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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Policing Strategies Related to Witness Intimidation

Our staff is constantly striving to be the best we can be.  We have been part of a collaborative effort to improve our response to witness intimidation related to domestic violence.   Here is a link to an article on the effort
http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=3579&issue_id=122014

Duluth PD continues to be a leader in policing......

Friday, December 12, 2014

Current Events in Policing

Police everywhere are in the spotlight now due to recent controversial events. For the last few weeks I haven't been able to turn on the national news without hearing about police use of force somewhere in the nation. This has caused me to think about incidents I was involved with during my career.

One took place on a September morning 16 years ago. While on duty I drove by a gas station and saw a male wearing a ski mask walk inside, carrying a duffle bag. The temperature was in the 60s, so there was no need to be wearing a ski mask.

I pulled into the gas station lot, went inside, approached him, patted him down for weapons and asked for ID. Immediately I sensed there was going to be a problem. The male seemed like he was under the influence of a chemical or suffering from mental illness.

Not wanting to disturb the small store's business, I asked him to come outside with me. He reluctantly agreed. As we were walking out, I noticed a large butcher knife protruding from a cut in his duffle bag. I told him to give me the duffle bag and he refused. I tried to take the bag away — and the fight was on.

We fell to the ground and rolled around next to the gas pump. After a few seconds I was able to throw the bag a short distance away so he could not reach the knife.  Then I felt him wrenching on my holstered handgun. I heard the sound of the leather creaking and felt the gun being pulled back and forth. I recall the surreal feeling of looking up at a 60-year-old woman pumping her gas about 4 feet away, watching this potential life-or-death battle like nothing was going on. I shouted to her to go call 911. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 15 seconds, I was able to overpower and subdue him until another officer arrived.

This case highlights how quickly things can escalate and the dangers our officers face. In hindsight I would have done things differently, but at the time I did not have the luxury of knowing what was about to happen. Police officers have to make serious, split-second decisions, often under extreme stress. We must remember that when judging incidents.

Duluth police make a positive impact every minute of every day in our community. While we are human and not without fault, Duluth officers focus on community policing activities and place a high value on relationships with those we serve. We train and expect our officers to de-escalate tense situations and be restrained in the use of force whenever possible.

There are times, however, when police have to use force. If you find yourself in a situation with an officer and you feel you have done nothing wrong, you still need to do what the officer tells you. Some individuals feel they do not have to obey a lawful order from the police, as I've experienced many times. People need to cooperate with police and if they feel wronged or want to make a complaint, they should do it after the interaction is over.

We want to hear about it because we care. Remember, there are cameras in the squad cars, cameras on officers and cameras on many street corners that have proven to be very valuable not only for criminal investigations, but also for complaints. I had a complaint last week that was quickly resolved by reviewing camera footage of the incident that clearly showed the officer did not do what was alleged.

We recognize and embrace the importance of building relationships with our diverse community to break down the feelings of mistrust, but it does take two willing participants to make that happen.

If you are interested in becoming part of the solution and learning more about how we train our officers and why the police do this or that, consider attending the Duluth Police Department's Citizens' Police Academy. The CPA is an informative learning process by which citizens receive classroom and field instruction on the responsibilities facing our officers. Classes are held 6-9 p.m. on Wednesdays for 11 weeks in the spring and fall. If you are interested in taking part, contact Mike Peterson at 730-5040 or email mpeterson@duluthmn.gov.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Current Police Events Part 1


There are many different policing styles and strategies among law enforcement agencies in this country.  In the next couple of posts I am going to highlight what we are doing in Duluth that seperates us from some other police agencies.  In Duluth, our staff have engrained themselves into the very fabric of our City.  We are the guardians, protectors and helpers of our citizenry, not a militaristic occupying army. Here is a portion of an email I sent to our City Councilors earlier this week that highlights some of our community policing efforts.


Dear Councilors,

In light of the current national events I was hoping to make you aware of our community policing efforts and values that separate us from many of the cities experiencing troubled police-community relations. 

First, our department is focused on building relationships with our community members.  We know that to break down barriers of mistrust we need to build healthy relationships with those we serve.  Every week members of our department are either attending community meetings or we are hosting them.  Whether it be community club meetings, business meetings or neighborhood meetings we are there.  We have been actively engaged with the health and wellness of our youth through programs like the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to lower the number of juveniles that are incarcerated, the new Police Activities League or spending time at the numerous youth after school programs; our officers seek out opportunities to have positive interaction with our youth.       

 Additionally, we continue to build on our Block Clubs, Neighborhood Watch and Citizen Patrols that engage hundreds and hundreds of residents.  We collaborated to bring a civilian review board to help build transparency and strengthen relationships.  We meet regularly with African American and Native American community organizations and collaborate to find opportunities for positive interaction such as the very popular “Cops, Kids and Cars” events. 

When it comes to use of force issues we focus on deescalating tense situations through verbal communication and listening.  We train to be successful at policing in a free and democratic society that must be restrained in our use of force when ever possible and treat people with courtesy, respect and dignity. 

 The good work that is done by our staff every minute of every day shows in this year’s Citizen survey that gives us a 93% rating of fair, good or excellent.  Cities that are experiencing police community relations problems we've been seeing on the national news can't touch those numbers because all of the work that is done in Duluth to strengthen and maintain our relationship with those we serve.   

 Please do not hesitate to call me if you would like to talk further about any of the current events.

Respectfully,

Your Police Chief

Gordon Ramsay

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Vile of Life

Thanks Jery Lawson and Officer Russ Bradley for your work on this great project.

From the Duluth News-Tribune.

Vial of Life program aims to provide quick medical history

The Duluth police and fire departments introduced a program Monday that they say will save lives.

Speaking at the Duluth-St. Louis County Public Safety Building, officials announced the city’s adoption of the Vial of Life program, in which residents can affix a plastic baggie with pertinent medical history and personal details to their refrigerator and a corresponding sticker to their front doors.
 
“It allows us to give quick care to people in need who are living in their own homes,” said Russ Bradley, the police department’s east community officer. “It alerts first responders that there is medical information available.”

There are 2,500 kits available free at police and fire stations across the city. Bradley said he expected senior citizens, mostly, to use the program, but Vial of Life could benefit anyone.

“When we’re in an emergency situation, time is of the essence,” Duluth Fire Capt. Corey Swartout said. “This is a proven program.”

The local authorities thanked a citizen patroller, Jerry Lawson, for his effort in bringing the program to the Northland. Lawson, who is retired and spends winters in Florida, sought counsel with authorities there after observing the program firsthand.

“It’s going to save lives,” said Lawson, who learned of the program while attending a ride-along with sheriff’s deputies in Daytona Beach, Fla. “Not just older people, but everyone.”

Lawson gave the real-life example of a man who’d had a stroke and couldn’t answer any of the first responders’ questions because the afflicted man couldn’t speak.

In addition to pertinent health information, Vial of Life users can inform first responders of important contact information as well.

Bradley said police can spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to track down family and others.
“Sometimes they can be very difficult to find,” he said.

With quick access to vital health and contact information, first responders figure to be better equipped to help those they serve.

“I think there’s a need for this,” Bradley said.

Essentia Health purchased the stickers for the 2,500 kits and Super One provided the plastic baggies (which years ago replaced the program’s original vials for cost reasons).

What happens if the 2,500 kits get scooped up?

“We’ll make another 2,500,” Lawson said, “and give them out till everybody’s got them.”

Vial of Life kits
To get a free Vial of Life kit, visit:
  • Duluth Police Headquarters, 2030 N. Arlington Ave.
  • West Area Police Station, 5830 Grand Ave.
  • Lincoln Park substation, 2012 W. Superior St.
  • Duluth’s main fire hall, 602 W. Second St.
  • Fire Station 2, 2627 W. Superior St.
  • Fire Station 4, 425 W. College St.
  • Fire Station 6, 1031 N. 51st Ave. E.
  • Fire Station 11, 3501 Woodland Ave.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The formula.......

What does policing need to strengthen trust and build relationships in the communities we serve? 

1. We Need the Right People
We need to better recruit and hire people with maturity, excellent communication skills, compassion, diverse life experience and background as well as a college education. Additionally, we need people who desire to make our neighborhoods better; not someone who sees their job as an occupying force,but a dedicated relationship builder who has a stake in our community’s success.

2. We Need the Right Training
Training of our officers continues to improve. Whether it is crisis intervention training for dealing with those who are mentally ill or de-escalization training or verbal skill enhancement, our officers have never been better trained. But we can do better, I recently heard of a study that found for every hour of extra in-service training an officer receives their use of force incidents drop 4%. That is a good return on your investment. Police involved shootings and improper use of force garner the most attention from our community, so we will continue to train on innovative practices to ensure our officers are trained well above national standards. We will work with all those we serve to build understanding and support for those rare instances when despite officers doing the right thing and for the right reason, things go wrong.

3. We Need Technology
Innovative technology will also help us reduce prevent and reduce crime as well as the need for police to use force. While privacy advocates and I share the same concerns about big government watching our citizen’s activities, there are occasions where emerging technology will prevent a police officer, innocent people or even a dangerous suspect from getting hurt. Innovations are occurring rapidly, so we must begin talking about technology and policing now because technology is often developing faster than good policies can be established. Technology used in policing must be shared openly with the public and vetted properly so there is a clear and legal understanding of when and how the technology can be used to keep our community safe.

4. Community Policing Needs Support
We must continue to embrace and build on community policing. My own career experience with community policing guides me today because I know how well it works. To do community policing right it requires putting the right people in the right places, having sufficient staffing, funding and training. When police build relationships with community members, community groups and our business community we solve problems and reduce crime; as well as improve our neighborhoods. I want our officers to know the business owners and employees as well as the residents in their beats. A serious use of force incident in our community recently showed strong trust and faith in our police department. This support and trust happened as a direct result of the relationships our officers have built with community members. This is what community policing is all about and it is what we will continue to build on in the years ahead.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good things going on

There is too much focus on things going wrong in our world.  At a local level, we live in a great City where good far out weighs bad...Here are a couple of video links that are a good reminder.

Hillfest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN4L2Tr1omY



Meet on the Street - Lincoln Park
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psmkLHGyVuM

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Good work you won't hear about in the news

What you won't hear about on the news, but happens every minute of everyday; great customer service by our officers. Here were a couple of the emails I received from people involved in crashes last week
 
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 10:34 AM
To: Gordon Ramsay
Subject: Thank you

On Monday, I was in one of the many multiple car crunches. The three policemen who worked the accident renewed my faith in humans. They were efficient, clear, had ...a sense of humor, and kind. What a great combination. Their mommas must be very proud of them.

Pat

______________________________________________

Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 12:06 AM
To: police
Subject: Increment weather - thank you for helping out

Greetings,

First big storm and so many accidents. I was part of one of the pile ups on the 32 ave E just between Graysolon and London Rd. Probably not the worst of the day, but enough to make me shaken. I would like to say thank you to the police department and specifically officer Webster (sp?) - I hope I got the name correctly. The whole situation caused me the worst panic attack in years. The officer was very calm, cordial and checked on me a number of times to make sure I was ok. In a situation when one has no control of the car, sliding and bumping with other people/cars doing the same, it was appretiated to have the help and support. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Strategic Planning at the PD

In 2007 we conducted an internal analysis of the police department and went through the strategic planning process. We found that the department needed to do better.
 
Chronic staffing shortages had negatively impacted our community policing efforts. We had severely fallen behind in technological advancements. Our police facilities were literally crumbling and having a serious impact on operations.

Department members put together a comprehensive five-year strategic plan that served as our road map. The plan was updated yearly and took into account changing internal and external factors.

Our staff did such a great job with our strategic plan that it was highlighted in a national publication. We received many calls from other police agencies asking for advice.

By creating a solid strategic plan, department members, other city departments, elected officials and residents knew what our priorities and needs were. As I review our initial needs analysis and strategic plan from 2008, I am proud to say we have had significant success in reaching our goals and addressing operational deficiencies.

By communicating our goals and objectives, we were able to gain support and successfully achieve them in a fairly quick time period. Much of our success has occurred because of strong support from Mayor Don Ness, city councilors and community members. We have accomplished most of our primary goals and objectives that had been in our initial strategic plans.

We are proud of the 93 percent rating of fair, good or excellent performance we received in the 2014 Mayor's Citizen Survey. Still, we know there is still a lot of room for improvement.

It is time again to update and renew our department's strategic plan. There are a few given goals that we are working on, such as the need for a more efficient records management system and the need to stay technologically advanced. In coming months department members and I will seek input from residents, elected officials, community groups and the business community on how to improve the police department as we update our strategic plan.  Our goal is continuous improvement! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Crashes, falls and injuries

I am very proud and appreciative of our Duluth Police Officers.  Monday we had four squad cars hit while parked at crash scenes, one officer was injured after being hit and was treated and released from a local hospital (his unmarked squ...ad is pictured below and sustained serious damage). Many other officers slipped and fell - one hit his head and sustained a concussion. These guys and gals have been working their tails off. Please be cautious around our officers and God bless them! I think this storm just blew the reduction in officer injuries I just wrote about.....

 

 



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reducing Officer Injuries

Several years ago Duluth P.D. along with 17 other police agencies participated in a national study with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on reducing officer injuries.  At the completion of the study recommendations to reduce officer injuries were made.  We are seeing an improvement and I am proud of our staff for making a positive difference.  The people at D.P.D. make my job easier by working to be the best they can be.....

I received this note from the City's Loss Control Manager this week:

I would like to congratulate the Duluth Police Department on the amazing accomplishment of having NO time-lost injuries yet this year!  I’ve included a graph below to show just how notable of a change this is.  You’re throwing off the average of the entire City to make everyone look good on our state & nationwide safety stats.  Your injury numbers, severity, and time-lost stats are way below average for a local government police department.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Surveys and Policing in Duluth

We recently received, and thoroughly reviewed, the results from the annual Citizen Survey. The City of Duluth website (www.duluthmn.gov/mayor/surveys) summarizes, "Residents give Duluth high marks and show satisfaction in the general direction the city is heading. Survey results demonstrate improvements in several areas, including 83 percent of residents polled approving of the city's overall quality of life. That is the highest result in that category since polling began in 2009, when overall quality of life polled only 68 percent. The overall image of the city is also at its highest results now at 78 percent, up from 58 percent in 2009. Eighty-five percent of residents say Duluth is a great place to live, up from 78 percent in 2009."
 
From my perspective, I noted 93 percent of the survey respondents rated contact with the police as excellent, good or fair in 2014. The number of people feeling safe in their home rose from 89 percent last year to 92 percent this year. One area of focus is our effort downtown. Those who felt safe downtown rose this year to 73 percent, compared to 64 percent last year. Drunkenness, panhandling and disorder are what primarily drive the perception downtown. Overall 95 percent of those surveyed feel safe in Duluth.

The police department uses the survey results as part of our performance measures, operational benchmarks and strategic planning. Our 2014 and 2015 priorities focus on community policing, which includes expanding block clubs, neighborhood watches and citizen patrols. Additionally our outreach to neighborhoods focusing on crime prevention and collaboration to solve problems together continues to be a priority. Our Comm-U-nity CompStat (computer statistics) meetings that began in Lincoln Park last year recently were expanded to include the Central Hillside. Meeting and building relationships with residents is what we want.

We also continue to focus on building relationships with our youth. The Duluth Police Activities League (D-PAL) began earlier this year and focuses on sports and other activities that provide a positive venue for kids and officers to spend time together. So far D-PAL activities have been a great success and we look forward to seeing it grow.

We hosted two Cops, Kids and Cars events this summer that were huge hits. This is another example where our staff and community members can meet to discuss neighborhood issues, current events or the latest with the Twins or Vikings.

One of our other major areas of focus has been crime prevention, because that is the most important aspect of policing. The most common crime in Duluth is property theft. Whether a car burglary or a theft from a garage, we know many of these crimes can be prevented. Keep your items locked up and out of view and, most importantly, call 911 if you witness suspicious behavior.

With your help, we can keep Duluth a great place to live and make it even safer. If you have any interest in being a part of a Block Club, Neighborhood Watch, Citizen Patrol or having an officer attend a neighborhood meeting at your home, please give my office a call and we will set it up.

**News Tribune Photo-Clint Austin**

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Body Cameras and Privacy Concerns


I testified before a legislative committee yesterday in St. Paul on the need to update our privacy laws related to police body cameras.  In many cases police video recordings are considered public; even in some one's residence or while recording someone during one of the worst points of their life.  This simply should not be considered public data; which was the purpose of my testimony.  Our current data privacy laws need to be updated to reflect changing technology. 

During my testimony I was surprised when one legislator asked why I didn't wait for the laws to be updated prior to implementing the cameras.  Well, let's be honest, our legislative process is very political and not a nimble system; it can take years to get laws changed, if they ever change at all.   The bottom line is simply body cameras are too valuable to wait for laws to possibly change.  Rest assured though, we will continue to work with our elected officials to bring our laws up to date.


Photo from Duluth News-Tribune

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Good News Story

Here's a great story by Fox 21 on our efforts to build relationships with kids in our community through the Police Activities League. We appreciate their attention to positive news! 

http://www.fox21online.com/news/video/duluth-police-officers-go-slam-dunk-patrol

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Editorial on Body Cameras

Here is an editorial I wrote for the News-Tribune on police body cameras last weekend.  Unfortunately, I could not write all I wanted to because it would have taken up a pages of the paper.  Here is the piece. 

 

Police Chief's View: Nation’s police can follow Duluth’s lead

Keeping up with technology to police more effectively has been a priority of the Duluth Police Department. After I became police chief in 2006, our department began outfitting our squad cars with dash-mounted video cameras. While some staff were skeptical at first, it did not take long for them to become supportive. In 2009, small video cameras that could be worn on a person’s upper body began to be produced, and we took immediate interest. Unfortunately, short battery life, cost, video storage and poor quality were several of the factors that delayed our deployment of the body camera. We continued to test various models over the last few years and settled on a model last year that meets our needs.
 
With strong support from Mayor Don Ness and our City Council, we have purchased about 100 cameras and fully implemented them for the entire patrol division in early July. Every patrol officer is assigned a body camera. While there are many departments trying out body cameras on a trial basis, I am aware of only a few mid-sized or large police agencies that have fully implemented body cameras through their entire patrol division; the Duluth Police Department is leading the way.

A few of the benefits of body cameras include capturing interaction and encounters, evidence documentation, added transparency and complaint resolution. I believe police body cameras will further strengthen our officers’ legitimacy in our city.

We already have found the value of the cameras when investigating citizen complaints. I received a concern from a citizen regarding a potential improper police interaction with an acquaintance of his. I reviewed the video footage and found the two officers involved showed extreme patience and civility while dealing with one of the more obstinate individuals I’ve seen. I was so impressed with the way the officers handled this individual that I took the time to commend them and thank them for their professionalism.

Prior to implementing body cameras, we knew some of the drawbacks. First, video footage is a two-dimensional view of a three-dimensional view. Cameras show some of what an officer sees but not everything. Additionally, there will be extra requests for videos from prosecutors, defense attorneys and the public. On calls requiring numerous officers, we’ve found there can be dozens of body-worn cameras recording the incident. Those videos need to be watched by investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys and then stored, which costs money.

We’ve built a solid policy governing the use of body cameras through collaboration with the Duluth Police Union, the Civilian Review Board, department volunteers and input from the American Civil Liberties Union. While I believe the actions of our police officers are a matter of public record, there are going to be instances recorded by police body cams that raise important questions about privacy — particularly when inside someone’s home. Eventually there will be law changes and best practices that come out of the evolving use of body cameras in policing. Our data privacy laws need to be updated to reflect public sentiment on this issue.

I commend Mayor Ness and City Council members for their tremendous support of body cameras and for continuing to ensure the Duluth Police Department remains a leader in policing.

Gordon Ramsay is chief of the Duluth Police Department. He wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DPD Compliment of the week

What you won't hear about on the news....DPD compliment of the week.
________________________________________________________________________________

 To: Gordon Ramsay
Subject: Great Officers!

Hello Chief Ramsey,

On Sunday, September 14th, I had to call for police assistance in getting my brother in law to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. First and foremost, the officer (Female) demonstrated complete professionalism right from the first phone call from her cell,... ensuring their safety was secured so they could enter in to the situation with every bit of knowledge possible.

This was an extremely
difficult phone call for me to make as never in my life would I have ever thought I would have had to do such a thing. My brother in law is a wonderful human being who has suddenly developed some behavioral disturbances following three strokes that he has had and unfortunately, one of the strokes has affected his frontal lobe in which memory, impulse control and emotion is impacted.

All of your officers WERE FANTASTIC!

I would really like to take a moment to give special attention to your female officer. Forgive me… I can’t exactly recall her name but it was similar to Shelly or Shari …. (Working out in West Duluth that day) When I explained the situation to her, I will NEVER forget her empathetic, attentive and caring eyes. Something so little was so significant to me during this time of intense stress. Just knowing that judgment wasn’t being passed as it usually is due to the typical stigma of mental illness was beyond comforting. The person centered way all of your officers handled my family member was nothing short of completely dignified, empathetic and they all demonstrated unconditional, positive regard.

I am very proud to read about these wonderful officers who make a difference each and every day and I certainly didn’t want to miss an opportunity to give them all a high five from me as well!

A huge thanks to the department for the clear commitment you all have and the “soft skills” demonstrated by this female officer! I’m beyond impressed!

Sincerely,

XXXX XXXXXX

Monday, September 22, 2014

Police Work

I've been feeling that I have been sitting at my desk too much lately, so I decided to spend some time out on the street, working with the men and women who keep our city safe. I spent an afternoon with our drug task force, serving warrants for methamphetamine cases last week. While meth does not capture the headlines like it has in the past, it is still a problem drug in our region.

I spent some time at a duplex while a meth warrant was served. There were about four individuals in the home and they were all young and physically capable of working; however, no one was employed. They were all obviously addicted to meth. Their faces were gaunt with dark circles around their eyes. A couple had open sores and could have been the faces we see on the meth awareness ads on billboards and TV.

I talked with a few neighbors who seemed pleased with the police activity that disrupted a house that has been a concern on their block. A tenant upstairs whispered out of her window to me, "Is there anything I need to be worried about?" I told her what we were doing and she said she keeps to herself and had no idea. I called the landlord on the phone while I was standing in the front yard of his property and explained why we were there. He was very quiet, other than saying thanks for calling him.

I still am amazed at how a small percentage of our landlords is the source of most of the problems. Our officers know troubled properties and can rattle off the landlords' names, addresses, problems and efforts to solve the issues, like a doctor diagnosing and helping a cancer patient.

Along the lines of problem properties, I worked last Friday night on the street and helped out with a couple of party calls in the East Hillside. The parties primarily consisted of college-age students who were very polite and concerned about the police contact. Of the 75 or so young adults we dealt with, there was only one person who posed any trouble, an argumentative young man who obviously had been drinking. His astute friends realized his shortcoming and escorted him out of the area. I wrote a couple of underage consumption tickets and a social host ticket at those calls. The tenants of the homes we were at were concerned about how their property managers were going to react to the police call.

It was clear to me our efforts in addressing problem properties has had an impact with regard to loud parties. I would be remiss if I did not thank the leaders at the University of Minnesota Duluth for their collaboration in our effort to reduce underage drinking and loud parties. Our loud party calls continue to drop and are down significantly from years past.

One of the areas I wanted to spend time last Friday night was around First Avenue West and First Street, particularly around closing time. While it's great to see the area busy with foot traffic and young adults out enjoying themselves, we continue to see an increase in disturbances and fights in this area. An interesting part of this equation is that 10 years ago you could have shot a cannon ball down First Street and not hit a soul in the early morning hours. Now the street is crawling with people having fun.

One of the biggest changes for policing in our community was option for bars to stay open from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. that occurred 10 years ago when a State law was changed. Prior to the extended bar hours, I used to watch the train of cars going to Superior for a night of fun. I'd listen to fight call after fight call along Tower Avenue chirping from the Superior police radio channel. All that has changed now and instead of listening to the alcohol-fueled fights in Superior at 1 a.m. to 4 a.m., I am seeing it in Duluth.

The problems we are noticing are associated with only a couple of bars and not representative of the majority of the bars in Duluth. The common denominator in the bar closing fights is that many people are over-served and are very intoxicated, leading to bad behavior. We will be working with the problem bars to help them address over-serving in an effort to keep people and the neighborhood safe. If we are not successful at reducing fights and disturbances associated with a problem bar, we may seek alternative solutions which could include earlier closing times and other sanctions.
I'm glad that I have the opportunity to get away from my desk and into the streets. I still like working the street doing police work. In addition to writing some tickets and reports, I am able to keep a pulse on how things look after dark, as well as see the great work our officers are doing to ensure our neighborhoods' quality of life remains.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Minnesota's Police Hiring Process Must Evolve

This editorial was printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Duluth News-Tribune this week.

Police chiefs' view: Open up the police recruitment process

        
An August newspaper article in the Twin Cities focused on an issue we have been working to improve for several years. Simply stated, the “funnel” from which we must hire police officers is broken. And it is time for our system to evolve to meet the needs of our cities.
 
In the late 1970s, Minnesota led the nation when it came to police officer education and standards. This state was one of the first to create a regulatory agency, called the Police Officers Standards and Training, or POST. Today, POST is overseen by an executive director and a board of 15 individuals who represent higher education, chiefs, sheriffs, officers, elected officials and community members. In addition to ensuring departments meet policy, education and training standards, POST also mandates that candidates to be police officers have a minimum of a two-year degree in law enforcement or criminal justice from a POST-accredited school.

Despite strong recruitment efforts and POST’s best intentions, we are not seeing two types of applicants that are crucial to our community policing efforts. First, the number of applicants from culturally diverse backgrounds is very low because our process for becoming a police officer has not evolved with our needs. Second, we lack candidates with significant life experience and maturity, or what we call “second-career candidates.” Second-career candidates are those who have worked in other professions, who have seen things through a different lens, and who bring empathy and compassion through personal experience. That’s something that cannot be taught yet is a critical attribute in our police officers.

Most Minnesota chiefs know people with significant life and educational experience who would like to become police officers and would make excellent ones but who simply cannot afford to quit their jobs to attend additional schooling and an academy on their own time and dime. The very life experience and diversity we are looking for is systematically filtered out of the police process because of financial costs and time commitments.

For instance, a single working mom (who may still be paying back student loans) cannot quit her job for a year to go back to school and attend the police skills academy, as required by POST.
Although our state’s standards for educating and training police officers remain high, to our knowledge, Minnesota is the only state in our nation that imposes such limitations on hiring.

In the end, we need to make it more attractive for anyone other than those who choose a traditional police education route to enter law enforcement, thus substantially increasing our pool of candidates.
Our two departments run their own police academies and will be seeking approval to hire people with any college degree and train them to the POST standards. We believe this will expand our hiring pool and maintain the professionalism of our state’s police officers that POST established nearly 40 years ago. We also believe it will ensure our communities are served by the brightest, most diverse people who represent the communities we serve.

Gordon Ramsay is Duluth’s police chief. Janee Harteau is the Minneapolis police chief.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Heroin and Prescription Pain Meds


I attended a meeting on the state of heroin in Minnesota yesterday and believe there are still too many people that do not understand how we got to where we are today with this serious public health issue. Heroin and opiate based prescription pain pills continues to have a terrible impact on families in every corner of our community. Four out of five heroin users start by using prescription opiate pain pills. While the opiate drug problem is touching all ages, it is impacting teens and young adult the most.
Be aware that opiate based pain pills are nothing to fool around with. I hear stories every week about kids experimenting with prescription opiates that think because it is prescribed by a doctor it can't be dangerous or have negative impacts. Many of the kids experimenting with the prescription pills end up on heroin not too far down the road.

Report suspected heroin or illegal prescription drug sales to our drug unit at 730-5750 or email or text by visiting our tip page http://www.citizenobserver.com/cov6/app/webTipForm.html?id=10341

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Preventing crises before they happen...

The recent events in Missouri have caused many in our country to examine the role of police in a free society. It is imperative for police to build trusting relationships, be restrained in our use of force whenever possible and be seen as part of the community, not an occupying force. It is my job as chief to ensure we provide our staff with direction and provide the tools and training to handle the difficult decisions they often face while serving our neighborhoods.

If you would have told me, when I entered this profession 22 years ago, that police-community relations in some areas had not improved by 2014, I would have disagreed. We know that the formula for building trust and improving relations with those we serve is through community policing. Lessons learned from terrible incidents in the early '90s like Rodney King and others made the police better at building trust and relationships. Or so I thought. I was naïve to many aspects of the realities of policing: the amount of crime, inept parenting, the terrible things people do to others and all the deceit and amount of dysfunction that exists in our society.


When I was a community policing officer in the Hillside, I found extreme satisfaction in working with community members to make a positive difference. When I took the time to get to know the people that lived and worked in my beat, they felt better because they knew and trusted me. I am a believer in community policing through and through, because of the experiences I had as we worked to reduce crime with neighbors.  One example I vividly remember occurred in 1997, when I came upon a group of African-American teens hanging out in front of the Fourth Street Market. As I approached on my police bike, a few in the group suddenly got quiet and somber. I heard one of the kids huff in a disappointed tone, "Oh, here comes the cops." I was pleased when another youth said, "That's just Gordon. He's cool, but doesn't like us hanging in front of the market."


Our staff regularly hosts and attends community meetings on neighborhood issues. We recently coordinated the largest National Night Out event in Duluth's history. We attend dozens of neighborhood events every month. There are other planned events on the books as well, such as the second annual Cops, Kids and Cars. Our police officers are making a difference every minute of every day. And while we will fumble and make mistakes from time to time, we are committed to maintaining community policing as our primary operating philosophy.


A key aspect of community policing recognizes the need for community members to be engaged and work with police to solve problems. The police cannot do it alone. Simply put, if we want to make things better, we need more people at the table working toward healthy relationships and making our community better. Before there is a crisis.


So while I talk about our department's effort prevent crime, we need more neighbors and community groups to join us in keeping our community safe and healthy. The Duluth Police Department will continue to work closely with anyone who will join us in our efforts.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What's the Future?

When I first entered policing at age 20, I had many preconceived ideas on how I would handle various situations. As I gained more and more experience, I learned it was always easier to be the one critiquing the situation than the one who had to make the split-second decisions, often under significant stress.
 
 
I was naïve and remember being surprised and slightly disillusioned at the dissatisfaction, distrust and contempt for police that existed more than I had initially thought.  Almost 21 years to the day later, we are still talking about the same things: trust and building relationships. We continue to see incidents of police use of force highlighted in the news. With the proliferation of cameras in the private sector and now the use of body cameras by our officers, we know the number of videos associated with police conduct will take center stage.

So where are we going from here, and what is my vision for the next decade to help us continue to build trust and support for our dedicated police officers?

We need the right people.

I see us continuing to fine-tune the way we hire police officers, but first in Minnesota we must change Minnesota’s archaic Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) system that severely limits our candidate pool. Once we get beyond this broken funnel, departments across this state can hire from a larger pool representing more of the candidates we need: those with maturity, excellent communication skills, compassion, diverse life experience and background and a college education.

Additionally, we need people who desire to make our neighborhoods better, not someone who sees their job as an occupying force, but a dedicated relationship-builder who has a stake in our community’s success.

We need the right training.

 Training of our officers continues to improve. Whether it is crisis intervention training for dealing with those who are mentally ill, de-escalation training or verbal skill enhancement, our officers have never been better trained.
But we can do better. Recently I heard of a study that found for every hour of extra in-service training an officer receives, their use-of-force incidents drop four percent. That is a good return on your investment.

Police-involved shootings and improper use of force garner the most attention from our community, so we will continue to train on innovative practices to ensure our officers are trained well above national standards. We will work with all those we serve to build understanding and support for those rare instances when, despite officers doing the right things for the right reasons, things go wrong.

We need technology.

Innovative technology will also help us reduce prevent and reduce crime as well as the need for police to use force. While privacy advocates and I share the same concerns about big government watching our citizen’s activities, there are occasions where emerging technology will prevent a police officer, innocent people or even a dangerous suspect from getting hurt. Innovations are occurring rapidly, so we must begin talking about technology and policing now, because technology is often developing faster than good policies can be established. Technology used in policing must be shared openly with the public and vetted properly so there is a clear and legal understand of when and how it can be used to keep our community safe.

Community policing needs support.

We must continue to embrace and build on community policing. My own career experience with community policing guides me today because I know how well it works. To do community policing right requires putting the right people in the right places and having sufficient staffing, funding and training. When police build relationships with community members, community groups and our business community, we solve problems and reduce crime, as well as improve our neighborhoods. I want our officers to know the business owners and employees as well as the residents in their beats.

We have enjoyed great community support and it happened as a direct result of the relationships our officers have built with community members. This is what community policing is all about and it is what we will continue to build on in the years ahead.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

US Attorney's Editorial on the Last Place Case (from Duluth News Trib)

U.S. attorney's view: No Last Place headache for Duluth

         
I am writing to clarify some issues related to the prosecution of Jim Carlson and the proceedings concerning his shop, Last Place on Earth. This paper’s June 19 editorial, headlined “Head shop headaches will linger for years,” may have left a false impression of how our recent prosecution and forfeiture proceedings will affect the citizens of Duluth. Then I became United States attorney in February, I received a thorough briefing on this case. It was an impressive undertaking.
On Dec. 10, 2012, prosecutors in my office obtained a federal indictment charging Carlson with drug distribution and related charges. The indictment represented one of the most significant synthetic drug prosecutions in the country.


After a long trial, on Oct. 7, 2013, a federal jury in Duluth found Carlson guilty on 51 charges, including the distribution of synthetic drugs. By all accounts, Carlson’s shop on Superior Street was a danger to the community and a negative presence for local business owners and residents. Our office coordinated the prosecution of this case and the forfeiture of the Last Place on Earth shop with local law enforcement, the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office and the Duluth City Attorney’s Office.
The shop, which was shut down by an order from St. Louis County Judge Shaun Floerke in July 2013, was seized by the federal government after the jury verdict. At the time, our combined efforts were applauded by local elected officials and community leaders. In fact, an Oct. 4, 2013, piece in this paper cited the closing of Last Place on Earth as a “turning point” in making downtown Duluth “clean, safe and friendly.” Since Carlson’s conviction, hospital officials, community leaders and law enforcement all have noted a substantial decrease in synthetic drug-related admissions to local emergency rooms.


In short, the prosecution of this case and the closing of Carlson’s shop did what local and federal authorities hoped: They removed a dangerous criminal enterprise from downtown Duluth and prevented further synthetic drug injuries.


But there is more work to be done. As the June 19 editorial noted, the store remains shut down under the interim care of the United States Marshal’s Office, and something must be done with it. But the paper’s conclusion that taxpayers will inherit the costs of this process was unwarranted.
Let me explain. Not only was Carlson convicted of serious federal charges, but the federal government also was able to seize more than $4 million in currency and other assets related to his crimes. The money and assets are in federal custody. In considering the impact of this case on Duluth, the editorial inexplicably failed to inform readers of the process for distributing this money. When large federal forfeitures such as this are conducted, federal law provides that local law enforcement agencies involved in the underlying case receive a portion of the money through a process called “equitable sharing.” Although the plans for this equitable sharing will be finalized after Carlson’s appeal is decided, we expect to distribute about $1 million to the Duluth Police Department based on the extraordinary role of its officers in bringing Carlson to justice. That money will, of course, benefit the citizens of Duluth.


In addition, under standard procedures, the building that formerly housed the Last Place on Earth will be sold by the U.S. Marshals. The editorial opined no one would buy the building because of its “sorry state,” that the building probably would revert to Duluth, and that the city would have to pay to fix it up to use as a rehab center or for a similar purpose.


The editorial continued: “Eventual and expensive demolition seems a quite-likely result, with us taxpayers picking up the sizable tab.” That is simply not the case. To be clear, while the federal government can turn the building over to the city, it does not have to do so. Typically, the federal government sells the building, and that is what is likely to occur here. Moreover, there is no provision in the law that would require the taxpayers of Duluth to bear any of the federal government’s costs in selling this property. The U.S. Marshals have retained real estate experts to assist in selling the building and do not intend for it to be turned over to the city. While the building is in disarray (that is how Carlson kept it), the marshals will attempt to sell it as quickly as possible at no cost to the taxpayers.


One neighbor of the Last Place on Earth compared Carlson to someone “who pours toxic pollution into a river.” Not anymore. Duluth’s skilled law enforcement officers and local officials, federal agents and our dedicated prosecutors worked to end this unfortunate chapter in Duluth’s history. Contrary to any suggestion otherwise in the June 19 editorial, the hard work paid off and will continue to pay off for the citizens of Duluth. As we prepare for Carlson’s sentencing and appeal, the money seized from his operations awaits the distribution process. Once the appeal is concluded, Duluth will see its portion of the “equitable sharing” agreement, as it should.


No amount of money can offset the damage from Carlson’s operation. But this paper owes it to its readers to provide all the facts about how this case will affect the city.


I am proud of the work of our office did on this case and I am glad that, working with local officials, we made a positive impact on Duluth.


Andrew M. Luger is the United States attorney for the District of Minnesota, based in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A crime of greed; not need

We all pay a lot more for goods because of shoplifting; from my observations and experience it is a crime of greed and not need. One of the larger shoplifting cases that I will never forget involved the wife of a doctor who stole thousands... of dollars in clothes for a trip to the Bahamas she was making the next day. I review shoplifting stats from time to time and noted last week we had 22 shoplifting arrests.
Photo: We all pay a lot more for goods because of shoplifting; from my observations and experience it is a crime of greed and not need.  One of the larger shoplifting cases that I will never forget involved the wife of a doctor who stole thousands of dollars in clothes for a trip to the Bahamas she was making the next day.  I review shoplifting stats from time to time and noted last week we had 22 shoplifting arrests. 

Here is some info from last week's arrests:

-Several arrests involved theft of energy drinks and cosmetics 
-2 packages of fishing line from Shopko (less than $15)
-Hot Pockets from Walgreens
-People filled baskets or carts with merchandise and just walked right out of the store
-Male pulled a knife on loss prevention personnel over a $35 watch
-Female loaded two grocery bags full at Cub and walked out with $145 in food.

Not to make light of a serious subject, but in one of the cases an officer told the thief the following:

I ALSO ADVISED HE WAS NOT GOOD AT SHOPLIFTING AND SHOULD STOP. HE AGREED.
Here is some info from last week's arrests:

-Several arrests involved theft of energy drinks and cosmetics
-2 packages of fishing line from Shopko (less than $15)
-Hot Pockets from Walgreens
-People filled baskets or carts with merchandise and just walked right out of the store
-Male pulled a knife on loss prevention personnel over a $35 watch
-Female loaded two grocery bags full at Cub and walked out with $145 in food.

Not to make light of a serious subject, but in one of the cases an officer told the thief the following:

I ALSO ADVISED HE WAS NOT GOOD AT SHOPLIFTING AND SHOULD STOP. HE AGREED.