Friday, July 31, 2009

Dashboard indicators

I watch my speedometer, gas gauge, temperature gauge, warning lights and other instruments to monitor the vital functions of my car. Similarly, I watch the key metrics of the police department in order to stay informed on how we are doing. I have a lot of data that I monitor on a regular basis, pertaining to many aspects of the department’s operations: the monthly statistical summary, personnel projections, year-to-date crime data, bi-weekly salary report, budget status report, and so forth. It’s sort of my personal “dashboard” of the organization.

From a broader perspective, the police department benchmarks several key progress indicators that are contained in the City’s outcome-based budget. We are contributing primarily to two of the City’s eight outcomes: Safety & Security and Livable Neighborhoods. For each of these outcomes, we have identified the specific goals we contribute to, and progress indicators that monitor how we are doing on those goals.

The compilation of the eight outcomes, the goals under each, and the progress indicators composes the Budget Outcome chapter of the City of Lincoln’s budget. In order to monitor how we are doing, I created some simple graphics that are meant to provide the key data at a glance—just like your instrument panel. You can watch, too. A collaboration yesterday morning between the Excel-nerd chief and the web guru Officer Katie Flood resulted in the dashboard indicators on our public webpage . Just follow the Dashboard link in the contents menu, or click this thumbnail.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Eighth time

Local readers of the Chief's Corner have probably heard this, but this story is compelling enough that I felt it would be worth sharing with my out-of-town readers. Officer Chris Howard arrested a drunk driver over the weekend. She just had her 30th birthday a couple weeks ago. The remarkable part? It is her 8th drunk driving arrest. That quite a mark, especially for someone so young. DWI arrests are on the increase in Lincoln. Last year, we broke a 34 year old record. Based on the first six months of 2009, we are likely to break it again--arrests are up 10% so far. Here's the trend:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Odd item to steal

Sometimes it seems like people will steal about anything, but I must say this one surprised me. Maybe the thief needed it more than the victim. (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good eats

Last Friday, Sgt. Don Scheinost sent his “executive intern”, Bret Guderian, down to my office. He’s about to set off on a long drive with his Dad across the State of Iowa. “I’m supposed to ask you about the pork tenderloin,” he said. That was it. For the next 10 minutes I blathered on about the fineries of the most delectable sandwich extant, the Iowa jumbo pork tenderloin.

I glanced around the office for a visual aid, and finally grabbed the mouse pad. “It should be about this size and thickness,” I explained, “and don’t worry if you can hardly find any pork, it’s all about the breading.” I gave him the low-down on the appropriate summer condiments: mayo, leaf of lettuce, slice of dead-ripe tomato, and plenty of salt. If tomatoes aren’t in season, you can go with mustard, pickles, onion, and plenty of salt.

The debate over the best pork tenderloin in Iowa rages more intensely at the Keokuk Street Fair than the topic of Cubs or Cardinals. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how McDonald’s manages to do business in a State where every almost dot on the map seems to have a home-owned joint with a delectable pork tenderloin sandwich. You can hardly go wrong, but my personal pick would be the Double R Dairy Bar in Centerville. It’s programmed into my Garmin—not so I can find it, but so I can call ahead when I am 11 minutes out.

“Oh, and a chocolate malt, please.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Perceptions may differ

You are living under a rock if you don’t recognize the depth of distrust that festers in the United States between police officers and many African American citizens. Making even small steps towards bridging that gap requires that we talk about these issues with one another—and that we actually listen to one another. There’s not enough of that.

Last Thursday, I was a panelist at a community forum concerning the over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system. Personally, I think it is something of a national disgrace that the demographics of our jails, prisons, and correctional institutions is so racially skewed.

What we see in the criminal justice system mirrors economic, educational, and other disparities in our society. I can’t solve every social ill that exists in America and contributes to this, but there are some things I can influence. One of those as a police officer is to try my best to treat everyone fairly, and to understand that the perceptions of my fellow citizens may differ.

A good example arose in the discussion Thursday night, and this is now the fourth or fifth time I’ve heard this in recent years. Two men separately described what sounded to me like reasonably routine contacts by the police. In both cases, the contact was brief, no law was violated, and after a short interlude the officer departed. No one was ticketed or arrested. Neither of these men knew the identity of the officer. They both (and many others, judging by the stir in the audience) perceived the fact that the officer departed without any documentation as evidence that he or she was trying conceal their identity.

From my perspective, it sounded different: an officer made a brief and voluntary contact with someone, determined that nothing consequential was occurring, had no reason to delay the person, and went on his or her way.

Contacts like this happen regularly in many different contexts: a brief conversation is engaged, a little body language is assessed, the officer moves on. Sometimes the contact is more formal and serious: police officers have sufficient probable cause to detain someone involuntarily, but further investigation reveals that the person has been mistakenly identified, or other exculpatory evidence is uncovered. In these cases, the arrestee is typically released with no further adieu.

I think these contacts are often perceived quite differently by people of color—particularly young people—than police officers realize. Here’s something we could do in some of these short, informal contacts that do not result in an arrest, citation or report: give the citizen a business card. You don’t have any doubt who I am, or any reason to suspect that I am trying to conceal anything. If you feel that you have been unreasonably treated, you can effectively make a complaint or an inquiry. The second thing I can do is to be sure I explain the reason for the contact.

The third thing I can do—particularly in those situations where we have mistakenly detained people originally thought to be suspects--is to apologize. An apology doesn’t mean that there was no legal basis for the detention, or that I have done anything wrong, it simply means that I am sorry. If your child falls off her bike and scrapes her knee, you tell her “I’m sorry, honey.” You are not sorry because it’s your fault she fell down, you are simply expressing your empathy for the way she feels.

Being wrongly accused or suspected—even briefly—is quite disconcerting. Having been at the bottom of a scrum of police officers in Washington, D.C., I speak from experience. I knew when I started this dust-up that I would be taken down and restrained right along with the suspect. Had I been black, or had I lacked a few years of police experience myself, I imagine I might have seen it differently. It was absolutely the right procedure, but when the appropriate time arrived, I appreciated the empathetic words of Officer Mike Stafford from the uniformed division of the Secret Service.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tips for parents

A long time ago (in the early 1990’s?) I had a guest appearance on a KFOR radio talk show hosted by Cathy Blythe. We had an entirely impromptu talk about some of the mistakes I saw parents making that led to kids getting into trouble. Near the end of the show, a caller phoned in and told Kathy, “I just tuned in, could you repeat that?” We had already been talking for nearly an hour, and the show was coming to an end, so Kathy told the caller that she’d just have the Chief write it all down and KFOR would make that available.

Great. Now what did I say during the past hour? Nonetheless, I followed up by trying to write down what I thought I had discussed with Cathy. A short document I called “Tips for Parents of Teens” was the result. In the ensuing years, this thing has been circulated far and wide. It’s been republished in who-knows-how-many newsletters, and redistributed widely. I revised it once a few years ago to remove some outdated references to something or another.

Last week, someone called my assistant, JJ, looking for a copy to republish. I thought I better look it over to see if it needed any more updates (it did), then the freshened version went out. It’s still in need of a little modernizing—the reference to “cruising Kings” might have worked for Lincoln parents in 1992, but would be lost on parents of teens today. But here it is, in case you’re curious.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Other blogs

Someone sent this link to me from another LPD blog--the Lakeland, Florida Police Department. There weren’t many examples when I started writing the Chief’s Corner in April, 2007, but police blogs and chief’s blogs have really picked up since then.

I also caught this recent post by a Better Business Bureau chapter in the St. Louis area, referring to my own post (and the comments that followed) a couple of years ago.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nice thanks

I thought I might post this nice thank you note that Mayor Chris Beutler emailed to all of our employees. The Fourth of July weekend is usually our busiest of the year, and this year it was complicated by an appearance by Larry the Cable Guy, who played to an audience of 60,000 in Memorial Stadium. Adding to the chaos, as night fell on Friday, thunderstorms rolled in, forcing the the annual City fireworks display and Lincoln Symphony concert to Sunday. The net result is that the normal one-day special event stretched to three in a row—quite a strain. It’s nice the Mayor recognized the effort that helped it all happen.

I can't thank the men and women of the Lincoln Police Department enough for the incredible effort put forth this past Independence Day weekend as our great city became the entertainment hot spot for the Midwest region.

Great resiliency was shown by all as Mother Nature threw some adversity our way on Friday evening in the form of a torrential downpour forcing the postponement of our annual Uncle Sam Jam celebration to Sunday night. Already scheduled for double-duty because of the big Larry the Cable Guy comedy show on Saturday night, LPD's task was compounded by the curve ball thrown to us by the weather on Friday.

I was so very proud to see the way everyone adjusted to the revised task at hand and made the best of it. It turned out to be a great weekend for the city of Lincoln, Lincoln business owners and the citizens we all serve.

Lincoln Police Department went above and beyond the call of duty on Independence Day weekend. Your sense of duty, your professionalism and your commitment to the people you serve made me very proud to be your Mayor. On behalf of everyone involved with the events of Independence Day weekend and on behalf of the citizens you are sworn to serve, I extend my most sincere and heart-felt thanks for a job well done. The part you played in making Lincoln a tremendous holiday weekend destination is greatly appreciated by everyone involved. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Most commented

I’m not sure why, but I get a lot of comments here on the Chief’s Corner in comparison to some awfully good blogs. These aren’t necessarily the most popular posts on the Chief’s Corner, but they are the ones that generated the most discussion. Here are the top 10 posts based on the number of comments received.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fusion center

Nebraska is in the process of developing a fusion center. The Nebraska State Patrol is leading the effort in our state, and the three partnering agencies are The Patrol, the Omaha Police Department, and Lincoln Police Department.

Fusion centers are places, people, and processes assembled to improve the analysis and sharing of criminal information. Originally focused on terrorism, as these centers have emerged an “all hazards” mission has become dominant. This means that fusion centers are analyzing and sharing information not just about terrorism, but also burglary rings, drug conspiracies, chop shops, gang violence, and the like. You can think of a fusion center as an emergency operations center for information, rather than for command and control.

The fusion process brings together information from disparate sources and “fuses” that into analytical products for public safety officials, from chiefs to patrol officers. The concept really is much more about this process than it is a facility. Personally, I think of a fusion center as a virtual place: a collection of information sharing processes, systems, and software that can be employed by authorized users and analysts wherever they may be physically deployed.

We have an awfully good jump on fusion in Nebraska. The Chief’s Corner documents many examples of the analytical capability of LPD, and the huge amount of information we put at the fingertips of our personnel. Down the street, the Nebraska Crime Commission has created and maintains an incredible fusion resource, The Nebraska Criminal Justice Information System. Omaha and Lincoln use the same imaging systems (DataWorks Plus) for mug shots, and the same GIS software (CrimeView) for geographic crime analysis. We should be well-positioned to leverage our existing resources.

We are currently in the process of selecting a software vendor to provide products to help fuse existing information sources. These products typically include enhanced querying capabilities from multiple systems, and some whiz-bang analytics and visualization tools. Two evaluators from each of the three agencies are reading and rating the 11 proposals submitted. Here at LPD, Assistant Chief Jim Peschong and I are the evaluators, and we both spent the past week wading through two huge boxes of binders. The score sheet for each proposal is an Excel spreadsheet with 373 rows. I think I need a new eyeglass prescription!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Donut holes

I work with a lot of talented, serious, funny, jaded, committed, empathetic, cynical, optimistic, uplifting people who constantly surprise and amaze me. A couple of weeks ago, I sought a volunteer to coordinate our participation in the City employees’ food bank drive. Capt. Jon Sundermeier, a man of many talents, stepped forward. We all got a Thursday email from him that just tickled me. Thanks for the smile, Jon.

LPD employees--

When you think about it, "non-dairy" and "creamer" are two words that should not be used together. Kind of like "turkey bacon"--what the heck is going on at THAT farm? Food is a funny thing. Take donut holes, for example. Genuine donut holes are, in fact, air. But try selling that in Nebraska. You ever notice how you go into a restaurant and order a Coke or a Pepsi and they always have the other one?

But seriously, food is an important part of a balanced diet. When I was growing up, it was important to eat something daily from each of the four basic food groups. I remember arguing about how jelly was actually in the fruits and vegetables group, so a jelly donut was in fact half of my nutritional requirements for the day. Jelly donuts and then spam and potatoes. That was a good day.

It's funny how if you put some food out in the line-up room, or on the records counter, we will eat it even though we have no idea how it got there. Take the same box of donuts and set it just outside the door and we'll call the fire department. They'll blow it up with a high pressure hose. And then we'll eat it.

The barrels are starting to fill up--thanks everybody. If it keeps slipping your mind, that's okay. We have a few weeks. Remember when you go grocery shopping to look for a few bargains to donate.

Tomorrow is the picnic on the veranda--last day to buy a ticket for only $5. The menu again--sloppy joes, pasta salad, beans, beverage, and cookies. Thanks to our own Cindy Koenig-Warnke for whipping up a big batch of homemade cookies. (Five different kinds of chips--for a complete list, see Cindy)

Captain Sundermeier

Friday, July 10, 2009

First budget hearing

With the release on Monday of the Mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, individual City agencies have begun their budget hearings with the City Council.

The police department was first out of the chute, at 1:00 PM Wednesday. With 30 minutes to hit the highlights of our $35 million budget (the largest general tax funded agency), I had to scoot right along.

In preparation, I gathered a few simple handouts, and wrote our a short outline for my own use. I couldn’t monopolize the entire half hour for a presentation, so I timed this to be only ten minutes. I think I went a couple minutes over. Here’s my notes, in case you’re interested:

Bottom dollar: despite the toughest economy in recent memory, and the only time I can ever recall that the City’s two tax streams (sales and property) have both declined, we fared pretty doggone well. Our cuts are small, and we are not the only providers of the two services that are reduced. We will do just fine, and keep our powder dry until the economic picture is brighter. When the sun eventually shines, the City's got to get moving on increasing the size of this department if citizens want the services.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forty cent theft

When you compare Lincoln’s crime data with other cities of around our size, you find some interesting details. Compared to most, Lincoln has a very low rate of murder, robbery and auto theft—yet a rather high rate of aggravated assault and larceny-theft. In order to accept these data, you have to believe that:

  1. People in Lincoln are quite prone to seriously assault one another, but strangely unable to inflict deadly injuries.
  2. People in Lincoln have a unusually strong penchant for theft, but they are comparatively unlikely to steal by employing violence or threatened violence, and they don’t steal many cars.

Neither of these propositions makes much sense. I have opined about this before, but it is my belief that reporting practices at LPD account for seemingly high rates of larceny-theft and aggravated assault.

Over the weekend, we investigated this FBI Part 1 Crime: a larceny-theft by UCR guidelines. It counts one—the same as a murder.

I wonder how many police departments in cities of a quarter million would produce an incident report on this offense. I also wonder how many police officers would use the phrase “neighborhood miscreants.” Nicely done.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Things that go boom in the night

The Fourth of July weekend is normally the busiest time of the year for us, occasionally eclipsed by the first home football game for the University of Nebraska/State Fair/Labor day weekend. It will be interesting to see how the move of the State Fair to Grand Island changes that dynamic. Here’s the particulars on fireworks complaints this year:

Looks like mother nature accomplished what police admonitions failed to achieve last year. The showers over the weekend seem to have reduced the overall number of complaints.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not just law enforcement

If you ever hear me referring to my line of work as law enforcement, or to the Lincoln Police Department as a law enforcement agency, you should correct me. I seldom use those terms. My professional field is policing, and we are a police agency. The two are not the same, irrespective of what you see on TV. Police departments enforce laws, yes, but that’s just part of the picture—and a comparatively small part. We are much more. We are a general service government agency that provides a variety of services aimed at promoting safety and security.

Last year, LPD investigated 1,278 violent crimes--the five offenses the FBI tracks in the Uniform Crime Report: murder and non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. Here’s how that stacked up against some of the other things we investigated last year (click to enlarge):

If you add in the 10,103 property crimes, we handled a total 11,381 Part 1 crimes last year. That’s out of 128,063 total incidents we responded to, or just 8.9%.

Crime is only part of what we do.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nice job on the crashes

The possibility of cutting the police investigation of non-injury traffic crashes was floated this year during budget deliberations, and there has been a lot of discussion (including here on my blog) of the upsides, downsides, and practicality of handling minor crashes differently.

Regardless of what you think, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a nice service for citizens. Bringing a little order to chaos is a task at which police officers excel. Whether it survives the budget knives…? Standby, the Mayor releases his proposed 2009-2010 budget on Monday.

In what must be a single-day record, I received three phone calls yesterday from citizens who took the time and effort to reach me personally to pass on their thanks and appreciation to officers who investigated traffic crashes in the past few days. One of those even came from a citizen who was ticketed in the accident. The compliments have been passed on to the investigating officers and their supervisors.