Volunteerism=Stuart Skeele

Medford PD has approx. 25 active Volunteers. They work a variety of non-criminal(yet essential)jobs that free up both our sworn and civilian employees for other priority tasks. Most of our Volunteers are seniors, and they are a bunch of quality folks doing the right thing for their community.

My problem is that I don’t know much about them individually…and that is all on me. I should know more about folks that work for MPD, especially the ones that do it for free. These folks have the best intentions for both MPD and the community they call home.

Stuart Skeel was one of those Volunteers that I knew very little about other than his reliability and his constant smile while at work. I never took the time to learn more about him-my mistake.

Stuart passed away on August 14th, 2014 at the fine age of 92. 92 and still working for us-and for free! Who does that? The man was more than amazing……suffering from a terminal blood disease, yet he worked at MPD approx. one week prior to his death. Who does that? At 92 yrs. of age I would see him at the gym lifting weights or on a cardio machine. Seriously, who does that?

Stuart did all of that and then some. After his passing I learned even more about this great man, and the life he lived to the fullest:

-He was a USC Graduate with BS/MS Degrees
-He was a Naval Officer in WWII
-He was a High School Science Teacher for 32 years.
-He was successful High School Baseball Coach
-He built two homes
-He was a prior Volunteer with both Long Beach and Signal Hill Police Departments.

To quote an old Joni Mitchell song, you really “don’t know what you had(got)until it’s gone”…. I miss this man, and I’m sad that I did not take the time to learn from him.

Stuart had an amazing life, and an amazing outlook on life. Never without a smile and a quick joke….he knew that his passing was near. He was not afraid of that either, as he was a man of great faith. His most recent favorite saying was that he had “gotten in at the right time, and was now getting out at the right time.”

I wish I had taken the time to know Stuart more. I’m sure that I would have been better because that effort. His wife Peggy told me recently that volunteering at MPD meant a lot to Stuart, and that he scheduled around that. MPD and his community were a priority to him. For that I am grateful.

Stuart left his mark on us….some for than others. While I failed at learning more about him when he was with us, I did learn much more now that he’s gone. His legacy will be with us all for much longer.

Rest in peace Stuart, we have it from here. You made a difference. You will be missed!

Tim George
Chief of Police

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ARSON-FROM WORRY TO RELIEF

There are a few types of criminal cases that have both an immediate/all encompassing public safety threat-and Arson is one of them. From late June until July 24th of this year our citizens experienced that real threat. Fortunately there were no injuries or death. For that I am grateful.

While I cannot, and will not, comment directly on the arrest of Arson suspect Debra Johns in this blog, I will comment on Arson cases in general. Arson crimes are unique to say the least. The investigation of Arson is both challenging and time consuming.

Most criminal acts/events have some physical evidence left behind that usually assists Law Enforcement in the investigation as to what occurred, and who may be responsible. Arson is no exception-except that often times such evidence can get destroyed in the ensuing fire. This makes for difficult work when Fire Investigators work to determine the point of origin and cause of a fire.

Arson can also be accomplished in a very short period of time, and with very little effort, when one is operating under our current weather conditions. We are currently in a record drought, with over 10 days of 100 degree temperatures, and it’s not even August yet! It doesn’t take much to start a fire intentionally at this time, and it has the capacity to spread rapidly based on these conditions.

Arson is one of those crimes that does cause much community worry/concern too. The 22+ Arson cases that MPD/MFD investigated in the past few weeks caused many of our folks to “sleep with one eye open.” While MPD and MFD worked diligently on these investigations, the increase in community awareness/assistance was of high value too. There were lots of eyes and ears out there protecting their city, their community, and their neighborhood. That makes a community stronger-and a better place to live. For that I am grateful.

Let’s hope we have seen the end of such Arson cases for a long time to come. Let’s hope that the worry subsides, but that the care/concern continues. We all benefit from each-other, and we all need to take care of each-other. While the recent series of Arson cases did give us good reason to worry, it did result in neighbors talking more with each-other. More folks were looking out for each-other. Here’s hoping that continues.

I am very proud of the joint effort made by MPD and MFD in these investigations. You can be assured that will continue as well.

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Weapons Offenses-Crime Prevention At Its Finest!

I said that I would come back to “gun violence” in a previous post, but I first want to address the topic of “Weapons Offenses” in a larger context. The work in this category of crimes has serious impact on violent crime.

Crime prevention is one responsibility that every Law Enforcement agency accepts. Our ability to actually “prevent crime” is difficult at best, as there are many variables (some out of our control) that come into play. There also has to be a true “partnership” between the Police and the community in which they serve-or any such prevention efforts will face a continued uphill struggle.

The prevention of violent crime is even more difficult, and requires substantial work on both the front and back ends of the justice system to be effective. One of the most important pieces in the prevention of violent crime is
self-initiated patrol work centered on “weapons offenses.”

The Medford Police Department investigated 207 “Weapons Offenses” in 2013. We “cleared”(solved) over 93% of these cases as well. We are on pace to match those numbers in 2014. This is again the type of offense that is “self-initiated” by good police work. These cases consist of suspects that were:
-carrying a concealed weapon
-being a felon in possession of a weapon
-violating other weapons violations (restricted or prohibited weapons, prohibited areas, ete.)

This is the type of statistic where a higher number is better than a low one. These cases are out there, and we need to continue to look for them the best way we can. Removing these weapons from these suspects and from our community is step #1 in the crime prevention piece. This is true crime prevention as these suspects generally have committed some crime with them prior, or have a high likelihood that they will in the future. The self-initiated work on the part of our Officers has a huge impact on are overall violent crime rate.

One recent example of this work was the joint firearms/drug investigation named “Operation Rap It Up” that was led by JCSO. This was a great case-and again demonstrated the common link between drug dealers and weapons offenses. This type of investigation will have a positive impact on the safety of our region.

The “back end” work on this crime prevention piece comes at prosecution and sentencing. Holding these suspects accountable for their crimes (and their criminal potential with these weapons) is all part of this work. Federal prosecution is available for those suspects with the criminal history/criminal offense to support it. The penalties for certain Federal offenses is substantial.

I can’t say enough about the importance of self-initiated patrol work in the discovery/arrest of weapons law violators. This work has a big-time safety impact to our community. We are fortunate to live in a community that supports this work. It really is crime prevention at its finest!

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Fireworks-Nice Job Medford!

We did it (all of us Medfordites!) We got thru another 4th of July without any serious injuries or death. We also avoided any fires that were caused by fireworks. The 4th of July Holiday was a safe and sane one for all of us here in Medford.
This was not by accident or luck…but due to some quality effort by a number of people. There was some substantial effort in public education, enforcement, as well as some big time self control by all of you.

On the public education side, both Medford Fire and Police participated in the following:
-Social media postings on the current law and the conditions we were facing.
-RVTV show on the current law and current conditions
-Local TV News segments and MMT articles
-News Releases leading up to the 4th of July
-Large “Reader Boards” in the East foothills (hazard areas)

On the enforcement side both Medford Police and Fire accomplished the following:
-Both Departments teamed up for patrols on July 4th.
-Additional Police units were deployed the night of July 4th for this effort.
-Approx. 1300 illegal fireworks were confiscated.
-Approx. 30 citations were issued on the holiday week-end for municipal ordinance violations

But the real reason that we experienced a safe and sane 4th of July was the SELF CONTROL displayed by the majority of citizens of our fine City. You all understood that this year was at an “all time dry.” You understood the risk and practiced good “risk management.” You decided to take in the free public fireworks shows in record numbers instead.
Lots of news stories from cities around the country that were not so lucky. Injury and property damage due to fireworks was evident in many of those news stories. Glad it was not here.

I was proud the work accomplished by Medford Fire and Police, but I was also very pleased to see that this effort had an impact. You all policed yourself. That is what strong communities do.

Thanks Medford-Nice Job!

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Fireworks-Not This Year!

In case you are not aware, Southern Oregon (and most of Central/Eastern Oregon) is experiencing a major league drought. Things are “tinder dry” right now and it is only the last day of June! Even the rain last week did little to ease the fire danger out there. This will get considerably worse in the weeks and months to come.

Yes-it is tradition that we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day with fireworks. I get it. I did it many years back on the beaches of Washington State with my brothers. All three of the George boys should be missing some fingers because of it….but we managed to avoid any lasting damages. Fireworks are fun…..but not this year.

There are several really good options this year (as in most years) for you and your family to enjoy a fireworks display without creating any risk or liability. These options are free, and no one will have to sleep with one eye open or worry about you burning down the neighborhood.

The City of Central Point (@ the Expo) is offering both a music and fireworks event that is being billed as “the largest fireworks display in Oregon.” The City of Ashland (my favorite) is also hosting a fireworks display that can be seen from most areas of Ashland. Both of these commercial fireworks displays are free!

Personal fireworks of any kind are prohibited in Ashland. Fireworks are also prohibited in Medford in the east foothills, in any city park/greenway, or on any school property. Only “safe and sane” fireworks are allowed elsewhere. Only the “legal” fireworks sold at the stands just outside the City of Medford are what’s legal in Oregon.

The real question this year, more than most years, is why? Why any personal fireworks this year at all? Why risk injury, the liability of a fire, and the good chance of substantial property damage? Based on the conditions state-wide, the State of Oregon should have issued a one year ban on the sale of fireworks…that would have been the prudent thing to do.

Medford PD and Medford Fire will be out in full force on July 4th enforcing the law on illegal fireworks, as well as any careless or reckless “legal” fireworks use. We dont take much joy in this enforcement activity, but it is required this year for the safety of all persons/property.

I suggest that you avoid this issue all together and just say no to fireworks this year. Relax and take in a quality public display instead.

Fireworks-Not This Year!

Tim George
Chief Of Police

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Crime Stats: When A High Number Is a Good Number.

Each month MPD produces what is called the “Consolidated Incident Report.” This is our complete statistical report for all offenses and calls for service for the month. It is compared with the previous year (monthly) and also includes our clearance rate (solvability.) Kudos to the MPD Records Division for cranking this out for us month after month. It is most appreciated and much needed. We use this as a measuring stick, and as a deployment guide for our resources.

While an increase in certain offenses is serious cause for concern……and we work towards stemming those tides as soon as possible…..there are some high numbers that are actually good for the Department and the greater Medford community.

What numbers do I like to see higher than lower? Self-initiated cases by our Officers that have a direct impact on community safety. These are crimes such as DUII, Drug Offenses, and most Weapons Offenses. A community that supports public safety will reap the benefits from quality self-initiated activity. These violators are out there, it just depends on whether you want or can spend the time to find/arrest them. It takes a certain a mount of “non-committed time” to accomplish this, and some agencies don’t have that available to them. It is also a matter of priority and personnel. If you have the personnel to accomplish this, then it has to become a department priority for it to become the norm for that agency.

I’m not saying that there is an endless number of certain offenses/offenders in any given jurisdiction. What I am saying is that you can use statistical reports over a longer period of time to determine what your avg. of such offenses should be…such as DUII. DUII”s are out there, in larger numbers than most people realize. Consistent DUII enforcement, over time, will get you to the number that is consistent with the community in which you serve. We use the statistics for all offenses to not only track our success, but assist us in our deployment focus as well.

If you want crime numbers to go down immediately…..a community could just lay off Police Officers. Josephine County is a good example of that. Without anyone there to take the report, the stat does not get recorded. When no self-initiated activity occurs, those crimes previously mentioned go undetected and overall community safety suffers.

Healthy communities support public safety to reasonable levels. Such levels allow for Officers to have some level of self-initiated activity. Crime prevention actually occurs as the DUII is arrested prior to the crash, weapons violators are arrested prior to the crime they are about to commit, and the drug offender is arrested prior to additional drug distribution. This really is police work 101. Self-initiated activity on the part of Law Enforcement is crime prevention at its finest.

There are “good numbers” in certain “high numbers” when it comes to crime statistics. Not all such increases are bad news. I am fortunate to live in a community that understands this concept and supports public safety. I am also fortunate to work with all those at MPD that work very hard to maintain that support.

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Gun Violence-We Can Do Better Than This.

May/June 2014 has been a couple of months of firearm violence that we will not soon forget. Police Officers across this country suffered the brunt of this violence, but there were also many “citizen” victims out there as well. From Las Vegas to Santa Barbara, to Troutdale and Seattle, few were immune from fear and anger these acts created. It was alarming to those of us in the Law Enforcement profession as well. We all struggled for an answer or a reason for such violence. There seemed to be the same re-occurring theme that has been mentioned in other “mass shooting events:” that the gunman demonstrated substantial mental health instability prior to the event. That seems to be the case in at least half of such events.

Before some of you launch into a “Constitutional tirade” on gun ownership and the right to bear arms…or label me as another “crazy turncoat,” let me begin by saying this:
I am not “anti-gun.” I own personal firearms in addition to the firearms issued to me by my employer (Medford PD.) I have been a licensed hunter in the past…and support both. What I can’t support is what is occurring in this country on what seems to be a weekly basis: individuals with serious mental health illness accessing firearms, and killing innocent citizens with them.

These “mass shooting suspects” are a danger to themselves or others prior to the event, and we need to be able to deal with them as such. We need to error on the side of caution
and intervene. That is more than just being reasonable, it is being proactive/preventative. It is what we in Law Enforcement do…try to prevent bad things from happening, and respond to bad things when they do happen.

By intervention I mean eliminating a persons ability to access a firearm, as well as securing any firearms that they may already have access to. It also means that Law Enforcement, or some other State authority, would be REQUIRED to take that subject into protective custody for the purposes of a mental health examination. We need to treat these individuals that are having serious mental health issues like they are having a serious physical health issue. It should be considered more serious than that…as it could have a serious impact on other innocent persons!

There have been approx. two mass shootings (per the FBI=where 4 or more victims are murdered) a month since 2009. This stat comes from the “Mayors Against Illegal Guns Study.” The shootings at Seattle Pacific University as well as Reynolds High School would not make it into these numbers as the number of dead was less than four. Both would make it into my numbers as the gunman had the “intent” to cause harm to many more individuals, but fortunately was stopped prior.

The mental health piece on this issue is huge. It is one of the few preventative pieces out there (certain gun control measures/restrictions will be argued on another day.) There are successful programs across this country that can and do prevent such tragedies from occurring. We have some positive
actions occurring right here in Jackson County as well.

The collaborative effort of Mental Health, Law Enforcement, School Officials, and the community all make for a safer place for all of us to live/work. By putting forth an effort to conduct risk/threat assessments, and increasing our ability to get mental health services to those in crisis, we create a safer community. We have to do this…and the public expects that we will do this!

We have the ability to act in a “reasonable manner” to prevent
certain gun violence from occurring. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT.

To be continued:

Tim George
Chief of Police

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SWAT: A Need, Not A Want

I have been away from the blog for a few weeks, and the “Blog Boss” is not happy with me….but I have been thinking about this topic for a bit, and now seems like the right time to speak to it. There have been several critical incidents around the country recently where SWAT Teams have played an important part in the safe resolution of a serious criminal event. Just how important is a quality tactical unit to a jurisdiction?

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) have been around modern policing since the late 60′s in larger urban Law Enforcement agencies, and many others moved that direction in the following decade. Television brought this discipline into the public view via Hollywood, even though the actual “tactics” were still held somewhat close to the vest. We still talk in generalities when it comes to the actual tactics that are deployed, as there are certain individuals that could use that information to their criminal advantage.

I am a bit biased, but the world is a much different place now than it was some 20/25 years ago……and our community (Medford) has grown close to 80,000 in population. Size equates to frequency in Police work, and a certain frequency of high risk incidents comes with that growth.

SWAT is no longer a “want”(or a resource nice to have around) but a “need”(a required resource.) The increase in both the criminal element, and the frequency of those in this element that are armed, require additional safety measures. Combine that with substantial increases in mental health crisis events, drug trafficking, and criminal weapons violations…and it is clear that critical incidents requiring such tactics are more frequent(and dangerous.)

It doesn’t matter what the individual jurisdiction calls it-SWAT, SERT, SAFE, ete- it is all the same discipline with the same mission. Law Enforcement provides their personnel with additional training and equipment to keep both themselves and the public safe during such critical events. This safety also extents to the suspect or subject(s) of the incident as they are the focus of the mission at hand. It is better for all involved to have such a unit at such an incident. From the Negotiators to the Entry Team, and everyone else involved in the mission, the concentrated effort of special weapons and tactics gives Law Enforcement the advantage…and advantage equals safety.

This is not about the “militarizing of local Law Enforcement” as some critics claim, but more about protecting our #1 asset…the people we have working for us. We are no help to anyone if we cannot protect ourselves first. There is a real need for additional protective gear, mission specific vehicles and advanced weapons to deal with specific events/individuals. This resource (SWAT) is not used on all arrest responses, or even all serious/critical incident responses…..but there are times when certain risk factors
/hazards require it. In Medford that equates to about 1.5 times per month (18 times per year.) That is about average for a community our size with the caseload/call load that we experience.

I would be irresponsible in my duty as the Police Chief if I did not make a reasonable effort to provide the training/tools necessary to protect both MPD personnel, and the citizens we serve, to the best of our ability. We have a quality SWAT team that does provide that much needed resource.

We are fortunate that we live in a region where such “high risk” events requiring SWAT are infrequent. Many other jurisdictions are not as fortunate. The majority of our SWAT work centers around “high risk” search warrants and/or arrest warrants where our intel work prior establishes the need. The more we know in advance the better prepared we can be when it counts.

SWAT is no longer a want, but an established need. I am appreciative of a community and a City Council that funds MPD to the level that we can provide this need. Thankfully we live in a region where that need is still limited. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Peace Officer Memorial-2014

I was honored when asked to speak at the 2014 Peace Officer Memorial yesterday in Singler Plaza, which sits between the Justice Building and the Jackson County Jail. Here were my thoughts:

Today is that one time out of the year where we take a few minutes to remember the sacrifices of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice-those who have given their life in support of our shared public safety mission. This past year in our country some 105 L.E. Officers lost their life in the line of duty.

Police work was once described to me many moons ago as bad hours and bad food…or at least food that was bad for you. It was also described to me as a profession-one in which in less than seconds can place one in a life or death situation. It is one of the few professions where we all diligently train for things that we hope/pray never occur, and thankfully in our region they seldom do. When they do occur, however, those in this profession move forward, stepping in front of that threat. We are that thin blue line between the public threat and public safety. We embrace that position, and we swear that we will be there for all that we protect/serve.

We have all made that promise to ourselves and to the public that we will step in front of them and face each/every threat.

Today we remember and mourn those that we are both familiar with, and those we have never met. Personally, for me it is Douglas Kocina. Doug lost his life in the line of duty with NCIS in the Philippines on March 17, 1988. Doug was a good friend and a former MPD Officer. I miss him.

It is also Karen Greenstein, although not Law Enforcement directly-some 20 minutes prior to her tragic death she was keeping us all safe as an emergency communications dispatcher. She was one of us. She will not be forgotten! We all miss her.

But I also mourn and remember those I had not met-like Alaska State Troopers Sgt. Scott Johnson (former SOU student athlete) and Trooper Gabe Rich. Both of these fine men were taken from us on the same call for service a few weeks ago in a remote Alaskan village. They were shot/killed by the son of a suspect being taken into custody on a weapons offense.

And for Oregon City Reserve Police Officer Robert Libke, who was also taken from us by an armed suspect as he attempted to safely secure a neighborhood from a residential fire scene. He was a volunteer…helping make his community safe last year.

Their service, and the service of all those we remember today, brings me to the words we all swore to when we began our public safety service-from the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics-which states:

“As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder, and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.”

It is not how those that we remember died, but rather how they lived their lives that we will remember and honor them.

God bless them, their families, and what they continue to be remembered for…quality people working in a very noble profession.

There is a certain sadness that comes over me this time of year, as I find it hard to understand why bad things happen to good people trying to do great things. I take the time to reflect on the inspiration they continue to give all of us. That helps me to “keep calm and carry on.”

Thanks for reading and remembering. Back to work!

Tim George
Chief of Police

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The Value of Good Information-School Safety

School Safety is paramount to just about every community in the country as police agencies and school districts look for ways to keep schools safe. From arming teachers (I’m not in favor of) to increasing camera/alarm systems, there is much debate and discussion as to how to address school violence and increase the safety for all involved. The discussion has value as it has brought communities together to address a common concern.

What the recent arrest of a 17 yr old in Waseca, Minn. has again showed us is that good information is still the key to the prevention of school violence, or any such act of domestic terrorism. In their case, Waseca Police responded to a report of “suspicious activity” at a storage unit complex. Their immediate investigation led to contact with 17 yr. old suspect John David Ladue. Ladue had been working on a horrific plan that involved the killing of his family (3) setting off an explosion as a police diversion, and then proceeding to his high school to shoot as many individuals as possible. The reports are that this juvenile had both the explosives and the weapons to accomplish this terrible act, and that he was within days of attempting execution of it.

This huge piece of crime prevention can be rolled back to a neighbor living near the storage units that observed Ladue acting suspiciously as he traveled through back yards to avoid detection en route to his storage unit. This neighbor did what we hope all neighbors would do….watch out for each other and report suspicious activity to the police. We make our living on responding to “suspicious activity” reports, and some of the best prevention comes from such reports. This is the basis for “Neighborhood Watch,” or for asking your neighbors and friends to watch you place while your gone for the week-end. That’s what neighbors do for each other.

Ms. Chelsie Schellhas made the observation, and made the call to the police. She stepped in front of what would have been another school violence tragedy. She is the kind of neighbor I want to live near. She is also the kind of neighbor that makes for a quality neighborhood. God Bless her and more neighbors like her!

There is no substitute for good information. It requires both trust and communications skills. The Medford Police Department sends six FT employees (four Police Officers/two civilians) to work in and around 549C Schools daily. Their involvement with students and staff is just one way we are trying to develop relationships that will increase such information. It takes effort, but the effort is worthwhile. There is no such thing as bad information….some is just better than others. We (MPD) are committed to keeping our schools the safest place for students to be. We hope that good information keeps coming our way too.

Good Information=School Safety.

Tim George
Chief of Police

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  • About the Author

    Tim George

    Chief Tim George of the Medford Police Department writes on the day-to-day work of MPD and the dedicated men and women who make up the force. Public safety is MPD's business, and there will be suggestions on how to keep your neighborhood, your home, ... Full Profile
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