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Monday, February 27, 2012

Storm Prep

It is beginning to sound like we may finally get a real snow storm.  When we receive word that a major storm is coming our way we begin collecting our four wheel drive vehicles and getting them ready for our patrol staff.  We have about a dozen or so police suv's and trucks.  If we are running real short we
borrow trucks from street maintenance.   We put two officers in a vehicle as there is not enough four wheel drives to go around for everyone working. 

It used to be when we were hit with storms officers would hunker down at a fire hall.  Now, our calls for service keep our officers out and about.  If streets get impassable we work with street maintenance and they plow ahead of the squad to ensure we get there.  They will also do this for ambulance and fire.

The officers like having their usual cars and sometimes are reluctant to take a vehicle without a computer, lights, etc, but we've learned we burn out too many transmissions and do other damage to a regular squad if we don't mandate they drive a four wheel drive.

Stock up and plan on staying home Wednesday!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

10-7

10-7 is the code for off duty.  I have been 10-7 for a bit and visited family in Florida.  It was a nice break and allowed me to recharge.  I heard on a news channel there that Florida is currently leading the nation in deaths of police officers.  They highlighted some recent deaths that were really horrific cases.  Police officers deal with a lot and see things most people could not imagine.  The story made me think of this poem as I believe some in our society are very quick to judge the actions of police officers.


I'm Just Like You
author unknown

I have been where you fear to be;
I have seen what you fear to see;
I have done what you fear to do;
All these things I have done for you.

I am the one you lean upon,
The one you cast your scorn upon,
The one you bring your troubles to,
All these things I have been for you.

The one you ask to stand apart,
The one you feel should have no heart,
The one you call the "man in blue";
But I am a person, just like you.

And through the years,
I have come to see
That I am not what you ask of me.
So take this badge, take this gun;
Will you take it? - Will anyone?

And when you watch a person die
And hear a battered baby cry,
Then do you think that you can be
All these things you ask of me?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Downtown Citizen Patrol

On Tuesday, 2/21/12 at 10:00 a.m., there will be an informational meeting about a newly-forming downtown Citizen Patrol group. The meeting will be in the Fireside Room at Greysolon Plaza (231 E. Superior Street). All those interested in getting involved (or just getting more information) are urged to come. rhurst@duluthmn.gov.

If you have any questions before the meeting you can reach me by phone at 218-730-5720 or email at
Officer Hurst
Downtown Community Officer
Duluth Police Dept.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Squad Cars

You will be seeing less and less of the Ford Crown Victoria as police cars.  Ford recently stopped making the Crown Vic and has moved their police pursuit rated versions to the Taurus and Explorer models.  Dodge stepped it up this year and redesigned their Charger improving visibility and redesigning the rear end to look more the early 1970’s Charger.  We have new Dodges ready to replace some old Crown Vic’s that are tired and running well over 100,000 miles.  We are running a bit behind on our fleet replacement plan.  Not only do we have many of our primary cars with over a 100,000 miles, they are showing their wear and tear.  Two weeks ago in a four day period we had three squads hit by bad winter drivers.   Two of these cars are still being used as their replacements are not yet ready.  They look like they were used in a crash up derby.

Chevy has brought back the Caprice for police use only this year.  It looks like the Impala but is a fair amount larger, faster and unfortunately more expensive.  The Caprice is made in
Australia and shipped all this way, making it the most expensive of the police models.  It is coming in about five thousand dollars more than the Ford and Dodge police models.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Legislative Action

I was at the Capitol today with Representative Gauthier pushing for tougher penalties for automobile burglary (aka. motor vehicle tampering).  We spoke before the House Judiciary Committee and they passed Rep. Gauthier's bill making the third offense a gross misdemeanor. While it is not exactly what we wanted it is a win for us!  It will now go on for a full vote in the House.  We had tried for a felony last year, but the potential incarceration costs turned off too many and the bill did not make it past a committee hearing. 

When a bill comes before the House or Senate and there are costs associated with it, the appropriate department in State government is asked to come up with a fiscal cost to tax payers.  In the case of the car burglary bill last year, the Department of Corrections (DOC) was asked to determine how much increasing the penalty for auto burglary would cost in potential additional inmates.  I was astonished to hear the cost that DOC came up with and began to wonder what formula they use to estimate costs because it caused us to lose the chance to pass the tougher penalty.  Many cops will tell you auto burglary is probably the most common residential property crime committed (and our stats back it).  Why wouldn't we choose to be tougher on those who commit our most common property crime over and over?

Kevin Jacobsen from channel 6 did a great story on an initiative of ours to utilize GPS more in the tracking of our habitual offenders.   Thanks Kevin for bringing attention to the need to change our response to in sentencing habitual offenders.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Policing in today's world

I was reading through the major calls for service from last night and my mind began to drift off on how difficult an officer's job is.  I recall many, many late night drunken brawls that got out of hand and were very difficult to investigate and resolve.  There was a major family/friend feud last night that traversed the City involving a lot of people, many fights and a fair amount of property damage.  It was reported to me that most people were under the influence and that complicated matters (I surmise alcohol/drugs started the trouble in the first place).   Then my mind wandered to what I will potentially hear Monday as police chief from some of those involved based on past experience... Complaints like "if the police would have just done this" or "my _____ (fill in the blank with sister, son, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.) was arrested and shouldn't have been."

In many cases it boils down to personal responsibility and the fact that almost all police calls after 10 P.M. involve those under the influence or those who are victims of those who are under the influence.  Alcohol and drugs drive our crime rate and impact our quality of life. 

It makes me really appreciate our men and women in blue who are out protecting our family, friends and doing their best to keep peace at all hours of the day despite challenges you can't imagine unless you've been there.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Excited About Parking

I never would have guessed that parking could be exciting.  Having volunteered last year with the City's effort to restructure how we deal with parking, I find myself fascinated with how parking is handled by cities and parking management companies across the country.  We have begun an entire restructure of how the City deals with parking. 

We have started by changing the structure of the City's Parking Commission, giving them more authority to make changes to parking and increase responsiveness to business and community needs. Commissioners are chosen by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. 

Also, for different parking needs you have to go to several different City departments, so to improve efficiency and customer service we're moving all parking operations to be under one umbrella.  We've consolidated several jobs and have created a parking manager position to oversee all aspects of parking.  We have conducted interviews and heard from some very qualified people.  Several of them live, breath and eat parking (and are amazingly enthusiastic about it!).  I learned more from interviewing them and hearing their perspective on parking than I ever could have imagined.  We hope to have the parking manager in place in March.
 
Additionally, they City is going to contract with a professional parking company to manage our ramps and surface lots.  I have read prospective company's proposals and we have been interviewing the finalists.  I am amazed at what these companies offer - their marketing ideas are incredible.  They have talked about taking money sucking ramps and parking lots and turning them around into revenue generating machines along with improving customer service.  The City has missed the mark in many aspects of ramp management and marketing-it is no fault of anyone, it just is not our specialty.  We need to get out of the ramp management business and leave it to the experts.  There is no doubt in my mind that between having a professional company manage the ramps and surface lots, consolidation of operations into a parking department and having a true parking manager Duluth is poised for success.  We are all going to look back after this change and wonder why it took so long to make these changes.  I am truly excited about the future of parking in Duluth!