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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Why DUII?

I promised myself I would come back to the topic of DUII and now is the time. In the last three (approx.) weeks we have seen three individuals die in traffic crashes where DUII is suspected,just in our region. There are more examples state-wide, regionally, and nationally. These cases make the headlines locally, but rarely do they make regional or national news unless it involves something additional such as a large number of fatalities, a person of special interest, ete. We pay attention locally for a few days…maybe a week…but I guess we get used to DUII fatal crashes.

There are several sources of information that one can use to hammer home the statistical side of DUII: 1)That DUII fatal crashes are 4 times higher at night vs. daytime (from the NHTSA) 2)That men account for approx. 80% of all DUII’s (from the CDC) 3)That 28 people die daily as the result of DUII crashes in this country-which is one approx. every 51 minutes (from the NHTSA.) 28 people in this country a day! That is crazy!

Any way you slice it, DUIIs kill people….and it is not a matter of if they are going to crash, but when. During what we in the business call “prime-time” (midnight to 0300 hrs.) if there is a motor vehicle crash, bet house money it is a DUII. Who else drives off the roadway…or crashes into parked cars or fixed objects? Intoxicated drivers do.

NO “skinny” DUII’s here either. I’m sure that the other L.E.agencies numbers are very similar to MPD’s as the avg. BAC level of the DUII’s we arrested in 2012/2013 was .12% (per Sgt. D. Lane.) Then you add the “other” intoxicants in addition to alcohol (illegal drugs, prescribed medication, ete.) to a portion of our DUII’s and you have a legitimate safety threat during at least “prime-time.”

You can take a cab one way anywhere in Medford for $15 bucks.
You can pick a designated driver. You could even walk home from some licensed premises depending on how far home is. Lots of options….maybe even having a plan before you set out for an evening of good times? Maybe not drink yourself into intoxication if you are a driver?

I want folks to have a good time…..and to enjoy what Medford has to offer. Downtown Medford has come alive with many fine places to both eat/drink. Other cities in our region have much to offer too. What I don’t want folks to do is drive DUII! No reason for it….no excuse for it. All that is required here is a little thought ahead of time.

MPD looks at DUII enforcement as a priority. We average approx. 500 per year. It is our commitment to the citizens of Medford that we will reduce the threat of the DUII crash. We will continue to “fish” for DUIIs nightly. Drive DUII and we will mess up your night, your week, and most likely your year. It won’t be cheap either. It shouldn’t be. There needs to be a strong lesson for those convicted of DUII.

I can only hope that local headlines have some impact someday…and that DUII becomes a seldom seen thing instead of a frequently seen thing.

It is not a matter of if you will crash (if you’re DUII) just when. Gotta ask yourself why? Why DUII?

T.George/#219/COP

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Karen Greenstein-ECSO’s Best!

All of us in Southern Oregon in Public Safety have a very heavy heart right now as one of our own has lost her life in a tragic head-on collision less than 48 hours ago. The shock of it still numbs. Some of those first responders who have been dispatched by her previously had to respond to this accident, and work the case where she was the victim of this fatal traffic accident. If there was ever an example of a bad thing happening to a good person…this is it. It was senseless, preventable, and should not have happened. I will speak more to that in the days to come…..

Karen Greenstein was loved by her husband, her family, her co-workers, and just about anyone else that had the good fortune to know her. She was described as the “calm in the storm” of Dispatch (Emergency Communications Of Southern Oregon) optimistic at all times, and a committed public safety professional. I was only around her for a few years when she worked as a dispatcher for MPD…but I NEVER saw her without a smile and a can-do attitude. She was THAT person.
She was the person others wanted to work with…to be around.

“When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Try to live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” (Old Native American Verse.)

Karen lived such a life. We will continue to celebrate and honor her life. May God Bless her and keep her close. May he also bring comfort to her family at this time.

I am thinking a good thought for her family and co-workers at this time. We will stay strong for them.

Karen Greenstein-ECSO’s Best!

T.George #219/COP.

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The Launch

Tim George/Chief of Police/Medford Police Department.

Today I launch into the world of being called a “Community Blogger.” Not sure what that really is, but after some brief research I think I can handle it. After all, if the MMT has asked me to be one, then it must be a good thing…and it must be important. It will be some work as I curse this first attempt after losing my first draft somewhere!

I am not good at vanilla, or staying between the lines, but I promise to not get personal, political, or anything else/way that might offend. If I do that, I want you (the reader) to give it to me with both barrels. I have enough subject matter to last a bit, and I promise to be interesting. if I stop doing that…then I will stop Blogging period. Show me the door.

I believe I have enough time on (year 37 now) to be somewhat knowledgeable on the topic of Public Safety, at least for the City Of Medford. This will not be about me, but rather the 150 men and women that make up MPD. The work that these folks do on a regular basis is both complex and challenging.

I am fortunate to have been chosen to drive the MPD bus so to speak, and I’m proud to do so. What I am most proud of are all the others on this bus. They are some of the finest folks in the business today, and their story needs to be told some. They make this bus both fun and successful.

I hope to describe some of the things encountered in Public Safety that are hard to describe. These are the things that make this occupation both interesting and at times stressful.
Human behavior is what we deal with, and what we are tasked with trying to understand.

I will practice what “Grandma George” always preaches, and that is, “if I don’t have anything nice to say, then I won’t say anything at all.” I will concentrate on the positive. There are hundreds of examples of both MPD and citizen work that have really made Medford a safer place for all of us to live/work.

“If you are lucky enough to live in Medford, then you’re lucky enough.” I stole and modified this quote from a golf course at the beach many moons ago. I believe it…and so do the folks at MPD. We really do live n a special place.

My final promises are that I will not VBLOG( video blog only) nor will I MOBLOG (blog from a mobile phone only.) I only know these terms as I saw them in my earlier research. A little knowledge is dangerous!

This will take some time to get used to, but here I (we) go.

Blog on brothers and sisters.

T.George/#219/COP.

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