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Monday, December 17, 2018

Report: U.S. Firefighting Injuries in 2017

Firefighters are more likely to be injured
on the fire ground, according to NFPA data.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released their report on U.S. firefighting injuries in 2017. The report looks at all firefighter injuries based on the type of duty the firefighter was performing when the injury occurred.

Overall injuries were down 5 percent from the previous year and at the lowest number since 1981 when NFPA first began analyzing this data.

The report states, “firefighters were more likely to be injured at fire ground operations than at other types of duties.” The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, (LMCIT) data has a few more categories for fire ground injuries, but it continues to be where most of our firefighter injuries occur as well, and it is also where most of our work comp cost is incurred. The report cites overexertion or strain and “falls, jumps and slips” as the leading nature of fire ground injuries. Again, the LMCIT has a few different categories but this aligns with our trends.

Eighteen firefighters died in vehicle-related incidents in 2017 according to the national data, including 10 who were struck by vehicles and eight who died in vehicle crashes. Ten fatalities due to being struck is unusually high, as the average for the past 30 years is four per year. While the numbers are small it speaks to the increasing dangers of responding to incidents on the roads and highways.

The discussion of the correlation of fire ground injuries with the number of fires the department responded to made sense. However I did not expect the rate of fire ground injuries to change so dramatically based on the population size protected. From the report, “the difference in risk of injury per firefighter is 8 to 1 between communities of 1,000,000 and communities of 2,500 to 4,999.” One of the factors impacting this is larger departments attend 572 times as many fires as small departments.

The report concludes with this challenge: “A risk management system and the application of existing technology, however, can offer options to reduce present injury levels and bring about corresponding reductions that are recommended by NFPA that could be taken at the local level.”

Read the NFPA report: United States Firefighter Injuries 2017

Up Next: Opioid information.

Stay Safe,


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The “21-Foot Principle” Clarified

I encourage all police use-of-force instructors to view the new video from the Utah Attorney General’s Office on the “21-Foot Principle.” The video is hosted by Ken Wallentine, chief of the West Jordan Utah Police Department and former chief of law enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He discusses the distance and time needed for an officer to overcome the “reactionary gap.” For many of us the principle has been incorrectly taught as the “21-Foot Rule.”

Wallentine provides some background on reaction time and explains the unintended consequences of inattentional blindness and tunnel vision. He also covers the “OODA Loop” —the concept of “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act” that officers go through when they detect a threat. The information and data on officers’ movements and subjects’ movements is insightful. This includes a demonstration of an officer’s ability to move backward, or make that, limited ability to move backward, in an attempt to put distance between themselves and the subject.

21 feet and the “reactionary gap.” The
"21-Foot Principle" is intended to be considered
with the totality of circumstances facing an officer.
Wallentine interviews retired Salt Lake City Lt. and Firearms Instructor Dennis Tueller, who provides the history of the 21-Foot Principle and how it was formulated in response to an officer’s question while they were at the shooting range. Tueller stresses this was never intended to be a rigid rule but rather a consideration to be factored into the totality of the circumstances facing the officer. Part of his message is for officers to apply this concept preventatively to increase safety. 

Toward the end of the 17-minute video they continue that theme as they talk about being prepared, moving off line, creating distance when possible and identifying what could serve as cover if the officer needs it. I was not familiar with the phrase “Where’s my tree?” but I like it. It is a phrase they use in training to teach officers to look for cover well before
they need it.

If it sounds like there is a lot of material here, there is. I have watched the video numerous times, and I am still processing all the material they covered.

Watch on YouTube: 21 foot Principle Clarified by Dennis Tueller and Ken Wallentine

Up Next: Some interesting LMCIT statistics.

Stay safe,


Friday, November 2, 2018

2018 IACP Conference in Orlando, Florida

A guest blog by Tracy Stille, LMCIT Loss Control Field Consultant

I recently attended the 2018 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference in Orlando, Florida, which is considered the largest and most important law enforcement event of the year. More than 17,000 public safety professionals gathered this year to learn new techniques, advance their knowledge and careers, and equip their police departments for ongoing success.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Leadership’s Evolution,” as the IACP was celebrating 125 years of progress since their first conference in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. Law enforcement technology topics are always popular and included virtual training, facial recognition, property & evidence management, police drones, and body-worn cameras. This year’s conference also included many educational topics on “developing the leaders of tomorrow” and various police reform initiatives.

The IACP Conference also offered many education and training opportunities to help law enforcement agencies address the emerging issues of hiring & recruitment, increased police liability, use of force, social media, policy development, critical stress management, and community-police relations.

The most important take-away for me after attending this conference was the importance of recognizing the need for change in policing and taking immediate action. Over the past few years, law enforcement agencies and their officers have been closely scrutinized by the public, the media, and by the policing profession itself. These reviews and the 2015 President’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing have resulted in a number of reform initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels which have greatly affected the policing profession and their communities.

Upcoming IACP Conferences
I would encourage all leaders and aspiring leaders in law enforcement to attend this training conference and bring new policing ideas back to your law enforcement agencies, whether those ideas involve technology upgrades, mental health response, officer fitness & wellness, combating the dark net, or ways to deal with the rising opioid epidemic.

The conference provides the opportunity to learn global best practices; to access new strategies, techniques, and resources for successfully navigating the evolving policing environment, and also showcases the latest in law enforcement products and services.

Below is a list of the upcoming IACP Conferences:

IACP 2019 – Chicago, Illinois

IACP 2020 – New Orleans, Louisiana

IACP 2021 – Atlanta, Georgia

IACP 2022 – Dallas, Texas

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

Remember: Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up Next: “Discussion of the “21 Foot Rule”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Halloween Blizzard of 1991

I remember being in a home following up on an investigation and looking out the front window seeing the large snowflakes coming down. I said to the home owner I was working with, "I didn't think it was supposed to start this soon." He said, "I thought it was supposed to start as rain." It was about noon on Thursday, Oct. 31, 1991.

As I drove to work that morning, I heard for the first time that snow was predicted to start in the late afternoon. As I finished up at the house and headed back to my police car, it was snowing hard. I was wearing my summer uniform shoes that had minimal tread—I remember I was slipping as I made my way down the driveway and hung on the squad car as I skidded to a stop. There had been no indication of snow when I'd arrived at the house 30 minutes earlier.

Once in the car I immediately remembered the car had its "summer shoes" on as well. (The department normally put the snow tires on the cars around November 15th.) It was alarmingly slippery as I made my way back to the station. This was before the internet, and weather information came to us from broadcast radio and television, plus we got some information via the state data terminal. The radio weather forecast was suddenly changing and more snow, strong winds, and a blizzard were predicted.

At the station, plans were made to get the afternoon and night shifts in early, and to press the unmarked vehicles with four-wheel drive into service for patrol work. We also borrowed some four-wheel drive vehicles from the fire department. The already busy public works shop would get started on the police snow tires shortly.

The snow-related calls for service started coming in; it was like someone flipped a switch and we were instantly overrun with calls. We prioritized them based on the level of personal injury, beginning with crashes with injuries and medical calls, then crashes without injuries. Reports of cars sliding off the road would have to wait for a while. I had changed to my winter boots, but my car would not get snow tires for a few more hours yet as the city was concentrating on the cars that would be working later in the afternoon and evening. The public works supervisor said he would free up a snow plow if we needed one to get to a call.

I was sent on a medical call to assist a young man who had severed some fingers while trying to unclog a running snow blower. An assistant fire chief had arrived first in his all-wheel drive SUV and was handling the patient care. A family member located the fingers and we preserved them. We kept the ambulance a block away as the hill going down to the house was extremely slippery and we didn't think the ambulance would be able to get back up the hill. We got the boy and his dad to the fire chief's pickup and he took them up the hill to the ambulance. We ended up hand pushing the ambulance as it worked its way to a plowed road. I heard a few days later they were not able to reattach the fingers.

I was only held over a few hours, as the second and third shifts were in early. By 7 p.m., calls for services were slowing down. It appeared most people had left work early and were home and hunkered down. Going into the night shifts, things were extremely quiet and stayed quiet for the next two days. When I worked on Friday and Saturday, it was almost eerie, as there were no calls, and no traffic. People were staying put. We had a few emergencies but nothing that was life threatening.

We worked closely with our public works crews, who periodically needed a car moved. We tried not to tow the cars if possible, as it was obvious that no one intentionally parked their cars in the middle of the residential street. Often plows would get close, and we would call the registered owner who then showed up and, with a little shoveling, could back out onto a portion of the street that had been plowed.

Before it was all done we had received 28.4 inches of snow. Friday and Saturday brought high winds and a rapid drop in temperature. The wet snow had adhered to the warm pavement and then frozen. The roads would be difficult for the next week as the cold weather did not allow the chemical melter to melt the packed snow. It reminded me of driving on a bad washboard gravel road.

Lessons Learned

Prepare for winter early. It's Minnesota, it's going to snow so prepare early. The new date to change snow tires for the police department was moved to the third week of October. Our winter snow removal ordinance was changed to be effective November 1. It was previously November 15.

Work as a team. The entire city staff worked together and went the extra mile to help other departments. We knew each other and valued each other.

Be agile. As the calls for service rapidly increased, and the ability to respond became more difficult, we adapted. We used different vehicles, and the chief even authorized any footwear that worked until the storm was over. We adapted again once the crisis was over and we could take extra time to assist our citizens and maybe save them a tow bill.

And for the next week, the conversation everywhere was all about "storm stories."

Up next: Highlights from the IACP Annual Conference.

Stay safe,


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Circuit Training for Firefighters

The title of the email from the U.S. Fire Administration was intriguing: “Circuit training impact on volunteer firefighters' cardiovascular health.” The article links to a study that has some of the usual statistics about firefighter health and then measures the impact of a four-week circuit training workout program. The study consisted of pre-training testing and developing individual baselines, as well as use of control groups. The participants were again tested after four weeks of circuit training.

For those of you not familiar with circuit training, it is a physical workout routine that involves a series of aerobic movement and resistance training. The workout that was selected for the study consisted of six stations that were repeated three times in each workout. And the firefighters completed the workouts three times a week.

The stations were designed to replicate the tasks of the firefighters. The six stations included: a 40-pound carry for 100 feet, a 3-minute stair climb, a 45-second plank pose, a 20-pound carry with a fast walk for 100 feet, right and left single-leg stand for as long as they could balance, and a 15-pound carry up and down 30 stairs. I was intrigued by the one-leg stands, as our statistics show that slips and falls from losing balance is a high-injury area for firefighters.

The participants in the study showed marked improvement and reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease. You can read the full results and details of the study.

Here is a related article from the Cooper Institute that provides more background on circuit training for firefighters.

Up next: Lessons Learned from the Halloween Blizzard of 1991

Stay safe,

Thursday, September 13, 2018

TSO 2.0

The Fridley, Blaine, Columbia Heights, and Spring Lake Park police departments—and their area EMS and fire departments—recently completed a multi-discipline training exercise, and they took the Training Safety Officer (TSO) program to a whole new level. The training was titled “Multi-Agency Hostile Event Response, Training, and Exercise.” Note the words “training and exercise.” Fridley Police Officer Bob Stevens referred to it as “walk, jog, and then run,” with the goal of letting the responders build up their skill levels before applying it during the exercise.

The training focused on how to respond to an active shooter or mass casualty incident and worked on integrating the area’s police, fire, and EMS responders. More than 150 responders attended the training, which was offered on six days to departments in their area. The training operated with a strong Incident Command System (ICS), including use of the ICS forms for incident objectives, assignments, communications, and a medical plan. And of course there was a safety briefing with occasional reminders scattered throughout the session.

Officer Stevens reached out to the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) for TSO courses. Tracy Stille and I taught two classes for them well ahead of the training. They fully implemented the program, and I was struck by the amount of time and effort they put in to planning the training and planning the safety aspects of the training.

The end result was six days of excellent training and skill building, no lost-time injuries, and a forging of new relationships with neighboring responders that crossed the lines of EMS, fire, and police. The training was extremely well received.

We thank you for taking this to what we are calling TSO 2.0, and we will be incorporating much of what you showed us into future courses.

We also thank you for the invitation to be observers at your exercise.

Up next: Some Interesting Data on Firefighter Fitness

Stay safe,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

First Amendment Audits

On a quiet Friday at a city hall in Minnesota, a man walked into the lobby holding a smart phone. He appeared to be video recording as he went up to the receptionist and then walked around the lobby. When city staff asked if they could help him, he would only say he was an independent reporter.

He continued recording as he walked outside around city hall, occasionally putting the phone’s camera lens up to a window. Then he went to the parking lot and appeared to be recording every car—and his actions made it appear he was recording the license plate numbers.

City hall staff called the police department. A uniformed officer asked the man what he was doing and asked for some identification. The man said he was a reporter and did not respond to additional questions as he continued recording.

What’s going on? Most likely, this was a “First Amendment Audit.” This person is testing the city hall staff and police department to see if they will respect his First Amendment right to video record in public areas. In our story, the city staff and the police officer ignored him, and he eventually went away. The staff handled the situation well and didn’t “take the bait.”

This activity is not limited to Minnesota. A recent article posted by the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Association (CIRSA) provides more background and guidance.

We encourage your staff to prepare for an “audit,” as it can be somewhat unnerving if you don’t know what is going on. Be sure staff understands what are public areas and what are not, as well as what actions would warrant calling the police department. Another good tip is to have two staff members approach the person. The second person is there for support and to document what happened. Being prepared can turn your “audit” into a non-event.

Up next: TSO 2.0

Stay safe,

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mental Health First Aid Classes

Once again this fall, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) will be co-sponsoring Mental Health First Aid classes at various locations around the state. This year, our co-sponsors are the Association of Minnesota Counties, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Association of Townships, and the Minnesota School Board Association.

These courses have been very valuable with all levels of municipal employees who work with the public. The training is for city hall and courthouse staff, librarians, municipal liquor store staff, parks & rec staff, police officers, sheriffs’ deputies, firefighters, and EMS responders.

This training provides an understanding of mental health issues, guidance in how to provide help in an emergency, and resources you can provide to connect people with the help they need.

Police officers and sheriffs’ deputies completing the course will receive 9 POST board credits that can be applied toward meeting the new requirements for the in-service learning objectives for crises intervention and mental illness crises training.
Some of you may remember we featured an Eagan officer’s story on how this training helped him handle a 911 call. We featured it a blog last January. Here’s that 2-minute clip again.

The dates and locations for this fall’s training are:

September 18Waseca
September 20White Bear Lake
September 26Paynesville
October 3Fergus Falls
November 14Golden Valley 

Get more information and register for these workshops here.

Up next: First Amendment Audits

Stay safe,

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

911’s 50th Anniversary

Reflective decals were applied to all emergency
vehicles to promote the new 911 system.
I remember the last emergency call I handled prior to our area of Minnesota installing the 911 system. It was a cool Saturday morning in October, and our county dispatch center received a call from a telephone company operator. The operator had received a dial-O call from a man who was disoriented and said he thought his father and brother were dead. The man only knew he was “home” and could not remember his name, address, or phone number. The operator and telephone company staff worked feverishly to try to trace the phone call and continued to work with the caller.

The information came to us in pieces. First the telephone company thought he was in our city, and next came a street name. It was a lengthy street, so we moved into position and requested an ambulance be sent to our general area. Finally the man was able to provide house numbers—only, the numbers did not make sense. We began to transpose the numbers and came up with a possible address.

Two of us cautiously approached the house, as we were not sure what was going on or even if we had the right house. We knocked at the door and rang the doorbell a few times. The door opened, and a young man in his underwear just stared at us. He would not answer us but agreed to step outside. Once outside, the man slowly began to respond to us, and when we asked where his father and brother were he pointed inside the house. More help was arriving, and two officers went into the house and carried out the father and brother about a minute later. One of the fire rescue responders said, “I bet the house is full of CO (carbon monoxide).” It was.

The good news was that everyone survived—including the responders who went inside—but the medics and gas company officials said it was a close call, and every second of our response mattered in the outcome. The cause of the CO in the house was a clogged furnace vent.

Within a month of the call our county had “Enhanced 911,” which not only directed a 911 call to the correct answering point but also provided the address and phone number of the residence where the phone was located. While the federal 911 program began in 1968 in Alabama, it did not reach our area until the early 1980’s. Soon we were placing the red-and-white reflective 911 decals on all of our emergency vehicles to promote the roll-out of the system.

The 911 system is quite a success story of public-private cooperation, governance, and funding. The system has been challenged by the onset of technology, particularly cell phone and mobile devices. And the system continues to respond, change, and adapt to societal changes, continuing to deliver critical reliable information 24 hours a day.

So here is a shout-out to all the people who had the foresight, drive, and political skills to create and maintain this critical entry point to accessing public safety responders. And to our dispatchers, call takers, and communications staff who continue to make it all happen.

Job well done!

Up next: More Mental Health First Classes Coming This Fall

Stay safe,

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Speed: A Common National Theme

“It’s the job of sergeants to slow these calls down.” That was the phrase Lexipol’s Ken Wallentine used during a recent presentation at the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) conference. His presentation was entitled “Police Response to Mental Illness Crises.” While Ken covered a range of issues, the words about sergeants and officers slowing down the pace of these types of calls came at the very end of his presentation during his summary. Slowing down—when possible—allows officers to gather more information and to consider alternatives. I have heard many Minnesota police supervisors saying the same thing when discussing their tactics for responding to these difficult calls.

It reminded me of the national “Below 100” program, which is striving to reduce annual police officer line-of-duty deaths to below 100 per year. The third tenet of the program focuses on the officers’ driving and uses the phrase “watch your speed.” Inherent in that phrase is the need to slow down even when responding to emergencies. We continue to see the officer’s speed as a contributing factor in police crashes and injuries. We know that increased vehicle speed reduces the drivers’ ability to maintain situational awareness as well was increasing braking distance and the ability to react to the unexpected.

That theme of work speed—and the need to slow down to increase safety—was prevalent at the Minnesota Safety Conference in May. The presentations were focused on accidents in the general workforce, and working too quickly was a root cause of injuries. Presenters from around the country cited employees rushing, or working faster than normal, as a contributing cause of workplace accidents and injuries. I found it interesting they noted it was often the company’s best employees who were injured, as many of these employees had the “get ‘er done” approach to their jobs as they tried to meet company or team deadlines and goals.

These very different situations are connected by the commonality of speed—and the loss of situational awareness that accompanies it—as the speed of work, driving, or the human actions at an incident increases. Perhaps this is reflective of the speed of society, technology, and emergency work. Preparation and planning can go a long way in finding the time to slow down. Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

I welcome your thoughts. You can contact me at

Up next: 50 Years of 911

Stay safe,

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Another Fire Department OSHA Grant

The La Crescent Fire Department used their OSHA
Safety Grant to purchase new turnout gear.
We recently had another Minnesota fire department awarded an OSHA grant for safety equipment, and the Le Crescent Fire Department used this assistance to purchase new turnout gear. LMCIT Loss Control Representative Cody Tuttle was part of the process.

Cody, could you explain the grant process?
La Crescent was awarded $7,000 from OSHA’s Safety Grant program in order to purchase new turnout gear for probationary members who were about to graduate to full membership—as well as to replace existing members’ gear which was about reach the 10-year recommended age limit set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard #1851. Their probationary members were wearing extra turnout gear the department had that was still in good condition, but was not specifically fitted to them. As full members of the department, it was going to be important to provide them properly fitted equipment that would provide them the best possible protection. This grant paid for 50% of the cost of this new equipment.

How did you assist them?
One of the requirements for the OSHA Safety Grant is a written report from an on-site safety and health survey that lists findings and any recommendations. This is where a city’s LMCIT Loss Control Consultant like me can help out. The city contacted me to request an on-site safety evaluation of their existing turnout gear. Once there, we inspected their existing turnout gear, noting how many were at that 10-year limit or would be in the near future.

We also discussed things that the city was doing—or could be doing—to track its gear, as well as document inspections and cleaning routines. One of the things we’ve seen many cities do in this regard is create an Excel spreadsheet that is used to track what gear each individual member has and when it was purchased. They also use the spreadsheet to document any outside maintenance done on the gear, such as advanced inspections and advanced cleaning done by outside vendors/manufacturer-trained organizations.

Many departments use existing tags within the gear to track its age, but it can be beneficial to have this recorded somewhere separately that cannot be lost or damaged during the gear’s routine use. We also discussed the importance of documenting the regular gear inspections done by the individual members by using a checklist.

Loss Control Field Consultant
Cody Tuttle
Did you learn anything new about the process?
One of the things that OSHA considers when determining whether or not to approve a grant request is how many people will be affected by the improvement. This is one of the areas where public safety departments, such as police and fire, have an advantage. In most occupations, both in the private and public sector, safety improvements will mostly affect those on that individual job site. In public safety, however, the safety improvements affect both the individual employees and the general public they are trying to assist.

Cody, is there anything else you would like to add? 
I would like to emphasize that LMCIT staff is always happy to assist any interested cities starting the process by performing the required OSHA on-site survey.

Read about another Minnesota fire department that was also recently awarded an OSHA grant, and what equipment they purchased with these funds.

Up next: Public Safety Risk Management—Some Common National Themes

Stay safe,

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

OSHA Grants

Belle Plaine used their OSHA grant
to help pay for their new SCBA.
Recently the Belle Plaine Fire Department was awarded a grant for new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA). I asked LMCIT Loss Control Field Consultant Troy Walsh for the details.

Troy, what type of grant did Belle Plaine utilize to obtain the equipment?
The Belle Plaine Fire Department utilized the Workplace Safety Consultation - Safety Grant Program or the Minnesota OSHA Safety Grant. The grant was for $6,000 and needed a 50/50 match from the city. The total cost for the department to replace all of their SCBA was more than $150,000. Even though the grant amount is just a small percent of the total replacement cost, everything helps when funding is limited. You can get more information about this grant here.

What is the grant process?
The Safety Grant Program is fairly easy to complete. The grant application requires the applicant to complete a section on the equipment requested, an explanation of why it is needed, a price quote for said equipment, and (if possible) a survey of safety equipment needs. You can apply for this grant online.

What role did you play in assisting them with the application?
I was asked by the fire department’s SCBA committee to review existing SCBAs, SCBA cylinders, and their cascade system (used for filling the tanks with compressed air). They provided the list of equipment, the in-service dates, annual/required maintenance, and the equipment’s expiration information. Once that was all pulled together, I assisted with comparing their information with NFPA standards and OSHA rules for maintenance and replacement requirements. I also provided a recommendation letter to the fire department to use for both City Council approval and the grant application.

What type of equipment can be requested in a grant application?
The Safety Grant Program can be used to apply for almost anything that is related to safety. I have been able to help cities acquire not only money towards SCBA’s, but a gas-powered post pounder, a skid-loader auger, flammable cabinets, spill-proof flammable gas cans, as well as many others. The Safety Grant Program does review all applications, and they continuously update their priority list.  Another good document to review is OSHA’s guide on how to improve your odds of receiving a grant.

Loss Control Field Consultant
Troy Walsh
Any final thoughts?
The Minnesota Workplace Safety Consultation - Safety Grant Program is a great resource for anyone who needs to update, purchase, or replace outdated safety equipment. This should not be the only resource for replacement, but thought of as an additional funding option. Safety equipment should always be monitored and inspected for proper working condition as it ages. Including replacement or updated safety equipment in the operating or capital improvement budget should always be the priority—getting a grant to offset that purchase could help provide other additional safety needs.

Up next: The La Crescent Fire Department Receives a Grant to Upgrade their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Stay safe,

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Minnesota’s Law Enforcement Memorial

Since 1962, May 15 has been designated as National Law Enforcement Day. It is a day to remember the officers who have died in the line of duty.

In Minnesota, events are coordinated by Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA). This is also the organization that assists departments and family members after an officer has died in the line of duty. Once during my first career we had one of our officers killed in an off-duty traffic accident. We worked with the LEMA team to assist our department with the planning and with the funeral, and they were wonderful.

About a week ago I noticed officers, deputies, and troopers rehearsing at the memorial site on the State Capitol mall. The “Standing of The Guard” begins on the evening of May 14 and continues through the night until concluding with a memorial service at 7 p.m. on the night of May 15. There is also a procession from the Wabasha Street Bridge to the memorial preceding the services.

The memorial is located at the southeastern corner of the mall, near the corner of Wabasha Street and 12th Street East. It consists of a series of tall white pillars that face downtown. A lighted thin blue line runs up the steps through the pillars. “Thin blue line” is a well-known phrase in law enforcement and represents the officers standing between the public and chaos. When an officer is killed, the line is temporarily broken. The thin blue line ends at a beautiful block of black marble which is engraved, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. -Matthew 5:9.”

For more information on the services and the memorial, visit the LEMA website.

Up next: Success with OSHA Grants

Stay safe,

Monday, May 7, 2018

TSO Classes—They Set The Bar High

LMCIT's Public Safety Coordinator Rob Boe
wraps up the TSO training in Medina after.

The Medina Police Department recently hosted two League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) Training Safety Officer (TSO) courses for the public safety responders in their region. This program has been successful in reducing training injuries in both fire and police departments without watering down good aggressive training, and it received the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) national award in 2015.

Firefighters and police officers from eight departments participated in each of the three-hour courses. I use the word “participated” since the training included the responders working in teams of two to apply the steps of the TSO program to one of their own training sessions.

As I walked around the room, I was impressed with the level of discussion between team members as they worked to develop a safety briefing that one of them would be presenting to the class. It is a bit of the “hear it, see it, do it” idea as they also view photos of training sessions throughout the class. Our experience has found that this adult learning exercise really helps drive the program home.

The League's safety vest.
Well, in Medina they set the bar high. We know it can be a bit intimidating to stand in front of a room of peers and present your ideas off the course worksheet, but the first person that presented their briefing nailed it. Each presenter built on the previous briefing, and they were all impressive. The police officers taking the course earn three continuing education POST credits, and those who presented their briefing received a LMCIT safety vest. If you would like to know more about this program, contact me at

I thank Medina Police Chief Ed Belland for hosting these courses, providing their training room, and providing some snacks!

Up next: Minnesota's Law Enforcement Memorial

Stay safe,

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Update from the 2018 Spring Workshops

This year’s police track focuses on critical incidents and background
investigations. Like the rain, these workshops are a sure sign of spring.
A League staffer spotted the article in a local newspaper. The story was about the city’s police department adapting and adopting the League of Minnesota Cities’ newly released model policy for handling critical incidents. The policy is the focus of two sessions at this year’s Safety and Loss Control Workshops, and adapting it to fit your department is one of the themes. Rounding out the police track sessions is a class on the best practices for conducting background checks on new applicants.

I remembered seeing the city’s police chief participating in the tabletop portion of the critical incident training at a recent workshop. During the tabletop exercise the class works through a simulated critical incident using the checklist that is part of the policy. The exercise makes the words of the policy come to life, but city officials taking the next step like this chief did is what brings these practices into the real world.

We are seeing many of the police track attendees staying for the afternoon track of classes that are focused on first amendment issues of protected speech, and handling protests on city property. Both the morning and afternoon sessions are approved for POST credits.

The remaining dates and locations are:

April 17 - St. Paul
April 19 – Brooklyn Park
April 24 – Rochester
April 26 – St. Cloud

Register today at

Free Critical Incidents Model Policy Webinar
If you or your staff are unable to attend one of the workshops, there is an upcoming opportunity to view a portion of the April 19 workshop live as it is being presented in Brooklyn Park. The one-hour webinar will focus on both the Critical Incident Model Policy and the accompanying Planning for Critical Incident Responses Information Memo. For details and registration information go to

Up Next: A Local Police Department Hosts TSO (Training Safety Officer) Classes for First Responders

Stay safe,

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Officer Wellness Conference

The Blue Watch organization has announced the dates and topics for their upcoming 2018 Officer Wellness Conference. Some of the topic areas are: police culture, peer support, enhancing emotional resilience, and understanding psychological trauma. The two-day conference will be on May 3-4 at the Woodbury Public Safety Building.

The public safety community’s concerns about the mental toll the job takes on all responders has finally moved out of the shadows. Our responders are exposed to horrific scenes of bedlam as they render aid and bring control back to the chaos, but it can take a toll on them. Fortunately, the business is recognizing that suppressing these memories and toughing it out is not a good idea. The conference is a wealth of resources and information, and they have an impressive group of presenters lined up.

Other topics on the agenda are: officer suicide prevention, the science of addiction, confidentiality and therapeutic help, and there will be a panel discussion on addiction and recovery. I am intrigued by the session with the title “The Wellness Advantages of Being a Police Officer.” Hmmm, now that sounds really interesting.

For more information and to register, visit:

Up next: A Report from the Safety & Loss Control Workshops

Stay safe,

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Property and Evidence Room Management

West St. Paul Police Chief
Bud Shaver presents at the conference.
A guest blog by Tracy Stille, Loss Control and Law Enforcement Field Consultant

The importance of property and evidence room management has certainly gained visibility in the state of Minnesota. One result of the increased visibility was legislation enacted in 2010, requiring the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training and the Minnesota County Attorneys Association to develop a model policy that articulates best practices for forfeitures.

Along with West St. Paul City Attorney Kori Land and West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver, I recently presented at the 2018 City Attorney’s Educational Conference on the importance of police property room management.

In addition to taking custody of property subject to forfeiture, law enforcement officers take custody of lost and stolen property, contraband, and physical evidence that can directly or indirectly solve a crime. The integrity of these items depends upon the proper handling of the items from the moment law enforcement takes possession of them until they are legally returned to their owners, sold, destroyed, or retained for agency use.

The mishandling of these items by law enforcement agencies can lead to criminal charges against officers, financial liability for the law enforcement agency, the loss or theft of property, or the damage, contamination, or destruction of evidence.

In 2011, the State Auditor’s Office published a Best Practices Review of Police Property and Evidence Rooms to provide timely, important resources to law enforcement agencies around the state of Minnesota and to help mitigate the mishandling of police property. It not only provided a guide to developing a Property and Evidence Room Policies and Procedures Manual, but it is also unique in that it incorporates an overlay of Minnesota laws.

Loss Control Field Consultant
Tracy Stille
Police Property Room Self-Inspections Checklist

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) has also developed a self-inspection checklist for Minnesota cities. This checklist can be used to evaluate your own police property room and to ensure that it has sufficient security, storage, and equipment, as well as ensure that the personnel assigned to the property room have sufficient oversight and training.

If you are interested in receiving free information about the self-inspection of your police property room, please contact me. I will either email you a copy of the self-inspection checklist or, if you prefer, arrange for a free on-site visit of your police property room. 

You may contact me at or give me a call at (651) 215-4051.

Up next: The Impact of Fitness and Weight on Officer Injuries

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.