Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to get the word out

If you still visit my blog from time to time, you've surely noticed that I'm not posting very often. After close to ten years of prolific writing, I've realized that blogs, for the most part, are just not that popular anymore. My page visits have fallen in half, and I'm not alone. The world has simply moved on, for the most part, to other social media options such as Facebook, Instagram, and especially Twitter.

These days I blog rather rarely, but I'm feeding posts to Twitter often. I am still something of a new comer to Twitter, but first realized its power  back on May 7, 2015, as I tweeted out updates during Lincoln's most recent flood. By the end of the day, it seemed like everyone was turning to Twitter for the most recent updates and latest news.

We are in the midst of cleaning up from a pretty significant snow event here in Lincoln, and a residential parking ban is in place. Getting neighborhood streets plowed is always a problem, because no matter how much you might try, not every gets the word about these bans, and not everyone obeys them. While the police can ticket the violator (250+ were issued overnight Tuesday to Wednesday), that really doesn't solve the problem

The tickets don't help the plow operator. When a single vehicle owner on the block ignores the parking ban, the plows must go around it, and the blade can't get to the curb. The owner digs out a few days later, but everyone else on the block has to cope with the resulting burial mound for the remainder of the winter. Another one on the opposite side of the street, and its a slalom course for the neighbors. Good luck with a bus or fire engine.

This morning, a discussion of this problem broke out on Twitter, questioning how people can be made more aware of such things as parking bans, in an age when few subscribe to the newspaper, listen to AM radio, or watch a local evening newscast. A UNL professor offered to canvas the students in her communications class for ideas this week. Do you have any? How can the City of Lincoln more effectively reach people with information like this?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Closing date set

The application closing date for Lincoln's chief of police position has now been set as February 29, 2016. If you are among those considering applying, or you know anyone who is interested, please pass the word. I've spoken with many potential candidates, and I am excited for LPD's future.

I bleed LPD blue, and want the absolute best leader we can find, whether internal or external, to propel the department forward with a vision the community and our employees can get behind. This is a dynamic time in the field, and this is one of the premier leadership jobs in policing in the United States this year.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Police chief opening

The City of Lincoln has posted an opening for the position of chief of police. You may find the job posting from the Human Resources Department by going to the City's website,, and entering the keyword JOBS--or just click here.

Chief Jim Peschong is retiring in February, after a 41 year career.  This is a fine department in a wonderful community, and it is my hope that an exemplary group of applicants leads to the selection of a leader who can inspire others with a vision for the future. The City will be advertising this position nationally in the next several weeks, but applications can be accepted now.

Everything I wrote in this post a few years ago about the community and the department still holds true (well, I think the cost of a parking meter has gone up to a buck an hour.) It's just a great place to live, work, and raise a family. I pinch myself at the good fortune of serving as Lincoln's public safety director. If I were considering this job, here are the most important factors that would influence my decision:
  • The workforce of the Lincoln Police Department is exceptional. We have large numbers of applicants, and have been able to choose excellent candidates over the years. The educational level is high, and there is a strong ethical value system that permeates the department. I am constantly impressed by the quality of our police officers.  
  • The department has a highly capable command and management staff. I feel entirely comfortable leaving anyone on the command staff in charge of the department. Civilian managers and sworn commanders have outstanding credentials and experience. They are deeply involved in civic affairs, and widely recognized as leaders not only in the department, but the community.
  • Support from our elected officials is good. While Lincoln (like almost all other cities in the United States) has had some budgetary challenges in the past decade, we have been spared from cuts to the sworn workforce, and actually grown slightly. Our stations, equipment and fleet are in very good condition, and our technology is impressive. My sense is that as revenue rebounds the police department will be a continuing priority.  
  • Community support is strong. Lincoln has a long history of the true practice of community-based, problem-oriented policing. We have earned the goodwill and respect of our citizens. Even when we have our inevitable missteps, citizens trust us to do the right thing and set matters straight. We have a great relationship with the news media, with neighborhood organizations, and with other governmental and non-governmental agencies.   
  • Although Lincoln has a strong mayor form of government, in which all department heads serve at the pleasure of an elected mayor, this position does not have a history of a revolving door: Lincoln has had just six police chiefs in the past 75 years. I served as chief of police for five mayoral administrations.
You can find a huge amount of information about the Lincoln Police Department on our public website and in our annual reports. I'm more than happy to talk to anyone who wants to get in touch and chat.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

PulsePoint milestone met

When we implemented PulsePoint, the remarkable application that delivers alerts to smartphones when a need for CPR exists in a public place nearby, I had hoped to reach 5,000 users within the first year. Last night, we passed the 5,000 mark--on the 82nd day following the public launch of PulsePoint in Lincoln on October 8, 2015.

While 5,000 seems like a mighty good number to me, it really was a goal plucked from the air. The PulsePoint foundation had suggested that a reasonable goal is to reach 1% of the population in year one. When we blew by that in the first week, we just set our sights on 5,000. I think several good things have resulted from PulsePoint in Lincoln.

  • 26 CPR alerts have been sent to 128 smartphones. Although we do not yet have a documented case where a PulsePoint alert resulted in bystander CPR before the arrival of LF&R, we know that in at least a few cases PulsePoint-equipped citizens responded and tried to assist. This case at a local motel certainly demonstrates the potential, and a PulsePoint-enabled save is simply a matter of time.
  • About 1,400 citizens have signed up for alerts pertaining to injury vehicle crashes and structure fires. These people are receiving notifications that allow them to avoid the traffic snarls that accompany such events, in which multiple LPD and LF&R vehicles are converging on the scene of an emergency. Anecdotally, this appears to be one of the most useful aspects of PulsePoint in daily use.
  • The news media has widely adopted PulsePoint. Reporters are getting story leads quickly, are able to notify their audience of emergencies, and are producing more stories than ever about the work of LF&R. It is common to see media outlets using screen shots from PulsePoint in tweets and on websites. One reporter told me that PulsePoint had significantly changed the way their newsroom works.
  • Lincoln Fire & Rescue personnel are occasionally getting a jump on dispatches. Most firefighters have loaded PulsePoint on their personal smartphones. Since the PulsePoint alert often hits the phone even before the dispatcher has had the opportunity to put the call out over the radio, crews sometimes get a few seconds head start. I witnessed this personally one day when Engine 3's crew was dashing for the rig well in advance of the radio dispatch. Managers like the chief, myself, assistant chief, and battalion chiefs are also benefitting from rapid notification of emergent events.
  • The number of AEDs registered in Lincoln has increased three-fold, as many PulsePoint users have either adopted the companion app, PulsePoint AED, or have just noticed that the AED in their workplace has never been registered with the local emergency service, as required. PulsePoint displays the location of the nearest AED when a CPR alert is sent.
  • Citizens have a much better concept of the work performed by their 911 center personnel and firefighters. PulsePoint has exposed the volume and variety of incidents to a good swath of the public. People mention this to me regularly. In answering the question "I wonder where those sirens are going?," we are not just satisfying curiosity. we are building public understanding and support.
  • PulsePoint has increased public awareness of the importance of bystander CPR in the chain of survival for sudden cardiac arrest. Deploying the app has caused a buzz in the community, and even without a smartphone in sight, will increase the likelihood that good Samaritans in Lincoln will step forward to help when needed.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Last minute shopping

Christmas crime, for some reason, always interests me. I'm just amazed at the dumb stuff people do on Christmas eve and Christmas day that land them with a court date--or worse yet, in the slammer. A dozen shoplifting arrests took place yesterday, as a few folks got in some last minute shopping. Beer seemed to be the most common target, accounting for a third of the ill-gotten goods.

The first arrest of Christmas day, just a few minutes after midnight, was also for shoplifting. Two offenders with a past history boosted some lingerie and personal electronics from Dr. John's, a purveyor of, shall we say, adult-themed products. There won't be much joy on Christmas for this pair. as the prior offenses resulted in booking the defendants into jail, rather than cite-and-release.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Nebraska 511

Seasoned readers of the Director's Desk know that I've had a longtime interest in location-based services: applications that deliver useful information to users based on their current location. Good public safety examples include P3i and PulsePoint. With winter weather beginning to set in, it would be a good time to remind folks about an excellent app from the Nebraska Department of Roads: Nebraska 511.

The Department of Roads travel information website, Nebraska 511, has been around for many years now, and has developed quite nicely. There is a full-featured version of the website, a streamlined version, and a version optimized for small screens. But there is also a mobile application designed specifically for smartphones, available in both Apple and Android flavors.

The mobile version has evolved a lot in recent years, and the current version is very slick indeed. It's great for checking road conditions, traffic in the metro areas, and for peeking at the large network of traffic cameras on Nebraska's highway system.

Next time you're taking a trip, try the "Tell me" feature--which will alert you to road closures, construction projects, and traffic incidents which are near your path.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

No logical explanation

Yesterday morning, folks here in Lincoln awoke to a couple inches of fresh snow. I was up early, watching the big flakes fall in the still darkness. It was beautiful, but from lots of past experience, I knew it would be wise to get an early start on my day: avoid the traffic, head to the office, and watch the chaos of the morning commute unfold.

The roads were slick in my subdivision, but merely wet and slushy once I hit arterials. I arrived at the office without a problem, but still expected Armageddon: it just doesn't take much to make the pending dispatch screen explode with collisions. Sometimes just a little rain will do it, and the first significant snow of the year seemed certain, despite the fact that it was more wet than slick.

The trouble, however, never emerged. We ended the day with 22 traffic crashes, which is just slightly below the daily average. Interestingly, five days ago, on December 10th the weather was beautiful. It was sunny, calm, and the high hit 62 degrees--very unusual for Lincoln in mid-December. About half way through the day I noticed that we were logging quite a few crashes, and sent out a tweet about that fact. We ended the day on December 10th with 38 crashes, far above the average of 23.

Perfect weather, crashes abound. First snowfall of note, all is well. There's no logical explanation for that, but we should take it while we can get it. I can assure you that we'll have our days of 78, 98, or 123 traffic crashes ahead. Anyone remember December, 2009?

Monday, November 30, 2015

In an instant

We are living in the age of instant, where the time involved in slapping two slices of bread and a Kraft single into a frying pan with a pat of butter seems so time consuming as to justify a product designed to speed the process.

Yesterday's big events in Lincoln--the City's first murder of 2015, and an officer involved shooting--were a reminder of just how quickly news spreads. Before I even got notified by the chief of the unfolding events, Twitter was already lighting up with live reports for the scene. Reporters were providing a blow-by-blow from their vantage point.

By the time I made it to police headquarters, the phone was ringing steadily in the duty commander's office. The captain decided to prioritize the 402 area code, and at least temporarily ignored the inbound calls from the 212 area code--those could wait. That's right, reporters from the east coast were already calling, before any of us any clear idea of what had transpired.

I recently overheard a reporter asking for details about an injury traffic crash to which no one had yet arrived! It's not all bad, though. I was getting some useful updates from those same tweets last night. Reassuring phone calls to and from spouses were speeded along, good wishes and prayers were being expressed with equal alacrity from all over the country, and even Larry the Cable Guy was tweeting positive thoughts within the hour.

A major incident like this is reminiscent of the story of the blind men and the elephant: many officers have a piece of the puzzle from their own perspective, but no one really has the complete picture. It has to be pieced together over time. More than 40 officers were involved in their own piece: collecting evidence, staffing a secure perimeter, transporting a subject, interviewing a witness, and so forth. A fair amount of the clock ticks off before all these minutia can be assembled into a coherent account of the events.

I've seen this happen so many times that it barely registers now. I have simply learned that the early reports will be fragmentary, and often wrong in some significant details. I was reflecting on this today during the regular daily police briefing, while the reporter sitting to my right Periscoped the proceedings live.

Patience is a virtue, as dynamic events eventually come into focus. But in the age of already-peeled orange segments, prepackaged peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and paper towels dampened in advance, it is still remarkable to sit back and think about how our culture has changed, and how much we expect things in an instant.

It is also remarkable to observe how unsupported assumptions, wild speculation, fantastical theories, naked conjecture, and scurrilous innuendo by amateur (and often anonymous) commentators compete for attention with the work of professional journalists--an endangered species these days.