Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Helping hand

Monday night, Al Berndt, the assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, called me. Al is a former Lincoln police sergeant. He was looking for some Nebraska law enforcement agencies that could commit personnel to an 8-day tour of duty in Cedar Rapids, IA. Nebraska and Iowa have mutually agreed to assist one another in circumstances such as the flooding presently occurring in Iowa.

I immediately committed ten officers, and set about getting a detail lined up. Capt. Doug Srb, Sgt. Chris Peterson, and Sgt. Craig Price were quickly recruited, and seven additional officers, Sharon Howe, Matt Brodd, Brian Golden, Mike Muff, Derek Dittman, Tarvis Banks, and Grant Powell volunteered. By yesterday morning, they were assembling their gear and receiving a briefing at HQ.

Capt. Dave Beggs and Sgts. Tom Hamm, Mike Bassett, Shannon Karl, Sam Santacroce, and Danny Reitan had done some initial prep work for them, our accounting supervisor Michele Selvage had the financial arrangements in progress, and Sgt. Don Scheinost had scouted the availability of GPS devices (on sale!) in order to help our team navigate in unfamiliar territory. Sgt. Todd Beam had spent several hours after midnight getting five patrol cars outfitted with aircards, so the team could use our mobile data network on the fly, and programmed radios to provide communications. The police garage staff had prepared the vehicles and had them waiting. I love the way this department pulls together when there is a job to be done.

We sent our group of personnel off Tuesday morning with a command post location and a local Cedar Rapids PD contact person's phone number. Their mission for the next week is to help the local authorities as they can, as long as they are needed--could be a couple of days, could be a week. They can expect 12 hour shifts, foregone days off, less-than-one-star lodgings, uncertain showers, and the possibility of lots of frayed nerves and short tempers. But they will also have the gratifying experience of helping others in a big way.

The Cedar Rapids PD and other local Iowa agencies have their hands full, have been on emergency call out for a considerable time. I presume that many of these officers also have their own homes and circumstances to worry about as well. It is our honor and privilege to join the Minneappolis and St. Paul police departments, Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, and Nebraska State Patrol on this mission to help out our neighbors.

As a police sergeant in the 1980 I was one of a group of officers assigned for a similar mission after the tornadoes that devasted Grand Island, Nebraska. It was one of the best experiences of my career. We all felt good about helping out and relieving some of the stress by covering the night shift for a week. If the shoe were on the other foot, we'd want the same thing.

I shook my head at some of the early comments posted on the Lincoln Journal Star's website pertaining to this operation, which were questioning the expense and insinuating that this was some kind of boondoggle. It was gratifying to see the better angels of human nature prevail as the thread unfolded. Some people seem to quickly forget the help we received when the chips were down in Lincoln.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

45 city employee are getting the axe, but we find money to help others. Lets take care of are own first.and tell the people flooded they can move instead of rebuilding in the same spot.

Tom Casady said...

8:01

Wow, maybe you should switch to decaf. All of our expenses are reimbursed by FEMA/NEMA.

Anonymous said...

8:01,

Isn't "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you" applicable here? To me this does seem to be taking care of our own, and personally I applaud all of those willing to step forward and help out.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:01

Someday you will eat your words. Most of these 45 city employees are not actually getting axed, the positions are simply not being filled as retirements occur.
The police officers of LPD are proud to be able to assist in Cedar Rapids. Someday when we are in the midst of a disaster I have no doubt they will repay the favor. WE are not selfish people. While our officers leave their own families behind to help others you can continue to wallow in your own self pity instead of doing something productive.

Enzo

Anonymous said...

It's both amusing and sadly typical that some people go off half-cocked (probably in more ways than one), before they know much about the situation, just like many of the LJS comments we see all the time.

As a preemptive strike on their next faulty assertion, I doubt that the FEMA/NEMA money could be legally used for any other purpose.

Greg said...

Don't forget that many of those positions being "axed" are postiions were the current staffer is retiring and the position is then not being filled. I don't think that really fits the qualifications of being "axed". Great Blog Chief!

Anonymous said...

Typical liberal.."All of our expenses are reimbursed by FEMA/NEMA".
That makes this ok. It is TAX money. And some folks want our resources kept at home. So, opinion is opinion.

Anonymous said...

"chips were down"?

The city needed no extra help at that time. In fact I had volunteered at that time and they said thanks, but we have all the help we need. Same story when the huge wind storm hit in the spring of 99.
Far as I am concerned the City can kiss the donkey if they ever need help again. We will take care of our own family and the govt can go to hell.

Tom Casady said...

10:59-

You are so wrong. We had tons of help from other power districts across the state and region, not to mention the National Guard--which was pretty critical to the police department due to their vehicles and transportation capability. We got help from tiny little towns like Oxford, for goodness sake. Without the assistance we received, we would have had tens of thousands of people without power for a much longer time period.

Maybe by the time you volunteered the crisis was over, or maybe you didn't have the particular equipment or skills that were needed, but in this case, the Governor of Iowa asked the Governor of Nebraska for this specific help, and I'm darned proud that we are in a position to provide it for a while. And 10:54, is there a better use of Federal taxes than helping fellow citizens in a catastrophic emergency?

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see some of the people who normally comment on the LJS articles have brought their bitter negativity over to your blog. Good God, do you people just sit around looking for something (anything) to complain about?

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:54
This is not a political liberal or conservative issue. This is a human issue and about helping folks during really bad events. Its about learning from our mistakes learned in Katrina on aid response and 9-11 with mutual aid law enforcement.

Go ahead and rest in your dry home while you have electricity that whirls your pc through cyberspace; Where you don't have to get invloved with the rest of the world and only contribution is belching out a mute politcal point.

Anonymous said...

well... Cedar Rapids is in need of police presence, security, LOTS of cleanup, and a lot of volunteering. We spent our first shift patrolling the de-barricaded business area to prevent obvious crimes. It's dirty, dusty, smelly, and sad to see the devastation in this area. They called it a 3,000 year flood damage. We are luckily staying in a dorm - under construction though - so not much sleep during the day while we are working nights (not complaining though). Showers have been somewhat warm for a bit. We can tell we are appreciated, and most of the city appears to be really supportive of our presence.

Anonymous said...

Someone publishes something on the internet and most of us assume it is true because it is on the net. That is not always the case. I depend on government websites as well as some dependable media. It has always been tradition that cities public servants help out other cities after a natural disaster. Do some traveling people. We are lucky to have the police department we have that is competent as well as professional in their duties. Good job guys. PS Chief, I do drink decaf (maybe that is why I have a cooler head).

Anonymous said...

Chief-
I'm thinking that Anonymous 12:50pm is one of our officers in Cedar Rapids. I would love to get a first-hand experience from them once they get back. I think you should ask each of them to write a little bit for your next blog. As far as all the negative commenters, just let them be. They would be whining if it were Lincoln that was flooded, asking "Why isn't anyone helping us?" Sometimes people just can't be pleased. I'm proud of our officers, and I hope that they stay safe.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 4:04 pm I couldn't agree with you more. I've resided in nine states and fifteen different cities over the past forty-two years. Lincoln has one of the best public-safety forces that I've ever encountered. Extremely professional and competent. P.S. Decaf sux...

Anonymous said...

regarding some of the earlier, less than charitable comments previously posted, as the father of one of these Officers and having a sister inlaw in the Cedar Rapids area, I am extremely proud of these Officers and that Lincoln is helping out. If you have ever lost a home in a flood, tornado, fire, etc, you know the feeling of helplessness. To have these amazing folks, selflessly give up time off and the comfort of their homes, to help others, who they don't even know, is the very attitude we need more of. I dare say that the closest most of us get to being there is CNN. The closest we get to helping is throwing $0.50 in the Salvation army kettle at Christmas time.

Have a Nice Safe Day!

Tom Casady said...

Update:

I've had several conversations with our staff in Cedar Rapids. Large areas of the City are devastated, and as the water recedes the scope of the damage becomes evident.

Their shift has changed from 3:00 PM to 3:00 AM. Communications have improved (they found the right person to set them up with equipment). They are staying in the dorms at Mount Mercy College, which are comfortable, if spartan. The college has thrown open it's doors to soldiers and police officers, fulfilling it's mission. I have no doubt that the Sisters of Mercy who founded the college more than a century ago would approve.

Last night they were moving people out after curfew, helping with directions, patrolling, and doing some searching in the area where they are assigned. There's lots of dust, and the air is ripe, so they are masked-up at least some of the time. Capt. Srb reports that there are many law enforcement officers assisting from other Iowa communities, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois.

I inquired via a mobile data talk message if they had found a Maid-Rite yet. Officer Powell's response: "What's a Maid-Rite?" It appears we have not a single Iowan among the group. They probably haven't found any Sterzing's, either.

Anonymous said...

Lindgerger cheese, Chief, Lindberger cheese...

Anonymous said...

They're back! Who gets to write the after-action report (or whatever you call it)?