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Friday, October 28, 2011


In April the Pew Center on the States released an interesting study that found Minnesota had one of the highest criminal recidivism rates in the country. What is recidivism?  It is probably one of the most talked about topics at our weekly meetings where we review crime trends and crime that is occurring in the City.  Recidivism is defined by as “repeated or habitual relapse, as into crime.”  It is the repeat offenders who are committing the majority of our crime in Duluth.

While the validity of the Pew study has been argued by many Minnesota officials, your police will tell you we don’t know where we rank nationally, but we have a serious problem with habitual offenders.   It would be great to see the increased use of GPS monitoring, curfews and geographical restrictions in offender monitoring. The repeat offenders who are not sent to prison should have mandated curfews, geographical restrictions, and police officers on the street should be provided the offender information (I had this information at my finger tips in Wisconsin as a police officer almost 20 years ago-something we still don’t have in Minnesota).  If an officer finds them in violation they are authorized to bring them to jail.  Too often we find chronic offenders out and about at two in the morning in an area they should not be, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, only to find out days later they are on probation. 

Oregon had the greatest reduction in recidivism in the Pew study.  It found “Oregon also experienced the biggest decline in recidivism from 1999 to 2004, a drop of almost 32 percent. Oregon officials attribute their success to a comprehensive approach to reform and a commitment to change that reaches across all levels of government—from the supervision officer in the field, to the judiciary, through the state corrections department and up the ranks of legislative leadership.”

While police are usually the ones who receive the criticism when crime occurs, it is my hope the Pew study will encourage a dialog among our policy makers to improve our State’s response to repeat criminal offenders.  Minnesota’s response to repeat offenders simply needs to improve.  Let’s hope we can move beyond the budget debate soon and get on with improving our criminal justice system’s response to repeat offenders.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

GPS and Policing

I recently learned some police departments have invested in GPS monitoring systems and are placing them on habitual offenders (in conjunction with the courts) to reduce recidivism and crime.  Traditionally this has been a probation responsibility, but declining budgets and different focuses has brought police into the mix.  We will begin working with our criminal justice partners to aggressively be seek grants to fund our GPS efforts.

Those departments that are using GPS monitoring have had tremendous results.  I am hopeful we can bring this here to improve our habitual offender monitoring.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guns and Car Burglaries

We've talked about it a lot the last couple of years.  Car burglaries are on the rise.  We continue to see people leave valuables in their cars which are then targets for crooks.  Lately, we've seen a number of cases where people leave their hunting guns in the car and are later stolen.  The last thing we need is more guns in the hands of bad guys.  Please don't leave valuables in your car.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Two retired Duluth police officers died in the last week.  Former Deputy Chief Bob Larson and Investigator Skip Sorman.  Both these guys dedicated a good portion of their lives to keeping Duluth safe and were good police officers.  Both died from cancer.  God bless both of them and their loved ones.

My wife's uncle just found out today he has between one week and one month to live.  He had just visited us last month and we spent time together fishing and hanging out.  It is another reminder to keep everything in perspective.  I asked myself these questions earlier today;  What would you do if you had between one week and one month to live? Most importantly, what is the most important thing in your life?   This one is easy for me-my family.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Young Children and Accidents

Everyday I receive updates on important cases our staff have worked on.  Yesterday, I received notice of a one year old who ingested about 40 methadone tablets.  When officers arrived at the home the child was losing consciousness.  He was quickly transported to the hospital and was in critical condition yesterday.  Reading about the incident triggered some memories.

We have infant and toddler deaths all too often.  These deaths are caused by accident, natural causes or are the result of a homicide.  We've had a few infants accidentally suffocated by sleeping parents over the last year or two.  Last summer we had a 15 month old hang himself in a playpen after getting tangled in the blind strings that were dangling into the pen.  There's been a few accidental drownings.  I could go on...

I remember the first toddler death I was involved with vividly.  It was 1994 and I had been an officer for almost two years and until this thought I had seen a fair amount of tragedy in that short time.  This 911 call involved a 16 month old boy who went to sleep and never woke up. When his father went to check on him at midnight he had died.  Arriving second to a volunteer firefighter, I helped perform CPR unsuccessfully on the little guy. 

The next day my shift commander called me at home and told me since I had not yet attended an autopsy, I had to attend that of the little boy.  Watching the autopsy that day is something I will never forget.  I am glad I did not have kids at that time because, while this case was disturbing and very sad, I find with young kids of my own now I am much more bothered by child deaths. When each of my kids hit 16 months old they both had the fine hair and baby soft skin just like that little boy who died.  Needless to say I checked on my kids almost every hour, on the hour during their 16th month of life.  I guess that experience and five other baby/toddler death calls I've been on make me a little paranoid about some things.  

While there are some deaths we can't prevent, there are many more we can.  Nursing moms should not sleep with their infants.  Keep blind cords well above where kids can reach them.  Watch your young children at all times when they are the water.  Don't keep extra blankets and soft sleeping material in an infants crib.  Most importantly, have your infant sleep on their back

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Water Damage

On Friday a panicked evidence technician stopped me in the police department, said there was a water pipe break in the evidence room and asked if I had seen maintenance.  Evidence was potentially compromised and water was running everywhere.  The last 10-15 years staff has fashioned indoor gutters and designed other contraptions to keep leaky walls and ceilings from from damaging evidence.  A broken pipe was not suppose to happen.   In modern police departments evidence is kept in secure areas not affected by pipes or leaks.  I think most citizens know the challenges we have faced operating out of an 80 year old building.

Fortunately for us staff managed to save evidence before it was ruined and we are down to about three months before we move in to our new building.  To see the location and pictures of the new building click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Job Offers

Tuesday and Wednesday this week myself and about a dozen other department members interviewed the final candidates for our next recruit class. The candidates have endured testing, interviews with community members and have progressed to the final phase. 

During last years hiring process almost all of the candidates had military experience.  During this process we did not have as many with military back grounds but, there were about eight who had been pastors or religious leaders at a church.  While there is usually one or two candidates with this connection in each process, I have never seen such a high percentage with religious backgrounds.   It is an interesting connection.

The 12 finalists now face medical screening and in-depth psychological screening before they they enter the academy.  Once in the academy they face 11 weeks of rigorous training before they can hit the streets.  After graduating from the academy they hit the streets in a training program that lasts up to six months before they are certified for solo patrol.   The entire process from the time of application to patrolling on their own takes about 14 months!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recognition for work well done.

Every day the members of the Duluth Police Department do incredible work that people never hear about.  I know about the great work they do because I see it all the time.  Look at the recent high profile cases our staff have solved.  We solve crime.  This year many organizations have recognized our department and staff for this reason.  Earlier this year arson investigator Todd Kuusisto was chosen by the Minnesota Arson Investigators Association as Arson Investigator of the year.  You only needs to look at the number of arson cases Todd has solved to understand he is a very talented arson investigator. 

Last month, Woodland Hills recognized the Duluth Police Department with their Baringer Exceptional Service Award. Deputy Chief Robin Roeser accepted this award on behalf of the department and we are honored to be recognized by such an important organization in our community. 

We received the Met Life Award for community policing and partnerships and were chosen out of over 700 applications.  The “Community Safety Initiative” involved Neighborhood Housing Services, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and West Duluth Development Corporation.  This recognition highlighted the important work our police staff does with our partnering organizations to keep Duluth a safe place to live and conduct business.  Together we have made a difference and it shows.

Last week the Duluth Police Department Sex Crimes, Abuse and
Neglect Unit (SCAN) received the 2011 Department of the Year Award at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association in Nisswa.
The Duluth SCAN Unit is comprised of Sgt. Ann Clancey, and Investigators Lisa Mickus, Chris Lofstuen and Ryan Temple.  They are responsible for investigating sexual assault, child abuse and child neglect cases. On average, the SCAN Unit is referred over 700 cases by St. Louis County Social Services, and conducts over 130 First Witness child interviews. The Unit works with partner agencies that include PAVSA (Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault), First Witness Resource Center and St. Louis County Social Services. Many of the cases investigated by the SCAN Unit involve victims under the age of 13. The Unit handles nearly 75 cases of sexual assault on average.  The goal of the SCAN Unit is to provide a victim-centered approach to sexual assault investigation, while working with partner agencies to form a multi-disciplinary response for victims.  We are proud to showcase the dedicated Investigators of the SCAN Unit as one of Minnesota’s best.

These awards are a direct result of the dedication and good work the members of the Duluth Police Department do 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I am grateful for the opportunity to lead such dedicated, hard working and good hearted people.

Monday, October 10, 2011

College Parties

Now that we are well into the school year I wanted to touch base on our community policing efforts regarding college parties.  As UMD grew so did the number of college parties.  Beginning in the 1990’s college parties began to take up more and more police resources.  As we rolled into the 2000’s it became common that there were so many reported parties that officers frequently were not able to get to all of them.  Five years ago the college parties and neighborhood problems were receiving a lot of media attention and it began to reflect poorly on our City.  Neighbors were frustrated, police were frustrated and things only seemed to be getting worse.  Through hard work and collaboration we have had tremendous success in reducing the number of party calls in our college neighborhoods over the last few years.  An effective and strong partnership with UMD, new and tougher housing ordinances, landlord e-mail notification, improved resource allocation, effective enforcement and follow-up the number of party calls have plummeted.  During September 2007 we responded to 124 party calls in neighborhoods around UMD.  During the first four weeks of college this year we responded to just 61 party calls.  That is over a 50% reduction in party calls.  A special thanks to UMD, the Campus Neighbors Group, our hard working officers, Lieutenant Eric Rish, and all the others who have worked in collaboration with us to reduce parties and improve our great neighborhoods. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Drug Arrests

Last week the department rounded up almost 30 suspects involved in illegal prescription drug sales.  The ATF is working with us on having the case federally prosecuted due to the volume of sales, guns involved, and long criminal hostories of many of the suspects.  As I read the names of those arrested I recognized many of them as habitual offenders - for years.  With the ATF and US Attorney involved we know there will be some long sentences coming down on them.  Bad guys + their guns arrested = a safer community.  Good work to our drug unit, ATF and the US Attorney's Office.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Party Calls and Fires

Over the last four years police staff have made a concerted effort to reduce the number of disturbances associated with college parties in the eastern neighborhoods.  Through education, landlord notification, tough enforcement, increased penalties, new ordinances and collaborating with UMD we have seen a substantial drop in the number college parties.  911 calls and police records indicate we are receiving almost 50% less party calls than we were in 2007.   That is tremendous statistic to report.  Our officers have worked  diligently to make a difference and it shows. 

On another note, there were a couple of arson fires over the weekend.  Most notably the brand new playground at Lester Park Elementary was burned to the ground.  The neighborhood has been shaken by this senseless act-with a price tag of upwards of $50,000.  I am confident arson investigators will solve this crime in short order as they have some strong leads they are following up on. 

Monday, October 3, 2011


We are following an increase in burglaries in the the East End, Endion and Congdon neighborhoods. They are occurring during day light hours when the resident's are gone.  We have received good suspect information and have increased presence in those neighborhoods, but our best defense is you.  Report suspicious activity to 911.  We apprehended a few burglars last year who were hitting homes in the country and on the out-skirts of the City with an interesting scheme.  They would send a woman to the door while the men hid in the car.  If someone would answer the door she would ask if "Joe is home?" and would leave.  If no one would answer she would summon the other crooks out of the car and they would kick in a door and help themselves to what they wanted.  This is a fairly common trick, so if you have someone coming to your door asking a question that seems a bit odd we would always recommend a 911 call than not.  Also, be sure to get the license plate and good description of any vehicle they may drive (a photo is always great as well).

While burglaries are down from years past, we must continue to remain vigilant and push for stronger sentences for our chronic offenders.