Great Lakes Crossings Assistant Security Director and Officer Save a Life

In this job one never knows what we may have to confront at any given time.  Yesterday was a case in point.  At about 9:50 am we received a report of a woman standing in the travel lanes of I-75 southbound near Great Lakes Crossings Outlets.  I was listening to thesuicidal-4 dispatch myself in my office.  Officer Bryan Chubb, the responding officer was on the way – he clearly knew it was likely to be a person trying to harm themselves.  Knowing this was a critical response he asked for more information to try to pin down the exact location.  I could hear his siren in the background and I knew by the tone of his voice that he was intensely focused on getting there quickly.  Because officers work on and around the freeway daily they understand how dangerous it is to be a person on foot on or near the roadway.  He was advised that Great Lakes Crossings security was reporting that the woman was walking in and out of traffic and  they were trying to talk with her. The next report was that they were fighting with her in the ditch.  When Officer Chubb arrived he told me he could see her struggling with them.  Witnesses reported that she was screaming that she wanted to go back into traffic and die.  suicdal-2

These types of situations are heart-rending and difficult.  We know that people engaged in this type of behavior feel desperate at that moment because of whatever may be going on in their life.  We also know that later, after appropriate treatment, they look back on that day and realize that their life has value and that it is possible to move on to happier days in the future.

By their actions yesterday, Great Lakes Crossings Assistant Security Director Howard Piotrovsky and Security Officer Mike Smith gave this woman the chance to find that better future when they risked their own lives by going out on the freeway in moving traffic.  At that moment it was not what she thought she wanted, but they persisted because they are decent, caring human beings trying to help.

I ran into Bryan at the end of his shift yesterday.  He wanted me to understand how strongly he believed that Howard and Mike saved tsuicidal-3his woman’s life—he is convinced that without them, she would not have survived.

The security crew at Great Lakes Crossings are great partners.  We work together daily and together we provide a safe environment for visitors at the mall. We all know each other and we have a deep respect for what Howard and Mike did yesterday. We will be presenting Assistant Security Director Howard Piotrovsky and Security Officer Mike Smith with a Lifesaving Award at our upcoming awards event.

I called Howard myself to thank him and let him know that I understood the risk he and Mike took and that he gave the woman another chance at life.  Being a humble guy, he just said thanks.

Officer Lane Recieves a Letter of Thanks

Every now and then I am gratified to receive a letter from a person who has been a victim in our town who writes us to let us know about the experience they had when they have to contact the police.  We are well aware that having to call us is mostly a bad thing.  People call us because something bad has happened and they need our help. They are usually upset and not having a good day, to say the least.

Today I wanted to share with you a letter we received from a victim about the

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Officer Mike Lane

actions of Officer Mike Lane.  She called us to report the theft of her iPad.  She was worried about all her personal information accessible through the device.  When she called I doubt that she thought she’d ever see her iPad again.  When Mike responded he investigated what happened to the iPad and was able to locate it and secure its return from the person who stole it.  Here at the AHPD we encourage officers to go beyond just recording the facts in a report wherever possible.  We want them to be investigators with a goal of trying to get people  their property back, if we can. Mike did just that.

I know there are people out there who don’t bother to call the police when they are victimized because they don’t believe there is anything we can do.  And more often than we’d like that is the case.  But not all of the time as Officer Lane proved.

And by the way – he never told us about his actions in the case.  He’s a modest, unassuming kind of guy.  But a valued and respected member of our team.

Here is her letter:

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It’s About Respect

Today members of our police and fire departments were privileged to participate in the “R” Word Rally at Avondale High School.  Our School Resource Officer, Brian Miller, was part of the school planning team who produced the rally this morning..

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School Resource Officer Brian Miller

Through a series of songs, skits, videos and brief speeches middle and high school students rallied around the idea that every person is due respect – that everyone is important and should be included in school and public life.

They invited us to participate  because we illustrate the point – we are a diverse group of people-men, women, tall, short, various races and ethnic backgrounds.  Some of us were not born in United States although all are citizens and loyal Americans.  We are united in our desire to police this community in ways that fair and equitable while producing a safe and secure environment for families and businesses. We each bring skills and abilities that support and complement each other in achieving our goals. We respect each other and what each brings to our work.

Using us as an illustration was interesting – one of the most important teamwork events we have been training recently is in the skill necessary to form ourselves into a Rescue Task Force in the event of a critical incident.  The idea is for police and fire to team up to IMG_4360_edited-1 (1)rescue injured people.  Seems elementary, I know.  But our traditional roles are for police to seek and eliminate the threat in an active shooter situation.  Meanwhile the Fire Department waits outside for police to make the scene safe to enter and treat the injured.  Firefighters are not armed and cannot protect themselves let alone another.  Their actions trying to help could make a scene much, much worse.  So police and fire are trained as teams to enter the “warm zones” and treat the wounded.  There have been cases around the country where wounded people may have survived the incident had they been afforded emergency medical treatment soon enough. (See an earlier blog for more information)

Today we demonstrated how we can work together as a team on an obstacle course simulated to be a rescue scenario.  Teams of students and staff attempted the same.  One entertaining aspect was that the police had to wear fire equipment and firefighters wore police equipment.  If you check out our Twitter feed you can see some videos. @AHPolice

I think our audience got the point – to do our jobs effectively we must work as teams and bring forward every person’s skills and abilities to achieve a successful outcome.

Avondale Schools have long intrigued me because of the diverse nature of the student body.  Of course the schools are a reflection of the diverse nature of our community.  Yet we have little if any of the controversy that sometimes comes with such a  diverse group.  Truly one of the strengths of this great community.  I appreciate that the school district and the City Council see the value of Officer Miller in our schools and what he brings to the education of our young people – how to be good citizens.

Today’s rally was a wonderful event. Thank you, Avondale Schools, for inviting us and allowing us to participate.

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The Avondale Bee and me. 

Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Releases On Line Survey

If you are a longer term reader of my blog you will remember that I served more than 9 20151209_173108.jpgyears as a member of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards the body that sets training and hiring standards for Michigan’s police.  Every state but one has a POST (police officers standards and training) organization.  They were first proposed as part of a presidential commission from the 1960’s that posited that increased standards and training would improve policing after the turmoil and riots of the 1960’s.

I am no longer a commissioner.  But I retain my interest in the Commission and the standards of quality that Michiganders can expect from their police.  As a result of some legislation passed in late 2016, the make up the Commission’s members changed.   I was a strong proponent of this legislation and worked for 8 years towards its passage.  Although some aspects of the legislation changed in ways I didn’t prefer, it still was an excellent modernization of the set of laws and administrative rules that govern policing.

As a part of the overall effort MCOLES contacted departments across the state asking us to help spread the word on their efforts to garner citizen input on policing in local communities:

In the latter part of 2016, the governor issued Executive Directive 2016-2 which directs the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to develop a report for Michigan based on community input. The report will offer a set of recommendations to advance the quality of police-community relationships, training, and recruiting across the state.

MCOLES is a state commission whose members represent law enforcement, prosecution, defense, labor, and the public.  The 19 commissioners set standards for the law enforcement profession in Michigan, including police selection, training, recruitment, and professional licensing.

Each community has unique issues, and input from local residents is important.  We have created a survey that offers residents an opportunity to share their input with MCOLES.  The survey site will be open until March 20, 2017. Responses to this survey will be organized and used by the commission to develop formal recommendations for law enforcement in Michigan.

Because it is important to MCOLES to ensure that all regions of the state and all segments of a community are being heard, the survey concludes with a request for your zip code.  MCOLES has also asked for your voluntary answers to age, race and gender, which allows us to ensure we have reached all segments within the state. The information provided in the survey will be anonymous and submission will not be tracked.

For more information regarding the Executive Directive, please visit the dedicated MCOLES site. You may also email additional comments to MCOLES-ExecDir2016-2@michigan.gov.

If you find that any of the hyperlinks above do not work, please copy and paste the appropriate web address from the below list into your internet browser. Thank you!

Here is the official press release:  mcoles-press-release

Please take a few minutes and complete the on line survey so your voice will be heard.

Heroin Use is Epidemic Everywhere – Even Here

Nationally we are in the midst of an epidemic of heroin abuse.  Here in Auburn Hills we are no exception – police are seeing it regularly.  One was a traffic crash last week at Opdyke and University in which a driver was impaired due to heroin use.  Here is another from Sgt Eftink from earlier this week:

BP 24/Brown-clerk called due to a private snow plow driver falling and vomiting outside.  Driver was not responsive. AHFD administered Narcan and he became alert-heroin use admitted-transported by AHFD.

Heroin is a strong narcotic drug.  It causes people to fall asleep regardless of what they are doing.  Maybe you’ve seen the photo that went viral last year of the small boy in a vehicle with his grandmother and her boyfriend who had both “nodded off” related to their heroin use.  A police officer was so disgusted when he found these people he took the photo.   His chief made it public because he wanted people to see what we are seeing.  It was taken in southern, rural Ohio.  Here is more information on the symptoms of heroin use. http://americanaddictioncenters.org/heroin-treatment/signs/

Image result for little boy in car with overdosed parents

Recently, I happened to talk to our former Deputy Director, Thom Hardesty who is now the administrator of the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office.  He was telling me that they have seen a tremendous increase in the number of heroin overdose cases recently that were fatal.  And many of them had previously been saved by use of Narcan one or more times.  Oakland County Community Health has not yet published a total number of saves by all of Oakland County’s police and fire departments for 2015 but I’m certain it will be a shocking number. It all totals to a terrible problem.

There is help.  If someone you know has an addiction problem here is a resource to contact:

https://www.oakgov.com/health/information/Pages/Substance-Abuse.aspx

 

The Weather Was Terrible This Morning

Wasn’t the weather terrible this morning?  I talked to Sgt Leonard by text about 10 am to ask how it was going.  They were jammed with crashes all day-everywhere. He said that he had ordered the closure of the ramp to NB Squirrel from WB M-59 this morning because cars simply couldn’t get up the ramp.  He said traffic was completely stopped.  He arranged with MDOT to have a salt truck on scene so that once the ramp was closed the salt truck could do its work and then he could open it back up.  That is exactly what happened and traffic got moving again.

He did say that what prompted the closure was all of the cars all over the place on the ramp.  We later heard from one of the drivers, Dan Stevens.

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We asked Sgt Leonard if he had some video of himself and Officer Foreman pushing those cars but he said he didn’t think so-his car was pointed the wrong way.  But then you know how bad it was this morning.

Our goal is always to keep as many travel lanes open as possible.  Please be patient and drive according to weather conditions.  You might be late, but you will get there.

Thanks, Mr. Stevens for sharing your thoughts with us.

Thank a Cop Day

Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.  People all across the country are taking a moment to thank cops for their daily work.  Here at the AHPD we are grateful that many members of our community have recognized our efforts throughout the year not just on one day.  If you follow our Facebook page we post our thanks to folks who stop in to see us.  One we missed over the holidays is to publicly say thank you to the Auburn Hills Christian Center.  For the 2nd or 3rd year in a row, they have brought us goody bags of food on Christmas Eve knowing that we are away from our families during that time.  Their faithfulness in remembering us is very touching and we are grateful to Pastor Cal Garcia and the kind staff of the church.

In the national narrative of distrust of police, the relationship of most communities to their police departments can get lost.  In fact, we work hard to build and maintain a strong relationship to the members of our community.  How?  Our personnel see their role as community helper, not just law enforcer.  Here is an example:  at the end of last week we received a call that a man was living in a home without electricity.  Sgt Scott McGraw later gave us an update:

We were sent to the above address yesterday regarding the elderly owner not having electricity in the home. Senior Services and the Building Official were also involved prior to our involvement. Ofc. Iacobelli and Ofc. Willour went out to the address and checked on Garry S. They found he was using propane space heaters to heat his kitchen area. He uses a generator to power the furnace on cold days. They also found that he has been doing this since 2011. If you are imagining a hoarder home, Garry is the opposite, he is neat and orderly. The Building Official issued a notice for Garry’s home that stated it was not safe for human occupancy late Friday afternoon. Ofc. Hodges served the notice and put it on his door.

Today, Ofc. Iacobelli and I went back out to speak with Garry. When we arrived he had the generator running in the garage and the furnace on, heating the house. Upon speaking with him it sounds like he had switched some meters in 2011 when his father passed away and DTE shut off his meter. He then took the meter off his house and DTE thought he stole it and cut the wires at the road. Garry said he sent a letter to DTE but never heard back from them. He never followed up on it and has just settled on living without electricity. As you can tell he is a bit stubborn and/or has some mental problems. DTE sent his overdue bill to collections and he has refused to pay the money because he doesn’t feel he owes that amount. We explained that if he doesn’t get electricity then he will lose his home. He asked if I could call DTE, so I did on his behalf.

After speaking with DTE, Garry will be getting new service starting on January 10th (Tuesday). They are going to come out and install a new meter and make sure his house is set up to receive electricity. At that time they are going to set a date on hooking up the wires to the pole. The only way I could get DTE to do this is to give them a telephone number for the service truck to call and Garry does not have a phone either. I had to give them the Sgt. Cell #1 number to call when they were going to be on the way. Someone has to answer the phone for them to come out. Garry said he isn’t going anywhere on Tuesday and will be there all day. So, whom ever has Sgt. Cell #1 please answer the phone so Garry can get electricity.

He is 74 years old and very set in his ways. He did showed us his ability to pay his consumers bill and other bills he has. He is just not going to pay the $800 to the collection agency. He also agreed that he will pay any future bills from DTE. When I gave him the news that he was going to get electricity back, he was  very appreciative of our efforts. Ofc. Iacobelli or I will be following up to see if she can assist in getting him phone service after the electricity is restored.

Maybe you think of us a crime fighters – and we are.  But we are also community problem solvers for those who can’t solve problems for themselves.  Sgt McGraw and his officers could have posted the notice and walked away creating a bigger set of problems for Gary.  But that isn’t what they chose to do.   No crime statistic though – so if you are a person who is measuring us by crime statistics, this won’t show up.   But we still consider this valuable work.

So if you see one of our officers today, it would go a long way for you to shake their hand and recognize their work and what it contributes to our community.

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Here is Sgt Scott McGraw with Officers Ian Hodges & Michelle Hesse last month