Monday, February 18, 2013

Week Two

We started out the night with an overview of the Troy Police Department by Chief Gary Mayer. Chief Mayer provided a little history of the department first. The department started in 1952 before Troy becoming a city (1955). Prior to that time, Troy was a township. The building that was City Hall is now the Troy Museum. The basement was the Police Department, which included a cell. During its history, three officers have lost their lives: Officer Charles Smetana - died from injuries that occurred as the result of a traffic crash; Officer Martin Chivas - was fatally shot during his investigation of a burglary at the Texaco gas station that was located at Rochester Road and I-75; Officer Charles Mulvihill - died from a heart-related ailment while responding to a call. These men are honored each Police Memorial Day in May.

We were given an overview of the budget in regards to its effect on the daily operations of the department. The thing that caught my attention and should be noted to the citizens of Troy is the decrease in sworn officers over the last four years from 137 to 97; this is a decrease of 40 officers. The total department decreased from 174 to 146.5 full-time employees in the last fiscal year alone. If you look at these losses, Troy Police still do their very best to make this the Best City (#1) not only in Michigan but the United States. The police do credit the citizens for their help and cooperation through their many avenues to help make Troy the city it is with the ranking of 2nd Safest City in Michigan for the population over 75,000 for 2011.

With these cuts, the police responded to 33,336 calls for service; issued 11,326 citations (including parking tickets); made 2,684 arrests; and investigated 3,457 traffic crashes. With the cutbacks,certain services have changed. Please refer to the Troy Police Department wedsite for more information. One of those services is filling out minor reports which can be done at home or at the Troy Police Department.

The Troy Police Department works on prevention as well as handling the situations that do arise. They work with the schools to help students understand the laws and consequences of using alcohol and drugs, driving under the influence and distracted driving. There has been a loss of those officers that previously worked directly with the schools. The police also contact the local hotels and motels in the spring to review teenagers renting rooms for prom nights and graduation parties.

The Troy Police keep up with the national news and review any police tactics and adjust them as necessary to any situation that may arise anywhere in the city. They study buildings; their structures inside and out; and where and how to possibly enter or exit in any given situation. If further training is required a specialist may be welcomed by the city to provide further training for area police departments to cut down the costs of sending officers elsewhere for as many days as needed.

Next, we took a quick tour of the Police Department. It was very enlightening to see how it is structured within the building as well as to see the many desks that are vacant due to the cuts. The building is structured to best serve the daily operations in an effective way. If you are interested in touring the building, there is an Open House scheduled for Saturday, May 18, 2013. Please watch the newspapers for further details.

The last part of the night, we heard from the Crime Scene Investigation Evidence Technician Unit (CSIETU) Officer Tony Cascioli. Officer Cascioli discussed how important the first sequence of events as you roll on a scene is so very important. Some of the elements are make sure the scene is safe, check the victim(s), secure the scene, make notes of observations, and make a rough scene sketch. Some of the problems that may be encountered are when the CSIETU arrive on the scene, the fire department, other police officers, ambulance personnel, or others that may have been on the scene first. All of those on the scene at the time of arrival must be accounted for and must be eliminated by forensics. All have to be accounted for what they saw, heard, said or seen. Interviews take place using the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, why and how. If weather conditions, such as rain or snow are occurring, the technicians work fast to gather the physical evidence before its loss. There are many specialties that the technicians have to acquire the skills such as: photography, fingerprinting, blood evidence collection, and gunshot trajectory to name a few. Everything is documented as to recreating the scene, placement of victims and evidence and possibly to what may have happened. These documents will possibly be used in court. The evidence is taken to the Troy Police Station laboratory for further testing. They use many lights and chemicals to determine whether or not physical evidence is important or ruled out for their case. Some evidence may be forwarded on to other labs for further examination/study like the State Police lab in Lansing. We visited the laboratory after the presentation for a tour.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Week One

This is the first blog for the 2013 Troy Citizens Academy. The academy is one tool that the Troy Police Department uses to let the public find out firsthand what makes up the department, who makes up the department and its internal structure and how each part plays a role in providing the public with protection of life and property and maintaining the peace through police service. The Troy Police Department has sponsored many of these academies in the past. They want to be open as much as possible to the public. They have many avenues that provide information/tools like Twitter, Facebook, a mobile app for your phone, and crime alerts through emails. These are available at the City of Troy Police Department website.  

At our first meeting, we first went over the structure of the police department. Some of the police are in uniform and others are in plain clothes depending on their daily roles. They have four 10-hour shifts. One requirement is working your holiday schedule versus sacrificing your home life. The uniformed officers are the most visible. They respond to a wide range of calls for service. Within this group, to name a few, are those patrolling our streets, the officers that deal with any fatal crash investigations, process crime scenes, and three K-9 officers. Troy Police work with other departments to strengthen their core. An example is working with Auburn Hills' officers with fatal crashes. There are many characteristics a police officer possesses. These include being emotionally and physically sound, flexible, compassionate, having courage and perseverance to name a few. Skills include possessing common sense, problem-solving skills, performing well under stress, and being empathetic and tolerant.

Second, we heard about Community Services Section (CSS) within the department. This is a familiar section to some Troy residents. The CSS provides resources for the community in the form of block parties, marches, parades, runs, walkathons, thanking those school children who were on patrol at the various school corners throughout the school year (Safety Orange Bowl), charity events, teaching children how and where to ride bicycles, and how to spot dangerous situations and people and how to respond to each. The list is even longer than this but the community is the one who benefits from these seemingly background opportunities.

The third topic covered was the Traffic Safety Unit that is comprised of five officers, down from 10, due to budget constraints, who investigate fatal crashes and review traffic patterns throughout the city. They make recommendations if a situation occurs that needs to be modified, such as changing the way the traffic lights are sequenced along one of our roads. If a fatality occurs, a street or road may be shut down until the investigation is complete. They look at all the vehicles involved, tires, tire marks, the whole area involved, all the people involved, the witnesses, any other clue and all their measurements. 

The last topic addressed was the OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) Law as it pertains to the State of Michigan. One aspect that was brought out was that when you receive your license, you are letting the State know that if you are subject to a breathalyzer test, you would give it. The police pull you over because of your driving and ask you different things to say or perform, as well as give you a breathalyzer if the situation requires it. There are different tests based on what their senses are telling them. The tests are for operating the vehicle under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, prescription drugs, or a combination of them. There were many questions about individual scenarios and the bottom line is each situation is different and no one answer fits all. (Refer to the State of Michigan's Substance Abuse and Driving website for more information.)

There are about 30 people in the current academy and there is a waiting list for the one to be held this Fall. The Troy Police Department place notifications in newspapers about two months in advance to let citizens know when the next class is. If you are interested in participating in an academy after reading seven weeks of this blog, watch the local newspapers for the next class.