Friday, November 16, 2007

Outside the bubble

Many people in Lincoln live in a bubble. It’s a sort of Norman Rockwell upper-middle class bubble, where kids play in the yard, dad washes the car, and mom whips up something for dinner. They need to spend a shift with the officers of the Lincoln Police Department's Southwest Team.

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.

16 comments:

ISP Officer said...

Chief, this would make a great (and much needed) editorial in the paper.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder Chief. In another lifetime, my daily concerns were if I were going to have the crap beat out of me -- again, have money for food or sleep in a bed or car that night. In my current life, my daily concerns are if I will beat the morning traffic, find a good parking spot at my local coffee spot, or have meatloaf or pizza for supper. Your blog was a good reminder to be grateful that my life is now more SE than SW and to remember what is REALLY important. BTW much of that change was due to police officers who treated me with respect even when my life was SW.

Anonymous said...

OK, so the upper-middle class should stop snitching about leaf blowers but keep snitching about real crime. Check. You're also asking for more "support" for those trying to do something to ameliorate the problem. Can you be more specific about what a person can do to be supportive? Do you want more folks to show up at council meetings at budget time to add their voice to the argument for a larger police budget?

Anonymous said...

I agree that this would make a great editorial for the paper. I live in the area just south of the Capitol and I see many of the things the Chief alludes to on a daily basis. LPD does a great job in our area and I am thankful for their presense in my neighborhood.

Its kind of 'out of sight, out of mind for many people'--they just don't see these things.

Tom Casady said...

9:17: As you requested....

1. Volunteer at Bryan/LGH West
2. Sign up to be a Teamates mentor
3. Volunteer at Everett, McPhee, Saratoga, Clinton, Hartley, Huntington, Lakeside, West Lincoln, Belmont or any other school--especially one that struggles to find volunteers.
4. Coach midget football, YMCA soccer or basketball beyond you're own child's participation.
5. Donate to the Boys and Girls Club.
6. Get together with your coworkers and take part in Paint-athon.
7. Work on a Habitat for Humanity build.
8. Contact a Community Learning Cetner and see how you can help tutor a child after school.
9. Join up with some other folks at handle the dinner service at Matt Talbott Kitchen or the Gathering Place once a month.
10. Deliver meals on wheels.
11. Buy a home in a troubled neighborhood, spruce it up, and be a great landlord.
12. Grab your your lunch at DaVincis or the 9/South Char Grille, your baguette at Grateful Bread, your basil at Open Harvest, your cone at Zesto, and so forth--to keep these neighborhood businesses thriving.
13. Volunteer with NeighborWorks for neighborhood cleanups, and graffiti paint-overs.
14. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister.
15. Be a summer classroom assistant for Bright Lights.

I can go on....

And yes, you can make sure your representatives know that you consider the care of the community to be the primary responsibility of government, and one you are willing to pay for--even if it means one fewer vente mochas per month.

Anonymous said...

I strongly encourage all of my fellow net-heads to surf by and read all of the incident summaries once per day, instead of just getting the highly-filtered version from the fish-wrap. In fact, it's a fine idea no matter where you live, a way of keeping an ear to the ground.

Also, every so often, once a week perhaps, spend a little time taking advantage of the terrific CrimeView resource, and do some digging into where and when crime is happening in Lincoln, as well as where and when it isn't.

Anonymous said...

I tend to err the other way when it comes to calling you folks. Instead of thinking that stray leaves deserve a dispatch (instead of just talking to the other guy and if necessary the HOA board), I always feel like you've probably got something more pressing than (for example) sending a unit by to check out a strange (and thus suspicious), occupied car parked in a dark and secluded area during the wee hours of the AM.

First, I think maybe it's just a couple in a "mobile motel room". Then, I think they could be blazing a bowl, drinking, and the like, before they drive off and smash into somebody. They might be parking there while they walk a couple of blocks to prowl for non-secure houses or unlocked cars. Or, they could be retreiving previously stashed burglary loot that was to big to haul all the way home on foot without drawing attention to themselves.

It could be any of those things, or none of those things. I just don't know if it rates a call if I don't see any specific illegal activity going on. In a situation like that, should I pick up the phone, toss it to your dispatcher, and let them play it from there?

Anonymous said...

Chief,

As one of your officers, I admire that you came out & experienced the street yourself. Unfortunately, most of your team command staff haven't come out to face what the officers face for some time. Most claim they can do the job but, let's face it, if they really could they wouldn't be in command. Instead, they consume their time writing up officers that deal with the denizens (your word) that try officer's souls. Most of us do our best everyday but there are times when a word slips out, a 'customer' doesn't get the result they want or something comes to the attention of those in charge. Please encourage your staff to come out & play on a short staff day.

Tom Casady said...

5:13-

Yikes, that suspicious vehicle is exactly the kind of call we appreciate. Don't worry about bothering us, if the day is busy with more pressing matters, calls are held and dispatched based on priority and availability. But we don't want to miss the opportunity to catch a burglar.

David W. Johnson, Jr. said...

Chief,

It was truly refresing to read such words coming from the head of law enforcement. You should be out doing motivational speaking for law enforcement throughout the United States.

Please Read Below:


David W. Johnson, Jr.

I am a father, stepfather; grandfather, brother, uncle, great uncle, nephew, cousin and friend. I am an African American male living in America who has been blessed to see age fifty-eight but not because I grew up in a strong family environment. For ten years, I was fortunate enough to have a set of terrific, grandparents. God chose to call them home when I was ten-years old. From then on, I was more-or-less on my own. Handed off like a football from one family member to the next until I were in my early teens.

There is a humongous difference between living with a family and living with a loving family. After my grandparent’s death, my first understanding of a non-loving family came when I was forced to live with my mother, her boyfriend and four of my siblings. That lasted about three years. My mother’s boyfriend was an abuser. While my brother and three sisters were willing to look the other way, I was not, so I was handed off to my grandmother on my mother’s side.

The story and the madness continued for years to come, until I was old enough to join Job Corps and then the Army. For a longtime after that, life “cut me little or no slack” and the streets raised me. I was able to survive and reach the point I am today, thanks to the love and caring of mostly strangers, along the way. I sincerely believe if I were a teenager today I would not make it to twenty-eight and surely not fifty-eight.

This book is about lifting spirits, changing and saving lives of today and tomorrow’s young people.

When I was growing up neighbors, teachers, the community police officers and the judicial systems were not about just doing a job but they cared about children overall. It is not just a saying that, “It Takes A Community To Raise A Child.” It is the TRUTH and it is more IMPORTANT today than it has ever been. The obstacles standing in young people’s way today is almost insurmountable. We must stop caring about what side of town, skin color, race or nationality, country, county or city and start caring that it is all children that need our help.

Oftentimes even with parents, the road to survival and success is a difficult one for young people. Surviving without parents, or dedicated parents is next to impossible but I am here to tell you, it is not impossible. I would not want any young person to live my young life, if it is at all avoidable.

(2)

Parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, police officers and communities, what I am saying is this, if you have children do what you must to standby them and keep them on the right track. Try to see that they have a better life growing up, than you had. No matter if, your childhood was terrific. Show them love, respect and give them lots of support.

There is nothing sadder or more discouraging for a child than having parents who are nothing more than “figure heads.” Parents who only give them birth.

I can attest to the fact that if parents are not good to and for you, you have the tendency not to be good for and to your children. It took me a while and many trials and tribulations before I came to understand and appreciate what it means to be a father and grandfather. Like any human being, I am still lacking in some areas but I am quickly improving.

What I know for sure, unless all men, but especially African American men do not step-up and give women a much needed hand raising our children we will be facing self-destruction akin to genocide, in the very near future.

Some may think my last statement is perhaps “overstated” but I assure you there is not a lot of “grey area” between “self-destruction” and “genocide.”

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! I appreciate the police a great deal, and appreciate your efforts on trying to clean things up, and make a safer place to live for all of us. As an employee of the trauma center here in Lincoln, and a resident of ghetto ville D street, I know exactly what you are talking about in this blog. I really think there are a lot of folks that have no idea what kind of things happen outside of their "white picket fence bubble!" koodos on your blog!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. One of your best. I agree with others, it should be printed in the Journal Star. If the public REALLY knew what goes on in this City.

Anonymous said...

Some people think the police should be called for the slightest thing (such as blowing leaves into the street).

The other day a neighborhood boy (about 10 yrs old) approached me and wanted to use my phone to call the police. When I asked him why, he said some other kids were calling him names.

I determined that nothing threatening was happening, and had a nice talk with him about how to handle situations like that on his own without calling the cops. While serious situations call for police intervention, sometimes people need to handle things on their own.

Anonymous said...

Some of these people who dont appriciate or who dont know what LPD goes through on a daily basis needs to go throught the 9 week Citizens Academy that is offered. The group meets once a week for a few hours in the evening and learn about what the Police do. Demonstrations are given and even some classes that let a normal citizen do some hands on stuff, like radar guns, traffic stops, building searches etc. I went through this class a few years ago and learned a lot of things. I highly reccomend people to take this class. It costs nothing but a few hours of your time each week. Cheif, you and your Officers do an incredible job. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Thanks for getting out there and refreshing yourself on what it is like to be a "cop" again. I think that this type of interaction is needed with ALL of the chain of staff. There are several people on the department that have forgotten what it is like to wear the badge. They may wear it on their shirt while in the station, but they have forgotten what it is like to stand behind it when they are in a situation were it will be Monday morning QB'ed the next day. I know you were only able to interact for a short time, it is better than none at all. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I would like too take some time too thank the active members for doing what you do and making the community what it is im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.