It was August 10, 1967. Two Lincoln detectives, Paul Whitehead and Paul Merritt pulled over a suspicious vehicle on O Street near 37th. Little did they know that the vehicle was stolen, and the occupants were escapees from the Indiana State Penitentiary. As they approached the vehicle, one of the escapees rolled out of the door, and opened fire with a sawed off shotgun, mortally wounding Det. Whitehead. He was the last Lincoln police officer to be murdered in the line of duty.
Would the outcome have been different in 2011, with the availability of the National Crime Information Center's database, with access to wants and warrants via our trunked radio system, and with mobile data computers in patrol cars? It is impossible to know for sure, but in all likelihood, the detectives would have been armed with critical information before they stopped the car and approached. The world has certainly changed in the intervening 44 years.
Last week, the manager of our Emergency Communications Center, Julie Righter, received the phone call no one ever imagines: her husband and the father of their children, Ron Righter, had died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 51 while on a business trip in Maryland. It was devastating news. Ron was a software engineer for Public Safety Sytems Inc., a firm that specializes in computer-aided dispatching software. That's how Julie and Ron met, many years ago.
Thursday, Julie asked me if I could spread the word to firefighters and police officers who might be attending Ron's funeral this Wednesday that she would appreciate it if they would feel free to wear their uniforms, "Ron was very proud of what he did," she said. Proud indeed. I know that corporations exist to make a profit, but over the years I have encountered lots of people in the public safety technology business that have the same pride in what they do that Ron Righter had. I want to thank them for the work they do that has helped us carry out our duties more efficiently and safely than ever before.
Think about the days before two-way radio, before computer databases and instant registration and wants-and-warrants checks. Paul Whitehead died before online access to electronic maps, risk assessments, hazardous materials guides, premise history, caution flags, and all the other advancements in communications and information technology we take for granted today. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the innovators who have created these tools, the companies who have developed and commercialized them, and the employees who maintain them--both in the private sector and our own city staff.
Take a moment to think about the thanks we owe to PSSI, ADMINS, Zoll, Harris, the Omega Group, ESRI, PenLink, DataWorks, Red Brain, and to Clair, Julie, Jackie, Todd, Kelly, Ron, Julio, Tim, Pete, John, Brian, Tara, Wade, Glen, Marcia, Mark, and the other employees who work behind the scenes, in the back office, as the technology back up that helps protect us, and helps us deliver effective and efficient services to the citizens of Lincoln. Thank you, Ron, for the contribution you made.