Meet the officers who saved a 72 year old man from a fire in his home

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I want to introduce you to the three Auburn Hills Police officers who acted quickly in the early hours of Sunday morning, July 9 to save the life of a 72 year old man from a fire in his home.  

Last night I met with Officers Alex Keebaugh, Chad Taylor and Mike Lane to hear from them what happened at the scene of that residential fire.

Officer Keebaugh said he was in downtown Auburn Hills on Auburn Road running radar.

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Officer Alex Keebaugh

Officer Chad Taylor was part of a team dealing with an unruly party and Officer Lane was elsewhere on patrol in the city.  Dispatch sent Keebaugh and Taylor on a “welfare check” saying they thought they could hear an older man moaning and asking for help on an open line.

Officers were on the scene quickly – one minute and 57 seconds for the first one.  They told me that as they pulled up they could smell smoke but didn’t think much of it since it is a time of year when people have outside bonfires. The house is rather overgrown and hard to see in the dark.  As they walked up from different sides they saw that there was smoke pouring out from under the eaves and called for the Fire Department to be dispatched.

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Officer Chad Taylor

They met on the front porch of the house.  Taylor couldn’t remember if they actually spoke to each other or if they just knew what they had to do.  Keebaugh said he remembered saying that they had to go in. Without hesitation Taylor agreed.

When Keebaugh kicked in the door they could see that the smoke was very thick and dense.  If he held out his arm he couldn’t see his hand at the end of it.  So he got down on his hands and knees and could see that there was less than one foot of somewhat clear air near the floor.  He tried to use his flashlight and learned that it couldn’t penetrate the smoke but it was all he had. He called out to the man and could hear moaning in response.  He called for the man to come toward him but couldn’t hear or detect movement.  He said the voice sounded very weak.  So Alex started crawling forward with Chad holding onto his feet.  The smoke was so dense that they realized that they didn’t know where they were in the house.  They guessed they were in a hallway.  Alex kept calling and the responses made it seem that the man was very close but he couldn’t tell exactly where he was.  All of a sudden Alex saw a hand appear in front of his face.  He realized the man was lying on something like a sofa and he started pulling on the man’s arm attempting to pull him backward out of the house.  It was very slow going because Alex couldn’t get much traction since he was on his stomach.  At one point he thought that the man got stuck on something and he couldn’t pull him any farther.  He knew he was “running out of gas” due to his exertions in the smoke filled house.

Chad said he was holding onto Alex’s feet as Alex crawled forward.  As they

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Officer Mike Lane

lay stretched out on the floor Chad realized that they had moved far enough forward that they were through the doorway and he heard the door close behind them. The smoke was so thick they couldn’t see anything, including the location of the door behind them.  Chad stopped pulling Alex and the victim while he relocated the door.  They estimate that when Alex was about 3-4′ from the doorway Alex could go no further and had to drop the victim to get out himself.  Chad stood up to pull the victim further with the better leverage he had while on his feet.  When Officer Mike Lane arrived he helped pull both Chad and the victim out.  They had the victim out within 2 minutes and 39 seconds from the time the first officer arrived on scene. Shortly after they pulled him out the fire “flashed over,” a way of saying that it burst into flames.  After a trip to the hospital for smoke inhalation, the next day they were all back at work.

As they talked to me about the incident they told it as if they were writing police reports – without observable emotion in a just-the-facts kind of way.  They commented that they knew they were in big trouble when Chad lost contact with the door and it closed.  They could easily have become disoriented and panicked under these conditions. Instead Chad quickly determined a method of how to find the door.  Alex said he just kept envisioning the door as very large and he focused on inching his way to it.  It was chilling to listen to them.  I know the level of danger they were in.  I thought about their families – wives, children, parents, fiance – all of whom I have met.

The victim was transported to the hospital.  He was released earlier this week and is staying with a nephew in Flint.  I understand he has completely recovered from the fire.  We have not spoken to him.

One of the news channels wanted to interview the officers for a story on the fire on Sunday evening.  They declined because they are humble and self effacing guys.  They are examples of the high quality of officers we have on the Auburn Hills Police Department. I could not be more proud of them.

None of the officers knew the victim and yet they risked all simply because they knew he was in there and needed their help.  With a slight shrug of his shoulders, Taylor spoke for all three when he said that it was part of their job – what they signed on to do.  And knowing them, I was not even slightly surprised at their point of view.  They did it because it needed to be done.

Police across the country perform heroic acts everyday.  It may or may not be covered in a news story.  A fellow police chief gave a speech in which he talked about an incident of heroism by his officers.  I could echo his words about Officers Keebaugh, Taylor and Lane:

“What our officers did yesterday was not their most heroic act.  The day they embraced this profession, when they committed to a cause and willingly accepted a life of risk and uncertainty to serve that cause, was their most heroic act.  Every day after that was simply in the line of duty.”

That is how they see it – they committed to the noblest of causes which required them to endure the highest order of risk on behalf of strangers- and they accept that.

 

 

 

AHPD takes action in support of the IACP One Mind Campaign

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Auburn Hills Police Department is pleased to announce that we have pledged to take action in support of the One Mind Campaign, with the intent to unite local communities, public safety organizations, and mental health organizations in such a way that the three become “of one mind.”
The One Mind Campaign seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness. To join the campaign, the department has committed to implementing four promising practices over a 12–36 month timeframe. These four strategies include

  1. establishing a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with one or more community mental health organization(s),
  2. developing and implementing a model policy addressing police response to persons affected by mental illness,
  3. training and certifying 100 percent of the agency’s sworn officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety, and
  4. providing Crisis Intervention Team training to a minimum of 20 percent of the agency’s sworn officers.

Responding to calls where one or more persons is affected by mental illness is an everyday occurrence.  We want to provide our officers with the highest quality training, and strategies possible to assist them in finding the best possible outcomes for the affected individual.

We acknowledge the need to recognize and address recent societal, cultural, and technological changes that impact law enforcement responses to persons with mental illness. The strategies that the department has pledged to adopt create a unique opportunity to form a partnership with mental health organizations in the community. The committed efforts of both law enforcement agencies and the mental health community to reduce officer and civilian fatalities and injuries resulting
from encounters between law enforcement officials and persons with mental illness are of critical importance. Pledging to support the One Mind Campaign is the first step towards creating a safer community for all.

To date we are well underway in achieving the four strategies.  We appreciate the support of Oakland County Community Mental Health who has committed to assisting us in bringing Mental Health First Aid training for police to Oakland County.  Many departments are held back by the training commitment of 40 hours for Crisis Intervention Team training.  Their training funding just doesn’t make it possible to send people to training and at the same time staff their patrols.  Mental Health First Aid is a less of a time commitment and agencies will be able to train-the-trainer for their own departments.

For more information on the One Mind Campaign visit http://www.theiacp.org/onemindcampaign. A copy of the full report, Improving Police Response to Persons Affected by Mental Illness, links to additional resources and a list of all agencies that have taken the pledge is also available on the website.

Today We Said Good-bye to Lt. Cas Miarka

Today was Lt. Miarka’s last day as an Auburn Hills Police Officer

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Cas circa 2000

after nearly 26 years of service.  We had an open house here at the station so city employees, retirees, and community members could come in and wish him well. IMG_3984

He has been a steady force for good in this community and for this department.  We will miss his hard work and devotion to the department and community.  We all will miss his positive nature and jokes.

When I arrived here in 1994 as the deputy police chief, Cas had already been here 3 years as a police officer.  I didn’t really know him but over the years I came to know and respect him.  He was always one who would step forward when we needed a volunteer.  He was many times first: in the first group of bicycle officers; retail district officer when the mall was new;investigator in the new Detroit Metro Identity Fraud Task Force and others. He was willing to push himself into new roles and try new things.  Even when it was a little uncomfortable he would work at the job until he mastered it.  It was something I admired about him — he persevered even at points when the going was tough – I could always count on Cas – we all could.

During his time here he was an officer, sergeant, lieutenant.  As a lieutenant he served in every role we have for lieutenants.  He was the commander of technical services, investigations, and operations.  He was the department PIO (press information officer), he supervised dispatch, investigators, patrol officers. property and evidence and he even conducted  professional standards investigations when necessary to maintain the integrity of our department.  He was the brains behind the development of the CLEMIS CLEAR report writing program and digitized activity log used by police officers in all of Oakland County and SE Michigan.  He was a leader in Oak-Tac, the countywide active shooter training program.   He was a developer of the Rescue Task Force, training of police and fire personnel to rescue people trapped in the “hot zone” of an active shooter situation.  I could go on and on.  He was a leader in our department and among police in our county.

He was quieter than usual today.  I know that he was thinking about leaving his life as a police officer, something I know he loved.  He is moving on to become the administrator of the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office so he won’t be totally out of our world.  He will do a great job for them just as he did for us.

His family was with him today.   Over the years, I know he was often with us, working, IMG_3998

when I know he wanted to be with them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you for everything you brought us and taught us, Cas.   It was an honor to work with you.  Good bye and good luck.

 

HELP WANTED: Police Officers

Source: HELP WANTED: Police Officers

I’m sharing a link to a source of education/inspiration I use myself and I advocate to our staff.  I don’t know the author(s) but I do know the content speaks directly to police leadership.  I particularly liked this one since these are days when few people want a police career.  It reminds those of us who have lived this life why we chose this path.  I thought you might like it too.

Great Job by Royal Oak Police

Cops understand that you never know what is going to happen in any given situation.  It starts out as one thing and ends up as something totally different.

RO police officers did a great job in this situation.  A suspect goes from an arrestee to a mental health rescue in a matter of minutes/seconds.

Royal Oak Officers Save Man from Himself

AHPD officers are also trained and equipped with tourniquets to save their own lives or the lives of others.  Every now and then I hear from people who variously criticize us for our “Batman” belts or wonder what all the stuff is that they are carrying.  Now you know.

A big Image result for thumbs up emoji from AHPD to ROPD on a job well done.

Missing Girl ‘Tells’ Her Story on Sheriff’s Twitter Feed

The Palm Beach Florida Sheriff’s Office has taken an unusual step to generate more information on a decades old missing child case.   Missing persons cases are never really closed.  The investigators keep hoping that the right tip will come in allowing them to give the family some closure.

Go to the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to learn more and find out how you can help.

Missing Girl ‘Tells’ Her Story on Sheriff’s Twitter Feed http://nbcnews.to/2r9sQTi

Never forget.

Crisis Intervention Training

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Dealing with persons affected by mental illness is one of the most common calls our officers respond to.   It is a daily occurrence, sometimes multiple times daily involving more than one individual.  That is the reason our department has signed on to the International Association of Chiefs of Police “One Mind” campaign.  The goal is to improve the interactions between the police and the mentally ill.  Too often those interactions have the potential to go terribly wrong and violence ensues.  To participate we have committed to training 20% of our staff in Crisis Intervention Training.  It is a 40 hour grant funded program that trains police to better recognize the signs of a person in a crisis and offers strategies to officers that have a higher likelihood of a peaceful outcome.  Officer  Paul Wagenmaker was one of the first Auburn Hills Officers to take the class.  The officers and command officers have found the training interesting and helpful.  Officer Wagonmaker shared what he learned:

“The class gave me a better perspective on mental illness and the way it affects people.  Many of the people we have contact with suffer from some type of mental illness.

Since the training my efforts are greater at trying to understand the person and how the mental illness affects them.  The class taught me to be more personable and empathetic towards people suffering from mental illness and most importantly that they did not choose to have the illness.   I learned techniques to make them feel more comfortable speaking to me, oppose to being afraid of the uniform.  The class also provided us with information on area resources such as Common Ground, Easter Seals, and Oakland County Community Mental Health.

I have used the information that I learned in numerous contacts with people that suffer from mental illness.  I believe that it is extremely important to learn and adapt policing & communication styles to people with mental illness.  The use of ineffective communication with people who have mental illness often escalates to violence.  There have been studies that use of force incidents decrease when using effective techniques on people with mental illness.

For example, I used some of the techniques on an individual who suffers from mental illness.  He was suicidal and highly intoxicated – he barricaded himself inside his residence.  He continued to threaten to kill himself and threatened Officers that he would shoot us.  For nearly 90 minutes, behind cover outside the residence, I used the techniques that I had learned in this training to communicate with him while he was inside at a window.

I felt that there was no reason to make entry into the residence and using force because he was alone inside and I felt that it would escalate the situation where someone may get hurt.  He would go back and forth speaking of violence to asking for help.  Detective Thomas arrived on scene to assist.  He and I were soon able to convince him to exit the residence so we can get him the help he was asking for.  Once he exited, he was transported to the hospital for a committal.   The situation was resolved and most importantly nobody got hurt.

Another example, is while I was training a new Officer recently, we assisted SIU and the Detective Bureau in executing a search warrant in our City.  When we all arrived on scene, a male was outside and immediately ran from us to the backyard.  It was unknown at the time if the person running was the suspect in a B&E case.  We gave chase and I had my Taser out when I soon recognized signs and behaviors of mental illness from the runner.  I choose not to use my Taser.  We were able to secure him and then learned that he was the suspect’s autistic brother.   The class that I took taught me to recognize the signs and behaviors of mental illness.

I use some of the techniques often as we deal with people suffering from mental illness daily.”

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year.

 

 

You can help support missing kids & their families by “Rocking One Sock”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is kicking off their “Rock One Sock” campaign.  People all over the country are showing their support for missing children and their families all month leading up to National MIssing Children’s Day on May 25.

If you are a Twitter user follow their @missingkids #RockOneSock to see who is out there rocking the sock from around the country.

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In just a quick check of the site I found one from professional skateboarder Tony Hawk.  He’s rocking the sock!

 

 

 

 

 

Show your support by a Tweet of your one sock.  Let families of missing children know that they are not forgotten.

Here is a video from John Walsh and his son with more information:

You can help:  sign up for Amber Alerts and follow @missingkids on Twitter and Facebook.  Share the information about kids reported missing to help bring them home.