A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Northfield Curfew

One of the features that comes with the host sight for this weblog is the ability to view what key words people are using to search for information that brings them to my weblog. One of the major used key phrase this week was "Northfield curfew laws." ironically, I had a conversation yesterday with several people who were interested in the same topic.

Here is the ordinance:
Sec. 50-116. Curfew for minors.

(a) The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this section, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this subsection, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
Public parks and walkways includes Sechler Park; Odd Fellows Park; Central Park; Babcock Park; Way Park; Riverside Park; Cherry Park; Sibley Marsh; Sibley Swale; Bridge Square; Riverwalkway from Second Street to Fifth Street; River Pedestrian Bridge; and any park, playground or walkway maintained by the city.
Public places includes public streets, parking lots, highways, roads, alleys, public buildings and grounds; places of amusement, refreshment or entertainment; vacant lots; or other unsupported places.
Responsible adult includes a parent, legal guardian, or his/her adult designee, having care and custody of a minor under the age of 18 or any adult having responsibility for a supervised activity.
Supervised activity includes events sponsored and supervised by schools, churches or civic groups or events where a responsible adult is present.
(b) No minor under the age of 16 shall loiter, loaf or be idle in a public place or public park or walkway between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. of the following day unless in the company of a responsible adult or going to, attending, or returning from a supervised activity.
(c) No minor under the age of 18 and over the age of 15 shall loiter, loaf or be idle in a public place or park or walkway between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. the following day unless in the company of a responsible adult or going to, attending, or returning from a supervised event.
(d) No parent, legal guardian or other adult having the care and custody of a minor under the age of 18 shall knowingly permit such minor to violate subsection (b) or (c) of this section.
(e) No person operating or in charge of any place of amusement, entertainment, or refreshment shall knowingly permit any minor under the age of 18 to loiter, loaf or be idle in such place during the hours prohibited by this section. This subsection shall not apply when the minor is accompanied by his/her parents, legal guardian, or other adult having the care and custody of the minor.
(f) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the minor was:
(1) On an errand at the direction of the minor's parent or guardian, without any detour or stop;
(2) In a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel;
(3) Engaged in an employment activity, or going to or returning home from an employment activity, without any detour or stop;
(4) Involved in an emergency;
(5) On the sidewalk abutting the minor's residence or abutting the residence of a next-door neighbor if the neighbor did not complain to the police department about the minor's presence;
(6) Attending an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the school district, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor; or going to or returning home from, without any detour or stop, an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the city, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor; or
(7) Exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States Constitution, such as the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and the right of assembly.
(g) Any person violating any provision of this section shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor and punished by a fine of not more than $100.00.
(Code 1986, §§ 930:00--930:20)

You can view city ordinances and the charter on line at: http://www.municode.com/resources/gateway.asp?pid=13439&sid=23

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Late Season Scenery

I was returning from visiting my parents in Arkansas on Wednesday. I stopped at a rest stop just inside the Iowa border and noticed that it apparently had been cool enough the night before to turn some of the leaves. They possessed the crispness of color only found the morning after the first frost along the prairie.

Here's a sample of what I saw:

I took a moment to stretch my legs and walked along the path that ran along a fence line adjacent to a few picnic shelters. What caught my eye was a small, lone tree with yellow leaves framed by two taller trees displaying dark maroon leaves. It was about 10:00 in the morning. The crispness of the cold night air was still hanging just above the ground. Despite the noise level of vehicles passing nearby, the coolness of the view momentarily blocked out the noise so I could concentrate on the solitude of that one tree among the prairie grass. It was almost like I could reach out and touch the coolness of the scene much like I'm sure it looked like years before there was an interstate running by. The old fence in the background added to the durability of what I saw.

As I was traveling North of Des Moines,Iowa, the cloudy sky broke into what appeared to almost be a washboard pattern of cool blue sky and white clouds. It's another view seen on a prairie. Sorry about the light poles and buildings but since stopping on the Interstate is forbidden, I pulled into the rest stop at Dows, Iowa to get these pictures:

It's a Midwestern thing I guess, but the beauty of the open prairie is unique to the region and I always appreciate the chance to travel through this time of year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Officer Memorials

Detective Michael D. Thomas, 52, of the Aurora, Colorado Police Department was killed on Wednesday, September 20th after he was shot and killed by a suspect who opened fire on him while he sat a traffic light at an intersection.

Detective Thomas had served his agency for 24 years. He is survived by his daughter, mother and brother.

Deputy Sheriff Robert E. Green, 27, of the Powhatan County, Virginia Sheriff's Office killed in an automobile accident on September 20th.

Deputy Green served his agency for 7 years. He is survived by his wife and 3-year-old son.

Officer Rodney Johnson, 40, of the Houston, Texas Police Department was shot and killed after taking a suspect into custody during a traffic stop.

Officer Johnson served his agency for 12 years. He is survived by his wife, who is also a Houston Police Officer, and their three daughters and two sons.

More Feedback on Gang Issues

Here are two responses I've received that are pretty representative of what I've been receiving the past several days regarding my previous response to one comment I received. Here was the initial comment and my response. I did not correct grammatical errors in the statements:

Comment: Ahh, diversity. Regarding your comments about the gang problem in Northfield; yeah, those darned Norwegians, every time you get a bunch of them together you just know there's gonna be trouble. To even mention this is to reveal that you have been afflicted by political correctness. Look, I love Mexicans, I count them among my friends and family. But, to deny that ethnicity plays a role is to stick your head in the sand; or worse. Was there a REAL gang problem when the townsfolk were all of European descent? As a law officer, you should certainly be aware of the saying: "Just the facts." When we obfuscate issues with feel good rhetoric, we are in no way helping the situation.

Here is my response:

Actually there were problems before Hispanics and Asians arrived in Northfield, according to Maggie Lee in the Northfield News, Northfield has the proud distinction of having a chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. So here are the facts that you referenced. If we were sticking our heads in the sand, there wouldn't have been an informational meeting and I certainly would not want to post the topic in my weblog. Let's not also forget the hanging of a black male in Duluth simply because he was guilty of being black and convenient to pin the blame on for another man's crime. The message I was trying to convey was that to simply lump someone into the category of a gang member simply because of their race, gender or ethnicity or because of the way they look is for one thing illegal and it certainly not ethical. You might be interested to know the first identified gang member to fit the state criteria back in 1999 in Northfield was a white male...a local resident.

Here are the two recent comments:

Comment: One white guy who meets state criteria does not a gang "problem" make. How many members constituted this "chapter" of the klan? A few drunken idiots
is far more likely. There may have been problems before the massive influx
of Hispanics and Asians, but I'm certain if you reference crime history you
will find a measurable increase since the change. To be sure, not all
members of any particular group, *bar muslims, should be lumped together as
suspect. But to state that race has nothing to do with the current gang
problem is factually incorrect.

Pity, I was not aware that the good people of Northfield were responsible for the lynching in Duluth.

*Read the Koran, Hadith, and other pertinent Islamic texts.

And The Second:

Comment: Chief Smith ... I attended Carleton in the early 60's and was amazed to hear of the recent article about gangs in Northfield. I just found your blog and want to tell you how impressed I am at both the fact you have a blog for citizens, but also the fair and objective way you're dealing with the gang issue. I wish you the best. Northfield is in good hands!

To wrap this up, I'll simply restate that gang behavior as was discussed has been going on for several centuries. It had very little to do with the groups currently identified. The causation factors: both social and economic basically remain the same. Competent law enforcement officials view the criminal activity with an impartial view; gathering the facts and appropriate intelligence information. The focus of our younger kids should be education and prevention, unfortunately there is precious little of that going around. The enforcement has and will continue to center on criminal conspiracy with the goal of removing those criminals from our communities through the criminal justice system.

The response has been encouraging. That means people are engaged and hopefully that will translate to a review of public policy and those safeguards that would keep our kids out of gangs.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pioneer Press Article About Gangs

Ruben Rosario, who writes for the Pioneer Press, wrote a Friday column on the meeting last Tuesday at the NCRC about gang issues in Rice County. If you get a moment, you may want to check it out.

For a point of clarification, I wasn't the police chief in Grand Island as the article states. I did work there for 18 years.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Interesting Piece on James Gang

Those of you interested in the Great Northfield Bank Raid will want to read this recent article by Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario. It appears that the Minnesota Historical Society has a Stillwater Prison book that chronicles the incarceration of some of the infamous failed bank raiders.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More On Severe Weather Issues

I will give credit to WCCO TV for their coverage of Saturday night's storm on their Monday night 10 p.m. newscast. Other than referring to the outdoor warning system as "tornado sirens" the report was quite balanced and provided a good educational opportunity to let viewers know that the warning system is an outdoor warning system, that storms are unpredictable and often occur without warning and that people need to watch existing conditions and stay alert.

Unfortunately, an article in the Star Tribune today reports that Senator Mark Dayton's office is calling for an investigation of the National Weather Service to have an outside investigation why they didn't issue a tornado warning.

First: the National Weather Service doesn't sound any sirens, they issue the warnings that emergency management personnel use as ONE of the tools to determine when to activate a warning. There was a tornado watch issued earlier in the afternoon on Saturday for nearly the entire state of Minnesota so the Senator is incorrect on this one.

Second: nature doesn't always play by the rules. The equipment can only track what is visible to the RADAR. That is why people need to pay attention to the weather in their neighborhoods.

Third: the implication that the weather service is incapable of conducting its own review smacks of politics or ignorance. It is unfortunate that this action will add to the misunderstandings of those who rely on the weather service and frustrating for those of us involved in emergency management. As someone who has worked as a weather spotter, it's next to impossible to see tornadic activity in the dark, during a rain storm. Most of the spotters are volunteers and Senator Dayton's remarks are a slap in the face to those who risk their safety both in public safety as well as those who volunteer to keep their neighbors safe.

If Senator Dayton wants to help out, he may want to consider funding programs that would upgrade local warning systems, provide adequate funding for equipment and personnel at the various weather service stations throughout the United States and help support the educational programs available through FEMA and state and local government emergency management organizations.

It's healthy to do an after-incident review to learn from the event to try to make sure things work better next time. It is counterproductive to make accusations without having any knowledge of what is going on.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Misinformation on Metro Television Stations on Last Night's Storms

I was watching the 10 p.m. news on one of the local metro television stations and they made a couple very dangerous errors in reporting on the storms that happened last night.

First: The station referred to the outdoor warning system as "tornado" sirens. One of the uses of an outdoor warning system is to alert residents to a storm, usually a tornado, but they can also alert residents to other hazards. That is why it is absolutely necessary for residents to tune to a local radio station to find out why the sirens are sounding.

Second: The station gave the impression that something was wrong because people could not hear the sirens in their homes. The systems are outdoor notification systems, designed to warn people in vehicles and outside where they might otherwise not have advance warning of an emergency. It would be next to impossible to have enough sirens in a community to breath through all the insulation, construction, headphones and noise inside a home or business.

Third: The station gave the impression that the sirens are to always sound before an emergency. A tornado or high winds can, as they did last night, occur with little or no notice. In this case the National Weather Service had no advance RADAR notification of the tornado that hit the northern suburbs. The previous tornado in Northfield a few years ago came down without any warnings from the National Weather Service. Darkness makes this more dangerous because spotters out watching storm developments cannot see forming wall clouds or funnel clouds. Compound the situation with the heavy rains received last night and it shows that nature still often has the upper hand over technology.

Fourth: The station made no mention of the fact that the National Weather Service had been posting the notice of potential severe weather in our area for 48 hours before the storms formed. People really need to pay attention to storm developments, just as you should pay attention to developing winter storm conditions before you leave for work or for a trip.

Fifth: The station didn't mention that they had been broadcasting severe weather warnings since early in the afternoon, unfortunately, if you were watching cable or satellite stations that were not local television stations, you probably weren't aware of the developing storm. Technology exists that would allow the notification of cable and satellite customers on all channels but the companies choose not to do so because of cost. Efforts to require providers to do so have been regularly defeated in Congress. The FCC has chosen not to require providers to do so. There is a device called "EAS" Emergency Activation System that will automatically broadcast the warning from the weather service and can scroll across the screen without human intervention. Most stations have this equipment right now.

Sixth: The station did a disservice by not emphasizing the need to purchase a weather radio. The weather radio is tied to the National Weather Service. Mine started going off around 3pm on Saturday afternoon. The radio allows you to hear about potential warnings and severe weather notices.

Seventh: Do not go outside during a tornado or severe storm to video. Fifteen minutes of fame of having your video shown on a local TV station isn't worth your life. Stations should stop showing amateur video to discourage people from taking this dangerous chance.

Bottom line: Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their families. You should be aware of developing weather conditions at you location. If they look threatening, tune to a local television or radio station. Use your weather radio to monitor weather conditions. If conditions look threatening, seek shelter. Don't wait for a warning alert. Often it is too late to allow you time to seek shelter. Plan ahead and have severe weather drills just as you should be practicing fire drills. Know your safe room in your home, or know where you need to go if you must leave your home for shelter. Know what to do in the event of storm if you are traveling in a car.

Ready.com is a good place to help you form your family emergency plan. If you would like to have us sponsor a training session for your neighborhood, give us a call at the Northfield Police Department at 507-645-4477 or contact Tim Isom or myself by email. Likewise if you are interested in forming a CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) with your neighbors get in touch with us. For those of you not living in Northfield, contact your local law enforcement agency for additional information.

The goal to preventing injury during severe weather is preparation and education.

One final commentary. Within minutes of the tornado touchdown in Rogers, Minnesota, one local television station was at the scene interviewing victims who had just lost their home. The reporter stuck a cell phone in the face of a young girl who appeared to be about 12 years old who was obviously in shock. Shame on the report for exploiting the child. There were plenty of adults and footage there to show. Likewise showing the frustration of people who are trying to get their lives together in the first 24 hours who might say something totally out of context is unfortunate. In the training I've received in emergency management response activities, the first concern responders have is the physical and mental health of the survivors. At a time when such type of reporting can serve to be an excellent learning tool, it's unfortunate that scooping the other station takes precedent over professionalism.

A '72 Chevelle, Texas, and A Cracked Engine Block

I was discussing the challenges of having teens driving cars with a person this past week. We discussed the challenges of getting teens interested in the maintenance part of driving a car. It's all part of the learning process on their way to adulthood. I confess I have a bit of an advantage in this area. I have a younger sister and brother to help instruct. I was the kid who hung around his grandads and dad when they talked cars and when they worked on them. In First Grade, I used to ride my bike down to the local tire store and sit on the stoop with my Grandad Smith and his associates. By the time I was seven, I knew on site most makes and models of every car on the road. This wasn't the case with my siblings. At that point in my life, I still found crawling under cars, getting pretty darned dirty an enjoyable experience. I now know why most automotive centers cater to the 40 and older crowd. By that age, they have burned themselves out on the shade tree mechanic thing...anyway I digress.

I had found my then 16 year old brother a 1972 Chevy Chevelle Tudor. It was a terrible pea green color and had bench seats but it had a converted 454 cubic inch engine and a 4 speed transmission. It was tired and needed a lot of attention. I figured it would be a good bonding experience for us and it was a fairly straightforward process to obtain used parts as we found parts at junk yards...the kind where you drove in, found the wreck you wanted and took the parts off yourself. By the time we got done, my brother Dave, had a red Chevelle SS with a black fake leather interior with bucket seats, courtesy of a wrecked Pontiac Lemans. The car looked good and it ran ok. I kept after Dave to watch the engine and keep the fluids full as it had a lot of miles on it and wouldn't take a whole lot of strain...yeah I know...I told that to a 16 year old male.

Well, one day, Dave showed up and he had belts, hoses, spark plugs...you name it. He said he wanted to take me up on the tune up.We set about changing the belts etc. It came time to fill the engine coolant up. I told Dave to pour in the coolant and add water and I would be right back. I went into the house to make a call. When I came back out five minutes later...Dave was still filling up the radiator...not a good sign.

My big brother RADAR went off as my brother and his friends sheepishly stood around as I asked my brother if he had encountered any engine trouble lately. He finally told me that he had broken a radiator hose and the car had "overheated just a little." Upon further cross examination...er...inquiry, I learned that they had driven the poor thing about 3 miles to get water....cold water to put into the car. With that bit of information, I pulled one of the newly installed spark plugs and you guessed it....water. So...the weekend became a rebuilding weekend. A new smaller 327 cubic inch motor, a new clutch plate and Dave was good to go again.

It was a pain in the neck. I could have really been mad since I had warned him...but I didn't. It turned out to be one of the few times we actually got to work together on a project that ultimately provided a decent mode of transportation for a few more years.

So, as I enter the next phase of helping keep my kids' cars working, I'll try to remember that '72 Chevelle experience and keep my patience and build some new memories.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rough Weather In Northfield Tonight

It's 11:19 p.m. as I compost this post. The bulk of the rain has passed for now. According to our Emergency Management Director, Tim Isom, Northfield received a quarter inch of rain in less than 20 minutes. Here's a picture of what the National Weather Services RADAR looked like a few minutes ago.

There have been a number of weather watches and warnings for the central and southeastern part of Minnesota but not as severe as what is happening in the northern suburbs around Minneapolis and St. Paul. The city of Rogers, MN was reporting property damage and Anoka County has sustained some damage, according to local reports on KARE 11 TV.

I suspect that given the severe weather experienced in Northfield a few weeks ago. Most people around here are keeping a closer watch on the weather. Given the fact that a lot of homes are undergoing residing and installation of new roofs. I strongly suggest you keep track of the 3 day forecasts. This storm showed up on the forecast several days ago. You can access the National Weather Service site to obtain local information.

I've had several people ask me about why there is such severe weather this late in the season. The reality is that we can expect severe weather in the form of thunderstorms and potential tornadoes well into November and even later, depending on the temperatures and jetstream activity.

Bottom line: pay attention to the weather, especially if you are traveling, working outside, roofing your house or involved in outdoor activities.

On a side note, I thought you would be interested in knowing what kind of calls our police officers were trying to deal with at the height of the downpour: 1. Trying to work with a dispatcher to get a motorist to Northfield Estates; 2. A report of a domestic disturbance and a possible assault; 3. Erratic driving complaint; and 4. A vehicle driving down highway 3 with no trailer lights.

Generally with heavy rain, wind and lightning, you can add a number of calls that dispatchers will get via 911 lines ( ties up emergency lines) wanting to know about weather alerts and storm information. Unfortunately this practices is dangerous. First, it ties up our 911 emergency lines; Second, it ties up the dispatchers from answering emergency calls and emergency radio traffic from police officers, fire personnel and emergency medical staff. The dispatchers basically have access to the same information you do....the television, radio, and weather web sites.

It would appear that we can expect some more rain, heavy at times and some wind. Hopefully that will be all we get. As are most Northfield residents, I'm hoping that the temporary fixes to my roof and vents will hold on until the contractor gets them fixed from the last storm!

The Breeze

I was up late tonight waiting for my son, Chris, to get back from an out of town football game. The wind blowing through the open window caught my attention. The breeze was cool and crisp. It reminded me of a time years ago when I had just returned to Nebraska, having spent the summer with my mom in Texas.

It was the summer of 1973 and I was staying at my Grandparents Johnson's farm in Harvard, Nebraska until I could find an apartment to move into and ready myself for my first semester of college. It was mid-June so summer hadn't killed the cool evening nights yet. As I lay in one of my grandma's feather beds, I listened to the breeze blow through the second story Victorian-style windows. The air had the freshness that fills your head to give you that almost giddy feeling: just like after waking up from a short nap. The only sound I could hear was the wind blowing through the screen, gently flowing the cotton curtains back and forth in rhythm with the breath of the night air.

I got up and looked out the window. There were no man made lights. Just the reflection of the cosmos on a summer night carrying just a hint of a storm brewing from the west. The moon cast a lunar shadow on the cornfields and the outbuildings. It was one of those moments when time almost stopped. I thought about the future and what it might hold. I realized that night that no matter where I went or what I did, there would always be an attachment to these Nebraska summer nights. The land fills your soul and never leaves you. A farm makes no pretenses, it is the epitome of a life cycle: birth, life and death.

For now, I'm going to savor that crisp night air and listen for that distant sound of the thunder as the wind wraps itself around me and whispers the secret of its approach in my ear and savor a fond memory.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Officer Memorials

Police Officer Raul Canales-Mundo, 52, of the Carolina Municipal Police Department, Puerto Rico was shot and killed on September 4th when he attempted to intervene in a robbery of a local store.

Officer Canales-Mundo had served his department for 24 years. He is survived by his seven children and parents.

Police Officer Edwatin A. Thomas, 28, died on September 12th of a heart attack while struggling with a suspect in a home. He was assisting paramedics with a combative patient.

Officer Thomas had been with his department for 9 months and had previously served with the Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Police Department.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

September 11th

I received an inquiry why I hadn't posted a September 11th memorial this year given it is the fifth anniversary of the attack.

I thought about what to do this year and decided to not revisit the photos or individuals: not because any of the pain or loss of those who no longer have their loved ones has diminished; rather the heroism and loss experienced that day is something that should be remembered throughout each year.

The strength of every person lost that day is celebrated in the lives of those left to carry on. Each person who looks to the future with a deep understanding of the past helps to keep their spirit alive.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday is the Culmination

Sunday is the culmination of months of hard work on the part of local Northfield residents who have planned all year to finish off the annual Defeat of Jesse James Days with a couple bank raids (reenactments of course) and an excellent parade.

The weather has been on the cool side but it hasn't diminished the enthusiasm of the participants or our visitors. Even more amazing, by Monday morning, it will be difficult to look around and realize that nearly a quarter-million visitors came through Northfield since last Thursday: thanks to all the volunteers and our city public works division.

I'd also like to thank our officers at the Northfield Police Department for their extra effort this year, given our staffing shortages. Thanks also goes out to Rice County Sheriff Dick Cook and Faribault Police Chief Mike Lewis as well as Dakota County Sheriff Don Gudmundson for providing much needed assistance throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Officer Memorials

Police Officer Jonathan(AJ) Schroeder, 37, of the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department was shot and killed while he and fellow officers attempted to serve a warrant on a male suspect wanted for rape and burglary.

Officer Schroeder served his department for 10 years. He is survived by his wife and 10-month-old son.

Agent Jose Luis Martinez-Torres, of the Puerto Rico Police Department was struck and killed by a drunk driver on January 20th.

Special Deputy Gary L. Martin
, 63, of the Lake County, Indiana Sheriff's Department was struck and killed while he was participating in a charity bicycle ride for the Indiana Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors. Deputy Martin had served his agency for 28 years and 7 months. He is survived by his wife, a son, a daughter, two brothers, and three sisters.

Corporal Robert T. Krauss, 39, of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department died of injuries inflicted 8 months ago when his motorcycle was struck by a vehicle as he escorted a funeral procession.

Corporal Krauss had served his department for 18 years. He is survived by his wife, parents, and brother.

Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo, 32, of the New York State Police, died September 3rd after succumbing to a gunshot wound inflicted two days earlier when he and another trooper were ambushed while searching for an escaped convict.

Trooper Longobardo served his agency for 8 years. He is survived by his wife and 1-year-old son. He was also a member of the Air National Guard.