Chief Wray's Blog

It's the Small Things that Matter

December 18, 2013 4:15 PM

Community Policing is an approach to policing that is a cornerstone to how we fulfill our mission here at the Madison Police Department.  It is about working with the members of our community to build trust and positive relationships in order to have a great city in which we can all live, work and play.  Our officers believe in and practice Community Oriented Policing every day.  They understand that this type of policing has been proven to be a very successful method to build a respectful, trusting and safer community.  I believe this concept is successful in our community.  With this being said we are reminded every day that the role of police in our society also includes situations where conflicts arise, emotions run high, force is needed, individual freedoms are compromised through arrest and people are held accountable for their behaviors through citations. Too often these are the things that make the news.  We read about these stories in our newspapers and hear about them on the nightly news.  Police Officers are routinely criticized for the actions they took or the ones they didn't.  The actions that are taken and the occasional mistakes we make, real or perceived are illuminated by the visibility we have and the responsibilities that come with our profession.  It is important that we continuously communicate our actions and admit our mistakes, always striving for continued improvement.  These situations make the job of policing very challenging for the men and women who choose to make policing their career.

It is important that we remind ourselves that there is another side of policing that often goes unnoticed and seldom publicized.  Police Officers are human beings capable of making mistakes, but they are also caring and compassionate people that go above and beyond the call of duty every day to help citizens in our city – a true testament to Community Policing.  I believe it is important for our community to know about the positive feedback that our own citizens are giving to our department.  The compliments vary from a simple thank you to an officer for their assistance on a call to a compliment to an officer for saving someone's life.  Big or small, citizens are taking a moment to thank our officers and it is important for us all to remember this part of our job.  Here are some of those compliments:

Compliment:  A citizen thanked an officer for stopping by their home at 2am to let them know their garage door was open.  The area where this occurred has seen an increase in burglaries.  By stopping at the home to let the homeowners aware that their garage door was open not only made the homeowners feel safe and protected but potentially prevented a burglary from occurring. 

Compliment:  A citizen wrote a letter thanking an officer for a ride-along they attended and to also give support to the officer.  The officer commended in this compliment happens to be one of the three officers who was involved in an officer-involved shooting and who was recently cleared of any wrong-doing.  Here is what the citizen said in their letter: "I'm a portly 72 year old guy who did a ride along with you in March of 2012 as part of my attendance at the Citizen Academy.  In that ride-along we participated in a "speed trap" on Hammersley Road (and assisted another officer in taking the person he stopped to the station for being intoxicated), took a teenage girl who wouldn't get out of the car of her friend's parents because she didn't want to go home to her parents to Meriter for social services assistance, set up a search on Allied Drive for a boy who hadn't returned home, checked some vehicles parked at empty storefronts on Verona Road for possible drug activity, took a fast ride to a chimney fire (before being called off) and in general just protected the citizens of this city.  After all you have been through as a result of the Hammersley Road incident, I just want to again tell you how impressed I was with you when we met and encourage you to carry on with the same integrity and enthusiasm that I saw in you in 2012.  I recall hearing at the Academy that sometimes an incident such as this causes an officer to find other types of work. I hope you stay in policing in the City of Madison because I saw great caring for people and keeping them safe, and we definitely need this in our officers.  Best regards, and thanks for all that you do for our city."

Compliment:  An officer was thanked for going out of their way to drop off a homeless man's belongings to a home before he was taken to jail after he was arrested.  When someone is arrested they are only allowed to bring in certain items to the jail.  Imagine if you were homeless and you carry every item that belongs to you.  In this situation the homeless person would have lost their personal belongings if it were not for the caring officer who went above and beyond his call of duty in this situation.  A plan was made to have the officer drop off the belongings of the homeless man to a friend's home before he was taken to jail so that he did not lose his belongings.

Compliment: A citizen called to thank officers for help in locating his missing mother-in-law twice in two days.

Compliment:  A citizen called to thank an officer who hand delivered their pen to their home after the officer borrowed it from them and forgot to return it to them at the scene.

Compliment:  A teenager wrote a letter to an officer thanking him for giving him a warning about speeding and the importance of the lesson he taught him about safe driving.

Compliment:  A property owner in Madison sent a letter expressing his gratitude to an officer.  His letter stated the following:  "My longer-term tenants are commenting on how much quieter the neighborhood has been lately.  Additionally, I have been able to rent to a few new tenants that I may previously not have been able to attract to the neighborhood.  I can say unequivocally that you have been a direct influence in these positive changes."

Compliment:  A handicapped citizen complimented two officers for their service.  The handicapped citizen attempted to get home from a store in her scooter after a record snowfall.  The officers observed this citizen and pulled over to assist.  The officers loaded the scooter into the squad car and took the citizen home.  The citizen said she is "forever thankful to them.  They are truly, truly angels.  Thank you so much for having them on your staff, for hiring them and giving them an opportunity to help me."  She also said she did not know if she was going to be able to make it home without their help. 

Compliment: Two officers were dispatched to a call of a possible suicidal man.  Once the officers arrived to the location of the call they discovered that a disabled vet was very frustrated with government agencies because he was not able to find assistance to shovel his sidewalk around his duplex.  The man explained that due to his health he was not able to shovel himself but his duplex required his walkways to be clear of snow.  The two officers began to research local resources that could help the man.  The officers were unsuccessful in finding a long-term resolution to this situation while they were at this residence so they took it upon themselves to shovel the citizen's sidewalk and walkway.  A long-term resolution plan was established after this call in order to provide this citizen with snow removal services throughout the winter. 

Our officers are also recognized throughout the year for the life-saving measures that they use.  It would probably come as a surprise to most citizens how often our officers are dispatched to calls where a person is unconscious and requires life-saving measures to be taken.  Here are just a few of those stories:

May 2013:  several officers were at a local business on an unrelated disturbance when they were notified that a female was found unconscious in the restroom.  The officers immediately began CCR on the female as she was turning purple.  They continued CCR until Madison Fire Department arrived to take over.  The woman was taken to the hospital where she survived.

July 2013:  officers responded to a pulseless non breathing male where they worked together to administer CCR until Madison Fire Department arrived on scene.  The male survived this medical emergency. 

July 2013: an officer responded to a scene where a woman was PNB, which means Pulseless Non Breather.  The officer gave CCR, cardio cerebral resuscitation, to the woman until she was relieved by the Fire Department.  The woman was transported to the hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.  The officer's response and care that she gave to the woman helped save her life.

August 2013:  a male overdosed and collapsed.  The first officer arrived and started compressions until a pulse was regained. 

October 2013:  several officers were dispatched to a home where a female had no pulse and she was not breathing.  The officers arrived on scene to several individuals who were very frantic.  The officers worked together to calm the scene and provide life-saving techniques to the woman who was on her floor not breathing.  The officers were able to regain a pulse and the woman started to breathe as Madison Fire Department arrived to assist. 

October 2013: officers responded to a scene regarding a suicidal man who may have overdosed on drugs.  Officers arrived to find the man without a pulse.  The officers worked together as a team providing CCR for eight to ten minutes.  During this time they detected a pulse and the man began to regain consciousness. 

November 2013: our Department responded to a call where a woman was unresponsive, not breathing and she did not have a pulse.  Less than two minutes after the call was made to 911 two of our officers arrived on scene and immediately began CCR.  The woman's pulse was reestablished and she began to breath.  The Fire Department arrived and took over medical care of the woman.

We are contacted on a regular basis about individuals who have overdosed and who are without a pulse and not breathing.  If it weren't for our quick responses, our officer's life-saving measures and our team work with the Madison Fire Department it is hard to imagine how many lives would be lost. 

Finally, the nature of policing and being "first responders" often puts our officers in situations where force must be used. These encounters create great stress for our officers and the citizens involved, especially when such force results in injuries or loss of life to the officer or citizen. When these incidents occur we must be open to having our actions and those of all of the parties involved extensively measured by our laws, policies and community standards. We accept this and welcome this scrutiny as public servants. The other side of this that is not often told is all the calls that our police officers are sent on where a situation is getting out of control yet force is not used.  I would like to share a couple of these stories with you.

A call came into dispatch stating a male was threatening suicide and had a small razor in his hand.  The male was listed to be diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia and had apparently cut himself on the fingers already.  An officer arrived on scene and noticed another officer was in the front of the address with the male citizen.  The officer observed a large amount of blood running down the front of the citizen's shirt and cuts on his neck.  The officer also noticed the male citizen holding his right hand up to his neck with some sort of object in his hand that appeared to be causing the cuts to his neck.  The male citizen was upset and agitated and made comments such as "You're gonna have to kill me" and "I'm dead already."  Another officer that arrived on scene, equipped with an electronic control device (taser), and tried to negotiate with the citizen.  The citizen refused to comply with the officer's orders to drop the razor and get on the ground and instead became increasingly agitated, pacing back and forth and screaming suicidal threats.    At one point the citizen turned towards the officers and he started to walk towards them as he was staring at them.  At this time an officer fired a round using his less lethal shotgun at the citizen's right thigh.  (A less lethal round is a bean bag round that is used to attempt to temporarily disable or immobilize the individual) The citizen stopped walking after the first shot but he did not surrender.  A second less lethal round was fired at the citizen's right thigh again. At the same time another officer deployed his electronic control device (taser) as well which ended up decentralizing the citizen.  This individual was placed under protective custody with no injuries sustained to him.

In July of 2013 a call was made to 911 about a suicidal man.  The citizen's wife called 911 with concerns about her husband being suicidal and she gave officers permission to check on her husband because she was not home.  Officers arrived on the scene to check the welfare of the man.  The officers attempted to make contact with the man from the outside of the home.  They observed empty alcohol bottles in the front yard, numerous open windows and lights on in the home.  The officers knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. The suicidal man's brother eventually came to the door and talked with the officers.  The brother explained to the officers that his brother was very depressed, was drunk and that today's behaviors were definitely worse than other times.  The brother went on to explain that he went to check on his brother and found him holding a knife.  The suicidal man moved the knife towards his throat indicating he may want to slit his throat per the brother's explanation of events.  He also made some suicidal comments while doing this.  The knife was eventually given to the brother.  At this time the officers went inside the residence to check on the suicidal man.  They located the man who was found facing away from the officers and he started to shout "go away." The officers began to verbally communicate with the subject indicating they were there to check on his welfare. The subject initially began to shout but then complied with the requests of the officers.  While the officers began to search him for safety reasons and to secure him, the subject started to become uncooperative and resistive. As the situation began to escalate, officers displayed and threatened the use of a taser if the man did not comply to their commands.  The subject became cooperative after this point and a taser was not used.  The individual was transported to a detox center and there were no injuries to the subject or any officers.    

These are just two stories of situations where officers used non-lethal means to put an end to very serious calls.  Our officers are trained to use numerous methods to resolve these serious situations with the least amount of force necessary.  It is important to remember that the majority of serious calls we handle resolve in this matter where little to no force is used and where injuries are either non-existent or non-lethal. 

The compliments and life-saving stories I shared with you here are just a small number of the compliments and recognitions that come into our department.  These are the officers that make up our department and who I am proud to have on our team to serve the citizens of Madison.

If you have a compliment I encourage you to let us know.  You can call us at
608-266-4023 with a compliment or a complaint. 

You can email us with a compliment by going to our website:
https://www.cityofmadison.com/police/forms/feedback.cfm?subject=11

If you have a complaint please visit our website to learn more about the process: http://www.cityofmadison.com/police/chief/professionalstandards.cfm

Posted by: Interim Chief Gaber

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