Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No monopoly on hate

It’s a new semester, and invitations to speak at various University of Nebraska classes have begun.  Last year, I blogged about a visit to ALEC 466: Agricultural Leadership and Communication,  Leadership and Diversity. The instructor, PhD student Helen Fagan, gave me a couple of broad topics, racial profiling and hate crimes. 

I’m hardly and expert, but it seemed to be a good discussion, like last year. Perhaps my years of experience in policing provide a certain viewpoint that contributes to the students’ learning process.  I took along a few Incident Reports that are typical examples of hate crimes in Lincoln.

The reports (13 in all) are a depressing testament to, hate, racism, and just plain ugliness:  an assault outside a McDonalds on a man who couldn’t restrain himself when he felt the customers ahead of him were moving too slow, and who couldn’t refrain from making his report to the police laced with disgusting, racist language; a gay couple’s window smashed out with a brick; a Latino couple accosted by an Asian man with an incredible barrage of hateful, racist language; a racially-charged fight at a high school: a car load of bigots looking for a victim to torment outside a gay bar.  Remarkable, however, was the racial and ethnic diversity of both perpetrators and victims, proving that no one has a monopoly on hate.

As I reminded the students, this snapshot of a few police reports is just the tip of a much larger iceberg

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

LF&R debriefings

One of the really good things I’ve discovered at Lincoln Fire & Rescue as I’ve learned more about the operations is a common practice of conducting both formal and informal after-action-reviews of major incidents. 

Due to a conflict, I couldn’t attend the debriefing following this year’s largest fire (Lincoln Public Schools Administration Building), but recnetly I sat in on a short review of a structure fire that occurred on July 5th on SW 10th Street.  Battalion Chief Dean Staberg conducted the review.  It was a nice assessment of what worked, what didn’t, and lessons learned. 

A self-critique like this is a marvelous process for an organization to adopt.  It is particularly valuable when the goal is to share information in a collegial setting aimed at performance improvement, not in second-guessing or blaming.  I’d like to see more of this on the police side of public safety in Lincoln. 

Here’s one simple tidbit, for example, that I picked up:  rather than referring to the faces of a basically-rectangular structure by their compass point, LF&R designates them by letters: A, B, C and D (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta).  The letters are assigned clockwise beginning with the main face where the address would be.  This way, no one has to guess about the compass directions, which are often unclear in the dark, on winding streets, and when buildings are not oriented north-and-south.  My house is a pretty good example: here’s the aerial photo. In this image, north is straight up.  What would you call the side with the deck and patio?  The north side?  The west side?  LF&R would call it the Charlie side--simply and effectively eliminating any confusion.


Monday, August 22, 2011

New blog

Andrew Dasher is the manager of the Lincoln Police Department's Crime Analysis Unit.  Drew has a new blog, locationbasedpolicing.com.  He is interested in engaging more of his colleagues in a dialog about the emerging technology of location-based services in policing, and the implications of this technology for police strategies.

I was really intrigued with his most recent post about a free geocoding and map hosting service, batchgeo. It amazes me what you can do these days with free products and services. Drew has published a sample map of a fictional series of auto thefts, to demonstrate the output from batchgeo. Click on one of the fake cases, and check out the cool label that incorporates an image.  I can write the string of html code necessary to create the labels in Drew's sample map, but this product automates that to a very easy pick-and-click step.  There simply is no reason any police or fire agency with the inclination couldn't be creating some useful GIS products.

Good luck with the blog, Drew.  This is certainly a topic that is gathering a lot of momentum in policing, and if you can stimulate some more discussion among crime analysts and policing practitioners, you will be performing a nice service to the professional field.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Make ‘em pay!

Another citizen emailed the Mayor expressing dismay that the City of Lincoln doesn’t make the University pay for traffic control surrounding UNL home football games.  This writer SENT HIS MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS and held up the example of Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.  The Mayor’s Office asked me to respond on behalf of the administration, which required just a slight rewrite of last week’s response to another correspondent.

Don’t think we’d win the case in the court of public opinion, if we took our whistles and went home.  Maybe I’m wrong, though. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Urban legend circulating

One of the downsides of the Internet and email has been the rapidity with which unfounded rumors and urban legends spread.  Within the past ten days, three people have forwarded this email to me.  It is always passed on by a credible person who is familiar with this situation right here in Lincoln!

“This message is or any lady who goes to work, college or school or even driving or walking the streets alone.  If you find a young person crying on the road showing you their address and is asking you to take them to that address... Take that child  to the POLICE STATION!!  No matter what you do, DON'T go to that  address.  This is a new way for gang members (MS13) to rape women.   Please forward this message to all ladies & guys so that they can inform  their sisters & friends and family.  Please don't feel shy to forward this message.  Thank you!”

I have told all the correspondents that this is a urban legend and has no credence whatsoever.  Not that it’s entirely bad advice, however.  Better yet, though, why not just call the police?

Not the first urban legend I’ve dealt with on the Director’s Desk, and sometimes an email circulates that has all the appearances of an urban legend, but is actually quite true.  When I see something fishy like this, I generally search snopes.com with a few keywords, like:  child | crying | gang | rape. It is amazing how often the story is not only the same, but even the wording is nearly identical to something that first popped up on the web years ago. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Call for assistance

I've been on a short vacation with Tonja, celebrating our anniversary. I snapped this photo in Parker, Colorado. While I don't like using 911 for anything but emergencies, you've got to admire the business plan behind these vehicle graphics.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bigger jam

Football traffic has been the theme this week, but yesterday was a good reminder of a looming traffic jam that will make a home football game look tame in comparison:  the Guardians of Freedom airshow. This is going to be a marvelous three day event, beginning with a private show for people with disabilities on September 9, then a public show on the 10th and 11th.

If you’ve never seen the Blue Angels, you’re in for a rare treat.  I love airshows, and this one will be over the top.  The last time Lincoln hosted an airshow, the crowds were large and the traffic was immense.  This show should draw an even bigger audience—not to mention the complication of a University Nebraska home football game on the same day.

Yesterday, there was a large fully-functional exercise involving all the key players: Airport Authority, police, fire, military, emergency management, and so forth.  Scores of personnel and equipment were involved.  This follows a large table-top exercise conducted at the Health Department last month.  A full years’ planning has gone into the event—more than anything I’ve seen during my career other than last summer’s national Special Olympics.

Despite the planning, however, we are at the mercy of geography.  No amount of advance planning and no quantity of soldiers, airmen, police officers, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, and volunteers can overcome the reality that there are only a handful of lanes that can get you into and out of the airshow.

Based on past experience, I don’t look for this to be an insurmountable problem for the pre-show arrival.  After the show, however, when everyone seems to want to leave at the same time, the delays will be long. We will do our best, but you’d be well-advised to plan on a relaxed mosey after the show.  Stick around and spend some time at the static displays.  Pack a picnic.  Have a blast, and then avoid the frustration of the peak traffic.


We’ll need to take the opportunity next month to update this photo with our latest patrol car graphics! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cost per game

Last weekend, a correspondent to the Lincoln Journal Star wrote a letter to the editor bemoaning the fact that the University of Nebraska does not foot the City’s bill for the cost of traffic control at UNL events, such as home football games. 

The letter stimulated some additional correspondence from another citizen with some of the City Council members.  This latter correspondent also incorrectly believed that the City is typically reimbursed when dignitaries visit Lincoln and require traffic/crowd control or security.  Here is a response I sent to clarify the situation:
“Councilman Emery copied me in on this thread just now, and I thought I might clarify a few things. 
First of all, football games are the only UNL events for which the police department incurs overtime expenses. Any LPD officers who are engaged in basketball, baseball, or other UNL events are off duty, and being paid by UNL. 
Last year, LPD spent $38,325.49 on police overtime for traffic control surrounding UNL football. This has been cut in half over the past several years, as we have reduced the number of officers involved in directing traffic. That works out to about $5,500 per home game. We are not responsible for crowd control in the stadium, which is the job of the University Police Department, but the traffic on City streets is our responsibility, and I think that's how UNL views it: your streets, your problem, your cost. 
As Councilman Emery notes, it's a huge economic engine, and although I have discussed this with mayors and councils over the past five administrations, no one has been particularly interested in drawing a line in the sand. Really, the only leverage we have would be to threaten to stop directing traffic, and I suspect the egg would be on our face if we did that, not on the University's. 
UNL also pays the going rate for the Lincoln Fire & Rescue medical standby at Memorial Stadium. 
To the best of my knowledge, we have never received any kind of reimbursement for expenses incurred in Presidential and Vice Presidential visits to Lincoln, although I can only recall one of those (Dick Cheney, 2004) in the past 20 years. If memory serves me, that cost us close to $32,000. We have occasionally provided some security services to other visiting dignitaries, but these have been low-key events involving only a handful of officers--usually one or two.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

This will be interesting

On several past occasions on my blog, I have explained my positive experiences with roundabouts.  For one reason or another, people in Lincoln still seem a little skittish about this form of intersection, despite the overwhelming evidence that they have reduced collisions and improved traffic flow.

Well, we have a pair of new ones about to open, which will immediately be put to the test.  The acid test, as in around 85,000 football fans coming and going to the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium at the September 3 season opener for the Cornhusker football team. 

Even I, defender of roundabouts that I have been, am waiting to see how this works out.  I trust those engineers, because experience tells me that they are almost always right about such matters, but somewhere back in the dark recesses of my mind rest a lot of memories of herding cats at UNL football games. 

Officer Aaron Moore made a remark to me one day that added a new phrase to my vocabulary.  He had about a decade of experience handling one 10th and O Street on game days, one of the busiest intersections in the City. The overpass there was closed one year for construction.  One leg of this massive arterial simply dropped off the edge of the earth.  We all knew it would be an interesting season for Aaron and his colleagues at 10th and O.  After the first game, I asked him how it went.  He said that people kept pulling up to the intersection, coming to a full stop, completely befuddled about what to do next, just staring at the barricades “like a cow looking at a new gate.”  You’ve got to love that Nebraska-ism, which I have oft repeateded, usually garnering a perplexed look from the city slickers in the audience.

We shall see how the drivers deal with this new gate in a few weeks. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brief me where I am

Every day at Lincoln Fire & Rescue, a short conference phone call is held, connecting all the fire stations.  Special events, assignments, upcoming training, and similar information is exchanged in about 10 minutes. 
Ten times every day, a similar briefing is held at Lincoln Police Department HQ.  It happens 10 times daily because of the variety of overlapping shift schedules.  It’s the same kind of information as at LF&R, with some highlights added about such things as recent crimes and persons-of-interest.

Beginning in the summer of 2005, LPD started using web conferencing (gotomeeting.com) to conduct the shift briefing, as a means of getting the content of the duty commander’s computer monitor out to the substations where around 95 employees begin their workday.  It has worked splendidly.  No one really needs to see the shift commander’s smiling face, but everyone needs to see the photo of the stolen 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse, the map of the most recent street robberies, and the mug shot of the dangerous suspect that is on the loose.

This year, as we have been deploying our new location-based services application, P3i, we have also been loading gotomeeting’s mobile application on the iPhones and iPads.  With a broadband connection on your laptop, or with an iPhone or iPad, you can join the shift briefing (we call it “lineup”) remotely.  I’ve been doing that regularly for years on my laptop from home or on the road, but about a year ago I switched mostly to using the iPad app.  The latest version works on both iPad and iPhone, and I tried it out this week for the first time on my phone.  It worked fine, and the small screen was not much of an issue for the types of things Capt. Jim Davidsaver was covering during the briefing. 

Daily shift briefings like this are occurring nationwide (actually, worldwide) in police departments.  I predict that in the future, lineup will be a quaint anachronism, and the virtual meeting or web conference will be the primary means by which this information exchange is accomplished.  It just makes sense. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Second murder

Lincoln's second murder of the year occurred over the weekend in the wee hours Sunday morning at a house party in the Southeast Team area.  This isn't the first time someone has been murdered at a party.  Whenever we can show results like this, you can be assured that the collateral splatter has been reduced, as well.  Too bad we didn't get to this one before the lead flew. An unfortunate end to a young man's life, but at least nice work by the officers got this homicide cleared up quickly.