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.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Motown lowdown

I was in Detroit most of the week, helping teach a seminar on crime analysis for police executives, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the United States Department of Justice. I agreed to serve as a so-called "subject matter expert" at two or three of the ten seminars planned around the country.

This one was bigger than Oregon, with about 20 agencies in attendance, such as Grand Rapids, Flint,  and Detroit. It was a great group, and I had some excellent offline discussions with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Michigan Department of Corrections, Canton Police, Grand Rapids PD, and the Detroit Public Schools.

A highlight for me, though, was on Friday morning after the conference. With late flights and time to kill, my two co-instructors and I managed to invite ourselves to the Detroit Police Department Crime Analysis Unit, on the seventh floor of the spanking new downtown police headquarters. Hey, what do you know: it's a Department of Public Safety joint police and fire facility! Sgt. Sloan and Deputy Chief Levalley were our hosts.

I was impressed with their operation, which, despite the huge size differential, employs a quite similar thought process and strategies to those we use in Lincoln to make information available to our personnel in a straightforward and accessible interface relying upon a web browser and an Intranet.

Dr. David Martin, from Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies, spent quite a bit of time showing me how he has helped DPD create a web-based Intranet interface to the police RMS and other information systems. It is very similar in concept to the strategy that has guided Lincoln's police information resources since the mid 1990's, and cutting edge. I hope I left Detroit with at least one good idea from Lincoln: I know they left me with one.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Not the first time

The Lincoln Police Department and Lincoln Fire & Rescue are planning on co-locating into a joint facility somewhere in southeast Lincoln, where a fire company and the police officers of the Southeast Team will share a station serving both agencies. This project is among those funded by a proposed three year, quarter cent sales tax that will appear on the ballot at the April 7, 2015 City primary election.

These two projects appeared separately in the City's capital improvement program until a couple of years ago, when they were merged. We think that it makes good sense to combine these facilities, in order to save the architectural fees, land acquisition, and infrastructure such as paving, footings, and HVAC which would be necessary for separate facilities. It will also facilitate a good working relationship between LPD and LF&R.

As this description from 1886 demonstrates, it's certainly not the first time the two public safety agencies have shared a common home base (click to enlarge.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Information is the lifeblood

I just read an interesting Incident Report by Officer Brad Hulse, case number B5-023247. Officer Hulse stopped a vehicle last night with one headlight out, and got an odd feeling that something more was going on then a bad bulb. Back at his patrol car, he checked the driver's information, checked the Nebraska and Missouri drivers license database, checked local police contacts and reports in the LPD database, looked up drivers license photos, as well as information and photos from the Nebraska Department of Corrections.

After a few minutes of research, he discovered why things seemed odd: the front seat passenger was wanted. He had an outstanding warrant for violating his parole release from prison for burglary. Although he tried to deflect the officer by lying about his name, Brad's hunch and his initiative resulted in the subject's return to prison.

The accolades belong not only to Officer Hulse, though, but also to all those people who worked so hard for so many years to put all that information at his fingertips. They built and maintain an incredible police records management database, mobile data network, and user interfaces that are superbly accessible to the people who need the information, right where they are. Information is the lifeblood of policing.

Last night's case is not unusual. I see similar reports regularly, where fast access to information in the field is an important factor in a dynamic investigation. This capability is a huge advantage, that we should never take for granted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Clearance rates, 2014

I've had a number of questions about crime clearance rates lately, most seeking to compare Lincoln with other jurisdictions. Here's the problem: while I have Lincoln's clearance rates for 2014, the source for the rest of the country, the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), Crime in the United States, isn't published until the fall. Thus, the latest comparative data I have is from the 2013 UCR. Nonetheless, here's the comparison for Lincoln in 2014 vs. others in 2013.

Arson is reported separately, since it can be either a violent crime or a property crime, depending on the circumstances. As you can see, Lincoln fares well overall, topping the rate for all agencies and for similarly-sized cities on six of the eight Part 1 offenses. The glaring exception is rape, where our clearance rate is quite low. I have a theory on that, about which I expounded several years ago in this post--but you'll have to read the comments to get the details.