A Driver Thanks Us For a Traffic Ticket

HaglundI have said it many, many times:  traffic tickets are about changing driver behavior from unsafe to safe.   Traffic tickets are not supposed to be about revenue enhancement (although I know that they are seen that way by some drivers and by some courts and municipalities).  Tickets are a way to get people to drive better making our roads safer for everyone.

We got a letter this week from a driver who gets it.  He told me that this expensive lesson cost him $150.

Here is what he said:

Dear Officer Haglund:

I thought I should drop you a note and probably be the first person ever to thank you for a speeding ticket.

You gave me a ticket on January 16th on Updike [sic] near Walton after watching me driving like an idiot.  I was in my new Audi S7 and acting like I was 16 again with just about as much thought.

Why the “Thank you”?

My wife told me I was driving that car too aggressively, my son did too and I knew it but for some reason didn’t stop.  Although you probably witnessed the worst of it, I wasn’t driving like I normally do.

For some reason, I needed that ticket and the encounter to get the message through: amazing that it would take this for a 72 year old, driving about 35,000 miles a year and receiving 2 tickets in 43 years.  Anyway, it did and I needed it.

Finally, you were a complete class act.  I appreciate the lecture but I appreciate even more what I perceived as a genuine concern for my safety and welfare.  Your parting words were something like, “it’s a nice car but you can’t enjoy it if you are dead.”

You delivered the message well and as I told you at the scene, I’m reverting back to my old habits.  I have and I will.

That day, you accomplished something good for society and something good for me.

So, thank you and take care of yourself.  You’re a good man and credit to your profession.

I would agree. Office Haglund is a class act.  Nice to know that someone else sees it too. These days it seems that no one finds the good in what cops do to create orderly societies.  The vast majority of officers in millions of police contacts yearly do things right.  And make the world safer.

Haglund at the mall

Ironman wanted a photo with Officer Hagland at the mall.

Starting their Careers

Officers Ryan Riedy and Joe Sears started their careers today.  They both graduated from the 97th Class of the Mid Michigan Police Academy in Lansing on Friday night, May 13.  Both are fellow Spartans having graduated from MSU in Criminal Justice (like me).  Sears is from Lapeer and Reidy from Waterford.  Riedy’s cousin, Mike Riedy is a member of our Fire Department. They both received awards from their academy class–driving, report writing, academics, marksmanship and weapons management.   IMG_0382

They took their oaths of office this morning in the presence of city officials, command staff and their family and friends. The oath of office is a really, really big deal:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of police officer in and for the City of Auburn Hills according to the best of my ability.

An oath is a statement of loyalty.  In this case it is a statement of loyalty to our constitution and the laws of our state.  Failure to carry out those duties can actually be a crime – malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office.  It is a serious undertaking and we treat it like that.  When a person graduates from a police academy they are not yet an officer.  When they become employed as an officer they are not yet and officer–not until they take that oath of office.  It is binding on a person.

As I watched Riedy and Sears take their oaths today I thought about what their futures may bring.  All of us here will do everything we can to teach them the right and proper ways to be an officer.   To meet the daily challenges of this job with integrity and perseverance.  Their families were rightly very proud of them today.  I am too.  But I know the challenges ahead. It isn’t an easy job.  Not everyone can do it.  People who choose it feel a calling to it — most don’t wake up one day and decide to become a police officer.  They will tell you that they wanted it from them time they were small children–they just know it is the job for them.  Police officers are not chosen because they are drawn to the power and authority aspects of the job –not here anyway.  Officers will tell you that they see it as a helping profession – they want to help the community and do good in the world. We know that doing good in the world often requires that a person who has done wrong be held accountable –and the police are the ones who enforce that accountability.

Their next challenge is to pass field training – 3 months of close supervision and training by a qualified officers followed by 10 days of “shadow” in which they are observed by a training officer as a test to determine if they are ready to be a solo performing police officer.  Everyday of those 3 months and the 10 “shadow days” will be rated by a trainer on how well they did or didn’t learn the challenges of the day.  It is an important process and if a person doesn’t pass they cannot be a police officer.  Most departments have a very similar training program.

I wish them long and healthy careers here at Auburn Hills.  It is a great job in a great community.

 

Is Higher Education for Cops Important?

Recently I have found myself in discussion with lawmakers regarding the importance of higher education for police officers.  I thought it was a settled question but I learned that isn’t.  Currently, in Michigan one can become a police officer with a high school education if one is hired and sent to the police academy by the hiring department–only three  departments retain police academies:  State Police, Department of Natural Resources and Detroit.  All of the other academies are part of the state universities or community colleges located around the state.  A person can pay their own way through a police academy “pre service” but the administrative rules of the state require that a person have at least 2 years of college to be admitted to one of these programs.  Most police agencies hire from that pool of academy graduates because it saves them the cost of sending a recruit through an academy which involves pay and benefits for a person that may or may not turn out to be a quality employee.  The 2 year rule is based on well researched facts and outcome studies.

Every national commission that studied and made recommended improvements to police services(usually after significant national turmoil) has recommended that police officers have higher education including the recent 21st Century Policing Task Force.

As a chief of long tenure, I know the differences I see between officers who have 2 and 4 years of college. We prefer to hire candidates with bachelor’s degrees but we will hire officers with 2 years of college.  None with only high school diplomas.  We pay for officers to achieve 4 year degrees in criminal justice or closely related fields because we know the benefits.  When I started as a police officer, I was required to have a college degree because I was female (that kind of logic was permissible in those days) but I worked alongside some officers who had GEDs and some with college degrees.  There was a clear difference apparent even to me as a rookie officer–in the way the two groups approached the job.

Part of the 2010 audit of our department by the International Association of City Managers counted the number of bachelor degree officers and advanced degree officers because they also know that higher education impacts the quality of officers.  At that time we had all 15 command officers and detectives with bachelor’s degrees and 20 of 39 patrol officers with 4 year degrees.  It is about the same today with several holding master’s degrees.

A recent article in an on line magazine, Police One.com, written by Rick Michelson , a career San Diego police officer and police chief, talks about this very issue:

Myriad Benefits
In one study of disciplinary cases against Florida officers, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) wrote that, “Officers with only high school educations were the subjects of 75 percent of all disciplinary actions. Officers with four-year degrees accounted for 11 percent of such actions.” Another study held that officers with undergraduate degrees performed on par with officers who had 10 years of additional experience. Nationally, only about 1 percent of police departments require a four-year degree.

A 2014 study by Jason Rydberg and Dr. William Terrill at Michigan State University provides evidence that a college degree significantly reduces the likelihood that officers will use force as their first option to gain compliance. The study also discovered evidence of educated officers demonstrating greater levels of creativity and problem-solving skills. The researchers concluded that a higher education may positively impact officers’ abilities and performance and listed many potential benefits, including:

  • Better skilled in independent decision-making and problem-solving
  • Fewer on-the-job injuries and assaults
  • More proficient in technology
  • Less likely to be involved in unethical behavior
  • Less likely to use force as the first response
  • Less use of sick time (work ethic and seeing the big picture)
  • Greater acceptance of minorities (diversity and cultural awareness)
  • Decrease in dogmatism, authoritarianism, rigidity and conservatism
  • Improved communication skills (oral and written)
  • Better adapted to retirement and second-career opportunities

In another study by Rebecca Paynich (2009) college-educated police officers were more likely to:

  • Better understand policing and the criminal justice system
  • Better comprehend civil rights issues from multiple perspectives
  • Adapt better to organizational change
  • Have fewer administrative and personnel problems

According to the Police Association for College Education (PACE), other benefits of higher education in policing include:

  • Fewer citizen complaints
  • Promotion of higher aspirations
  • Enhancement of minority recruitment

Conclusion
It’s time we became serious about higher education for law enforcement. While nothing will replace the experience and street smarts of veteran officers, perhaps we should really listen to such voices as Sir Robert Peel (1829), August Vollmer (1916), the Wickersham Commission (1931,) the President‘s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (1967), the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1969), the American Bar Association on Standards for Criminal Justice (1972) and the Police Foundation‘s Advisory Commission on Higher Education for Police Officers (1978), all of which said essentially said the same thing: The path to true professionalism is through education.

The attitude of “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “We just can’t afford it,” or “We just can’t find qualified applicants,” doesn’t cut it anymore. When considering your long-term strategies, give serious thought to changing your educational requirements.

At a time when many people are questioning whether the police are doing their job correctly does it makes sense to lower the standards????  Not to me.

Meet My New Administrative Assistant

QuentessaYou might recall that my long time Admin Assistant Elna Alciatore retired at the end of 2015.  She stayed on part time for a few weeks to help out while we located her replacement.

Finding the right person who understands our organizational culture –who we are and what we are trying to achieve is critically important to me.  A person with the right skills and abilities was difficult to find to say the least.  (Thank you to all the people who applied.  You were all great but we had to find just the right fit.)   At last, we finalized our selection a couple of weeks ago and as it happens, we found who we were looking for right in our midst.  Police Service Officer Quentessa Tuff decided to take on this new role.  Today is her first official, full day in the job.

She has been with us as a Police Service Officer working in dispatch for 8 years.  I know her to be unfailingly cheerful, pleasant, efficient, hard working, organized and overall fun to be around.  She is one of those people who smiles when you look at her, because she is a genuinely nice person.  She also has a serious side.  In our work, we deal with some very serious issues and she knows that how she handles these issues can have long term impacts to the public’s confidence in its police.  She automatically treats everyone with respect–regardless of their circumstance.  I have  watched her be firm but caring with difficult and challenging people while she was in dispatch.  I know how she reacts when things are going smoothly and when a tense situation is in progress.    In the new role that won’t totally go away, she will still be responsible for talking to people who call my office who are upset or need help and information.  She says that part of the job she’s used to –it just won’t be on every call and she is looking forward to that.

During her time here she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Journalism at Oakland University.  She has been a key member of our social media team for several years and is the voice behind many of our Facebook and Twitter posts.  She is always willing to take on new challenges.

Even better, she is a local person.  She grew up in Pontiac so she knows the people and places of our community.   She is married and has one teenaged son.  I didn’t know until today that she has a horticultural side.  She is growing a lemon tree from a seed at home.  She wanted to know how I felt about bonsai trees in the office.  (Fine with me).

I could not be happier that she wanted to work in this new role.  I depend greatly on my assistant to help me get my job done.  The staff depends on the administrative assistant too because she is the only admin we have.  All other personnel are front line service to the community.  Most of us are not really good at administrative functions–we are good at responding to robberies or traffic crashes and talking to suicidal people on the phone but we aren’t that good at managing office supplies, formatting a letter or completing purchase orders.

If you call or stop by my office, you’ll have a chance to meet Quentessa-fondly known around here as “Q.”   We like her and we know you will like her too.

 

Colorado to Tighten Requirements for Police Psych Evaluations

If you have been a reader of my blogs for awhile you will have noticed that I have very strong opinions on the subject of standards for police officers.  You may know that we are required to have a license from the state to practice our profession.  We are required to attend a police academy, study required subjects and pass a comprehensive test.  The last step to becoming licensed is to be hired by a department who then activates the Image result for psychological evaluationlicense.

Being hired by a department is a serious matter.  The cities that hire officers are required by law to perform some steps before hiring.  One is to do a comprehensive background investigation.  We do that using a private investigator so that we have a 3rd party evaluation of individual.  We look for a clean record, and other kinds of things that should exclude a person like evidence of lying or biased behavior.  Because history repeats itself.  If they have done it in their past it is likely that they will do it in their future.  Why would we choose to take a chance?  Our duty is to the community not to any police applicant.

The other very important step is the psychological evaluation.  It is required in Michigan.  We use a specially trained psychologist to evaluate each candidate in an entire day of testing and interview.  We need to know who they are as a person and rule out any troubled individuals.  But like Colorado, despite the fact that it is required many cities save money by asking the medical doctor to sign the form certifying the individual.  No testing, no pysch interview, nothing.  It is just a sidelight during the physical examination. I guess if they don’t offer to harm the doctor or a member of the staff that is good enough for the signature.

But the licensing agency, MCOLES, doesn’t have power to challenge those.  You might recall that I am a commissioner so I have some knowledge of these issues.  We have some bills before the Legislature right now as we have had over a number of sessions and one aspect is to strengthen the rules requiring that an exam take place.  I continue to be disappointed that few see that aspect as important and worthy of attention.

And we have no power at all over police reserves.  They may dress in uniform and look exactly like police but there are no rules at all about them unless the department establishes them.  The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is one agency with reserves that they monitor closely and establish rules of conduct.

And I think it should be required at other stages in an officer’s career.  Like when they change departments –the new one should test again.  And when they are promoted to supervise others.  People can change somewhat over time and as they mature.  And if they have served in a challenging assignment for a period of time –that can impact them.  Investigating child abuse is one that comes to mind.  That can take you off center.

Here is an article on the topic I found interesting:

Denver Post article on Colorado’s considerations of a requirement for psych evaluations for police officers.

 

The Rest of the Story of the Officer Struck by a Car

Now that the hysteria has died down a bit, I wanted to share with you more about the officer struck by the car.

For many people, a police officer wearing a uniform isn’t an individual. You have watched television and movies and maybe you think you know who the police are based on that. Based on how they look or how they speak.   In fact, each one has his or her own story.  Officer Mikolajczak emigrated to the United States from Poland as a young adult (not that long ago).  (We actually have several officers who are naturalized Americans). He got a job translating in the various eastern European languages he knows when he first arrived.  He put himself through the required two years of college and the police academy. After he finished he showed up on our doorstep looking for a job which we gave him.  He is married and has a family.  By nature he is a shy and humble person.  After his recent notoriety he had numerous offers for interviews with national news services but didn’t want any of them.  He doesn’t want to be used as an illustration on someone else’s agenda.  His story is his own.

Two years ago he was in another, much more serious traffic crash on duty.  He was getting out of his patrol car on an icy bridge when a driver who was going too fast for conditions lost control of his vehicle and struck the patrol car.  Officer Mikolajczak had just put his feet outside of the car and was smashed between the door and the car.  He had some serious leg and facial injuries from which it took quite a while to recover.  He was back at work as soon as he could and never complained.  He isn’t that kind of person.  He is friendly to people and usually has a smile on his face as he talks to you.

He continues to work midnight shift.  Lately it has been pretty cold at night.  His sergeant, Jim Stoinski, tells me that on one recent night they were watching a specific area trying to capture some burglars.

Officer Mikolajczak stopped a subject who was wearing dark clothing and walking in the middle of the roadway.   As Officer Mikolajczak spoke to this subject, we realized that he was homeless and was hungry.    While speaking to him, Miko realized the guy didn’t have any gloves.    Miko went into his patrol vehicle and gave the guy his own personal gloves.    Wow, felt like Christmas to this guy.

Meeting homeless people is pretty common for the officers.  They help them to the local shelters or buy food themselves.  Not often do they give away their personal belongings –he also needed his gloves for that cold night.  Knowing him I suspect he would say that the other guy needed them more.

Just a little bit more about an officer who just does his job the best he can every day.

Mikolaczyk swear in

Officer M Mikolajczak on the day he was sworn in.

Women are effective police officers

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PSO Jessica Solomon, PSO Monica Church, Officer Farah Hilliker

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(From top left) PSO Reyes, PSO Thomas, PSO Tuff, Officer Frederick, Officer Hesse, Officer Carlson

women3

Lt. Jill McDonnell, me, Detective Ivette Brown

A couple of days ago I found this interesting article on the subject of women police officers and the national concern about police use of force.  As you might guess, I was pretty interested in what it had to say.

I also gave a report on the police department to the members of the city council last month –sort of a state of the department.  And one of the pieces of information I shared with them was that we are higher than the national average of women in our department among sworn staff (only those who can make arrests – no dispatch or clerical).  We have 17% women (including myself) and 83% men — the average nationally in 2013 according to the FBI is 8% women and 92% men. (2013 Uniform Crime Report)

We believe that the men and the women each bring skills and abilities to the job.  When we work together we find the best possible outcomes for our community.  I hear other chiefs lament how difficult it is to find and hire women as police officers –something we don’t struggle with.  I attribute that to the presence of women in our workforce right now–they can be seen in patrol vehicles, among detectives and command officers.  It is very common for the residents and businesses of our community to have a male/female team or 1 or even 2 women respond to calls for service. And we don’t have issues with that — our workforce is a group of people who focus on their jobs –not gender differences of co workers.

With respect to police and improper uses of force that can be a complicated set of factors:  training, leadership, officer selection are all factors.  There are only a handful of studies and they don’t all point in the same direction.

We do not actively seek to hire a certain percentage of any type of person.  We do recruit as widely as we can; we work hard to maintain a positive reputation as a good workplace for anyone and we use the best possible tools to find the best people for the job.

Here is the article:

How more female police officers would help stop police brutality – The Washington Post.

Arrested Person Calls to Thank Us After Home Raid

This is an interesting job.  Some surprising things happen sometimes.  This morning we got an email from Police Service Officer Raquel Reyes:

I received a phone call from XXXX at approximately 1230 hours on 8/28/15. He wanted to express his appreciation & thanks towards the multiple officers that came out to his residence (XXXX Commonwealth) on 8/8/15. He had written a letter to the officers and wanted me to forward the message along:

“Thank you for being human beings and upholding the law, no matter the cost to society. Thank you for your professionalism and treating the situation as if it were your own family & people that you personally knew. Also, thank you for not shooting my pit bull, I really appreciate that.”

I see that there were many involved in the case, and again, XXXX thanks everyone involved (he was quite emotional on the phone).

I’ve taken out his name and specific address since he and some friends were arrested on the scene and are awaiting trial on drug possession.  I reviewed the report yesterday as I do on all cases when force is used by officers.  In this case we had a search warrant to enter and search this home for illegal drugs (something more than marijuana by the way).  Our supervisor, Sergeant Hollenbeck had taken time to put together a plan to raid this home that took into consideration the safety of the officers and the people who lived there.   When we learned there was a pit bull at the home, we even had a special plan to deal with that without having to hurt the dog.  What made it safer is that the persons at the home were very cooperative and did as the officers asked.  The whole matter can be disputed in court, the proper venue, as is the right of the defendants.   When people choose to make a violent response, the chance of injury goes way, way up for both officers and the arrested persons.

I must admit I was surprised to hear the defendant called us.  I hope he can get his life straightened out.

Last Night Was The First Coffee with a Cop event

I hope you are a “like” on our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed.  If you are, you’ve seen some photos of our first “Coffee with a Cop” event.  We know how important it is to engage our community and for you to see us and know us as your police and as individuals who care about this community.  Our coffee event is part of a national effort to do just that.    We want you to know us and see us not just as our uniforms but as people trying to do a sometimes challenging job.

If you couldn’t make this one, join us next month, Saturday, September 19 from 11am to 1pm at R. Grant Graham elementary school in Bloomfield Orchards.

Hope to see you there.

Officer Dan Prachar and friend

Officer Dan Prachar and friend

What We Can Learn From the Police That Pioneered Body Cameras – Governing Magazine

Among police and their communities across the country there is 1208_taser-800x480an important conversation occurring about police worn body cameras.  Should we or shouldn’t we?  There are many aspects to be considered on this important and expensive topic.  We have already had discussion with our city council to educate them on the issues that surround any potential adoption of this technology.

Governing magazine published this article which gives some insight into this important issue.

What We Can Learn From the Police That Pioneered Body Cameras.

NBC News posted this short video on body cameras

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