9/11

By Jay Bender

Few other dates in American history so clearly represent such a dramatic change in our national identity. For the people of this country, September 11, 2001, reminded us that no border or ocean can keep us free from hate. It changed not only how we see the world, but how we see ourselves.

Yet in those hours of terror, the nation also witnessed tremendous sacrifice. The selfless courage of the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center will be forever linked to the horrible events of that day. When the towers came down, we knew there were hundreds of police officers and firefighters who died not because of chance, but because of choice.

For those of us who were already serving our communities or our nation, it helped reaffirm our dedication to protecting those who cannot protect themselves. For many of our younger officers, 9/11 was the event that drew them to military service and law enforcement. It was a day that re-defined who we are as a nation, and to some extent, who we are as profession.

 

Crime Prevention Corner: Know Your Scams

by Steve Wagner

Recently, while on my way to work, I received an excited call from my wife. She had called to tell me that we had just received a cashier’s check for $2,850. I asked her who it was from and she stated that it did not have a payee on the front, “but it is drawn on US Bank and it looks legit.” I then asked her to look at what it was sent in. It was sent in a USPS priority mail envelope from a well respected company. I asked her why they would send her a check. Her voice lost its excitement as she knew where my questions were headed and she despondently said, “I can’t think of any reason why they would send me a check.” She ended the conversation by saying, “you’re no fun.”

While I may have been a buzzkill to my wife, the fact of the matter is I saved us from a nearly $3,000 mistake by cashing that check. Sure, my bank may have eventually refunded me the money, but the hassle involved is simply not worth it. Why was my wife chosen to receive a fraudulent check? I’m not sure, but it is one of the many scams that are currently going around now.

Scam artists are in it for their own profit and it does not matter to them how much harm they may do to you. I find it helpful to ask the type of questions as I did above:

  • Why am I receiving this check?
  • Do I know who it is that is sending me this check?
  • Where was it sent from?
  • Is the check drawn on a respected bank?

A true cashiers check will contain the following information at a minimum: A payee, an address, a phone number, and some sort of a security measure such as a watermark. Fraudulent check makers are becoming more sophisticated and often the checks look very genuine. To appease my wife, I actually went to a US Bank and provided them with the check before cashing or depositing it. They were able to verify that the check did not belong to a valid US Bank account and thus the check was fraudulent.

I have compiled a list of current scams that are happening all around the country at this point. This is just a very small sample and scam artists are changing their methods on a daily basis. Should you wish to get more information on the current scams, a good website to visit is the Federal Trade Commission.  You may also sign up to receive alerts via text or email from the website as well.

Craigslist scams – Purchaser will offer a check for more than the item is being sold for and ask you to cash the check and give them the additional funds. The check is written on a closed or fraudulent account.

Employment scams – Employers will state that you can work online from home to earn money. They will send you an “advancement” check and tell you to purchase supplies through their vendors. Their vendors are actually them and they have essentially laundered money through you by providing you with a fraudulent check.

Loan refinancing or vehicle warranty purchase – This method is used in several different scenarios. You will receive a call offering a service such as a mortgage refinance or a vehicle warranty, etc. They will obtain a tremendous amount of your personal information including a social security number and then ask for a credit card to pay for a fee. Tip:  NEVER give out any information to someone who contacts you directly and be very leery of providing anyone personal information over the phone unless it is a trusted and known source. Most reputable companies will not ask for your personal information.

Modern Police Work – The Unfair Dichotomy

by Christopher Viland

I have often wondered about the position we put our new police recruits into in the modern day and age and whether we have done nothing more than set them up for failure.

As society has changed and become more complicated, more and more social welfare and social care taking duties have been pushed down to the only around-the-clock, first- response system available, the local police officer.  It isn’t that long ago that a police officer’s sole responsibility was the deterrence of crime and apprehension of offenders. Period.  The list has grown exponentially and now includes many of the following non-crime, non-enforcement activities:  handling nuisance animal problems, settling property line disputes, dealing with loud noises or odors from neighbors, caring for the mentally challenged who have fallen through the gaps in the system, stopping to play basketball with neighborhood children, having lunch with local senior citizens, collecting for local charities, helping parents get their non-compliant children to school, etc., etc.

I don’t want to in any way insinuate that those additional duties are not valuable, necessary, or even that many police officers don’t enjoy and volunteer to do many of them.  What I am saying is that the skill set that makes you a tactically proficient and safe officer in confronting crime and violence requires exactly the opposite interpersonal skills than the newer softer more community friendly duties.

We need the tactical officer.  We don’t need him every day and we hope to never need him to actually perform.  But at the very least he is insurance against evil and unfortunately we have seen, even in Solon, that hope is often in vain.  By saddling the tactical officer with a host of new “soft skill” requirements, have we made them less able to do those things which we hope they will never have to do?  I believe that we all like to think not.  But is that rational?  Are we just burying our heads in the sand?

Modern police departments have embraced “community policing” and all that that philosophy entails.  They train to be proficient at all the skills required for both enforcement and outreach.  The perfect officer would excel at both, and be able to switch between them fluidly and reasonably.  They continuously search for and recruit for the perfect officer.  In the meantime, shouldn’t we be open about the difficulty in trying to have officers be both halves of the puzzle at the same time?

Training for the worst

How do you prepare officers for violent encounters?

Over the years, we have utilized a layered approach to training, with everything from live-fire firearms training to force-on-force subject control and self-defense. One of the most important parts of our internal training has been the scenario based “simulation” training.

During simulation training, we put officers in realistic, high-stress scenarios and allow them to navigate the situation based on their training, skill level and experience. To make the training as realistic as possible, we use special marking cartridges and training firearms which operate identically to our duty sidearms.

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Ptl. Mark Ondich, left, and Ptl. Steve Davis prepare to launch a scenario.

Obviously, the marking rounds are non-lethal. Instead of leaving a life-threatening would, they leave a starbust of brightly colored detergent and often minor welts on the skin.

 

After officers, trainers and role-players don head, face, groin and throat protection, students are placed into realistic encounters, carefully scripted by the instructors. Officers will be placed into shoot/don’t shoot situations, and other situations that require sound tactics and problem solving skills. Some of scenarios will solved with patient de-escalation tactics, and a few will require a much more active response. It is a great opportunity for officers to see what might or might not work in a given situation, and to learn to manage stress while functioning under critical conditions.IMG_9002.jpg

The protective equipment is hot and uncomfortable, and the goggles tend to fog up on occasion, making the scenarios even more stressful for the student, challenging their stress-management techniques and decision-making process. While it generates only a fraction of the pressure caused by a real critical incident, it continues to be a vital tool in preparing officers to make the right choices on the street.

 

During training, mistakes only cost a laundry bill, a little pain and some loss of pride, and a hundred mistakes in training are better than one mistake on the street. This style of training gives us what we can’t get in the real world: A do-over.

 

Citizen encounter

Recently, a traffic signal at a major intersection was malfunctioning and I was assigned to manually operate the light to keep traffic flowing. (Due to the shape of the remote switch, it is sometimes known as “running the pickle.”)

A pedestrian on his way to the store stopped and we had a short conversation about traffic and new construction and the weather. It was nothing major, just a pleasant exchange between two people.

The day was windy and warm, and on his way back from the store, that same pedestrian dug into his shopping bag and pulled out an ice-cold bottle of water, handed it to me and said, “Here, you must be sweltering.” I was glad to take it and thanked the man, who went on his way.

My story isn’t so much about his kindness as it was about common ground. It was just a brief chat, but in the exchange, we both saw each other as people, just regular human beings. He remembered that there was a person under that uniform, and I was reminded that not everyone we meet is up to no good.

The water was great.

Police Involvement in Charitable Causes: Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics

Having recently completed our annual Torch Run for Special Olympics in Solon, I was excited to see the enthusiasm and support for the program.  We had a beautiful day, citizens and coworkers came out to support us, and I was able to raise a fair amount of donations for my participation.  It also became apparent through some of the social media feedback that there are still many who do not know what this program is, or how it works.

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The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics is a fundraising arm and awareness vehicle specifically for the Special Olympics, that was created and is maintained by police officers.  Every state has an LETR counterpart to their Special Olympics program, as do many countries around the world.  Every year each state has a Torch Run in the days leading up to their Special Olympic Games to raise money and awareness about their program.  These events involve officers and their families and friends, as well as Special Olympic athletes and their family and friends, to create a group of very passionate individuals with a great cause.  The Torch Run culminates at the opening ceremonies where the torch, having been ushered around the state for a week or more, is brought to the ceremony in the “Final Leg Run” and used to light the cauldron, signifying the official beginning of the games.

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The idea of the Torch Run dates back to 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, where five officers approached their then-chief, Richard La Munyon, with an idea to raise money for some of the families in the local Special Olympics.  Chief La Munyon loved the idea and the Law Enforcement Torch Run was born, raising about $300 that first year.  After three successful years, Chief La Munyon approached the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and convinced them to endorse the Torch Run nationally.  Today all 50 states and more than 26 countries participate involving more than 97,000 police officers. Various fundraising platforms have been created under the umbrella of LETR including Polar Bear Plunges, Tip-a-Cop events, and Cop on Rooftop events.  Since its inception, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics has raised over $600 million dollars.

So if you ever find yourself behind a slow moving procession of police officers carrying a torch, know that they are working to provide for the many people with intellectual disabilities.  Together with the athletes, family, and friends, they are making a statement for inclusion the whole world can hear.

Traffic stops

“Why does more than one police officer show up on traffic stops? It made me feel like a criminal.”

Our goal is never to make somebody feel like a criminal: Our goal is to do everything we can to make sure that traffic enforcement is conducted as safely as possible for our officers and the public. It has long been standard procedure for our officers to back each other up on traffic stops after dark. Statistically, the danger to officers rises as the sun sets. That second officer represents an extra set of eyes and ears, and lets the primary officer focus more on interacting with the driver. The officer may need to explain the violation or enforcement action, or the driver may have questions or concerns. Nobody expects a traffic stop to be a pleasant event, but when the officer no longer has to divide attention between the motorist, traffic and pedestrians, the encounter will likely go more smoothly for everybody.

A good backup officer will likely sweep the inside of your car with a flashlight beam. Again, that officer is not trying to intimidate you, he is trying to insure the safety of the primary officer and the motorist, and can alert his partner to threats or concerns that may have been overlooked.

That backup officer is also scanning the area for potential threats and traffic concerns. On more than one occasion, an alert second officer has shouted a warning about a passing car veering too close and have pulled an officer or citizen out of harm’s way.

 

Community Relations: What are we doing?

 

Right now I have, among other responsibilities, the duty of community relations in my organization.  The truth is, I am not entirely sure what that means anymore.  In a post-Ferguson world, it is hard to understand what, as police officers, we are supposed to be doing.

It seems obvious that engaging the community is the right course of action, and this has become very purposeful in recent years in hopes of repairing police-citizen relations. Some initiatives have been revived and new ones have been created, with officers spending more time in non-enforcement activities, and this is a positive thing.  Almost daily I see inspiring stories about officers doing wonderful things with members of the community, including charitable acts.  Pictures of these acts, often of officers interacting with children, are plentiful.  Like anyone else, I love to see these “feel good” stories.

But here is the proverbial rub; I can’t help but feel at times that the increased attention to these acts by officers feels staged.  And that is unfortunate because police officers have always done these things.  That we didn’t hear about every one of these stories, or see pictures about them, is because police officers never felt the need to share them.  In fact, it would have felt almost boastful just a short time ago to publicize acts such as this.  The truth is, I don’t think any of us ever realized we were supposed to keep score in this aspect of our job.  We really didn’t know that it “counted” in the tally of tasks that were expected of us on our jobs, like issuing citations or making arrests.  We just did it because it was the right thing to do.  We continue to engage our communities at an accelerated pace, but can we maintain our sincerity in this push to show the world that we really do care now, even though we always have?

Which brings us to this blog.  We need a voice in law enforcement, both collectively and individually.  From a broad nationwide perspective to a single member of a local department we need a platform to let everyone in our communities know that we have a genuine interest in them, and it is as sincere a part of our job as it always has been.  Because we are a part of these communities.  From special interest stories to crime prevention to educational pieces about why we do what we do and how it all works, this has to be part of our engagement with the community.  We hope to bring you this on this forum.

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