Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday shopping

During December, 148 shoplifting reports were filed in Lincoln.  Here's a partial list of some of the more interesting articles appearing on those police Incident Reports, proving that thieves will steal anything:

Kitty Litter
Picnic Basket
Shopping bags
AirWick refills
Red Alert security kit
Navel jewelry (not to be confused with Naval jewelry)
Hot dog buns
Chili cheese dogs
2 green limes (do they come in other colors?)
Shot glasses
Beer (lots of)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wake up call

If you didn't catch this tragic story on the national news this week, it is difficult to read, but should serve as a wake up call for everyone to check and test your smoke detectors, formulate and test the family fire drill.  While your at it, give up smoking--one of the leading sources of ignition for house fires in Lincoln and nationwide

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Christmas prayer

This was the first Christmas since 1981, as I recall, that I wasn't at work. I only remember two Christmas days in the past 38 that I was off duty.  It was strange being at home, and I have a new appreciation for the feeling Tonja has had these many years.  All day long, I thought about the officers, firefighters, and dispatchers working on Christmas.

I also found myself wondering what normal people do on Christmas, until I discovered my own answer: they go to the movies.  My own desire to see the latest Mission Impossible flick proved to be, indeed, a mission impossible.  That will have to wait for a later date.  Late in the afternoon, though, we slipped out on a mission of our own, to find a recipient of a random act of kindness, an annual tradition for Tonja and her coworkers.  We tapped on the window of a young mom with two toddlers at a convenience store, and handed an envelope of cash through the car door, with a simple "Merry Christmas". 

It wasn't an easy day for the emergency services personnel.  A tragic gunshot suicide on Christmas day occurred.  I pray that the victim's family and friends are able to cope with the loss. Although this was the most major case, there was plenty of other work to do.  The police department responded to 169 incidents on Christmas.  That's a little less than half a normal Saturday, but it included a dozen assaults, three child abuse cases, two death investigations, four burglaries, and the usual flotsam and jetsam of human behavior.  You've got to wonder about the motivation for shoplifting a six pack of Earthquake beer on Chirstmas.  Is that a microbrew?

Lincoln Fire & Rescue responded to 52 incidents.  During the early morning hours on the 26th, we responded to a house fire where a young father was critically injured. Fortunately, is wife and two children escaped unharmed.  I thank God that he is still alive, and pray for his recovery.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Had me stumped

Every couple of months I do a call-in to a morning radio talk show on KLIN Radio, Jack & John in the Morning.  Jack Mitchell and John Bishop have quite a shtick, and we enjoy bantering back and forth--with a little genuine content mixed in.

This morning, at about 7:45 they asked me how many phone calls the 911 Center in Lincoln handles per day.  I was stumped, and admitted that I couldn't answer.  This caused quite a bit of guffawing on their part, as I apparently have a reputation for being able to spew obscure data on demand.   When they regained their compsure, they closed out the segment by telling me that they'd be looking forward to a post on my blog with the information.

Here it is.  In 2010, we handled 373,056 incoming phone calls.  That is an average of 1,022 per day.  Hope that was quick enough for you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Police iPad advice

Apparently if you Google the terms "iPad" and "Police", a couple of my past blog posts are near the top, concerning my own experiences using an iPad as a tool in my job.  As a result, I get an occasional contact from other police & fire types on this subject.

Friday, a captain at a small department emailed me.  I'm not sure if he is comfortable with me naming the agency, so for the moment, I won't.  He had attended my presentation at a conference earlier this year, and had gone home determined to look into equipping his staff with tablets.  It appears he found a funding source, and now has 14 Apple iPads on order. He was looking for any advice or tips.  Here's my reply:

That is awesome! Congratulations. Here are my top three applications: 
1. Google Maps.  A good, current street map that follows you around, aerial photos if you need them, and street-level images.  You have good StreetView coverage in your town, and this works great on an iPad.  With 14 units, you could actually set up Google Latitude and create what amounts to an AVL system for your department--you'll all be able to see where one another are on the map.  This is how my family keeps track of me.  
2. The Apple web browser is Safari, and the iPad version is preinstalled.  Think of any website that you and your colleagues find useful on your desktop computers. If you have an Internet connection, you'll be able to access almost all of those same sites on the iPads. There are a few web components that do not work on iPads--sites that use Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, for example, but this is pretty minor.  One of the cool things you can do with an iPad is to take any bookmark you've set in the browser, and create it as an icon on the desktop. Stuff that you use often, like the sex offender registry, state statutes, state inmate locator, and any other websites can be set up as a one-click icon on the screen.  
3.  Any documents that you want to deploy--procedure manuals, handbooks, telephone contact lists, etc.--can be loaded up in iBooks, as .pdf files.  I've got a ton of these, and it works really, really well for arranging all those printed documents we're used to carrying in a three-ring binder!  If you get yourself a free Dropbox account, you can store the master documents in a shared folder, install the iPad Dropbox app on each iPad, and this would be a great way of distributing new or updated .pdfs.

I take it from your email that you are getting the WiFi only iPads, rather than the 3G model.  If you have a wireless network at the office, schools, home, etc., you can connect to those whenever you are close enough, but to really get the maximum value out of your iPads, you're going to need that Internet connection when you are on the move. A mobile hotspot like a MiFi or Overdrive wireless hotspot would be the solution, as you note.  One problem with that is that you then have another battery to go dead. Be careful when you go shopping for your mobile hotspot, and try to find one that will continue to transmit and receive while connected to the charge cord--some do, some don't--and make sure you've the cell provider you select has good coverage.

You'll have some work ahead getting fourteen iPads set up and activated, and some ongoing administrative work keeping application updates current. This isn't difficult, it's just going to require a little time now and then.  You can lock those iPads down in lots of different ways, to prevent users from accidentally deleting applications, or buying applications, or installing stuff, or using certain features like youtube, videos, iTunes, in app purchases, and so forth.
I've got a post on my personal blog about some of my favorite apps:
  Tom Casady  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'tis the season

I counted 22 cases reported to the police theft or vandalism involving Christmas lawn displays since Thanksgiving. Fortunately, no babies have been reported stolen from mangers (yet), but we are missing a small flock of geese, and a damaged donkey. A reindeer named Rudolph has been smashed, and another unnamed reindeer is missing in action; possibly Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Cupid, Comet, Donner, or Blitzen.

A polar bear has been stolen, along with two penguins, one snowman, and a pair of Santas.  One of those Santas has a serial number, so if you encounter a shady character trying to sell you a Santa out of the trunk of his car at a too-good-to-be-true price, be sure to check the base for the number 8500, lest you purchase stolen goods.

In a twist of irony documented under case number B1-116522, someone stole the Grinch that stole Christmas from a home on North 15th Street.  What goes around, comes around.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Back-up up and running

Tuesday night around 7:30, the lights went out. Lincoln's 911 Center lost power, due to a badly corroded breaker box far away at the opposite end of the County-City Building, down in an underground vault where the building's electrical panels live. We ran on backup battery power for a while, but when it became apparent that the fix was days, rather than minutes, the staff hit the ejection button and moved to the back-up center.

Parts are being overnighted, and we hope to be back in business at the main center today or tomorrow. We are fortunate to have a back-up center, and also fortunate that it is regularly exercised. This little crisis was not without its trials and tribulations, but the public would not even notice the difference. In fact, we had previously planned on moving to the lifeboat for the later half of the week as part of a normal exercising of the back-up site, and in order to take care of carpet cleaning and other maintenance at the main site.

Probably the biggest impact of the fail-over was the loss of connectivity between the computer-aided dispatch system and the police and fire records systems. The 911 Center's computer systems feed data to the police and fire systems, and without those links, things get a little interesting--sort of like 1974. Not a bad thing at all for highly-computerized enterprises to maintain their practice at operating in an unplugged condition from time-to-time as part of their emergency preparedness planning and exercising.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Behind the curtain

Do you ever wonder what really goes on at the police department, behind the curtain?  Here's a little insight: an internal email that Officer Jason Brownell (who is currently assigned as our domestic violence investigator) sent out Friday to his colleagues:
Thank you to all who have been completing the Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment forms. This has proven to be a valuable tool for us as adepartment to use in gauging the actual and real threat imposed on a victimand his/her family. I have not only received valuable feedback from theCounty Attorney's reference your efforts, but victims have also commented on investigating officers willingness to go beyond the window of the immediate report and listen to their story. As always, there will be instances where victims do not always make the choices we may find easy to make in our own lives, yet that is the reason why we come to work every day; to make a difference."
Now that's enough to make this public safety director pretty proud, but it's also worth checking out this local video-on-demand program about Lincoln Fire & Rescue, in which local radio host Dale Johnson interviews Firefighter Nancy Engelbrecht.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day at the Legislature

I spent a good part of the day on Monday at the Nebraska State Legislature, which isn't even in session.  The Judiciary Committee, however, was having some interim study hearings, and I had been asked to testify on two issues.  The first was a special hearing by the committee to study "policies and procedures associated with immigrants who come in contact with law enforcement at Federal, state, and local levels." The second was Senator Amanda McGill's Legislative Resolution 243, an interim study to examine the extent of human trafficking in Nebraska in connection with labor and sex trafficking.

Of the two, I was more intrigued by the human trafficking testimony. I came prepared with a couple of actual examples of cases investigated by LPD in 2011.  I had planned to fill the role of trying to help those in attendance at the hearing understand that human trafficking really does occur in Nebraska. My friend Alex Hayes, the Omaha Police Chief, beat me to the punch when he testified about his experience in Omaha with the sex trade.  He essentially told the senators the same thing I had planned.  He was followed by another friend, Weysan Dun, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Omaha field office.  Among other things, SAC Dun told the senators another story about an Omaha case that was quite similar to one of my two examples.

By the time I was in the seat, the point had already been made, and there was no real need to convince the committee that the sex trade in Nebraska is a good example of human trafficking. Instead, I told them about the hard life, and about the vulnerability evident with sex trade victims, who often suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues, have endured a lifetime of abuse, neglect and exploitation, and are hardly free to make their intelligent, informed, and voluntary decisions. Rather, they are often manipulated and abused by handlers who may pose as boyfriends, business partners, husbands, and the like, but in actuality are pimps and exploiters who take advantage of the vulnerability of addiction, poverty, alcoholism, and mental illness. For that matter, so do all of the johns.

Paul Hammel's Omaha World Herald article contains a good description of the immigration hearing, while Dan Holtmeyer's Daily Nebraskan article thoroughly covers the human trafficking hearing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Number three

Lincoln's snowfall on Saturday didn't amount to much.  By Nebraska standards, a couple inches of wet slushy stuff on December 3rd is par for the course.  Nonetheless, it was the first snowfall of the season, and like every year I can remember, the first snow resulted in chaos on the roads.  There were 78 traffic crashes in Lincoln Saturday, which ranks as number three for 2011.  They happened all over town.

The two leading days for traffic crashes in 2011 were earlier this year.  There were 123 on February 24th, and 98 on January 31st.  Unlike those days, however, this past Saturday was a day when most driving was optional.  It's not like rapidly-deteriorating street conditions caught us when a storm struck at rush hour on a weekday.

I hate to whine, but boy, did I see some idiotic driving.  I watched a guy yesterday who was tailgating the pickup in front of his so closely he's lucky that he didn't hook his front bumper on the trailer hitch.  And here's an idea: how about leaving half a car length in between you and the car ahead when you stop at a light.  That way, at least when you get rear-ended, you won't be paying for a new radiator and grille, too. My favorite, though, are those owners of four-wheel drive SUVs who don't seem to understand physics: they may be able to get better traction on the slick stuff, but once all four wheels are locked in a skid, that Yukonasaurus is just a heavier sled.

It generally takes a while before most people come to their senses, and start to realize that in winter conditions, you've got to plan ahead with a little more time, slow down, leave a little more following distance, think ahead about the incline at the upcoming intersection, maybe consider applying the brakes a little earlier and more gently, and so forth.  Not to worry, though, by about the first of April, drivers seem to have it figured out.