Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last day

This appears to be my last day as chief, as tomorrow I will transition to public safety director. It will take me a few weeks to get all the loose ends tied up. There are tons of details and practical maters to attend to, such as my office moved and my gear cleared out. You accumulate a lot of stuff over the course of a career. The new interim chiefs, John Huff and Jim Peschong, will have the same transition tasks, and we still have all the usual business to attend to in the process--particularly the budget.

Ironically, last night's devastating fire at the Lincoln Public Schools District office building occurs immediately before my new role managing police, fire, and 911 begins. Hope that's not an omen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To blog, or not to blog

My apologies for neglecting the Chief's Corner last week. I was out of town at a meeting of the geospatial technology working group of the National Institue of Justice, and just didn't have much time To do much more than try to keep up with the most pressing email and messages.

Many readers have probably heard that the Mayor announced on Friday that he is changing my role in his administration from police chief to public safety director. In this capacity, I will be assuming responsibility for police, fire & rescue, and the 911 center. This is going to be a huge change for me, and the question looms as to whether I will be able to keep up with this off-duty hobby of blogging.

I do this because I think it creates a little transparency in my work, and helps people understand what's going on in my head--beside being a little fun, from time to time. That's probably a good thing, but it's also another draw on my limited time. The Chief's Corner competes primarily with my early morning workouts, and if I am forced to choose, I'm going with the bike and the gym.

For now, though, I will try to keep on blogging a bit and see how this works out. Looks like I will need a new name, and a new photo.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oh, deer

A deer crashed through a bedroom window into a house  in midtown Lincoln last week, causing around $5,000 damage before exiting through the front door.  It's not entirely unusual to have such events.  I recall a few years ago when a deer walked into KMart and caused quite a commotion.

Capt. Marty Fehringer had a good deer story from early Friday morning. Officers were busy with the investigation of a serious injury accident, in which a minivan ran over a man laying in the street during a rainstorm (you can't make this stuff up). As they were finishing up near Centennial and O Streets, right at 2:00 AM, a deer came prancing down O Street, right through the height of bar break, eventually heading south and disappearing into the neighborhood near the State Capitol.

That's the heart of downtown, and you have to wonder how she managed to get that far into the urban environment.  Over the years I can recall police scrapes with deer, turkey, cattle of various breeds, and even as ostrich.  Don't mess with a 6 foot tall bird, by the way--at least so I'm told.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Recognition earned

Last night, a superlative Lincoln police officer, Det. Sgt. Mike Garnett, was honored by his peers at the annual Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Conference in Kearney, Nebraska.  This is the premier law enforcement conference in our State.  I missed it, due to commitments in Washington, DC early this week, and a 0530 training session I am teaching today.

It pains me to miss the surprise.  Mike Garnett is one of the officers who I most admire.  Serving this community for 38 years, he has given the best years of his life to the citizens of Lincoln.  Mike was honored for his work as a key member of the Lincoln/Lancaster County Narcotics Task Force, and a multitude of complex inter-jurisdictional cases he has shepherded to successful conclusions.  He has served for many years in the Narcotics Unit, coordinating countless investigations of drug trafficking from first tip to final disposition.  His ability to coordinate complex cases is legendary.  He is simply a prosecutor's dream come true: organized, succinct, credible, forthcoming,and--above all, scrupulously honest.

I've admired Mike Garnett for 37 years.  As a 20-year old trainee, I recognized him as someone I should aspire to be like.  We served together on the ASAP squad.: Alcohol Special Action Program: a squad of six officers dedicated to DWI enforcement, at a time when drunk driving was viewed as humorous, rather than deadly.  Mike (along with Barry Rogers) taught me the craft of detecting drunk drivers, and removing them from the road before they killed someone.

There have been many samples at 37 degrees centigrade through the Porapak P column and the flame-ionized detector over the past four decades, Mike.  You've saved a lot of lives during your career. Most do not realize or appreciate the fact that they are alive today because of what you did, but many others understand that you interrupted a trajectory that leads inevitably to the premature grave and a quick ticket to the Hot Place. I've had the opportunity to participate in just a little of that, but you for far longer, and for far more people.  They owe you a debt of gratitude 

Congratulations, not just on this award from the LECC, but on what you have accomplished as a police officer and a man.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just another day

Last Friday, I blogged about the two big events that kept our officers occupied on Wednesday of last week: a tense standoff with an armed subject firing a high-powered rifle, and a huge full-scale exercise simulating a campus shooting.  But those were just the most high-profile of the days events.  On Thursday, I had a speaking engagement with the Leadership Lincoln fellows.  I thought it might be interesting to tell them about the events of the preceding day that did not grab the headlines. So I took along the data, as well as a few highlights from the reports. Here's the synopsis:

Last Wednesday, we responded to about 300 other events.  That's a fairly slow day for us.  Among those were 15 assaults, eight of which were domestic assaults.  Two of those assaults occurred shortly after midnight when a man came home to discover his wife in bed with another man.  At about the same time, officers responded to an assault in which a drunken man was chasing his wife around the house with a meat cleaver while she cradled the couple's 2-month old baby.

There were 10 child abuse/neglect cases on Wednesday.  In one, officers investigated a report that a parent and her friends had smoked meth in the company of four children ages 1 to 11. In another, Officer Chris Howard investigated a report of possible human trafficking.  An 11 year old girl reported that the woman posing as her mother had actually purchased her from her biological parents in Africa, as a means of obtaining refugee status, and was forcing her into all the household labor.

We investigated two death cases, one of which was the untimely death of one of our retired officers, and both of which consumed considerable investigative effort, even though there was no obvious evidence of foul play.  You cannot act on assumptions when an unattended body is discovered.

There were six missing person cases. One of those was a 14 year old boy.  This is the 8th time he has been reported missing, and he has been arrested 7 times for such crimes as shoplifting, marijuana, and skulking around inside other people's cars in the dark of night.  A 22 year old women was also missing.  She, too, had been reported as a missing person 8 times previously.  She has also been the subject of five prior mental health investigations involving suicidal ideation or suicide attempts during the sort time (3 years) she has been in Lincoln.

There were only three narcotics cases, probably because we were too busy to engage in much proactive activity.  In one, an 10 year old girl brought her mom's stash of marijuana to school and gave it to a teacher.

There were two rapes.  In one, the victim went to an apartment to do some drinking and hang out.  After passing out, she awoke to found a man engaged in an an act of sexual penetration, and it appeared that he was not the first to assault her during her unconciousness.  Although she is in her early twenties has been the victim in over a dozen assaults and three sexual assaults.  She has worked for an escort service, and advertised as a massuese on craigslist. Her drug of choice appears to be meth, as she has a felony charge pending in District Court for possession of methamphetamine.

There were 11 medical emergencies, of which nine were mental health crises, all involving either an attempted suicide or suicidal ideation that required evaluation.  Looks like that might be getting even worse.

There were also 13 parking complaints, 46 disturbances, 20 prowlers, 9 vandalisms, 16 larcenies, 20 traffic accidents,three French hens,two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

While the TERREX exercise unfolded, and the SWAT Team performed their apex job, it was just another day at the office for the remainder of the Lincoln Police Department.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Admirable performance

Wednesday was a mighty busy day for the Lincoln Police Department.  A lengthy standoff with a barricaded suspect armed with a high-powered semi-automatic rifle was the dominant event. Ironically, it unfolded just before a huge, full scale critical-incident exercise involving a dozen regional agencies and over 900 participants.  We were heavily involved in the exercise, which used a campus shooting as it's scenario.

Reality, however, overwhelmed the exercise for the Lincoln Police.  As usual, I was incredibly impressed by the performance of our SWAT Team.  Despite a very dangerous situation, they kept their cool, controlled the scene, patiently negotiated, and dipped deep into the bucket of strategies to make every effort to save this man's life while protecting their fellow officers and citizens.  A score of officers who supported the effort by crowd control, traffic direction, and other logistical support should also take a bow, as should the FBI--which diverted from the exercise to assist at the real thing. Thanks, too, to the Nebraska State Patrol, which diverted their mobile command post and helicopter to help.

It is unfortunate that the subject ultimately took his life, but this was not for any lack of effort by our team and its negotiators.  When I authorized the call out of SWAT shortly before midnight, I was reluctant to go back to bed, due to a training obligation at 5:00 AM.  Instead, I listened to the first couple of hours unfold, before heading to HQ.  As the day wore on and I continued to monitor events, I was continually impressed by the work being done, the options being explored, and the decisions being made by the commanders.  Sometimes I take their work for granted, but on this occasion--a thirteen hour standoff with a man whose stated intention was to shoot it out with the police, and who fired several volleys of rifle fire during the standoff--I simply admired the professionalism on display.

All the police officers, and a few thousand citizens in the neighborhood slept safely yesterday--even the scores of gawkers who didn't seem to understand the potential of a high-powered rifle to knock them off the perch from which we were trying to chase them. My job in an incident like this is to stay the heck out of the way, and let the experts do their job.  If I've done mine well, they will have the equipment, training, practice, leadership, policy and ethics to perform well when the time comes. And they did.  The LPD SWAT Team made me proud to be a Lincoln police officer, and I do not doubt that everyone else at the Lincoln Police Department feels the same way.  

Slow blogging

Sorry, readers, but Blogger has been down for the past couple of days, and I've been unable to post new stories, or your comments.  It seems to be back, so thousands of users around the world are probably glad to be back in the saddle. I'll try to catch up, with a couple of posts I just wrote in Notepad, waiting for service to be restored.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Mayor Beutler's swearing in ceremony and a proposed changes to the City's alarm ordinance brought me to Monday's City Council meeting.  I needed to stay around after the swearing ceremony to testify about the minor modifications to the alarm ordinance we are advocating, in order to make it a little easier to administer and a bit more fair to the permit holders.

In between the two, however, was the monthly Mayor's Award of Excellence, which went to Lincoln Fire and Rescue's Capt. Jeff Hatcher, for a project he undertook to ensure that Lincoln's deaf and hard of hearing citizens had special smoke detectors that emit a strobe light, a low-frequency tone and a vibration. Capt. Hatcher  discovered this gap in the community safety net, and stepped in to ensure that it was closed.  The eloquent impromptu remarks he made in accepting the award, to a packed house in the Council chambers, would cause the buttons to pop on any City employees vest.  Great work, Jeff!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Then & Now

Police Officer Katie Flood serves as the department's public information officer, among other duties.  She is our liasion with the news media (most quoted woman in Lincoln, I believe), she manages our public web site, she plays an important role on our accredation team, and she is the publisher of our annual report--plus a few other duties.  This is not the first time I have acknowledged the quality of her work, but her most recent accomplishment simply cannot go unrecognized. 

It is the 2010 Annual Report of the Lincoln Police Department.  The theme, Then & Now, is simply marvelous. Officer Flood has taken the Annual Report to an entirely new level of interest and entertainment, by including throughout the document photos and data that juxtaposes information about the police department across a century of our history.  I am simply blown away.  I couldn't stop looking and reading until I had reached the end. 

Truth be told, a good share of our Annual Report is a little on the dry side.  Pages of statistics make for a good archival reference, but it's not exactly a potboiler.  This year, however, I couldn't wait to see the current photos paired with their partners from decades past, and the statistics from the horse and buggy era were a blast to see alongside the 2010 data. I particularly liked Katie's choice of the arrest data from 1915:  I guarantee you she picked that year specifically due to the 13 arrests listed for the offense of Insulting a Woman.

Katie, it's outstanding. Our employees and retirees will enjoy it very much, as will the general public.  You've turned the mundane into the exceptional--again!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Found in the desk

She's 27 now, and I don't think she's holding a grudge about this.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marathon weekend

The Lincoln marathon and half-marathon was run this morning in perfect conditions.  The runners lined up and started starting (it took over a half hour) at 7:00 AM, with the temperature in the low 40s, the sun warming the spectators, and a light breeze to cool off the second half.

The Casady's were at 20th and Pawnee, where the fans lining the street performed the wave for the runners at the 15K mark.  This year, we cheered on our daughter and son-in-law, along with 9,998 other runners.  Aside from the years I ran the half or worked the traffic, this has been our favorite perch, as the runners crest a mean hill and catch their breath on a nice half mile downhill stretch.  We used the cool tracking app  to keep get ready for the camera work, and had a fine time with our best friends who live up the block.

Later at lunch, we started thinking about the economic impact of marathon weekend.  A few thousand people come from all over the United States to run in Lincoln's marathon, which is also the National Guard Marathon. Our kids came down from Omaha, spent the night with us, ate out twice, and did a little shopping.  They're pretty typical, although hundreds of hotel rooms are involved and many more restaurant meals for the families that come from around the country.  Tonja noticed the increased traffic at Chico's on Friday, the Marriott down the street from our home had a full lot, and our waiter confirmed it had been a busy weekend with marathon guests.

It may not be a Nebraska home football game, but I guarantee the Lincoln marathon generates a bunch of local economic activity.  This is one of the reasons it was so annoying to see a guy my age or better throwing a snit in his Lexus SUV eastbound at the intersection of 10th and D Streets. He was wearing a coat and tie, and he wanted to continue east through the steady stream of runners heading north on 10th Street.  He apparently expected the officer directing traffic to stop a few thousand shoulder-to-shoulder runners deep in oxygen debt, a mile and a half from the finish. The officer whistled several times and  motioned for him to turn northbound  He ultimately complied, and as he turned we saw him mouthing a string of profanity and gesticulating rather enthusiastically.  Guess he was headed for Church.

The marathon route has been published and publicized all over town for weeks.  Message boards have been up around town for a week.  This is the 34th running.  It's not like there wasn't an opportunity to plan ahead and figure out the alternate route. The marathon comes around once a year.  10,000 people achieve a significant personal goal.  It is a huge bump to local business.  If you can't figure out how to get to church, I'll be happy to escort you personally next year.