CUMBERLAND — A call for help came even before the newly expanded Allegany County Bureau of Police was able to commence road patrols Thursday afternoon.
Deputy Chief Bobby Dick logged a phone call shortly after 4 p.m. at the county public safety building at Mexico Farms regarding a fatal stabbing on Fayette Street in Cumberland. Officials asked for the help of C3I and one of the bureau’s investigators assigned to the unit. Dick gave the green light for the officer to assist.
And thus the first day of real police work began for the 14 officers, 12 recertified, each of whom held the position of sheriff’s deputy until July 29. That was when the Allegany County commissioners authorized the expansion of the county police force and the hiring of 14 officers.
Three officers were expected to begin road patrols between 6 p.m. and midnight Thursday. Two more were to cover the shift between midnight and 8 a.m.
The officers currently are to temporarily patrol in unmarked vehicles. As soon as next week, they will be driving battleship-grey cruisers with reflective black lettering of “County Police” on the front and back doors of both sides of the sedan, “Allegany County” above the front wheel wells, “Emergency 911” just behind the rear wheel wells and “Bureau of Police” on the tip of the hood. A Bureau of Police logo will be situated behind both rear passenger windows.
The commissioners said they were backed into a corner after Sheriff David Goad refused to communicate with county staff and overrun his budget on an annual basis. Goad countered that his office was consistently underfunded and set up for failure.
On Thursday afternoon at Mexico Farms, however, that — and a settlement in Allegany County District Court reached Wednesday — hardly mattered. Officers talked excitedly as they inventoried equipment transferred from the sheriff’s office. At about 4 p.m., three officers were just two hours away from beginning the bureau’s first shift on road patrol duty.
“It’s been a difficult situation,” said Dick of the officers, who have been in the middle of the controversy between the commissioners and Goad. “They’ve handled it well. They just want to do police work. They’re cops.”
The commissioners and David Eberly, acting county administrator, made the move because they were convinced the county could conduct road patrols and manage a county police force more efficiently than Goad, who averaged more than $125,000 in budget overruns in each of the past eight years.
Eberly said during Thursday’s commission meeting that the recertification expenses, along with uniform stitching and patrol car painting, is estimated to cost $17,072. Those costs will be covered by anticipated savings from the efficient operations of the county police force, Eberly said.
Chief Gary Moore, a retired lieutenant colonel for the Maryland State Police and a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official, said he has previously been responsible for annual budgets up to $800 million. He “never” has once been over budget, he said Thursday.
What matters, Moore said, is the bottom line at the end of the fiscal year, “not what happens month to month. When we were going to go over, we met with finance (officials and asked for) help or (an) amended budget.”
But the commissioners said it’s just that — a lack of communication in this case — that made them act. Goad’s defiance of the county’s new vehicle take-home policy, implemented in mid-July, was the final straw, they said. Goad, however, maintained that he implemented a cost-savings take-home policy one month prior to the county’s.
Despite the controversy — and Goad’s lawsuit, set for a 3 p.m. hearing today in Washington County — Bill Rudd, county attorney, said during Thursday’s commission meeting that all sides should move forward based on Wednesday’s settlement.
“I hope that’s a new beginning,” Rudd said. “These people will have to work together in the future.”
FORT LAUDERALE, Fla. — Most drivers can easily recall at least one occasion where they saw a police cruiser flying down the road for no apparent reason.
But the city of Fort Lauderdale is trying to keep its officers from speeding in non-emergecy situations by using satellite car-locaters in patrol cars. Any officer driving faster than 80 mph without a good reason faces disciplinary action.
Since the monitoring began a year ago, city records show 29 officers have been written up or disciplined for speeding. Some officers were caught driving faster than 90 mph. One officer was caught speeding 30 times.
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police union, said the public is often wrong when they think an officer has no legitimate reason to speed.
A line of SWAT officers, decked out in bulletproof black garb, listened carefully to the scenario they faced: They were about to enter the brick house serving as the hide-out for a woman wanted by authorities.
Each pointed their blue-banded “simmunition” pistol to cover a different direction as they filed into the building in the 500 block of William Street used by the Cape Girardeau police and fire departments for training purposes. Shouts resonated up the stairs as the members of Cape Girardeau’s Special Response Team alerted those hiding in the house to police presence.
The above scenario wasn’t real, and neither were the bad guys.
SRT officers undergo at least eight hours of this type of training per month, immersing themselves in realistic scenarios they could face on any given day — a hostage situation, a suspect who’s barricaded himself in a darkened house or a drug bust involving multiple subjects, said Lt. Buddy Davis of the Cape Girardeau Police Department.
Thursday’s training was the second part of a two-day session and included officers from the Jackson Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sikeston Department of Public Safety, the St. Louis Police Department, the Kennett Police Department and the Bootheel Drug Task Force.
Usually, a significant portion of training is spent at the firing range sharpening marksmanship skills, with the rest of the time devoted to response training. Thursday morning’s training in Jackson involved the use of a bus, working on drills to handle situations that may arise with that type of vehicle.
“It’s excellent training. This group of guys here is the best I’ve seen,” Davis said.
Cape Girardeau has had its own SRT team since 1986, Davis said.
The focus of the training is response, keeping in mind that reaction is slower than action, and repetition.
“It’s about developing muscle memory so it becomes second nature,” Cpl. Ike Hammonds said.
That’s where the simmunition guns come into play, so officers can safely practice responses to a live-fire situation. Each is loaded with plastic-coated paint-tipped pellets that deliver a more stinging blow than a paintball.
“You’ll feel pain when they hit,” Davis said.
AFTER almost two months of rigid classroom and field training, personnel of the all-female Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) unit of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) finally graduated on Thursday.
They work hard to keep area residents safe, but there is a concern over where and how D.C.’s police dogs are living.
The D.C. K-9 dogs who track down suspects and sniff out explosives are the latest casualty of high gas prices, according to the police union. “For the department, the issue comes down to gas for the FOP and the officer on the street. It comes down to public safety,” said Kristopher Baumann, FOP.
Starting August 10th, officers who live more than 25 miles from work can’t drive their patrol cars home, in an effort to save the city money. Nearly 20 K-9 unites are impacted.
The officers have to park their patrol cars near the training academy in Southwest Washington. They then have the option of driving their partner home in a personal car or boarding the dog at the department’s nearby kennel, which the union says is not adequate.
“The kennels are not good for the dogs. They are loud. The dogs are agitated. They get very little sleep and as a result that impacts their ability to do their work,” said Baumann.
Some K-9 officers said that transporting their dogs, even in large plastic crates can be dangerous, especially if they are involved in an accident. “If it’s not something that is best suited for the dog, they have the option of kenneling the dog until we can come up with a viable option to do so,” said Chief Patrick Burke.
Burke insists the department takes great care of its K-9 dogs. In fact, after receiving a couple complaints about the facility, the city’s Humane Society made an unannounced visit and rated the kennel safe and clean.
“Everything seems to be the way it should be,” said Scott Giacoppo, Washington Humane Society.
Burke said he doesn’t even know why there is so much worry over the situation because the policy is temporary and will be evaluated at end of the fiscal year which is in October. The union said they will continue to fight.
AGAWAM – Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr. has been on the job more than three decades, but if he were ever to decide on another line of work he might want to be a weatherman.
Once again Wednesday, the sheriff’s annual clambake included steak, chicken, clams, clam chowder, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, soda, beer – and very good weather. In fact, the sun-filled day was among the finest of this too wet Western Massachusetts summer.
The clambake usually draws about 2,000 people, but Sheriff’s Department spokesman Richard J. McCarthy said the number was slightly higher Wednesday for the 31st annual event.
“This is just a beautiful clambake late-summer day,” said McCarthy, who added about the event: “It’s just become such an institution that I think people want to come just to experience it.”
The event attracts politicians, and among those who came Wednesday to the Six Flags New England picnic grove were U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry and his opponent in the Sept. 16 Democratic primary, Edward J. O’Reilly of Gloucester, plus Republican Jeffrey K. Beatty, of Harwich, who will draw the winner in the Nov. 4 general election.
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, who is seeking re-election in the 1st Congressional District, also attended, as did Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray and Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
This year’s clambake also drew new University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg, who brought his coaching staff. Kellogg’s father, George, is a community service officer with the Sheriff’s Department.
The clambake is put on by Ashe’s re-election committee, and the sheriff, who is in his sixth six-year term, will seek re-election in 2010.
“I still got the passion,” the 68-year-old Ashe said, adding: “To me, it’s still exciting.”
Murray, who was elected in 2006, recalled that during his campaign people said the clambake was a must-attend event. The lieutenant governor also said the sheriff was one of the first “significant political leaders in the state to support me in my primary campaign, and I’m forever grateful.”
It seems almost ironic now, but at one time Chandler police Sgt. Tom Lovejoy was an avid supporter, even a defender, of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Lovejoy remembers a point in February 2007 during a conference of police officers in Las Vegas when he heard some fellow police talking trash about the sheriff.
“I was a little bit irritated about that,” Lovejoy now recalls, “to the point where I actually defended him to those people.”
Since then, things have changed radically.
The way Lovejoy described it in an exclusive Tribune interview this week, his interactions with the sheriff’s office led him into a modern heart of darkness in the past year, in which he has seen the worst side of Valley law enforcement.
It wasn’t so much that sheriff’s deputies arrested and investigated him on suspicion of animal cruelty in the death of his police dog, he said.
It was the way the sheriff and his publicity team handled the whole thing – holding a national news conference on the arrest, publicly disgracing the veteran sergeant and stonewalling his defense team on information nearly every step of the way.
“It’s a dark place inside the sheriff’s office,” said Lovejoy, who was acquitted Friday on a lone misdemeanor charge that resulted from it all.
At times, Lovejoy’s defense team had to rely on secret sources inside the sheriff’s office to get simple reports and documents the agency was withholding, he said.
“The information that we got was almost like clandestine meetings in the middle of a dark alley in Phoenix in the middle of the night,” he said. The people who gave them some of the most useful information, “were afraid they were going to lose their jobs.”
In a half-hour interview at Lovejoy’s house in a county island near Gilbert, the sergeant and his wife, Carolynn, talked about the past year of their lives, their troubles with the sheriff’s office and the steps they hope to take next.
The interview intentionally avoided the details of Aug. 11, 2007, the day Lovejoy forgot his K-9 partner Bandit, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, inside a police vehicle for nearly 13 hours, killing Bandit.
Those events are already documented through media reports, public records and in court testimony from the daylong trial.
Instead, the questions mostly focused on what Lovejoy’s family experienced throughout the ordeal.
The whole thing showed Lovejoy something he never expected to find, he said, “I was quite shocked at the level of corruption that is inside that department.”
For its part, the sheriff’s office called Lovejoy’s allegations of corruption, hypocrisy, and his contention of stonewalling, “ludicrous.”
“This agency fully cooperated with the court and Lovejoy’s attorney,” sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Paul Chagolla wrote in an e-mail. “We are proud of our investigation and our policies against animal abuse & neglect, and we have no intention of changing our stance.”
However, Lovejoy said he’s looking at a way of breaking down that resolve.
Minutes after he was acquitted, he told a gaggle of reporters that Arpaio needed to be held accountable for the highly-publicized investigation and arrest.
In the interview, he said that means he is considering bringing a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.
“I’m not one to make a quick decision … until we can really understand everything that’s happened,” Lovejoy said. “This is so fresh, we need to make sure that we’re making the right decisions.”
During the yearlong case, Lovejoy remained on the Chandler force as a sergeant, though he was removed from the K-9 unit and put on the graveyard shift in patrol.
He said the experience has changed the way he looks at police work and suspects on the street.
On traffic stops and interactions with the public, he said, the thought of being a defendant for a year is fresh on his mind.
“I certainly got an education of what it’s like to be in the defendant’s seat,” he said, “and a little bit of what a defendant’s feeling.”
With the trial over, Lovejoy is finally able to speak about his case. Before that, he always had to rely on his wife to speak for him in public.
Carolynn Lovejoy said she was merely trying to correct the record whenever she saw a mistake or lie in the media.
The situation was “already devastating with the truth,” she said. “And when people start putting lies on top of it to make it worse … that’s when I started having an issue.”
The couple noticed a distinct change in the media coverage when Carolynn started talking to the press, they said. The coverage shed a more human light on the tragedy.
To this day, Lovejoy said he still believes he was targeted so the sheriff could earn publicity.
“That’s dangerous when you have a sheriff that only enforces the law for people that are going to get him some votes,” Lovejoy said.
Carolynn Lovejoy added, “That was all for show. That was just the big Joe show.”
Local residents have organized fundraisers to help a state trooper combat his blindness and cancer.
Sgt. Tom O’Connor, 41, of Monroeville, was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in March 2007. Doctors found a tumor in his sacrum at the base of his spine that was “the size of a grapefruit,” Tom said.
Complications arose during surgery to remove the tumor, rendering Tom totally blind with post-operative posterior bilateral ischemic optic neuropathy.
Tom had radiation treatments for about three months after the surgery and was being scanned every three months to see if the cancer had returned.
In July, the O’Connors discovered the chondrosarcoma had returned and metastasized to five different sites in his body. The cancer was classified as aggressive stage four.
Doctors discovered tumors on Tom’s left femoral head, which is near the hip; on his right hip bone; on his T-9 vertebrae; by his shoulder, on his left humerus; and on his right anterior rib. Based on a needle biopsy, doctors said Tom’s sacrum was suspicious for a return of chondrosarcoma as well.
Tom can feel the tumor on his rib.
“It’s like an acorn. It hurts.”
Tom and his wife, Jen, say the cancer and blindness are devastating.
“It’s turned my life upside down,” Tom said. “We felt like we were at the top of everything.”
His marriage and family with children Ryan, 7, and Delaney, 5, was “perfect, and it was all ripped away because of the cancer and the blindness,” he said.
“Our situation’s unique,” Jen said. “It’s the cancer and the blindness together that impact everything.”
“Blindness really compounds all of the problems,” Tom said. “Everyone knows someone with cancer, but take a rare cancer and blindness and it makes everything 100 times worse.”
A state counselor for the blind denied Tom any adaptive technology equipment or training to assist him with his blindness, which he said could make his life closer to normal.
“That would have got me ready to go back to work …. The state counselor denied me the ability to be independent.”
To survive the cancer, Tom said, he takes 35 pills a day for pain, nerve damage and digestion. He already has had radiation on his femoral head, humerus and T-9 vertebrae.
Beginning Friday, Tom will take an experimental drug, Dasatinib, in an attempt to decrease and stop the cancerous activity. The drug has not yet been FDA-approved.
Tom said he has painful neuropathy in his leg and cannot sit or stand for long periods. Although he still is able to walk, when he and his family go on long trips, he takes a wheelchair. He has to attend physical therapy twice a week.
The expenses of treating the cancer and blindness have resulted in financial hardship.
“My concern is the house,” Jen said. “It’s not the Taj Mahal, but it’s our home.”
“We thought we had everything,” Tom said, “and to think we might lose everything is unconscionable.”
Numerous people have been active in helping the O’Connors.
Joe Ruggery, Tom’s co-worker and friend, is entering the Subaru 24-Hour Champion Challenge mountain bike race and has listed the O’Connor family as his charitable interest. The race is at noon on Aug. 30 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
While most cyclists will compete in team relay categories, Joe is entering solo.
“What he’s doing is big,” Tom said.
A neighborhood youth group, sponsored by the Baha’is of Pittsburgh, was looking for a project to help a neighbor. Lu Randall, whose son is in the youth group and who knew Jen from Foxwood Pool, suggested the group help the O’Connors.
The children decided to raise money to buy a piece of blind-assistance equipment for Tom. The youth group held a yard sale at the homes of Lu and her neighbors on Aug. 9 to raise money.
A group member created a host page on the Facebook online social network for “Friends of the O’Connors.” The page spread info about the yard sale and the community effort to help Tom and his family through Gateway High School students, alumni, parents and teachers.
When people learned of the yard sale, they began hosting independent yard sales not associated with the youth group and donated proceeds to the O’Connors. Even people in Plum have sent money, the O’Connors said.
With yard sales going on simultaneously, Tom said, his neighborhood “had the atmosphere of a street sale.”
“The yard that Saturday surpassed expectations,” Lu said.
She hopes what she calls the “contagious yard sales” will continue. Lu said another “Yard Sales for Tom” event will be scheduled for September along Towerlawn Drive.
The O’Connors said they cannot thank the neighbors enough.
“This is the good that has come out of this bad situation,” Jen said.
The O’Connors will place proceeds from the yard sale and donations from future events into the Sgt. Tom O’Connor Family Fund at PNC Bank.
As for the future, Tom said, “I don’t have any real expectation for longevity. We’re praying for a miracle.”
He said doctors do not know how long he has to live.
“There’s only one person who knows for sure, and that’s God.”
“It’s just so rough to deal with,” Jen said.
Tom has been battling cancer since 1996, when he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on the upper side of his back. That was treated, and he was cancer-free until January 2007, when he was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.
Tom underwent surgery to remove his sentinel lymph nodes because the melanoma was spreading. It was months after that urgery when doctors discovered the chondrosarcoma. Tom said his previous skin cancer and his current bone cancer are unrelated.
He thinks the situation is harder for his wife and children to deal with than it is for him.
“They have to deal with their own grieving process and deal with mine and the problems associated with the cancer and the blindness.”
Jen said the situation is harder for Tom.
“Just seeing (Tom) in the emotional pain is the hardest thing for me.”
Cancer has caused a lot of pain and fear, Tom said, including fear of missing time with his wife and children.
Despite the hardships, Tom and his wife said, they are getting through it.
“There’s no gloom and doom,” Jen said. “We’ve had bad days — we’ve had lots of bad days — but you have to put a smile on your face.”
“Every day I wake up is a good day,” Tom said.
To contribute to “Yard Sales for Tom” or to make a donation to the O’Connors, contact Tom and Jen O’Connor by e-mail at email@example.com.
For more information on Joe Ruggery’s efforts, visit the Web site 24fortom.blogspot.com.
Sheriff’s deputies in Fountain, Fla., turned to high-tech to bring down a runaway pet emu, the Panama City News Herald reports Thursday. They tasered the bird. Twice.
Deputies and animal control officers had been searching for the bird for several days after getting reports that it was chasing cars. Then they finally cornered the emu, named Plop-Plop, in a goat pen, the newspaper says.
But each time Bay County Sheriff Deputy Randolph Grob moved closer, Plop-Plop became highly agitated. “The thing went crazy,” Grob tells the newspaper.
Wary of Plop-Plop’s sharp talons and long legs, but unwilling to use a regular gun to subdue her, Grob says the officers zapped Plop-Plop with a Taser. When she still tried to make a run for it, they hit her again, the newspaper says.
That did the trick, they say, and before long Plop-Plop was happily accepting pats on the head from bystanders.
Adis, the official canine of the Hyde Park Police Department, is hanging up his collar.
He has served on the force, tracking individuals and sniffing out narcotics for the last decade, and a chronic stiffness in his back legs has lead to his inevitable retirement.
Sgt. William Truitt of the Hyde Park Police Department has requested permission to take in Adis as a family pet.
“I urge the town board to approve Sgt. Truitt’s request of keeping the dog given their long standing relationship,” said Chief James McKenna.
McKenna said one reason the decision to retire Adis was so easy to make is the department has already found his replacement, a German shepherd named General.
“This dog has classic breeding and will be an excellent tracking dog as well as helping officers locate and unearth hidden contraband,” said Truitt during the last regular meeting of the town board, at which General was introduced to the public.
General was brought into the Hyde Park Town Hall meeting room without a leash and barked an introduction to the people he will serve.
“He’s incredibly well behaved for his age,” said Truitt. “I don’t even use a leash and he just follows me around.”
The board took a moment to thank Adis for his service to the town and thanked Truitt for taking him into his home and providing him with a suitable environment in which to spend his golden years.
“We just want to thank Adis for everything he has done for the town,” said Supervisor Pompey Delafield. “We are proud to welcome General to the force as the new official canine.”