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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,

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,

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,

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,

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

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,