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 CMPD Citizens Academy 
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Meagan Allen and Tammatha Clodfelter of the Crime Analysis Division were the presenters for the Research, Planning, and Technology session last Tuesday.

Their first slide started out saying:
Quote:
The Crime Analysis Division of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is a support unit responsible for continually leveraging technology and employing a set of systematic, analytical processes to provide timely, targeted information related to crime patterns and trends.
which means they do a lot of cerebral stuff with lots of data.

They said that people in the division are either people people or dots people. The dots people use GIS, or geographic information systems, which basically is computer mapping. GIS allows for quick and flexible display and analysis of spatial data. In GIS, different geographic data layers can be turned on and off and processed in a variety of ways. GIS is quite an improvement over the old way of making maps, which involved colored pencils and a lot of time. Once a map was finished, the mapmaker was too pooped to redo it, so whatever it looked like was what it was for a while.

Everything happens somewhere, and GIS can be used to track it an analyse it. They showed how they produce maps showing officer activities and crimes for divisions to use in identifying patterns and trends. They also showed a map showing crime spree clusters.

Officers can target their efforts in places where certain types of crimes are occurring and look at patterns to see where criminals may be concentrating their activities.

The public version of the CMPD GIS is the Crime Mapping System, which is accessible to Charlotte-Mecklenburg citizens and anyone else with internet access. You can zoom to a location by address, intersection, or street and see calls for service and reported incidents. You can then use "Identify" to see the date, block, and call type. There's not a lot of information, but enough to see where activities are happening. If you've been to a neighborhood watch meeting, the officer probably brought maps from the Crime Mapping System.

Don't just rely on the dots on the maps, though. Be sure to check on what they represent. Many are things like "Zone Check" or "Stray Animal" that are not major indicators of high criminal activities.

They didn't like my question about criminals operating across jurisdiction boundaries. Their Crime Mapping System only covers the City of Charlotte and unincorporated Mecklenburg County. It's unclear what information they have and use about criminal activity in adjacent jurisdictions. They said there have been discussions among area jurisdictions on sharing spatial information, but that hasn't happened yet.

They described their division as a centralized unit of CMPD that facilitates conversations among divisions. It seems likely that many criminals move around into and out of Charlotte as well as within Charlotte, and it would be useful to see where those movements were as well. It's also likely that adjacent jurisdictions don't have systems as complete and sophisticated as what CMPD has, though.

They also described how they use data to identify relationships among criminals and victims to develop profiles that could possibly lead to other suspects in cases. They also focus on relationships in organized crime activities to identify the leaders and see what people commit crimes together.

In addition to crime data, they look at socio-economic and demographic data and other spatial factors to evaluate long term trends and the factors that influence crime.

In addition to the Crime Mapping System, they demonstrated the Sheriff's web site where you can look up arrest, incarceration, and conviction histories, see mug shots and more, and the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry where you can see pictures of registered sex offenders who live in your neighborhood. You can look up additional information about offenders at VINELink.

Finally, they showed how they use predictive models to identify areas where future crime is more likely to occur.

All this demonstrates how a large police department like Charlotte-Mecklenburg can have staff with specialized skills who can focus in on specific crime fighting tools and processes. GIS and other data analysis is only one of the many ways that a diversified department like CMPD fights and works to prevent crime.


Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:00 pm
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
When you think of the Police Department, you mostly think of patrol officers, who are the most visible members of the department. But the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has a lot of other folks who operate behind the scenes and keep things going.

I was back in class this week to make up the last two sessions that I missed last fall. This was a busy one, with four speakers.

First was Jim Weaving, Director of Public Records. He talked about incident reports and accident reports, which are available through the police web site and are distributed through commercial vendors to body shops, chiropractors, ambulance chasers, and other individuals eager to benefit from your misfortune.

When an officer completes an accident report, he'll ask for your phone number for the report, but it's not required and you can decline to give it. If you give your phone number, expect to hear from various folks offering their services, often before you're able to get a copy of the report yourself.

They're available for $2 each on line at Crime Reports and Crash Reports.

Records go back to about 2001 when the system came on line. You have to come to Police Headquarters to find out about older ones.

The second speaker was Kiersten Frost, Team Leader with the Crime Reporting System. They're the ones that take down information about non-emergency incidents, which frees up the officers for the more serious situations and saves taxpayer dollars. You can report crimes by phone by calling 311 or on line at Report A Crime.

Generally call 911 if you need an officer on the scene and 311 if it's too late. But if you're unsure, call 911 to be safe. Whichever number you call, you'll get redirected if the other one is more appropriate.

I asked why I should bother to report a minor crime, such as if I come home and discover some lawn furniture was missing. She said to report any crime you experience. No crime is too minor. The report will be passed on to your local division, and they want to be informed.

Officer Craig Allen, who was the third speaker, said that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. If several people report similar incidents in a neighborhood, the police will more likely direct their attention to that area.

Both Mr. Weaving and Ms. Frost talked about Charlotte's new towing ordinance, which took effect April 1. It's designed to thwart predatory tow truck operators who lay in wait for cars parked in private lots to make a fast, easy buck.

See Towing Ordinance.

Some key provisions:

    Before towing a trespass vehicle, the tow truck operator must get a written authorization from the owner or agent from the private lot that contains the details of the incident.

    The tow truck operator must call the non-emergency number, provide the details, and wait until a case number has been assigned for the towing report before loading up the vehicle.

    If the owner of the vehicle arrives before the vehicle has been removed from the private lot, even if it is secured to the tow truck, the owner can request that the car be released and there will be no charge.

The new rules tend to prolong the process and give the owner more time to return before the car has been removed. According to the ordinance, the first two provisions are in effect only from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm. The speakers didn't mention this, and Ms. Frost even said they'd increased their hours until 11:00 pm to receive towing reports. So I'm not sure about this. Also, it appears that the tow truck operator is not obligated to release the car unless the owner asks. So if you're in this situation, be sure to ask!

It's late. the rest of this will have to wait for another day.


Thu May 12, 2011 9:37 pm
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Next on last Tuesday's agenda was a tour of the Commend Center, and I WAS IN CHARGE! Or at least I sat at the spot where the person in charge sits. Officer Craig Allen, who helped design the center, showed us how it worked.

The Command Center is activated when there's a major event, such as a big storm or a presidential visit. (Or when there's a tour going on.) Police, fire, FBI and other emergency service providers assemble there.

The city realized a need for a command center right after 9/11 and built a quick, temporary one. This one came couple of years later after a review of other cities' set ups. It was modeled after one in Washington, DC, which cost $4.7 million. Charlotte's only cost $432,000, mostly paid for by former drug dealers who are now inmates. It's located in the Police Headquarters building. (There's also a backup Command Center in the Police Training Academy building.)

There are seven big movie screens with projectors attached to the ceiling. The screens show images from about 275 cameras located around the city. CMPD has 30 cameras in uptown, and they also have access to traffic cameras. (We watched numerous illegal left turns at The Square.) They also have cable TV and satellite connections to be able to watch news feeds. They can assess situations and deploy emergency service providers to where they're needed. I counted 24 stations with computer terminals in the room.

There's a kitchenette. Officer Allen said that if you feed people, they make better decisions.

Someone asked if the police use the room to watch the Super Bowl. Office Allen said they were there when the Panthers were in the Super Bowl, but they did that because 25,000 people showed up in Uptown Charlotte after they won the NFC Championship a couple of weeks earlier, and the city wasn't prepared for that. But the Panthers lost and it all worked out for the best. :?

The Command Center will be in heavy use next year when the Democratic National Convention comes to town. Officer Allen said that 3,000 to 4,000 law enforcement personnel will be in town for that.

The fourth speaker was Nisee Mauldin, 911 Training Coordinator.

The 911 communication staff is divided into two sections: 911 call takers and dispatchers. The 911 call taker records the information in the system, and the dispatcher uses it to dispatch officers. It takes 3-4 weeks of training for 911 call takers but 4-6 months training for dispatchers. Each person has 4 computer screens available to monitor calls because there's a lot to keep track of.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg 911 Center is only one of several emergency call centers in the area. Depending on the call, it could be transferred to or from Fire, Medic, Highway Patrol, and other area jurisdictions (including UNCC and Davidson College Police). Calls also get transferred between 911 and 311 depending on the severity.

911 communications is a stressful job and call takers deal with stressful people, people who are dealing with a situation that's the most important thing going on for them at the time. Call takers and dispatchers never know what's going to happen. The hours are not good. New people have to work nights and weekends. It takes about seven years to build up seniority to work on day shift. There is constant turnover and constant training.

There's a new emergency call center being constructed on N Graham Street at Dalton Ave that'll have police, fire, and medic in one room, which will allow better coordination.

The group had lots of questions. The session lasted until almost 10:00, the latest of any session I remember. It had a lot of good stuff.


Sat May 14, 2011 7:07 am
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Quote:
Ms. Barbour said that she's typically the last person who can speak for a person who's been killed. It's her job to collect evidence in an unbiased manner so that both the victims and suspects are protected. She wants the evidence to identify the guilty but also clear the innocent.

That's what I posted last December 10 after attending the Crime Scene Search session.

Topics were moved around since last fall, when I missed the Command Center, Crime Lab, and 911 Operations session. Crime Lab is now grouped with Crime Scene Search and Property Control, which wasn't included last fall.

I came back to see the Crime Lab presentation, but the director was unavailable and we had no tour.

Supervisor Lenora Barbour again gave the Crime Scene Search presentation and tour. Someone asked her if the Crime Scene staff had anything they could use for protection while at a crime scene. She said the only thing they carried for defense was pepper spray. "That and attitude."

Jeffrey Diamond, Supervisor with Property Control, talked about how that unit keeps track of 228,000 different items.

They are responsible for evidence (any confiscated property related to a crime) and found property (property collected by an officer but not directly related to a case). An example of found property would be a big screen TV that an officer might see someone pushing around in a grocery cart at 2:00 in the morning. When the officer asks the guy where he got it, he says he "found" it. If the officer checks and doesn't see any report of a stolen big screen TV, he'll turn it in to Found Property.

Evidence is kept in the basement at Police headquarters. It's typically kept for 180 days after it's needed in a case. Then it's returned to the owner, destroyed, or auctioned. Evidence in murder cases typically are kept until the person convicted of the crime is released from incarceration or dies.

Found property is kept at the West Service Area location on Wilkinson Boulevard, typically for 30 days.

Property Control is responsible for the chain of custody of evidence. They must maintain documentation of where the evidence is and who has had access to it. It can leave Property Control to go to the Crime Lab or to court, and can be viewed by attorneys or investigators.

Property Control also is responsible for issuing and managing supplies and equipment for all department personnel.

Mr. Diamond said that one of the most unusual item they had was an artificial leg. The person who owned the leg had taken it off and used it to hit someone. The person needed it back to get around, but the Police wouldn't release it as long as it was needed as evidence in the case.

Finally, Ms Barbour talked about the Crime Lab, which has five specialized sections, as described on their web page.

Someone asked her what is the biggest misconception people have from watching CSI and other TV crime shows. She said she doesn't watch those shows. They're too ridiculous. She said she watches shows about real cases on A&E. However, she did say that the biggest piece of fiction on those shows is that everybody is an expert on everything. it takes a lot of people with a lot of different skills to review evidence and solve crimes.


Thu May 19, 2011 11:02 pm
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
I repeated the Police Driving session last night, and it was very similar to the session I wrote about last December 17, except that it was daylight and not freezing.

Sergeant Gwaltney still has no problem talking to a group of people. He pretty much covered everything from last session -- without notes. So he knows his stuff. Officers Andre' Briggs and Zeru Chickoree gave the driving demonstrations with Sgt. Gwaltney. The versatile and talented Officer Chickoree, who could probably handle most jobs in CMPD, might consider passing up on the driving instructor job, however.

Sgt. Gwaltney said that it takes a new officer about 5 years to get where he needs to be as a police driver. He described the adrenaline rush officers have while driving with blue lights and sirens. They need to learn how to control it.

A lot of police driving training involves driving around and avoiding traffic cones -- at a very high rate of speed. As the photos below show, they set up many cones in many courses. In the last photo, Sgt. Gwaltney (the Cat) is chasing Officer Briggs (the Mouse) in a high speed pursuit.

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Wed May 25, 2011 8:56 am
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
I attended the Police Resource and Activity Day last December and wrote about it on December 5. This was one of the most interesting sessions of the Citizens Academy, and I took the opportunity to attend again this spring.

It was cold and dreary at the session last December, but it was hot this time. The Bomb Squad truck is big and provides a lot of shade!

The first demonstration was of the K-9 Unit . There are 14 officers and dogs in the unit. Officer Steve Arnold showed his bloodhound Smoky and Officer Joe Hoskins showed his shepherd Scout.

The dogs are trained in building searches, tracking criminals or missing persons, locating articles such as dropped keys or other evidence, and alerting on drugs.

Dogs track based on two things. First, disturbed or crushed grass, dirt, or other material gives off an odor, and the dogs can sense that a person has passed through an area. Second is the odor of the person. Each person has a unique odor based primarily on skin rafts, microscopic portions of our skin that we constantly shed. Officers try to obtain a sock or other item that has a person's odor, but if nothing's available they lead the dog in the direction the person went and hope for the best.

When regular police officers are in a foot pursuit, they typically run around obstacles and other unpleasant areas they encounter. K-9 officers can't do that. They have to go wherever the dog goes: over logs, through briers or poison ivy, whatever. Officer Hoskins showed holes he had in his pants from running through the woods and is currently treating a case of poison ivy.

Officer Hoskins recently got one of the unit's new Tahoes, which has much more room for his dog and equipment. His is even labeled with its occupant's name.

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Smoky is less than a year old and still in training. Her reward for a good job is food. Scout is almost 9 years old, weighs 95 pounds, and is about to retire. His reward is to get to play with his Extreme Kong Toy.

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Officer Bruce Mullis showed the group the Bomb Squad truck and its equipment. (This was one of two trucks the Bomb Squad has. The other, smaller one was at the Resource and Activities Day last December.) He showed their robot, which cost $160,000 and was paid for by drug asset forfeiture money, and 85 pound suit, which is not bomb proof but only bomb resistant. He said the unit has a wide variety of training. He is Hazmat qualified, and officers must go through training at the FBI Hazardous Devices School in Huntsville, AL every three years.

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The next speaker was Terry Everhart of the Lake Wylie Lake Unit, who participates in five major activities:
- Enforcement, especially violations involving boating while impaired
- Education, especially teaching water safety to young folks
- EMT. Medic does not have access to the lake, so the lake officers are EMT trained.
- Swift Water Rescue, which typically is needed in creeks and low areas during heavy storms more than on the lakes
- Police-Fire Dive Team

Mecklenburg County officers have the authority to pursue and apprehend boaters who violate laws in Mecklenburg County waters but cross over into South Carolina.

Below Officer Everhart shows the swift water rescue equipment. The dive suit on the right in the second picture is specially designed to protect divers from hazardous water, which they might encounter if there is a fuel leak after a collision, for example.

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Finally, Officer Littlejohn talked about the SWAT Unit. He said when officers are being considered for the unit the main criterion is their ability to make good decisions under stress. They can teach them the other skills they need.

The SWAT team works hostage and barricade situations and also perform arrests of violent, dangerous offenders. The unit includes snipers, regular SWAT, and negotiators. The ultimate goal is a peaceful resolution. When patrol officers need help, they can't call 911; they call SWAT.

Like other officers in special units, they get a lot of training, both initially and regular refresher training.

Officer Littlejohn showed his 45 pound vest and his M4 rifle, which is the same rifle that's used in the military. He also showed several cameras. One was a thermal camera, which detects and displays heat, and a camera on a pole. In the last picture below, Officer Littlejohn is holding a ball-shaped camera, which can be tossed into an unsecured area where it will right itself and can turn to view different areas, and a robot camera with rollers.

He said it takes about $60,000 to equip a SWAT officer, which is why they don't issue all this equipment to every officer.

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We still didn't get to see the helicopter up close, but all in all, it was a great day.

The officers in these special units have frequent training on the special skills needed for their units, so they are well qualified to do these jobs. The size of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department gives officers an opportunity to focus on very specialized skills and responsibilities, which is not the case with smaller departments.


Sat Jun 04, 2011 7:31 pm
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Quote:
Thank you for taking an interest in what we do.

Sgt. Cullen Wright, Range Master.

I attended the Firearms session again this week. I wrote about my experiences from the Firearms class last December in a post on December 8. The quote above was practically the first thing Sgt. Wright said to the class this time. I thought it was interesting that he would thank us when it's we who should thank him and the other Police Academy instructors for taking the time to tell us about what they do -- and to provide some excitement in our dull, drab lives. I also thought it was interesting that he said the exact same thing last December.

Not a lot of new information from last December. The big difference was that is wasn't cold and dark. Another was that we didn't shoot police sawed-off, not-street-legal shotguns at a target but shot a regular shotgun at clay pigeons. I am personally responsible for the death of at least three clay pigeons, but many, many more survived unscathed.

Daylight is much better for taking pictures. Here are several from this week plus one from last December to show the difference.

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Finally, here's an air photo of the firing ranges. The main range has room for 20 targets. Just below that is the very long rifle range and a third, smaller range.

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Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:12 pm
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Charlotte has 22 new Citizens Academy graduates after last week's ceremony.

The guest speaker was William (Butch) Simmons of the Community Relations Committee, who deals with Police-Community Relations and Police Disciplinary Review.

He said that there is a lot of misinformation about CMPD based on what people see on TV police shows and what they hear about other departments. TV police dramas are not reality. He said that Citizens Academy graduates have an obligation to make sure that correct information about the Police Department is out there and to help educate and inform the public about what's happening.

He also encouraged us to volunteer. He said that quality of life is enhanced if we work together.

Each graduate submitted a statement about their experiences that was read as they received their certificates. Mine was about how the size of the department allows the department to have many specialized units that focus on specific skills and tasks and about how the department has embraced community policing.

We also got some neat stuff from the Police Benevolent Fund Gift Shop and food.

This has been a great experience. I don't know where this will take me. We'll see.


Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:43 am
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Here's our graduation photo, with 20 of the 22 graduates from the fall 2010 and spring 2011 sessions. The academy auditorium has steps that are just right for posing a group, but the lighting is in the back, so you can't see faces. Just take my word for it, we were a happy group.

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Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:29 pm
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Post Re: CMPD Citizens Academy
Dave wrote:
Quote:
The cops they aim at us, I don't mind if police brains splatter.

Last week Officer Chickoree said not to bring our books. We'd meet briefly and then go to the Defensive Tactics Room for the ninth session on defensive tactics. So I didn't bring my notebook and wasn't able to write down Officer Chickoree's insightful statements about why police officers need training in defensive tactics and what it's all about.

Nonetheless, it was an informative session. Officer Chickoree showed a video of some jujitsu matches with background music that included the quote above (or pretty close to it). This illustrates the types of things the public, especially young people, are exposed to these days. Many are desensitized to violence, including violence against the police.

He also showed this video of the first use of a taser by a CMPD officer. (The taser was so new that other officers didn't try to apprehend the tased guy for fear of being electrocuted. They've been trained to know better now - once he's tased, grab him quick.) Some bad guys are hard to subdue!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mISOs-7XSHg

So, yes, for these and many other reasons, police officers need to learn defensive tactics.

Office Chickoree also showed some videos of CMPD Training Academy classes. It looked like an ultimate fighting workout. CMPD has some of the best experts in martial arts anywhere. But it's interesting how big, athletic guys can get so tired and frustrated so quickly.

We went to the multi-purpose room and then to the Defensive Tactics Room. We got to practice one-two punches and three-four dodges. I suspect actual CMPD recruits have to learn to count much higher than to four in their training, however.

Like all Citizens Academy classes, it was about serious stuff, but it was also fun because we knew that people like us didn't have to deal with the types of things the real officers out on the streets had to deal with.



Nice training you got there, it may be tough at first but it will turned out to be fine in the end. Taser training is really good.

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Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:50 am
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