A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Officer Memorial

Sheriff James L. Johnson, 54, of the Sheridan County, Kansas Sheriff's Office was shot and killed on October 26th while dealing with a mentally ill person.

Sheriff Johnson had served as the sheriff for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and five adult children.

Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey V. Mitchell
, 38, of the Sacramento County, California Sheriff's Department was shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop.

Deputy Mitchell served his department for 9 years. He is survived by his wife and 6-year-old son.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Officer Memorials

Police Officer Dan Picagli, 38, of the New Haven, Connecticut Police Department died on October 21st from injuries he sustained when he was struck by a vehicle directing traffic on October 17th.

Officer Picagli had served his agency for 17 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Deputy Sheriff Margena Silvia Nunez, 44, of the Lee County, Florida Sheriff's Office was killed on October 22nd when a vehicle being operated by an intoxicated driver collided with her patrol car.

Deputy Nunez had served her agency for seven years. She is survived by her husband and two children.

Police Officer II Landon Dorris, 48, of the Los Angeles Police Department was killed on October 22nd when he was struck by a vehicle while conducting a traffic accident investigation.

Officer Dorris has served his agency for three and a half years and had served previously for six years with the California Highway Patrol. He is survived by his fiancee and two sons.

Police Officer Mary Smith, 48, of the Fairfield, Alabama Police Department was shot and killed on October 23rd while checking on a suspicious vehicle.

Officer Smith had served her department for two months and had served the Birmingham Police Department for 21 years.

Police Officer Patrick Kramer, 29, of the West Yellowstone, Montana Police Department was killed in an automobile accident on October 22nd.

Officer Kramer had served his department for two years. He is survived by his 3-year-old daughter.

Police Officer Thomas Wood
, 37, of the Maywood, Illinois Police Department was shot and killed on October 23rd as he sat in his squad car.

Officer Wood had served his department for 7 years. He had served previously as a reserve officer for the Schiller Park Police Department for four years.

He is survived by his wife, two children, three stepchildren, a brother and a grandfather.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I attended the Rice/Scott Counties MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) awards banquet that was held this evening in Faribault. Each law enforcement agency in both counties were provided the opportunity to nominate two officers who displayed exceptional dedication to the enforcement of drunk driving laws as well as public education and outreach. Our officers nominated Officers Thad Monroe and Kevin Tussing. Both Thad and Kevin are deserving of the award. Both officers display exceptional dedication to the enforcement of laws to keep drunk drivers off the street. Both Thad and Kevin also work in the education and prevention aspects as well.

I'm proud of both officers. Northfield is fortunate to have fine officers of this caliber on our police department!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Busy Weekend

My wife Ruth and I celebrated a belated 24th anniversary evening out over the weekend since I was out of town last week. We drove up to Chanhassen to attend the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. The production we attended had to do with mid-life crises. A tongue-in-cheek look at growing older. Suffice to say, that while laughing through the production, it was easy to identify with a lot of the experiences they portrayed.

It was an enjoyable evening and even a bit nostalgic as we used to regularly attend a local dinner theatre after we were first married while living in Grand Island, Nebraska.

We also celebrated our daughter Sarah's 15th birthday Sunday one day early because of Monday school and work commitments. My son Chris and I attended a newly released movie entitled The Prestige. We decided it was worth the 3.5 stars reviewers have given it as opposed to some of the recent movies we've been rather disappointed in, such as The Black Dahlia.

So much for weekend family activities. I'll try to return to more criminal justice-related topics starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Police Service Vehicles

Several blogs ago, I posted information regarding innovations in police vehicles. I've posted several photos of different types of police vehicles below. The vehicles on display were part of a larger exposition at the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Makes a Good Police Officer

The most current issue of FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin features an article entitled "The Courage to Teach" by Robert W. Peetz, M.C.J., who is a criminal justice professor at Midland College in Midland Texas who delivered this text as a speech to the 75th session of the Odessa College Police Academy in Pecos Texas. One section of Mr. Peetz' speech stood out as I read it and I'd like to share it with you here.

"Good policing requires that we understand both what it is and why we do it. Good police officers create a sense of well-being in their communities. They protect everyone -- citizens, victims, and criminals -- and they serve the good of the community, not themselves. They are active in community affairs not because they have to, but because they want to get involved. Good police officers are mentors for others, officers and citizens, and they set positive examples. The mark of good police officers may not be what they do but what they are remembered for after they have moved on. Good police officers are good teachers, they think, analyze, and listen; they are objective; they instill confidence in others; and they leave behind a perception that they are knowledgeable and, above all, fair. Good policing is all about doing the right thing at the right time because it is the right thing to do."

I would add to what Mr. Peetz' stated that it is especially difficult to do all those things listed above while honoring the constitutional principles established by our Founders and to hold true to the ethics of our profession.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Future Police Cars

I saw my first hybrid model design police car about five years ago at a convention. It was a two seat vehicle that had actually been an electric vehicle outfitted with a fossil fuel conversion. In 1994 discussion picked up. Going through some old files I had saved I found this link from a publication called Police Fleet Manager.

This Lexus, featured as a police vehicle in England is one of the first full size sedans to make the hybrid transition. Europe generally seems to be ahead of the game when it comes to innovative police vehicles. Space is a concern given the amount of storage required for all the electronic gear necessary in a typical U.S. police squad. My European counterparts have always been envious of our larger U.S. made police sedans, unfortunately, they usually always shocked at the type of fuel consumption SUV's and "traditional" squads experience.

The current-hungry computers, video equipment and mobile data terminals in US police vehicles are a challenge for hybrid vehicles' charging capacity that seems to be well on the way toward resolution overseas.

One big jump forward in technology has been the development of LED (light emitting diodes) a lighting system that uses very little electricity but produces very bright light. You probably have noticed the transition to LED lighting on our Northfield squads the past couple years. Advances in this type of technology will continue to make a hybrid vehicle more viable for police service.

I've been tracking the progress each year as the technology gets better and more affordable. There are actually some advantages to police service hybrids other than emission reduction and fuel cost savings. The stealth approach of an electric motor allows for a better approach to alarms and covert operations. The vehicle can also be programmed to go into a "sleep" mode when the vehicle is idle, such as when the vehicle is occupied but sitting, working traffic or observing activities. This is an important benefit given that a good part of the time a police cruiser is on the street, it is actually stationary.

The improvements in size and the design based on the demands of police service are moving close to a feasible plan for future police service use on a regular basis. A number of larger cities are testing hybrids now. The information gleaned from these tests hopefully will make them practical and affordable for smaller communities like Northfield in the not-so-distant future.

We'll keep monitoring the progress and practicality for applications in Northfield.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Active Listening

Part of the job of a police chief should be that of an active listener. It's important to know what is going on inside and outside the organization. This past week has been a time that has provided the opportunity to listen to a number of audiences about a number of issues that all applied to some degree, the method of how the criminal justice is viewed by many in our communities and what expectations are often communicated during discussions about community issues. Here's a few sections from my notes from this past week.

There was a great deal of discussion of how increased enforcement of rental codes, blight ordinances, quality of life issues and conduct issues will stop the behavior deemed improper or identified as illegal as defined by statutes and ordinances.

The topic permeated council meetings, coffee group discussions, radio and newspaper spots as well as student unions and police squad rooms. Most of this information was conveyed by residents who have been established in neighborhoods that have seen an increase in rental properties, specifically multiple occupant dwellings converted from single family homes.

I also heard from property owners who feel that the courts do not provide them sufficient clout to expel tenants who are in violation of rental rules who landlords hear from other residents are problem renters.

I also heard from renters, mostly college students who are concerned that they are being singled out because of a few "bad apples" and that a "broad brush" is being used against many because of the actions of a few. Ironically, both students and long time residents have voiced their frustration with college administrators for their lack of guidance or involvement throughout the dialogue.

Today, I received an email from a college student concerned about a "new policy" whereby officers summoned to either Carleton or St. Olaf campuses on disturbance calls or medical calls issue tickets to those involved in illegal activities identified by the call: usually alcohol or drug related. The writer was quite direct that it would be us (the police), who would be responsible for deaths of students who would "shutter" themselves into isolation when they decided to binge drink rather than risk the chance of getting a citation for underage consumption of alcohol. I was also informed that the police were responsible for establishing a very negative relationship with the students on that particular campus because of our enforcement the law.

During the past week, I've also spoken to a number of individuals who are quite concerned that our officers are not writing enough alcohol-related citations both on and off campus and that we should not be so concerned about Fourth Amendment privacy rights and rules of evidence; simply plunge forward and write those tickets......that we are jeopardizing the goodwill of the residents by not "taking action."

I also listened to a number of students who are very much committed to a positive dialogue to help bridge the gap of concern over what is perceived as a growing canyon of difference between the students and local residents.

Today, I attended a meeting that comprised those of us who work with or in the court system where concern has been expressed the past year that the number of judges, court staff and resources has remained essentially the same the past 10 years despite the escalation of the number of cases coming before the court because of the increase in police activity.

The backlog has resulted in officers being repeatedly called to court numerous days for court on overtime only to find out the case they were summoned for was continued or rescheduled.

Prosecutors and public defenders scramble each Monday to figure out which one of the 24 cases on the docket for that day will actually be tried and which will be pushed back to be considered for the next day or next session and judges try to participate in a process that still honors constitutional principles of fairness and justice.

I also hear from my staff who are frustrated having had 2 hours of sleep before being called into court to have the case continued: their frustration with the lack of their ability to get adequate rest, have a family life and still meet staffing needs. They tell me of their concern that they lack the resources to address the growing challenges of drug crimes and increasing demands on their time for quality of life issues and balancing them with increasing cases of identity theft and more violent crimes that involve possible abduction of children with no increase in police staffing since 2000.


Having reflected on the observations and words of this past week, we will continue to expand the dialogue between stakeholders. We will continue to work with prosecutors and the court to continue to bring more cases to court and manage the strain on our personnel and city coffers.

We will work to prevent and reduce criminal activity through sound crime prevention techniques and investigative techniques that actively will involve community participation to help provide more effective police response to needs and concerns, knowing that the bulk of what we deal with are symptoms of a larger social issue that requires our active participation with the community to identify and provide longer-term solutions.

Ultimately, it is a development of a deeper commitment to a level of customer service that involves timely feedback, education and follow-up. The City has pledged itself to this level of service. The members of our police department staff are determined to be leaders in this commitment. A big step forward is taking the time to listen and then to work together to solve the challenges before us.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Officer Memorials

Sergeant Dale R. Holcomb, 45, of the Ohio Highway Patrol was killed in an automobile accident on September 28th.

Sergeant Holcomb had served his agency for 21 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Trooper Joshua P. Risner, 29, of the Ohio Highway Patrol was killed in an automobile accident on September 28th.

Trooper Risner had served his agency for 7 years and is survived by his wife and two children.

Officer Kevin Louis Weeks
, 28, of the Tempe, Arizona Police Department died after a crash involving his motorcycle on September 28th.

Officer Weeks had served his agency for 7 years. He is survived by his parents, sister and girlfriend.

Deputy Sheriff Vernon Matthew Williams
, 39, and his K9 partner, diogi, of the Polk County, Florida Sheriff's Department were shot and killed while pursuing a suspect during a traffic stop on September 28th.

Deputy Williams served his agency for 12 years and is survived by his wife, daughter and three sons.

Officer Keith E. Houts, 30, of the Montgomery, Alabama Police Department died on September 30th from a gunshot inflicted two days earlier during a traffic stop.

Officer Houts was a Gulf War Veteran and had served his agency for 2 years. He is survived by his wife.

Trooper William L. McClendon
, 37, of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was killed when his patrol car collided with a tractor trailer rig on the Will Rogers Turnpike near Claremore, Oklahoma.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Special Officer Memorial

Today, I attended a memorial service at the Faribault City Hall for Faribault Police Officer Henry Kaepernick who was killed in 1876. The memorial event was coordinated by Faribault Police Chief Mike Lewis. Today marked the 130th anniversary of Officer Kaepernick's death.

Chief Lewis announced that only recently had the circumstances of Officer Kaepernick's death been discovered. The events were outlined in an email memo posted by Chief Lewis:
"Several guards had been posted to guard the Younger brothers who had earlier been apprehended near Madelia, MN and were brought to the Faribault city jail to stand trial for the attempted bank robbery in Northfield. Law enforcement officials suspected that the Jesse James Gang would attempt to break the Younger brothers out of the city jail and had stepped up security. The guards were told to be alert for the James gang as there was a high probability that the James gang would use some sort of trickery to get the brothers out of jail.

At approximately 4:00 am, Officer Henry Kaepernick was approaching the city jail, which was located near the current city hall location, when a guard ordered him to stop. Officer Kaepernick told the guard that he was a police officer and opened his jacket to show his badge. The guard, thinking Kaepernick was going for a gun, fired one shot striking Kaepernick in the chest, killing him instantly. Officer Kaepernick was 29 years old and was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery."

According to Chief Lewis, Officer Kaepernick's sacrifice had been forgotten and was recently brought to light by a researcher for the Officer Down Memorial Page website: ODMP.org. Paperwork has been submitted to have Officer Kaepernick's name added to the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Recent Trip

I traveled to Arkansas last week to see my folks, Vel and Ken Coddington, who just recently celebrated a wedding anniversary. Actually, Ken just celebrated a birthday too.

I always enjoy visiting this time of year as the fall colors in the area of Arkansas (Flippin, Arkansas), they live are fantastic. It's also reassuring to find my mom in good health having fought a battle with cancer this past year. Mom is a testament to a strong faith, determination and healthy lifestyle.

2006 has been a tough year for us. We lost my wife Ruth's mom to cancer early this year. My mom fought back this year and the prognosis is good.

Give yourself and your family and friends a gift...get regular medical checkups so you will be around to pose for pictures like this one to show off to your kids and grandkids!