely get a ticket and your car could be towed.

The question that is always asked is why do we enforce the ban when there is no snow?

The ordinance does not give preference to snow. It simply states the ban exists. Second, it is difficult to predict when snow actually falls. In talking to public works officials, it is dangerous and difficult to maneuver around parked cars while driving a snow plow. It's also difficult for the vehicle owner to get the car out once plowed around.

There is also a need to know when and where vehicles can be parked in city parking lots during snow removal. In some cases permits are needed. You can call the Street Department at 645-3050 for that information.

Snow emergencies can also be declared that can prohibit parking on any street for a specific amount of time. People can check the city web site and check with the city hall number or with public works for specifics. We also try to get the information out via media. Best bet...if it's snowing, don't plan on parking on the street unless you check.

I also want to recognize the work our public works folks perform during this season. They work really long and often strange hours to make sure we can get out and about...an important thing for public safety officials to be able to do. They would closely with us to make sure road surfaces remain as clear and dry as possible.

Within the week, I'll provide some specific numbers and outlet sources you can access for specific emergency snow route information.

But for now, I just thought it was a good idea to start the process of getting the information out there.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Time Marches On

Today I'm asking your indulgence as I do a little reflecting.

Tuesday was a milestone day for me. As I voted, I recalled that my 18th birthday fell on election day. Every several cycles allows me the same opportunity. Tuesday was one of those days. I won't get into the specifics of my chronological age other than to tell you that cars didn't have fins on them yet when I was born and people were still wearing "I like Ike" buttons as they drove their Desotos to the polls.

I grew up in an interesting family when it came to politics. Topics of the political variety were a heated topic with my parents, who were about as opposite in political ideology as was possible. I recall sitting in the stairwell with my cousins outside my grandmother's parlor (yeah that's right, parlor), eavesdropping on the political debate between inlaws, outlaws, cousins, parents...well you get the idea.

The first set of family"debates" I recall focused on Nixon and Kennedy. The big debate started after we all gathered around our 6 inch Philco TV to watch Kennedy and Nixon debate on TV. Later after the election was completed, I remember my father telling me how impressed he was with Nixon's willingness to give up a challenge to the closeness of the vote for the benefit of the country despite the fact he didn't think Nixon was always a sincere man. I also remember my dad telling me that I would probably never see such a close election ever again. I wonder if he had been alive during the past two elections, what he would have thought about these close elections. I also remember my sixth grade teacher tell our class that the electoral college was outdated and would be eliminated by the time it was time for me to vote. About two weeks later, he was drafted, inducted and sent to Vietnam for a tour of Army duty. I never heard from him again. It was a defining time.

Our family political debates have continued right up to this past weekend when my mother-in-law called me to help me "see the light" for her candidate of choice. Regardless of the intensity of the debates between family members, once the votes are in and the person is in office, we still come together and still get along.

It seems like there has always been political controversy. When I was 11 years old, I attended a rural two-room school outside of Lincoln, Nebraska (it's now a suburb, go figure). Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater were the candidates and our school hosted the polling place for most of the farmers in the area. During recess, those in our class (4th grade through 8th grade) made campaign signs to march around outside the school to help try out our newly acquired knowledge of the political system, courtesy of our teacher. Image her chagrin when the sheriff showed up to tell us we could all go to jail for violating the state statute banning campaign signs within 50 feet of a polling place! I guess that was my first run-in with the law during a political demonstration. After the sheriff left, we dumped the signs, forgot our political differences and got on about the serious business of hanging out on the playground playing football.

I believe that with the privileges we receive living in this country, we have a responsibility to be informed and involved in the selection of those who represent us. Given my current position, it is not feasible for me to be actively involved in the candidate promotion process but it certainly doesn't exempt me from being informed and aware of the issues and the candidates' positions.

This election cycle was the first year that my son has been interested in the whole political process. It certainly was a good teaching moment for political civility at the national level. It was heartening to see him interested in the process. I was equally proud of him as he formed his own opinions based on solid information and even a few interviews with local pols and made a decision on his own merit as to his candidates of choice.

Just as the members of my extended family always pull together despite our political orientation, I've been impressed over the years with how well the big extended family we call the United States comes together after the election to work together.

Regardless of the position or motivation, those who have the courage to put their names on the ballet deserve our respect and appreciation for their willingness to put their beliefs on the line. Difference of opinion and constructive, lively debate help to form public policy and provide for outstanding community dialogue. It was heartening today to see both presidential candidates unify together for the best of the country.

I'm proud of the fact that I've not missed an election since that 18th birthday. I guess my folks did a good job of instilling the importance of this aspect of civic duty. I just hope that I can do as well with my kids as my parents did.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Drug Arrests

There were three separate drug buy/busts conducted by Northfield police officers and members of the South Central Drug Investigations Unit last week. Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to participate in the most recent drug arrests. That one resulted in the seizure of cash, drugs, and the arrest of four individuals

My thanks to Officers Barlau and Gigstad and Sergeant Ted Berg for their assistance. Thanks goes out to Deputy Smith of the Rice County Sheriff's Department for his assistance as well.

What I observed yesterday reinforced my belief that the good working relationships between the various Rice County law enforcement agencies is a win-win situation for everyone. Through good communication and participation, we make a bigger impact on criminal activities in and around our community. The assistance of other agencies and the drug task force provides the personnel and resources necessary to successfully complete drug investigations and make the arrests.

Finally, the fact that we continue to take cocaine and meth away from dealers intent on coming to Northfield to sell the stuff tells me we can't get complacent. It is necessary to continue to be vigilant and continue to make it difficult and risky to conduct illegal drug sales and distribution.

There are two types of dealers who we encounter in this area. The first ones are people who live here and either distribute the drugs themselves, distribute through others or often go into the cities and bring back the drug to sell themselves. In the case of Meth, if is often manufactured nearby. The other type is the individual who has contacts in Northfield who use "middlemen" to contact prospective buyers.

I've recently been asked why we "encourage" people to come here to sell drugs.

The answer is we don't.

It is not the intent of law enforcement to deliberately seek out people to come to any community to sell drugs. Those who come here have local contacts who either seek out our agents or our confidential informants thinking they are willing buyers. We also learn of these activities through third parties who are exposed to the drug selling through a friend or family member.

It is important to note that we do not establish the selling pattern, we interrupt it in the hopes of preventing the sale to someone else in the community.

We will also continue to work on education.

There is a DARE Program at St. Dominic's School in Northfield and our Northfield DARE Officers can assist in other programs in the schools from pre-k through high school and other youth venues. We will continue to provide informative training sessions for parents, employers and community members about the various drug issues and drug identification. This includes doing everything we can possibly do to keep schools and other places kids gather drug free. This includes alcohol and tobacco use.

We will continue to work with health care, prevention and treatment organizations to provide support and information as needed. This will include having a drug recognition expert officer trained by next summer if possible.

I will continue to provide you with as clear a picture as I possibly can as to the extent of the drug and violence issues we face both on a local, regional, state and national scale.

Northfield's success in prevention to date stems from the community's willingness to actively engage is the issues. There are great opportunities out there through mentoring programs, volunteer programs in the schools, attending the parent communication forums , signing up for the Parent Communication Network e-newsletter and a myriad of other activities.

A good example of the level of concern I've experienced took place at a recent meeting I had with a number of downtown business people. They were interested in various approaches to dealing with property crimes and vandalism. It would have been really easy for them to simply demand the police "handle it." They didn't do this. Instead, this group of enlightened business people discussed the options of prevention, and offered their assistance to me. They showed a genuine interest to support Northfield kids and the community.

Today a lot of people are going to exercise their civic responsibility and participation in our community by voting. I would encourage you to continue that spirit of participation beyond the voting booth by staying informed and involved when it comes to crime prevention and issues of community safety.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Officer Down

Officer Amy Donovan of the Austin Police Department, Austin, Texas was killed when struck by a vehicle on October 31, 2004. She was 37 years old and had been working as an officer for only 5 months. She is survived by her husband and four children. To go to Officer Donovan's memorial page, click here.

Godspeed Officer Donovan.