Suiting up

by Jay Bender

What is all that stuff you carry? Doesn’t it get heavy?

These are probably two of the most common questions police officers are asked when we get the opportunity to participate in a community relations event. Usually, it’s the kids who want to know what is in all those mysterious pouches on our belts or vests. The grownups want to know about the weight.

In Solon, each patrol officer is required to wear body armor, pepper spray, an expandable baton, a radio, at least one pair of handcuffs, (most officers carry two,) and our duty sidearm, a Glock 22, .40 caliber with two spare magazines.

The rest of our loadout is optional, but some items are so ubiquitous they may as well be required. For example, no officer I know would even consider going on patrol without at least one pair of latex or nitrile gloves. Protective gloves can help us preserve evidence without contamination, and more importantly can help protect officers from bloodborne pathogens and dangerous illegal drugs that can be absorbed through the skin.

Most officers also carry some type of trauma packet that includes clotting sponge and tourniquet. A flashlight and a multi-tool or utility knife are also a good idea. My gear weighs in at approximately 17 pounds, which is probably about the average for our officers.

How often do we use what we carry? Like anybody who carries tools at work, we certainly don’t use every tool on every day. Many of these items will rest quietly in their pouch for weeks, months or even years before they are needed. But we carry them with us because when we need them, we need them RIGHT NOW! If we are very fortunate, there are some we will never need.

And yes, it gets heavy!

 

 

 

 

The Asphalt Scam

by Steve Wagner

Over the years, the City of Solon has encountered many types of scams. The most recent involves a work crew posing as a legitimate asphalt business. The scam has targeted businesses in Solon and the surrounding area as well as some residences.

Here is how the scam is run: A person posing as a “manager” or “supervisor” of an asphalt company will approach a business or residence and claim that they have leftover materials from a previous job and that they need to use up those materials. The “supervisor” claims that they will give a good deal to the business or residence should they use them. If the customer agrees to some work, the asphalt company will complete the work and will often do more than was agreed upon. When the work is complete they will then approach the customer and demand more money. The approach is often done with several males as an “intimidation factor.” A business recently paid out over $2,000 for unauthorized work done.

As with any company in the city, anyone doing any work or soliciting for business should have a valid City of Solon permit on hand. As a rule of thumb, one should also be suspicious of a company that solicits without a permit. I also personally never give my business to any company that I am not aware of and have not researched thoroughly. In addition, you should never give any personal information to someone who calls you or comes directly to your door.

Traditions

By Jay Bender

I spent a few minutes on Monday morning searching for something in my locker.

It’s one of those small items that seems perpetually lost. It’s nothing special, really. Just a black elastic band with a thin blue line through the middle. It would be insignificant if its symbolism did not carry so much weight.

History is unclear as to when police officers began to cover their badges with a black band when we lose a fellow officer. Some believe it was a carryover from a time when people wore a black armband to signify they were in mourning. Other sources state it is based in heraldry, when a coat-of-arms would be draped in black to signify a family death. Regardless of the roots, we know what it means today: A police officer has died in the line of duty. I was once asked why my badge number was covered, and the person literally asked me what I was hiding. I patiently explained that we had lost a fellow police officer. I don’t remember who we had lost at that time, but I remember the encounter.

At Solon, the decision to cover our badges is made at the command staff level. The decision is made largely based on geography. If we covered our badges for every officer killed in the line of duty, everywhere in the United States, we would be in a perpetual state of mourning, and our badges would never be uncovered.

On October 21, 2017, Girard Police Officer Justin Leo was murdered while responding to a domestic disturbance. Leo’s partner returned fire, killing the suspect. As a profession, we will mourn him. We will send our volunteer honor guard to attend his funeral, and we will try to learn something, anything, from this tragedy.

By tradition, we will cover our badges until Officer Leo is laid to rest. And may that rest be peaceful.

Transitions

By Jay Bender

When the people think of “police,” they will probably envision a patrol officer, a detective or some type of tactical operator. That’s understandable, since these are the most visible representatives of a police department. I have joked in the past that we are sort of like fighter pilots, not because we are some super-cool Hollywood  caricature, but because we are a relative handful of professionals doing things that attract attention supported by many dedicated individuals doing the behind-the-scenes work that matters every bit as much.

They may be the multi-tasking dispatchers taking calls and dispatching first responders, or the ever watchful, infinitely patient corrections officers watching prisoners, or the meticulous records clerks who manage the volumes of paperwork generated by law enforcement.

One of those people, Solon PD’s facility manager Dennis Simecek, is retiring today. His job title sounds simple, but from what I’ve seen over the years, it was anything but simple. Our building is much more complex than most, with HVAC and plumbing serving a multi-bed jail as well as evidence storage and processing, an armory, security garages, sallyport and office areas, each and every section requiring unique efforts due the mix of restricted or secured areas. Dennis handled or coordinated them all. He is a person who never seems to stop moving.

All of that, of course,  is in a job description. What has meant so much to so many of use is the way he pitched in, with enthusiasm, in so many other ways. I’ve been involved in many training exercises and community relations events over the years, and Dennis was always there, ready to do the countless little things we trainers are always forgetting. If we were training offsite, we knew the van would be loaded with fans, extension cords, signs, and coolers with bottled water and ice. When something needed fixing, Dennis got it fixed, or at least told you how to do it.

Beyond all that, we have valued his friendship and upbeat attitude. No matter how busy he was, Dennis has found time to share a joke or talk some sports. He always seems to remember what’s going on with our families and ask how they are. A quick hello to Dennis has always been one of my favorite ways to start or end a shift. If you know Dennis, you know he is a father who is rightfully proud of his daughters yet can talk about them without sounding boastful. He has a clever, kindhearted sense of humor, and I have to say he inspires that in others.

If you are fortunate in life, you will get along with your coworkers. If you are very lucky, you will find friends. And if you are very, very lucky, you will get to work alongside a Dennis.

Good fishing, my friend.

Dangerous jobs

by Jay Bender

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries list for 2015, I immediately wanted to see where my profession landed on the list. Being a police officer is an inherently dangerous job, so it was certain to be in the Top 10, right? Wrong.

Now, being anywhere on the list of deadliest occupations is not a reassuring proposition, but I was surprised to see that law enforcement actually ranked 18th for workplace fatalities. In 2015, there were 85 deaths in our profession, averaging to 11.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Those statistics included all work-related fatalities, including traffic crashes and homicides. Law enforcement ranked well down on list, after mechanics, maintenance workers, taxi drivers, construction laborers, electricians and roofers. The sad distinction of most dangerous occupations goes to the fishing industry and loggers.

If you consider the working conditions of these occupations, those awful numbers seem all too logical. Nearly all of them involve using heavy equipment, heights, electricity or unpredictable weather conditions. Some involve all of those factors. And yet, when they die, it rarely makes the news. When a police officer dies, whether from an accident or violence, it is a noteworthy event.

The difference? Approximately half of law enforcement deaths were purposely caused by other people, and that kind of murderous intent is difficult for many people to understand. We can accept that a rogue wave or rotten tree can randomly cause a death because we can write that off as fate. It can be harder to comprehend human nature.

A different kind of courage, for a different kind of danger.

 

 

Police and the Media: Part 1

o-MEDIA-facebookby Bruce Felton

It’s a relationship played out in movies and TV shows over and over again:  A cat and mouse game of hide and seek where police try to “protect” information from the media, while the media tries to catch the police hiding information.  And yes, while there have been real-life instances of inappropriate behavior on both sides, is the relationship really that adversarial?  And, more importantly, does it need to be?

I have been the Public Information Officer (PIO) off and on for about six years.  During that time I have interacted with journalists, television news anchors and reporters, news radio personalities, assignment editors, and camera operators.  What I have found to be the common denominator with the vast majority of these individuals is that they are very much like myself and the people I work with.  Whether they are young and brimming with excited ambition about their new career, or a little older and hitting their stride in their profession; or even getting close to retirement and thinking about the time they will spend with their grandchildren, they have a job to do and are trying to do it the best they can.  For the most part there is no evil agenda, or malicious intent, or even rude behavior.  They’re just people attempting to complete tasks, meet deadlines, satisfy their bosses, and go home.

Police departments are great hoarders of information.  We collect information about everything, and we keep it in the event it helps us in the future.  That information may help us solve a crime, find a missing person, or provide valuable information about trends that affect crime and society.  It must always be remembered that we are merely stewards of this information and that it belongs to the public, not the police.  So while there may be some exceptions, we have a responsibility to make that information available.  Largely it is the media, in all of its forms, that provides a vehicle to deliver that information to the public.  This all works best when law enforcement and the media work in concert to communicate to the public that information which may enlighten, educate, inform and yes, at times, entertain them.  An effective PIO for a police department works to establish and maintain relationships within the media so that this can effectively take place, thereby serving everyone’s interests.

 

Many are very critical of the style and delivery of the media today.  I will address this issue and give my thoughts about it in a future article in Part 2 of this series.

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?

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