Monday, February 28, 2011

Vandalism trend

I was asked to supply some trend data on vandalism earlier this month, and quickly assembled a spreadsheet.  I was a little surprised myself at the results. 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow day

How about a little shout out for the police officers who worked their tails off yesterday afternoon and evening?  It was a pretty busy day once the snow started falling.  About 3:45 PM, shortly before it really starts getting busy, this is what the pending incident queue looked like—a couple dozen calls being held by dispatchers awaiting an available unit, since everyone was already tied up on something else:

PSSI Police Status Monitor
You might notice that a couple of those calls had been holding for nearly an hour at that point.  These are the pending incidents: the already-dispatched incidents spilled over onto an additional two full screens. By the end of the day, LPD officers had handled 433 incidents, including 123 traffic crashes. The evening rush—one of our two daily peaks—was really a joy. The paperwork that follows each of those crashes would be similar to preparing a Federal 1040 in length and complexity.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crowdsourced answer

Have you ever heard of crowdsourcing?  I thought it might be interesting to try that out, so here’s the question posed by Tyler in an email I received this morning:
“Hello, I have been wondering if it is legal for someone to ride in the bed
of a truck? I want to have the actual explanation of the law.
Thank You very much”
What say ye, readers of the Chief’s Corner?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prelude to Spring

Awfully nice weather graced Lincoln on Friday and Saturday.  I took advantage of the February thaw to dust of the bike for a nice ride on Saturday morning.  I can attest that there is a lot of gravel out there, the motorists aren’t used to seeing humans on two wheels, and every other person in the city must be training for the Lincoln Marathon. 

The third shift also had a prelude to spring, with 69 disturbance calls on Saturday, and 26 alcohol-related calls—including 8 drunk drivers.  The hour of power—bar break, was particularly busy.  The reality of February returned yesterday afternoon.  It won’t be long, though, until warming weather exerts its inevitable change on the pace of police work in the City.

Saturday also offered the second screening of an excellent new feature on Nebraska Educational Television.  Binge features a few comments by yours truly, and some arresting video of Officer Megan Riffey, Sgt. Jason Goodwin, and Officer Josh Atkinson dealing with the binge drinking scene in Lincoln.  There is some particularly good footage of the O Street scene in Lincoln that I believe would be valuable for more Lincoln residents to see and contemplate. 

Binge will air again this coming weekend on NET: Thursday, March 3 at 6:00 PM, Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 and 10:30. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Picking up the slack

No sooner did Officer Scott Parker save the life of a suicidal subject then Officer Scott Wolf did the same the following day.  Officer Wolf’s subject had climbed onto a ledge on the top floor of a parking garage, and it took about an hour of negotiation to convince him to step away.  Another nice save!

So far in 2011, we have handled 47 suicide attempts, and there have been 6 successful suicides in Lincoln. That’s quite a few so early in 2011, since we only had 16 in the entire year of 2010. Last year as of February 17, we had investigated 34 attempts and one successful suicide.

I am concerned that mental health crises generally are on the rise.  Capt. Joe Wright is Nebraska’s leading expert on the subject of police intervention in mental health issues.  He sent me this graph of mental health investigations by the Lincoln Police Department last week.


The light blue segment of each bar represents the portion of the total cases that result in involuntary emergency protective custody. If you created a similar chart of funding for community mental health services in Nebraska, I wager it would be the exact opposite of this.  As Capt. Wright noted, as public budgets strain and the availability of services for the mentally ill declines, in will be the police who must pick up the slack--as usual.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carry a good knife

Mine is a Spyderco police model, stainless, that I bought 25 years ago.  Here’s why police officers need a good sturdy knife, preferably with a serrated edge:
Nice work saving a life, Scott. Good thing you were armed with something sturdy enough for the job at hand.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weapons offenses

Here is a recap of the 207 weapons offenses investigated by the Lincoln Police Department in 2010:

There were 15 cases of possession of weapons that are illegal per se.  This included three sawed off shotguns, and two firearm with the serial numbers ground off.  The remainder were illegal knives—primarily switchblades. 

Seventeen cases were felons in possession of firearms. 

Illegally concealed weapons constituted 83 cases: 56 knives, 15 firearms, and 10 brass knuckles, one Samuri sword, a machete, and two flails

The remainder ran the gamut, such as underage possession of a handgun, illegally discharging guns (and crossbows) within the city limits, illegal transactions or attempts at pawn shops .

Friday, February 11, 2011

No man’s land

The status of bicyclists in crosswalks closes out the week.  It’s complicated.  Municipal Ordinance 10.02.270 defines a pedestrian as “a person afoot.”  There are a number of ordinances that concern pedestrians, including a number of provisions in chapter 10.14, which afford pedestrians the right of way when lawfully within a crosswalk.  But a bicyclist is not “a person afoot,” and thus is not entitled to the same right of way protection in a crosswalk—unless, that is, he or she has dismounted and become a pedestrian pushing a bicycle.  In fact, ordinance 10.48.130 places the responsibility on a bicyclist entering a roadway from a sidewalk or the sidewalk space to “…yield the right-of-way to all vehicles lawfully approaching on said roadway.”

Thus, not only is a bicyclist not entitled to the right of way in a crosswalk, he or she is arguably obligated to yield to any approaching motorists before leaving the sidewalk and entering the crosswalk.  Not only is it a legal twilight zone, crossing intersections in a crosswalk on a bike presents a number of risks and challenges to a bicyclist.  To pick a simple example, consider the intersection of S. 84th Street and A Street.


A northbound cyclist on the bike path/sidewalk along the east side of 84th Street approaches A Street with a green light, and has three vehicles to contend with as he or she prepares to enter the crosswalk.  Vehicle A is waiting for northbound traffic to clear in order to make a left turn onto A St. eastbound.  Vehicle B is preparing to make a right turn onto A Street eastbound.  Vehicle C is preparing to leave a stopped position and make a right-turn-on-red to proceed northbound on 84th Street.  All these vehicles will be turning through the crosswalk the bicyclist is about to enter.

From my perspective, I am most concerned about vehicle B, which is approaching from my rear.  Vehicles A and C are at least in my line of sight, and I have a chance to make eye contact and maybe get some indication from the drivers that I am seen.  With vehicle B, I must rely on my hearing, and perhaps a quick glance over the left shoulder.  If any one of these vehicles collides with me while I am in the crosswalk, there is no violation for failure to yield the right of way, because I am in a legal no man’s land as a bike in a crosswalk .

This is a pretty straightforward intersection compared to Normal and South, Cotner and Vine, or 27th and Capital Parkway, where there are odd angles, more lanes, more movements, more distractions, and thus more danger. Over the years, I have seen many car-bike accidents of this nature, and dealt with a few people who were frustrated and perplexed that the driver of the car didn’t get a ticket.  Such is life: proceed at your own risk.

Personally, I am far more concerned about survival than about someone getting a ticket for mowing me over. This is why cyclists should never listen to music, always wear a helmet, and assume that they are completely and totally invisible when crossing an intersection.  Simple physics is at work: 200 lbs. of bike and rider will always loose in a match with 3000 lbs. or car and driver. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Form a line

A fan of the Chief’s Corner emailed me off-blog and suggested that I write about a couple more topics related to bicycling.  He is a daily rider, and we complained to one another about the lingering winter and discussed the pros and cons of studded bike tires. It seems a little early to broach the topic of cycling, but I suppose spring is right around the corner.  Awfully long block until you get to that corner, though. 

So, the two topics are riding in groups, and riding in crosswalks.  I’ll tackle the groups issue first, because it’s pretty straightforward.  I’m a cyclist myself, so there is no need to suggest that I am anti-bike just because I know how to look up statutes.
Nebraska State Statute 60-6,317 provides, in part, that:
“Any person who operates a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride more than single file except on paths or parts of highways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Except as provided in section 60-6,142, whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a highway, a person operating a bicycle shall use such path and shall not use such highway.”
Lincoln Municipal Code 10.48.190 provides, in part that:
“Persons riding bicycles upon a street or roadway shall ride single file, except on paths or parts of roadway set aside for exclusive use of bicycles.”
Thus, both State and City law require bicyclists in groups to ride in single file.  You are also required, as previously discussed in the Chief’s Corner, to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand edge of the road.  The phrase “as close as practicable” leaves room for a lot of discretion and judgment.  The State statute on this even enumerates a number of the common factors that make hugging the right edge impractical.  "Single file", however, is pretty simple and specific and doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

During the Super Bowl

It sometimes slows down significantly during big games, but last night’s Super Bowl failed to stop the drum beat of police incidents.  From the 5:00 PM coin flip until the confetti flew at 9:00 PM LPD officers responded to 48 incidents, which included the following multiples:

3 assaults
2 child abuses
11 disturbances
2 drunks
3 narcotics
3 sexual assaults
6 traffic crashes
2 trespasses
2 suspicious vehicles

Not bad for short stretch on a Sunday night.  The people involved in most of these events would have been better off had they stayed home with a pizza and watched the Packers win. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Investigative load

Talked to a parent who wasn't very happy that we had not dropped everything and called out the National Guard  to look for her runaway daughter.  I understand her fear, and I can't hardly blame her.  But here's the reality:  we are barely a month into the calendar year, and so far this year we have investigated 178 missing person cases in Lincoln.  Last year's total was 2,244.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Future cop

Live viewMonday was brutal for many Lincoln residents. Although we were forewarned about the approach of a good old-fashioned Nebraska blizzard, no one had forecast the freezing drizzle that preceded the snow.  I was at the gym early and knew it would be a mess, so on the way to work I  zig-zagged through residential areas and made it downtown without any problem.  But most people were caught  without warning, and the black-ice at rush hour wreaked havoc with the morning commute.  By days end we have investigated 100 traffic crashes on the nose.

Down at HQ, I was in the conference room with the City’s traffic camera network dialed up on the big screen, checking the unfolding chaos.  The mile-long stretch of Old Cheney Road between 27th and 40th Street was especially messy.  A five car pile up at about 32nd Street had the eastbound lanes entirely closed, and on the westbound side, most of the cars couldn’t make it up the slope.  As a result, the entire four lane roadway was at a standstill, backed up to the lights in both directions.  Watching the camera feed, it was obvious that the best way for the responding police officers to approach would be through the neighborhoods from the north or south.  If you were on Old Cheney Road, you would be stuck in the same jam as everyone else.

In the future, I can almost guarantee that police officers dispatched to things like traffic crashes or alarms will have the same kind of information at their disposal as I had in that conference room, only it will be automated and integrated with the computer-aided dispatch and automated vehicle locator system.  When the traffic crash is dispatched, the feed from a nearby camera system will be delivered to the cockpit of the patrol car.  A dispatch to an alarm might automatically launch the camera from the interior,  a mapping application with the best routing, an oblique aerial image of the vicinity, and a .pdf of the floor plan.  All of these resources exist now, to one extent or another, and will eventually be integrated to provide police officers with situational awareness unimagined by our predecessors.