Friday, May 22, 2015

Pace quickens

From time to time I've blogged about the population estimates that are released annually by the United States Census Bureau. Last week, the estimate for Lincoln's population as of July 1, 2014 was released. The estimates are always for the preceding year. I was surprised to see Lincoln's estimate at 272,996. That's over 1,000 more people than I had expected.

The pace of growth seems to have quickened between 2013 and 2014, to 1.5%. We added 4,041 souls to the City between those two July 1 estimates. To put that in perspective, that's about the size of Cozad or Fairbury--pretty substantial 'burgs by Nebraska standards.

Since we now have an authoritative 2014 population estimate, and it's higher than expected, it will affect the crime rate statistics in a positive way. When I plug the new population figure into the spreadsheet, the violent Part 1 crime rate for 2014 will be 3.4 offenses per thousand population, rather than 3.6, and the property Part 1 crime rate will be 33, rather than 33.2.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Anatomy of the flood

Lincoln's flooding on Thursday of last week had a few positives, too, at least from my persepective. First, the Antelope Valley Project--which has been the target of plenty of slings and arrows over the past 20 years for the five mayors who helped propel it forward--decisively proved its worth. I have no doubt that we avoided a huge urban flooding nightmare, and tens of millions in damage.

Second, it was a good opportunity to thoroughly exercise the Emergency Operating Center--since it relocated a few years ago to 233 S. 10th Street. One of the remarkable changes from my last stint in the EOC was our ability to use the City's network of pan-zoom-tilt traffic cameras to monitor events, along with such resources as GIS mapping applications projected on the walls. It was a far cry then the windowless room in the basement of the County-City Building, where you're only connection to reality outside was the radio. We were able to get great streaming video of many trouble spots.

Third, it was an opportunity for me to get acquainted with Glenn Johnson, the general manager of the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, aka the NRD. I learned a lot from listening to Glenn last week, a soft-spoken guy who clearly knows his stuff. His information about the Salt Creek levee system, the watershed, the stream gauges, sand boils, channel work, tributaries, and so forth was both useful and interesting. I became particularly interested in the systems for monitoring flood conditions, which include physical observation by NRD employees walking the levees, and remote monitoring of flow rates and water levels.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (say that three times fast) publishes data from stream gauges nationwide. This one, located in Salt Creek a bit north of Cornhusker Highway, will provide you with the anatomy of the flood for a couple more days, until the date window of May 6-8 scrolls off the page. You can hover your mouse over the blue points on the graph, and see the readings at each time interval.

Down at the lower left of the page, check out the section for "Historic Crests." Our 28.8 ft. crest at about 4:00 PM on May 7 is the highest since July 6, 1908--same summer the Cubs were on their way to the World Series pennant.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


One afternoon back in 1983 or so, I stumbled upon what looked like a minor fender-bender at N. 1st Street and Cornhusker Highway. I was a young sergeant, and prided myself on a willingness to handle such on-view events without burdening the officers on my squad.

Stepping out of my patrol car to start the paperwork, I suddenly realized that the station wagon involved in the collision way sitting on top of a human being--its driver--who had been ejected in the collision. A gaggle of four or five gawkers was looking on as the screaming victim was being seriously burned by the vehicle's exhaust system.

I barked a few commands. The onlookers grabbed fenders and bumpers, and literally lifted the weight of a two-ton vehicle. In a genuine emergency, a small group of people can muster super-human strength. My part was easy: I grasped the victim's ankles and pulled him from under the car.

For this act of other peoples' heroism,  I was subsequently awarded the Lincoln Police Department's Lifesaving Award. It's in a box in the basement, I think. Not that I wasn't appreciative, but there are a few other actions, never known by management, I hold more dear in my heart. This is true of virtually every other police officer, firefighter, and dispatcher I know.

Last night, a Lincoln firefighter who had read my recent blog post about the LUCAS device emailed me a story of a save, told with the same sense of wonder and amazement that I felt that evening, and on that handful of occasions no one else ever knew about.

We will save more lives with this device and this training. We will return victims, too young to die, to the bosom of their families; to grow old and bounce grand children and great grandchildren on their knee; and in a tiny, tiny, infinitesimally small way, I will take satisfaction in my minuscule role in facilitating this.

No man or woman could dream of such a fulfilling calling in life.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Help on the way

Thanks to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, some pretty amazing help is on the way to Lincoln, in the form of  LUCAS automated chest compression devices. This machine essentially takes over the CPR chest compressions, delivering consistent compressions far more effectively than even a well-trained  human rescuer could sustain.

The Trust is funding hundreds of these devices for hospitals and EMS services across Nebraska. Lincoln Fire & Rescue will be receiving six--enough to equip each of our front line ambulances. We have been field-testing a LUCAS device for the past several months, and our EMS supervisors have developed techniques for quickly applying the device, which has been deployed over 70 times.

The LUCAS device is a life saver, no question about it. Check out the video to see how it is going to help our community of providers deliver remarkable care to patients:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Back in the news

Some publicity, of the unfavorable kind, has come the way of Panama City Beach, Florida after the national media picked up the story of a gang rape witnessed by scores of people who did absolutely nothing to protect the victim or stop the assaults. This comes on the heels of national media coverage of the shooting of seven people at a Panama City Beach house party a couple of weeks earlier.

Thirteen years ago to the day, I made my own effort to bring these risks to the attention of a national audience, calling out the local authorities for their role in promoting this anything-goes atmosphere that leads to the inevitable harms epitomized by these recent events. I have little sympathy for the boosters: they've created their own monster.

Some things just don't change, even when such tragedies temporarily jump into the national consciousness.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Recollecting the alley

Some eyebrows are raised around Lincoln this week, after some news coverage of a project in downtown Lincoln that is turning an old alley into a pedestrian walkway, in order to connect the Haymarket area on the north with the developing South Haymarket area on the other side of the Harris Overpass.

The new Lumberworks Garage on the southside of O Street is about to be joined by two large residential projects under development in the South Haymarket, with more undoubtedly to come. The alley in question is the route from one to another, and while it carries significant pedestrian traffic today from the parking garage to the Pinnacle Bank Arena and other Haymarket destinations, it will be a veritable thoroughfare in the future.

This north/south alley is a half-block west of 8th Street, from P to O Streets. When I was a brand-new-barely-21 rookie police officer in the fall of 1974, it was on Beat 1 of Lincoln's seven downtown foot patrol beats. I often was assigned to Beat 1 that fall and winter, trudging the area from the railroad tracks on the west, to 10th Street on the east, between O and R all night long.

And those nights were really long. Unlike beat 3, 4, 5, and 6, Beat 1 was as dead as a wedge at night. The workforce from the Russell Stover plant was long gone, and nothing much was left other than the occasional traveller making his way to the train depot, perhaps stopping for a cup of joe at the Russian Inn, and vagrants. Just thinking about it brings back memories of the smell of urine and Mad Dog 20/20.

I often rousted snoozing drunks out of the alley that is about to become a Haymarket jewell, which at the time was littered with broken bottles and mounds of pigeon droppings. It's hard to fathom the incredible transformation, not only of this alley, but of the entire Haymarket area. During my career, Beat 1 has gone from a dilapidated collection of warehouses where little human activity lingered after dark, to a shining star that is the favorite destination for Lincoln's residents and visitors, streets (and alleys) filled with the vibrant hum of urban life.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New leaders

It was bittersweet, over a period of a few weeks this year, to bid goodbye to three great colleagues at the Lincoln Police Department, Capt. David Beggs, Capt. Doug Srb, and Capt. Kim Koluch. I miss them, but it's also nice to see them all retire after long careers with their health and humor intact.

These retirements have created a mini-flood of promotions, as the positions are filled. Promotions at LPD are usually rare events, and there are always many fine candidates to consider. These unusual circumstances have created an opportunity to turn several pages in short order. Here's a shout out to a group of newly-promoted supervisors at the Lincoln Police Department that rose to the top in a pool of excellence.

Sgt. Ben Kopsa
Capt. Jeri Roeder
Sgt. Mario Robinson
Capt. Jeff Bucher
Sgt. Michelle Jochum
Capt. Mayde McGuire
Sgt. Tarvis Banks

All of you make me very proud, and I have been immensely pleased to see you develop into leaders. Your ability to move to the next level, and your willingness to accept the responsibility that comes with rank, is commendable. Best wishes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Many thanks

Yesterday's election has had me a bit distracted for the past week, but I am now breathing again, after Lincoln voters decisively approved a three year increase of a quarter-cent to the City sales tax to fund replacement of our aging radio system and four new facilities for fire and police personnel.

Many thanks are due to the committee of citizens who studied these proposals and weighed the funding options, presenting this recommendation to the Mayor late last year, and to the Mayor and City Council, who unanimously supported this effort. Thanks, also, to the police, fire, and 911 personnel who have worked for several years planning these much needed projects.

But the thanks especially is due to the citizens of Lincoln, who voted themselves a tax increase. Even though the amount sounds small, that's never an easy thing to do. The wisdom of this plan was understood by our citizens, whose vote for the ballot issue I also interpret as a vote of confidence for our public safety agencies.

You have my pledge that we will do our best to be good stewards of the funds you have entrusted us with for these projects.