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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Weather

The weather lately has been anything but winter.  We've only had a three small snow events so far this season yet we saw a lot of car crashes.  As a matter of fact, each snow fall this year produced between 50 and 100 accidents in the City in less than a three hour period.  Most Duluthians take pride in our ability to navigate our steep streets covered in ice and snow with out smashing into cars or buildings, however this season I can't say we are doing very good.  Earlier this week a 19 year old died tragically in a crash on I-35 just south of the City limits.  Icy roads played a role.

Now that we are expecting more snow and ice tonight, take your time and slow down.  We've put extra staff on tonight to help with the call load and we don't want to see them tied up on unnecessary traffic crashes because people are driving too fast for conditions.  

Have a safe and happy New Year's eve.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Today

I spent some time at Neighborhood Youth Services located in Washington Center today.  Over 16 years ago, when I was a community officer the police department had an office in Washington Center and it was a hub of activity.  I got to know many of the kids who hung out there and built positive relationships with them.  Today, I heard several of the kids ask why there was a police officer there.  It made me realize we need to get our officers back in there building relationships with the kids.  One little six year old hid under a table when I arrived and told me he was scared of cops.  After a game of air hockey, laughing, joking and eating lunch together I asked him if he was still scared of cops and he shouted a resounding "no!"    That is a rewarding part of police work I really miss.

WDIO did a short story on NYS today.  Here is the link.   I could not direct link the story so look for "NYS block party" and click on that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Suspect Photos

When we run short on leads in a case we try to obtain photographs or video of the suspect.  Here is an example of a case where we need the public's help.   This press release was sent out to the media in an attempt to identify this crook.  The male in the photo is responsible for fraud and is ultimately costing all of us money through higher bank fees. 

You can sign up to receive police department press releases via e-mail click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Department Jokers-Merry Christmas!

I won't mention the name of the sergeant on the department sent me this Christmas extravaganza that he put together (Ken Zwak), but it is funny.  The dancers are Deputy Chief Mike Tusken, East Area Commander Eric Rish and...ahem, me.

Watch these cops dance!

Guess we have to have a little fun now and then.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Police suffering from high rate of sleep disorders

I read this brief article in thecrimereport.org today and the findings are rather shocking (no author provided).   I hope it will encourage more research and recommendations.  For me, the older I became the more trouble I had sleeping after working a night shift (5pm-5am for a shift sergeant).  After age 30 when I worked nights I'd get headaches around 3:00 am and they often lasted most of the day.   Sleep issues are an aspect of police work that many don't think about... Our officers are out there keeping our City safe 24 hours a day.

40% of Police Officers Suffer Sleep Disorders: New Harvard Study

thecrimereport.org

A serious lack of sleep may be a big problem among the nation's 700,000 police officers, reports NPR. In what's believed to be the first study on the subject, Harvard researchers queried nearly 5,000 municipal and state police officers in the U.S. and Canada about their sleep habits and symptoms of possible sleep disorders, and assessed their on-duty performance for two years.
Forty percent had sleep disorders, and the vast majority were undiagnosed before. Those who screened positive for a sleep disorder had a 25 percent higher risk of expressing uncontrolled anger to a suspect or citizen, and a 35 percent higher chance of having a citizen complaint filed against them. Sleep-deprived officers had 51 percent greater odds of falling asleep while driving on duty. One in three officers has sleep apnea – waking up repeatedly because breathing has temporarily stopped. That's at least 8 times higher than the rate among the general population. Sleep-starved officers reported falling asleep at meetings more often and calling in sick. The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Urban Bears

This summer we had a bear wander downtown that quickly attracted a crowd of a few hundred people.  Police tried to disperse the onlookers, but apparently there was just too much interest in seeing a wild bear downtown.  The on scene supervisor decided to call for a veterinarian from the zoo to tranquilize the bruin rather than shoot and kill it.  No DNR officials were available at the time.

The vet arrived a short time later and the bear was successfully tranquilized and relocated with out incident.  We received a bill from the vet for about $600, which was expected.  Since wild animals fall under the purview of the DNR we sent them the bill requesting them to cover the costs.  I was surprised and disappointed when I received a response from the DNR that wild animals in the City limits are the police department's responsibility and we should shoot and kill the bears in the future - if we feel they are a safety concern.  Considering the DNR 2010-2011 budget was over $900 million dollars I thought the least they could do is help us out with the bill for dealing with a wild bear downtown. 

Now I have a lot of good friends who work at the DNR and know they work hard to serve the public. This isn't about the dedicated, hard working boots on the ground.  It is about money and resources.  In recent years the City of Duluth has had to manage a rapidly growing deer herd and an associated bow hunt.  That takes resources.  Park Pointer's pitched in and rented a bear trap this summer after the DNR refused to help them with a problem bear.  It now appears the City of Duluth is going to have to manage a growing urban bear population.  Given the drastic cuts to State revenue sharing (or local government aid-LGA), I thought the DNR would be more willing to help out local governments.  It is disappointing to have yet another burden placed on local governments that the State should be responsible for.  

What happened with the vet bill? We paid the vet for her services out of the police department's budget.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Police Camera Purchase

One of the first initiatives I had as police chief almost six years ago was to install video cameras in the squad cars.  The value we get from the cameras is  well known and established.  The initial cameras we purchased have reached the end of their life cycle.  These cameras get used 24 hours a day, every day of the year, they go from extreme heat in the summer, to extreme cold in the winter.  They get jarred around on our bumpy streets and have a life expectancy of five years.  We've had to cannibalize camera parts to keep them running and in a couple of cases recently, the cameras have not worked when they needed to.  The last thing we need is to have a major incident unfold that was not recorded due to an old system that no longer works properly. 

We've got our money's worth out of our first cameras, but it is time for us to begin the replacement cycle.  On Monday night's City Council agenda there is a resolution to allow us to purchase a new system called Mobile-Vision.  This system will have a camera in the car as well as an integrated camera the officer will wear.  When a camera is worn by an officer it can record what an officer may see and provide valuable, recorded evidence.  The value of an officer wearing a camera is obvious, but I am sure there will be benefits we have not even thought of.   We hope to have the Mobile-Vision system up and running in January.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The new joint public safety building is moving along right on schedule and is coming in substantially under budget.  We continue to meet with our partners at the Sheriff’s Office and expand our efforts in sharing services, people and equipment.   The idea of working closer with the County has gone from a possibility to a necessity given our financial state.   By sharing and working closely with the County we are leading the way in what may be the future of local government. We began sharing a grant coordinator a couple of years ago and have found this arrangement to be extremely beneficial to both entities.  We will be moving into our new building in February and will be announcing a date for an open house soon.  Here are some pictures of the building progress.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

I was saddened to see another tragedy at Virginia Tech, this time involving the assassination of 39 year old Police Officer Deriek Crouse.  This hard working officer was just doing his job when he was ambushed and shot at close range.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and co-workers. Unfortunately there are well over 100 police officers that die each year in the line of duty. I am particularly interested in this case because I am friends with the Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.  I got to know Chief Flinchum when we attended the 10 week FBI Academy together in 2005.  He lived in the dorm across the hall from me.  Wendell is a good hearted man who is dedicated to keeping the employees and students at Virginia Tech safe.  Besides sending my sympathies, I wish there was something else I could do to help them through this senseless act.

Here is a brief radio story on the latest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Politics and Policing

I read a letter to the editor in the Duluth News Tribune today where the writer asked why I "did not get off the bench and get into the game" and set up a tent in the Civic Center to support a political movement.  While I understand the writer's concerns, it is not my role to take on political issues such as this.  I believe the majority of our community members would agree with this assessment.

While there are times where a chief will have to lobby for or against a public safety related bill, I have discovered that most citizens appreciate a police chief who is apolitical, yet politically astute in their community policing efforts.