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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2019 LMCIT Dividend: “It’s in the mail!”

“Enclosed is a check for your share of the $2.5 million dividend being returned to members of the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust property/casualty program for 2019.” That’s the opening sentence of the information letter that accompanied the 1,208 dividend checks mailed out late last week to Insurance Trust members. 

The letter explains the formula used to determine how the dividend amounts were calculated. And it describes how the amounts are impacted by changing loss patterns, actuarial projections, investment results, legislative and coverage changes. 

Envelope Stuffing
About two weeks ago, an email was sent to staff at the League announcing the date and location for stuffing the dividend envelopes. This has become a bit of a ritual, and staff filled the room before the official starting time. I felt lucky to get in. It is extremely well organized to ensure the correct check and information sheets end up together in an envelope and then put into the completed box. The room was amazingly quiet as staff worked through their line of checks going out to member cities and numerous joint powers boards.

Occasionally someone announces they need to leave for a meeting and there is always one or two staff members in the wings to take their spot. The process does not miss a beat. As people complete the line-up of checks, they leave and return to their desks. The whole process takes less than an hour. 

As I look around the room, I know everyone at the table has other work and projects to complete and yet they are here, crammed into a conference room stuffing envelopes. There is a source of pride working for the Trust membership — and this is just one very tangible example of that. 

A shout-out to Sarah Fredricks and Laura Honeck for organizing the process and for directing traffic on “stuffing day.”

Up next: An LMC City Speak podcast on “Mental Health Crises and How Police Respond” with Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering

Stay safe,

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

National Trends in Social Media

The impact of officers’ postings on social media continues to be a concern for the public safety community. I recently attended a national law enforcement risk management conference, and — like many conferences — there were a series of classes on a range of topics presented over the course of a few days. And the subject of social media postings came up over and over again.

It came up in the very first presentation, which focused on what is happening nationally. They discussed how social media postings by officers was impacting liability litigation (and not for the better).

A couple hours later in a session entitled “Toxic Internal Liabilities,” it was raised again as a factor in multiple internal investigations of discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment cases. At one point, the presenter said: “This is coming from within our organizations.”

The concern is focused on staff who post comments on social media that reflect a less- than-professional image. Some of the postings reflected a bias, while others were more subtle such as “liking” a very offensive comment. And they even looked at who the officers acknowledged as their online “friends.”

Officers’ social media postings came up again in a class that examined police liability cases. The instructors reviewed a variety of cases, discussing the facts and factors that helped them decide whether to try the case in court or to pursue a settlement. The review included the social media postings of the officers involved, and whether the postings would impact trying the case.

The class on internal affairs investigations raised the topic again — and the word “scandal” began to creep into the discussion.

Whether it’s a critical incident, an internal investigation, a pending civil case, or a criminal investigation, investigators and attorneys are racing to find out what the officers involved have posted online. Many online postings make a good case into a difficult one and can certainly mitigate any case. I came away thinking that there are the facts of the case, and then there is the self-imposed liability of the officer’s online presence.

Now I bet you’re thinking: so what else is new? That’s my point. This is not new, and yet it continues to occur. And it is all self-induced. The job is tough enough without officers adding to their liability with their social media presence.

As the conference was ending, I asked one of the presenters if he and the other speakers had planned to feature the topic across all of the presentations. He frowned and said they had not, adding that this topic is that wide-ranging of a problem.

Up next: We Team Up with HR on Handling Internal Complaints

Stay safe,

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Fall 2019 Recap: Beyond the Training and Presentations

A panel at this fall's Chisholm Regional Meeting
included (L-R) Police Chief Vern Manner,
LMC Deputy Director Luke Fischer,
LMCIT Field Representative Tracy Stille,
and LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht.
It has been a busy fall with three police workshops, eight Regional Meetings, and the Mental Health First Aid class.

The police workshops — Force Science’s Realistic De-Escalation — were well attended and certainly added to the officers’ tools in handling these difficult cases. One officer told me it “filled in the gaps” for him based on his previous training and experience. The use of body cameras, squad cameras, and surveillance video recordings helped illustrate the course objectives, and use of the “Azar-Dickens Police Assessment Matrix” helped officers understand the behavior they were seeing. And yes, as some of you noticed, the training aligns with the PATROL online courses on this subject.

The Regional Meetings focused on region-specific topics and a legislative update. This year it also included a panel discussion covering “Insights on How Your City and Council Can Support First Responders.” The panel included a local police chief at each location, LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht, and a representative of the League’s Insurance Trust. LMC Deputy Director Luke Fisher moderated. I was on the panel in Thief River Falls, and we were about a minute into the discussion when we had our first question from a city official. It was like that at each location. I want to extend a special thank you to the chiefs who participated in this important panel discussion and shared their personal experiences:

-Chief Mike Hedlund (East Grand Forks PD)
-Chief Naomi Plautz (Wadena PD)
-Chief Vern Manner (Chisholm PD)
-Chief Jim Felt, (Willmar PD)
-Chief Dave Bentrud (Waite Park PD)
-Chief Matt Andres (Sleepy Eye PD)
-Chief David McKichan, (Austin PD)
-Chief Stephanie Revering (Crystal PD)

Mental Health First Aid for firefighters was held in Windom on November 1 and 2, and it was a full class. During this two-day course, attendees discussed what they may encounter in the field and how to help defuse the situation. Calm conversations, open ended questions, and non-judgmental conversations are all skills to better improve the one-on-one conversations with someone in a mental health crisis. This is our fourth year of partnering with Fairview Hospitals sponsoring this national course and its importance is only increasing.

Finally, I want to mention all of the questions and comments that you brought to our staff. Many of these start out with the words “I didn’t want to bother you,” or “This is probably not that important.” It’s what happens when we have face-to-face contact that the threshold for reaching out or asking a question is lower. It was all important, and more often than not I did not know the answer but found someone who did. And many of you shared your insights, thoughts, and experiences that provided context — particularly in the mental health topics.

I thank all of you for attending, participating, and asking questions.

Up next: National Trends in Social Media

Stay safe,