Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Delivery intercepted

Continuing on yesterday’s subject of holiday thefts, there is another type of crime that we have been seeing in recent years: intercepted delivery of the United States mail.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a lot of grandmas send that card containing a five spot or a gift card.  During the past few years, we have had several cases where mail was stolen from curbside boxes, probably by thieves hoping to score a gift card or cash.  My guess is that there were many more of these offenses that went undetected and unreported. 

Make those gifts in person if you can, check to make sure the recipient actually received the card, and help us keep an eye out for anyone fooling around your neighbor’s mailbox.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Parcel security

Officer Steve Standley, a skilled veteran of 36 years, has intitiated a problem-oriented policing (POP) project aimed at a crime type that surfaced last year: theft of parcel deliveries.  In Steve's Southeast Lincoln team area alone, there was a loss of goods valued at over $5,000 during the holiday season in 2009.  The M.O. is pretty straightforward: the thieves watch the courier make a delivery, then sneak up and snatch the parcel off the porch or patio.

Creating more awareness of this crime is part of Steve's strategy.  Yesterday, he alerted his fellow officers to be on the look out for anyone lurking in a residential neighborhood while FedEx and UPS drivers are making their rounds.  He's especially interested in anyone who might be parked in a car or idling at the curb a block or so down the street as a delivery is made. 

Today, he has enlisted my help to spread this same word to the general public. You are our eyes and ears.  There are only 321 of us, but there are 255,000 residents in Lincoln, who are far more likely to spot this kind of suspicious behavior.  If you are retired, a stay-at-home parent, or a shift worker who is around the house during the daytime, you are a particularly valuable crime prevention asset right now.  These deliveries are almost always between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, and that's when the snatches occur. 

Keep your eyes peeled, and please call us ASAP if you see anything that looks like a parcel theft, surveillance of a delivery, or anything else that appears odd.  It could be the set up to one of these thefts.  Don't worry about bothering us, and don't hesitate because of uncertainty--we'll check it out, and if there is a legitimate explanation, no harm has been done. 

Good luck, Steve.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Peaks in summer

A local member of the news media was aiming to do a story about the uptick in domestic violence that accompanies the holiday season.  It is a topic I’ve blogged about before.  The assumption underlying this reporter's story idea is a myth.  Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence (like most crime) actually peaks during the middle of summer.  Here’s the monthly breakdown on 15,134 domestic assaults in Lincoln over the past decade:


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dramatic improvement

Fifteen years ago my boss, Mayor Mike Johanns (now Senator Johanns) decided to commit some City resources and time to a project to improve the community’s response to domestic violence.  In collaboration with several stakeholders, the Family Violence Council was formed, following a year of strategic planning. 

Earlier this month, the director of the FVC, Bob Moyer, was among the testifiers at the public hearing held by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies regarding the Lincoln Police Department’s application for reaccreditation.  Mr. Moyer testified about the police department’s partnership with other organizations in the community on a variety of strategies to improve the response to domestic violence. 

During his testimony, Bob presented some statistics that were really rather mind-boggling.  I’ve watched them from year to year, but to look back over the life of the Family Violence Council is quite a different perspective.  Here’s a snapshot of some of that data:

Dual arrests17641
Percent of arrests being custodial arrests43%77%
Number of repeat offenders19657
Number of offenses committed by repeat offenders324103
Number of offenders committing 4 or more offenses in year244
Number of perpetrators ordered into intervention programs0465
Number of perpetrators sentenced to jail126318

This reflects a remarkable accomplishment in combatting violent crime in the City of Lincoln.  Consider that during this same time period, the population of the City has increased by about 47,000 and the change becomes even more dramatic.  While the police department did not cause this effect, we were a critical component in the improved community response that led to these results, and this is something we can all be proud of.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Online research revealing

A comment was posted at 10:40 AM yesterday on my blog post from Friday.  It had nothing to do with Friday's topic, but was an interesting question demonstrating that the reader has mastered the art of online research.  I will repeat the comment here to save you a couple clicks:


Here's an unrelated, but timely, item of information tangential to a current suspect. The prostitution charge seems minor, at least in contrast to this earlier conviction. Since most accessory to murder convictions were most likely reduced from a stiffer charge, I bet there's a story behind that one."

Indeed, there is a story, and I suspect the reader who made the comment knows more about the underlying crime than he or she reveals.  The reader has made good use of a simple Google search, combined with an inquiry into the public inmate locator maintained by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.  I suspect that the reader who posted the comment knows more than he or she lets on, because the basic details of the conviction that landed her and others in prison are not hard to find

My, how the world has changed.  There is no place to hide.

Friday, November 19, 2010

If you wore a gray shirt…

…then you ought to be able to describe these phrases:
  • time…time…time…time
  • 40 – 40
  • Motor 8½
  • Car 25
  • 842
  • Dime check
You also ought to know these people:
  • Topper
  • Pappy
  • Crash
  • Uncle Neil
  • Hardrock
  • Clean Gene
  • Boo Boo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Things you haven’t seen

Okay, here’s another one many officers would not recognize. You might have found this on a Pinto, a Pacer, or a Vega.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


During yesterday's staff meeting one of our senior members of the management staff blurted out "KAB463" as we were discussing the rather interesting adaptations required by some of our officers when we reverted to a less computer-based way of doing business for a time during the upgrade to the City Communications Center's computer-aided dispatch system.

So, what is KAB463, a phrase burned into the cerebral cortex of all of our personnel with employee numbers less than _____?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LPD unplugged

If you’ve read the Chief’s Corner for any length of time, you realize that information technology is deeply embedded in the operations of the Lincoln Police Department. We depend on our information resources in a number of ways, but much of it begins with dispatch information.

Decades ago, when someone called the police, a call-taker wrote the pertinent details down on a card, that went into a conveyer belt that transported it to a dispatcher, who picked it up, assigned an officer, stamped it with the time and case number, and stuck it in a slot.  This was all computerized in the early 1990’s, when the City’s Communications Center replaced this manual process with a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. 

Today, the electronic dispatch records feed our records management system, pre-populate our online reports, and are transmitted electronically to the officers’ mobile data computers in the patrol cars.  Veteran officers like me will still catch themselves from time to time referring to the dispatch record as a dispatch card, which makes about as much sense as calling a digital image displayed on an LCD monitor a slide. 

The computer-aided dispatch system was due for a hardware and software replacement this year, and the switch over was scheduled for 4:00 AM this past Sunday, and expected to take at least 24 hours.  Killing CAD would also knock out our interface to our mobile data system, and the interface to our Records Management System.  As a result, there would be a period of time where police employees would need to revert to an earlier tool in order to document their cases:  the pen and pad of paper. 

Rather than looking at this switchover as an obstacle, I looked at it as an opportunity to practice police work with part of our information intrastructure crippled.  By reminding ourselves from time to time that all you really need to do police work is a writing instrument, we will be better prepared, organizationally, in the event of anything from an massive snow storm to an EMP event.   Think of it as an exercise to test our resilience, just like you might fire up the emergency generator, or move to the backup facility temporarily.  When you exercise these plans, you increase the likelihood that you will be able to do so if the real need arises. 

The changeover is going about as planned, but has included the inevitable unplanned twists and turns.  We have weathered it just fine, though, and a large group of police officers who have never actually dialed a phone (nor hung one up) learned that LPD can continue to work pretty well unplugged.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Onsite complete

We have applied for our sixth accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).  We were first accredited in 1989.  The accreditation cycle is three years and we were last reaccredited in 2008, so if we achieve reaccreditation it will be awarded in the first quarter of 2011. 

The review occurs in two parts: a desk review, in which assessors pore over all the documents that demonstrate our compliance, and a site review in which a team of assessors visits the agencies and looks under the hood.  Our site team was here this week.  the assessors have extensive backgrounds in policing, they have a good frame of reference for comparing us with the rest of the policing field.

A public hearing was held Monday night for CALEA to accept comments concerning our application for reaccreditation.  Testifiers could also call in comments on a hotline during the afternoon.  The testifiers spoke about the quality of our work with other agencies, with the homeless, with victims of sexual assault, with chronic alcoholics, and with domestic violence victims.  The Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court was among testifiers who phoned in comments to the assessment team.

The exit interview with the assessors before they departed was a button-buster.  To say that they were impressed would be an understatement.  They specifically mentioned the quality of our personnel, our facilities, the apparent quality of our relationship with citizens and with other governmental and community organizations, and our information technology.  The daily news meeting briefing and lineup both were singled out for special mention, too.  The praise was glowing, and a prelude to what I expect with be smooth sailing when the full commission hears the team’s report early next year.

I am incredibly proud to serve as Lincoln’s police chief.  The opportunity to work with the women and men who share this mission to provide police services that promote a safe and secure community is immensely fulfilling.  Special thanks is due to our own accreditation team, who handle this in addition to their many other duties: Capt. Joy Citta, Sgt. Don Scheinost, and Officer Katie Flood. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tactical hat

Most Lincoln police officers of my vintage are predisposed to dislike their uniform hat.  I think the reason for this is that we were forced to wear them when we were rookies—all the time.  Get caught with a bare head, and some form of punishment would be meted out, wildly disproportionate to the violation.  As a result, the eight-point police cap came to be a symbol of the boot of management pressed against the neck of the proletariat. 

For the most part, LPD officers were relieved when our new chief made the hat optional in the late 1970’s, except for weddings, wakes, funerals, and football.  I was a bit of a holdout, along with a handful of others, who carried my hat and wore it from time to time even after it was optional.  Although it provided little protection, it was still better than nothing for an easily-burned redhead like me (yes, I once had hair).   The bill helped shade my sun-sensitive eyes, and at 5’9” (just a smidgen taller than the Sheriff, I like to claim), I also appreciated the perception of a couple extra inches in some circumstances.

So, as something of a hat holdout, I was impressed last week when I watched a video of our patrol officers in the flotsam and jetsam of bar break downtown on a weekend night.  What is that—a whole squad in hats?  Joe Carroll would approve.  The video made evident why several of our officers have recently decided to sport their hats at certain times.  You had no trouble seeing one another in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.   I would deem that a wise tactical move.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Demise of cursive

A couple weeks ago, I was the entertainment for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Face the Chamber.  I’m normally invited once a year, when the list of more interesting topics has been exhausted.  It is an event I always look forward to, as the room at the Lincoln Country Club is always filled with movers and shakers, opinion leaders and muckity mucks. 

My topic this year was the changing paradigm in policing, as we move away from the style of policing that has dominated the past 80 years: patrol.  Patrol, in modern police parlance, is a system of delivering police service that relies upon citizens using telephones to call the police, the police being radio dispatched to respond to these calls.  In between these calls, patrol involves driving around aimlessly burning fossil fuel waiting for the next call.

I explained to the Chamber why I believe this era of policing is rapidly drawing to a close, and I told them about the style of policing that I think will replace it.  In making my point, I asked the audience to think about three things that have changed in the very recent past.  The change has been remarkable, and we hardly even notice until we think about it. 

First, personal navigation.  A few years ago, your local Phillips 66 station gave out complimentary road maps. That’s how you found your way to Duluth or Joplin.  Folding the map back up was an exercise in the art of Origami, and would confound most 30 year olds today.  Personal navigation has been transformed by the Garmin, the GPS-enabled cell phone, the on-board navigation system, and by MapQuest, Google Maps, and Yahoo Maps. 

Second, digital photography.  I can barely remember the Photomat.  It wasn’t that long ago that the back counter at Walgreen’s was lined with envelopes of prints returned from film processing.  When we opened our new police headquarters in 2000, it had a nicely-equipped darkroom—which has never been used and today is a storage room.  The world of photography shifted beneath our feet, and it did so incredibly quickly.

Third, handwriting.  Not long ago, we gave very little children very large pencils (what’s the deal with that?) and politically incorrect Chief tablets upon which to practice their penmanship.  By third grade, they were learning cursive.  When is the last time you wrote anything in cursive, other than your signature?  If you’re like me, it’s been a good long while.  I can no longer write in cursive without an incredible effort, and Mrs. Hogan would scowl at the scrawl I produce as an adult.  The demise of cursive, however, has hardly brought about the fall of western civilization.

I can think of many more examples, but the point is this:  change happens.  It happens radically or subtlety, gradually or quickly, but it is an inexorable.  He who adapts to change thrives.  He who resists change withers. 

Friday, November 5, 2010


Doggonit, I failed to follow my own rule, and paid the price. During the wee hours of the morning yesterday, my neighborhood was nailed by a vandalism spree. The morons responsible for these crimes drove around smashing car windows with a golf club, or something similar.  We’ve had about 45 of these reported.  The numbskulls responsible for this spree may have been driving a light colored (gray, silver, beige?) Chevy Cavalier with a loud exhaust. 

After scrupulously parking my old pickup up in the driveway for the days around Halloween, I left it in the street Wednesday night.  My standard  advice has always been to get your vehicles into the drive as much as you can, because they are much less likely to be targets for vandalism or theft. 

I was watching the news on our local ABC affiliate, KLKN, when they ran this story last night. That’s my pickup they recorded for the B-roll.  Apparently someone went out to collect a little video, and found my truck on the street before I could get home and clean up the mess.  Bet the reporter wishes she had known that was the police chief’s Chevy.

I sure wish I had heeded my own advice on Thursday.  That would have saved me about $400, an hour of cleanup, and a headache.  Dagnabit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One of many

By the way, Monday's drunk driver dressed as a breathalyzer wasn't the only DWI arrest over the Halloween weekend.  From midnight on Friday to 0500 hours on Monday, there were a total of 26 drunk driving arrests.  That's a pretty hefty number for a single weekend. Nor was he the only drunk driver in costume.  He was joined at the detox center by a French maid and a naughty border patrol agent. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

I'm predicting this

In the past year, I have blogged a few times about the concept of predictive policing: using data and information to get out in front of crime and disorder--hopefully with a prevention or early intervention strategy.  It is a way of thinking that comes pretty naturally to Lincoln police employees, who have been immersed in information and involved in proactive policing for a good long while.

Early last week, I was representing the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) by helping to staff their exhibit at the huge annual police chiefs' chiefs conference.  Although I wasn't planning on making any presentations at the conference, I was pressed into service at the last minute by a colleague from Arlington, Texas: Jim Mallard.  Jim supervises the Crime Analysis Unit at the Arlington PD, and he was scheduled for one of the principal presentations at the conference, along with Chief T. Bowman.  Chief Bowman had been delayed in Arlington in the aftermath of the Texas Ranger's league championship.  How would you like to have the Super Bowl and the World Series in your City during the same year?

I was happy to fill in.  Fortunately I have been writing about predictive policing lately, so I had some thoughts in mind, and all went well.  You can read a little bit about the session Jim and I presented here. The session was interpreted live in several languages, and I'm hoping that some of the colloquialisms I used mad sense in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.  I got a good laugh recently when I used the phrase "madder than a wet hen", which I incorrectly thought was a pretty universal expression. 

Back to Chief Bowman:  I encountered him several weeks ago working email, reading documents, surfing the web, checking the news, and keeping in touch with the office via an Apple iPad tethered to a Sprint Overdrive.  He's the first chief I've seen managing his communications with an iPad, just like me. I'm predicting this in policing: the tablet computer is going to overtake current police mobile data computers rather quickly.  It is a natural for police officers, and makes more sense than the hardened docked laptops that presently rule the transmission hump.  Give me a vehicle docking solution for the iPad and a grab-and-go case with a hand strap, and the tablet makes perfect sense for police officers who are in and out of vehicles and buildings all day long.  It won't be too long before the vendors of police mobile data applications figure this out and design their products for this form factor.