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Monday, November 23, 2020

Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence

A guest Post by LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Tracy Stille

Police officers are frequently the first responders to situations that pose threats to the safety and well-being of children. Whether it’s a call about domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, or homicide, the police are in an important position to identify and initiate the process of recovery for children and families traumatized by violence. 

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Yale Child Study Center have compiled resources and tools necessary to equip and train law enforcement agencies across the nation to identify and respond to these violent events, including death notifications. 

Police officers need to understand and recognize the acute signs of traumatic distress often associated with events that require intervention, as well learn the various law enforcement strategies that allow children and families to heal, recover, and re-establish a sense of security and stability. 

When children are not quickly identified and supported in recovery following exposure to violence, they are at greater risk for a number of factors including school failure, mental health and substance abuse disorders, involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and perpetration of community violence —  along with a number of other risk factors.

A Toolkit for Law Enforcement

The IACP and Yale have launched a toolkit (linked below) for law enforcement leaders and frontline officers that provides practical tools and resources to assist law enforcement agencies in building or enhancing effective operational responses to children exposed to violence. The toolkit includes an organizational self-assessment and action-planning tool, along with recommended operational protocols and tools to integrate into an agency’s existing practices and approaches. 

Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence: A Toolkit for Law Enforcement

Free Online Training

The New Haven Connecticut Department of Police Service has been instrumental in the development of some online training in this area. They lent their professional expertise to ensuring that case scenarios were realistic and consistent with law enforcement practices, and that they represent a range of possible differences in police attitudes and level of engagement. 

The IACP, in partnership with the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at the Yale Child Study Center, and the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, has launched this online training series to help prepare frontline officers to identify and respond to children exposed to violence. 

The online training series will enable officers to identify and interact with children of all ages who have been exposed to violent and potentially traumatic events using both developmentally appropriate and trauma-informed approaches. 

This five-module interactive course combines a number of learning styles and incorporates scenarios for participants to test new knowledge and practice new skills. This course has been certified by IADLEST as part of the National Certification Program for continuing education credits in more than 35 states and has been submitted to the MN Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) for consideration of approval.

I recently completed this training, and the course is offered at no cost to law enforcement and their multidisciplinary partners. It may also be beneficial for mental health practitioners and co-responders working with law enforcement.

Register here:

You may contact me via email at with any questions or give me a phone call at (651) 215-4051.

Remember:  Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: 2021 PATROL News

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful -

Monday, November 9, 2020

Winter Driving Tips

A guest post by Bob Swenson, Director of Advance Driving Skills at the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center

Greetings from the desk of a retired police officer of 28 years. I also taught for the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center for nine years and am currently the Director of Advance Driving Skills at the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center

I’d like to share some all-year — and especially winter — driving tips.

First lesson: no one is exempt from the laws of physics. 

I could tell you stories of personal experience and what I’ve witnessed. If you’ve been in a squad car for a couple winters, you’ve seen what a lack of attention — or failing to slow down for the conditions — can lead to. 

Guest author Bob Swenson
In late October we saw 7 inches of snow at Hazel Lake (north of Staples), an early taste of winter. Already I have driven through fresh slushy snow to get to the well-maintained county road. I did some “research” with the traction control, electronic stability control, and anti-lock braking system. I was reacquainted with winter driving conditions.

Things to remember in your 360-degree environment:

  1. Drive smart — never ignore road and weather conditions. Your number one priority is to get from point A to point B without crashing or leaving the roadway. Speed kills.
  2. Keep your vision up and scan out every 12-15 seconds to spot changing conditions. Traffic, road, and weather conditions can change quickly. Reduced lighting changes your perspective. Always be looking for a safe escape path. Play the “what if” game. 
  3. Do not forget to turn your head. Scan intersections early and often.
  4. Leave room around you to maneuver. At least 3 seconds of following distance is needed on a good day. More following distance is needed for poor weather, heavier traffic, and low light.
  5. Friction is finite. Keep friction, keep control. Slow down early. Speed up slowly.
  6. Modern technology is an assistant, not to be relied on to make up for you being in a hurry.
  7. Practice your driving on compromised friction. Use a parking lot or snowy road.  Feel what electronic stability control can do for you. Use your anti-lock braking system on both good and reduced friction. Try the traction control. You do not want to be surprised by how your vehicle reacts. 
  8. If you get stuck, you may be able to get moving again by turning off the traction control and rocking the vehicle out.
  9. Cut out distractions. That split second when you take your eyes and/or mind off your driving can be deadly. Driving is a priority. Slowing down is a must. Use the radio instead of the computer or text.
  10. Tires: make sure you have appropriate tires with good tread. Part of the friction equation includes decent tires.
Second lesson learned: No one is exempt from the laws of physics. 

Up next: A resource for traumatized children

Be safe and serve well,

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Election Security: Things to Remember

A guest post by Research Attorney Jacob Glass

The 2020 U.S. elections has resulted in new challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and national unrest. In the United States, the nation’s 3,069 counties traditionally administer and fund elections at the local level, including overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers for federal, state, and local elections. 

County election officials work diligently with federal, state, and other local election officials to ensure the safety and security of our voting systems and polling locations. County election officials strive to administer elections in a way that is accurate, safe, secure, and accessible for all voters.

Counties, along with municipal clerks, hire and train poll workers to ensure they are well equipped to assist voters and protect against voter fraud or other security risks. Additionally, election officials are prepared for a wide range of “hard security” challenges at polling locations — including mitigating natural disasters, following protocols for an active shooter, civil demonstrations, fire, severe weather, and other emergencies. 

Along with the guidance below, law enforcement, city clerks, and county auditors should take the time now to plan and be on the same page for any incident that might occur at a polling place. Make sure officers working on election day have a clear understanding of where polling places are in the community, since these locations can change from one election to the next. 

The following information may be helpful to discuss in advance as well:

First Amendment issues related to elections, signs, etc.

  • Signs cannot be displayed within 100 feet of the polling place, unless they are being displayed on private property.
  • In the polling place, individuals cannot display campaign T-shirts, buttons, or literature which relate to specific candidates, official political parties, or questions on the ballot that day. These items will need to be either covered up or removed while in the polling place.

First Amendment audits/recording in polling places (non-media)

There is no law that strictly prohibits taking photos or videos in the polling place. However, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State discourages this activity for the following reasons:

  • Voters have a right to privacy, both as to how an individual has voted as well as whether or not an individual has voted. Either or both of these could be compromised by pictures or video. In addition, other voters' objections to being photographed could lead to disruptions within the polling place.
  • When voter turnout is high there may be lines and polling places may be crowded. Voters have a right to take the time they need to vote but should not take extra time to take pictures.
  • Minnesota Statutes 204C.17 and Minnesota Statutes 204C.18 prohibit voters from showing their marked ballot to others. Taking photographs or video of your own marked ballot could violate this prohibition.

Police in polling places

  • Peace officers shouldn’t be in polling places unless requested. They are not allowed within 50 feet of a polling place except to vote or respond to request for aid.

Campaigning restrictions

  • No one can campaign inside the polling place or within 100 feet of the building. If the polling place is on public property, no one can campaign anywhere on the property, even beyond 100 feet. However, the prohibition of signs and campaign materials within 100 feet does not apply to adjacent private property. For additional information, please reference Minn. Stat. Sec. 211B.11 “Election Day Prohibitions” & Minn. Stat. Sec. 204C.06 “Conduct in and near polling places.”
  • No one can use undue influence to compel an individual to vote for or against a candidate or ballot question. For more information on what constitutes undue influence, see Minn. Stat. Sec. 211B.07.


  • Gov. Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-81 requires that masks be worn in public places, including polling places. The Secretary of State's Office has provided counties with posters informing voters of this requirement. 
  • No voter will be denied the right to vote for failure to wear a mask. If a voter walks in without a mask, please offer them one. If despite the offer they don’t take it, ask them to please wear a mask. If they still refuse to wear a mask, offer an alternative solution such as voting in the hallway or doing curbside voting in a vehicle. If they are still persistent on not wearing a mask or conducting their vote in an alternative way, you must give them a ballot.

Voters lingering in polling place

  • People may not gather or linger in the polling place or within 100 feet of the building in which the polling place is located. One exception is an individual conducting an exit poll. Exit polls cannot be conducted within the polling place but may be conducted anywhere outside of the room being used as the polling place. An individual conducting an exit poll may only approach voters as they leave the polling place after having voted to ask them to take an anonymous written questionnaire.

Security risks

It is important that poll workers be aware of and train for any possible security risks at their polling locations including the following precautions and prevention measures:

  • Use of physical security checklists prior to Election Day.
  • How to handle emergencies and call 911 when safe to do so.
  • What to do if you receive or observe a threat and when to evacuate a polling location.
  • Emergency evacuation routes and exits at a polling location. 
  • Active shooter training (Run. Hide. Fight or similar training). 
  • When to notify law enforcement and what to expect when law enforcement arrives.
  • Recognizing the warning signs of escalating behavior and reporting violence indicators.
  • Emergency assembly areas.
  • Familiarization with the election emergency plan. 

Elections plan

  • County election officials must develop a county elections emergency plan to be made available for use in all state, county, municipal, and school district elections held in that county. Cities, towns and school districts may create a local elections emergency plan that meets the requirements of the county elections emergency plan. For additional information, please reference Minn. Stat. sec. 204B.181.

Permit to carry regulations

  • Minnesota has no statutes that prohibit firearms in a polling location unless the polling location is specifically described in statute as being an area or building (courthouse complexes, school zones, etc.) that prohibits the carrying of a firearm with a valid permit under MN statute 624.714.
  • However, if the polling place is in a private building that has banned guns on their property, that prohibition continues even on Election Day, as the polling place (church, private school, union hall, or other) is still the landlord and has a right to continue to ban guns.

Up next: Winter driving

Stay safe,