Friday, July 3, 2015

Busy weekend looms

Thursday LPD hit 418 police dispatches, making it one of the busiest days of the year thus far. The Fourth of July is huge every year, but with the holiday landing on a weekend, it could be massive. LF&R had a brutal Forth of July last year with 87 runs total, but an incredible dump started around 10:00 PM: 26 incidents in two hours, including four working fires. It continued well into the wee hours of July 5th.

We're fielding extra fire & rescue assets this year, after sucking wind in 2014. That's probably a guarantee things will be relatively calm; sort of like washing your car on Saturday morning inevitably brings on an afternoon thundershower, while leaving it dirty guarantees sunshine.

LF&R's GIS analyst Phil Dush and Battalion Chief Eric Jones, spun up a web mapping application to provide personnel with an interactive event management tool. It's a nice upgrade from last year's inaugural version. Visualizing the Incident Action Plan on a map is very useful, and this will look great on the big screen in the command post.

Matter of preference, but the application can also be viewed within the framework of FireView Dashboard. One of the neat features of these web mapping applications is that you can click on any of the icons or symbols to bring up the details. It's a far cry from the flip chart taped on the wall and plastered with Post-It notes. Moreover, staff can view it on any Intranet-connected device: desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's not the equipment

There has been a lot of talk this past year, in the wake of Ferguson, about militarization of the police. Most of the commentary on this issue has focused around the acquisition by local police departments of surplus equipment from the armed forces. Police departments have been using military surplus equipment for decades. As a rookie officer in 1974, the S&W .38 revolver issued to me was stamped "U.S. Navy" on the back strap.

I see no major concern in police agencies taking advantage of this surplus gear, within reason. A few rifles, a truck, a night vision scope, or a HumVee doesn't really worry me. Police need this kind of equipment from time to time, and normally buy it (or something similar) brand new. If you can save a few tax dollars by reusing something the taxpayers have already purchased, that's generally OK with me. Look over the list of gear Nebraska agencies have received, and it's pretty typical stuff for which there are civilian counterparts: nobody is acquiring RPGs, mortars, and land mines.

The issue of militarization of the police that concerns me, rather than surplus equipment, is the intrusion of a war-fighting ethos into police culture that is not properly counterbalanced with an even stronger mentality of service and guardianship. There was an interesting article about this recently in the Harvard Law Review. I'm all for good training and tactics for protecting police officers from the risk of violent assault. Policing is one of only a handful of occupations with a sustained record of practitioners facing felonious attacks in the course of their employment. Safety is good. Better training and procedures, along with body armor, have dramatically reduced the number of officers killed in the line of duty in felonious assaults during my career.

But it is critical for police officers to recognize that the vast majority of citizens--rather than representing a threat to their safety--are firmly on our side, and depend on us from protection and service. The public is not the adversary. Many of those citizens would put themselves in harm's way without hesitation to help an officer in distress. When police officers begin to view citizens as a population of which they must be constantly wary, it is difficult to develop and sustain good relationships. Suspicion, distrust, and fear are corrosive to trust, collaboration, and partnership.

The line between good safety practices and good interpersonal relationships is a fine one, to be sure. I don't think relationships with the community are strained when a police SWAT team executes a high-risk arrest warrant. On the other hand, it's pretty tough (although not impossible) to have a friendly rapport with an officer decked out in fatigues, a load-bearing vest, and a slung MP5, which is why the drift towards military-styled language, BDUs, and tactical gear for street officers bothers me. It is the attitude and outlook behind the uniform, however, that matters most, and that one must be one dominated by the desire to protect and help others.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

First impressions

The Lincoln Police Department is preparing to start a new recruit class in July. I happened to be at police headquarters yesterday, as the soon-to-be-trainees were getting some preparatory administrative work out of the way. I was pleased to see a young woman in the class that I met earlier this year over a cup of coffee at Bruegger's. I did not intervene on her behalf in any way, but I could tell from our conversation she'd be an excellent candidate.

During my entire career, the LPD recruit academy has been based on an academic model, rather than a military one. Sgt. Lancaster, who ran the short academy when I was a newbie, was a friendly, avuncular fellow that set a nice tone. When I was running the academy in the early 1980's, I tried to avoid the drill instructor style you see in the movies and on TV. My current role is only a couple of days, but along with other instructors, I try to follow the principles of adult learning.

It's not this way everywhere. David Couper, who served as the Madison, Wisconson chief for twenty years, reminisced in his 2011 book, Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police, about the paradigm that was common in police academies, and still persists in some places:
"When I was introduced to the academy class that was already in training before I was appointed, the class stood at attention when I entered the room. In fact, I found that not only did they stand at attention when I entered, but that they did so for every supervisor who came into their class. A coercive, top-down leadership model had no place within a police department that was seeking highly educated people to come and join it. Some of the people we were trying to attract into a police career were currently in business, law, social work, or teaching. And most of them wouldn’t choose to remain in a police department that ran like an 18th century British warship."
Jack Lancaster set a good tone for me in 1974. I hope I'm doing likewise for trainees today. Its great to see these folks beginning their career, and the impression we make at the outset is an important one throughout their careers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Strat plan at hand

We're at the Municipal Services Center out by the airport this morning, with labor and management from Lincoln Fire & Rescue participating in a half-day strategic planning session.  This one is professionally facilitated by John Beranek.

A good discussion is taking place on how we can do a better job collaborating to move the organization along towards our key goals. I wish there were ways, in this day and age, to step back from our daily work more often, and take a deeper dive into the bigger issues.

I don't think I'm alone: the issue just came up from across the room!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hour of bliss

I was just checking CrimeView Dashboard this morning, when I noticed the widget for calls for service at LPD yesterday. Check this out: between 0400 and 0459, there was not a single dispatched incident. Can't ever recall that before, an entire hour with no police calls for service.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The latest gun

It has been quite a while since I have blogged about what is arguably Lincoln's most famous burglary, the 2007 break-in a Scheel's All Sports. Monday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms sent a telecommunications message to the Lincoln Police Department advising us that a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol stolen from Scheel's was recovered in Mexico, where the gun had been involved in a crime.

The message didn't contain much in the way of specifics, but we've requested more reports, and might get some more details when and if those arrive. Three years have passed since the last gun was recovered in Petaluma, California. Of the 79 guns originally stolen, 51 have been recovered, and 28 are still out there. More will trickle in as time goes by, as they have over the past seven years.

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.