The Hug-Let’s Hope it Happens in Ferguson Too.

I need to start this blog by stating I do not know all the facts in the death of Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Mo. Like most of us, I have received the majority of my information on this case from the national news media. Not sure that it has been accurate or without bias. I feel for the Brown family who lost a loved one, as well as for Officer Wilson who had to make a deadly force decision. I have been both a Police Chief and an involved Officer in the use of deadly force upon another. They are very stressful situations for all involved.

I hope that the Grand Jury process was complete and fair…and that the County Prosecutor took the time to ensure that this case was investigated completely. I have no reason to think otherwise. Members of the Grand Jury are citizens pulled from the jury pool from the community. These citizens heard all the facts and evidence presented…and completed the job that was before them. I’m sure this was no easy task, and one that will stay with them long after this cases fades from media attention. They received their fair share of stress too.

I hope that the good people of Ferguson are able to rebuild their community, and take pride in their City once again. I found it hard to watch as the rioting became the story. I’m sure that this disturbance drew participants from other jurisdictions as well. What I watched was not something I expected to see happen in this country. I saw criminal acts of destruction (arson,looting,etc.) combined with what appeared to be an unprepared response (lack of,delayed, inadequate.) This appeared to all lead to a situation that got much worse than it needed to be. It was sad for the City of Ferguson and for all of its residents.

I hope that the young people of Ferguson have hope. That they can reach out to their Police Department and build the TRUST needed for all of Ferguson to recover. Without the hope for a better future I doubt this can occur. It will take work from both sides. There will need to be some quality communication.

The photograph in the MMT (and around the country) today showing 12 yr. old Devonte Hart hugging Portland Police Sgt.Bret Barnum had that message of hope. Both Devonte and Sgt. Barnum showed us what hope looks like. I hope that this will be occurring in Ferguson soon too. Let’s all hope that happens.

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Ernie Whiteman Sr. The Definition of a SRO

Last week I witnessed another colleague retire from MPD….another one that came to MPD years after I did. I guess I haven’t figured out the retirement gig yet! This one was a bit different than others, not because of the years on…..or because of a particular case or incident in their career, but due to the body of work that they accomplished. This retirement was that of Police Officer Ernie Whitemen Sr. Ernie has the distiction of being the School Resource Officer at North Medford High School. This was an assignment that he held for 16+ years out of a 26+ year career.

Ernie was hired in 1988, and spent a good 10 years as a solid Patrol Officer. He leaned towards night shifts, but when the SRO assignment came along, he looked at it as a “three year assignment.” This would be something different, and a way for him to increase his interactive skills with young people. What happend next was not expected…but MPD, NMHS and Officer Whiteman all benefitted from it. He enjoyed this type of work, and became the SRO that other SRO’s would be measured by. It was a very good outcome for all involved. It had a positive impact on students, staff, parents, and the community. School safety took on a much larger role during his time as an SRO. We needed Officers like Ernnie to lead during a time when school safety was unfortunately a common topic. That continues today.

Ernie has been the President of the Oregon School Resource Officer’s Assoc. and has taught at the highest level of his assignment at the National School Resource Officers Association. He set the standard for SRO’s in Oregon and was instrumental in the developmment of emergency response plans for school safety. His work on safety plans and safety drills made schools a safer, better place.

I could go on with additional quality work and accomplishments that Ernie has done during his assignment as an SRO. He had the nuts and bolts of what it meant to be an SRO down. What is even more important though is the work that Ernie did with individual students that he came in contact with daily. As I read some of the Facebook posts and heard some of the oral comments over the last week…it struck me that was the real difference maker. Ernie had an impact on students.

There is that famous quote that “what reallly matters in a person’s life is how they impacted a child’s life.” Ernie can sleep with a smile and sweet dreams knowing that he did make a differecne in several children’s lives as an SRO. He was a mentor. He took the time to listen. He cared about all the students in the 549C District. He was all in as “their Cop.” He made it to all their events…from ballgames to proms to graduation and everything in-between.

We will be unable to replace Ernie, as he was one of a kind. He was a bit softspoken and hid from the limelight, but his impact on those he touched will be felt for years to come. Ernie will be a tough act to follow.

All you can ask of yourself and of others is to work at making a difference. Officer Ernine Whiteman Sr. did that and then some. May the wind always be at your back Ernie!
You deserve all the best that retirement brings your way.
Thanks for making us all better, and making our schools safer.

Tim George
Chief of Police

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Domestic Violence- “No More Silence”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is DV awareness each and every day for those of us in Law Enforcement. This month, however, is that one time during the year where an extra effort is made with the public to draw attemntion to this crisis….and it is a
community crisis!

Now that DV has had an impact on the NFL-it has become a topic of more conversations. Sad that it took that to get the conversations started in certain circles……but it has caused many other folks to step up and become strong in the fight against DV. There are more discussions now on victim protection as well as holding perpetrators accuntable for their actions. A “no tolerance” attitude is becoming more of the norm in such conversations. That is a very good thing.

The Medford Police Department investigates some 400+ domestic violence assaults each year. These are investigations that generally result in an arrest of the perpetrator. The range of crimes goes from Assault to Murder, with many other crimes in-between. There are additional investigations that concern DV such Restraining Order Violations, Stalking Order Violations, Custodial Interference, ete.

These calls for service are both frequent and intense. They can be very high on the safety risk scale in our response due to the conduct/mindset of the suspect. These cases are a priority-and we will investigate any/all DV reports. That you can count on.

Imagine the situation for a DV victim….the person that you trust and have the most contact with…and the person that you depend on for many things is now physically assaulting/menacing you! Imagine that you are trying to protect both yourself and your children from this physical abuse. Imagine all the thoughts going through your head as you attempt to make that call for help. Put yourself in the victim’s shoes for a few moments.

We all need to try and imagine those scenarios a few times to understand the position of a DV victim. Understanding the situation that DV victims are in helps all victims in our communnity. This understanding allows communities to take a stand and have “No More Silence” as their mantra. Every member of our community can have an impact on DV. “If you see something, say something.” We cannot tolerate DV any longer.
We can end DV in our community.

This Friday, October 24th, 2014 @ 4:00 P.M. we will walk from the Jackson Co. Courthouse to Pear Blossom Park (The Commons) in support of Domstic Violence Awareness. I hope you can come and join our community in this event to “walk and talk.” Come walk with us to end DV. Thanks!

Tim George
Chief of Police

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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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  • 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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