Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ultimate reward

Last night's Academy graduation was also the occasion of our semi-annual awards ceremony.  It's a great idea to combine these two events.  Our new officers, their families and friends, get to hear about exactly the kind of accomplishments their sons, daughters, moms, dads, husbands, wives, and friends will themselves be immersed in beginning the next day.  They also get to hear about the rather incredible amount of support and assistance we receive from citizens.

There were 20 officer awards last night, and 12 for citizens.  The Awards Committee chair, Capt. Jon Sundermeier, smoothly described the events leading to each award as the honoree stepped to the dais to accept a plaque from the Mayor and I.  It is impossible to describe each, but suffice it to say that an amazing array of heroic deeds and exceptional work was described.  One, however, stands out.

On Christmas Day, Officer Nate Hill was at home with his family.  His parents were among the guests, and in the early afternoon, his dad suffered a heart attack and stopped breathing.  Nate initiated CPR, and other family members called 911.  You will recall that on Christmas a raging blizzard swept across the State, paralyzing travel. It was a battle for Lincoln Fire & Rescue to make their way to the home, and even after Nate's dad was ready to be transported, the ambulance could not get underway.  Other officers were on their bellies, frantically digging with their hands under the chassis.  Tow straps were broken twice in the effort to pull the ambulance out with a 4WD pickup.  Ultimately, the City Public Works Department arrived with big equipment, and the ambulance escaped to the hospital.

Officers Nate Hill, Dustin Lind, Frank Foster, and Jason Brownell all received awards last night for their quick work, but the hardware was obviously not the real reward.  It was Nate's dad beaming in the audience.

I chatted with Nate's parents after the ceremony.  They could not have been prouder.  His dad could not be more grateful for God's amazing grace.  As he explained to me, the weather almost kept him at home, where he believed he likely would have died.  He had a new four wheel drive vehicle, though, and thought that they could make it to his son's house for Christmas dinner.  He made it, all right, thanks to the intervention of his own son and his colleagues.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Graduation day

It is a big day for seventeen recruits who graduate tonight from the Lincoln Police Department Academy.  They are finishing up their 19th week of training today, and preparing for tonight's ceremony.  I know they are excited, and I am excited for them.  So are three hundred other officers, all of whom remember the anticipation of their first shift on the street.  We all look forward to working with them, and wish them the best as they advance to the next phase of their development: field training. 

This class wraps up the Recruit Blog, a week-by-week account of their training experience that we have published on our public website.  It is a fascinating read, I think, about the experiences these recruits have had during the academy phase of their training.  Their blog has been very popular, and we are hearing from our current applicants that they are all following it.  I think it's a nice recruiting tool for us, that will intrigue more potential applicants.

We are already deep into the process of constituting our next recruit class for the fall.  City employment manager Pat Kant tells me that we had a total of 617 applicants for the fall class, from which we will hire a number in the single digits.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Never been 18

I had an email last week from a college student seeking some data.  She wanted to know how many MIP arrests, DWI arrests, and alcohol-related traffic crashes occurred in Lincoln when the drinking age was 18, as compared to when the drinking age was 21. Specifically, she was interested in those involving

Here's the problem: the drinking age in Nebraska has never been 18.  It has, however, been 19 and 20.  From 1972 through 1980, Nebraska's legal drinking age was 19.  From 1980 through 1983 it was 20.  Remarkably, I had the data the student wanted from a year in each of the three time periods when the drinking age was 19, 20, and 21.  Here's what I provided her:

Interesting data, I would say. From these you can conclude: the rate of young people being arrested for MIP has risen dramatically, the DWI arrest rate for young people has fallen somewhat, and the percentage of DWI arrests involving a traffic crash has fallen dramatically. Whether any of this is related to the drinking age, however, is unknown from this snapshot of data from three separate years.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tribute to Heroes

Saturday the Cornhusker Chapter of the American Red Cross held their annual Tribute to Heroes dinner to recognize 9 people who performed exemplary service to their community and fellow man during 2009.  Two nominees submitted by the police department were among the honorees.  Well, actually, two humans and one dog. 

The first pair was Officer Jeff Urkevich and his K9 partner, Jake.  Jeff and Jake intervened with a troubled man who was threatening to commit suicide. When he learned the police had been called, he fled the residence.  Jeff and Jake tracked him down and made sure he got the mental health help he needed.

The second was Chuck Jeffers, a citizen who witnessed the aftermath of a bank robbery and took action.  Chuck saw a man running from a branch bank (that was a clue), and getting into a vehicle.  He followed the getaway, while calling 911 to ask if the bank had just been robbed.  After learning that he was indeed following the bank robber, Chuck stayed on the line with the dispatcher, and calmly vectored the police officers in for an intercept a couple miles away. 

Congratulations to Jeff, Jake, Chuck, and all the award winners!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cause and effect

First, review my old post, Philanthrophic Binge Drinking (I particularly recommend the banter in the comments).  Next, check out the reviews of the event in Oklahoma City last week.  Finally, check out the follow-up story, in which the reporter quotes my blog, but doesn’t include the link. 

I guess my concern that this business model could easily lead to some laws being violated weren’t entirely unfounded.  It’s a simple matter of cause and effect: if ten people drink twenty 60-ounce pitchers of beer in four hours, some of them are going to be drunk.  My favorite online BAC calculator is this one.

What a great way to support a charity.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Junk research is an online service where you can provide your personal information, then receive quotes from various companies for insurance policies.  The site collects some pertinent data from you, and apparently among that data (if you are looking for auto insurance) is a question about prior traffic crash claims. 

On Tuesday, put out a press release touting The 10 Most Dangerous Cities for Drivers. Lincoln was ranked 10th.  Des Moines was ranked 4th.  Boston, St. Louis, Newark and Atlanta didn't make the top 10.  Hello, has anyone associated with the website ever driven in Boston?  Based on the description of their "research," here's how Lincoln gets named one of the most dangerous cities:  they calculated the percentage of all people who requested a quote from that self-reported a prior traffic accident.  Do you think there might just be measuring truthfulness on web forms, here?  This is what I call junk research. When it gets picked up by the media, without any critical thought, it fries me. 

Nobody can convince me in any way, shape, or form that Lincoln is one of the most dangerous driving cities in the United States.  Unlike, I know what our traffic crash data is, and what its trend is.  I also pay an insurance bill, and I know our cost of auto insurance is far lower than in many other parts of the country.  Real insurance companies rate risk based on claims history, and Allstate Insurance is one of the largest in the business.  Every year, Allstate publishes it's own list, based on the actual claims it receives from customers.  The Allstate America's Best Drivers Report provides the rankings of the largest 200 cities in the United States.  Last year's report lists Lincoln as the 14th best. Des Moines was 20th.  Allstate's methodology essentially inverts's findings. 

Allstate's report isn't the only evidence that Lincoln drivers are actually pretty good.   I've blogged on the topic before.  I was amused by the comments on the Journal Star's website following the Thursday article. Whenever anything is published about driving, the comments immediately blossom into a thread of horror stories about Lincoln having the worst drivers imaginable.  You could Google "worst drivers" followed by any city's name, and find exactly the same kind of comments.  The best drivers, of course, are always those in the city where you used to live, where (as previously noted), the women are strong, the men good-looking, and the children all above average.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Beer burglars back

I've blogged on many occasions about garage-shopping, and our strategies to reduce it.  It's spring, though, and after the yard work is done and the game of horse has been played in the driveway, the garage doors are increasingly left up while no one is watching.

Garage shopping is a crime in which the burglars simply cruise around looking for garage doors that are standing open, then help themselves to the goods.  Many of the valuables in your garage have wheels or handles that make them easy prey--things like tool boxes, golf bags, bicycles, and so forth. One of the common targets, however, lacks wheels and handles, but is nonetheless quite popular:  beer. In my neighborhood, many people around have a spare refrigerator in the garage, and a thief can be reasonably certain that a garage fridge contains the golden elixir.  There thefts occur in the evening hours, for the most part, often when its still light out and the residents are at home.  A few of these have occurred in my neighborhood this month, and in two of those cases the thirsty suspect was spotted getting into a gold Honda Odyssey minivan.  I'm keeping an eye peeled for that one. 

The more people keep that garage door buttoned up, the less exposed they are to these crimes.  We've been pretty successful in driving down the overall numbers.  When I checked this morning, I see that we have had 25 burglaries through open garage doors so far this year.  Just five years ago, in 2005, that number stood at 87 on May 12.  That's quite a drop, and I attribute it to good police work by our late shift officers, who so far this year have rang 225 doorbells to let homeowners know they forgot to button up.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bad weekend for robbers

Saturday was a bad day for robbery suspects in Lincoln.  The  day started with a couple of convenience store robberies, in which the suspect left some of the better surveillance photos of the year.  By the evening news, his photos were all over the place, and you had to figure that the arrest was inevitable.  Predictably, it was made in the same neighborhood where the stolen truck was dumped, and just a few blocks from where it had been stolen in a burglary.

I know the neighborhood well, a few doors from our family home during the 1980’s.  We now live about a quarter mile away, and we spent a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon looking for the jeans with the hole in the left knee.  No luck on Saturday afternoon, but shortly after the 10:00 PM news, our suspect was in custody.

Also on Saturday, this armed robber was nabbed.  The story of this crime went viral, no doubt due to the unique attire of the robber.  Our public information officer’s quip that, in light of the disguise, “there isn’t much to go on,” propelled the story to the  A tough-guy image will be difficult to cultivate when you are forever after known as the Toilet Paper Bandit.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Online radio show

Once a month, I do a monthly radio talk show with Dale Johnson at KFOR radio in Lincoln.  The hour, however, is really more like 35 minutes or so, due to commercials and the half hour news break.  Wednesday, however, I participated in an honest-to-goodness one hour radio interview for a non-commercial Internet broadcast. 

Bill Patterson, with the impossibly long title of “Senior Program Manager for Law Enforcement, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation” was the host.  The Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center (UDETC) is a project of the United States Department of Justice, and does exactly what the name implies.  Mr. Patterson, among other things, hosts a weekly Internet radio show on the subject, which airs on Wednesdays between 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM on In addition, here is a rebroadcast on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 PM. The interview we recorded will air this coming Wednesday, May 12.

A full hour is a long time for an interview, and I no doubt blathered, but Mr. Patterson is a good interviewer, and we had a nice discussion.  He was primarily interested in what we have done in Lincoln to impact underage drinking and high risk drinking by young people.  I was most interested in explaining why we have engaged in these strategies: to prevent violent crime and other harm to young people.  The topics we discussed have been covered here in the Chief’s Corner from time to time. Just follow the tag cloud to the labels “Party on” and “ETOH”.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Also nabbed

Yesterday afternoon's robbery of a US Bank branch on N. 27th Street was Lincoln's first bank robbery in over a year. Like last April's robbery of a Union Bank branch, an alert citizen spotted the getaway car yesterday, which led to a quick arrest.

Overall, there have now been seven holdups of businesses in Lincoln thus far in 2010.  Two of those are what you might describe as "forcible shoplifting," although this precise example is used in item number 11 on page 23 of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook to illustrate the definition of robbery.  I wonder how many police departments accurately apply that definition to these kinds of crimes.

The low number of business robberies so far this year is highly unusual, even by Lincoln's standards.  Last year as of May 4th, we had suffered 21 robberies of businesses, including three banks.  We must have the right people in jail at the moment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


You really have to appreciate the string of events that led to this alleged jewel thief being nabbed in a case that was unlikely to ever be solved. First, a citizen followed the debonair crook as he dashed from the jewelry store with the $27K Rolex he had been examining. Second, the good citizen sees a road atlas fall from the open door as the thief made his getaway. Next, Dave Sobatka in the LPD Forensic Unit was able to both develop and identify a latent fingerprint from one of the dog-eared pages of the atlas.

Then Bill Gumm, the police chief in Columbus, NE, reading the daily newspaper, notes the similarity between this case and one in Salina, KS that he had read about in the Nebraska Information and Analysis Center's most recent bulletin. He sends me an email with the heads-up (he reads those bulletins more thoroughly than me!). Finally, Investigator Chris Milisits runs the suspect's criminal history, and learns (buried on page 16) that our suspect was just picked up on a traffic charge in Lee County, SC the day before we made the ID. As luck would have it, he is still in custody in the neighboring Florence County Jail, which has a very nice web interface to it's booking information available to the general public--and quite helpful in creating photo lineups.

Sometimes the stars and the planets align, and everything just comes together. Felony warrants have now been issued in Lincoln and Salina, so the South Carolina authorities will hang onto the suspect.  Too bad the Rolex wasn't among Mr. Quincy Taylor's effects when he was booked. Good work one and all!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thank you message

Early last Friday morning, three incompetent criminals attempted to steal an electronic message board belonging to the City of Lincoln Public Works Department.  The message board was one of several placed around town to remind citizens of the upcoming Lincoln Marathon, held on Sunday. 

Our offenders, buoyed by a little liquid courage, dragged the $12,000 apparatus down the street a couple blocks, making a terrible screeching noise, since the wheel locks were set.  They lacked an inch or two of clearance, however, and couldn’t quite pull it into their garage. They were gathering some tools when Officer Lacey Schwochow arrived.  These suspects took flight upon, but were quickly rounded up by Officer Schwochow and her colleagues on the Southeast Team. 

The marathon, by the way, was huge success.  The day was sunny, the temperature cool, and the breeze lights.  A huge crowd lined Lincoln’s streets to watch 8,000 runners on a picture perfect Chamber of Commerce day.  The Public Works Department expressed their appreciation of Officer Lacey Schwochow’s work: