A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Victim Assistance Training

The Northfield Police Department hosted Victim Assistance Program Training, provided by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in Northfield last Tuesday. Here's a photo of that class.



The names as pictured from L to R are:

Vanessa Eng, Victim Services Coordinator, Rice Co. Attorney Office
Tracy Goodwin, Financial Coordinator & Grant Specialist, Hope Center
Janelle Moos, M.S., Community Response & Prevention Specialist (Instructor) North Dakota Council on Abused Women's Services Coalition Against Sexual Assault in North Dakota
Monte Nelson, Investigator, Northfield Police Department
Kevin Kearney, Community Liaison Officer, Winona Police Department

NOT PICTURED:
Kris Wilson, Community Service Officer, Northfield Police Department (taking the pic)
Karen Mangold, Administrative Assistant, Northfield Police Department
Randy Dickson, BS, BCETS, Critical Interaction Associates (Instructor)

This is the second year in a row that we could offer nationally known trainers and programs here in Northfield at no cost to participants. As Chief, I'm committed to continue the efforts to bring in quality training on the topic of domestic violence and victim assistance training.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Another Crazy Weather Night

I'm writing this after I got home around 11:30 p.m., having sat down in our Emergency Operations Center for the second time in three days this week. Around 5:30 p.m. the weather got pretty nasty looking on the RADAR. The storm prediction center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of all places put our area on notice we were most likely going to get hit by a very substantial storm. The storm cell reached all the way down into Iowa and up well into southern Minnesota by 5:30 p.m.

We called in our weather spotters, and some of our employees who help to staff our Emergency Operations Center and I made a call to Public Works to let them know we might need some help later in the evening.

We watched, as the weather moved toward us, causing funnel clouds and severe storms south of us. As the storm cell neared, it split and moved mostly around us and got stronger as it moved into Scott and LeSueur Counties.

We were lucky. Those north of us were not so lucky. There were reports of some damage to buildings and some homes north and west of us. Fortunately as of this writing, no one was hurt.
Hopefully we will get a break from the weather for an enjoyable 4th of July weekend.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Weather Again!

Ray Cox posted a picture tonight that speaks of the weather tonight. The weather alerts for Rice County started about 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, unfortunately not everyone was prepared. Our officers received calls asking for traffic control from sporting events that started well after the weather warnings had been posted. While our officers were trying to make sure people were not trapped under fallen trees, house fires, poles and trees on fire, or cars with power lines on them, our dispatch center was getting calls from people asking for officers to direct traffic so people could get out of parking lots. Unfortunately, our dispatchers and our officers don't have the time or resources to respond to this type of call during emergency situations. That is why people need to plan ahead. If bad weather is predicted, cancel outdoor activities. If you are going to continue, know that you are assuming responsibility for the safety of those in attendance.

As I've mentioned previously, those hosting outdoor sporting events need to be carrying a portable weather radio alert in the event weather changes.

The storm front tonight is a perfect example of a quick and rough storm that quickly moved through only part of Northfield, knocking down branches and snapping power lines. The warnings in effect at the time were for severe thunderstorms, which is exactly what we got.

You will not always be able to respond to quick moving weather. If a warning is posted, as it was earlier this afternoon, you should anticipate the very real possibility of a storm. Had this one been longer in duration, we could have had more serious property damage and some personal injury as a result of falling trees, power lines and the hail.

Please heed the weather notices. Plan ahead and stay safe. We missed the major part of this storm again. We may not be so lucky next time.

Our Emergency Management Director, Tim Isom, can schedule training or informational meetings for anyone interested. Email him or call and leave a message for him at 507-645-4477.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Beauty In Weather


I was outside last night checking the clouds and weather and caught the next three photos. The camera didn't do it justice but this was the first full rainbow I've seen in a very long time. It's good to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature once in a while. The next two were of the sky which took on an interesting contrast at about 8:30 p.m. last night. This is a good time of year to pay attention to the sky. The weather can change quickly.











Friday, June 24, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff Greg Gariepy of the San Bernardino, California Sheriff's Department died on June 22nd from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident while responding to assist another deputy.

Deputy Gariepy was a US Marine veteran. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff George Griffin of the White County, Arkansas Sheriff's Department died June 21st as a result of a a car accident on June 17th. He had served the department for 2 years.

Corporal Steve Gaughan of the Prince George's, Maryland County Police Department died on June 21st after being shot while stopping a suspicious vehicle. He had served the department for 18 years. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Police Officer Paris Williams
of the Philadelphia, PA Police Department died of a heart attack while assisting other officers in a disturbance on June 21st. He had served the department for 18 years and was a widower survived by his two children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff John W. Sanford Jr. of the Northumberland County, Virginia Sheriff's Office died during an automobile accident on Sunday, June 19th. Deputy Sanford Jr., 50, was responding to a disturbance call at the time of an accident. Deputy Sanford Jr. had served as a part time deputy for 11 years.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Not A Good Week For Kids - Missing Kids List

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided me with this list of missing children:

#1

Boy Scout Remains Missing, Kidnapping Possible

Summit County, UT 6/20/05

Larry Upchurch Case Manager

#2

Police, rescue workers continue search for missing teen last seen at Wallace Marine Park

Salem, OR 6/20/05

#3

12-Year-Old Sumter Girl Missing

Sumter, SC 6/20/05

If you have any information concerning any of these children, notify your local law enforcement agency immediately.

Friday, June 17, 2005

State Shutdown

I received several calls with respect to any impact the police department may experience should the state shut down because the legislature fails to agree on a budget.

The short term implications could mean that state computer information systems such as criminal history files, and communications may be less responsive or unavailable for periods of time. I'm not aware at this time if criminal justice information systems will be considered essential services or not. If shut down, this would mean officers would not be able to check for wanted persons, driver license histories or vehicle information.

The funding for our regional drug task force and the technical support would most likely stop. This would mean that the task force would have to operate until money runs out and then it would be up to local agencies to make up costs or shut down the operation until the state refunds the task force.

Fund reimbursement for officer training, state dollars for alcohol compliance checks, alcohol licensing and education access would probably be disrupted. It is unclear right now if the state will be forced to shut down the state crime labs. If this were to happen, we would not be able to process evidence or have it examined.

The day-to-day operations of our department would continue. There would be no reduction in service levels to requests for services. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me by email or at our office at 507-645-4477.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Being Accountable To The Community

A recent conversation between myself and the director of our combined dispatch center renewed an interest of mine. Specifically, how accountable are our law enforcement agencies to the community with respect to documenting contacts with the public. This concept goes beyond issues of bias policing and more to the ability to provide an accurate picture of what law enforcement officers do in a community.

I am always a bit surprised that we are one of only a handful of police agencies that asks our staff to document all traffic stops individually. Since our dispatch center refuses to do this for us, our officers must make the extra effort to manually write the information on a NCR sheet and turn them into our clerks to be included with any supplemental documentation to be recorded into our computer system. As opposed to using the mobile data computers in their cars that are connected to the computers in the dispatch center. Apparently it is a staffing and time issue for the dispatchers to do this.

I am very proud of the Northfield P.D. staff for their willingness to follow this procedure. It reinforces my belief that our staff members really do appreciate the need to be open and honest about what we do. The data recorded allows us to view various trends and activities, answer citizen questions about officer activity and provides a check and balance system whereby I invite our local human rights commission to review the activities of our department. It is always good to have an outside set of eyes helping you in your evaluation of how you meet your mission.

Additionally, we are one of two nationally accredited law enforcement agencies in Minnesota and only one of about 500 nationally. I remember one individual who asked me how much it cost me to "buy" the accreditation several years ago when we first received the recognition. The comment was an insult to every member of our department who constantly strives to be open and honest about our operations. It speaks well of the willingness of our staff to again open their activities to an outside agency. We must meet over 460 national standards to continue our accreditation process. We will undergo examination again this August. As the process draws closer, I'll keep you posted on what is going on and how it impacts our department and the community.

In our business, everything we do is about trust. I appreciate the support I get from our staff in providing a number of avenues in which we can work to keep the public's trust. It may not be the easiest or cheapest route to take but it certainly is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hate Has No Place In Our Community

The following column was printed in the Saturday edition of the Northfield News. I wrote the column after a discussion of the Northfield Human Rights Commission discussed the problems of hate graffiti. I've received a number of inquiries about the article so I've placed it here.

In the mid 1970's I was working as a night manager at a local grocery store in Corpus Christi, Texas located in a very affluent part of town, just off of a boulevard that ran adjacent to Corpus Christi Bay.

In the midst of the trimmings of affluence, one individual stood out. She was in her 60's. A painfully thin woman, about five-foot, four inches tall. Her face bore the weathered look of someone who had seen more sorrow than joy. She seldom spoke but when she did, her accent betrayed a German past.

The weather in Corpus Christi in the summer can be brutal. I was always intrigued why the woman would wear a blouse with long sleeves, a sweater and a black long dress reaching down to her ankles. She also wore a small hat on the top of her head She seldom made eye contact but when she did, there was an empty look: almost hollow. I have seen the same look on the faces of people immediately after they have been exposed to an extremely tragic event.

This day, we had several people call in sick so I was stuck working a cash register at a busy time of the day when the woman pulled into my line and began to put the few items she had in her basket onto the belt. As she reached across to move an item forward, I caught a hint of what looked like a tattoo on her arm. What on earth would an old woman be doing with a tattoo on her forearm I wondered. I didn't have to wait long for the answer because as she reached across the belt, the tattoo revealed itself as a series of numbers. The telltale sign bore witness that this woman was most likely a survivor of a German Nazi concentration or death camp. The expression on my face must have betrayed me. I looked up and for a time longer than was comfortable for me, our eyes met. The woman smiled, nodded her head in understanding and pulled the sleeve down on her blouse.

For as long as I remember I have been sickened by the obscene acts committed by Hitler's "final solution." The thought of murdering millions of people in the name of racial purity is beyond my comprehension

Whenever the woman shopped at my store, we shared short conversations and a mutual smile. When she smiled, her once hollow eyes would light up in a joyful manner that shouted of her joy of life. I must admit I found it remarkable that a woman who had endured so much would go out of her way to comfort, -- to reassure someone like me. Words cannot express the compassion and love I have for that woman.

A number of my good friends have family that lost their lives in German concentration camps. I grieve for the personal suffering that endures generation after generation. Sixty years later the pain and horror endures in the lives of many of the survivors and their families.

The next time you decide to mark or draw a representation of hate on someone's property, you need to know that you have dishonored the memory of millions of innocent people who were killed by individuals who preferred cold blooded murder to tolerance and created a legacy of obscene hate that will forever stain the psyche of humanity. Be ashamed, be very ashamed of yourself.

Shame on you if you allow hate-filled graffiti to remain on your property: shame on you if you do not express your outrage, living in a community that promotes inclusiveness and understanding.

Most likely, the person or persons responsible for the obscene markings and the words "final solution" painted on vehicles and walls of buildings were put there by someone who may not fully understand the impact of what they did. We must ensure that future generations understand the hate represented by these markings. We owe it to the memories of every person who died in that conflict: both soldiers and innocents, to never forget.

From a law enforcement perspective, what you did was a crime by marking others' property. In fact, it's a serious crime: a hate crime. If you get caught, I promise you that I will do everything possible to make sure you learn the evil of what you represented by your actions. You need to repair the emotional damage you have caused by coming forward to acknowledge what you have done and apologize to our community.

Parents, please take a moment and make sure your kids and teens fully understand the damage done by reckless actions such as these. Let's make sure the practice of spreading hate through the display of these terrible symbols stops now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Fixing Things

I spent a stint working in grocery stores in high school in Nebraska. I worked for Nash-Finch in several Jack & Jill Stores in Hastings and Grand Island, Nebraska as well as an Econo-Foods store. I also spent some time working for the H.E. Butt Grocery Company in Texas as well.

The manager of the first store I worked at in Grand Island was Don Sallanger. He told me one time that when a customer came into the store to complain about a product or the way they were treated it was because they wanted us to help keep them shopping with us. They wanted to let us make things right because they liked coming to our store and wanted to keep coming.

He was right and I have held onto the thought from that day forward.

I truly believe that my experience of customer service at the very entry level of carrying out groceries to a customer's car helped to instill my sensitivity to keeping levels of service perfect. In doing this, it doesn't always mean you can give everyone what they want. But you do your best within the limits of good business sense. Don used to tell me that sometimes both sides have to give a little to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

That's the idea behind Stephen Covey's concept of Win-Win. Covey contends that we often fail because everyone goes into a situation thinking that winning means having their way. That isn't always the case. Compromise often is the key to success.

There are a number of issues surrounding neighborhood and business area disputes that I believe can be satisfied if the principles of Win-Win are applied. In living and working together it is realistic to believe that one may not always be able to achieve all conditions desired, IE absolute silence in a neighborhood, no traffic on a street, various types of businesses in a congested district.

The key is to understand each perspective and respect each other's point of view. It is a concept I encourage our staff to embrace as they go about the process of mediating and working with competing interests of neighbors and businesses.

If in fact our goal is to promote our community and make it a good place to live, then we can apply the same principles here.

When a person comes to us to complain, whether it is about our service, a staff member or a situation in the community, we look at it as an opportunity of mutual benefit. The challenge in the policing area is the fact that we are often constrained by laws and policy. But there are many issues that relate to quality of life issues that can be addressed in this manner and reach a successful conclusion.

The biggest challenge is when you encounter someone who equates winning with getting their way with no compromise. Unfortunately, this approach is often contagious and infects others. If not checked, it can infect a whole community. By providing an opportunity to work through mediation or coaching to reach a position where each side can gain some and give some a good number of the conflicts can be resolved. In some cases where one or more of the parties refuse to cooperate, they may try to use the police as their tool to extract their "pound of flesh" on the other party. As peace officers, we are very careful to balance our responses and to approach each situation in a fair and impartial manner.

In these cases it may be necessary for us to simply tell the person no. There are limits in which we are constrained and ethical conduct guides our responses. It is not our job to bully, intimidate or scare. We rely on the collective common sense of the majority of our community to help maintain constructive public discourse and behavior. Those who refuse generally find themselves in court through litigation or misbehaver. When this happens, everyone loses.

We will continue to be proactive in our responses to many of the recurring complaints in neighborhoods and business areas. Because of limited resources, we must rely on appropriate conduct by neighbors and business owners. When we find ourselves continually mediating between feuding factions over issues that would best be served in mediation, the whole community loses because the time lost is time that we don't have for prevention.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Stormy Night Again - Tornadoes, Hail :& Rain

We found ourselves in our Emergency Operations Center again tonight because of rough weather. Although not as bad as last week, there were numerous reports of strong winds, some cloud rotation and hail in Rice County. At one point, the Weather Service reported heavy hail heading to Northfield from the Faribault area.

In checking areas around Northfield, it was clear that none of those in attendance at baseball fields and soccer fields were aware of the weather. Although we were able to get officers to the various locations around town to use the loud speaker on the squad car to notify people, few took heed or notice. The reality is we may not always have officers available to notify people if the weather hits fast.

I use examples of which I am experienced. On June 3, 1980, the weather forecast in Grand Island, Nebraska forecast a 20% chance of bad weather. By sunrise the next day, 7 tornadoes had ripped through the Central Nebraska community , killing five people and leaving most of the community looking like it had been hit by a bomb. Twenty-five years later, the community still recovers.

The past two tornado incidents in Northfield took place with absolutely no watch or warning issued by the National Weather Service. We are fortunate to have well-trained weather spotters who put themselves at risk to keep an eye on bad weather.

Some basic rules you should follow this time of year.
1. Keep track of weather throughout the day. Read the long range forecasts.
2. Keep a portable radio with you if you will be outdoors so you can check for any watches or warnings should the weather turn threatening.
3. If a watch or warning is issued, be prepared to take appropriate action. A watch means conditions are right for thunderstorms or tornados. A warning means a tornado or severe thunderstorm has been confirmed and you should take immediate shelter.
4. Have a family unification plan should you become separated because of severe weather.
5. Keep in mind that cell phones and conventional means of communication will probably not be working. The police will be busy and will not be able to deliver messages, especially if we are in a search and rescue mode.
6. Use common sense. If the weather looks threatening, take steps to learn more and if necessary move to a safe location.

In Northfield, we will sound sirens if a tornado warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, a spotter confirms a possible tornado or a possible tornado is confirmed on RADAR. We will sound sirens (if they are operable) every 15 minutes while the warning is in place. We do not sound an "all clear." The Weather Service does not issue an all clear, they simply allow warnings and watches to expire. Because weather can be different from one location to another, we recommend that if the warning or watch expires that you check your environment to make sure things look safe.

Many people call us at the at the emergency operations center or call 911 and ask if it is all clear. We are in a basement without view of the outside. All we can really advise is if the watch or warning has expired. The trouble with all the calls, is it ties up the emergency phone lines, not just the 911 lines and keeps us from tracking calls from our spotters and the Weather Service. You will get better information listening to a local television, radio, or weather radio station.

Tim Isom, our Emergency Management Director will be happy to provide you with additional information. You can leave a message for him by calling 507-645-4477 or email him. Tim's day job is with St. Olaf and we appreciate their flexibility in allowing him to provide his time to assist as our Emergency Management Director. Because of popular demand, we will be hosting another SKYWARN training session soon. If you are interested, email or call Tim.

We want you to stay safe. Taking a few precautions and being prepared ahead of time for severe weather will save your life! While I'm on the topic of staying safe, a lot of the media outlets showed a number of still and video footage of the recent tornadoes in Wisconsin. Keep in mind that a tornado moves rapidly and can change directions quickly. If you are close enough to a tornado to take a picture, you are close enough to be taking shelter. Don't risk your life for fifteen minutes of fame.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Bizarre Experience With A Cell Phone Company

I got a message from one of my officers that her Nextel Cell Phone went dead. Since the other 24 phones were working ok I thought it was a bit odd. We had received a letter from Nextel about a week earlier that indicated that according to them, "they were going to start invoicing us separately for this same officer's phone apart from the rest of our pooled account to provide us with "better service." Ironically, that customer service letter from Las Vegas, Nevada didn't list a phone number or customer service representative to call with questions. When the now disconnected officer had called customer service, they told her that Nextel had transferred her account to another cell company.

Fast forward to yesterday, Friday, June 10th. For the second consecutive day, I tried to reach someone in customer support with Nextel. After giving up, I called our account rep who is a living, breathing, Minnesota resident that I've actually met. He handles government accounts and actually comes to our chief's conferences and checks up on us regularly...the main reason we switched service in the first place. Anyway Dave gave us a few ideas and I was determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

I initiated a call to Nextel at 4:35 p.m. on Friday and believe it or not, about 2 and a half hours later, I got the matter resolved. In the process, I spoke to about 7 different people and discovered that Nextel has about a dozen different divisions and about three different kinds of music to soothe their customers waiting on hold.

Now y'all might think I'm going to rant about lousy customer service: wrong. I don't like the automated answering systems. I've fought to keep them out of the police department and will always continue to do so. Public service organizations need to have real people speaking to their constituents but that's another posting.

I want to celebrate the fact that good old American courtesy and determination is alive and well at a cell phone company! The kind of determination that got us through an industrial revolution during World War II, let us win the Cold War and will help us beat the information management revolution. The key to this secret weapon is the same spirit that built this country. It is the same sense of family that brings us together in disasters and tragedies. It's common courtesy and the willingness to help out your neighbor. It's what makes us different from every other country in the world.

In this case I want to tell you about how two women personalized a faceless, cold company that made the 2+ hour phone adventure actually enjoyable.

Here's how it went. I finally got in touch with a person named Charlette. She took the time to listen to my plight and and told me she would stay with me through all the transfers and make sure that we got the phone thing taken care of. She joked she was in New York and that she was working until 10 p.m. and would stay later if she had to. In the process of working through the process. I met another person named Winnie, yep just like the bear she said, who also hung on the line. Both were commensurate professionals in their demeanor but were frank and candid with the other people we spoke to. They provided the information I could not provide and broke through the red tape to get things straightened out.

It turned out that Nextel (ported is the new politically correct word) this particular number to another company. Fortunately, it hadn't been issued yet so we got it back. In the process they made sure that this never would happen again by locking in our phone numbers. It turned out that Winnie was in Victoria, Texas. I used to live there. I also found out that although some of the things are in the same place, Winnie wasn't even born when I lived there. Victoria holds a special place in my memories....it's where I saw the first Star Wars movie back in the 1970's.

There were also some job-related things that Charlette and I had in common. She was very complimentary of the law enforcement profession in general. We also talked about our frustration in trying to help people who are extremely rude and down right mean. Both women were proud of their work in turning around bad customer situations into very positive ones.

Stephen Covey would be very proud of these two women. They epitomize the essence of his 7 Habits in getting the job done by practicing "Win Win." I'll talk about how this concept will solve a number of conflicts that we currently experience here in Northfield in subsequent posts.

There is a book I read a while back entitled Good to Great by Jim Collins that describes what makes great companies from so-so ones. The latitude given to these two women and their determination to solve the problem, is exactly what makes great companies. I will tell you that in the past five years, this is the very first time that I have been impressed with a service company representative, let alone two and I asked their permission to use them as examples as I travel the United States sharing my experiences in customer service and winning compromise. They gave me permission.

During our problem-solving journey that took us literally around the U.S., I was impressed with the skill of both women to persuade and provide information necessary to keep the process moving along. By the time we got done, I joked it was too bad we couldn't get together over a pizza and celebrate. The final outcome? The phone was restored back into our pool and my faith that as high tech and large our companies grow, they still rely on the basic instincts and good will of employees who still understand that solving problems and being straight-forward and honest with customers while still remaining loyal to the employer is what will continue to make this country great.

Thanks Charlette--thanks Winnie, it was a pleasure meeting you!

PS - you also kept a customer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Weather Night

Well, I didn't have to wait too long to test out some of our severe weather protocols. Tuesday night provided a prolonged opportunity to make sure all our weather information receiving equipment and radio equipment was working.

Weather started moving in shortly after 5:00 p.m. and liked Northfield so well that it just stopped and hung around, literally. I went home at 2:00 the next morning after it looked like the rest of the night would serve up wind and rain but no more. The Tuesday storms serve as a good reminder of the unpredictability of weather. The initial storm that was to pass through Northfield by 8:20 p.m. just stopped for no reason and regenerated over and over again right above is. We watch the storm on the RADAR take an almost animated right-angle turn to just keep hovering around Northfield. Another rapid moving storm moving through the Dakotas was destined to continue to move northeast into Canada before reaching Minnesota, or so we thought. Around 11:30 p.m., that storm stopped made an abrupt right turn and headed straight east..you guessed it toward Northfield.

A number of us worked in the Northfield EOC (emergency operations center) last night. Tim Isom, our Emergency Management Director, Jeff Ringlien our property technician and defacto dispatch expert, CSOs Kris Wilson and Josh Malecha were in and out to see if we needed anything as well as Sergeant Ted Berg and Officers Steve Klostermeier, Rich Bailey and Kevin Tussing who got soaked several times dealing with vehicle accidents and checking potential flood areas of the city for us.

We also were assisted by a number of members of the Northfield Police Reserve and Northfield Area HAM radio operators. All of our volunteer weather spotters are the eyes and ears that verify what we see on the RADAR screen and what we hear from the National Weather Service. Between 5:00 p.m. and Midnight on Tuesday, we received .75 of an inch of rain with most of it coming in about 20 minutes.

I list all this information because without all the many volunteers and staff we have at the Police Department, it would be next to impossible to develop the intelligence information needed to accurately track potential and real storms. They are the key to providing adequate warning time to Northfield residents.

In addition to our local folks, we are in constant communication with both Faribault and Rice County emergency management centers as well as Lonsdale spotters since a lot of our severe weather gets to Lonsdale and follows Highway 19 right into Northfield.

The message in my previous blog still hold true. Have a severe weather plan just like you should have a fire plane for your residence and business. Be prepared...stay alive.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Officer Memorial

Correctional Officer Gabriel Saucedo of the Arizona Department of Corrections died June 3rd of injures received from an accidental gun discharge. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Before and After

A few postings ago, I showed you pictures of Hastings and Grand Island, Nebraska after they had been hit by a storm that was termed a "100 year flood." Here's a photo of a flooded area of Grand Island again. This location is at U.S. Highway 281 and Capitol Avenue. The photo was taken May 12th by a good friend who is an adjuster in that area, Randy Beaty.




Here's a picture my son Chris took last week when we were visiting friends and family in the area. It is the same location that the above picture was taken.




Folks in this area know how to deal with floods. Contrary to common belief, Grand Island has a number of rivers and streams that flow through the community. An unusually wet spring can mean flooding and ground water problems for residents and businesses. By the time we came through, not one business we could find was closed nor was there any indication, other that the water marks on the ditches that the area had been inundated with flood waters about a month prior.

In speaking to a number of people, I learned that folks who survived better than others, helped pitch in to literally bail out their neighbors. There were collapsed basements, flooded schools and churches and rain-soaked businesses. June 3rd was the 25th anniversary of the day 7 tornadoes ripped through Grand Island, killing several people, injuring several hundred and left many homeless. The Grand Island Daily Independent, recently commemorated the event.

The neighborly spirit of the community has won them three All American City Awards and demonstrates the enduring spirit of prairie communities.

On a more local note, we are smack in the middle of severe weather season. On Sunday, the weather radio went of more than a few times with severe thunderstorm watches and warnings as well as a tornado warning for points east of us. Make sure you have an emergency response plan for your family and your employees in the event of severe weather. Organizations sponsoring outdoor sporting events should make sure they advise those in attendance what to do and where to go in the event of bad weather (remember if a tornado strikes, you won't have time to jump in your car and drive someplace). You should practice severe weather drills just as you practice fire drills both at home and at work.

Make sure you have several flashlights with new batteries, a battery powered radio and a good weather radio. Remember an outdoor warning system is just that....an outdoor warning system. The system is not really intended to be heard indoors. That's where a weather radio comes in as well as common sense. If the weather looks threatening, turn on the television. a radio. or monitor your weather radio.

Tim Isom, our Emergency Management Director and other members of our staff would be happy to provide you with tips and information. We also provide weather classes for the general public as well as always on the lookout for more volunteers to serve as weather spotters. Feel free to give us a call at 507-645-4477. The National Weather Service also provides a lot of information at their web site.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also provides a lot of good information on their website.

The key to surviving a disaster or severe weather is planning and preparation. Don't be caught without a plan!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Officer Memorial

FBI Special Agent Robert Hardesty died on June 2nd as a result of a training accident seven days earlier. Agent Hardesty had served with the FBI for 3 years. He had previously served with the Indiana State Excise Police and the Porter County, Indiana Sheriff's Department for 8 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff Roger Lynch, 51, of the Livingston County, Kentucky Sheriff's Department was shot and killed on June 2nd after responding to a domestic assault. Deputy Lynch is survived by his wife and two children. He served his department for five years.

Communications Outage on Thursday

I had quite a few people ask me how public safety was impacted by the outage of telecommunications on Thursday (6-2-05). I'll try to outline how we adjusted after a similar incident took place several years ago when phone lines buried in front of Menards in Dundas were cut by a construction worker during the construction of that building.

All of our data and voice communications with the Pearl Street Dispatch Center in Owatonna travel on these same lines. It's not a homeland security breach to tell you this as the lines are marked with markers to advise people not to dig there, go figure.

After this happened several years ago, we adjusted our voice communications to incorporate a redundant system that allows us to continue to have voice communications with the dispatch center without the need for any phone lines. That info is proprietary and won't be shared here.

The dispatch center loses the ability to dispatch fire services and receive any non-emergency calls when the lines are interrupted. The 911 system was not compromised. As a third level of protection, we can bring the 911 lines back into our emergency operations center and dispatch police and fire if necessary. On Thursday, our office staff fielded non-emergency calls as they do every day and instead of forwarding them to dispatch, they sent it to our emergency operations center where our staff fielded non-emergency calls and dispatched officers as needed.

If any good can be gained from this experience it is the ability for us to test our system. It worked as expected.

I'm not an engineer but I've been told the reason most of the cell and long distance services were lost was because those carriers lease lines from Quest to route their traffic to a switch, usually south of Northfield. The cell phones and long distance carriers do not have local switches in Northfield. I've been told because Quest has a switch office in Northfield, the local calls still work if you are a Quest customer. Obviously, the Internet providers are lost, except cable, when the phone lines outside Northfield are lost.

This scenario is something we plan for and also a deliberate act to disrupt communications. Judging by the number of calls received at the police department and City Hall by frustrated and angry people, not too many people understand how communications systems work. For the most part, with the exception of direct satellite and microwave communications and in our case (point to point radio communications) other stuff won't work. It shows how dependent we are on telecommunications.

And that is the point I want to make. On September 11, 2001, most cell phone traffic and Internet traffic got so heavy that it either got bogged down to the point of uselessness or shut down from an overload. It is expected that any future terrorist activity will directly target Internet and telecommunications to generate on a broader scale, what we experienced in Northfield. Even 911 lines are designed for a predesigned normal usage load. Anytime we have bad weather or some type of event in Northfield, we get complaints people get a busy signal on the 911 line. The reality is that is going to happen.

Additionally, an attack on our communications system on a regional or national level would limit any operable communications systems to emergency and military use only. You can plan on that.

Because of the potential for your inability to communicate by conventional means, it is wise to have a "Plan B" for meeting with your family members or keeping your business operational. Have a meeting point to get together should communications fail. Keep in mind that often, even traffic signals and control devices in larger cities are dependent on Internet connections and may be down. It impacts financial institutions, educational institutions and public services. If your "Plan B" includes cell phones or Internet contact for communication, you may want to rethink your backup plan.

Fortunately, we have a number of HAM radio operators in this area that can assist us with communications outside our region if necessary. There are other options for emergency public safety services. There were more than a few people on Thursday who were calling the police department and city hall wanting to know how they could get emergency messages to family members in surrounding communities. When the nature of the emergency was inquired, most responses were they wanted to let someone know that they could not call them because of the phone outage. The answer most people received was that there probably won't be any way to relay that information. Public safety services and communications will be overwhelmed and will not be able to reach other communities for the purpose of relaying location of individuals or verifying someone is ok. Even if the communications system could handle the load, public safety officials will be busy with traffic congestion and emergency responses brought on by the limited communications capabilities and literally will not have the time or resources to relay messages between individuals. For example, when tornadoes went through Northfield several years ago, the Northfield telephone phone system was overwhelmed by parents calling Northfield to see if their college student kids were ok.

Tim Isom, our Emergency Management Director as well as other members of our staff can help you with information on how to develop your emergency contact plans and are happy to speak to groups and individuals about this topic. You can contact Tim by voice mail at 507-645-44777.

Friday, June 03, 2005

George Mikan

The Minneapolis Star Tribune carried an article on the front page about former Minneapolis Lakers player George Mikan.

It's fitting that Mr. Mikan received front page coverage one more time in Minneapolis. Most of his career took place before I was born but his name was often referenced in conversations about basketball and more important, character. His successes both on and off the court are substantial and he served as an excellent role model many years after he left the game.

Watergate Flashbacks - Mark Felt

For some of you, this post is probably a history lesson, for others closer to my age, it probably takes on a bit more significance.

Deep Throat from the Woodward/Bernstein - Washington Post Watergate era turns out to be the former #2 guy at the FBI: Retired Agent Mark Felt.

That's significant on a number levels. First, J. Edgar Hoover ingrained into his top administrators to never go outside the organization with information- ever. The fact that his second in command did so speaks to the grave circumstances in which our country was engulfed. Second, there is a culture in many law enforcement circles that really ostracizes anyone who "goes outside" with information or issues. It's easy to see why Mark Felt didn't want to be identified as the person who provided the information to the Post. Third, these days, there is a good chance that a person in the same position would face criminal prosecution because of recent court decisions of the ability of supervisors and managers to public disclose information when forbidden to do so by superiors.

Current federal law and past court decisions make it increasingly difficult for managers and supervisors to disclose information to the public, media or to other officials without facing termination. So-called whistle-blower statutes generally do not apply to senior management officials either in the private or public sector.

The speculation has already started with respect to whether the motivation to disclose the information that ultimately brought down the President of the United States was altruistic or self-motivated revenge. I'm sure the commentary by political pundits will continue for some time.

On several occasions, I've referenced what I believe is of paramount importance for police administrators to keep their communities informed of issues that involve their safety and quality of life. I've been fortunate in my career to have always worked for honorable, respectable individuals so I've never been faced with the dilemma of having to go against a direct order for the sake of public safety. I know a few police chiefs and city administrators who have and faced a difficult time of it. The old saying "It's better to be hated for doing the right thing than to be loved for doing the wrong thing" sounds sensible but when faced with the consequences of doing the right thing, it requires a solid ethical base and a commitment to be willing to risk security and a livelihood to do so. I think that Felt did the right thing.

Fortunately, our history has shown we still have individuals of character who choose the latter.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Officer Memorial

Agent Wayne Expensive Muniz of the Puerto Rico Police Department, Puerto, Rico died on Wednesday, May 25th of an accidental gunshot while he responded to a call for assistance. Officer Muniz had served with the police department for 6.5 years. He is survived by his expectant wife and 2-year old daughter.

Deputy Sheriff Glen Brignac of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Department of Evangeline Parish, Louisiana died in an automobile accident on Wednesday, June 1st. At the time of his death, he was responding to a call for assistance. Deputy Brignac had served the department for three years.