Don't Miss Rob's First Post!

So why is Rob writing a blog anyway? Read here to find out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Save the Date for the 2016 Safety & Loss Control Works6ops

The topics are timely:

  • Preparing for media encounters
  • Conducting internal employment investigations
  • Building a diverse police force

These are the themes for this year’s Police Track at our LMCIT 2016 Safety & Loss Control Workshops. The police sessions will be in the morning, and we are applying for 3 POST continuing education credits. Lunch is included, and officers are also encouraged to attend the afternoon sessions—check out the City Hall Safety session or the Technology Track.

In addition to the sessions, our staff welcomes the opportunity to interact with our membership and to engage in those important one-on-one discussions. 

Here are the dates and locations for the 2016 workshops:

March 22 - Bemidji
March 23 - Fergus Falls
March 31 - Biwabik
April 6 - Springfield
April 7 - Willmar
April 12 - St. Cloud
April 20 - Brooklyn Park
April 26 - Rochester
April 28 - St. Paul

Want to know more about the upcoming workshops? Find out more on the League's website.

Up Next: The Stretch-and-Bend Program for Police, and Tracy Stille’s IACP Experience

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Calls

Photo credit: D. Klein
Public safety calls over the holidays are memorable. We asked two of our LMCIT field consultants to relate stories about their holiday calls: Tracy Stille was a police officer for more than 30 years and retired as a commander for the City of Maple Grove, and Troy Walsh is an assistant fire chief for the City of Victoria.

A Christmas Miracle by Tracy Stille

About 20 years ago—just before Christmas—I had started my 6 a.m. day shift when a call came out about a deer that was possibly injured in the woods behind a residence on Cedar Island Lake. I arrived and met an older woman who said she had been watching what she thought was an injured deer near a tree down by the lake. She pointed to a group of trees that were about 60-70 yards away, and said she had watched the deer for the past hour or so. I looked out the window but did not see a deer, and I told her that I would walk down by the lake to see if I could find anything.

It was very cold outside as the temperature had dipped into the low teens. I went back to my squad and retrieved my gloves and stocking hat along with my winter jacket to make the walk thru the snow to the group of trees down by the lake.

I walked around the trees and saw what the caller thought was a deer. I remember that I ran the rest of the distance to the tree. I found a small girl about 7-8 years old sitting on the frozen snow-covered ground with her back against a tree. She was dressed in her pajamas and had snow boots on. I attempted to speak to her, but she was so cold she couldn’t speak. She was obviously suffering from hypothermia and was extremely cold.

I radioed dispatch and requested an ambulance and an additional squad car. The girl could not tell me her name or where she lived. I picked her up and carried her the 60 yards or so to the nearby house. I remember how difficult it was to carry her out of the woods due to the snow and the distance.

Tracy Stille
The woman who called was surprised to learn that what she saw was actually a small girl in her pajamas. We attempted to warm her with a blanket while we waited for the ambulance. I could not get her boots off, as they were frozen onto her feet. She was shivering, her pulse was weak, and she continued to have trouble speaking. I radioed the dispatcher to have the ambulance “step it up.” The women recognized the girl from a home down the block.

The paramedics arrived, determined the little girl’s body temperature was extremely low, and said they would be transporting her immediately. One paramedic stated that it was the most extreme case of hypothermia he had ever seen and said that the boots would have to be cut off in the emergency room. I remember the paramedic saying that if she had been outside any longer, she would not be alive.

As the ambulance left, I went to the home where I thought the girl lived and spoke to the girl’s mother. She was shocked and concerned and told me her daughter frequently walks in her sleep but had never gone outside before. The mother thought her daughter was still asleep in her bed. I gave her directions to the hospital and asked that she go there immediately.

I have thought of this call often over the years and how lucky that young girl was to have survived being outside for what was estimated to be many hours. I have never forgotten this call or this little girl and remember the call each time I drive down the road in front of the caller's home. What I didn't know at the time was that this would become one of the most memorable calls of my 30-plus-year career.


The Power of Touch by Troy Walsh

One Christmas Eve, I was dispatched to an EMS call at a residence. When the crew arrived on scene, we were greeted by a large family filled with little children and adults, and they were all concerned about their great-grandma.

I was assigned to the patient and began to talk to her. While talking to her and getting some baseline vitals, we discussed the holidays and all of the family that was there. This wonderful woman described to me that her husband of many years passed last year, and that her grandson wanted the entire family together for the holidays again.

Troy Walsh

We discussed how she was feeling and what discomfort that she was having. She stopped and asked me to place my hand on hers and whisper to her "everything will be all right". I figured this was a little odd, but followed her wishes and did just that. Once the paramedics arrived, I briefed them and began to transition her care to them.

This woman grabbed my hand and said, "Thank you. My husband always said that when I was down, and I miss that," as she kissed my cheek. I will never forget this call and will always remember this wonderful woman.

We know emergency calls on the holidays are the same as ones on any other normal day, but somehow they are also different. Our responders know that their victims, patients, and families will forever link what happened to the holiday—and that holiday will never be the same.


What stories can you share with us about your own memorable holiday calls? Please let us know in the comments section of this blog.

Up Next: Save-the-Date Information on the Spring Safety and Loss Control Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, December 11, 2015

LMCIT Dividend

Staff from departments all over LMC/LMCIT volunteered
to process this year's dividend check mailing.
Soon, members of the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) will receive checks in the mail, and—combined—those checks total more than $16 million. This is the amount that the Trust's property/casualty program is able to return in the form of a dividend this year. LMCIT Operations Manager, Laura Honeck, can better explain the dividend process.

Q. Laura, Why does LMCIT send money back to its members?

A. LMCIT was formed in 1980 by Minnesota cities. It was one of the first municipal self-insurance pools in the country, and it has always operated under a nonprofit philosophy. Cities that are members of LMCIT pay premiums to ensure their property, liability, auto, and workers’ compensation risks are covered. Those premiums go into a member-owned fund, and those funds are used to pay for members’ claims, losses, and expenses. If LMCIT receives more income from premiums and investments than is needed—and if losses turn out to be below LMCIT’s projections—then the extra money goes back to members in the form of a dividend.

Q. What factors lead to this large dividend?

A. A number of factors are weighed, but one of the major drivers behind this year’s dividend is some continued good experience in some of LMCIT’s more significant loss areas. These areas include property damage, land use litigation, employment claims, sewer backups, administrative errors and omissions, and street and sidewalk liability. If we set aside the impact of claims related to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), police liability looks quite positive, too.
Laura Honeck is the operations manager for LMCIT
and also manages the PATROL program for law enforcement.

Q. How is the dividend amount calculated for each member?

A. The dividend is calculated in such a way that it will return a proportionally greater amount to members that have been with LMCIT for a longer period of time and that have been most successful in avoiding and controlling losses. If you’re interested, here are the steps to determine the dividend for each individual member:

Step 1: Each member’s adjusted losses are subtracted from its gross earned premiums for the past 20 years.

Step 2: After calculating Step 1, the remaining dollar amount for each member is added together. This is the total that is used to calculate each individual dividend amount.

Step 3: The amount for each member calculated in Step 1 is then divided by the sum of all members calculated in Step 2. This results in each member’s percentage, or share, of the $16.5 million total that’s available as a dividend this year.

Q. Do you know total historical amount of dividends that has been returned to LMCIT membership?  

A. Of course! Since 1987 (the first year in which LMCIT began returning dividends), the property/casualty program has returned $256 million and the workers’ compensation program has returned $38 million.

Q. Anything else that you would like to add?

A. The ultimate goal of LMCIT is to manage risk—in other words, uncertainty. There’s no guarantee that a dividend will always be returned to members because it is impossible to know precisely what losses will occur or cost in any given year. Dividend amounts will vary from year to year just as they have in the past.

LMCIT will do its best to estimate and project what loss costs will be, and will continue to return to members any funds that aren't needed for losses, expenses, or reserves. While it can’t guarantee future dividends, members should be really proud of their success accomplished in controlling losses during 2015!

Up Next: Working the Holidays—It’s Always Interesting


Monday, November 30, 2015

“They Got It”: The Georgia Training Safety Officer Workshops

Workshops were recently held in Georgia.
The veteran firearms instructor spoke up at a recent Training Safety Officer (TSO) workshop that was held in Dublin, Georgia. The class was discussing how the risk factors contributing to an accident come together. The instructor explained that his department was one of two departments training on a firearms range and described how the ranges were parallel and separated by a large earth berm. The department on the other range was using a metal target, and the instructor said, “That should have been a red flag.”

He described how he was working with his officers on the five-yard line while the other department was working farther back on their range, near the 25-yard line. He could hear the metal target in the next range ring every time a bullet hit it. Their post-accident investigation discovered that one of the bullets hitting the metal target caused a sharp jagged piece of metal to break off from the target, fly up and over the earth berm, striking one of his officers in the neck. His officer, an Army veteran, immediately dropped to the ground and began applying direct pressure. The metal shrapnel missed his jugular vein by fractions of an inch, and he survived.
New Georgia TSOs try on their vests.

The Georgia Local Government Risk Management Services (LGRMS) sponsored the TSO workshops during the last week of October. The classes were filled with deputies and officers from the cities and counties that make up the LGRMS membership. The workshops concluded with the officers presenting safety briefings to the entire class, and they “got it”.

I thank LGRMS staff and particularly Dennis Watts and Natalie Sellers for the opportunity to work with their deputies and officers. Their level of engagement and their willingness to open up and embrace a new program was impressive. And, by the end of the last workshop, they had convinced me that I was one with the accent.

There is an article in the current IACP Police Chief magazine about medical preparedness for firearms ranges. One of their recommendations is: “When steel targets are used, frangible ammo is required.” The article is spot-on. Here is the link.

Up Next: More Dividends for Members!

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

“I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me” / “It Happened So Fast” / “I Wish I Could Do It Over”

Statues of "The Protectors"
Those three lines: “I never thought it would happen to me, it happened so fast, and I wish I could do it over” were woven throughout a presentation by Brian Devlin. Mr. Devlin is a physical therapist and a vice president for Illinois Risk Management Services. He has worked with hundreds of public safety employees who have been injured on the job. “They all say it,” he said as he reflected on his patients speaking about what has happened to them. Why?

“I never thought it would happen to me” may be admitting that there was a denial of the hazards first responders face. When high-risk calls become routine, the recognition of the dangers can start to diminish. In his book Working Fire, The Making of a Fireman, author Zac Unger writes about a structure fire where everything went wrong, and his crew was trying to figure out what happened. A veteran firefighter told the crew that they would never master firefighting when he said, “There is no black belt in this job.”

“It happened so fast” may be the post-accident realization that when things start to go wrong, they can go wrong at a speed that cannot be reversed. There was no time to react or escape. Was it a loss of situational awareness? Or has this happened before, only more slowly—perhaps it was a near miss, and no one got hurt?

“I wish I could do it over” has a ring of sadness to it. It may be the realization that the accident has changed things forever, and they can’t go back. Injuries change people physically, personally, and professionally. They change organizations as well, and you can’t go back.

At an upcoming safety committee meeting, put these three statements on the agenda and have your committee members discuss their thoughts as to what they mean. Mr. Devlin sums it up this way: these are “real-life statements of regret after an injury.”

Up Next: The Training Safety Officer Program goes to Georgia.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Motorcycle in the Lobby

Police station lobbies are interesting places: often they are occupied by people under stress due to a traffic ticket, an impounded car, or a jailed relative. When you add in worried parents, scared victims, insurance adjusters, families with custody disputes, and lawyers, then you have more anxiety than most reality TV shows. Many departments try to soften their station lobbies with old photos, or equipment that tell the history of the department and show a human side to police work.

The motorcycle, along with its story, tower over the lobby.
The Alexandria police station has all of that, plus a motorcycle in their lobby. Or perhaps over their lobby would be a better description. The story board next to it provides the background with its large font heading of “Blast From The Past: The Story Behind The Wheels”.

The cycle is a cream-white, mid 1970’s Honda 450 in absolutely perfect condition. It has the classic 1970’s design, and is complete with red lights, a mechanical siren, and the ability to bring a smile to people’s faces.

In its hey-day, the motorcycle was mainly used for parades
and funeral escorts.
In the mid 1970’s, Alexandria residents Jerry and Margaret VanKampen brought the motorcycle back from a Honda trade show in Japan. The VanKampen’s owned the local Honda dealership and leased the motorcycle to the department. It was mostly used for parades and funeral escorts, and it became a fixture of the community—so much so that the city eventually bought the motorcycle and designed a special spot when they built a new station in 2011.

Alexandria has done a nice job of putting their history on display in their station lobby. There are photos of the former police chiefs, as well as an assortment of old photos and equipment. And they have that beautiful cream-white motorcycle that towers over the lobby and makes people smile.

Up Next: I can’t believe it happened. It happened fast. I wish I could do it over.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Nothing Touches the Truck

I recently heard United Parcel Service (UPS) Supervisor Jonathon Veseley addressing a risk management conference. His theme was building a culture of safety, and he talked about integrating safety throughout an organization—starting with new employee orientation and daily safety messages, to mentoring and safety audits.

Nothing Touches the Truck
One of his themes was “nothing touches the truck.” The phrase represents a visual image for UPS drivers when they drive and park their trucks on their routes. The full message was: the only thing that can touch the outside of the truck are the driver’s hands and feet, and the back bumper when it touches the UPS loading dock. No cars, trucks, people, tree branches, or other objects should touch the truck. They want their drivers to drive defensively and protect the space around the truck, as well as the truck. It reminded me of the National Safety Council’s driving program that stresses maintaining a “cushion of safety” around your vehicle. And the concept works.

Avoidable vs. Fault
Mr. Veseley was asked about avoidable accidents. He said UPS looks at who was at fault in a traffic accident—and even more importantly, they investigate if the accident was preventable. They have investigated accidents where their driver was not at fault, but they determined the accident was preventable. He used an example of a UPS truck that was legally parked on a residential street but had parked opposite a neighbor’s driveway. Murphy’s Law took over as that neighbor backed out of the driveway and struck and damaged the truck. The neighbor was at fault, but it was an avoidable accident for UPS.

Both of these ideas are relevant to our public safety community and might be a good topic for your next safety committee meeting.


                                       Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: The Motorcycle in The Lobby—The Alexandria Police Station

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lakeville PD FTO: Shorter Shifts=More Repetitions

New police officers go through a Field Training Officer (FTO) program once they are hired. The new officers are teamed up with an experienced training officer who instructs and coaches them through the program while they handle incoming police calls. Recently the Lakeville Police Department (LPD) changed the scheduling for their new officers to improve their performance during this training. I interviewed Lakeville’s Deputy Police Chief John Kornmann on what they are doing.

Q. Why did you change your field training officer program?

A. The city of Lakeville experienced significant growth during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Due to the economic downturn of 2008, the LPD did not train a single officer from 2008 to 2011. By 2014, the department was experiencing a hiring boom. After three candidates did not pass the field training program, we began to look at ways to improve. 

One of the issues we discussed was the number of shifts devoted to training new employees. On our 12-hour shifts, the average trainee had 50 shifts to learn the job. Officers who are new to policing must learn the day-to-day routines of putting on the uniform, participating in roll call, logging on to the computer, and taking calls. Fifty days did not seem to be doing the job.

Q. What changes did you make?

A. We decided to try something to improve the socialization aspect of the job. Like all training, repetition is often the key to success. Trainees are now scheduled to work 8-hour shifts, during the high call load times. The trainers still work 12-hour shifts. This arrangement does take some work in the scheduling department. 

Trainees work with two trainers during the week. The result is the trainees now experience 80 shifts devoted to training. During final phases of training, officers are transitioned to the 12-hour shift they will work. This aids in teaching the new officers how to manage their time on 12-hour days versus the eight hours they may be accustomed to, and it further aids in teaching officers what it takes to work here.

Q. What have been the results?

A. The results thus far have been positive. All trainees have made it through FTO using this system. Trainees are more visible to members of the department as they are at work more often. When a trainee has a bad day, only eight hours of training time is used up. A bad day on a 12-hour shift uses up just 3% of training time! Another positive is that the trainers have four hours alone at the end of their shift to complete their FTO paperwork and to remain active with their own police work at the end of their shift.

Q. Anything else?

A. We continue to fine-tune this process but are happy with the result of the changes.

Up next: At UPS, Nothing Touches the Truck

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Foot Pursuits: They are Very High Risk

Foot pursuits are high risk areas.
It’s a scene right out of the movies: The police officer jams on the brakes, the squad car screeches to a stop, the officer jumps out, and starts chasing a suspect. It’s called a foot pursuit and that officer just went through an invisible sign that says “High Risk Area.” That risk applies not only to the officer, but the suspect and the public as well.

LMCIT statistics show that these “high risk-low frequency” events account for 8% of the total police work comp claims, and that injuries from a foot pursuit make up 7% of the total cost for police work comp. Often the officer is alone and this explosion of energy will cause most officers to have tunnel vision, lose situation awareness, and impair their ability to communicate. Frequently, radio transmissions cannot be understood as the officer is trying to catch his or her breath and is somewhat lost as they pursue across the unfamiliar territory that is full of hazards like fences, uneven ground, and clotheslines—adding to the confusion.

Rochester Post Bulletin: “Five People Join Assault of Local Deputy”
A recent event in the Rochester area showed how rapidly the risk can increase during a foot pursuit. The driver of a car who had committed a minor traffic offense ran from the car, and a deputy pursued him on foot. Once the deputy caught him, the man began to fight with the deputy and they were on the ground. Suddenly four more people appeared to assist the suspect with the fight and one of them had the deputy in a choke hold and he began to “black out”. The deputy survived and was released from the hospital that night. Three of the people have been charged—a fourth is expected to be charged soon. 

Foot pursuits are an explosion of risk factors that are out of the control of the officer. The terrain, the suspect’s capabilities, lack of cover, communication issues, and potential ambush are just a few.

Some Risk Management Ideas
Foot pursuits are very high risk.
  1. Know your policy if you have one.  Know where you have the “may’s and shall’s”
  2. Plan ahead and mentally rehearse the factors that warrant this type of risk
  3. Consider slowing down and maintaining a moving surveillance of the suspect
  4. Let the suspect get tired, experience reduced vision, and loss of situational awareness. Save your energy to make the arrest
  5. Coordinating other resources, setting up a perimeter, and maintaining situational awareness is often the best strategy

Up next: Getting more “reps” in a field training officer program.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why Are Fire Trucks Red? (a guest post by LMCIT Field Consultant Troy Walsh)

LMCIT Field Consultant Troy
Walsh has an extensive background
in fire service and public works.
What is your favorite color for a fire truck?

One popular answer to why most fire trucks are red goes something like this: “Because they have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight makes twelve, and there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was also a ship, and the ship sailed the seas, and there were fish in the seas, and fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and the Russian flag is red, and fire trucks are always “Russian” around, so that’s why fire trucks are red!”
Lake Crystal's fire truck is
proud to be orange!

If your city doesn't have a red fire truck, what is the reason why? There is no one answer. Over the years colors have changed because of management, tradition, or just something different. When traveling across Minnesota, you will see a lot of colors for fire trucks, but the most unique deserve a slogan!

Extension Cord Organization

Used 4" or 5" hose helps keep
extension cords organized.
Extension cords are an important tool in the Fire Service, and it is critical to store them in a ready position every time. Looking for an interesting way to store them in the cabinet, and a way to keep them organized?

Take a look around the station and see if you have old 4” or 5” hose laying around. Cut a small piece in the old hose and wrap the cord up and stick it inside. This will keep your cabinets more organized, and when moving other tools it will help reduce the risk of equipment getting tangled up. If you have a marker, you could label the hose with length and type of extension cord. There are always tricks-to-the-trade that will help make the job easier and safer!

Up Next: They are high risk, very high risk—learn more about the hazards of foot pursuits.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Helpful Links for Training

NFPA 2014 Fatality Report
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has released its study of firefighter fatalities for 2014. Overall the numbers in most areas of activity were down, but “sudden cardiac events” continues to be a concern. The report makes a strong case for fitness and wellness programs. Here is the link to the full study:

Did You Know?
The California POST board continues to make roll call videos available on their website. Their “Did You Know” series has won an Emmy award, and they just released a new video on night driving:

IACP Poster
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has a poster entitled “Are You Ready for Duty?” The seven elements on the poster are familiar themes—but this poster serves as more than a reminder. Take the time to read the hard data that supports each element. The seven elements are:

-Wear Your Vest
-Proper Vest Fit
-Physical Readiness
-Mental Readiness
-Off-Duty Vigilance
-Situational Awareness
-Know Your Community

Here is the link to the poster. I encourage you print it and post it someplace where you will see it every shift:

Up next: A guest blog from LMCIT Field Consultant Troy Walsh. Hey Troy, why are fire trucks red?

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Police Report Writing Workshops

“If it is not in the report, it never happened.” How many times have you heard that? It is even truer now than in the past as criminal and civil courts look to the officer’s report for what happened and may not allow testimony that is not documented in the written report.

Report writing is hard, and it is difficult to capture all of the simultaneous activity of a police call in writing. It can also be challenging to record what occurred in a manner that allows the reader of the report to fully know what happened.

The request to provide training in this area is the most frequent wish we see on our evaluation and feedback forms from our members. And as someone who has been there, I know that training on these skills has an immediate effect on the quality of reports—and in my case it made report writing easier and more focused.

Good news! We have six report writing workshops this fall. Here is the schedule:

Thief River Falls – September 23
Bemidji – September 24
Alexandria – October 7
Waite Park – October 8
Northfield – October 13
Preston – October 15

For more information and to register, go to:

Up next: Helpful links to training information.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, July 13, 2015

League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference: Police Topics

Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud led a discussion
on the police response to people in mental crisis.
The Roundtable Discussions
This year’s LMC Annual Conference featured two police topics during the roundtable sessions. This forum allows city leaders from around the state to sit down and discuss current topics and issues in an informal setting.

Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud led roundtable discussions on the complexities and difficulties that police officers face when responding to emergency calls to assist people in mental crisis. This is an issue for all corners of the state. Most jurisdictions are seeing a substantial increase in the number of calls—and they are handling them with limited resources.

Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer and POST Board Chairman Tim Bildso teamed up to explain the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) certification. Most attendees were not familiar with the certification or the process required to become certified.

Brave Leadership Required: Effective Police-Community Relations
The title of this session accurately described the training from Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell and consultant/educator Jason Sole. They took their session’s attendees on a trip back through their very different lives (one of the presenters grew up in a non-diverse community in rural Wisconsin and went on to become a police officer and teacher. The other grew up in housing projects in Chicago and became a gang member, committed crimes, and was jailed).

At times, for some of us (including me), it was an uncomfortable trip, and I find that I am still thinking about the discussion a couple of weeks later. They talked about the biases we have, as well as the very different glasses and filters that all of us look through when we view the world. It was about developing relationships, and having difficult and hard conversations with groups in our communities—particularly those that interact with the police.

The attendees were very quiet for about 45 minutes, and then the questions starting coming so fast that Paul and Jason needed to cut their presentation short to stay on schedule. When the session ended, at least half of the class stayed in the room asking questions and continuing the discussion.

2015 League of Minnesota Cities Leadership Award
LMC President Steve Nasby (L) presents Medina
Public Safety Director Ed Belland (R) with
the 2015 Leadership Award at the annual conference.

Medina’s public safety director, Ed Belland, was selected as the League of Minnesota Cities Leadership Award winner for 2015. Director Belland was honored for his work that has “provided the City of Medina with the backbone for the relationships necessary to establish a regional approach to public safety services” that has saved area taxpayers money and provided quicker, coordinated responses to emergency situations.

Congratulations to Ed, and a big thank you to Dave Bentrud, Rodney Seurer, Tim Bildso, Jason Sole, and Paul Schnell for contributing to the success of the conference, and for your commitment to Minnesota law enforcement.

Up next: 2015 Police Report Writing Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NASA: “Safety Depends on Culture”

“A positive safety culture begins with assuring dialog is open and decision-making is transparent.”

Those are the words of David Loyd as he addressed the recent Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) conference. Mr. Loyd is from the Johnson Space Center Safety and Test Operations, and his presentation was entitled “NASA’s Lessons from Loss: Managing Risk for Bold New Missions and Building on a Unique Safety Culture.” Loyd estimated that 75% of NASA’s mishaps were the result of human error.

He went on to say: “As much as we would like to error-proof our work environment, even the most automated and complex technical endeavors require human interaction and are vulnerable to human frailty.” He talked about the need to cultivate a strong safety culture that diminishes risk.”

“Lessons from Loss” was a haunting title, and Loyd spoke with great candor as he reviewed incidents that took the lives of astronauts and ground personnel, as well injured employees and destroyed incredibly expensive equipment. Even the events that appeared to be mechanical failures were the result of human error. He reviewed these incidents using NASA’s Safety Culture Model. That model has five sub-components:

Reporting Culture – We report our concerns.
Just Culture – We have a sense of fairness.
Flexible Culture – We change to meet new demands.
Learning Culture – We learn from our successes and mistakes.
Engaged Culture – Everyone does his or her part.

This model is followed both proactively and reactively as they review their accidents and losses. How about asking those questions at your next safety committee meeting? Does your staff report their concerns, is there a sense of fairness, and can the organization change to meet new demands?  Do your employees learn from their successes and mistakes, and is everyone engaged?

It was interesting that while we continue to look to technology to improve safety, the need to develop a culture of safety was a theme for multiple presentations at the PRIMA conference.

Another one of Mr. Loyd’s comments stuck with me: “It is not possible to perpetuate a safety culture in space without taking care of each other on the ground and at home.”

Here is a link to learn more about NASA’s safety culture:


                                     Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: Police Topics at LMC's Annual Conference

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Water Mule

The Water Mule
There are legendary people in Minnesota’s public safety community, and there are also legendary machines. Nisswa Fire Department’s Engine #9915 is one such legend. The truck is a 41-year-old Peter Pirsch and Sons fire engine, and in the words of Nisswa Fire Chief Richard Geike: “That truck can pump!” They call it “the water mule.”

While all fire engines pump water, this truck excels at drafting (pulling) water out of lakes, ponds, and portable tanks. Drafting water is not like connecting to a hydrant or using the water from the truck’s tank. Drafting takes an airtight pump and hose, a strong primer, and a lot of horsepower as the fire engine needs to create a vacuum to pull the water up into the pump and then push it out through hoses.

The Nisswa Fire Department acquired the 1974 Pirsch from Spring Lake Park, but it came with a blown engine. Nisswa was able to find a mechanic who could repair the large-block, six-cylinder Waukesha gas engine that has 12 spark plugs. When there is a fire, this truck is sent to the closest lake to supply the other engines and tankers with water. None of the new diesel fire engines can match this truck’s pumping capacity.   

Chief Geike said the 1974 Darley pump is rated at 1,250 gallons per minute, but the truck can pump in excess of 1,700 gallons per minute while drafting. The department added a pre-connected 20-foot, large diameter hard-suction hose that wraps around the truck to be quickly deployed when the truck arrives at a lake. It looks a little odd, but it is very effective.

This truck out-pumps newer trucks.
During the large fire at the Breezy Point Resort a few years ago, the truck drafted from Pelican Lake and supplied water to the Brainerd ladder truck and to three additional two-and-a-half inch lines (hoses). Chief Geike said the motor ran “a little above idle.”

With parts being hard to find, Nisswa has looked at the possibility of taking the truck apart and putting it on a trailer or on another truck—but none of the mechanics or engineers will guarantee that the end result would match its current pumping capacity. It has the perfect synthesis of mechanical components, and it’s a perfect fit for the Nisswa lakes area communities. And heck, it even has a nickname.

Up next: Risk Management at NASA

In the meantime, be careful and stay safe.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Officers and Coaches (Techniques for Improving Training Safety)

Putting role players into a position
of coaching changes the perspective.
“Coaches do not defeat officers but rather create an environment to win. Coaches do challenge officers and make them work for their success.” These phrases are not from a book on coaching but are the words of George T. Williams, the director of training for Cutting Edge Training. Mr. Williams was recently instructing the West Central Minnesota Law Enforcement program in the city of Ottertail.

He is talking about why he refers to police officers in tactical training classes as either officers or coaches. Traditionally in this type of training, the instructor divides the class into groups of two—with one officer acting as police officer and the other acting in the role of a suspect or opponent. In a weapon retention drill, for example, the suspect tries to get the training firearm out of the officer’s holster, and the officer practices techniques to prevent the suspect from getting control of the gun. We know that this type of training is critically important but can be high risk.

Over a decade ago, Cutting Edge Training instituted the “coach concept” for the officer playing the suspect, and they have seen a decrease in training injuries. It changes the perspective of the officers. The coach officers are instructed on when to stop a scenario and how to critique mistakes by “breaking it down” into the tactical steps. And the coaches immediately catch the training going off script as they are on the receiving end of what’s happening. When this happens, the coach and the instructor immediately reset the scene and run the drill again to allow the officer to learn from the mistake and work through the drill again until the officer achieves a successful outcome.

I was lucky enough to attend Cutting Edge’s class on Force Response Civil Liability Prevention for Police Officers and Managers. The class was outstanding, and Mr. Williams and I kept each other busy before class on breaks talking about how to reduce training injuries. When he explained the coaching concept for the suspect officer, I envisioned this being a component in the Training Safety Officer (TSO) program. It doesn’t seem like much of a change, but this simple change in perspective can have big effects.

I thank the West Central Minnesota Law Enforcement Training group and Otter Tail County Chief Deputy Stacy Paulseth for allowing me to attend.


                                    Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: The Nisswa Fire Department “Water Mule”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Public Safety Training: “Are We Training or Testing?”

Excelsior Fire District TSO observing extrication training
It seems straightforward. Are we training or testing? That question needs to be answered before every public safety training session. And if the answer is “testing,” the instructor and the Training Safety Officer (TSO) need to assess if they believe that the class has been trained to the point that they can safely be tested.

Too often we have seen where a training session drifted “off script” or turned into a testing session—and some of the officers and firefighters were in over their heads. When this happens, there is a very high risk for injury.

I don’t mean to overstate the obvious, but public safety work is dangerous, and mastery of the public safety skill set is vital to both the public’s safety and the responders’ safety. Going into burning structures, taking violent people into custody, and extricating and caring for the injured on highways is high risk—and both training and testing are integral to the mastery of these unique skill sets. Most responders do not naturally have these skills, and for many the learning curve is steep but attainable.

Shakopee Police firearms instructor
coaching and instructing
It is common for training sessions to involve a mixture of training and testing—and with that comes the need for the instructor, TSO, role players, and class to know exactly when they are training and when they are testing. They must know when they are coaching vs. observing/evaluating, and always know when the actions need to be stopped or corrected immediately.

The TSO program continues to improve as the training safety officers develop a better understanding of how these injuries occur and how best to utilize the control that exists in the training setting. Make the “training or testing” discussion part of your next training planning.

Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) AWARD

The League’s TSO program was recently selected as the first-place winner in the Outstanding Achievement for the Intergovernmental Risk Pool Program category.

Bles Dones, manager of membership at PRIMA, said that the TSO Program “shows excellence, relevance, and a display of a results-oriented program, keys to a successful organization’s risk management program, and one that can benefit the public sector risk management profession.”

Congratulations to all of you who have helped to develop this program!


                                      Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: More on Training Safety—“Call Them Coaches”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Four Hard Truths

The director of the FBI, James Comey, presented an insightful address at Georgetown University in February. The focus was on the relationship between law enforcement and the diverse communities they serve and protect.

Here are a few quotes from his speech: “Serious debates are taking place about how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve, about the appropriate use of force, and about real and perceived biases, both within and outside of law enforcement.” He went on to say, “Those conversations—as bumpy and uncomfortable as they can be—help us understand different perspectives and how to better serve our communities.”

Director Comey then spoke of what he called “some of my own hard truths.” He said, “First, all of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty. At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo—a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.

“A second hard truth: much research points to the widespread existence of unconscious bias.” Discussing this further, he said: “Racial bias isn’t epidemic in law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts.”

The director’s third hard truth was that “something happens to people in law enforcement.” Many of us develop different levels of cynicism that we work hard to resist because they can lead to lazy mental shortcuts. “For example, criminal suspects routinely lie about their guilt, and nearly everyone we charge is guilty. That makes it easy for some folks in law enforcement to assume that everyone is lying and that no suspect—regardless of their race—could be innocent. Easy but wrong.”

Comey talked about why officers would focus on a group of young black man on one side of the street and not a group of white men on the other side of the street, when both were doing the same thing. He asked whether officers, judges, and juries are racist and responded he doesn’t think so.

“The truth is that what really needs fixing are the disproportionate challenges faced by young men of color.” In his fourth hard truth, Director Comey spoke of “so many boys and young men growing up in environments lacking role models, adequate education, and decent employment. They lack all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted.”

I found the director’s comments astute and candid. Below is a link to a transcript of his speech, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety. I also welcome your thoughts, comments, and continued discussion:

Up Next: Public Safety Training—"Are We Training or Testing?"

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Stretch 'N Bend with the Columbia Heights Police Department (a guest post by LMCIT Loss Control Consultant Tracy Stille)

Guest blogger/LMCIT Loss Control
Consultant Tracy Stille
Rob Boe and I recently met with Chief Nadeau of the Columbia Heights Police Department (CHPD) and were impressed with their implementation of two specific programs. First, the police department has implemented the much-talked-about Training Safety Officer (or TSO) Program. Second, the police department has just implemented a Stretch ‘N Bend Program for their sworn police officers.

Sergeant Justin Pletcher, who is in charge of the wellness initiatives at CHPD, says their stretching program was initiated in November of 2014 and was modeled after the Stretch ‘N Bend program of Mortenson Construction Company. The initial response from the police officers was about 50/50 positive feedback, with some of the senior officers questioning its purpose. With the premise that the program be either an “all-or-nothing” program, leadership decided to make their exercise program mandatory so that all of the police officers would participate.

With the help of a roll call PowerPoint presentation showing how to complete the exercises, the program has gained more positive feedback, and they will be adding some additional exercises to their program. The exercises are now done at every roll call for the morning, middle, and evening shifts—and the officers have actually commented that they feel better after completing the exercises (i.e. the “buy-in” has been good).

An officer demonstrates a step stretch
With a goal to reduce—if not eliminate—worker injuries, the program was put in place by CHPD, and the results have been positive. Some of the benefits of taking the time to stretch your muscles are that stretching prepares your body for work activities, increases your flexibility, promotes better blood circulation, improves your range of motion, enhances muscle coordination and body awareness, delays muscle fatigue, reduces the incidence and severity of injury, and increases team morale.

An onsite stretching program needs to encourage all employees to participate. It is recommended that the Stretch ‘N Bend program be conducted during the shift briefings that most police and fire departments hold. These stretching programs typically do not last longer than 5-10 minutes and are led by a designated volunteer or shift supervisor.

We will continue to follow up with CHPD as to the results of their new program. Nice job, and thanks for setting an example for other public safety agencies to follow!

Exercise Your Thoughts?

Would you be interested in learning more about this Stretch ‘N Bend program for everyday use within your police or fire department?  We would like to hear your thoughts. Please forward your ideas, and we will compile a list of the responses as well as respond to your requests. Send your ideas, questions, or comments to, or give me a call at (651) 215-4051.

Additionally, you may contact Sgt. Justin Pletcher at the Columbia Heights Police Department at (763) 706-8100 to get direct feedback on their program.

                                      Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: Four Hard Truths—The FBI Director’s Comments

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Safety and Loss Control Workshop on Vandalism in City Parks

The Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design can
help cities reduce vandalism in their parks.
The 2015 LMCIT Safety and Loss Control Workshops are about to start and our staff will be on the road for the next five weeks. We look forward to meeting and visiting with our members.

In the morning session we have an interesting class that will appeal to public works, parks and recreation, and police attendees. The class is titled “Vandalism, Liability Hazards and Controls”. Paul Gladen, one of our field representatives, explains how cities can reduce vandalism to their parks. Part of the class focuses on a program called “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design”, (CPTED).  CPTED is based on the premise that the physical environment can be designed to discourage vandalism.

Good sight lines and lighting
reduce vandalism.
Paul shows the class examples of how well this works by using before and after photos of parks where CPTED has been implemented. Some of the tips include trimming trees to a height of eight feet and keeping shrubs less than three feet tall to improve sight lines. The result is not only a reduction in vandalism, but the park becomes a place where people feel safe as well.  Paul also shows how lighting plans are incorporated to the design.

The workshops have lots of courses and attendees are encouraged to move between the five tracks of: Administrative, Police, Public Works/Parks and Rec, Safety Committee, and Insurance Agents.  Registration is still open for most of the workshops.  Here’s the link:

Up Next: The Stretch and Bend at Columbia Heights PD. 

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

South Central College Regional Fire School

The annual training is hosted by
South Central College in North Mankato.
Kudos to Bob Scheidt and the staff at South Central College in North Mankato for another successful regional fire school last weekend. The school was bustling as 683 firefighters—representing 150 departments from four states—spent all of Saturday and half of Sunday learning and improving their skills and decision-making. This year’s school offered 50 classes in 4-, 8-, and 12-hour blocks. We thank Bob and his staff for once again inviting the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) to be a part of it.

The school has an incredible energy about it. It is classroom after classroom full of firefighters, listening to instructors, discussing issues, and learning about leadership. The hallways are busy with firefighters in turn-out gear heading to the parking lots for their practical exercises like auto extrication, or bus and heavy truck rescues. Other groups are boarding the school buses that shuttle them off campus for a live burn of a house or ice rescue training.

Once again this year, LMCIT staff member Chris Smith presented the class “Fire Department Management and Liability.” A few of the topics covered were: joint powers agreements, contracting for service, fundraisers, relief associations, alcohol response policies, and a look at firefighter injuries. There was plenty of discussion—particularly on election vs. selection of firefighters and command staff. This type of forum opens up an exchange of information between the firefighters, as well as with the instructors.
St. Peter Fire Chief (and incident commander)
Ron Quade briefs the class.

We thank Plymouth Fire Chief Rick Kline for being the lead instructor for the *Training Safety Officer (TSO) program. That group spent the morning in the classroom learning the elements of the TSO program, getting a briefing from one of the live burn instructors, and working on risk assessments of training lesson plans. Then it was off to lunch and onto the bus for a trip out to the burn site to meet up with the burn team and their students. I was lucky enough to assist in this training.

We thank Bob and his staff coordinating and hosting this wonderful annual event.

*TSO Training
Chief Kline is also the chairman of the safety and health committee for the Minnesota State Fire Chief’s Association. That committee has made the Training Safety Officer program a priority for the coming year. If you would like a TSO class in your region, contact Chief Kline at (There is no charge for the training.)


                                    Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next... Safety and Loss Control Workshop on Vandalism in City Parks

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

In the wake of the January shooting incident at a New Hope City Council Meeting, the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) received numerous calls from city officials and staff about safety at public meetings. In response to these questions, LMC put together materials for city officials about working with local law enforcement to prevent and respond to targeted violence.

This webpage can be found here and shared with your officials. In developing this webpage, we also thought it made sense to create a related post on this blog with materials about targeted violence geared towards the law enforcement community. 

Here is a reminder of some of the more extensive resources on this topic:

Up next…A Report From a Regional Fire School

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sartell Save

Ernie Kociemba meets with the Sartell area responders who save his life.
The Sartell City Council took time out from a January meeting to honor a team of public safety responders who saved a man’s life. This “save” was a little different, as it involved both off-duty and on-duty responders from six different departments.

Ernie Kociemba was playing tennis with his brothers at the Fitness Evolution tennis bubble in Sartell on December 11 when he suddenly collapsed due to a heart attack. Off-duty Becker Police Officer Jonathon Batterberry and off-duty Wright County Deputy Dusty Miller were working out in another part of the health club, and each noticed that something was wrong when they saw people running. Batterberry wondered if it was his “policeman’s instincts.”

They responded to the tennis bubble and found Kociemba on the floor with no pulse and no respiration. Miller took over CPR from Kociemba’s brothers. Batterberry took over doing CPR while Miller set up the AED. The off-duty response continued to grow as Stearns County Deputy Zach Sorenson, Gold Cross Ambulance EMT Nancy Kalla, and Dan Williams from the St. Cloud Hospital trauma unit also assisted. A life-saving shock was administered to Kociemba just as Sartell police officers Shelby Lane and Kari Bonfield arrived to assist with oxygen. Kociemba responded to the shock and began to breathe on his own.

Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes noted their “quick thinking, action, and calmness” when presenting each of them with the Life Saving Award. He also noted the contributions of the Gold Cross Ambulance crew and the staff at St. Cloud Hospital. Ernie Kociemba was at the ceremony, and the news reports said Mr. Kociemba was smiling as he said, “You see this big smile. It’s because of them.”

What happened that night in Sartell exemplifies so many attributes of Minnesota’s public safety community. Think of what came together that night: teamwork, common training and protocols, and a commitment to serving their communities and to helping people. That should make all of us smile. Good job, all!

Up next…Hot Topics

Stay safe,


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Spring Workshops

Mark your calendars for LMCIT’s 2015 Safety & Loss Control Workshops. The brochures just mailed, and registration is now open. (This is a sure sign of spring!)

 Here is the schedule:

 Mahnomen - March 25
 Alexandria - March 26
 Morton - April 1
 North Mankato - April 2
 St. Cloud - April 7
 Rochester - April 14
 Brooklyn Park - April 16
 St. Paul - April 21
 Cohasset - April 23

Once again this year, the police track will be in the morning. Here’s the lineup of courses:

-Difficult Customers—Avoiding Complaints, Challenges, and Claims with me

-Case Law Boot Camp, It’s All About the Basics with Dan Kurtz from our legal team

-Work Comp 101 with LMC HR staff

Lunch is included, and attendees are welcome to attend the afternoon session. I suspect many police administrators will want to attend the afternoon Administrative Session on recent changes to human resources law and data security. As in the past, we will have staff on-site from all of the LMCIT departments, and we look forward to visiting with you and hearing your thoughts.

We are also seeking POST continuing education credits for the entire day of training.

For more information and to register, visit

Up next…The Off-Duty Actions That Saved a Life

Stay safe,


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dividend Envelope Stuffing

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust
recently returned $9.5 million in dividends to its members.
It has become a tradition. League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) staff members enter the event on their calendars as soon as the first email goes out announcing the date and time for the dividend envelope stuffing. I was a bit confused when I first saw the email, but I have since learned that dividend envelope stuffing is one very tangible example of how a not-for-profit insurance pool works for its members.

When the financial books are closed on the past year’s claims, an analysis is done to review losses and determine how much money needs to be held in reserve. Because LMCIT is a not-for-profit entity, if there is any money remaining it is returned to the insurance pool members. The dividend amount is based on a calculation that takes each member’s total premiums and claims activity for all of the years it has been a member of LMCIT. Since 1987, LMCIT has returned more than $242 million from the property/casualty program and $38 million from the workers’ compensation program.

Laura Honeck, LMCIT program coordinator, oversees the process. Staff from all departments arrive early to find the third-floor meeting room set up in a large square with 16 workstations. The checks, cover letters, and envelopes are organized alphabetically by city or entity. The room quickly becomes a whirl of activity as staff verify that the correct check is mailed to the correct city. If someone finishes their stack of envelopes, they pitch in to help someone who had a larger pile or—in my case—was a little slow.

Here are some numbers from the recent dividends sent out from the property/casualty program: a total of $9.5 million was sent to 1,180 cities, joint powers organizations, and special districts. The smallest check was for $10, and the largest check was $122,122. And it was all done in just over 30 minutes.

Up Next… A Preview of the 2015 Safety & Loss Control Workshops.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.