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Thursday, January 16, 2020

HERO Center

The HERO Training Center — the state’s newest public safety training facility — had its grand opening this week in Cottage Grove. The full name of the facility is the Health Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Training Center.

The project budget was $20.5 million: including an $11 million contribution from the State of Minnesota, and the remaining was funded by the cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury. In addition to providing a safe location for EMS, fire and police to train, “it will create opportunities for hosting community-based safety education and training including CPR, firearms, and recreational vehicle training.”

The center is well laid out to allow multiple groups to use it at the same time. The center contains two indoor firearms ranges, with the larger one being 50 yards long, 12 lanes wide, and having the ability to bring a squad car in as a prop. There is a large mat room, a two-story tactical training area with moveable walls, a firearms simulator, and ample classrooms. The technology for the classrooms was donated by the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission.

Two “reality-based training houses” are located outside toward the rear of the main building. One house is a split-entry and the other is a rambler-style home that both have breach doors and tactical entry doors. The site has two acres of fields reserved for outdoor and K9 training.

The facility can be reserved by contacting the training center manager, Dan Anselment, at (651) 458-2811 or at danselment@herocentermn.org.

By the size of the crowd at the grand opening, there is a lot of interest and community pride in the project. We congratulate the cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury — and their staff — on the completion of the center and a job well done.

Up next: The League’s New Position Dedicated to Mental Health and First Responders

Stay safe,
Rob

Thursday, December 26, 2019

First Amendment Audits

A guest blog by Amber Eisenschenk, League of Minnesota Cities Research Manager.

Minnesota cities have seen an uptick in First Amendment audits recently. A First Amendment audit is often done when one or two people with video cameras or smartphones enter city property to see if the city allows them on public property or if the police force them to leave. The video is usually livestreamed on YouTube and shared with a network of followers. This can catch city employees by surprise and make some feel uneasy about security.

To help your city understand First Amendment audits, we’ve answered some common questions you might have:

Q: Can auditors come into city hall and record whatever they want?
A: Individuals can record whatever they like when they have a lawful right to be there. For example, during business hours, a person may come into city hall and record from spaces that any member of the public would normally be allowed to be in.

Q: Can the city restrict access to parts of our building?
A: First Amendment auditors have the right to enter public buildings and should have the same access as any other member of the public. We do encourage cities to consider public access and security before you are visited by auditors. Considering where the public should have access to within your city buildings is a city-specific decision. You can consult with a League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) loss control representative about this type of security. Having “staff only” areas that are restricted by signs or locked doors is likely a good practice. If your building has meeting rooms, you may also want to consider keeping those locked when not in use as a general safety precaution.

Q: I don’t want to be recorded. Can I tell them to stop recording me? 
A: No. As a public employee working in a public place, you may be recorded. It is common for the auditors to want to know your name and job title. This is public information and you should give it to them. If you respond quickly and professionally, they often move on faster. When you hesitate to give a First Amendment auditor public data, or ask why they want it, that often leads them to stay longer. If you have concerns about this, please speak to your supervisor.

Q: Can I record them back?
A: This is probably not a good tactic. As a city employee, that would likely be creating government data.

Q: Should I call the police? 
A: It is not illegal for people to record in a public place. If there is other behavior that is threatening, follow city policies for notifying law enforcement about your concerns.

Q: Are they allowed to record outside our buildings and in our parking lots?
A: Unless the city has restricted access, those areas are public, and they may record. Common ways to restrict access to an outside area include the usage of signs and/or locked fences.

Do you want more information on First Amendment audits? Submit your questions on the League’s website.

Up Next: Q&A with Our Human Resources Staff on Handling Internal Complaints

Stay safe and happy holidays,
Rob

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Podcast Episode on Mental Health Crises and How Police Respond

The League of Minnesota Cities podcast, City Speak, has an episode on police response to mental health crisis calls. It is a conversation between Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering and Adriana Temali-Smith from the League’s Engagement and Learning department.

In the episode, Chief Revering talks about the increase in the number of mental health crisis calls her department is handling (which is typical statewide), the officers’ training for handling the calls, and de-escalation. She stresses the importance of partnerships and her goals for additional partnerships to better handle these calls for service.

The chief also mentions the amount of time her officers spend on these calls, which is something I hear often from departments around the state. And she illustrates many of her points with stories from calls her officers have handled.

I thank Chief Revering for her time and for allowing the public to learn about this critically important area of police work. She kept it conversational — which is not easy to do when you are sitting across the table from someone you just met, in front of large chrome microphone — and talking about this important and relevant topic.

I also thank Adriana Temali-Smith and her team for recognizing the importance of having this conversation, and for all of the research they did in preparation for recording the episode. The podcast is on our website and can be downloaded.

You can listen to the “Mental Health Crises and How Police Respond” podcast episode here.

Up next: First Amendment Audits

Stay safe,
Rob