Friday, November 30, 2007
She is simply the best. You could not find a more competent and committed colleague. Over the years, her job has become less like an executive secretary, and more like an office manager for the entire department. She trouble shoots the most bizarre and complex correspondence and phone calls, moving people toward the assistance they seek. She is the scheduler of assignment changes, work requests and appointments, expediter of City Council and news media inquiries, organizer of meetings, publisher of agendas, author of minutes, reviewer of documents and correspondence, and keeper of archives for everyone--not just me. She's done this superbly from onion skin and carbon paper through .pdfs and web servers.
Virginia has been knee-deep in this City's deepest secrets and dirtiest scandals. As the chief's executive secretary, she's the person who has been called upon to transcribe the most confidential reports and statements in those cases. Think back to all those headlines. The same thing is true internally, where Virginia has handled the transcription needs for every case of passing through the Internal Affairs Unit. She's been the witness to all our failings, foibles, and missteps. The stories she could tell about the high and the mighty! But everyone knows a secret is safe with her.
What's truly remarkable is that despite carrying this load, she is the first to look past the bad conduct and see the good in everyone. She forgives, and focuses on the humanity of others and the good in all. The parade of new puppies, new babies, wedding photos, graduation announcements, new family photos, and so forth that flow into her office on a daily basis is a testament to how much everyone at LPD wants to share their joy with her. The same is true of bad news--frightening diagnoses, deaths, tragedies. Virginia listens, Virginia cares, you know that Virginia means it from the depth of her heart when she asks you how you are. She lives her faith through her work, and it rubs off on all of us.
I've been blessed not only with a great assistant who has made my job so much smoother, but a great friend who has cried and celebrated with me. She'll be sorely missed, but we all wish her the best in retirment.
Virginia, enjoy more Operas!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The first report was by Officer Jason Wesch, who at 3:17 a.m. was investigating a report of a stolen car. The reporting person claimed that he had left the car parked at a residence, and when he got back to where he had left it, the car was gone. He described the evenings events: He said he had gotten a ride downtown with another guy to have a few adult beverages, that after having a bit too much to drink at the bar he gave his car keys to his buddy to drive him home, and the buddy had made off with the vehicle after depositing him. Apparently he forgot that he had already told us he had left his car elsewhere and gotten a ride downtown.
Case number two was at about 11:38 p.m., when Officer Jim Quandt pulled a car over for a minor traffic violation. The driver was in Jim’s patrol car for a little assessment, when Officer Quandt asked him about the passenger. Our subject said that her name was Jessica, and that he had been dating her for about a month. He didn’t know her last name (a clue). When the officer contacted Jessica, she said they had been dating for about three years. She picked out the last name of “Smith.” She had no ID with her, but claimed to have a Missouri license. A quick computer check nixed that. She couldn’t remember her mom and dad’s names. Turns out Heather (her real name) had an arrest warrant she was trying to evade.
The final case was at about 10:07 p.m., when Officer Travis Ocken encountered a man who was suspected in an indecent exposure. The suspect said his name was Antonia Paul Watkins. Officer Ocken describes the conversation in his report:
“When asked for his name, Rodney first stated that it was 'Antonio.’ Rodney consistently stated that his middle name was 'Paul' and his last name was 'Watkins.' When asked to spell his name, Rodney first began to state 'A-n-t-o-r...' before stating 'A-t-o-n...' Rodney stated that he did not know how to spell 'Watkins.' As Rodney's lies were becoming tangled, he claimed that he could not spell his name as he was bad at spelling.”Note: when lying to police, remember to keep the story straight, choose a last name other than Smith, come up with June and Ward on short notice, and be prepared to spell your own name.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The 2006 report showed an increase of about 8% in the number of hate crimes that participating agencies reported to the FBI. The national media jumped on this story, as did some public figures. The tone of many of the stories concerned the alarming increase. Many local news media outlets did stories on their own city’s hate crime stats.
Curiously, none of the media here in Lincoln came looking for a local angle on this national story. If they had, I suspect the media would have been perplexed by what they found. Lincoln has about 14% of Nebraska’s population, but in 2006 we accounted for almost two-thirds (64%) of the hate crimes in Nebraska—36 of the State’s 56 offenses. The Lincoln Police Department reported six times the number of hate crimes Omaha (6) reported. We also topped St. Louis (11), Denver (15), and Atlanta (11), among many other cities way over our size and much more diverse. Chicago, with roughly 12 times our population, only had one more hate crime (37) than Lincoln. Here’s a typical example of a Lincoln hate crime (click to enlarge--and I gently edited some personal information from this report to protect the victim’s identity):
Now if anyone really believes that Lincoln had more hate crimes than Atlanta, Denver, Omaha, St. Louis, and most other cities way over our population--or that there were only 7,722 hate crimes in the United States last year--you really need to get a grip on reality. What we have here, folks, is a failure to report. Some cities, like Kearney, Nebraska (7) , Shawnee, Kansas (9), and St. Cloud, Minnesota (20) are obviously doing a good job of officially recording hate crimes, while others are not. Syndicated columnist Clarence Page at the Chicago Tribune seems to be one of the few commentators to recognize the obvious in these data.
Reported hate crime is the tip of the iceberg. Some police department’s don’t participate in the reporting system at all; many do so haphazardly; and (the biggest source of under reporting) many victims don’t report hate crimes to the police. At this stage, a large increase in reported hate crime ought to cause citizens to think: “Good. I’m glad more people are willing to report, and that our police are quick to recognize and record hate crimes.” Here’s what needs to happen in order to improve hate crime reporting:
- Citizens need to have enough faith and confidence in the police that they are willing to report these disturbing, hateful crimes.
- Police agencies need to participate in the FBI's hate crime reporting program.
- Police agencies need to have good training, policies and reporting processes in place so that crimes motivated by racial, ethnic, and religious animus, and those targeting victims because of their sexual orientation or nationality are both recognized and recorded as hate crimes.
- Individual police officers need to be encouraged to record crimes as hate crimes when hate and bias appear to be involved. The original assigned officer, in consultation with the victim, is usually in the best position to make this determination, and he or she should not be discouraged from doing so, nor presented with a unwieldy penalty form.
That’s what we’ve done in Lincoln. We have encouraged officers to make a common sense call, and provided a fairly easy mechanism for recording additional hate crime information needed for reporting. It just got easier late last year, when we automated our police incident report. Now, rather than a short supplemental form, it’s just a few drop-downs on a web form. The even simpler reporting process is going to result in even more hate crimes being reported (we’ve already recorded 37 through September). I can’t wait to see how this increase gets misinterpreted.
Hate crimes are despicable. They are happening with much, much greater frequency than the FBI report suggests. The FBI is well aware of this, and their web site is filled with such warnings and disclaimers, largely ignored. We have no clear idea how often these crimes occur, but we ought to be committed to improving reporting dramatically, and also doing all we can to combat the kind of ignorance and bigotry that spawns these crimes.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Dick Casady was raised on the wrong side of the tracks in Keokuk, Iowa. He returned to Keokuk after a successful career in business that took him all over the midwest, and died there two days after his 78th birthday. His own Dad died at a young age, and his mom remarried. My grandparents were about as working class as they come: Grandpa Evans--Dad's stepfather--was a foreman at Gate City Steel down on the Mississippi river, and although they lived a pretty humble life, my grandparents sent three boys off to college and started them all on successful careers.
Dad was an excellent athlete. He lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track for the Keokuk Chiefs, and at Parsons College. Although golf had no history in the Casady family, it was a virtual requirement for a sales manager with clients to entertain, so Dad took the game up as a young man. He quickly became an outstanding golfer. He was a big hitter, and deadly with a pitching wedge. Many of my best memories are golfing with my father.
I learned many things on the golf course, a sport where fair play is so integral to the game that the contestants call the penalties on themselves. Dad taught me the rules and the etiquette. I learned the terminology of toe hooks, power fades, sandies, presses, and double bubbles; the lettuce, the cabbage, the heather, the gorse, the OB, the beach, and the frog's hair. I didn’t quite inherit my Dad’s skill, but on those rare occasions I hit it in the screws, knock it stiff, and jar the putt, I know how to describe the experience.
But the most important lessons I learned from Dad weren’t on the course. I remember a great example of this 30 years ago. Dad was changing his shoes in the locker room. There was an employee in the men's locker whose sole job was to take care of the members' shoes. Dad knew him by name, and talked to him about his wife and kids. He laughed with him about some joke, and basically just treated him precisely the same way he'd treat the president of the club or his best customer. That's the way Dad always was with caddies, waitresses, parking attendants, car hops, bell hops, cashiers, bag boys, and junior assistant pros. It made no difference what your station in life was; he treated everyone like a good friend.
In the summer of 1964, our family endured an unimaginable tragedy. Dad became a single father at the age of 33, burying one child, caring for three that survived. He bore this pain with strength and grace. My Dad's love and his quiet power both saved and molded me. There can be no better testament to his life than this: his children all know he was the best man they every met.
The last time I golfed with Dad was over the Memorial Day weekend. Son T.J., Brother Rich, Dad and I played at Holmes Park on Saturday. We were talking about having another go at it, but we are all aware of our obligations on the home front. How could we manage to get in another round on Sunday without neglecting our family duties? It was Dad who suggested that we all just tell our wives that "You won't have your old Dad around to play golf with forever."
He was wrong.
He’ll be there in the places I go: in the rough and the hazard, and then finally on the dance floor, with his hickory shafted putter. Every dewy morning I tee it up, he'll be there.
Friday, November 16, 2007
They need to smell the rotting, stinking mattress someone has dragged into the vacant garage to sleep on. They need to see the building covered with gang graffiti. They need to meet the unbelievable occupants of Apartment 4, including the Pit Bull. They need to be introduced to The Butcher, Three Fingers, Dennis, Wild Thing, Lebo. They need to walk around 14th & O at 1:00 a.m. on Friday morning, hang out at the jail intake center or Cornhusker Place on Saturday night, or just sit in the Bryan/LGH emergency room for an evening. Moving their evening stroll from their own neighborhood to Capital Avenue would be a nice change of pace.
In short, lots of people need to better understand the social problems the exist in this City, so they will be motivated to either do something to help ameliorate them, or at least support others in the community who are trying to do so. Like the police. Inside the bubble, one gets the false impression that none of these things affect me. Don't be deluded. When crime, prostitution, addiction, gangs, homelessness, and hopelessness take root, it's an issue for everyone everywhere in the City. If you watch Channel 5 from time to time, you'll see some incredibly lengthy public debates going on about such key issues as a property owner who wants a new curb cut, or a proposed ordinance requiring the neutering of cats. I'm all in favor of infertile cats, but frankly you see a lot of big, big issues as a police officer that don't seem to generate much attention, emotion, or concern.
Maybe it's because they're just too tough. You can't just pass a resolution.
While Cass Briggs and I met the denizens of A Beat during Veterans Day on the street, we heard Officer Todd Danson being dispatched to The Bubble. He was sent to an address in the Ridge:
On the Southwest Team on Monday, while Officer Rich Fitch was dealing with the suicidal Somali man, while officer Kirk McAndrew was investigating a child abuse, while Officer Cass Briggs and I were looking for the mentally ill Vietnamese dad, while Officer Chris Ehrhorn investigated a hit and run accident at 13th and B, and while Officer Kelly Koerner was snapping photos of gang graffiti at 19th and Washington, someone was calling the police to the Ridge because a neighbor with a leaf blower was blowing his leaves into the street.
Here's a final image. There is a despicable movement afoot in some corners of the United States called stop snitchin. It's a campaign to encourage people to avoid the police, not to cooperate with the police, to deny knowledge when they've witnessed a crime, and to stand back while criminal predators ply their trade. On Monday, Officer Mark Fluitt was dispatched to 21st and D Street at 4:01 p.m.. Someone reported that the stop sign on the corner had been covered up. Look closely at the message (click to enlarge)
We need your help, folks. Please step out of your own bubble.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I was impressed with Officer Tim Abele’s knowledge of his beat and the people upon it during my tour of duty with him in October, and it was the same with Officer Cass Briggs on Monday. She and her coworkers are plugged in to the Southwest Team area. My initial glimpse of this was at the first order of business: get a cup of joe. Officer Briggs and Officer Mark Fluitt took me to one of their favorite haunts, Meadowlark Coffee & Espresso, where they were obviously not strangers
We took off to survey Southwest A beat, and Cass spotted a familiar vehicle parked on 18th Street. She told me that officers had handled a few calls involving a woman was bringing her disabled husband to Hazel Abel Park every day. He had developed a habit of dropping his drawers. Sure enough, it was them. He had his pants up, though. It was pretty chilly early Monday morning. We made a little conversation then went on our way.
We were soon dispatched to check the welfare of a man with mental health issues. As we were checking his residence, Officer Kelly Koerner drove by just to make sure all was well. She stopped to talk with someone she recognized across the street. When we finished up, we walked over. She was making small talk with a guy carrying a large kitchen knife in a tattered sheath held together with packaging tape. On the other side, a 12” sharpening steel dangled from his belt. He looked like a character from a Bud Light commercial. She was chatting with him as nonchalantly as you’d talk to your next door neighbor. The Butcher recognized me, and offered his services as a secret police investigator, should we have the need.
After departing this parallel universe, we heard Officer Koerner being dispatched to a suspicious person in the area of 27th and F Streets. On the way, Cass pointed out a woman walking a three-legged dog. Officer Koerner beat us to the suspicious one. She and Cass both recognized the man, who they knew by his appropriate nickname: Three Fingers. Hmmm, mere coincidence?
It was just the beginning, though. We handled the arrest of a methamphetamine addict who called me by my first name. He apparently knew me better than I knew him. Later, we conversed with his frightened and disheveled wife. Cass introduced me to the nice proprietor of the Super C convenience store and her daughter, and we chewed the fat with the clerk at Laundry Land. After making a special stop to meet an apartment full of incredible criminals, we ended the day chatting with a nice young family and their beautiful little niece, Giselle. In between we talked to a dozen other people of all kinds, including two guys reclining in a hot tub right alongside an arterial street. I rolled down the window, and asked them if they had room for two more. It had been an interesting day of meeting and talking with the denizens of A beat.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Yesterday—Veterans Day—was a City holiday. The police department, though, is always at work, and I spent the day joining in the festivities. As part of our United Way campaign, donors got a chance to win the services of the chief as their gopher for a shift: I’d handle your calls, and do your reports. All you’d have to do is keep me out of serious trouble. Officer Tim Abele, who works the graveyard shift on the Southeast Team already collected his winnings, but yesterday, winner number two was paid off. I spent Veterans Day with a United States Navy veteran, Officer Cassandra Briggs, who works the twelve hour shift from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the Southwest team. I’ve known Cass for a long time. I met her when I was a rookie police officer with less than a year on the job. She was three.
I had a great time a few weeks ago with Tim, but I got off pretty easy with the rather light reports--a minor traffic collision and a vandalism. I predicted it would be different with Cass, and the day did not disappoint. Here’s the summary: Cass and I responded to several back ups with other officers, and were dispatched to eight calls for service of our own. Seven of these were reportable: three larcenies from auto, one trespassing, a stolen bicycle, a graffiti vandalism, and a disturbance. I cranked out two Additional Case Investigation Reports, six Incident Reports, one warning citation, one official citation, on arrest book-in, one Property Report, and one Probable Cause Affidavit. Luckily for me Capt. David Beggs (the second shift duty commander who would ordinarily be reviewing my reports) was off for the holiday, and Assistant Chief Jim Peschong was the substitute. That probably saved me a few error notifications.
I hold Cass responsible for the small avalanche of reports. No sooner had the words “It’s pretty quiet” fallen from her lips then the dispatcher was calling our number. Three of the reportable incidents emerged as we were working other calls--victims approached us. By the way, one of the hardest parts of working with both Tim and Cass was trying to respond to another officer's call number. Your mind is conditioned to hear "304." The brain filters the huge volume of radio traffic, cell phone conversations, information on the mobile computer screen, and face to face conversations going on simultaneously and delivers your radio call number directly to the front when it's called. It's not quite so effective when you've temporarily adopted someone else's "name."
Of the people we dealt with on these events, we spoke with a Latino victim of a car break-in, a Russian victim of another larceny from auto, a young Vietnamese woman whose dad was in a mental health crises, a Somali man contemplating suicide, and a Latino family who discovered that a suspect had climbed up onto their balcony, stolen a bicycle, and was riding into the sunset as they arrived home. It was a great multi-cultural, multi-ethnic experience.
I was getting a little nervous. It’s November, and getting late in the year. I had yet to make my annual arrest. That was resolved, however, by the disturbance at 1027 Washington. We located the man responsible at 11th and B Streets, several blocks from the scene. He was wanted by another officer on another matter—a case in which he had fraudulently used an acquaintance’s stolen ATM card. We snatched him up on that case. He was a tweaking meth head, with all the classic symptoms—including the syringe in his jacket pocket.
The saga will continue later this week.
Monday, November 12, 2007
We have had some strategies in place for the past few years to try to reduce the number of these complaints, and to prevent "party houses" from damaging the livability of fragile neighborhoods in our city. These strategies have primarily involved ramping up enforcement, and identifying and engaging landlords in helping to solve the problems being caused by certain tenants who could care less about their neighborhood--or their guests. While there is still an unending supply of disturbances, the strategies have actually helped reduce some of these problems.
Cutting down on these complaints not only helps out the affected neighborhoods, it saves some substantial police resources, as well--a topic I blogged about earlier this fall. There is, however, an even more valuable side-effect to controlling the party scene and minimizing high-risk behavior. Sometimes drinking parties become the site of much more serious events. We saw a tragic example of this in 2004, when Nebraska soccer player Jenna Cooper was murdered, landing her killer, Lucky Iromuanya, in prison with a life sentence. But less dramatic and less publicized violent crimes--especially assaults and rapes--occur at or in the wake of drinking parties with depressing regularity.
In the wee hours on Saturday morning, for example, we investigated two cases in which uninvited "guests" crashed two separate parties in the North Bottoms neighborhood. Only one of these was reported in the local press, but the two parties together resulted in one robbery, two vandalisms, and eight assaults. On top of the victimization, that's a noticeable bump in the crime rate and a ton of investigative work and police reports.
These party invasions have become rather common, fueled in part by the instantaneous spread of information via cell phone and text messages about the location of parties where few questions are asked about invitations, nobody knows who's supposed to be there, and many people just show up on their own. Larceny is sometimes the motive for the new guys who (after the goods are noticed missing) nobody seems to have recognized. Purses and home electronics are the frequent target of such thieves posing as party-goers.
Anyone who thinks our efforts to keep large drinking parties under control is merely the result of the conservative leanings of the police chief has never seen the unhinged mayhem that police officers encounter, or the aftermath in the emergency room. Want to make an impact on violent crime in your community? Institute strategies to encourage safe, sane, and legal partying that doesn't involve inviting a couple hundred of your closest friends over to share six kegs and a single toilet in your 750 sq. ft. rental.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Second shift lineup included some information about two recent commercial burglaries, and the arrest of two suspects in some high-dollar thefts of racing equipment and tools. We discussed a Wednesday arrest of a frequent flier for carrying a concealed .380 pistol with the serial number ground off, the latest information about our favorite escaped suspect, and a series of organized thefts occurring at Sprint stores in the Omaha and Kansas City area--in the event the larcenous team visits our city.
Seattle hooked up (along with our Narcotics Unit, Northeast Team, and Center Team) via web conferencing from gotomeeting.com, so that everyone is looking at the same content, either on a 50" plasma monitor or with an LCD projector at all of our work sites simultaneously. Capt. Brown had read an article about this a couple of months ago, which piqued their interest.
This is about the tenth time we've had another police department join our meeting. A group from the Council Bluffs Police were the most recent visitors prior to Seattle. It seems that by actually participating, other departments quickly understand the utility of using computer content to improve the information flow during the ubiquitous roll call briefing. It's a pretty simple idea, but police agencies often adopt new ideas rather slowly. We're a little more agile than most. Maybe that's one of the reasons Lincoln was just named the top digital city by the Center for Digital Government.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
In recent years, there have been some good healthy reductions in these offenses. This year, though, the numbers have been up 4%. As of midnight, we have investigated 2,883 larcenies from auto in 2007. During the same time period in 2006, the total stood at 2,762. Here's the trend over the past five years (click to enlarge):
That's a reduction of 46%--more than $900,000--not counting the inflation that occurred during that time period.
Hot items in Lincoln for these crimes have changed over time, from CB radios in the 1970's to car stereos in the 1980s, and CDs in the 1990's. Lately, iPods, cell phones, laptops, and other personal electronics have been common targets. Around the country, portable GPS units, catalytic converters, and airbags have been hot commodities for such thieves. We haven't seen much of this in Lincoln--yet.
My prediction is that GPS unit theft in Lincoln will pick up big time in the next several months. These units are much more widely available, more affordable, and are growing in popularity. The high value and small size of portable GPS units will be irresistible to thieves. Best protection: stow your unit and it's mounting hardware out of sight (better yet, take it with you), and keep a microfiber cloth in the glove box so you can wipe off that tell-tale circle where the suction cup sticks to the windshield, a sign that there may be a unit loose in the console or glove box.
Oh, and park your car in the garage or driveway if possible--even if you have to do that three-car-monte maneuver the next morning. It makes a big difference in reducing your risk (scroll down and check out the table about half way through this page from the Problem-Oriented Policing Center).
Monday, November 5, 2007
I told her that the most significant surprise to me was the low number of applicants. The State Patrol (which actually issues the permits) had predicted 19,000 Nebraskans would apply in the first year. This prediction was based on the experience of other States that passed concealed carry legislation. I figured Lincoln would be proportional, so we would have around 2,500 in the first year. As of today, there have only been 402 permits issued in Lincoln and Lancaster County. There have been 16 applicants we were concerned about due to prior arrests, convictions, or mental health crises that came to the attention of the police. Six of these 16 had some kind of conviction that would bar them from receiving a permit. Of those, the State Patrol has denied five, and one is still pending.
In the other ten cases, while we had concerns, the applicant met the criteria of the law and was issued a permit. I chronicled one of those cases in a previous post on this blog. To date, I am aware of no cases in which a permit holder has thwarted a crime, although I expect that this will inevitably happen. I am aware of only one case in which a permit holder did something stupid: a drunk driver in an injury motorcycle collision in Waverly who neglected to inform the deputy and the paramedics that he was packing heat, as required by law. I expect these types of occurrences will continue to be rare.
The student wanted to know how concealed carry has impacted crime. I have always doubted that concealed carry would have any impact whatsoever on crime, one way or another. There is a ton of research on this issue, it is quite contradictory and quite methodologically flawed. The kinds of crimes that might be committed because of the presence of a concealed weapon or prevented because of the presence of a concealed weapon are so rare (especially in Lincoln) that the direct impact of this law in either direction is negligible. A handful of overnight lawn ornament thefts would have a greater impact on our Part 1 crime rate than the net effect of concealed carry
During the decade of the 1990's, crime declined steadily and significantly in the United States. Advocates of concealed carry credited the growing number of States authorizing concealed handguns with that trend. Beginning in 2005, though, there have been some significant nationwide increases in violent crime. You won't hear anyone claiming credit for that trend.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
This summer, one elusive defendant started dominating Capt. Thoms most wanted position for an embarrassingly long time. Derek Breazeale has a pretty extensive criminal history, and had previously served time in prison for burglary. He was the subject of two felony arrest warrants this summer, resulting from several burglaries early this year he is alleged to have committed shortly after the expiration of his parole. Frankly, his photo had been displayed on the big monitors in our briefing room for so long I was afraid it was starting to burn in the plasma screen.
On October 10, we were all relieved hear he was finally arrested in rather dramatic fashion near Junction City, Kansas as were law enforcement officers in Kansas, Illinois, and Iowa. At last, someone else could become Capt. Thom's most wanted.
Until today, that is.