BULLHEAD CITY – Officers from the Bullhead City K-9 unit and their dogs demonstrated their talents for apprehending criminals at Thursday night’s Police and Citizens Together meeting.
Officer Eric Clevinger, along with his partner Bingo, and Officer Jill Menard and her partner Kaia, showed off their penchant for searching for illegal drugs and taking down criminals.
Bingo has been with the department for two and a half years, while Kaia has been out of training just two weeks.
The dogs and their handlers undergo approximately three months of training, Menard said. The dogs learn how to detect illegal drugs as well as chase after and capture criminals.
Both the dogs and the human officers participate in ongoing training, going through routines about twice a month. The dogs are trained with actual drugs seized on the streets of Bullhead City, Clevinger said.
Bingo and Kaia are the only two K-9′s on the police department roster. It costs an initial $100,000 to train each dog and provide the correct equipment, Clevinger said.
K-9′s work for as long as is humanely possible, Clevinger said, noting that the previous two dogs in the department retired due to old age.
While the dogs are a valuable part of the law enforcement team, they are never intentionally sent into a scene where weapons are known to be present.
Both dogs are Belgian Malinois and were imported from Europe. The police department purchases the dogs from the same school where they are eventually trained.
Menard said she got to select Kaia personally.
“I got to practice with other dogs, but I just knew she was the one,” Menard said.
The dogs each live at home with Menard and Clevinger, along with the retired police dogs. At home, life is fairly quiet, since playing is their reward for doing a good job at work.
“They live to come to work,” Clevinger said. “Bingo can’t wait to get up and go to work everyday.”
A ceremony was held this morning at Pier Park on Panama City Beach to commemorate today, March 13th, as K-9 Veterans Day.
K-9 units from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the Panama City and Panama City Beach Police Departments, and Bay County Search and Rescue were on hand.
Bay County Animal Control Director Jim Crosby said, “It’s about time we did recognize them. They’ve gone for years without recognition. This is a new program. It was started by a man named Joe White in Jacksonville actually last year. This is the first year Governor Charlie Crist has officially recognized K-9 Veterans Day, and these dogs are long overdue.”
Representatives of Tyndall Air Force base were also to be on hand but were called away on a mission earlier in the day.
When a report of a possible explosive device on the roof of a city parking garage came in to the Lakeland, Florida, Police Department, public safety officials there sprang into action.
They sent out a squad to investigate and they posted a notice on Twitter.
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are mostly used by those who want to keep their friends and families informed about their lives and activities.
But increasingly, police and fire departments across the country are tapping into social networking to disseminate information to the public.
“We think the police department has an obligation to get information out to the community through whatever means or mechanisms we have at our disposal,” said Lakeland Police Assistant Chief Bill LePere. “Traditional media releases, expecting the local print media to pick it up and run it in the newspaper tomorrow, is 24 hours too late.”
With Twitter and Facebook, there is immediacy. Information can be shared as quickly as the poster can hit send.
Public safety officials are finding the use of sites to be not only speedy, but also a convenient way to distribute press releases, Amber alerts, road closings and suspect descriptions.
Bruce Frazier, public relations specialist for the Dalton Police Department in Dalton, Georgia, said the way in which Lakeland police utilized Twitter is exactly what he envisioned when his department started using the site a few weeks ago.
His department has a blog and Frazier said he learned the value of being able to keep the public updated quickly in October after a bombing at an area law firm.
“[The bombing occurred] across the street from an elementary school,” he recalled. “I was on the scene there pounding away on my PDA trying to send out press releases letting people know what was going on with the evacuation, what they needed to do to pick up their kids.”
“If we had been using something like Twitter, it would have been something quick that I could have been able to send something out from my PDA.”
With Twitter, users have up to 140 characters per “tweet,” which is their lingo for a message. Each Twitter user can have “followers” who receive notification of the user’s updates.
Most of the police and fire departments number their followers in the dozens or hundreds, but many said the word can spread quickly when followers “re-tweet” to their friends or post the information from Twitter on their Facebook accounts.
After a bank robbery last fall in a neighboring city, Droll began twittering what she was hearing on the police radio, including a description of the alleged suspect.
“I knew that you can turn on the alerts on mobile devices, so I thought that if there were people following that are getting this information on their phones, it just creates an extra set of eyes for us,” she said. “It’s a different way to open up communication with the community.”
Greg Whisenant, CEO of CrimeReports.com, said that given the state of the economy, those in public safety need to take advantage of every opportunity available to help citizens become more informed.
“Budgets are getting cut and we need to find new and innovative ways to use tools to our advantage to engage the public,” said Whisenant, whose site aids law enforcement agencies in communicating crime data to the public.
The Boca Raton Police Department in Florida uses Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to communicate with residents.
Mark Economou, public information manager for the department, said that like other police agencies, he follows the rules of what is public information in deciding what to post and tries to balance the public’s right to know with the need not to annoy.
“You don’t want to inundate people by sending out too many tweets,” said Economou, who added that he has used the site to publicize stories like the officer and citizen of the year, which might otherwise not get as much attention in the press. “You really want to pick and choose what you send out.”
In Shawnee, Oklahoma, residents can follow the police and fire departments on Twitter.
Stephen Nolen, chief information officer there, said he has heard Twitter referred to as “a police scanner for the digital world,” because those who have an interest in police and firefighting can stay informed through the site.
Police officials said they aren’t concerned about the public flocking to an active crime scene because they receive a tweet about an occurrence.
“It’s no different than the media showing up and broadcasting live feeds from the area, citizens in the area that call their friends or post video from their cell phones on YouTube,” said LePere. “I don’t expect that we are going to get a massive influx of people.”
CONGRATS to the family!!
Dateline: HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y.
A Long Island police officer has one delivery he’ll never forget. Peter Jurgensen delivered his son after his wife went into labor in their car.
The off-duty Suffolk County police officer was driving his pregnant wife, Kristen, from their Riverhead home to the hospital, when just before 5 a.m. Wednesday she said the baby was about to arrive.
Jurgensen pulled into a gas station in Hampton Bays and with phone coaching from Southampton Town Police dispatcher Tammy Wilson delivered his son Ethan as emergency responders arrived.
A statement from the police department says the family was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and are doing well. The statement ended by extending the department’s congratulations to all.
I don’t know who chose it, but Boomer is an EXCELLENT NAME for a bomb sniffing dog:)!
When a bomb threat comes in to the Cumberland County Courthouse, valuable minutes tick by while the county Sheriff’s Department waits for a neighboring police department to send a K-9 unit to search the facility.
But soon, that outside help won’t be necessary.
On Friday, Sheriff Robert Austino introduced the newest member of the Sheriff’s Department: Boomer, a 14-month-old black Labrador retriever.
Boomer and his partner, Sheriff’s Officer Craig Johnson, are set to enter the State Police K-9 Academy at Fort Dix next week for 12 to 14 weeks of bomb-detection training.
Once they finish training, Boomer and Johnson will be assigned to the courthouse, said Austino, who took office in January.
Austino said Boomer came from a kennel in North Carolina that guarantees the dog will complete training successfully. If not, the kennel replaces the dog for free, he said.
The total cost for adding the K-9 unit is about $10,000, including equipment and training, said Joseph Sever, coordinator of the county’s Office of Emergency Management.
Sever said the money came from federal Homeland Security funding provided to the county.
Austino said the departure in December of K-9 Officer John Butschky left a gap at the sheriff’s department. Butschky transferred to the Millville Police Department, taking with him a bomb-sniffing dog and another K-9 that specializes in narcotics detection and patrol work.
Austino said Friday he didn’t agree with then-Sheriff Michael Barruzza’s decision to approve the lateral transfer, but added the dogs would be of little use without their handler even though they belonged to the county.
The sheriff said he would like to add a second K-9 unit to his department at some point, to replace the other dog that departed with Butschky.
Johnson was selected for the K-9 unit from among several other officers who applied, Austino said.
Johnson, 43, joined the sheriff’s department in May, after working as a security officer at a nuclear facility.
“I’ve always loved dogs,” Johnson said Friday, with his new partner by his side. “I thought, ‘why don’t I make this part of my job?’”
Plus, he said, “at least I know I’ll always like my partner.”
The Sheriff’s Office could put more deputies on Pontiac streets than the current number of police officers — and for the same amount of money, said Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. In a proposal presented to the Pontiac City Council this week, Bouchard said the city’s $10.8 million annual public safety budget could fund a Pontiac-based substation with 84 deputies. The Pontiac Police Department employs 65 sworn officers. “We’re not pushing this,” Bouchard said. “If they decide to contract with is, we’ll give them excellent service.”
The proposal was requested by the mayor and City Council and required by a consent agreement signed by officials last year to explore ways to reduce the city’s deficit — now projected at $7.1 million — and ultimately avoid a state takeover of the city’s finances.
The sheriff’s offer is a small but significant step toward the possibility of disbanding the city’s police force.
“We have to look at the whole picture,” said City Council President Art McClellan Jr. But “based on what we’ve seen so far, it gives us enough to look at it a little deeper.”
Before any decision is made, residents would have their chance to weigh in on the issue, he said.
Deputies in recent years have been assisting the city’s department, which has become decimated with layoffs, offering crime analysis and narcotics enforcement.
In response to an uptick in crime, state and county authorities stepped up support last year by assisting with traffic enforcement and investigations.
A November ballot item would have raised taxes and enabled the city to rehire at least 15 officers, but voters rejected it, likely because of its unclear language.
Meanwhile, the city’s financial plight came under harsh scrutiny from the state.
This month, Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared a financial emergency in the city. City officials are still awaiting word on whether Granholm will revoke that determination or appoint a financial manager.
Pontiac isn’t the first to consider contracting police services.
In 2005, Mount Clemens shuttered its police department and contracted with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office after an audit found the city in deficit, with less than $200,000 available for emergency expenditures.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office provides contractual law enforcement to 14 communities.
But according to a police union official, Pontiac could incur additional costs if it accepted the sheriff’s offer, including pension payouts, unemployment benefits and health care to officers who don’t end up getting hired by the county force.
“I don’t see where there’s a savings,” said Fred Timpner, executive director of the Michigan Association of Police.
Timpner said he plans to present to the City Council this month a case for retaining the city’s department.
A Washington state trooper thought he was pulling someone over in the HOV lane on Interstate 405 because the passenger wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
It turns out the passenger was a real dummy.
No, seriously. The passenger was really a dummy.
It happened during the Wednesday afternoon rush hour in King County. The trooper spotted a 1987 Honda Civic going northbound in the HOV lane, apparently with two people inside. But the passenger wasn’t buckled in and appeared to be sitting very still.
The trooper stopped the car, walked up to the passenger’s window and discovered the passenger was actually a realistic-looking homemade dummy, complete with a ball cap and a white, flowing beard.
The driver confessed he had been using the dummy for a few days. He also told the trooper he lives on Camano Island and couldn’t tolerate sitting in traffic any longer.
Instead, he’ll have to tolerate a $124 fine for driving solo in the carpool lane.
Family Needed Emergency Power For Daughter’s Ventilator
Quick thinking by a Nebraska state trooper is being credited for saving the life of a 9-month-old baby girl who nearly stopped breathing on Interstate 80.
Steve Engel said he and his wife, Jill, were driving from Omaha to Lincoln on Monday when they hit a weigh station on I-80 and realized their daughter’s ventilator wasn’t working. Ella Engel relies on the ventilator to make sure that she continues breathing.
“Her lungs are developing, but she needs the ventilator to survive right now,” Steve Engel said.
The girl was born three months premature, weighing in at just 17 ounces.
Her parents said they were at the weigh station and needed to find help within minutes. She spent her first seven months in intensive care and the next two months driving back and forth to hospitals, using the ventilator.
On Monday, it lost power and stopped working.
“We had started going low battery, so we knew we were out of luck with time,” Steve Engel said.
The family was at the weigh station just each of the Lancaster County line and in desperate need of help. Trooper Nathan Veal, who spends most of his day weighing big rigs, was the right man at the right time.
“The infant appeared pale and looked like she was struggling to breathe a little bit,” Veal said.
He rushed into action and found a place for the family to plug in the machine.
“We got her ventilator plugged in and within a matter of a few seconds, she was getting back to normal,” Veal said.
“We’re just thankful for him to be there, to usher us in so quickly, because we were down to the last few seconds on the ventilator,” said Steve Engel.
“I do feel really good that I was here,” said Veal. “It was an instance of being at the right place at the right time.”
The Nebraska State Patrol says that a permanent memorial, designed to honor Nebraska Law Enforcement officers who have died or been killed in the line of duty, is nearing completion.
That memorial will include names of several officers from this area, including that of York Police Officer James M. Richardson, II.
Officer Richardson was shot and killed at about 10:35 p.m., on Friday, April 22, 1977, while responding to a disturbance call at 1520 Blackburn Ave. When Richardson arrived, he stepped out to assess the situation. He was shot near his parked patrol car and staggered about 25 feet before falling on the lawn of the Arbor Drive Baptist Church. A 17-year-old suspect was apprehended about an hour later near the York Middle School. Officer Richardson was 24 years old and single at the time of his death.
The memorial, according to Deb Collins, spokesperson for the NSP, said this week that the Nebraska Law Enforcement Memorial will stand adjacent to the future Nebraska Fire and Rescue Memorial in Grand Island (near Fonner Park), and is scheduled for completion this May. A dedication of the memorial is planned to coincide with National Police Week (May 10-16) and National Peace Officer Memorial Day (May 15).
“We can’t imagine a better opportunity to recognize Nebraska law enforcement officers who’ve lost their lives than with the dedication of a memorial in their honor,” said Sarpy County Lt. Russ Zeeb, who is also president of the Nebraska Law Enforcement Memorial Committee.
The memorial will contain the names of 130 officers in Nebraska who have died or been killed in the line of duty, dating back to 1866.
“It is the goal of the NLEMC to try and find as many family members or survivors of these brave officers as possible to participate in the memorial dedication,” Lt. Zeeb said. “We would encourage anyone with ties to these people to get in touch with us.”
Also included in the list of names on the memorial is that of Nebraska State Trooper Michael D. Farber, who was killed in Hamilton County. He was struck by a motor vehicle and killed at about 4:50 p.m., on Sunday, Aug. 24, 1980, during an attempt to stop a suspect involved in a pursuit. Trooper Farber died about six miles east of Aurora on Interstate 80. A 15-year-old suspect had failed to pay for gas at the Pleasant Dale Interchange west of Lincoln, and another trooper stopped the suspect near the Utica exit. The individual tried to escape and the trooper gave chase. Farber took up a position along I-80 near the Hampton Interchange and waited for the pursuit to approach his location. As the suspect approached Farber’s position, he suddenly swerved into the eastbound lane still headed west. Farber had deployed his patrol car in the median and as the suspect approached, his car suddenly swerved off the interstate and into Farber and his unit. Farber was killed instantly. Trooper Farber was 24 years old and survived by his wife, Colleen. The couple was expecting their first child who, following his birth, was named after his father.
The memorial also honors the memory of Sergeant Ron Phillips, a Polk County Deputy Sheriff, who died on Monday, Jan. 26, 2004, from a heart attack suffered after attempting to dig out his patrol car during a snow storm. Having made his “on duty” call, Sergeant Phillips became stuck in the snow and attempted to free the vehicle himself. He eventually called a tow truck, whose driver discovered Phillips slumped over in the front seat. Emergency personnel were immediately dispatched, however he was later pronounced dead at Annie Jeffrey Memorial County Health Center in Osceola. Sergeant Phillips was 56 years old and was survived by his wife, Jennifer, and his two sons, Shannon and Matthew.
Family members of such officers are asked to contact the Nebraska Law Enforcement Memorial Committee at NLME@nememorial.org or call 643-3606.