Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Off to a good start

After yesterday's arrest of four teenagers allegedly burglarizing Lincoln High School, I am sure that many people are shaking their head that one of the defendants, Ricky Turco has again been arrested. Acknowledging the fact the Mr. Turco is innocent until proven guilty, I still think this is a matter which demands some comment.

Mr. Turco has been no stranger to the Lincoln police department. Since turning 16 in 2005, we have either arrested or cited him on 21 occasions, resulting in a total of 38 counts or charges. Of these, prosecution was declined in two cases, three were transferred to juvenile court, 17 are pending, and he was found guilty or pleaded guilty in the remaining 16, resulting in fines totalling $935.

During the preceding weeks as Turco has become something of a public figure, I have been slightly surprised at the number people seem to be unfamiliar with the basic workings for the criminal justice system. The police have a great deal to do with how often he is arrested, but nothing at all to do with the setting of bond or with the sentences ultimately imposed when he is found guilty.

This whole affair has exposed to many more people something every police officer worldwide knows: a small number of people account for a large number of arrests. Police officers call these "regular customers", "frequent flyers", or simply "job security." To most people, the fact that an 18 year old has been arrested or cited by the police 21 times in less than two years for 38 counts including three felonies is shocking.

Seasoned police officers are beyond the shock. In our world, we would call this a good start.

Lest anyone conclude that I am a cynic, did you see the front page article in today's Lincoln Journal Star about Kelsey Neal, whose life was saved by Officer Rusty Lashley? If you can look at that photo of Kelsey holding her guitar, the accompanying photo of Rusty holding his AED, and read that story without getting a little misty-eyed, only then are you a cynic. I'm okay.


Anonymous said...

Heres a link your readers may want to see.

Anonymous said...

Last week, 'ole Ricky boy was getting press in regards to whether he is compitent to stand trial in the death of Megan Churchill. Now, he's breaking into schools for god knows what. I think he knows exactly what he is doing, and just doesn't care. For a guy who said he has responsibilites because he has a wife, and children, he sure isn't setting a good example. Good work in catching Ricky again LPD. Thanks for keeping the citizens safe!

Christopher said...

I'm a crime analyst in Massachusetts, and my "Top Offender" list is filled with people just like Turco: young, involved in dozens of incidents of escalating seriousness, undeterred by the minor sanctions imposed by the courts.

Chief, you've written a lot about problem-solving and crime prevention, and I wonder what your thoughts are about applying the problem-oriented policing paradigm to people like Turco. In POP, we spend a lot of time studying the underlying problems at places, and for particular pieces of property, but I don't see the same effort applied to offenders.

People like Turco clearly have underlying problems (drug-related, financial, mental-health, family, anger-management, self-control), and they're probably solvable problems. Granted, most of them are outside the traditional scope of police authority, but then so are most of the other strategies that we're encouraged to employ in the name of problem-oriented policing. If we don't take the lead, who will?

Anyone who thinks the solution is to "lock 'em up and throw away the key," or that 18-year-olds with long criminal histories are irredeemable, need to talk to a certain crime analyst who was once 18 and simply better than Turco at not getting caught.

Anonymous said...

Chief, perhaps people would be a little less confused about the role that the police department plays in criminal prosecution if that role was followed consistently in every case.

Let's take as an example - the case involving former Fire Chief Mike Spadt. Would love to have you explain why the police department's role in that case went beyond the investigation and collection of evidence to a scenario where you are making the decision as to whether Spadt should be prosecuted for what he did.

In every other situation that I'm aware, the police department's job is to investigate the circumstances of a crime, collect evidence, interview suspects and witnesses and REFER the case to a county attorney who decides if the case is worth pursuing.

I'm sure you didn't intend to drive down this road when you put up your most recent post - but I think you have to accept the confusion that you create when you feign confusion about how people confuse the PD's role w/ a thug like Turco, when you have a much higher profile, and higher stakes case involving a former city employee - being investigated and a decision to prosecute was made not by an office of the court the CA - but by a department head who had worked with and partnered with the suspect for many, many years.

Maybe what happened there was legit and justifiable - but given the circumstances and stink that arose from that whole deal - I hope you'd at least admit that, in hindsight, you should have left the press conference to the CA's office......

Tom Casady said...


I can think of a few good examples (other than you!) of people with repeat criminal patterns who really did get their act together and stop. Some of the programs that I've seen contribute to this have been drug courts and the long-term treatment program at our detox center, Cornhusker Place. I think you're on to something: I have this picture of a POP project that is focused on a person, rather than a place.

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 7:28-

Criticism accepted, but rest assured that throughout the investigation the County Attorney's Office and the United States' Attorney's Office were kept in the loop, provided with the investigative reports, and consulted with extensively by the investigators from LPD and the FBI who did the leg work. We did not unilaterally decide that there was no chargeable crime.

Stay on topic. said...

To "anonymous" regarding the Fire Chief. I don't see a difference in the cases. The police investigate and decide if there is enough evidence to issue a ticket, or lodge in jail. For Turco, that's what they did (it seems, every other week), for Spadt, that's also what they did. If they don't find enough evidence that a CRIME has been committed, they don't arrest or cite.

If the prosecutor feels that there is evidence of a crime, they can also file a charge regardless of what the police decide.

The Chief of police did not cause the problems that happened within Fire management, nor the lack of hard evidence that a crime occurred. (Sometimes things that are done that are not smart, are still not a crime.)

Anonymous said...

On topic - I grant your point - to a point....

My real criticism was that the fire investigation was not handled in the way that circumstances really demanded - and when that happens it does cause confusion in the mind of the public as to what the role of the PD is in a criminal matter (the original posting of the day).

Don't forget, at one point, it looked like there was quite a bit of shennanigans going on between different parties - and hearing that the FBI was involved etc - it looked very serious.

I would just have rather that the CA lead the press conference and make the announcements about not prosecuting. When the Chief did it - in light of the climate at the time - it just felt a little too "homey".

Please understand, I don't question Chief Cassady's integrity - but likewise, I hate it when situations are created where good people can look bad.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE tell me Turco has done enough to DQ himself from a CCW permit?

Anonymous said...

Do you really think someone like Turco would bother with a permit to carry a concealed weapon? He's the type who doesn't concern himeself with a license or permit or anything.

Anonymous said...

I agree - but the point of the question goes to an issue raised in an earlier post - not necessarily about if a bad person like Turco WOULD get a permit - but whether he was ELIGIBLE.

The Chief briefly outlined Turco's long criminal history - but it wasn't clear if he'd done enough to DQ himself from the permit.