Friday, March 30, 2012

Lasting legacy

I was barely 21, with all of three months on the job at LPD when I teamed up with Sgt. Jon Briggs. He recruited me to join his six-person Alcohol Safety Action Program Squad in late 1974. I joined Officers Steve Wetzel, Jon Morris, Mike Garnett, Barry Rogers, and Steve Worster in the most difficult assignment of my career: working a shift from 7:30 PM to 4:00 AM, Tuesday and Wednesday as days off, with court appearances at 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, and 2:00 PM almost every weekday. We spent our nights smelling beer breath professionally, and our days cat-napping between court appearances. Jon Briggs was the supervisor of our squad, and he had mastered the art of small group dynamics. He managed to teach us what we needed to know (Jon, Mike, Steve, can you still remember the Poropak-Q column, the flame-ionized detector, and 37.5 degrees Celsius?), motivate us to perform some incredible work, and make one of the worst assignments imaginable positively fun in the process.

It wasn't the last time I worked for Jon. A few years later, as a young sergeant myself, I joined him in the Traning Unit, where he was the lieutenant in command. For about three years, we worked tirelessly to create a police academy, and produce an incredible array of in-service training every Wednesday, all year long. Sgt. Jim Hawkins, Sgt. Mike Siefkes, Sgt. Steve Lamken and Lt. Jon Briggs were quite a team, but Jon was the spark plug that made the engine roar to life.

Jon and I also worked together for several years in a part-time consulting assignment. We would burn up all of our accumulated vacation hours, and haul off to somewhere like Baltimore or Fresno as subcontractors to the Social Development Corporation, living together in a motel room for a few weeks conducting job analyses. What a great time we had on these jobs: seeing the country, working intensely, and earning extra cash for such things as the new furniture that still graces the Casady living room more than 30 years later. At the top of his game, Jon was an inspirational leader and the quintessential idea man.

I'm sure many other LPD officers younger than me had the same kinds of experiences when Capt. Briggs commanded LPD's Northeast Police Team, when he served as a late shift Duty Commander, and when he commanded the department's SWAT Team. They may not, however, realize that Jon Briggs is responsible for bringing the Field Training program to LPD, and the Chaplaincy Corps, and Problem-Oriented Policing, and Domestic Crisis Intervention, and that it was Jon Briggs who conceived the City's Problem-Resolution Team--to name a few of his innovations. Jon had an incredible ability to perceive and pounce upon great new ideas.

Jon retired in 1998 after 31 years of service, and passed away this week. I have been smiling at memories of our work together, our roadtrips, our pranks, the things Jon taught me, the bizarre experience we shared learning to ski (quite ill-attired) at Badger Pass in Yosemite on Christmas--my first and last time on the slopes. And I'll never forget one evening after a long day on the road when we relaxed in our motel bar on the National Pike.  It was a typical collection of business types enjoying the free buffet, when about 8:00 PM the place suddenly morphed into an east coast disco curiously named Rodeo, and straight out of Saturday Night Fever. Jon tried to teach me how to ask a girl to dance, the memory of which had me laughing aloud and alone in my office yesterday. Ah, the stories I could tell....

It was hard for those who knew him in his peak years to witness his decline, but I will always remember him for his brilliance, humor, motivation, and above all, his friendship. He leaves a lasting legacy at the Lincoln Police Department.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rescue video

Lincoln Fire & Rescue Captain Bob Borer from Station 5 came across this video from the San Bernadino, CA Fire Department.  It's an excellent and quite realistic view of a residential fire and rescue operation, taken from a helmet camera with a little footage from a news crew mixed in.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reevaluating response

Earlier this year, I attended a three-day class on emergency medical dispatch. Taking the course gave me a much better perspective on how the EMD process works, and on one of it's primary purposes: to ensure that the limited emergency medical resources in a community are being properly utilized. It is instructive that the organization that provides our system and training is Priority Dispatch, because that's what the process is all about: prioritizing medical emergencies so the type of response can be matched to the nature of the incident. If you can avoid it, you don't want to tie up an advanced life-support ambulance on a minor medical call, so that it is now unavailable for another incident where life hangs in the balance and time is of the essence. Neither do you want to put paramedics, firefighters, and the public at risk by responding code 3 to an incident where the slight response time difference is irrelevant to the outcome for the patient. Traffic crashes pose the greatest risk of death to emergency responders.

As I was attending the class, Lincoln's Emergency Communications Center was also beginning the transition from a card-based version of Priority Medical Dispatch to a computerized version. This was a good point in time for us to re-evaluate the Lincoln Fire and Rescue Department's response protocols. For each type of medical emergency, the responding agencies must decide what type of resources are to be dispatched (ALS, BLS, engine company, ambulance, etc.) and the response condition: code 1 or code 3, that is, normal driving or lights and siren. These response protocols hadn't been re-evaluated in over a decade. Many things have changed during that time. We have a new medical director, new Emergency Medical Oversight Authority, technology has progressed, automatic external defibrillators have proliferated, data has been collected, our ability to analyze data has progressed immensely, the number of paramedics has increased, the number of front-line medic units has increased, and medic units have been redeployed to fire stations based on GIS analysis, and more.

All of these things suggest that the time is ripe to review response. I think any changes will ultimately be subtle. I expect we are likely to see more ambulance-only and engine-only responses, more code 1 responses, more emphasis on returning resources to in-service status promptly, leveraging of emerging AVL technology, continuing emphasis on GIS analysis of data to optimize deployment decisions, more focus on spreading the emergency medical workload effectively, improved efficiency in delivering training to our providers, and more.

It's an exciting time at Lincoln Fire and Rescue, and I hope to make some small contribution to these initiatives.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Odd combos, mild irony

People steal some odd stuff, and in some odd combinations. A blog post a few weeks ago tickled some funny bones, and probably caused LPD public information officer Katie Flood to tell me another strange mix of products from a recent shoplifting case: bras and chicken ( Case Number B2-019787). I read through a few more recent cases this morning, and found a few more incongruous concealed combinations lifted by the larcenous:

B2-019857 Old Spice cologne and beef jerky
B2-019797 Daiquiri mix and Alka-Seltzer
B2-018701 Fruit of the Loom underwear, Hawaiian Punch, and Jack Daniels
B2-017077 Panties and croissants
B2-016890 Sunglasses and Slim Jim's
B2-015700 Batteries, popcorn, and body lotion
B2-015449 Superman pants and duffle bag
B2-012646 Yoga pants and Tylenol

You could go on and on with this, I suppose. While perusing these reports, I also noted the irony apparent in Case Number B2-014331, wherein security employees monitoring the store's video surveillance system spotted the suspect shoplifting a First Alert video surveillance system.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Poor odds

Bank robberies are exceptionally rare events in Lincoln.  We had three in 2009, two in 2010, and one in 2011.  Saturday, we had our first bank robbery of 2012.  It was quickly solved, however, with some great police work by street officers who worked the fundamentals, came up with a good description of the getaway vehicle, and then scoured likely areas to locate that car and its occupants.

As I've mentioned before, the odds are poor for bank robbers in Lincoln.  In Saturday's case, eight arrests have been made so far, with the possibility that there will be more suspects rounded up for accessory or conspiracy as the investigation unfolds. One of the suspects arrested was just released from prison in January, paroled from the sentence he is serving in connection with the 2007 burglary of Scheel's All Sports.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Location, location, location

I think that’s an old saw from the real estate business, but it also applies to the public safety enterprise.  Geography is incredibly important to police officers and firefighters.  Understanding where your resources are is important for a supervisor and a dispatcher.  It’s also important for a police officer or firefighter to have a general sense of where his or her colleagues are. It’s about both resource utilization and employee safety.  In an emergency, we’d all like to find the officer or firefighter who needs help.

During my career, keeping track of who’s where has always been accomplished via the radio.  You tell the dispatcher where you are at when called, you let the dispatcher know when you’ve arrived at the scene, and so forth.  You keep an ear tuned to your beat buddies’ radio traffic, so you’ve got a general idea where they are and what they’re doing. 

This is all about to change, with automated vehicle location, and with the embedded location services in a growing variety of mobile devices.  Such systems are not new, but in the past few years the technology has become much more approachable.  Today, I can whip up a sorta-kinda-AVL system with free apps on a group of smartphones.  In fact, I do just that with my family. 

Although some police and fire departments have used this technology for years, we are just beginning to experiment with it here in Lincoln. Last week, we lit up GPS receivers in a handful of our Lincoln Fire & Rescue vehicles.  When three of these units all responded to this incident yesterday afternoon, a snapped the screen shot below:



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Awards bestowed

Lincoln Fire & Rescue's annual awards and recognition event was held last night, and I was honored to be in attendance.  In addition to honoring fire employees, the Emergency Communications Center also recognized dispatchers, and citizens were honored as well for their life-saving efforts.

The Phoenix Awards go to citizens, dispatchers, and firefighters whose role in handling a medical emergency contributed to a life-saving response.  There were several dozen of these awards bestowed.  The length of award winners is considerable, but I particularly want to mention the Firefighter of the Year Award, which went to Mike Hohbein, and also Kelly Davila, recognized as Dispatcher of the Year.

It was a very nice event, which began with a dinner prepared by firefighters.  By the way, everything you've heard about firefighters' cooking?  It's all true.  Congratulations to all the award recipients on a job well done!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Location-aware bulletins

Lincoln’s ground-breaking LBS application for police, P3i, has gone commercial.  The University of Nebraska’s research commercialization program, NUtech Venutures, has helped the UNL developers form a marketing arrangement with the Omega Group, makers of CrimeView, a popular suite of GIS and crime analysis software products for law enforcement.  The Omega Group has rebranded P3i as CrimeView NEARme.

Prior to this roll out, developers Ian Cottingham and Kevin Farrell added a few new features, one of which I am particularly intrigued with: location-aware crime bulletins.  Among the products the Lincoln Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit produces are printed crime bulletins. These are usually one or two page documents meant to inform officers of an emerging crime trend, a series of related cases, a new criminal enterprise, a specific suspect, and so forth.

Lincoln is not unique in this regard.  This is a bread-and-butter product of crime analysts all around the country, and documents of this type are thumb-tacked on police bulletin boards world wide. More recently, many departments have begun distributing such bulletins as .pdfs on their Intranet.

While crime bulletins come in a variety of flavors, many relate to a specific geographic area.  Our Crime Analysis Unit Manager, Andrew Dasher, observed one day that a location-based services app like P3i would be a great way to deliver such content to officers in the field: as you entered the area where the bulletin information was relevant, a link would appear on the map, and a click would open the bulletin alongside the map. The developers ran with that idea, and here’s what the result looks like, on the Windows version of CrimeView NEARme:


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gruntled again

Yesterday's little dust-up concerning belly dancers seemed to be well in hand. I felt it was just a minor error by the reporter, who probably misread the copious notes he had collected surrounding the series of articles he has been writing about human trafficking. The manner in which the Daily Nebraskan had responded to it, however, fired me up, and I was like a dog with a bone to chew.

This occurred yesterday when it came to my attention that the DN had corrected the (non) quote in its online edition, and had also run a correction in the print edition.  I happened to see the print edition, and my formerly red hair (red former hair?) began to flame. This was no correction at all.  Rather, it was an apology by the DN for printing my (non) quote!  Instead of simply stating that Casady had been misquoted, the DN actually did the reverse: confirmed that they had quoted me, and apologized for printing what I (had not) said:

"In a quote in a March 6 Daily Nebraskan article, Lincoln public safety officer Tom Casady listed 'belly dancer' among a list of sex related businesses escort services may be fronts for. The Daily Nebraskan did not  intend to associate belly dancing with sexual transactions by running the quote and apologizes for any confusion. Belly dancing is a form of middle eastern dance taught and practiced throughout the world. the Daily Nebraskan regrets this error."

I never asked for a correction in the first place, but this was worse. The editors of the Daily Nebraskan chould have just called me or sent me an email to say, "Sorry we misquoted you, and really sorry our attempt to correct matters actually compounded the error."

It took quite an effort on my part to get this to happen, but I finally received an email reply from the managing editor and a return phone call from the editor-in-chief at the end of the day.  The appropriate apology was politely delivered, and this was published in this morning's print edition:

"A story on human trafficking, which ran in the Daily Nebraskan on march 6, misquoted Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady. In the story, he is quoted including “belly dancers” in a list of sex-related businesses that escort services may be fronts for during his testimony to the state Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. According to the committee hearing transcript, the phrase in the quote should instead be “lap dances.” Belly dancing is a form of Middle Eastern dance taught and practiced around the world. The Daily Nebraskan regrets the error."

That's more like it. Consider me gruntled. Among the flood of emails I received from belly dancers was this one last night, from someone who is mad that I am not sufficiently mad about a student journalist's one word error. The subject line was "Still annoyed...":

"Dear Mr. Casady,

I am going to keep this brief, but in the scheme of things the misquote was a big deal, a very big deal.  If you know anything about the history of Raqs Sharqi/Belly dance in the U.S, then you will understand the reason so many dancers were 'peeved'. The dance was seen as lewd, disgusting, and sexual on its arrival and not much has changed I see; it was call the hootchy coochy dance at one point.  Still today, there are social stigmas that women who want to partake in this art face from their families, friends, and colleagues right here in the USA, not to mention what the dancers endure in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.  Scholar Andrea Deacon wrote, ' western society takes various distancing positions toward belly dance: ignoring, joking about , diminishing'. And that what you did, diminished the mistake as trivial as if we were all the same or unimportant. So it is still quite offensive that you took the misquote so lightly until it involved you."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Belly dancers peeved

Never thought I'd be penning a blog post title like that.  What an interesting evening.  I took off a little early yesterday, and loaded four of the five grandkids up for a little excursion to grandma and grandpa's house.  While playing with the munchkins, my iPhone was beeping incessantly. Around 5:00 PM, I started receiving a string of emails from...annoyed belly dancers? They are still coming in this morning.

Apparently the source of the annoyance is this article in the University of Nebraska student newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan.  The comments on the DN's website went nuts, and the tech-savvy had no trouble finding my email address.  Last December, I testified before a Nebraska legislative committee hearing on the topic of human trafficking.  I am quoted in the article saying that escort services are "fronts for erotic dancers, belly dancers, erotic massages and prostitution."  Methinks the reporter mistook his notes, and replaced something like "lap dancers" with "belly dancers," because I don't believe I said such a thing. If I did, it was an incredible gaffe, because I certainly realize belly dancing is not associated with the sex trade in any way.

I have patiently replied to each email, explaining that this must be a misquote.  Here's an example, my response to a belly dancer from Texas, who delivered quite a lecture to me:

This is a misquote, I believe. Perhaps the student reporter misread notes concerning my testimony that escort services are a front for activities like erotic massage, lap dancing, exotic dancing and prostitution.  I would never, ever put belly dancing in such a list, which would be akin to including something like figure skating or gymnastics.  You can take belly dancing lessons at the Y, for goodness sake! Legislative committee hearings are streamed live, recorded, covered by the Nebraska press, and I normally submit written testimony.  I have testified at two legislative hearings in the past few months concerning the sex trade and the issue of human trafficking. Both were widely covered in the news, as a Google search will reveal, and no one has quoted me as associating belly dancing with the sex trade prior to this article in the University of Nebraska's student newspaper.  Had I actually said something like this, I believe it would have raised some eyebrows among the senators and the gallery, and I am pretty sure it would have been picked up by the rest of the media. The reporter may have made a mistake in either his note taking or writing. 
Hopefully Apple's big event today will eclipse this story, and my inbox will settle down.

It is a good series of articles, despite this slight dust-up.  The Daily Nebraskan's coverage of the issue of human trafficking over the past year has been excellent.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Source of success

I've been contacted in the past week by The Spokane Police Department, the Lexington Police Department, the St.Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the New Jersey State Police. These agencies are seeking information about our police information systems. Three of the four were particularly interested in our use of CrimeView Dashboard, a GIS-centric analysis and visualization product from the Omega Group.

While the software these agencies inquired about is great, it is the quality and quantity of data behind it that allows us to be so successful with CrimeView and our other information resources. That is a product of thirty years of development by our own IT staff, especially Mr. Clair Lindquist, who has put Lincoln in the position so envied by other cities.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hot seat

I spent a half-shift yesterday in the hot seat, dispatching at the Communications Center. Megan plugged me into the west end law enforcement console, and off we went.  I did the talking, she did the typing for the first hour or so.  Then I tried to take over the keyboard of the computer-aided dispatch system, and struggled along as best I could for the next few hours.

It was a little rugged, but my trainer rescued me when I got lost.  Back in the Pre-Cambrian era, I would occasionally dispatch for a few hours, but it all changed with the mid-1990's transition to computers from cards.  There is a significant learning curve, the surface of which I have barely scratched.  Nonetheless, it was fun and informative, and reinforced a few things that I knew and tried to practice back in the mists of time:

  1. If you must listen to your music or the ball game, at least turn the thing off before talking on the radio.  Its much more distracting on the far end, because all the noise is relatively flat coming through the headset with no directional differentiation, unlike your car.
  2. Have I mentioned that it should be a misdemeanor to give a street a name composed of more than one word, and a felony if the name contains more than 12 characters? A little help is appreciated.  For example, if you're calling a traffic stop at Antelope Valley Parkway and Salt Creek Roadway on a blue Ford Taurus with license plate OXR025, you can say it far faster than I can type it. Similarly, when one officer's transmission ends, it would be nice to have a nanosecond to gather my wits and prepare for the next, before the entire shift tries to call off duty at the same instant.  There is a huge amount of multi-tasking going on at a dispatch position. 
  3. Enunciate.  Pick the microphone up, place it a couple inches from the lips, and remove the four golf balls from your mouth before speaking. 
  4. Be nice to your dispatcher.  He or she has your back in many ways.