Thursday, July 3, 2008

Asian Academy - Week Five - Administrative Services

By Dawn Campbell

Administrative Services is like the behind the scenes team for Des Moines Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Des Moines Police Department’s Captain Joanne Pollock told attendees of the Asian citizens academy how the department’s Administrative Services Bureau is separated into four divisions: property management section, records section/police report unit, communications section and the police technology unit.

Academy attendees were shown before and after photos of the property management locker located at the Des Moines Police Department. Pollock awed the class when she told of the audit which detailed every single item in the property locker. “There was only one item, a laundry basket, which was not accounted for during the audit,” Pollock advised.

When asked how far back items were dated, Pollock stated, “Items from the 1930’s were found.” The captain continued by telling the class that there were over 11,000 property sheets attached to various items. Those property sheets could have one to two items listed and up to a dozen or more. The class immediately understood the magnitude of only having one item missing in the audit process.

Pollock continued her presentation and discussed the records section and police report unit. Pollock shared statistics of how this area of the department works. The records management system is shared with Polk County Sheriffs Department as well as other law enforcement agencies in the area. Ten people enter reports 24 hours a day. Sales of these reports, because they are public information, generated $165,000 in revenue which goes directly back into the budget.

This particular section of the department also has a false alarm coordinator. This employee helps with the magnitude of false alarm trips the department answers every year. Last year, the department received 4,400 alarm trips. Of those trips, 3,793 of those trips were false. For every false alarm trip, the owner of the residence or business is fined $50. This money was generated and put back into the budget.

Because the class was briefed on the communications section a few weeks ago, Pollock focused the last part of her presentation on the technology section. This section of the department is what keeps people in touch with each other. Pollock explained this section keeps the 75 mobile units in the vehicles used by officers in working order. She also shared this unit is in charge of approximately 300 desktop units used by various employees within the department.

The class did learn something most did not know prior to this course. On every cellular phone bill, there is a charge titled “E911.” Pollock explained the money received from this charge is what funds the seven employees who maintain these precious systems for the police department.

As the class broke for intermission, attendees had a chance to speak to Pollock one on one. During one of those discussions, the class did learn the significance of their speaker. Pollock is the second highest ranking female officer in the police department.

For the second half of this week’s section, the class heard from Lieutenant Dave Knight regarding Polk County Sheriffs Office’s administrative bureau. Knight, who is a 21 year veteran of the department, reiterated much of what Pollock stated in her presentation. Yet, he also talked about the new jail being built, the civil division, the human resource department and a little on what people should know about law enforcement as a career.

“Law enforcement officers have the highest rate of suicide and divorce,” Knight said. “I tell this to all the new people I talk to. You have to have a sense of humor and you have to have friends outside of law enforcement.”

Knight took a story telling approach to the presentation topics. As he spoke about the new jail and the impact it is going to have on how the sheriffs department works, he shared the following:

Knight told members of the class the jail is three football fields wide and three football fields long so they could get an idea of how large the facility is and how many inmates it can hold.

Knight shared with the class how the department is hiring civilian detention officers and what those individuals can expect when they are working in the jail. “We have a man who is housed that plays with his own fecal matter,” Knight stated. “Detention officers will see things that you wouldn’t believe.” As a pre-employment test, detention officer candidates have to run and drag a dummy for a certain amount of feet. This is in case there is an altercation in the jail setting and the detention officer has to drag an injured inmate or colleague.

One of the duties assigned to the sheriff’s office is civil matters. Knight discussed how the department is bombarded with work due to the rapid rise of foreclosures. He also discussed some of the unpleasant issues associated with civil matters such as child custody issues. The sheriff’s office is the department assigned to go to residences and remove children from homes based on court orders. This department is also responsible for serving individuals regarding court issues.

Prior to dismissing the course, Knight engaged the class by sharing with them one of the unique duties he chose to take on – death notification. This task is also part of administrative services for the sheriff’s department. He shared two particular stories with the class. Knight began his stories by simply saying, “You never know what you are going to get.”

Knight didn’t go into particular details of the circumstances involved with this notification. In a conversational tone, Knight told of a deputy who did not ask if there was anyone else in the residence prior to the stating the fact that this person’s loved one had passed. When the loved one receiving the death notification screamed, a person from upstairs came down ready for a physical altercation. Knight chuckled and said, “I made sure to ask if anyone else was in the house from that point on.”

Reiterating the “you never know what you are going to get” motto, Knight shared a story that he said he’ll never forget. The sheriff’s department responded to a call of a motorcycle accident and the rider was pronounced dead shortly after. When deputies arrived at the deceased residence, they advised the wife that her husband had passed away. The wife stood, smiled and said thank you. The deputies who arrived with a person from victim’s services were a little shocked at the reaction. “There was no crying or anything,” Knight said. Deputies learned later, the wife had been a victim of domestic abuse. “I guess it was relief,” Knight told attendees.


Lt. Dave Knight with the Polk County Sheriff's Office addresses attendees of
the Asian Citizens Academy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Asian Citizen's Academy Week Four: "In Pursuit"

By Dawn Campbell

“I have a vehicle that took off on me. In pursuit.”

The officer pursues a vehicle which would not stop for a simple traffic violation. The officer accelerates, but follows at a distance where he can react if the vehicle he is pursuing wrecks. Every few seconds, the officer provides dispatch with details of his location and the direction the vehicle.

“West bound University. Crossing M.L. King.”

The chase has been going for a few minutes and the officer in pursuit has several other police units with him for backup. The officer giving chase sternly asks, “Permission to P.I.T?”

Dispatch calls the watch commander on the air and asks the same question. “Permission granted,” a commanding voice says simply.

The officer lines up the way he was taught in the academy’s four days of driving training and taps the back of the chased vehicle. The chased vehicle spins around and comes to a stop. The chase ends with no injuries and slight damage to a police car.

“P.I.T. stands for pursuit intervention technique. On average we use the P.I.T. maneuver once a month,” Des Moines Senior Police Officer Chuck Guhl told the Asian Citizen’s Academy on May 21. “The Des Moines Police Department was the first agency to train in P.I.T. in 1996,” Guhl proudly shared.

During the classroom discussion, Guhl explained how officers in training spend four days in driving school during their time at the Des Moines regional Police Academy. On the last day of driving school, recruits spend four hours in P.I.T. training. This past year, the academy class had a new opportunity. The recruits spent four hours training in high speed pursuits at the Knoxville Speedway.

Police Officer Brookelyn Budd, who graduated in 2008 from the Des Moines Regional Police Academy said, “The new training was effective; it gave us the opportunity to actually participate in a high speed chase while in a safe, secure environment. It is definitely something my fellow classmates learned from and enjoyed.”

When asked how do officers who have been with the department for a length of time receive P.I.T and pursuit training, Guhl informed the class that those officers receive refresher courses. At this time, every three years officers receive a refresher in P.I.T. and pursuit driving.

Following the classroom discussion, the citizen’s academy moved outdoors to the Des Moines Area Community College driving course to watch a P.I.T. demonstration take place.

Attendees watched as a black Crown Victoria driven by Senior Police Officer Chad McFarland drove around the DMACC driving course mimicking a pursuit with an old squad car. Just as McFarland rounded a corner, Senior Officer Chad Cornwell and Senior Officer Tony Gomez lined up their vehicle and performed a P.I.T. maneuver. The vehicles with metal bumper guards made contact and the helmet clad McFarland sent dust flying as his vehicle spun to a stop.

Students watched as the officers performed the demonstration approximately five to six times. Guhl, Sergeant Larry Davey, Sergeant Tony Knox and Senior Officer Doua Lor mingled amongst students to assist in explaining what was occurring and what signified a good P.I.T. versus a bad P.I.T.

After the P.I.T demonstration, attendees got the opportunity to become up close and personal with a DMPD squad car and learn about what makes traffic stops nerve racking for law enforcement officers.

Lor showed the class how an officer looks up license plates of a stopped vehicle on I-Mobile, the computer unit located in squad cars. Lor also briefly explained Tracs, the computer program that is used for traffic accidents.

For the last part of the class, Officer Gomez who works in the traffic, unit shared what things make officers nervous during traffic stops. Gomez advised attendees not to exit the vehicle they are in when being approached by an officer during a traffic stop. He also advised attendees to keep their hands where the officer can see them. “Please don’t dig around in your glove compartment or under your seat,” Gomez said. Officers don’t know if the person in the vehicle is merely searching for license and registration or if they are searching for a firearm.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Asian Citizen's Academy Week Three: Crime Scene Investigation

By Dawn Campbell

“Solving a crime does not happen in an hour and we don’t wear thousand dollar suits,” Sergeant Mike McDermott of the Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) told participants of the first Asian Citizens Academy. The statement dissolved any assumptions that crime scene investigations occur exactly as they do on the numerous CSI programs.

McDermott, who has been with the department 20 years this August, spoke to the academy class this past week regarding how DMPD’s crime scene investigation section operates. McDermott shared his experience which includes, approximately 10 years of working with crime scene investigation.

The identification unit is the only part of the detective’s bureau which operates 24-7, 365 days a year. It consists of a lieutenant, two sergeants, 13 identification technicians and one secretary.

This department is the best identification and investigation unit in the state. “We have a nationally recognized blood splatter expert as part of the team,” McDermott told attendees. The unit also has someone who is considered very knowledgeable and is highly regarded in the area of fingerprints.

McDermott proceeded to share some of the major accomplishments this particular division has achieved. One of those accomplishments occurred approximately 10 years ago. DMPD’s identification unit was the first crime scene investigation unit to ever raise a fingerprint off of a dead body.

After McDermott told about the structure and accomplishments of this staff, he shared a slide show with the class. “If anyone has a weak stomach, this may be a good a time to leave the room,” he warned.

McDermott began a homicide crime scene slide show. He stated with homicide investigations, crime scene investigators can be at the scene of the crime two to three days.

The class sat very still and quietly viewed the slide show which included the photos of an actual crime scene, evidence and autopsy photos used to prosecute a suspect in an especially violent homicide case which occurred about eleven years ago. McDermott shared what detectives learned during the investigation with the class. “The victim was random,” he said referring to the fact the suspect in the case did not know the victim. The victim’s body was discovered by their relative; McDermott believed the body was found by the victim’s daughter.

As the slide show progressed to the autopsy photos, the horrific act of violence was exposed and one attendee exited the room. “This person I believe has a special place in heaven because they fought back,” stated McDermott. The autopsy photos clearly showed numerous defensive stab wounds on the victim’s hands and arms. McDermott asked the class to count the wounds, but everyone remained silent. McDermott said quietly, “Too many to count.”

At the end of the slide show, a class participant asked how he does his job. McDermott answered, “What bothers me is that some times my job doesn’t bother me.”

McDermott then shared an experience and a piece of advice he was given early on in his career. The Drake Diner murders were the first crime scene McDermott ever worked. McDermott asked the class how many had been inside the diner. Most of the class raised their hands. He shared the layout of the diner to those who were not familiar. Then, McDermott shared how he walked in the diner, saw the victim’s bodies lying close to the entrance and how he looked at the walls which were very far away and were covered with blood and brain matter.

The piece of advice given to McDermott by a supervisor that night was, don’t look at bodies as people; look at the bodies as evidence.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Asian Citizens Academy – Week Two: Operations and Communications

By Dawn Campbell

“Des Moines Police Department is a big business. Polk County Sheriff’s Office is a big business. We’re selling trust. We’re selling goodwill,” Des Moines Police Department Captain Kelly Willis told attendees of the Asian Citizens Academy.

Week two was a long session for attendees on May 6th, but they learned critical information. For the first half of the session students learned how the Des Moines Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office operate. Willis from Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) and Chief Neil Schultz from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) presented to the class. The second half focused on the communications and dispatch for both organizations.

“Public safety is a common goal for Polk County Sheriff’s Office and for the police department,” Willis explained.

Attendees listened as Willis explained the 10 hour work day patrol officers began the day before. The 10 hour shift will make the department work more efficient. Prior to this change, the department had three eight hour shifts which only covered 24 hours. Willis detailed how it was difficult for patrol officers to respond to emergency trips during shift change. Willis said, “We want to be able to respond to our community’s needs quickly. That’s hard when officers are loading their gear at the station and we need them over by Merle Hay Mall for a child choking.” Willis clearly explained that there was not a time when there were no officers on the street. There were times with the eight hour shifts, there were not that many officers on the street and those officers would take trips which may endanger themselves to serve the community.

Willis also explained how the department developed how the shifts would change. “Due to crime analysis, we know that from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., we have a larger number of police assistance calls. Because of these statistics, we made sure there are additional officers are the street.”

Schultz, who heads the field headquarters for PCSO detailed the operation overview of the sheriff’s office and specifically answered questions regarding the county’s jail system.

“At this time, we spend a lot transporting prisoners to Missouri for holding. With the new jail facility, we’ll cut costs,” explained Schultz.

When asked why we use Missouri facilities to hold prisoners, Schultz stated that Missouri state law allows private industry to run jails; whereas the State of Iowa does not allow this. “At this time it is not cost effective. We spend approximately, $4.5 to $6 million transporting and holding prisoners. Private industry charges because it is a business,” Schultz said.

The class seemed surprised, but whispers about food costs and gas prices could be heard as the class broke for a break.

The second half of the class explained the communications sections of both DMPD and PCSO.

Academy attendees were shown statistics of what types and number of calls the sheriff’s office and police department receive during a year.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

40,207 law enforcement trips

54,192 911 calls

13,073 fire/rescue trips

5,172 warrants entered

7,008 no contact orders

10,886 criminal history checks

Des Moines Police Department

368,515 telephone calls

61,312 wireline 911 calls (also known as landline calls)

89,331 wireless 911 calls

202,087 police trips

19,394 fire/rescue trip

283,027 Lencir (this includes but is not limited to criminal history checks)

One tip given to the class by John Smith, a PCSO dispatcher and Sandy Morris from the DMPD communications section is when calling from a cell phone make sure you give your location. “Depending on your phone, GPS may work or it may not. Be patient and make sure you answer the question where are you located. It can make a difference,” explained Morris.
Part two in a series by Dawn Campbell.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Police Academy for Asians

By Dawn Campbell

A retired police sergeant teaching Asian citizens about the history of the Des Moines Police Department doesn’t happen everyday at the Des Moines Regional Police Academy, but it happened April 29, 2008. This was part of the content for the first day of class for Asian citizens attending the 1st Annual Asian Citizens Police Academy.

Retired Sgt. Mike Leeper, who is in charge of the police department’s museum, shared interesting facts about the police department and how things have changed over the years. Attendees learned how officers in the early 1900’s, without the use of cell phones and communication units, communicated with dispatch via special phones located within their patrol areas. Officers were required to phone once every hour or half hour whether they were in need of assistance or not.

Leeper also shared the somber side of being a police officer with attendees. Photos of officers who have died in the line of duty were shown to students. Leeper explained how this slide show is shown to every new officer who joins the department. It gives new officers an awareness of the dangers associated with this job, he explained to the group.

Over the next eleven weeks, citizens in this class will learn more than just the history of the police department. They will meet officers, learn about the different bureaus within the department and also go through some of the training police recruits do while they are at the academy.

Senior Police and Asian Outreach Resource Officer Doua Lor assisted in the creation of this program. According to Lor, this program will assist in bridging the communication gap that occurs often between law enforcement and the Asian community. To Lor’s knowledge, this is the only program in the Midwest offered by a law enforcement agency specifically for the Asian community. will be following the citizens attending this eleven week course and sharing what the members of this class learn on a weekly basis.

Cut line for photo: Retired Sgt. Mike Leeper shares the history of the
Des Moines Police Department with citizens in the Asian Citizens Academy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Education Brain Trust

Get Connected

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Funded by Polk County Decat/Iowa Department of Human Services &

Des Moines Public Schools

May 3

Moulton School

Introduction and Kick Off

10 a.m. to Noon

May 17:

Carver Elementary

9:00 am to 3:00 pm

June 7:



9:00 am to 3:00 pm

June 21:

Callanan Middle School

9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Parents attending the Empowerment summits will receive special incentives, including $$$$$$ for their participation. For more information please contact;

Paulette Wiley- Volunteer Director Education Brain Trust 515 664 8670, or

Nansi J Woods- Project Coordinator, Ask Resource Center 515 243 1713


Our Children,