A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What's In A Name?

A recent story in the Northfield News made reference to our School Resource Officer. A number of folks asked why some educators refer to this position as a "School Liaison Officer."

It's a matter of perspective and sometimes bias.

In the 1970's and early 80's police departments began to integrate police officers in and around schools in an attempt to prevent violence and bridge a gap that was ever-widening between kids and police. The lessons of the 1960's were quite telling that cops and kids always didn't seem to get along. Literally the term" school liaison officer" was intended to begin the building process. By the mid-1980's though the thought of an officer being on a school campus didn't conjure up fears of parents and hopefully must educators began to see the merit of having an officer available to kids as a resource....hence the change "school resource officer."

The difference in terms may seem trivial to you but it means a heck of a lot to us in the policing profession. A resource officer is someone who can be a source of information and at times, reassurance. The presence of a resource officer means they may present in classrooms, be at lunch or afterschool activities. Their primary purpose is not really to be there for enforcement or serve as a hall monitor but rather be seen as a person of trust and someone who is accessible.
The Minnesota Legislature saw enough merit in the process to allow local school districts to assess a crime levy to help at that time, support the DARE Program. The legislation was later changed to allow school districts to use all or part of those funds for non-law enforcement related staff like parking lot security people. Our local district currently does pay for a portion of our school resource officer's time.

Most folks around U.S. schools simply use the old term out of habit. A few probably would prefer to have it the old way. It's often hard to give up some of that perceived power to an "outsider." Cops learned the merit of this push of power to stakeholders some time ago. It's part of the engagement of the community and our kids and young adults have as much right to assess police services anyone. The hope that officers are seen as a resource and an individual who can be trusted and respected means a lot.

Thirty years of this practice seems to bear out the successes. No longer do officers walk down the street and hear that old saying from parents: "If you don't behave that officer will arrest you."

Monte Nelson, who is currently an investigator with our department has told me on many occasions how kids still approach him, many of them now adults, and ask him how he is doing and want to fill him in on their lives. Monte spent a number of years as a school resource officer here in Northfield as did Sergeant Mark Murphy, Officers Jeff Gigstad, Josh Laber and Jody Spinner.

Our current officer in the schools is Thad Monroe. Thad brings his own personality and talents to the position as does each officer who is willing to make her or his "beat" the schools. There are success stories and there are sad stories. We would like to think our School Resource Officers make a difference. In a district like Northfield, we could actually use two of them. Hopefully someday that will be possible. We'd like to get the opportunity to spend time with more of the elementary students, possibly with DARE or other programs. Our trained officers are standing by ready and willing.

We are fortunate to have local administrators in our district and dedicated educators who are willing to invite us into their buildings. It is a privilege to be part of the effort to make our kids successful while we strive to keep them safe.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Officer Memorial

Detective Juan Serrano, 49, of the Tampa, Florida Police Department was killed when his vehicle was struck by a hit and run driver on February 25th.

Detective Serrano had served his department for 17 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Officer Memorial

Police Officer Jared Jensen, 30, of the Colorado Springs, Colorado Police Department was shot and killed while trying to question a man who matched the description of a suspect in an assault.

Officer Jensen had served his department for 3 years. He is survived by his wife.

My condolences to Chief Luis Velez and the members of his department.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sharing The Information on Drugs

I attended a meeting in Owatonna today that was scheduled by our drug task force (South Central Drug Investigations Unit). The meeting was designed to provide information about our task force and the concern about continued funding. The meeting was well attended by a number of local, state and federal elected officials and/or their aides.

The message: The most recent budget proposals and deficit reduction legislation on the federal level have cut funding from the Bryne Grants and other funding sources that have funded drug task forces, domestic violence programs, victims assistance programs, early intervention programs, treatment programs and other programs that are locally-based to meet the specific needs of respective communities.

We hope that by providing an opportunity for dialogue and information will help those who set policy and funding to consider the impacts of limited or no funding for the multi-facited approach to our drug and violence problems.

Northfield P.D. is proud to be the current coordinating agency for our 5 county drug task force.

I appreicate everyone taking the time to attend the meeting.

Officer Memorial

Special Agent Daniel J. Kuhlmeier of the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations was killed when the vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device while on a counterintelligence mission in Baghdad, Iraq.

Agent Kuhlmeier had volunteered for deployment to Iraq. He is survived by his wife and 3-year-old daughter.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Officer Memorial

Trooper Kevin C. Manion, 27, of the Virginia State Police was accidentally shot and killed while assisting another trooper investigating a single vehicle accident on Saturday, February 18th. While a vehicle that had gone into a ditch was being towed, a rifle inside the truck discharged, striking Trooper Manion in the chest.

Trooper Manion had served his agency 2 years and 8 months.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Paradoxical Commandments

My wife, Ruth, happened across a book in the bargain bin at a local supermarket entitled Anyway - The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith. I seem to recall some of them from a time ago but thought they were worth putting in this space.

People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Officer Memorial

Officer Earl Scott, 36, of the California Highway Patrol was shot and killed while making a traffic stop on February 17th.

Officer Scott had served his agency for five years. He is survived by his father, stepmother, and sister.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Officer Memorial

Special Deputy Stephen Hahn, 62, of the Eau Claire County, Wisconsin Sheriff's Office was killed on Thursday February 16th in an automobile accident while transporting a prisoner.

Deputy Hahn has served as a captain for the Eau Claire Police Department for 31 years and served his current department for 9 years. He is survived by a wife and two children.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Officer Memorial

Deputy Sheriff Stacy McMurrough, 32, of the Lafayette County, Arkansas Sheriff's Department died in an automobile accident while traveling to assist another deputy at a domestic assault.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Duty, Honor & Courage

It was an honor this evening to receive an invitation to attend a dinner at the American Legion recognizing the return of many of our local members of the Guard from their tour of duty in Iraq.

It was my honor to sit among the men and women who have sacrificed and served our country. I conveyed the thanks of the community for their efforts and the satisfaction knowing they arrived home safely.

This was a night to honor an age-old tradition in our country. Recognizing the efforts of our women and men who volunteer to keep our country safe, regardless of the politics, regardless of their feelings; they posses a love of country great enough to sacrifice time with their families and their lives in the name of liberty.

You don't hear the words "duty, honor, and courage" all that much any more. It's all about character and not about political correctness. It's all about commitment to a higher standard than compromise for status quo. These fine soldiers and their families are heroes in the first degree and it was a privilege to be among them this evening.

It's What You Read Into It

I was invited to be a guest reader at Greenvale School last night during their winter event. I was invited to read at Sibley last month.

It's a good time; reading to the younger participants. It's heartening to see families attending the events and having a good time. The school was packed with soon-to-be exhausted kids and parents.

I'm looking forward to next month's event at Bridgewater elementary.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I had an opportunity to sit in on a lunch meeting with some area law enforcement officers and county probation officers. I don't have the luxury to make all the meetings but I do try to make a few of them each year. It might surprise you to know that area law enforcement officers in Rice County regularly meet with Rice County Community Corrections Officers. It's an opportunity to learn about individuals on probation and an opportunity for probation officers to learn about what their clients might be up to in the community.

It's another example of the excellent working relationship established between members of the criminal justice system in our area.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Officer Memorial

Officer Jim Sell, of the Gassville, Arkansas Police Department was shot and killed on February 4th after making a traffic stop on a suspect involved in a multiple shooting in New Bedford Massachusetts on February 1st.

Officer Sell had worked for the Blytheville Police Department for 25 years before retiring as a captain in 2000. He had been serving with the Gassville Police Department for 3 years.

My parents live in Flippin, Arkansas which is just down the road from Gassville. Gassville has 3 full time officers and two part-time officers as well as several reserve officers. I've met several of the officers in that area and they do an extraordinary job of policing with very little backup and even fewer resources. My condolences to Officer Sell's family and coworkers.

This incident serves as an example that even in an area known as a resort destination, officers lives are at risk on a daily basis.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Excuse Me Mr. Ahmadinejad--The Holocaust Happened

I am absolutely amazed by the reports coming out of Iran of the denial of the current president of that country, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; stating that he feels the Holocaust never happened. I remember a freshman social studies teacher by the name of Jim Barth who showed us a number of movies that had to do with the Holocaust. He told us it was important for us to know the horrors of the murder of thousands of Jews in the name of ethnic purity by German Nazis. The outrageous comments by Ahmadinejad reinforces the need to never forget.

I wrote the following piece for the Northfield News a while back. I think it is relevant to place it here again. My question for Ahmadinejad: if the Holocaust never happened, explain the woman's circumstance in this experience.

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.

Ahmadinejad's comments prove there is still the danger for racism and hatred to threaten the rest of us. The Ahmadinejads of the world give fuel to the racisists and fanitics just looking for an excuse to murder in the name of "racial purity."

It's sick.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Officer Memorial

Sergeant Henry Prendes, 37, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was shot and killed after responding to a domestic violence call on February 1st.

Sergeant Prendes served his department for 14 years.

A Sad Note

This is a picture of my wife, Ruth(left) and her mom, Jan Leech, taken last summer in North Platte, Nebraska which is where Ruth's family is from. Jan passed away Tuesday after a battle with cancer. She will be missed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Officer Memorial

Police Officer Kevin Lee, 31, of the New York City Police Department suffered a heart attack after a foot pursuit on January 27th.

Officer Lee had served his department for 15 years. He is survived by his wife and 6-year-old son.