Saturday, June 28, 2014

The week ahead

It's going to be a busy one for the public safety personnel. Independence Day is usually the busiest single day of the year, and this year it falls on a Friday, which should raise the bar even further. Here's  a prediction of the week to come from FireView Dashboard. The software takes the past couple of years' data for the same dates, adjusts for the pattern of variation by day-of-week, and predicts the number of incidents for the coming week. The red line is the predicted number of incidents for Lincoln Fire & Rescue, the blue bars are the actual number of incidents dispatched for the past 14 days, and the gray bars are the prediction for the next seven days:

You can see how the workload is expected to ramp up as the week unfolds. Looks like we are expecting to peak at 84 incidents for LF&R on July 4th. On the police side, the prediction is for 378 incidents we would expect to dispatch on July 4. I think that's a little low: last year Lincoln police responded to 401 incidents on the Fourth, and it was on a Thursday. Weather will make a big difference. Here's a map from CrimeView Dashboard of the fireworks disturbance dispatches alone, in the week-long run up to Independence day last year:

Those phones in the Emergency Communications Center will be ringing off the hook, and I'll find some criticism in my inbox from those who think that the police alone can stop tens of thousands of people from violating the law by firing off illegal fireworks, and ignoring the time and date limitations. My past rants on this topic still hold true, for the most part.

Friday, June 27, 2014

This and that

Just a few things I found interesting from the second half of the week. Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Chief Normal Seals of Dallas Fire & Rescue was gracious enough to spend about an hour with us. While teaching in Dallas on Monday, an assistant city attorney in the class, Maureen Milligan, told me about DF&R's Mobile Community Healthcare Program--a type of community paramedicine program that we have been discussing a little in Lincoln for a year of so. Ms. Milligan arranged an introduction, Chief Seals suggested a phone call, so LF&R and DF&R got together on a conference call. Chief Huff, Division Chief Bonin, Battalion Chief Linke and I participated. It was quite informative, and Chief Seals enthusiasm for this was infectious.

Yesterday morning, the inbox had two lengthy complaints sent to the Mayor and copied to me and the police chief about topics that have dogged us for years: fireworks and panhandlers. Chief Jim Peschong and I divided up the responses: he got fireworks, I took panhandling. These are very frustrating issues, without easy solutions. Anyone who thinks we could simply start ticketing everyone for littering who is discharging fireworks in the street at the end of the driveway fails to comprehend how we would be savaged for this after the fact. Past efforts to crack down have been less-than-effective. And anyone who thinks the solution is to bring the Wrath of Khan upon 13 year-old kids with bottle rockets fails to understand the workings of the juvenile justice system.

Panhandling, like it or not, is not only legal, it is protected by the First Amendment. So sayeth the Supremes. The primary reason we seem to have so much of it in Lincoln these days is because people continue to drop money on the panhandlers, rather than better alternative of contributing to the non-profits in Lincoln that serve the homeless, poor mentally ill, and addicted. While we can arrest people for the illegal forms of panhandling, it's not as easy as it sounds (they straighten up when and cops are in view) and this doesn't necessarily solve the problem. I cited an example in my response of a man we have lodged in jail 238 times for such offenses, including six so far this month. An empty or nearly-empty cup would be far more effective than fueling his addiction with cash.

Yesterday afternoon I participated in a webinar concerning the New York City Fire Department's use of GIS technology for planning and managing events in the city surrounding the Super Bowl. It was quite informative, and much of what the largest city in the United States is doing in this regard is quite similar to what we have been doing for some time here in little ol' Lincoln. Seeing their operation made me feel pretty good about how we've leveraged GIS for public safety out here in flyover country.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day in Dallas

I spent yesterday in Dallas, where I taught an afternoon session at the Caruth Police Institute. I had been invited by a colleague at the Dallas Police Department. The institute brought together a group of 21 police sergeants and lieutenants who are participating in a rather intense symposium.

My topic was "Leveraging Data and Analysis to Improve Police Operations," although I also incorporated many example from the fire & rescue service, as well. It was an enjoyable experience, except for a three hour delay getting home. I flew down-and-back, which made for a long slog.

As usual, I learned more than I imparted. My 0600 departure got me to the Institute in time for the morning presenter's class, "Tribal Leadership" presented by Randy Mayeux. It was an intriguing class, but what impressed me most was the fact that about six assistant city attorneys are attending the five-week leadership session, alongside mid-managers from the Dallas PD, Sheriff's Office, and Richardson PD.

Dallas practices community prosecution, in which the prosecutors work hand-in-glove with the police and with other stakeholders to address neighborhood and community issues. Very impressive, indeed, and this was a perfect collaboration for my topic. We shared our experiences with one another in dealing with mutual problems despite the distance and the rather gigantic difference in size. Lincoln is similar in size to one of the seven patrol districts in Dallas.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Congratulations and best wishes

Last night was the graduation for the newest class of Lincoln police officers. The Lancaster Ballroom at the Cornhusker Hotel was packed with family, friends, and coworkers. The graduation does double duty as the department's award ceremony for officers and citizens, and one of the nice things about this is that as these awards are bestowed, the new recruits get to hear about the incredible work of their peers. They will have the same opportunity to make a difference in this community--beginning this morning, actually, for some

Congratulations and best wishes to:

Luke Batterman
David Burruss
Colby Dahlke
Matt Gilleland
Eric Gordon
Chris Johnson
Brian Nicholson
Amanda Pfieffer
Aaron Rensch
Andrew Winkler

I wish you the same fulfilling, exciting, demanding, and rewarding career all those officers who walked across the stage to accept their awards enjoy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Before PowerPoint

I used that title once before, but it fits this one quite well, too. I spotted this on a cart going by in the hallway at the police department, on its way to the trash bin. I set up a boatload of these trays during the 1980's for various training classes I was teaching.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

At the dawn of the age

I blogged last week about the birth of Lincoln's public safety mobile data project, in 1994. The data system that powers LPD's extensive information resources, however, predates that by another fifteen years. I ran across this little excerpt from "News Beat 814", a short-lived newsletter published at the police department in the 1970s. 814 was radio code for "headquarters." I think young Sgt. Larry Barksdale was the editor, as I recall. You can click the image for a little larger view.

This paragraph came from the January 5, 1976 edition of the newsletter. That's before Microsoft, before the IBM PC, before Apple: at the dawn of the information technology age in policing. The article went on to say that the department planned to computerize records by the end of 1978. It ended up taking a year longer, but the result--constantly enhanced and refined--still fuels the police department's records management system.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Perfect for this purpose

A couple of years ago, the Lincoln Police Department acquired a software product, PowerDMS, in order to more effectively manage the documents associated with the accreditation process of the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. In the implementation process, however, we also discovered that PowerDMS was an excellent platform for managing the distribution of written directives, when you need to have a record that the directive was received and reviewed by each individual employee.

Pleased with this functionality, both the Emergency Communications Center and  Lincoln Fire & Rescue subsequently adopted PowerDMS. Another great use for PowerDMS has been certain types of training. Yesterday, I took three short courses, after I received an email notifying me that they were pending in my inbox: one on equal employment opportunity, a second on motor vehicle pursuits, and a third on the safe use of tire deflation devices. Two of these consisted of PowerPoint presentations, the third was a video.

All three of these training courses were refreshers I could complete on my own schedule and at my own pace. There is now a record of my participation, and if anyone needed to do so, they could review the amount of time I spent in each session. There can also be a quiz associated with a training course. While this kind of training doesn't take the place of the classroom or the field exercise, it is an excellent delivery mechanism for the type of material in these sessions, and perfect for this process.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Did what we had hoped to do

Back in 1994, one of the things on my wish list was to implement mobile data computers in patrol cars for Lincoln police officers. Clair Lindquist, our IT manager, and Sgt. Todd Beam were my collaborators. We occasionally walked downtown for lunch, often accompanied by Tim Travis from the City Information Services Division.

The four of us brainstormed at the food court from time to time about exactly what we hoped to accomplish with mobile data, and how we could get there. While delivering dispatch information and messaging between units were two of the functions we sought, our real dream was to give officers in the field access to the same rich information resources they enjoyed at headquarters, where they could use terminals to access our growing database: the LPD Records Management System.

I had some ideas; Clair, Todd, and Tim, though, had something more: talent. The next few years involved a flurry of activity. A bond issue was floated to upgrade the radio system to support mobile data; we ported much of our RMS to .html output that could be consumed in a browser; we sought grant and budget funding to support the efforts, and so forth. There was a political side, too. Not everyone at LPD was on board with the concept, and naysayers were flexing their muscle. I remember very well being called out at a City Council meeting by a council member who "had heard from several officers" that this was an unnecessary boondoggle.

By the end of the decade, though, we were well on the way, Todd was installing mobile data computers in each new model years' patrol cars, and Clair was continuing to add more functionality as opportunities arose. By the middle of the next decade, the fleet was fully equipped. We had also brought Lincoln Fire & Rescue and the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office aboard in mobile data. It didn't stop there, either, as we extended our mobile data network regionally, bringing in a dozen other Southeast Nebraska agencies, such as Thayer County, Milford, Seward, Nemaha County, York, Otoe County, NSP, UNL, and more.

Fast forward to Monday, June 2, 2014. As usual, I was reading a few police reports in the living room over my first cup of coffee, when I came across B4-048400. It was a nice case in which Officer Joshua Schaaf spotted a car with stolen license plates, determined the identity of the two occupants despite misdirection, located some pharmaceuticals and recognized them as controlled substances, and confirmed some outstanding arrest warrants.

The officer had used his mobile data computer to do all of these things, accessing the nationwide NCIC database, the State NCIS database, the Lincoln police RMS, our local mug shot system, and an online pill identifier app from WebMD. Of particular note to me was his use of the "known associates" feature in our RMS, whereby the officer selects a name, and looks for any other names this person has been associated with on any other police reports in the past 34 years. This pretty quickly ended the ruse and provided the true name of one of the defendant who had been deceitful.

This kind of thing goes on regularly these days, but as I read the officer's probable cause affidavits on these two arrests yesterday morning, I couldn't help reflecting on the fact that we had accomplished precisely what we had hoped to do when we started down this path 20 years ago: provided some valuable resources to police officers in the front  seat of the patrol car, and now even in the palm of their hand.