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.