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Thursday, December 26, 2019

First Amendment Audits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and happy holidays,
Rob

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Podcast Episode on Mental Health Crises and How Police Respond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up next: First Amendment Audits

Stay safe,
Rob

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2019 LMCIT Dividend: 'It’s in the mail!'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe,
Rob

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

National Trends in Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe,
Rob

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Fall 2019 Recap: Beyond the Training and Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up next: National Trends in Social Media

Stay safe,
Rob

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service

Last Sunday, the fire service gathered at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial site on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds for the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service. This service honors and remembers the state’s firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The service was moving (as it always is) with the procession of colors accompanied by bagpipes and drums, followed by the national anthem sung a cappella.

There were formal remarks from Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington and International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) President Gary Ludwig. Chief Ludwig spoke of a new IAFC initiative to reduce fatal heart attacks in the fire service called: “If you don’t feel well, don’t make it your farewell.” It seems almost weekly we read about a firefighter suffering a fatal heart attack at work, or after a call, who reported not feeling well but did not seek immediate medical evaluation. We will continue to follow this program as the IAFC rolls it out.

The service continued with a placement of wreaths and the addition of two previous line-of-duty deaths that had not been recognized. They were Francis Edey from the St. Paul Fire Department who died in 1900, and Robert Maki from the Keewatin Fire Department who died in 1973. Fortunately, Minnesota did not have any new line-of-duty deaths in the last year.

Wayzata Fire Chief Kevin Klapprich spoke as a returning survivor. He shared about the line-of-duty death of his brother, David Klapprich, in 2006. David was also a member of the Wayzata Fire Department, and Kevin reflected on how much the support of the fire service meant to their family.

The president of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs’ association, Chief John Cunningham, spoke about the importance of the day for remembrance. This was followed by the tolling of the bell, taps, and the benediction. The colors were retired and the sound of the bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” seemed to float over the Capitol grounds.

I thank the Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial Association for all they do and for this important annual service.

Up next: Fall Police Workshops — Beyond the Training and Presentations

Stay safe,
Rob

Monday, September 23, 2019

Funding for Turnout Gear Washers, Extractors, and Dryers

Co-written by Troy Walsh and Rob Boe

The change in the fire service culture has been remarkable. Once viewed as a badge of experience, the dirty, soiled, sooty turnout gear of the past is no more. The dirty gear is now viewed almost like a hazardous materials site that needs to be properly cleaned up as soon as possible.

To quote from the Department of Public Safety press release: “Studies continue to show that firefighters are acutely exposed to known carcinogens during structure and other fires and are continually exposed via turnout gear that is soiled due to exposure to toxic combustion byproducts.” That exposure extends well after the fire and while the gear is hanging in the station.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety — with funding from the Fire Safety Account, through the Fire Marshal Division — has authorized a $400,000 matching award program for an eligible fire department to purchase the specialized washing and cleaning equipment required to remove the toxins from the turnout gear. This is a matching grant program and initial applications must be in by October 15 at 4 p.m.

Questions should be directed to Nolan Pasell at (651) 201-7218 or nolan.pasell@state.mn.us.

Applications can be found online.

Reminder: The Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Memorial is Sunday, September 29.

Up next: Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service

Stay safe,
Rob

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Remembering Al Haynes

Captain Al Haynes died last week. I was lucky enough to hear his presentation and spend some time with him in the spring of 2002. I have remembered his message my entire career.

The back story

The Metro Emergency Managers Association was looking for a speaker for their annual end of the year luncheon. The group was skeptical but wanted to see if it was possible to arrange for United Airline Captain Al Haynes to address the group. We knew Captain Haynes had given presentations around the world on what he learned on July 19, 1989 when the DC-10 he was flying with 296 people on board suffered a catastrophic failure.

Haynes was the captain of United Flight #232 from Denver to Chicago when the tail engine began to break up. That resulted in a 12-inch piece of metal cutting all three of the plane’s hydraulic systems and the loss of all of the plane's control systems. Haynes and his crew figured out ways to control the plane, including adjusting the engine speed of the two remaining engines to get some ability to turn right and descend.

As the plane touched down in Sioux City, Iowa, it began to break up. One hundred twelve people on the plane were killed, and 184 survived the high-speed landing. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation duplicated what happened to the plane using simulators, and none of the 57 crews who attempted to fly the plane were able to control the airplane all the way to the ground.

Much to our surprise, Captain Haynes agreed to come to the Twin Cities for the presentation. His fee was for us to cover his motel room and meals, and we were to make an appropriate donation to any of his favorite charities. That included a fund for the families of those killed on the flight, a fund for the survivors, a fund for the Sioux City area, and his hometown Little League program.

The presentation

Captain Haynes’ conversational style connected with an audience of public safety professionals. He was humble and thoughtful as he took us through what happened through photographs and the aircraft-to-tower recordings. He gave credit to the crew who worked as a team to try to solve the problem and get the airplane under control. And he credited the United Airlines Crew Resource Management training with providing them with a process. I think his words were similar to: “The captain is in charge, but everyone has a voice at the table.”

In addition to preparation, he spoke about the importance of communication, execution, and attitude. At one point he added, “And don’t forget about luck or fate, if you will” and went on to say how lucky there were that they had good weather, daylight, highly trained air controllers, and the highly trained public safety response on the ground waiting for them in Sioux City. He did not mention PTSD specifically but talked of the importance of getting professional help to deal with stress. He said it had helped him.

He was careful but used humor effectively. When talking about the air controller, he mentioned the controller by name and said he used to work in Chicago but transferred to a less stressful job. The audience chuckled. Humor was also present when the radio recording of the airport tower told Haynes he was cleared for landing on a given runway. Haynes’ response was: “You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?”

The plane came barreling in with a limited ability to slow down and still keep flying. They did land on the runway but went off to one side and into a corn field.

When he concluded, Haynes asked for questions. There were none. He said this was normal for most audiences given what they had just heard and seen. He said he would stick around if anyone wanted to talk to him privately. And they began to line up. He was as interested in them as they were in him.

As the event wound down, we needed to get Captain Haynes to the airport. In addition for thanking him, someone in our group wished him a good rest of day. Haynes’ response was, “I will be having a great day. I get to umpire a Little League game tonight in my hometown.”

Haynes gave the presentation over 1,500 times around the world as a commitment to those who died on the flight.

Thank you, Captain Al Haynes.

Up next: Funding for Turnout Gear Washers, Extractors, and Dryers

Stay safe, responders.

Rob

Thursday, August 15, 2019

First Responders: Reducing Stigma, Providing Aid

“I’m Joe, and I’m here to help.” Those words are from an Eagan Police Officer who went to Mental Health First Aid—an eight-hour course created by Fairview. In a YouTube video, the officer talks about attending the workshop, what he learned, and how that knowledge paid off a few weeks later while handing mental health call.

Here's the story in Joe's own words: "When I took the class, I came away with a new appreciation of how much the words we use matter on calls like this." Our first responders are on the front line of this issue and this Mental Health First Aid course gives responders the tools and understanding to aid them in their work.

Did you know?
One in five American adults lives with a mental illness. Approximately 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues at some point during their careers. Nearly 40% of first responders said there would be negative repercussions for seeking mental health help at work.

For the first time, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust is offering Mental Health First Aid for Fire & EMS, focusing on the unique needs and experiences of first responders. You’ll learn how to recognize the warning signs and provide first aid and support if a colleague, family member, or member of the community is experiencing a mental health crisis.

The class is being taught in two half-day sessions in two locations to allow more of our paid call staff to attend:

September 20-21—Fergus Falls
November 1-2—Windom

Visit our website for more information and to register. 


Up Next: Remembering Al Haynes

Stay Safe,
Rob

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Duluth Police Canal Park Officers

The League of Minnesota Cities held its Annual Conference in Duluth during the last week of June. As part of the planning process, League staff met with the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) staff well before the conference. In addition to a walkthrough of the facility and a review of the schedule, the DECC staff suggested we check in with “their” Duluth Police Department’s Canal Park Community Officer. They gave us his phone number and email address, and the DECC staff told us this program of police outreach has been very successful.

Upon returning to St. Paul, I followed up and sent Duluth Officer Mike Jambor an email introducing myself, and I provided him with a brief outline of the conference. Twenty minutes later, I received a phone call from Officer Jambor. He wanted more information about the conference and explained that he and his partners were assigned to the Canal Park area, including the DECC. He said they work with the area merchants, hotels, restaurants, bars, visitors, and the DECC staff in planning and problem solving. He made sure we knew how to contact his unit if we had any questions or issues before or during the conference.

The first day of the conference, Officer Jambor came to the DECC and introduced himself to our staff and looked at the conference layout. That happened each day of the conference with either Mike or his partners walking through and introducing themselves. We did have a very minor incident where a man who appeared to be confused wandered into the lobby and then ran out of the area. The DECC staff notified the police department, who quickly found the man and got him the medical help he needed. And afterward, Officer Jambor got back to us with an overview of what happened.

The Duluth Police Canal Park Community Officer program is more than just public relations. It is also about increasing the police department’s situational awareness of what is occurring daily in what has become one of the top tourist and conference locations in the region.

Kudos to the Duluth Police Department on this outstanding and responsive program.

Up next: First Responders - Reducing Stigma, Providing Aid

Stay safe,
Rob

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Force Science Realistic De-escalation

I’m excited and proud to announce that the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) is sponsoring Force Science Realistic De-escalation Training this fall. I have taken this one-day course, and I highly recommend it. 

It’s about responding to these difficult calls with realistic tactics based on research. It’s about everyone’s safety: the officer’s, the subject’s, and the family’s. It is about officers using the “discretionary time” some calls allow to get tactics and resources in place. 

During this day-long workshop, you will: 
  • Understand what de-escalation really means, and when it’s most likely to be successful 
  • Learn how to quickly recognize whether a subject is in conflict or crisis—and which tactics will be most likely to defuse the situation 
  • Review the best ways to make a connection, establish rapport, and apply proven principles of persuasion with difficult individuals 
  • Practice the principles of officer self-regulation and emotional control that will help you maintain rational thinking 
  • Discover how to help community members and the media better understand what realistic de-escalation entails—and the challenges that can inhibit an officer’s ability to safely de-escalate 
  • Leave with tools that you can use on the job during high-pressure encounters 

The cost of the course is being underwritten by the League for LMC members.
  • $50 (including lunch) for League of Minnesota Cities members 
  • $295 (including lunch) for non-League of Minnesota Cities members
Credits: Earn 8 POST credits that satisfy the new Learning Objectives for Mental Health/Crisis Intervention
Please note: You must attend the full day of training to receive these credits. 

Dates & Locations:
Sept. 10—Mankato 
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Courtyard by Marriott Hotel & Event Center
901 Raintree Rd. (view map)
Mankato, MN 56001
(507) 388-1234

Sept. 11—Shoreview
Shoreview Community Center
8 a.m.-4 p.m.
4580 Victoria St. N (view map)
Shoreview, MN 55126
(651) 490-4700

Sept. 17—Perham
Perham Lakeside Golf Club
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
320 17th St. NW (view map)
Perham, MN 56573
(218) 346-6070


Up next: Duluth’s Community Policing in Canal Park

Stay safe,
Rob

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Uniform Crime Report

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has just released the Uniform Crime Reports for 2018. The report is the compilation of data submitted to the BCA by the state’s law enforcement agencies. It contains the types of crimes, number of crimes, ages of victims, ages of suspect, and even the types of weapons used.

It is very tempting to compare the data to the previous year, but I find value in watching how the data is trending over a series of years. Reading the report is chance to increase situational awareness and look at what the statistics indicate about Minnesota’s law enforcement efforts.

  • The report shows there were 104 murders in 2018, which is down from 114 in 2017. A five-year look shows the number fluctuates—with 82 in 2014, 130 in 2015, and 100 in 2014. Robberies and aggravated assaults were down compared to 2017, but rapes were up 9%.

  • The number of people arrested appears to be steady with past years’ numbers: 105,329 men and 42,914 women were arrested in 2018. Arrests for meth, opioids, heroin, and cocaine were up—but the number of arrests for marijuana was down from 9,495 in 2017 to 8,752 in 2018. The five-year high for marijuana arrests was 11,590 in 2014.

  • In the category of “Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted,” the data indicated 487 officers were assaulted in 416 incidents. The most frequent activity for assault was responding to disturbance calls (161), followed by handling prisoners (107). There were no officers killed in 2018.

  • On page 50 of the report are the links to crime rate information that presents an agency-by-agency breakout of the jurisdiction crime rates and the percent of cases the agency has cleared.

The link to the data can be found on the BCA’s Criminal Justice Data Reporting section of their website.

Up next: Force Science: Realistic De-escalation Training is coming to Minnesota in September

Stay safe,
Rob

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Stork Pin

Recently one of our loss control team members received a “stork pin.” League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) Field Consultant Troy Walsh is also a firefighter, and he recently assisted with an emergency child birth. Below is my Q&A with Troy on the details of the call.

Q. Troy, could you tell us how the call came in?
A. We were dispatched for an imminent child birth medical call. These are not usual emergencies for first responders, as this typically happens in a medical facility and not at home.

Q. What were you doing when you got the call?
A. I was just walking out of my house to head to an LMCIT Loss Control Workshop. I quickly made a call to my supervisor and let them know I was going to be late, and I headed toward the fire station.

Q. What was happening when you got there? 
A. While we were en route with our rescue truck, we received a message from dispatch that the baby had been delivered, and we were instructed to continue to the scene. When we arrived, the newly born baby was in good hands with law enforcement and other fire department staff who were already on scene. We attended to the mother to ensure she was doing well and also assisted the paramedics with care of the newborn. A paramedic and I helped “swaddle” the baby in its first piece of clothing as the law enforcement officers assisted with care of the newborn. Because we now had two patients—mom and baby—the paramedics asked if someone from the fire department could ride with them to the hospital to assist with caring for the newborn. I volunteered for that spot immediately! I was the second person to hold this precious package and was able to attend to him for the entire ride to the hospital.

LMCIT Field Consultant
Troy Walsh
Q. Had you ever assisted on a call like this before?
A. Baby delivery calls are not a common call for us. In my 20+ years as a first responder, I have been dispatched to three other child birth calls—but luckily enough they were all delivered at the hospital instead of at home. Being a first responder, we are present at times when people leave this world, and that is always tough to deal with and experience. It is almost every first responder’s dream to be a part of someone entering the world. Most EMS calls involve sadness and fear, but ones like this are all smiles, and that is amazing to see!

Q. Tell us about the stork pin.
A. Once we were at the hospital, we turned the care of mom and baby over to the nursing staff. I helped the paramedics get their equipment put back together and waited for my ride back to the station. I was approached by the EMS administrative staff, and they asked if I helped care for the newborn baby this morning on the way to the hospital. I of course said yes, and they asked me to put out my hand. They gave me a stork pin for my work on the call. This was the very first stork pin that I have ever received, and I was completely surprised, as I didn’t help with the delivery. The EMS staff told me that there are important roles on every EMS call, and I had the most important role! The stork pin is usually given to someone that helps with the delivery of a baby. This is a tradition in the EMS world and is typically given by the EMS provider.

Q. Wow, what an experience. Do you have any final thoughts on the call? 
A. I have had 20 years of training for this type of incident, and the training definitely was helpful in keeping me calm. This will be a call that I will never forget!

Troy, thanks for sharing your experience—and congratulations.

Up next: June is PTSD Awareness Month

Stay safe,
Rob

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Law Enforcement Memorial

This week, the Minnesota law enforcement community again remembered its fallen officers with a 24-hour vigil at the memorial site on the grounds of the State Capitol.

The event is hosted by Minnesota’s Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA), with officers, deputies, and troopers from around the state providing an honor guard. A member of LEMA continually patrols the thin blue line that represents law enforcement standing between the public and chaos. As officers end their vigil, they announce a fallen officer’s name and ring the bell three times. An electronic display continually scrolls the names of officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Below are a few photos taken just before sunrise today and again later in the morning from this year’s memorial vigil.









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

Up next: A “stork pin:” one of our own gets one!

Stay safe,
Rob

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Safety & Loss Control Workshops Recap

The 2019 League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) Safety & Loss Control Workshops have concluded. It was attended by more than 1,000 of our members and insurance professionals. We thank all who attended, and we are still reviewing your evaluations and comments. I reached out to our presenters in the police track and asked for a summary of what they learned and experienced.

Risk Management Attorney Chris Smith presented on mutual aid/joint powers agreements, PTSD, and filing a work comp claim. These were Chris’ observations:

  • Most people seemed to agree with LMCIT’s suggestion that in mutual aid agreements, the party requesting assistance should assume liability. However, some police officers seemed reluctant to assume the liability of another city. Cities should understand that the liability provisions in the League’s Model Mutual Aid Agreement are suggestions. LMCIT does not require cities to apportion liability in any particular manner.
  • In regard to PTSD, the State of Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (in conjunction with the Medical Services Review Board) recently released draft workers’ compensation rules for the treatment of PTSD. LMCIT was actively involved in the drafting process.
  • When filling out a First Report of Injury, it appears that the injured worker often fills out the form. However, the form states: "Employers, not employees, are responsible for completing this form." When the form is completed, it should be sent to LMCIT—not the Department of Labor and Industry.

Loss Control Field Consultant Tracy Stille presented property room management. These were Tracy’s observations:

  • Police property and evidence room management continues to be a time-consuming and challenging task for many police departments across the state. This first emerged as a problem area for police agencies back in 2009 and—although we have seen some improvements—continues to be a problem for many agencies. These problems have included the proper packaging and tracking of evidence, training of assigned personnel, audits and inventories, security and ventilation concerns, and the proper disposition of evidence in a timely and legal manner. It is essential that agencies develop and implement a proper packaging manual and a written policy for the property and evidence room.

I presented on liability, opioid issues, and autonomous vehicles. My observations were:

  • The opioids issues vary widely from region to region, city to city, and (in some cases) even within a city. Most members—not all—reported a continued uptick in the number of overdoses, and our informal survey showed most departments are carrying naloxone. Members were appreciative of the responder safety information and laminated handout. Every session discussed the continued prevalence of issues related to methamphetamine use, and many talked about the increase in crime associated with this problem.
  • The membership was interested in Minnesota’s plan for autonomous vehicles, and I noticed many heads shaking when a video clip laid out the manufacturers’ timelines for the implementation. I think it was in disbelief.
  • As in the past, the interaction with the membership between sessions and over lunch was enlightening. Members bring us their questions and concerns that are not related to the formal presentations. Often we are able to locate LMCIT staff at the workshop who specialize in the area of concern and start the conversation within a few minutes. The discussions over lunch are usually less formal and—rest assured—in Minnesota, police humor is alive and well.

Up next: A Few Photos from Law Enforcement Memorial Day

Stay safe,
Rob

Monday, April 8, 2019

“OD MAP” Is Up and Running

In the second hour of our ongoing Safety and Loss Control Workshops, we have a session on Minnesota’s opioid epidemic. We began by asking the police officers what they are experiencing in their cities. Their responses reflect the wide range of impact. One city is handling and investigating numerous opioid overdoses and deaths, while a city 33 miles away had just one in the last year. All report that meth is still prevalent, and many mention the crimes—particularly theft and burglary—that accompany the drug problem.

Another common concern is the lack of information as to what is trending, and the ability to track overdoses that are occurring in other jurisdictions and in other regions of the state. The Minnesota Department of Health’s “Opioid Action Plan” called out the need for law enforcement and the rest of the public safety communities to be able to get real-time information on overdoses occurring around the state.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has rolled out “ODMAP.” This is a free tool that provides real-time overdose information data across jurisdictions. It is user-friendly and allows entries to be made from the scene, the car, or later when officers are at the station. On the backend it tracks the day of the week, date, time, location, Naloxone use, and—most importantly—it tracks “spikes” when multiple overdoses begin to occur in a short amount of time. Each department has the ability to set the number of incidents they would consider a spike.

Project Coordinator Lindsey Bartholdi will be at some of the workshops, available to answer questions and even schedule appointments to help implement the program in your department. If you are unable to attend the remaining workshops, I encourage your department to contact the BCA for more information at (651) 793-7000 or odmap@state.mn.us

Visit our website for more information on the remaining workshops and to register.

Up next: What We Learned (A Review of What We Heard While On the Road)

Stay safe,
Rob


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Flooding Precautions

It is unusual for us to make two posts live in such close succession, but our current and rapidly changing spring flooding is unusual and dangerous—especially for our public safety responders. Responding to these incidents involving flooding are “High Risk-Low Frequency Events.” Below are links to information you can share with your EMS, fire, and police responders.

Be sure your department is in contact with your city and/or your county emergency manager.

Here are some good tips from Police One. I really like their 3-step approach to responding to incidents involving flooding:

  1. Am I seeing the whole picture? (situational awareness)
  2. Where are the most likely threats?
  3. What are my action plans? (pre-planning)

- Here are two short video clips from the weather service stressing and showing the dangers of driving on flooded roadways. The first one uses a catchy tune that can get stuck in your head (a good thing in this case!), and the second one illustrates what can happen if you try to drive on a flooded road.

The CDC has information on the health risk posed by floodwaters. In 1993, our farm in the Minnesota River Valley flooded, and the smell of what was left behind made putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) automatic.

Up next: Report from the State Fire School in North Mankato

Stay safe,
Rob

The Chiefs' Meeting

I was recently invited to attend a county’s police chiefs’ meeting. In my career I have attended quite a few of these in a number of counties, but it had been a few years since I was at one. And basically not much has changed, which is good.

It was obvious as soon as I walked into the room that the chiefs and their staffs know each other well. The departments represented at the meeting were a mixture of small, medium, and large, representing very different communities.

The meeting had a formal call-to-order, and the group’s president began working his way through the agenda with a review of the minutes of the last meeting. I did a short presentation on the risk management issues we are seeing in our statistics and about some upcoming projects.

I had forgotten how impressive it is to see a room full of law enforcement professionals actively and openly engaged in a discussion of current and future issues facing their departments and their cities. It’s a chance for them to check in with each other and to increase their awareness of what is happening around them. And the conversations continued after the agenda had been completed, through the lunch, and even in the parking lot as they headed to their cars.

I thank New Brighton’s Public Safety Director Tony Paetznick for the invitation to attend the meeting and for giving me a chance to “check in” with the chiefs.

Up next: Flooding Precautions

Stay safe,
Rob

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Physical Ability Testing (PAT) Project

The League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) are working with a group of our members on an exciting, new, and much-needed project. We are taking on the area of pre-hire fitness testing for police officers.

This is an issue that can be confusing for departments, as the type of testing needs to be both validated to the requirements of the job and to ensure it is not discriminatory. It’s also an area where police leadership and cities’ human resource directors can get tripped up by the federal rules that apply, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A survey of their membership conducted for us by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association indicated:

  • 40% of the respondents do not do any type of physical testing and rely on the skills school experience and/or the pre-hire medical examination
  • 29% are doing their own in-house testing
  • 23% contract with an outside firm for the testing
  • 8% indicated they use other means to assess the applicant’s level of fitness

The survey matched information we learned from the POST board staff, and from the many inquiries and questions we received from our membership.

Based on their level of interest, a steering committee has been established consisting of police chiefs (or their designees) and staff from city human resources departments. Our in-house committee members draw from the League’s human resources department, legal staff, workers’ compensation supervisors, loss control staff, and law enforcement coordinators.

It is the committee’s goal to provide a model for testing that could be adapted to fit the needs of departments of different sizes. And like all model policies, it will not be mandatory. 

I will provide periodic updates as the work progresses.

Up next: A County Police Chiefs' Meeting

Stay safe,
Rob

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

2019 Safety and Loss Control Workshops

It is a sure sign of spring when registration opens for the annual Safety and Loss Control Workshops! This year’s police track will feature presentations in the morning, as well as a back-by-popular-demand afternoon session. It is a Police HR Bootcamp entitled “Keeping Zombies and Vampires from Sucking the Life Out of Your Workplace.” 

The morning police track sessions have some pretty interesting titles as well. Leading off with the “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (on police property room management), “Same, Same, But Different” (a look at emerging trends for police), and “Three Critical Insurance Issues for Police Departments” (filing workers’ compensation claims, PTSD, and joint powers agreements).

All courses will be certified for POST continuing education credit, and lunch is included. We look forward to connecting and reconnecting with our members as we move around the state. Here is the schedule:

March 27—Mahnomen
March 28—Alexandria
April 3—Redwood Falls
April 4—Mankato
April 9—Rochester
April 11—Biwabik
April 16—St. Paul
April 23—St. Cloud
April 25—Brooklyn Park

Visit our website for more information and to register.

Reminder—the Opioid Information Session is scheduled for February 7 in Bloomington. It is free, sponsored by the League, and open to the entire public safety community. It is a chance to hear from the Minnesota Department of Health on the latest statistics and prevention efforts, from Minneapolis PD, to learn about the current litigation efforts, and—most importantly—to be part of an open discussion on the impacts of opioids in Minnesota.

Up next: Physical Ability Testing (PAT) Project

Stay safe,
Rob

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Opioid Resources

The opioid epidemic continues to expand in Minnesota. There are news stories almost daily about the number of fatal overdoses—including a recent article about the increasing number of children in emergency foster care due to their parents’ addiction, and another about the number of fatal overdoses in one metro county. This is not existing in a vacuum and it is not static. 

Meth overdoses and seizures are also at an all-time level and—while we are seeing improvement in the prescription side of the opioid problem—heroin and illegal fentanyl overdoses and fatalities continue to rise. We know that some of you are in the middle of this crisis and others are on the edge. Here are some resources to share with your staff:

  • The League has a new webpage to assist cities and public safety responders in getting more information about the opioid epidemic in Minnesota. The site will be updated with new information and resources as they become available. 
  • The Minnesota Department of Health, (MDH), has made their Opioid Dashboard the source to visit for what is happening with the Minnesota opioid epidemic. It is full of current information and training resources.
  • “Fentanyl: The Real Deal” is a training video that I highly recommend for all first responders. It runs about six minutes and is endorsed by nearly all of the national public safety associations.
  • The video is paired with written guidance entitled Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
  • An Opioid Information Session is scheduled for February 7 in Bloomington. It is free, sponsored by the League, and open to the entire public safety community. 

Up next: An Early Look at the 2019 Safety and Loss Control Workshops

Stay safe,
Rob