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Today's LACP news:

October 21, 2014



Bay City Public Safety Department to launch body-worn camera system pilot program

by Andrew Dodson

BAY CITY, MI — Some Bay City police officers could be using body-worn cameras as early as the new year in an effort to increase transparency in the department and reduce residential complaints.

At a Bay City Commission finance and policy committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 20, Bay City Public Safety Director Michael J. Cecchini said his department will launch a 90-day pilot program within the next couple of months to test body-worn camera systems by at least two different vendors. The department was originally looking at in-car dashboard systems, but said body-worn systems are considerably less expensive and further cut down on residential complaints, citing two different studies.

"When people realize they're being video-taped, they tend to be on their best behavior," Cecchini said.

A draft procedural policy is currently being finalized, Cecchini said, and would need to be approved by the department's labor union within 30 days. There would be no cost to the city during the trial period.

Costs for an entire system are still unclear, but Cecchini estimates a base system to cost about $30,000, plus an additional $15,000 to $20,0000 for the data management side of the system.

Cecchini said several officers are excited about the possibility of the camera system and has several officers who have offered to test the system.

"This type of system is highly sought after," he said.

There are primarily two styles of body-worn cameras, Cecchini said, including a halo-type design that officers wear on their head; the camera is positioned over an officer's ear. The other style is a camera device attached to the lapel of an officer's uniform. A remote control, likely worn on the belt, would activate the camera.

Commissioner Elizabeth Peters, 2nd Ward, questioned how the department would deal with officers who don't turn on the camera system. Cecchini said officers would be trained to activate the camera.

"It not activating the camera was done intentionally, then we would have some problems," he said.

The camera systems the city is currently exploring would require officers to plug the device into a charging station at the end of a shift, which would download the day's footage onto a server. The city would likely contract with a cloud service provider.

Following the trial period, Cecchini said he would make a recommendation to the City Commission for purchase.

Bay City Manager Rick Finn said the city is currently looking for grant opportunities to cover part of the cost for the system.

"I think it's time our city starts seriously looking at this," Finn said. "I don't think grants will fund the entire program, but I hope it secures a fairly large percentage of the cost."

A camera system for the public safety department was initially recommended by City Commissioner Christopher Girard, 6th Ward.

"I think it'll be beneficial to the community and I look forward to seeing the results of the pilot program," he said.




Portage Public Safety searching for man who failed to appear on sexual assault charge

(Picture on site)

PORTAGE, Mich - Portage Public Safety officers are looking for a missing man who recently failed to appear in court for a sexual assault charge.

They're searching for 28-year-old Fred Garnish. Officers say he was last seen on Oct. 13 and could be suicidal.

He failed to appear for his court hearing in Ottawa County and there is now a warrant out for his arrest.

Garnish is believed to be driving a blue 2011 Hyundai Elantra with a Michigan license plate, DCK 2989.

Officers say a tent is missing from his home and he is described as a "survivalist type," so he may be hiding in an isolated area.

Anyone with information should call the Portage Department of Public Safety or Silent Observer.




Police identify shooting victim; still seeking suspect

(Picture on site)

PANAMA CITY — Police released the identity of the city's 10th victim of fatal gun violence Monday as the search for his shooter continues, the Panama City Police Department announced Monday.

Christopher Coleman, 21, was killed in what authorities called a targeted attack, according to a press release from the PCPD. He died shortly after the incident in the 700 block of 13th Court.

No arrests have been made, as police disclosed they're looking for “a black male wearing black clothing.” Detectives are currently asking the public for assistance in identifying the suspect.

Coleman also is known as “ “Murda.”

In his past, had an extensive history of criminal accusations involving drugs and guns, but few convictions in his history, according to court records. He had been charged with accessory to armed robbery in October 2011 and discharging a firearm from his vehicle into another vehicle in March of 2011. But both those charges were either dropped or acquitted by a jury, respectively.

Coleman pleaded no contest to improperly exhibiting a firearm in the March incident where he was accused of firing seven .45-caliber shots beginning at an intersection east of Seventh Street and Sherman Avenue. A passenger in the vehicle, Sammie Underwood III, pleaded no contest to principal to firing the shots.

Underwood was released on probation and Coleman got time served. In October, police arrested the two and a third man for armed burglary of a Macedonia Garden Apartments. Investigators believed Coleman and the third man remained outside as Underwood forced open the door with a .38-caliber handgun and fired into the apartment, in an attempt to shoot its inhabitant.

The three were arrested together a short time later. Charges against Coleman were dropped, but Underwood pleaded no contest to discharging a firearm in public and was sentenced to almost two years in prison, according to court records.

Underwood, also known as “Trigger Tre,” is currently in jail on charges of several pending felonies and was arrested after investigators found DNA evidence of a connection to the unsolved slaying of 17-year-old Samuel McGriff again at Macedonia apartments in June of this year.

McGriff, at the time, was the fourth victim to die in shootings in the city this year.

Coleman's death brings the toll of gun-related slayings to 10, most of which have been concentrated to two areas.

Though some of the names of victims and suspects are recurring and the shootings concentrated to areas, PCPD spokesman officer Richard Thore said police have found no confirmation the shootings are related.

Anyone having information regarding the shooting of Coleman is urged to call Detective Rogers of the Panama City Police Department, 850-872-3100, or they can report their tips anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 850-785-TIPS.





Time for a public safety upgrade

Every second counts when a 911 call is made.

If a call is made with a cell phone, it has to be rerouted to Scituate before local authorities can dispatch emergency personnel.

Tick tock.

If you live in the Minot area, a fire engine or ambulance has to drive from almost the other side of town to get to your door because the closest public safety facility is still a few miles away.

Tick tock.

Improved response time is one of the driving reasons town officials want to build a new public safety facility about a mile closer to the "underserved" people, as special projects director Al Bangert calls them, in the West End and Minot area.

It takes emergency responders twice as long to arrive at the furthest point as the National Fire Safety Association recommends (4 minutes) for a response time.

If approved at Special Town Meeting in December and by majority vote in January, a new facility would be built starting next summer on a six-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Mann Lott Road and Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A).

It may seem reason enough to support the project if it shaves response time and saves lives, but there are a lot of reasons Scituate taxpayers should strongly consider the idea.

Emergency personnel need a more modern facility to address today's problems, ranging from quicker-burning fires (thanks to synthetic materials) to harsher, more frequent coastal storms.

Right now, the Scituate fire and police have buildings constructed in the 1950s as bomb shelters.

"We're asking public safety employees to work in environments that were designed when the biggest calamity was a nuclear war," Bangert said.

The current facilities have asbestos, but don't have fire suppressants. The lockup area isn't as secure as it should be and the buildings are not handicap accessible.

Additionally, they were built when the population was about 7,000, a far cry from today's count of 17,000. They were built when there weren't so many school threats or vehicles on the roads, too.

There is no main location where personnel can meet during emergency situations and police have limited space to conduct private discussions or interviews. There is no central dispatching, which, if there were, could shorten response time simply by sending cell phone calls directly to the source rather than state police who have to reroute the call.

Town officials estimate it could cost about $5 million to $6 million just to renovate the police station, with about $4.6 million of that going toward bringing the building up to code. Officials prefer to spend more to get more for longer-lasting benefits.

They estimate it would cost $16.2 million for a combined police and fire complex that would be built with future technology and department needs, house a joint dispatch area with two 911 stations operated 24-7, and include an emergency operations center to coordinate response during the ever-worsening storms and dangerous coastal flooding.

At least some funding can come from renewable and meal tax revenue, Bangert said.

There are a lot of reasons to at least consider the project, but there are a lot of projects on the table. Make sure you do your homework.




Public safety committee schooled on gang-free efforts

Sunnyside's subcommittee on public safety met at the Sunnyside United-Unidos headquarters next to Pioneer Elementary School on East Lincoln Avenue last Thursday night to learn how the organization and Sunnyside police are fighting the gang problem in local schools.

School Resource Officer Melissa Rodriguez and Coalition Coordinator Cathy Kelley were on hand to explain how the city's gang-free initiative is working in the schools.

Kelley provided an organizational chart for the initiative and said the program has had 78 referrals, the majority for gang involvement, since the program started about two years ago.

She said 18 students are currently involved in the program and about 30 more have already been referred since the school year started.

Kelley said most students are referred through the schools, but some have dropped out. Rodriguez noted efforts are made to get drop outs to return to school whenever possible.

The Sunnyside program currently focuses on intervention at an early stage. According to Kelley, the contract with FIRME, a group that specializes in working with deeply involved gang members, has not been fully utilized due to recent changes in FIRME's structure. The result has been a gap in services locally.

The high school and both middle schools have resource management teams which meet weekly and discuss at-risk students. Rodriguez said the officers assigned to the schools rarely have time to attend the meetings, but have gone to discuss specific children.

Kelley said the teams need to restructure to get the officers more involved.

“There is this thing in our community where we work in our little silos,” she said. “We need to get more involved together. Every time I talk to people I find new gaps in service we can fill. But we need to work together.”

Rodriguez also presented an overview of her typical day as a school resource officer. She said she sometimes acts as the bridge between the school and police. She said she works with third and fourth generation gang members and tries to forge connections with them.

Rodriguez said her presence on campus sometimes acts as a deterrent to crime. She described being called back to the school to handle a person with a no contact order.

“He waited until my car was gone before he approached the school,” she said.

She said she also does a lot of mentoring and works closely with school officials and others working to prevent gangs in schools.

“You have to ride with me to know what I do,” she said. “I don't think there's anything I don't do.”




FHP feeds Florida families


PANAMA CITY — Florida Highway Patrol announces its inaugural ‘Stuff the Charger” Thanksgiving food drive.

In partnership with food banks across the state, FHP is collecting food donations for Florida's families. From now through Nov. 6, officers will collect nonperishable items including canned goods, dried goods and other goods such as nuts, evaporated milk and broth.

They plan to get as much food as possible, pack it into a patrol car and deliver it to area food banks throughout the state. The prospective food delivery date is Nov. 6, so that donations will arrive in time for Thanksgiving.

The Florida Highway Patrol Troop A will accept non-perishable food donations at Troop Headquarters, 6030 County Road 2321, Panama City.

For more information, contact Lt. Steve Preston, (850) 484-5000 ext. 103.


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