The police department wants to take a bite out of crime.
Police are saving money earned from offering concealed handgun classes to first responders and from community donations to purchase a K-9 unit, Police Chief Tim Bradberry said at a meeting Thursday. The police dog could help find drugs and nab suspects who are on the run.
“It would help protect the public,” he said.
A police dog and the required training for the handler cost $8,000 to $10,000, Sgt. Rick Hempel said. So far, police have raised about $2,000.
Officers have wanted a K-9 unit for years, but budgetary constraints forced them to table their plans, Bradberry said. But this year, officers certified as concealed handgun instructors decided to donate classroom earnings to police for the dog’s purchase.
So far, eight students, all first responders, have enrolled in the course, with more on the waiting list, Hempel said.
Police hope the dog could start work by the start of summer, said Hempel, who will be the dog’s handler.
“It would be a big help to the police department,” Bradberry said. “It’s going to be dual trained. It will do tracking by work and narcotics.”
Also at the meeting, City Council acknowledged the area’s first-responders for work during Hurricane Ike. The city’s police officers and volunteer firefighters, along with Freeport first responders and some store owners who contributed to the city’s operations during the storm, received plaques and trophies from Mayor Louis Guidry.
“There have been a tremendous number of people that gave time and gave equipment, and anytime we needed some, they didn’t mind coming out and opening the door so we could get some,” Guidry said. “So tonight, we are going to recognize those people that helped us out during Hurricane Ike.
“They did a fantastic job,” he said.
Minds out of the gutter, ladies!!
The West Virginia State Police are looking for a few good . . . women.
According to Recruiting officer Trooper First Class Marlene Moore, the state police are looking toward creating a more balanced agency.
‘I think women just don’t consider becoming a state trooper,’ Moore recently told the Daily News. ‘It’s not something they think about, because troopers are usually men.’
That assumption is somewhat justified. The ranks of the WVSP has traditionally been a male oriented organization. When the agency began in 1919, the requirements for troopers were: ‘male, 25-45 age range, able to ride horseback, of sound constitution, good moral character, and capable of passing mental and physical examinations as prescribed the superintendent’.
However, times changed and the first female trooper, Sharon Deitz, began her career on the force in 1977.
There are currently only 17 female troopers, which is less than three percent of the total force. That is despite the fact that many of the skills women use in their day-to-day lives relate well to the situations they face as an officer. Trooper Moore shared her insight as a mother as well as a trooper.
‘Women usually run a household like I did,’ she said. ‘I had young children at the time I began my career with the WVSP. Taking care of my community is just an extension of my household. I didn’t allow havoc in my house; I got it under control. Most women are peacemakers.’
Additionally, having a female officer is preferable when conducting searches.
‘While men can do [body] searches on women, we try to have a female officer do that if one is available,’ Moore said.
Other situations arise in the course of police work in which a being a woman can be an advantage, Moore said. When a child or a woman is involved in an investigation, they sometimes relate better to a female officer.
Sometimes even hardened criminals will cooperate with a female officer more readily than a male trooper, Moore said.
‘I have come across some pretty mean men,’ she said. ‘But, sometimes they still had some respect left for a woman.’
Moore said she doesn’t feel any discrimination at the WVSP.
‘Once I went out in the field to work and they all saw that I could handle myself and knew the job well, I got their respect.’
In fact, Moore says she feels camaraderie with the men on the force.
‘I have made wonderful friends with many male officers,’ she said. ‘They respect me as a fellow trooper. They always have my back. They say they like working with me.’
Becoming an officer is not easy, Moore explained. The screening process begins with a written test. Persons who pass that then face a physical agility test. Applicants must also go through a process of medical, psychological and background checks to make it to the academy.
The resident training period for WVSP Cadets is 30 weeks. After graduation, officers work for at least three months with a training officer.
Besides the personal satisfaction that comes from being a state trooper, the WVSP has a degree program. Troopers who successfully complete academy and post academy training and probationary programs are awarded an Associate Degree in Police Science through Marshall Community College. Those troopers who successfully complete the probationary period are afforded the opportunity to continue their education and obtain the Bachelors Degree through the department’s 2+2 program through Marshall University.
Although the recruiting effort aimed toward women is no different toward recruiting men, Moore said she sees more women applying and testing. She hopes more women will realize how rewarding police work can be, even with the obvious dangers. Looking to her family, she found the support she needed to begin her career.
‘My family pitched in to help. They were very supportive. They thought it was the perfect career for me,’ she said. ‘Of course they worry, but they know I love it and I actually have fun. It made us all closer.
Three months ago, Elko New Market honored one of its police officers for heroism for placing himself between a drunken driver and several cars, at risk of being smashed head-on.
Now it’s debating whether to get rid of its Police Department.
And the dispute over how much money could be saved by instead hiring the Scott County Sheriff’s Office to cover the tiny city’s needs will not be the last to arise in a year that’s shaping up as grim for local finances.
Newly elected City Council Member Bob Hanna — whose vote total towered over those of his opponents last fall after a cut-the-taxes campaign — said a merger of services with the county could save millions over time. And it could save a lot more, he adds, if you factor in the cost of a new police station the city may soon need.
But City Administrator Tom Terry responds that crime is rising in a town that has grown this decade at a faster clip than any other in Minnesota with a population of more than 1,000. He also contends that hour-for-hour, the sheriff costs more — so the only way to cut costs is to reduce police coverage.
Policing now costs the city about $345,000 a year, the city reports, or $62 per officer hour, including overhead. A single full-time deputy would cost the city about $138,000, or $66 an hour. The current cost, which pays for more than 100 hours of coverage per week, amounts to about 30 percent of all property tax proceeds.
“People like the small-town character,” Terry said, “which includes a perception of safety. They can go out for a walk and have the kids play in the yard. We get requests for increased policing and have improved our level of service.”
The fact that Hanna is a bar owner has led some in town to question whether his campaign is all about getting the police off the backs of local bars. But Terry said he knows of no such motive, and Hanna denies having any gripe with the cops.
“The police eat in here three to four times a week,” he said one afternoon, seated at a counter at Fire House Pizza, his spacious, high-tech sports bar at the edge of town, in front of a stack of papers documenting his research. “I’ve never been harassed by the police.”
He does admit, however, that he isn’t happy with the city. “I spent two years trying to get a building permit for this restaurant. It was a fiasco. They delayed me on everything.”
Then, he said, the shutdown of the major thoroughfare through town for road work bit deeply into his business. “I pay $42,000 in property taxes,” he said. “That’s why I ran for City Council.”
But Police Chief Rick Jensen warned the council not long ago that calls for service had doubled in recent years and that the number of crimes against persons is soaring. From only about 150 in 2003, he said, the figure rose to nearly 250 by 2008.
Theft victim? Leave a message
Many longtime residents aren’t convinced the city needs as much police coverage as it has, and the dispute reflects a division in the community between “old-timers who feel it’s fine the way it was, and newcomers who are angry to be told to leave a message when they have a theft, because policing here is not 24/7,” said Carolyn Miller, a recently departed City Council member.
Her own take: “Forty hours a week,” which is what coverage might shrink down to, “is nothing. Officers have to go to court, take people to jail — there are quite a few times they aren’t inside the city limits. It would drastically cut protection.”
What an irony, she said, considering that Twin Cities television cameras made it to Elko New Market just last fall to honor officer Steve Malecka’s heroism in positioning his squad in front of a drunk who was driving the wrong way down the highway.
The city’s tax rate, Terry adds, is much lower than it was when Elko and New Market were separate cities. And it’s much lower than those of other rural enclaves in Scott County, including Jordan, New Prague or Belle Plaine.
The cops are such skinflints, he said, that they’ve been known to literally buy a used squad on eBay, get a cheap flight to Kansas and drive it back themselves.
Hanna counters that voters stressed by a dire economy put him in office to save money and that police staffing is rapidly bulking up at a time when population growth has cooled — likely for years to come.
Moreover, a report on the city’s website, completed by consultants in October, warns of “significant functional, building and security deficiencies” in the city’s existing police facilities. Translation, says Hanna: Big bucks will soon be needed for overhead, at a time when several Twin Cities suburbs, including many in Carver and Ramsey counties, are patrolled by sheriff’s deputies.
“What did Lakeville spend for its new police station?” he asks. “Millions?”
Lakeville’s population is 14 times as big, but the answer, for the record: $15 million for 35,000 square feet.
A Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a civilian last year said in court filings that the Police Department’s new policy of not releasing names of officers involved in shootings has “reignited” residents’ distrust of police and hurts his ability to receive a fair trial.
Officer Thomas Sanders, who is alleged to have shot an unarmed man in the back on Jan. 30, 2008, said in court filings that there “currently exists an extremely volatile climate in Baltimore City in which citizens of Baltimore do not trust the Baltimore Police Department.”
He said in the Feb. 4 court filing that the department’s policy of not naming officers involved in shootings unless internal investigations determine that they erred has worsened that climate and – because the department named him – implies that he is guilty.
He said that makes it difficult for him to obtain a fair jury trial in the city and asked for a change of venue, which prosecutors plan to oppose.
Police declined to comment on the motion, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation. Though the motion is filed by an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, the union’s president said yesterday that the group maintains support for restricting access to the names.
Baltimore police had routinely named officers involved in shootings for decades, but in January, the department adopted a new policy to restrict release of their identities. Police say their new policy is similar to those in New York and other major cities and is designed to prevent retaliation against officers.
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and other department officials have said they will continue to name officers involved in shootings they find to be unjustified after an internal investigation. When questioned about the policy at a recent City Council hearing, Bealefeld referred to the Sanders case as proof that the department will name names in such instances.
He has cited Sanders’ indictment as showing that the department will rigorously investigate police-involved shootings and sanction officers when necessary.
The policy has come under fire from the Maryland branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and some local elected officials, who say it cloaks police activity behind a layer of secrecy and diminishes trust between the department and the community.
“The citizens of Baltimore are entitled to be able to make their own judgments about what the police are doing and how they’re doing it, and shouldn’t have to rely on the good graces of the city Police Department to keep them informed,” said David Rocah, a staff attorney with the ACLU.
“Let’s remember: The police work for us. They are not some independent entity to which we are beholden.”
The motion by Sanders came to light as details continued to emerge in Tuesday night’s fatal shooting of 61-year-old Joseph Forrest in East Baltimore by two police officers.
The Baltimore Sun has learned that one of the officers who shot Forrest had also allegedly been attacked by a second man, the victim’s nephew, Joseph Forrest Jr.
Police said the 45-year-old stepped on Officer Traci L. McKissick’s hand at the direction of his uncle in an attempt to disarm her. The younger Forrest was arrested at the scene and charged with assault and disarming a law enforcement officer. He remains jailed without bond.
After initial inquiries about the shooting, the younger Forrest’s involvement was not disclosed by police, who had limited the release of information in an attempt to prevent McKissick’s name from becoming public.
Candles, balloons and teddy bears were placed outside Forrest’s home on North Lakewood Avenue yesterday, and a sign in his window reads, “We all miss you.”
Forrest’s family is questioning why he was shot, reportedly as many as a dozen times, after being struck in the upper body and after McKissick had recovered her weapon.
But relatives were unable to clarify how Forrest, affectionately known as “Uncle Snicker,” got into the scuffle in the first place, only offering that he might have reached for her weapon during the scrum because he felt his life was in danger.
Police said they responded to a domestic call in the area, and at some point an officer who came to provide backup saw McKissick being held in a headlock by Forrest.
Relatives say Forrest was not involved in the initial domestic call and had been trying to make peace between others. McKissick, they say, had been dispatched to the scene, and they accuse her of being rude and cursing at them.
They believed she had left the residence as paramedics treated an injured man and said the incident appeared to have blown over.
Forrest’s daughter, 34-year-old Alisa Forrest, said he walked outside to get air, and she claims her father was pushed by McKissick. She ran downstairs and saw McKissick and Forrest on the ground fighting, with both reaching for the gun.
“I see that she has Daddy and Daddy has her,” Alisa Forrest said. “They’re both reaching for the gun – he don’t want her to shoot him.”
She said that McKissick broke free after the backup officer fired at Forrest’s upper body and that McKissick proceeded to empty her weapon into Forrest’s leg.
“She got up and just started shooting,” Alisa Forrest said.
McKissick and the other officer have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated, a standard practice.
A police source with knowledge of the investigation said detectives believe the backup officer’s shot was made at close range and was ultimately the fatal shot. They also believe McKissick fired all of her shots into one of Forrest’s legs, in rapid succession, while she was still engaged with the man.
The Sun reported yesterday that McKissick, a five-year veteran, was involved four years ago in an incident in which a man who was being placed under arrest broke free and was able to take her gun, which has never been recovered.
Even though the victim and key witness was a city officer, prosecutors dropped the case after questions were raised about whether documents had been altered by police.
Family members said Forrest was a volunteer at nearby William Paca Elementary School and the patriarch and leader of a family that included 15 children and numerous other relatives.
“Everybody in the neighborhood can you tell you this isn’t his demeanor,” said niece Odessia Bradstreet. “This is not him. It’s not something he would do.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Melissa Harris and Peter Hermann contributed to this article.