A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Unified Command Structure

Part of the training in which I participated this past week involved learning about the changes made in the unified command structure and a refresher on incident command procedures. Fire departments have been using the concept of incident command for years. The feds have adopted it in dealing with emergencies and terrorists acts. We are required to adhere to the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The process is codified by Presidential Executive Order. What that does is requires federal law enforcement and other federal agencies to participate as a partner in local incident command situations rather than the old traditional method of taking control of a local incident.

It's a good process. It shows that when legislators and government officials listen to local public safety personnel, good legislation can happen.

The training required mock emergencies and planning. It was challenging and pretty darn stressful. It was also a very good learning experience. I will be meeting with our Emergency Management Director, Tim Isom and other public safety responders to review our protocols and procedures to better reflect the new standards in our local emergency operations plan.

I also have to say that it was a pleasure to work with a group of public safety officials from around the state. I'm always impressed with the competence and passion that drives Minnesota public safety officials.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Eddie Albert - A Talking Pig - And Home Cooking

I read today that Eddie Albert (of Green Acres fame) passed away.

For those of you not familiar with the show, there were a series of shows in the 1960's like Petticoat Junction and the Beverly Hillbillies. Green Acres was a reverse spoof of the Beverly Hillbillies. Instead of the country folk moving to the big city, the big city folk moved to the country and boy was it country. Even the theme song was corny. I suspect some of the most loyal fans were those of us who grew up on farms and rural communities. I remember some of my more sophisticated friends from the east and west coast never getting what was so funny about a pig that farm folk could talk to or a chicken that never crowed at the right time. The gags that had to do with the less than competent utility company or extension agents were something that rural folk could really see as satire, rather than a less-than complimentary parody.

Something the show did portray was a sense of community..taking care of one another and looking out for our neighbor. I think Eddy Albert probably did a lot of good for those of us who "endured" the country life.

As much as I have enjoyed the travel and new paradigms I have experienced, I still appreciate my childhood living on a couple farms, a two-room school house and the challenge of living and working in a small, rural community. I still enjoy heading back to places like Edgar, Nebraska or Logan, Kansas and other the rural parts of Nebraska and Kansas, visiting family and friends.

Both my grandparents owned farms in Nebraska near Edgar and Harvard, Nebraska when I was growing up. Through my grandparents, I learned to start a 1938 John Deere tractor (no key switch you had to spin a crank wheel that generally threw you on your backside after it kicked back at you). I learned that a power take-off could kill you faster than a gun. I rode a planter behind a tractor that usually provided me with about 3 inches of caked on dust after a day of helping out. I learned about the benefits and curse of irrigation, fertilizer and government subsidies. When I was about 6 years old we had moved to Edgar from a rural farm. After school, I would ride my bike downtown and sit with my Grandad Smith with a few of his buddies in front the tire store. I suspect that is probably where I acquired my gift of gab, as well as a few unsavory phrases, much to my mother's dismay. It's also where I learned that Prince Albert really does come in a can and that old guys were wearing bib overalls a long time before the fashion models found them.

I learned from my Grandad Johnson about livestock, specifically how to stay out of their way. I learned that a Hereford Heifer can kick you a long way when you are 10. I learned that cleaning a chicken coup was nastier than cleaning out the hog pen. It's also why I have a profound appreciation for clean eggs in the shell.

I learned that chicken-noodles and mashed potatoes can be cooked in the same pot.

You could also get lost in a cornfield by the end of July, (Knee high by the 4th of July). I learned that corn causes a fog as it releases moisture in the air and I learned that driving on a gravel road is a lot harder than on "oil mat."

I also learned the benefits of conversation a long time before it was fashionable, to give back to that which provides for you and to always help out your neighbor.

I learned to haul drinking water into the kitchen from the well outside. We even all got to share the same drinking ladle from the bucket. I got to churn butter by hand, make homemade ice cream by hand and was amazed when I found out there were propane refrigerators and not just for RVs either.

I also got to sleep in an upstairs bedroom on a feather bed with the windows open where you heard nothing but the wind, could look at a sky and see all the stars unblemished by city lights and smell clean moist evening air. We got chased into the cellar by tornadoes, learned that a farm is a great place to fly a kite, ride in a wheelbarrow, eat fruit right off the trees, oh yeah, and share a single telephone line with six other families who all listened in on everyone else's conversations.

It was also a time when using an outhouse wasn't an adventure, it was a necessity when the septic tank plugged or froze up. One hasn't lived until you find yourself in a privy at midnight, the temperature is about 30 degrees and you don't dare move for fear of getting a splinter from the privy "seat" and find out there is no toilet paper.

As much as I kid around about being from the lower Midwest, it's still a welcome place to return for a visit. Unless you've grown up there, it's hard to explain driving down Interstate 80 in the spring to see the new crops along the Platte River. To get off the "I" and travel some of the smaller communities along US 6 or US 30.

So.. as I sit here tonight with the a/c on , reliable electricity, cell phones, working indoor plumbing, a computer and cable television, I'm thinking it's too bad that my kids aren't going to get to experience those same "Green Acre" things that I did.

Thanks "Mr. Douglas."

Keep on Keeping On.....

I got this message this evening. I omitted a sentence to protect the identity of the writer:

"Comment: I just want to say thanks for making our community a safer place to live. I am relieved that you captured one of the two suspects in the attempted kidnapping and assault...I have some understanding of the dedication and work your job entails. Thank you for doing it well."

I always appreciate people taking the time to write and it means a lot to know you make a difference. The comment above is reflective of each member of the Northfield Police Department. Each person works very hard to do an excellent job.

The following comment from Officer Monte Nelson who is currently assigned to Investigations about the activities this past week pretty much sums up an average week for us.

Kudos to all the hard work we accomplished this week!!!!!!!!!!

Thad (School Resource Officer Thad Monroe) cleared the Middle School Vandalism case and will refer the case to the County.

Thad (Thad Monroe) got confessions from (subject of investigation - name omitted) in the Rice Co. Jail and will clear two felony cases as a result. He also recovered some stolen property from the suspect at the jail

JD (Officer Jim Frie)swiftly took care of a felony check forgery case.

Kevin..................(Officer Kevin Tussing)Gave everyone working days a cardio test. We were able to arrest the guy who ran from him. With the help of Deputy Schmidtke he was ID'ed and jailed on his three outstanding warrants.

We got one of our two suspects from the St. Olaf CSC/Attempted Abduction cases!

This is a good week. I know I missed other fine work that was done, but these cases were stuck out as some highlights for the week. Great job everyone.

Arrest of Subject In Sunday Assault Incident

Some good police work and citizen involvement resulted in the arrest of an individual for one of the two assaults and attempted abductions that took place last Sunday evening. I rushed back from the cities yesterday evening to hold a press conference.

Thanks to Sergeant Roger Schroeder and Officer Monte Nelson for their efforts that led to the identification and arrest of this person. And thanks to those of you who called, emailed and sent notes to us about information. It was critical to the identification and location of the person arrested.

I had more than one person who was a bit concerned that we "called attention" to this incident in such a public way. I thought it might be good to explain why we provided some high profile attention to the incidents.

First the information is public. It's far better to get the information out in an accurate fashion that to let the community grapevine run with it. Second, it is a safety issue for the community. People need to know there are those out there we need to be aware of and careful of. Third, we needed the help of the community. When I say community, I don't just mean Northfield. Many victims of assault, especially sexual assault, are reluctant to come forward to report the crime because they are scared, intimidated or embarrassed. Part of our job is to make sure victims are protected and feel safe to report the crime to us. These types of predators don't just limit their activities to one community, they often travel so it was important to get the word out to other communities. We received many bits of information from police agencies and other individuals around the state. Finally, it was important to let the public know we had made progress in the case and thank everyone, including the Media for their help. That's what we did last night. The collaboration is what contributes to successful police work. The news folks came here on very short notice during their peak news times to get this information out last night. We appreciated that.

In this particular case, our investigators are not finished. We are still looking for the second individual. I would encourage you to continue to work with our investigators to find the second person and bring this case to resolution.

Thanks for the help!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another Debate About the Legal Age of Alcohol Consumption??

Here it goes again....Representative Mark Pettis (R), who is a Wisconsin state legislator is proposing a bill that would allow 19 and 20 year olds to consume alcohol by the drink in bars and restaurants but not purchase them in package stores.

His rationale? If they can be in the military and shoot a bazooka , they are old enough to drink alcoholic beverages. I'm not really sure what the connection is but interestingly enough, someone under 21 cannot legally own a handgun and I suspect that without close supervision by field officers, most field officers do not carry bazookas around in their hip pocket.

There are several problems with this rational put forth by Representative Pettis.

An article in today's Pioneer Press outlines some of the concerns.

I was at the transition age back in the early 70's when this debate surfaced and forced the lowering of most states drinking age to 18 or 19. There were problems with traffic accidents, access to alcohol by even younger kids who now had friends who were 18 and an increase in alcohol abuse by those under 21. More importantly, medical evidence suggests that people really don't reach physical maturity until the age of 21.

Circumstances are different this time around too. Those in the military are volunteers, not drafted. This was a strong arguing point back in the 60's and 70's. Another concern is the fact that young soldiers still would not be able to consume alcoholic beverages where they are stationed since the bill would only apply to Wisconsin. Given the fact that most of our soldiers are stationed in Muslim countries that abhor the use of alcohol, I don't think that sends a very good message.

We would also have the old problem of 19 and 20 year olds driving to Wisconsin to drink and then driving back to neighboring states to go home, most likely with levels of alcohol in their blood.

States who lower the drinking age will lose federal highway money. The change would open the door for legal challenges to broaden the scope of consumption of alcoholic beverages. It appears that the bill doesn't have too much support in Wisconsin. The article didn't state if the state alcohol beverage association is supporting this or any of the legislators who are supporting it.

I have too much respect for our enlisted men and women to demean them by somehow lowering their status of honor by rewarding them in the form of consumption of a drug, legal or not.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Incident Command Training

I'll be attending incident command training for police administrators at a location in the Metro Area for the next several days. I completed the first training session yesterday. I took this definition of Incident Command from the United States Coast Guard. It's about as good a definition as I've found:
WHAT IS ICS? NIIMS ICS is a standardized response management system. It is an "all hazard all risk" approach to managing crisis response operations as well as non-crisis events. NIIMS was originally designed by a group of local, state, and federal agencies with wild-land fire protection responsibilities, to improve the ability of fire forces to respond to any type of emergency. A new training curriculum was completed in 1994 to better reflect the "All Hazard All Risk" capability of NIIMS (floods, earth quakes, oil spills, fires, planned events etc..). It is organizationally flexible and capable of expanding and contracting to accommodate responses or events of varying size or complexity. NIIMS consists of 5 major subsystems that collectively provide a total systems approach to all-risk incident management. These five subsystems are: Incident Command System, Training, Qualifications and Certification, Publication Management and Supporting Technology BENEFITS OF ICS The adoption of NIIMS ICS provides many advantages: 1. A flexible, standardized response management system that will allow for the cultivation of response management expertise at all echelons of Coast Guard command. 2. Provides for an increased support of trained personnel during major incidents. 3. NIIMS is a "public domain" system that allows unrestricted distribution by commanding officers to improve the capabilities of, and unify the local response community into a more effective organization. 4. Applies to any response situation ("all hazard all risk"). 5. Provides for a logical and smooth organizational expansion and contraction. 6. Maintains autonomy for each agency participating in the response.

It's a good school. As a police administrator, it's important to refresh and update my knowledge of tactical operations and joint emergency operations training. This particular school centers on managing tactical situations and also spends some time on personnel support.

One of the interesting sections of training today happened when the instructor asked us as administrators, how many of us had issued a direct order to one of our staff members in the last 30 days. Only a few hands went up. The instructor said that part of the failure of public safety entities during a time of crisis has been brought about by contemporary management principles whereby staff members are more empowered with participation and discussion of activities during non-critical activities.

He told us that we fail our staff if we don't do a good job of differentiating from daily police activities and emergency, critical issues during training and daily operations. It was the instructor's position that in a critical risk incident, situational leadership methods, involving the giving of direct orders and having them followed, is essential to saving lives and handling the situation. He discussed the need for training and reinforcement. He told us that if we care about our officers, we as chiefs and senior command personnel must work harder on this aspect of training.

It was a point well taken.

Additionally, the instructors spoke of the problem of police supervisors and administrators not wanting to disengage from the direct activity of a critical situation and instead, manage from a detached manner from a command location. A comment made by the instructors today made an impression. They said that if you are "playing the game" in other words, actively involved in the field portion of the activity, you can't lead and manage the situation in the manner in which your officers and the community deserve and expect.

The instructors said that our concern for the safety of our officers demands that our supervisors and senior command staff be leaders and not players. It's easier said than done. We were also told that if we don't establish roles and responsibilities on a daily basis, it is difficult to do so when an emergency takes place. An example used by the instructors was the fact that when fire fighters arrive at the scene of a fire, an officer always advises their arrival and that they are taking charge of the incident. We were told this rarely happens in the police culture. We were told such simple procedures go a long way toward building confidence in communication and understanding of roles and responsibilities during a critical incident.

It is a theme that I regularly share with our supervisors. It is important that our supervisors be supervisors. We owe it to our staff. It's not always popular and it's not always the easiest way to work with our staff but it is the responsibility we assume when we accept a promotion and the pact of trust we make with our staff and our community.

As a chief, it's a responsibility I take seriously.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Star Wars!

I haven't posted anything of a personal nature lately so I thought this would be as good a time as any.

My son Chris was supposed to play in his final baseball tournament at Northfield High School on Saturday but it got rained out. In discussing our options, we decided to to see the newly released Star Wars movie. Chris had originally wanted us to go at the special 12:01 a.m. showing but I told him I didn't think I could make it through the end and at the time, I thought we would be getting up early Saturday for his tournament. (as good as excuse as any I guess)

We made the 3:00 p.m. showing here in Northfield. We got comfortable and got ready for the finale. Sitting there, I thought back to the the time I saw the first Star Wars. I was working as a field agent for GMAC - the finance folks for General Motors out of Corpus Christi, Texas in the mid-1970's. I happened to be staying that night in Victoria, Texas and since I had become accustomed to living out of a suitcase during the week, it seemed like a good idea to go see the movie that night.

That was over 30 years ago: and now here I was sitting next to my 15 year old enjoying the last of the Star Wars saga. Last year about this time, Chris and I went to an Eric Clapton concert in St. Paul. There had been about a 30 year gap between my Clapton concerts as well. I do remember that Clapton seems to have aged faster that I have..of course that might be my ego talking too.

I've noticed as of late that different things can trigger memories that I've long since forgotten and with the memories comes the emotions, both good and bad, and a bundle of other thoughts and associations as well. I happened to get an email from my kid sister who still lives in Corpus. Her kids are now out of the house and in college. Hard to imagine: time moves so quickly.

Chris had his first practice for summer baseball this afternoon. On the way to the high school, I commented that school would soon be out for the year. Chris mentioned how fast the year had gone. I had to agree. A year ago, I was wrapping up my three months at the FBI National Academy, getting ready for finals and a June 11th graduation. Seems like yesterday and yet longer than a year. Chris and I agreed that we have to make this summer count. I made a mental note that when I got home to go into my study, shut the door and turn on the TV loud and shout happy exhortations that my 15 year old was still interested in spending time with his parents. If the next six years go by as fast as the last, he will soon be out of high school and midway through college.

Our six years in Northfield have been quite enjoyable for the most part. It's been a good place for our kids to get older (their parents as well). I'd like to think that my time here has been a positive one in working for positive change in how we police and work with the community. I don't know what the next six years will bring, but regardless, we have enjoyed our time in Northfield just the same.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

EBAY Phising Scam

I got an email at work purporting to be from EBAY Mediation services. It came as an urgent message.

It's a fake and if you get one, just delete it. It's one of the better ones I've seen. It not only takes you through the process of allowing some unsavory (i'm being kind here) person getting your user ID and password, it also asks for your personal information, including your credit card info.

How do I know it's fake? I don't have an EBAY account. I entered bogus information and it still asked me for credit card information.

One more time.....legitimate businesses do not ask you to provide verification information this way. They already have it. If there is a problem, they will contact you by telephone or by mail.

Do NOT respond to these types of emails.

Here's a capture of the screen that came with the email. Anybody with some pretty simple screen capture software can copy a page and add input fields. Don't be fooled by these folks.

Keeping You Informed

Yesterday, I posted an entry about an incident where one of our officers, working on a tip from an alert citizen, caught people suspected of stealing wire from railroad tracks.

A dangerous proposition and one worthy of notice. Why? Because it impacts all of us who cross those tracks wondering why recently the trains had been traveling so slowly and because this incident was worthy of note because it illustrates the positive benefits of police and community relations.

I noticed it didn't make the local media coverage on Saturday, despite the press release I sent out earlier in the week both by email and fax. It was a chance to thank the community for their help and recognize one of our officers, Rich Bailey for some decent detective work.

I've always tried to be somewhat cognizant of local press deadlines when timing my postings here. I will continue to do so; however, when events merit your attention, I'll be putting them here. I feel we owe it to you to get information to you on a timely basis.

We have excellent working relationships with area Media outlets. I recently hosted our annual meeting with media representatives to get feedback on how we are doing and what we can do to keep our working relationships positive and productive. A good number of reporters actually call me about something they read here. I think that is great because that means we are doing a good job of sharing information.

Because of the limited local media outlets, I'll try to use this site as a means to share successes and more concerns as they relate to public safety issues in the future.

My goal will be to keep you better informed and in turn, we can collectively keep our community safe.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


We're trying something new this summer. We've retained the services of Josh Malecha as a summer community service officer.

Josh is a 4th year student (senior for you non academic types) at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He is from Northfield and will be helping out with duties associated with community service officer activities such as parking enforcement, abatement enforcement and a number of administrative duties. Once he's completed his orientation and a short shadowing with Kris Wilson you'll see him out and about.

We're glad Josh is with us this summer.

An Alert Citizen and an Inquiring Officer = Faster Trains

I've posted a news release from last week that describes a perfect example of community participation in crime suppression.

Thanks to the caller, the railroad can get the trains moving faster through town and train traffic moving safely through Northfield.

Friday, May 20, 2005

What are the black bands on your badge?

Several people inquired why our officers were wearing black bands on their badges. Unfortunately, May has not been a very good month for Minnesota law enforcement officers.

Officer Gerald Vick of the St. Paul Police Department was killed earlier this month. This past week was law enforcement memorial week so we continued the bands on the badges and kept flags at half staff.

Last Wednesday Ramsey County Deputy Glen Pothen was struck by a pickup on I694 near I35. Apparently the driver lost control and literally ran over Deputy Pothen. The video has been on national news broadcasts. It is an absolute miracle that Pothen was not seriously injured. Pothen had stopped to help a Minnesota Trooper with a motorist who had gone into the ditch on a highway near Little Canada.

Then I learned that Officer Peter Resch of the Wadena Police Department died of a heart attack on May 19th while he was struggling with a suspect at the scene of a domestic disturbance. Officer Resch, with the assistance of a Verndale officer, was able to subdue and handcuff the suspect. He then collapsed in the apartment building's hallway as he escorted the suspect to a patrol car. Officer Resch suffered a fatal heart attack minutes after the suspect was subdued. Other officers and emergency personnel on the scene immediately began CPR. He was transported to Tri County Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Officer Resch had served with the Wadena Police Department for 15 years.

We'll keep the bands on and the flag at the Safety Center at half staff in remembrance of Officer Resch.

Tributes To Those Who Wear A Badge

As previously mentioned, the Northfield Police Department hosted a memorial service for fallen officers on Tuesday, May 17th at 4 p.m. The event was coordinated by our Northfield Chaplains, with special thanks to Father Bill Van Oss of the All Saints Episcopal Church here in Northfield for coordinating the event. The weather even cooperated by ceasing the rain, opening up the blue sky and exposing the sun long enough to complete the celebration of the lives of true heroes..

The event was attended by representatives of a number agencies who work with us such as the Hope Center, Northfield Human Rights Commission, local citizens and others. A number of our officers also attended the event. Councilperson Dixon Bond has been a faithful attendee since we started this project. This was a particularly difficult year given the loss of Sergeant Gerald Vick of the St. Paul Police Department, who was laid to rest last week. I have to admit it was difficult for me to get through the service this year.

Thanks to Griff Wigley and Northfield.org who posted pictures of the event on their respective sites. I also want to thank Representative Ray Cox for his supportive posting on his blog. On a broader scale, you might be interested in viewing what Nick Coleman in the Star Trib had to say about cops in his column the past several days.

Northfield resident and Eden Prairie City Administrator Scott Neal also posted a nice entry in his weblog about the Eden Prairie Police Department. A word of encouragement from city officials is always appreciated.

Thanks also to those of you who stopped by last week and this week with words of thanks and notes of appreciation. Our staff members really do appreciate your kind words and support. Also, I was told that the Faribault Daily News posted a notice of a service to be held in Faribault today by the Sheriff's Department. Faribault Police held theirs on Monday. I was quite appreciative of the coverage provided by both the print media and electronic media in the metro area this past week and this week. We always receive outstanding support and cooperation with the Metro Media group.

Here are a few photos courtesy of our Community Service Officer Kris Wilson.

In my concluding remarks at the service, I asked those in attendance to think about how our communities convey their respect and support for their local law enforcement officers. Beyond words of appreciation, do our communities provide adequate facilities, vehicles that are safe to drive and funding to meet demands of a growing community? I challenged those in attendance to consider what kind of message our officers will receive this coming year. Public safety is more than a couple of lines in a budget and it certainly is not a zero sum proposition. Ours is a job that is labor intensive, expensive, and difficult to measure in that we are charged with preventing the very activities we are eventually measured by in "old school" 1960's methodology.

As priorities are developed and set for our community in the coming year, I would encourage you to voice your support for your police officers and your police department. I am always happy to speak to groups and with individuals about our staff and department. We have much in which to be proud with respect to our department. We are one of two nationally accredited law enforcement agencies in Minnesota and only one of about 500 nationally. That ranks the Northfield Police Department in the top 10% of quality law enforcement agencies in the nation. That is no small feat given the challenges of the last several fiscal years.

Finally, I want to again convey my thanks and respect for the men and women of the Northfield Police Department. They have a demanding and difficult job. And I am proud to be associated with them.

Officer Memorial

Reserve Officer Joseph Pozell of the Metropolotian Police Department, District of Columbia, succumbed on May 14th to severe injuries sustained three days earlier while directing traffic at the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, in Georgetown.

He was struck by a vehicle at approximately 1530 hours when he stepped back into the path of the driver of a small SUV that was making a turn. He was transported to George Washington University Hospital where he died.

Reserve Officer Pozell had served in the Metropolitan Police Department for 3 years. He is survived by his wife and son.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

City Web Site

Livefront is a Northfield-based web design company. They have been chosen to work with the City of Northfield to design a new web page. There will be a meeting in SS103 at the Northfield Community Resource Center to discuss with the public ideas and to get feedback on the development of the new web site. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.

Livefront has also set up a weblog to allow you to view information and leave comments as well.

If you can't make that meeting, there will be another informational and feedback meeting at the Northfield City Hall, 801 Washington Street in the Council Chambers on June 14, 2005 at 5:30 p.m.

If you can't make either of the meetings, be sure to go the the weblog site and comment there.

Watch That Gossip Amigo

I came across a news entry on my mobile Earthlink reference off my Palm today that was dated May 17th from Bogota, Columbia. It states in part that malicious gossip often results in tears and anger but in Columbia it has led to murder and according to the article, officials there are fed up with the people targeted by the false rumors turning up dead or wrongfully arrested. The article goes on to say that a small Columbian community has made gossip a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. In part, the new law states "Human beings must be aware and recognize that having a tongue and using it to do bad is the same as having dynamite in their mouths."

All I can say is amen to that.

The decree was issued last year in the community of Icononzo, 40 miles southwest of the capitol, Bogota. The mayor insists that in a country as violent as Columbia, gossiping can have deadly results. The Associated Press interviewed the mayor by telephone on Monday the 16th according to the posting. The mayor indicated that often the residents of the community of 11,500 people will leave home early and lock themselves in their homes for fear of some unfounded rumor that was spread around town earlier in the day. The fine is severe: up to $150,000 for spreading false rumors...or even jail. The story says so far no one has been arrested but they think it has made people think about what they say before they say it. City officials indicated that sooner or later someone will get caught.

The story caught my attention because of a couple of recent incidents that I've witnessed. On two separate occasions this week, I've been told something that someone "heard" from "someone." In both cases, when pressed about who "someone" was, the matter went no further. A metro school district was forced to close recently when they received threatening letters in the mail. The list goes on.

I sometimes receive calls from local news reporters citing sources who have provided them with juicy bits of information about suspected activities that the police are somehow hiding from the public or refusing to deal with. Generally, I can tell by the reported "activity" who the source was by the nature of trying to draw attention to a single person issue.

Ah.. the benefits of living in a smaller community.

If you can't stand up and speak for yourself, shame on you for using up the time of newspeople and public officials for your dark deeds. I'm not talking about legitimate concerns, but just attempts on the part of an individual or several individuals to try to get others in trouble or embarrass them for no other reason than the fact someone takes delight in watching them squirm I guess or to further their own self-serving agenda.

I'm in the business of measuring public perception toward our police staff. Community input is vital for me to gauge how we are doing. The baseless rumors of someone's ego, imagination, or downright vindictiveness really makes my job of sorting out the fact from fiction a challenge.

You would be surprised at the amount of the reports between individuals we investigate that turn out to be baseless rumors or gossip. It's costly, time consuming and it usually devastates the victim. So the next time you participate in coffee table commentary, water cooler collusion or involve yourself in other types of negative social interaction, demand the same standards we expect of our journalists....factual basis and reliable sources. Do your part to hold others to the truth. Don't be afraid to challenge unsubstantiated statements purporting to be factual. Have the integrity to stand up and demand the truth. To parapharse a memorable TV commercial line...maybe we should demand..."Where's the Source!!"

The same principles apply in the workplace. I've learned to confront rumors immediately and stop them before they do any damage. It's important to hold people accountable. In a business where our credibility and honesty are the tools of the trade, it's absolutely necessary to keep rumors and vicious personal attacks in the circular file. I certainly encourage our citizens to bring any such concerns associated with our department or the community to my attention. I'd much rather address gossip or rumors before they get out of hand. You would be amazed at the number of individuals who feel justified in smearing the reputation of a public official or coworker who performed their job flawlessly and honestly simply for doing their job and stating the truth.

Yesterday, I referenced the issues of civility. I believe that those same principles certainly apply when it comes to this topic. Attempts to somehow seek revenge or damage a person through gossip and such vile behavior certainly does not exude a persona of civility. Innuendo at public meetings and in public venues are just as malicious and do a disservice to the entire community. Hopefully civility will continue to prevail. For those who fail to heed the call, it would be a shame if we had to follow the lead of our Columbian friends to legislate consequences for gossip.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Interesting Storm Pictures

I recently posted a reference to a serious storm that passed through Central Nebraska. A good friend of mine, Randy Beaty, sent the following photos of that storm last week from Grand Island and Hastings, Nebraska.

The following two photographs are of the Burlington Street underpass in Hastings, Nebraska. The stuff in the underpass is accumulated hail. That's a lot of ice. They reported hail up to the size of baseballs in this area. I have an uncle and aunt who live in this community. I graduated from Hastings High School. I can't ever recall a scene like this.

The next two photographs were taken in Northwest Grand Island, Nebraska. I used to live about a mile west of this location in a subdivision. I'm told that area was under water as well.

I'm told that preparation and adequate warning prevented injury to anyone. Hopefully the scenes above will motivate you to have an emergency weather plan for your home and place of work. We can't control the weather but we can minimize the risk to safety and health by paying attention to weather conditions and weather bulletins. If you don't have a weather radio, they can be purchased at electronic stores. It's a good investment in your safety. Just as you should practice a fire drill at home and work, you should discuss what you will do in the event of a serious storm, whether it is a tornado, flash flood or thunderstorm. Where will family members meet? How will you communicate? (most cell phones will not work during bad weather and emergencies). Have you checked flashlights? Do you have a portable radio with fresh batteries? Do you have a supply of fresh water, food, medications to last for at least a week?

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a website that can provide you guidelines and suggestions for these and other contingencies. Take a moment and check it out. If you would like to learn more, contact Tim Isom, Northfield Emergency Management Director.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Officer Memorial

Patrolman Harold Loyd Thorne Jr. of the Tuscaloosa, Alabama Police Department died of a heart attach on Monday, April 25th shortly after completing required physical agility tests at the Tuscaloosa Police Academy. He is survived by his son, daughter, parents, sister, and three brothers. His son also serves as an officer with the Tuscaloosa Police Department. Having completed grad school at UA in Tuscaloosa, I met many of the fine men and women who are associated with that department and my condolences go out to them.

Trooper Jonathan W. Parker
of the South Carolina Highway Patrol died on Monday, May 16th when his squad car was deliberately rammed during a vehicle pursuit of a robbery suspect. Trooper Parker is survived by his wife.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Law Enforcement Memorial Day

President John F. Kennedy established a Law Enforcement Memorial Day in October of 1962. He designated May 15th to be that day to remember those law enforcement officers who sacrificed their lives so we can stay safe.

In 1982, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) began hosting memorial service that now centers around the Law enforcement Memorial located in Judicial Square in Washington DC.

Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) provides services, support and programs for the survivor family members of officers who are killed in the line of duty.

To date, 16,500 law enforcement officers have been killed since the early 1800's.
September 11, 2001 was the singlemost deadly day for officer fatalities. Seventy-two officers were killed on that date.

Members of the Northfield Police Department will hold remembrance on Tuesday, May 17th at 4:00 p.m. at the Northfield Safety Center.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Officer Memorial Day

The Northfield Police Department will conduct an officer memorial on Tuesday, May 17th at the Northfield Safety Center, 300 5th Street West in Northfield at 4:00 p.m. Please join us to honor those individuals who have died to keep our communities safe. There will be the traditional flag raising and lowering, a few words from local officials, moments of silences and prayers.

Sunday is the national law enforcement memorial day. I'll have more tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff Mariano (Rocky) Lemus, 54, of the Orange County, Florida County Sheriff's Office died on May 6th of hepatitis C which he had contracted earlier while on duty after being bitten by a person when he responded to a domestic disturbance call. Deputy Lemus had served the Department for 14 years. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

It could have been much worse

A friend of mine from Grand Island, Nebraska emailed me about a recent spat of nasty weather that passed through their area yesterday. The local paper there, The Grand Island Daily Independent posted several articles about the severe weather. (To view the website, you are required to register but there is not cost. There are some remarkable pictures that show the devastation of flash flooding.)

Ironically, a number of city and public safety officials met at the Northfield Public Safety Center this morning to discuss the ongoing process of preparing for emergencies. The topic of this meeting was severe weather. We are fortunate to have great communication between city, county, state and other area public safety organizations. Regularly, Public Works, Police, Fire, Medical and Emergency Management representatives in Northfield get together to discuss scenarios and what we need to do to be better prepared for emergencies. Review of emergency management protocols and responses allows us to incorporate some of the strategies in our community training sessions and SKYWARN instruction.

We will continue to offer SKYWARN (weather spotter) training to members of the community who would like to learn more about severe weather. There is no requirement to become a weather spotter volunteer to take the class, although we always appreciate volunteers, it's our opinion that an informed and trained citizenry can better assist emergency personnel during severe weather watches.

If you would like to learn more about training opportunities in and around Northfield, feel free to give us a call at 507-645-4477 and ask to speak to or leave a message for our Emergency Management Director, Tim Isom.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Faux Kidnap Warning

An old "warning" dating back to the early 1990's has resurfaced again. The gist of the message tells of a person, usually a woman, who is getting gas at a convenience store and is told by intercome to come into the store to speak to the clerk. Upon entering the store, the clerk tells the person that they observed a person get into their vehicle while they pumped gas.

To the best of our knowledge, this is not an accurate depiction of an actual case. We actually received calls to our office last year when the rumor circulated with a local twist. The Northfield rumor actually had the event take place at a local convenience store. It took about 9 months to diminish.

Truth or Fiction has a link regarding such an incident.

Everyone should always be cognizant of their surroundings and take precautions to be safe. Should you come across information of this type I would encourage you to contact your local law enforcement agency before you forward the information.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sergeant Gerald Vick Funeral

Officers from all over the region will be converging on St. Paul today to attend the funeral of Sergeant Gerald Vick of the St. Paul Police Department. Sergeant Vick was murdered early Friday morning while he was working as an undercover officer.

Sergeant Vick worked to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, women who find themselves imprisoned in desperation that results in prostitution and slavery.

There has been a lot of media attention about the circumstances of Sergeant Vick's death. Today is a time to remember his deeds. An article that recently appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune celebrates the officer, husband and father he was.

Take time today.. a moment of silence..not so much to mourn the loss of this fine man but to celebrate his life and the lives he touched.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff James P. Tutino of the Los Angeles County, California Sheriff's Department died on Wednesday, January 26th after he was killed in the commuter train crash caused by a suicidal male parking his SUV on the railroad tracks. Deputy Tutino had served the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 23 years. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Detective LaVern Brann
of the Battle Creek, Michigan Police Department was killed by gunfire on Monday, May 9th. Detective Brann was killed while he and his partner were investigating a homicide that had occurred the previous month. Detective Brann was a 20 year veteran and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Deputy Sheriff Andy Taylor
of the Llano County, Texas Sheriff's Office was killed by gunfire on May 9th. The suspect was on parole for a previous robbery conviction and had violated the terms of that parole. After a massive manhunt the suspect was located. As officers moved in to capture him, he shot himself. He survived and was arrested and charged with murder.

Deputy Taylor was a 3 year veteran of the department.

Police Officer David Uribe
of the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department was shot and killed on May 10th while conducting a traffic stop. The suspects fled the scene and are still at large. Officer Uribe was a 22 year veteran of the department. He is survived by his wife and son, who is also a member of the Phoenix Police Department.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mock Crash on May 4th, 2005

Every two years, Northfield Public Safety Officers (Northfield Police and Fire), Northfield Ambulance, Minnesota State Patrol, Rice County Sheriff's Office, Rice County Attorney's Office, Air Rescue, and Northfield High School reenact a mock crash with rather graphic injuries and fatalities at the High School for juniors and seniors as a reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving.

Many people put in a lot of time and effort to make this happen. The feedback from staff and students is that they feel this is a very clear way to send a message of responsible driving. Thanks to our Community Service Officer, Kris Wilson, who took photos of the event, I can provide you a glimpse of what happened last Wednesday.

The scene is set with the help of student role players and adult volunteers. Here, Officer Thad Monroe, our School Resource Officer, arrives at the scene of the crash.

Viking Auto Salvage provides crashed vehicles to add realism to the event. The school buses in the background provide a buffer and safety zone for participants.

Roger Fette (left) of Fette Electronics in Faribault provides the use of his public address system and donates his talents each time this event is staged.

Members of the Northfield Rescue Squad and Northfield Fire Department respond to demonstrate the dangers of extracation and removal from a serious accident scene. All these individuals take time off from their other jobs to participate in this event.

Members of the Minnesota State Patrol also assist in the event. Troopers assist with the evaluation and "arrest" of the "intoxicated" driver.

A medical evacuation helicopter lands to transport a seriously injured passenger (Officer Jody Spinner). Northfield Hospital and Ambulance coordinate with their air support providers to participate in the event.

The tools used by the Northfield Rescue Squad make short work of the roof of this vehicle to remove an "injured" passenger.

Local funeral homes also participate by arriving and actually placing a person who represents a fatality at the accident scene in a body bag and then transported away in a funeral home vehicle.

Officer Monte Nelson also assists with the narration of the event.

We also want to thank Brian Edwards and other members of the Northfield Ambulance who spend a lot of time planning this event, arranging for the cosmetics that make the scene so realistic and the ongoing support of Northfield Hospital for allowing their staff to give their time to help with this endeavor. The Rice County Attorney's Office also provides a speaker to discuss the ramifications, legally of being a driver (impaired or just careless) that results in death and serious injury.

The Rice County Sheriff's Office also assists by providing officers. At a serious crash, we rely on our county associates as well as the State Patrol for assistance during the crash event and subsequent investigation.

Finally thanks to the staff of the Northfield High School. The educators who give up class time to allow juniors and seniors to view the event and the maintenance crews who set up the bleachers and provide the logistics for the event.

It's a good investment in our kids' safety.

Any police officer or rescue worker who has spent any amount of time on the job can tell you of the tragedy of these situations. This event is difficult for them to reenact because it brings back those memories. They do it though because they care about the future of our kids.

If you will be out celebrating your graduation this month, please be careful and use good judgment. Do not consume alcoholic beverages. Do not drink and drive and do not get into a car with someone who has been drinking. Do not let someone drive if they have been drinking.

Make this time a celebration of your future, not the end of your life!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Officer Memorial

Detective Donald R. Young of the Denver, Colorado Police Department was shot and killed while he and another officer were working off duty in uniform at a Cinco de Mayo celebration when a man approached both officers from behind and opened fire on them in an unprovoked attacked. The second officer was wounded. The suspects fled the scene and remain at large. The incident took place at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 8th.

Detective Young had served with the Denver Police Department for 12 years and was assigned to the Fugitive/Bomb Unit. He is survived by his wife and two young daughters.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Officer Memorial

Sergeant Gerald Vick of the St. Paul, Minnesota Police Department was shot and killed Friday, May 6th while working undercover vice. Sergeant Vick had served the St. Paul Police Department for over 16 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has several articles in its Saturday edition and on line regarding Sergeant Vick.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Photo Shoot

Last Saturday (4/30/05) between the sleet, snow and rain, we managed to get enough sunshine to complete a photo shoot of our vehicles and some members of the police and fire department. It is important to keep current photos for training, recruitment and now, for our soon to be developed new police department web page. This photo was taken by Kris Wilson, our CSO.

More about this later.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff Byron (Keith) Cannon of the Richland County South Carolina Sheriff's Department was killed in an automobile accident on May 4th.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Simply Inspiring

I was invited by Judy Dirks to visit her citizenship class tonight. I shared the guest seat with Representative Ray Cox.

The group agreed to stand with us for a photo.

Each student introduced themselves told us their country of birth and how they traveled to the U.S. I was very impressed with their individual and collective knowledge of U.S. history (Ray and I colloborated on a couple questions and came close).

It's truly inspiring to hear the dreams of these future new citizens!

Speaking of inspiring, this young man was very interesting in policing as a future career. He had a number of very good questions about policing. I provided him with a couple items he could add to his police officer collection.

I appreciated the invitation to visit with these soon to be U.S. Citizens.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Spotlight On Youth

Last Friday morning (4/29/05 for archive purposes), I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit on a panel as part of a discussion with area students and adults about drugs, gangs, and violence in our community and schools. The forum was held at the Northfield Community Resource Center.

The topics of discussion ranged from issues of drug dogs in schools (not a popular topic with most students present) to the degree of violence in the middle and high school (also a topic of some debate about the degree and level of violence, drugs, and gangs in the schools)..

There were many interesting perspectives and opinions that centered on trust of students by staff and the community. It was a good conversation and hopefully some of the dialogue will move forward in future discussions.

Thanks also for the several photographers who wandered around and snapped pictures and to Healthy Community Initiative and Youth Plus for hold the event.

Here's a few pictures to give you an idea of the intensity of the meeting.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Saga of the "Runaway Bride"

Over the past week, I watched with growing fear that we would lose yet another person to a very violent abduction death. Fortunately, the thirty-something Jennifer Wilbanks of Duluth, Georgia was located in New Mexico after she called her fiance' to say first she had been abducted but later admitted to New Mexico authorities she had gotten "cold feet" and left to avoid her wedding that was supposed to happen last Saturday.

Obviously there are lots of articles and theories and opinions on how this whole matter transpired and what should happen now. The Fox News article here gives a bit different perspective.

Here's my question to you all. What kind of impact does this kind of event have on public perception when adults go missing? What kind of impact do you think it has on the police? What impact do you feel such events like the Wilbanks incident have on future missing person investigations?

Finally, what if any sanctioning should happen to a person like this? Is there an obligation to recoup the thousands of dollars of resources spent on the search or is it just the cost of doing business?

I'll post some responses here if any are received. After that, I'll provide my impressions.