The Problem of Dealing with Synthetic Drugs

We got an anonymous letter the other day tipping us off that a local store was possibly selling synthetic drugs like K2 or Spice and tobacco products to underaged people (you have to be 18).  Because the letter is anonymous, we don’t have any way of letting the writer know what we’ve been doing so I hope they are a blog reader.

I asked Officer Jeramey Peters, our most senior Drug Recognition Expert, to give you more information on this topic.  He has been to the store in question and didn’t see anything that he recognized immediately as illegal.  He did say that the manufacturer’s frequently change the mixes up to avoid violating the law which makes it much harder for us to prosecute.  We have to buy or seize a sample and send it off for testing which takes quite awhile.  One of the indicators we look for in this type of thing is whether we are having a large number of EMS runs on people exhibiting symptoms of synthetic drug overdose (we are not).  We also do periodic stings to test the merchants on whether they will sell to underaged people and report them to the state for license violation (not to mention tickets for the violating seller).

Here is what Officer Peters wrote:

With the recent anonymous complaint received by the Auburn Hills Police Department regarding the sale and use of the substance known as K2 or Spice, the following is information to educate the public on what the substance is, what it looks like, the signs and symptoms a user will display, and the law regarding the substance.

The substance had received a lot of media attention in 2012 which led to new laws making the sale of specific chemical combinations illegal. However the substance is not gone and still easily obtainable.

What is K2 or Spice?

The substance is a mix of herbs, synthetic cannabinoids, and/or other ingredients that are intended to be used as aromatic incense or burning incense. Sold in Europe as early as 2004, this substance has package disclaimers saying that it is not intended for human consumption, however it has been found that use of the substance will cause a feeling of euphoria.

Some of these brands are up to 800 times more potent than marijuana.

Why do people use it?

The substance hit the market as a safe and legal alternative for marijuana. The substance is not detected by most drug screens but there are tests available that are costly. Users are able to obtain the substance at head shops and through the internet without having to purchase the drug in a dangerous area or from a drug dealer.

What does K2 or Spice look like?

There are numerous products out there that contain the substances found in K2 or Spice. The names K2 and Spice are just one of the manufacture names for the substance, similar to how Dodge, Chrysler, and Fiat are manufacture names for automobiles. However many users use the generic term ‘spice’ to discuss the substance regardless of what brand they use.

Other synthetic “spice” brands

 

“Spice” can be confused with other substances:

Signs and Symptoms of the User:

Because the drug is not controlled each package may result in extremely different results on the user. These differences may result in no feeling of impairment to death. Some users may display euphoria, giddiness, silliness other users may become violent, depressed, and suicidal.

Users will have reported issues with impaired short-term memory, cotton mouth, sensitivity to light, paranoia, headaches, visual hallucination, panic attacks, delirium, and strokes. Many have reported dependence, addiction, and overdoses on the drug.

Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) have observed users under the influence of ‘spice’ and noted that the drug affects the user similar to marijuana but with additional characteristics similar to Central Nervous System Stimulants and Hallucinogens.

Users have high blood pressure, high body temperature, high pulse rates, sweating, bloodshot eyes, unable to perform sobriety exercises, irritability, fidgety, and paranoid.

Death is possible: Click this link for an NBC report about a teen that died after use http://www.today.com/health/synthetic-pot-warning-spice-users-dont-how-deadly-drug-can-1D80058128

Michigan Law:

On June 19th of 2012 Governor Snyder signed legislation to ensure that K2, Spice, and other dangerous synthetic drugs were no longer being sold on the shelves of Michigan stores. K2 and Spice are now considered a felony and classified as a Schedule I drug which is the same schedule as methamphetamine and heroin-a drug that has no medicinal use.  The problem, however, is that the sources simply change the chemical composition of these synthetic drugs in ways that avoid the law.

Enforcement Issues:

Because of the ever-changing drug culture legislature cannot possibly predict what the next drug of choice will be. Law makers are constantly trying to react to new drugs but after a lengthy process of creating new laws a replacement drug surfaces with a different chemical compound.  After the chemical compounds change the drug is no longer banned and the process has to start over again.

Officers cannot make immediate arrests when they find someone in possession of the substance because field tests are not readily available for the drug and laboratory tests take several months. The packaging on the substance does not list the chemical compounds found in the packaging to confirm if the chemicals are banned.

Although sale of the chemical is banned in Michigan, a simple Google search will find the substance and ship it directly to your door step.  We are hoping for federal legislation that can help slow down imports and sales across state lines.

Auburn Hills Morning Optimists Honor Firefighter of the Year-Melissa Macek

20141002_191104On Thursday, October 16th, the Morning Optimist Club honored one of our paid on call firefighters, Melissa Macek.

I first met Melissa when she was a student at our Citizen’s Police Academy a few years ago.  It was clear that she was deeply interested in a career in public safety.  After she finished the Police Academy, she took the Fire Department Citizen’s Academy and she started with the Fire Department as a paid on call firefighter in November 2011.  She completed Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications and got her Emergency Medical Technicial license. In addition to working shifts and going on fire calls, she works additional details some of which are as a volunteer.  She is the assistant coordinator for our fire cadet program and guides young adults as they learn about a career in the fire service.

She helps with the firefighters’ charitable organization, Helping Hands, that assists families in our community during the holidays and when they suffer a fire in their home.  She also volunteers at the Senior Center helping out where she can.

One thing that has consistently impressed me about Melissa is her constant effort to improve her skills.  I see her around the station working with inspectors or practicing her ladder skills with other firefighters on a consistent basis.

We are proud of her achievement – way to go Melissa!

20141016_082612

Dispatchers: The Critical Link Between the Community, Police, Fire and EMS

Auburn Hills PSAP

Auburn Hills PSAP

Indeed they are the critical link.  They are the first voice you hear when you call us for help.  They calm the frightened and get help on the way.  They are part of the Police Department here but they serve the Fire Department as well.  In any emergency, we need what they can do.  Not just anyone can sit down and become a professional 911 operator (AKA dispatcher) it takes a truly special person.  The State of Michigan has established training standards to assure you that whenever and wherever you call a primary 911 call center in this state you get an operator who knows their job and can help you.  There are secondary call centers which means that 911 calls can be transferred to them but they not required to meet the same standards.  The link will show you and FCC spreadsheet with the kinds and types of 911 call centers around the country–including us.

Take a look at your cellphone bill.  I know there are a lot of fees and surcharges tacked on that are irritating.  But know that two of them come right back to our community:  one funds our interoperable radio system here in Oakland County with about $.20 per phone line and another small surcharge that provides $$ back to us to train our dispatchers.  We received $5470 in May 2014 to train our personnel and we are in the process of using it all for exactly that purpose.  We are required by the state to report back to them how we used these funds.  Click on the link to see what your community received.

There are now standards that 911 operators must meet:

Those hired on or after Dec. 13, 2011, who are currently employed by a primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) which AHPD is, must complete Module I, consisting of a 40-hour basic telecommunicator training course approved by the State 911 Committee (SNC), within 18 months of the effective date of the rules. Module I contains the following subjects: an overview of public safety, police, fire and emergency medical services; telecommunicator roles and responsibilities; legal aspects of dispatcher services; interpersonal communications; public safety technologies; telephone techniques; call classification; radio communications and stress management.

Within 24 months of the date of hire, a telecommunicator who was hired on or after Dec. 13, 2011, shall also complete Module II, a 40-hour basic telecommunicator training course approved by the State 911 Committee. Module II contains eight hours of training in domestic violence, suicide intervention, 911 liability, stress management and a homeland security elective.

I’m proud to tell you that 10 of our 11 dispatchers are compliant.  The 11th was hired in September and is being trained right now.   We see this as a high priority.

Public safety dispatching is a highly technical field done by professionals to the benefit of communities.  If you would like to know more about 911 dispatching in Michigan click HERE.

 

An Investigator Compliments a New Officer’s Work

We got an interesting email today from one of our investigators.  Recently he told me about what a great job Officer Emily Frederick did on this case. She has less than one year on the job but has impressed us with her work. He decided to inform Emily’s supervisors about her work as well.

Officer Emily Frederick

Officer Emily Frederick

To: Auburn Hills Police Department Command Staff

From: Detective J. Peters

Date: October 16th of 2014

Re: Recent Investigation by Officer Frederick

Greetings,

I am a firm believer in recognition when an officer puts forth additional effort towards an investigation rather than simply taking a call for service to generate a minuscule report. This recognition and feedback prove to be a great motivator to continue to produce the same if not a better quality of work in the future; especially in this case where a new officer is involved.

I was recently assigned case number 140019519 which was a Fraudulent Prescription incident at Meijer Pharmacy. During this incident the female suspect fled the store through the north doors to a waiting get-away vehicle as Officer Frederick entered the south door. Officer Frederick was focused because the suspect eluded her and became determined to identify the unknown female suspect. Officer Frederick searched law enforcement data bases for addresses and people associated with those addresses, then searched through numerous MIDRS / Drivers License photographs until she was able to locate a suspect that matched the description of the suspect.

The case was far from being done and required a lot of additional follow up by the Detective Bureau. Due to the diligence of Officer Frederick investigators had a head start and countless hours trying to identify the suspect were avoided.

The case turned out to be more than a simple prescription fraud case. Through the investigation it was found that the suspect had used this same fraudulent prescription sixteen times over the past year (totaling 2400 hydrocodone / Vicodin) and the suspect was using the identity stolen from an acquaintance.

The desire of Officer Frederick did not stop there. Last week Officer Frederick sat with me as I covered the additional steps taken to investigate the matter (IE: MAPS reports, Line Ups, etc). Officer Frederick was eager to learn more about investigations and genuinely excited when I told her that the suspect was positively identified by victim of identity theft, picked out of a line up by pharmacy staff, and charges were pending. Officer Frederick smiled and said “we got her!”

I just wanted to pass this on as we watch our new officer’s develop after our training process.

Take care,

Peters

As we retire officers of long standing service to this community, it good to know that we have new people coming up to take their place.  Officer Frederick is one of several new officers who will make their mark.

October is Domestic Violence Month

o-DISNEY-PRINCESS-4-570imagesCA59I0HUOctober is Domestic Violence Month.  It is important to bring attention to this serious problem in our society.  As police we see way too much violence between people who say they love each other.  We know there is a cycle of the violence where tension begins to build sometimes over small events or wear points in the relationship and then a violent act occurs.  The perpetrator then feels guilty and begs forgiveness.  By this point the case is going to court or the bruises are healed.  The victim takes the  perpetrator back because they want to believe the promises that it was the last time.   But it probably isn’t.

As police, we are charged by the law and by our department policy to make an arrest if we can identify an aggressor in the situation.  We look at all of the available evidence and listen to everyone’s story before we make a decision.  But we will make a decision and someone is going to jail.

 

If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, speak up.  Call the police if there is violence at the time it is happening.  If you need help  or advice contact HAVEN in Oakland County or contact your local domestic violence shelter.

Emergency Medical Dispatch has Changed the Way We Respond

You might recall that earlier this year we made a move to Emergency Medical Dispatch.  We purchased a nationally known software package developed by emergency medical personnel to direct our dispatchers more effectively in how to deal with callers with medical emergencies.  It is a system used around the country.   In the past, we did not give medical directions like how to conduct CPR or other lifesaving, we transferred the caller to STAR EMS our partners in emergency medical service.  Now that we are flying solo with respect to delivery of EMS services, we needed to make this change.  Along the way we also made a change to Emergency Fire Dispatch to improve how we are handing fire calls.

We have had extensive training and our personnel are operational on a software program called Pro-QA.  It is the highest quality software system we could find in the country and the one accepted by Oakland County Medical Control Authority–the rule setting body for emergency medical services in our county.  It is an automated tool to provide the very best in pre-hospital patient care. During the course of an emergency medical call, ProQA guides the process of collecting the vital information from the caller, obtaining the patient’s status, choosing an appropriate dispatch level, and instructing the caller with medically approved protocols until the dispatched units arrive at the scene.

Screenshot_2014-10-15-17-08-51-1

This is what the text we get looks like. The call is an M or medical. The 06 tells the EMS rig what the medical problem category is, the C code means a mid level response –D and E are lights and sirens and police are sent–the most serious calls. The 3R tells us who is being sent-Rescue 3 is the dispatched unit. Then the address. We click on the https:// link and the dispatch card with more details pops up and we get another link to a Google map to the location.

One aspect that our callers will need to adjust to is that we no longer runs lights and sirens to calls that don’t have potential as a serious medical issue as we did in the past.  The dispatchers ask many more questions as directed by the software to gain information about the patient’s status.  They are typing the answers to the questions into the software which is being read by the radio operator who is dispatching the units.  The units in the field are also receiving a text message that is updating with the answers to the questions.  You can see an example at right.

It is a highly technical system and we like it.

You might not like it as well if you don’t understand it particularly when you are a caller.  You may become frustrated when the call taker keeps asking questions and you may get the idea that no one is being sent to you.  At a certain point in the conversation when we have enough information, the units are dispatched even though the call taker is still on the line with you.

See a demo of the software here of a medical call.  Note that there is a timer on the screen.  Every dispatcher is timed for each call and later evaluated.   Our goal is to achieve the fastest possible call processing time by each dispatcher while maintaining accuracy.

We also purchased the software for Emergency Fire Dispatch to improve our method for dispatching fire.

See a demo of the software here of a fire call.

We are changing to do the very best for you.

Chinese Businessmen Visit AHPD and Shoot Guns on Our Range

chineseWe had a really great experience today.  A group of 18 Chinese businessmen visited our department and shot guns on our range.  Our Economic Development Director (now retired) Laurie Renaud, asked me about this when the visit was being planned way back in the spring.  I was a little concerned because I didn’t want to feed into stereotypes they might have about American police as a result of watching American movies and TV.  But Steve, their coordinator, assured me that they just wanted to have the experience of shooting a gun while they are here in the US.  Guns are very rare in China, I understand.

So we arranged for them to have a shooting experience under the watchful eye of a range officer, 4 at a time.  Safety is always first when handling firearms.  Each had an opportunity to fire a pistol, a shotgun and a rifle.  The assisting range officers were Lt. Gagnon, Lt. Miarka, Officers Brandon Hollenbeck and Matt Halligan.  Deputy Director Hardesty helped with getting everyone in the bullet resistant vests, eye and ear protection.  We had 4 on the shooting line at a time while everyone else could watch through a window in the rangemaster’s office. 20141014_160335

Judging by the smiles and laughter among among the officers and our guests, I’d say we all  had a good time.  Policing is done so differently in the world–particularly in the non democratic world that I wondered what they think of us when they compare us with their local police.  Most spoke only a little English and I spoke no Chinese so we had no opportunity for an in-depth discussion.

In any case it was great fun.

20141014_161222

 

More on Great Lakes Crossings Traffic

Traffic went well this weekend at the mall.  No gridlock was seen or heard from.  This was due largely because the contractor was able to stop work over the weekend including the holiday yesterday and open 2 lanes in each direction.  The bad news is that they have to restrict back to 1 lane in each direction again on Baldwin for 3 more weeks (approximately).  So we are going to keep our back up plan in place which means when the traffic builds late in the day and we can see that it is jamming up, we will be closing the entrances on Baldwin Road and pushing ring road traffic out the Great Lakes Crossings Drive exits east onto Joslyn and onto I-75 using police and security directing traffic.  Great Lakes Crossings has agreed to pay for the officers dedicated to the mall traffic so the entire community isn’t shortchanged their police response.

The contractor is working hard to complete the job so that it won’t impinge on the US Thanksgiving weekend shopping.  But complications like last weekend and the rain today make it problematic to finish on time.  So keep your fingers crossed.

By all means, come to the mall–there are lots of great shopping deals but come early and bring your patience.  Only 3 more weeks to go…….

Understanding Response Times for Police

Recently a resident of the city brought a complaint to the City Council meeting to tell them that he found the response by our police to a particular call to have been too slow.  We had heard from his family previously and so we are investigating the matter in hopes that we can resolve his concerns.images

But in listening to him I realized that many people may have his same perception that response times for police have value in determining the effectiveness of the police.  While response times have long been used to evaluate fire department responses, they are no longer used by policing experts and scholars to  determine police effectiveness.  Police response time really only measures how fast we can drive.  It doesn’t impact the outcome of the cases in the vast majority of instances.  For example, we know that building alarms are false 98% of the time.  Should we then drive at high rates of speed that endanger ourselves and the public when the only information we have is that an alarm is going off?  We know that the alarm companies often call the owners before they call us so there can be a long delay between the time the alarm is actually triggered and when we receive the report.  We know that when we have thunderstorms, alarms go off all over town due to the electrical impacts of the storm–should we continue a high priority response?  The most critical factor in whether police can impact an in progress call is how quickly it is reported meaning from the time of the incident itself, not discovery but occurrence.   Many policing experts would say that using police response times as a measure of police effectiveness is much more of a political  manuever than a useful law enforcement measurement tool.

There isn’t a standard for police response times.  Departments define emergency calls differently–some kinds of calls have a higher priority than others and it varies department by department based often on the resources of the agency and the volume of calls among other factors.  We are low in staffing right now, we are hiring but people are retiring faster than we are able to get them replaced right now.  So we have to deal with our limited resources when we prioritize calls.  We sometimes have to queue calls that we don’t want to queue and when we do that the sergeant is notified so that he or she can prioritize the calls in “pending” when they feel it necessary.  We prioritize life safety as first, meaning that we put reported injury vehicles crashes way up on our lights and sirens list.  We are now responding lights and sirens with fire units to medical calls when someone is having a heart attack or something that we can impact by getting on scene quickly.  So I’m not saying that we don’t respond quickly to some kinds of things–we are just highly selective.  It is largely in the judgement of the dispatcher and the supervisor.  The dispatcher asks lots of questions because they are trying to determine the emergency status of any call and make sure the right resources are sent.  (More on that in an upcoming blog)

I realize that quick response by the police is a citizen satisfaction issue.  When you call us you want us there as quickly as possible.  But if we start emphasizing response time as a primary measure of performance for our officers, other departments have found that traffic crashes will increase because the officers are driving more quickly to calls–and that is not an outcome that we want.

We do look at other measures of department performance –one of the most important ones is case clearance.  This is a measure of case outcomes-what we do when a case is reported to us.  The standards are set by the FBI who defines how cases can be closed, the primary ones being arrest and exceptional clearance.  Arrest means that we’ve identified a perpetrator and brought them into custody.  Exceptional clearance means that we have identified the perpetrator but can’t arrest them because they are dead, the victim refused to cooperate, things like that.  We clear at a high rate-of course we always are trying to improve that.  We clear at 58% which is pretty good when the statewide average is around 33% pretty consistently.  You can find more information on other communities on the Michigan State Police website under the ‘statistics” tab.

There are a lot of factors that go into police response times.  Here is a Wall Street Journal article “Giving No Time to Misleading Police Stats” on the subject from August 2013 that gives a good view of the complexity of the subject.  One of the experts quoted in the article, Leonard Matarese, is from the ICMA who did a study of our department in 2010 – 2011 and one of the factors they looked at was our response time and at that time they found us satisfactory in that regard.

We do understand your concerns and we do want to meet your expectations.   When we get on scene we want to do a thorough and complete job so that we catch the bad guy.  Every member of the department is committed to a safe community and we’ll continue doing our best to achieve that goal.

Great Lakes Crossings Mall Traffic – Good News for the Weekend

A serious group of stakeholders met yesterday to discuss solutions to the challenges of the Baldwin construction by Great Lakes Crossings.  The Road Commission for Oakland County brought their team, the construction contractor, Great Lakes Mall manager and security director and our police and fire put a plan in place that we think will help the weekend situation.   We expect this to be a busy weekend at the mall with Columbus Day and Canada’s Thanksgiving Day on Monday and some new movies opening.  The contractor is in a good position to open Baldwin Road from one lane right in front of the mall to two in each direction.  Joslyn Road at SB I-75 is now open for double turns onto the freeway.  It isn’t completed–still more challenges ahead with at least 3 weeks more of one lane travel on Baldwin.  But it is a big improvement for a big weekend.

We also worked with the mall on a plan to exit the traffic toward I-75 more efficiently when it begins to back up to avoid the lengthy waits to exit the mall.  We are bringing in more personnel (at the Mall’s expense) to make that happen.

So we are looking forward to improvements in the traffic situation for the weekend.  There will be great bargains and some new movies I’m sure you will want to see.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,498 other followers