The Call Box

Call Box: Sometimes I Just Wonder

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD


polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1I can’t explain it but sometimes I just wonder about things. In this case I went online and checked Department of Defense and FBI stats and surprised myself.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan include USA, UK, Canada, France, and Germany.


Combat deaths by “hostile action” for all said forces for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 total 50.

Lower than I thought. Let’s add Iraq, same period: deaths—14, for a grand total 64.

That’s right: 64 deaths by hostile action both zones for three (3) years=64!! Three years.

A sobering fact

Police officers murdered by guns in the United States of America (source Officer Down Memorial Page):



Total……..105!! (total corrected, pardon my bad math–Thonie)

This doesn’t include death by stabbing, vehicular assault, or any other method. Check the numbers for yourself. Ninety-two (92) cops died over a period of two (2) years.

Something is really wrong here.



It began with a long, slow seemingly endless procession of black and white under a sea of flashing red and blue. Pedestrians, momentarily confused, reacted in assuming an awkward civilian attention, some with hand over heart in respect.

The smell of freshly turned earth, the cloying scent of flowers, hushed voices, a choked sob, the mournful wail of the piper, a muffled bugle, taps, rows of blue, black-banded badges, white gloves, mirror sunglasses, stiff almost self-conscious salutes.

The sharp, crisp snap of the honor guard, polished visors low on forehead over stern visage, the familiar, “whomp, whomp” as a low, fast, tight formation of helicopters suddenly appears. The gasp of the crowd as one suddenly peals away.

Visible flinch at first volley, again and yet again. Seven rifles as one. Women with vacant stares, uncomprehending children with brave faces.

The world now shifts to black and white in slow motion. An ancient memory:

Black draped artillery caisson, gleaming riderless black horse, rear facing boots in stirrups.

A thunder of muffled drums. The honor guard now moves with slow deliberate “mime-like precision.” The flag is folded once, then again lengthwise. Now starting at the stripe end a series of triangular folds, thirteen in all. The presenter takes great care to ensure a “perfect” triangle.

Kneeling and presenting with the straight edge to the recipient, “On behalf of a grateful nation…”


Aside: the number of folds has a number of explanations however 13 to represent the original colonies is most widely accepted. The triangle, to represent the tri-cornered hat worn by the patriot/minutemen.

The 21 gun salute has been with us since the 15th century; however I like the fact that 21 is the sum of the numbers in 1776.

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Guest Post: MPD Chief Edward Flynn: Share my confidence in your police

This article was re-posted by Craig Schwartz, Santa Rosa PD.

By Edward Flynn, Police Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department


As we enter the summer of 2015, on the heels of an unusually violent first half of the year in both Milwaukee and many of our peer cities, I write to provide some context that acknowledges the challenges we face, outlines your police department’s ongoing strategies to reduce crime and make our neighborhoods safer, and remind us all of the accomplishments of the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department.

In a recent conversation covering the evolution of policing in the past 40 years, which covers the arc of my career, there was frustration that the same criticisms being leveled at the police today were being leveled at the police 40 years ago.

This is despite the fact that over the last 40 years, police have advanced and improved more than any other component of local government. We have become more technologically sound, have higher levels of integrity, are more restrained in the use of force, are more integrated, are more educated, are more carefully trained and are more selectively chosen than ever before. Yet we are hearing many of the same criticisms.

Did the police as a national institution fail? My answer is no. The police evolved. Fast enough, far enough, perfectly enough? No. More than the national narrative wants you to believe? Yes.

So why is there so much frustration and confusion? Because it became easy to delegate the social problems of America to the police. Over the past 40 years, there have been massive disinvestments in mental health care, social services for the homeless, for the disadvantaged, for those who are substance abusers. Our police have become the social agency of first resort for the poor, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Indeed, if one did not know better, one would think society had decided that no social problem is so complicated that it cannot be cured with more training for the police. That is neither accurate nor sustainable. We throw the young, idealistic, service-minded men and women of policing into a social meat grinder and we expect them to perform perfectly at all times. When they err, we do not treat them like soldiers in Afghanistan making a mistake under pressure; we treat them like criminals. This is wrong.

The code of conduct we adhere to in Milwaukee specifically calls on us to distinguish between mistakes in judgment and acts of malfeasance. We hold ourselves accountable under this code because it is the right way to behave and because if we choose not to hold ourselves accountable when we make mistakes or violate the law, no one will believe us when a bad thing happens despite the lawful and within-policy behavior of our officers.

We are data-driven, which sometimes means our efforts to produce and provide information about crime, safety and police activity in Milwaukee is used against us. We accept that reality, frustrating as it might be. While there is no declaration of victory in policing, those who deny progress and decry reforms do a disservice to the communities they purportedly support and the men and women who have chosen to serve their neighbors as police officers.

What are some of our measurements of accountability?

In 2007, there were nearly 500 citizen complaints filed against department members. Between 2007 and 2014, your officers engaged in nearly 1.5 million citizen contacts as part of their proactive policing work. The professionalism of our officers resulted in a 66% reduction in complaints from 2007 to 2014, from 488 to 168. During the same time frame, we reduced the frequency of our use of force by one quarter.

Since 2007, we have experienced a 24% reduction in Part I crime, which is defined by the FBI and includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. From 2008 through 2014, we averaged 87 homicides per year, compared to an average of 108 homicides per year between 2001 and 2007.

A scientific survey was conducted last year to measure citizen satisfaction with police services, and I have asked for the survey to be repeated annually. What did we learn? Nearly three-quarters of the respondents were satisfied with their police department and 73% were satisfied with our visibility in their own neighborhood. There is room for improvement, and we are dedicated to making that improvement. We will continue to engage residents, neighborhood groups, churches, nonprofits, schools and every level of government agency in our community-based efforts.

While we have seen aggregate improvement in crime over the past seven years, there is a spike in crime. This brings pressure to revert to the failed conventional policies of the past. Why? Because there is nothing safer in government than failing conventionally. We know that if you stick with something innovative and you have a temporary setback, the pressure to go back to the failed, stale policies of the past is overwhelming. I will not do that. We have had measurable success, and we will continue to have success without sacrificing the support of the disadvantaged neighborhoods that rely on their police.

We cannot deny there is a national narrative of negativity regarding race and police, and that negativity — as righteous or exaggerated as it might be — has a detrimental effect on both the morale of our officers and on the perspectives of the public alike.

But the greatest danger to the healthy growth and development of young African-American men in our central cities is being murdered, wounded or maimed by someone who looks just like them. We are committed to dealing with that. We are committed to dealing with it justly. We are committed to doing it in a manner that holds us accountable to our professional standards. At the same time, we are not going to be intimidated into not doing our job.

No agency of government is more accountable for its role in accelerating positive social trends, retarding negative social trends and making a difference in the neighborhoods of a city. We are continuing to engage with neighborhoods to build their ability to advocate for themselves.

All of our officers, upon finishing field training, are strategically assigned to neighborhoods with high rates of violence in order to provide a strong and accessible police presence. We are continuing to use data to guide our deployments and we have launched a visible, enforcement-oriented presence in our high-crash areas to reduce the sharp increase in injuries and deaths we have experienced this year.

I am proud of this department and I am proud of the progress it has made. I have seen the work your officers perform. I have seen the pressures under which they operate. I have been at the scenes of terrible incidents where they are exposed to the worst human conduct imaginable, and I have watched them maintain their dignity, calmness and professionalism. I have proudly presented them with hundreds of medals for heroism, valor, lifesaving and restraint. And while I sometimes fear my pride in them comes across as arrogance, I am confident our continued work with the people we swore to protect is worthy of their support and esteem.

I am proud to serve this agency and this city, and I invite you to share my confidence in your police.

Edward Flynn is chief of the Milwaukee Police Department.

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Richmond PD Gets It Right

This Katie Couric interview should be food for thought for all agencies who have tenuous relationships with minority populations. As a life-long Northern Californian, I know that Richmond has had a tumultuous history with race-related issues. This sensible chief has brought sanity to the streets of Richmond. Could it be possible in your city?


Richmond PD

by Brad Marshland

When Chris Magnus first moved to Richmond, Calif., in 2006, he would hear gunshots at night, sometimes very close to his house. That would be disturbing to anyone, but it was especially so to Magnus, as he had just been hired to be Richmond’s new chief of police.

Recent shootings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Madison, Wis., have triggered violent reactions, revealing a deep chasm between many police departments and the communities they purportedly serve. But not so in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Richmond: Not only are relationships between the people and the police strong, but the statistics indicate that the policies instituted by Chief Magnus are significantly reducing crime. Violent crime has been dropping nationally for years – down 14.5% since 2004, according to the FBI. In Richmond, it has dropped even faster. Homicides in this city of just over 100,000 are down from 47 in 2007 to just 11 last year.

Since Magnus took over as Chief in Richmond, he has instituted geographic policing, where officers are assigned to specific beats over an extended period of time, sometimes as long as several years. He has also challenged his officers to do more than just respond to calls. Evaluations are now based in part on how much officers engage with and address the residents’ top priorities. Back in 2006, for example, despite the high homicide rate, one of the first things residents complained to Magnus about was the number of abandoned vehicles on the streets. While addressing this problem first may have seemed counterintuitive, it went a long way toward building trust. “It sent a very powerful message to residents that we were actually listening to them and were willing to make their priorities our priorities,” Magnus told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric.

Acting in partnership with the community on such minor matters can have hugely positive effects when it comes to tackling violent crime as well. “Just starting a conversation sometimes leads to surprising results,” says Magnus. As relationships get built, residents are more likely to talk to officers they know and provide tips that either solve or prevent more serious crimes down the road.

Longtime community advocate Kathleen Sullivan has never been afraid to call the command staff when she sees an officer behaving badly. The fact that they listen has changed everything. Now she feels comfortable telling others “Sometimes when you’re concerned, you need to call the police. Because they are here to get the bad guy.”

The term “community policing” has become such a buzz phrase that “Pretty much every department, if you ask them, would say they’re doing community policing,” says Magnus, “And I think most believe it. But the challenge is: is community policing really policing the community in the way that the community wants to be policed, or is it driven by the police department?” Magnus’ approach has been to build partnerships with the community at every opportunity, learning from the residents what their priorities are, in order to define where resources should go.

One thing Sullivan believes the department could do better would be to get out and walk the streets more. The key is to train the officers to view walking and talking to residents not as an added chore, but rather as a means to an end. “You’re talking to people in order to get to know them,” Magnus says “to build a relationship that helps you ultimately solve or prevent a crime.”

In the past year, the national wave of protests against excessive use of police force turned violent in many cities, exposing a rift where police departments and the public view each other as adversaries rather than as partners. In Richmond, the demonstrations were peaceful, with the police department command staff engaging community members in dialogue about how policing could be done better. Chief Magnus, who is white, went so far as to hold a “Black Lives Matter” sign. “It seemed to totally represent what we’re trying to accomplish,” says Magnus, “which is respect: this idea that we acknowledge that the relationship between police and the African American community, particularly in many cities, has really been at best strained and at worst incredibly difficult for many, many years.”

Magnus took some grief for holding the sign, but he stands by his decision: “It doesn’t mean a wholesale endorsement of attacks on police or saying that police are brutal or racist across the board. Of course I don’t feel that way. I feel like all lives matter. That’s really what community policing should be about.”

Along with reducing crime, Richmond’s style of community policing could explain why Richmond’s recent protests were peaceful. “The key to the whole thing,” says community advocate Sullivan, “is the more you know who they are, and they know who you are, you respond to policing differently.”

Community policing is not Richmond’s only strategy. They have also actively hired for diversity within the department, deployed computer algorithms to help predict where crimes are likely to occur (and allocate resources accordingly), and they have begun testing body cameras on their officers. While some have touted body cameras as a panacea for preventing excessive use of force, Magnus thinks the issue is more complicated.

“First of all,” says Magnus, “cameras don’t show everything.” No matter how they’re worn by an officer, they don’t give a complete picture of what an officer may be seeing or perceiving in any given situation. And yet the public may believe the video will show the whole truth. Second, the whole truth is sometimes hard to look at. “Using force never looks good, even when it’s completely appropriate and within policy,” Magnus says. “It’s very tough to see somebody on the receiving end of a police baton, even if that is the right tool under the right circumstances to use.” Still, the public wants to see some of the results; they want criminals arrested, and they don’t want police officers put in unnecessary danger. “This means one of the challenges we’re going to face as police agencies is really helping to educate the public about the use of force. When is it appropriate, in what measure, under what circumstances? How do we do it? How are those decisions made?” And that conversation is only just beginning.

Finally, Magnus sees a real danger to the whole idea of community policing once body cameras get introduced. He believes that officers should not be required to have cameras on at all times, “because I want the public to be able to have positive, proactive conversations with officers that they don’t feel are being recorded.” What community policing has so successfully achieved in Richmond may be undermined if lawful residents suddenly feel they are under surveillance.

That said, the Richmond department has begun testing the technology, in part in an effort to learn how cameras might support its broader goals.

Last fall, the Department of Justice asked Chief Magnus to be on a panel of experts looking at protocols, procedures, training and supervision in St. Louis County. His takeaway: “it is critically important we redouble our effort to reconnect police and community at every possible level. None of this is easy. But if we’re operating from a position of goodwill, with the goal of building trust, there’s really a lot we can accomplish by working together.”

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