Photo album: Sgt. Mark Murphy’s retirement party

DSC09410Many Northfield area well-wishers and maybe a few of the occasionally arrested turned out for Northfield Police Sergeant Mark Murphy‘s retirement party at Northfield City Hall Council Chambers yesterday afternoon.

See my large slideshow of 22 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Mark Murphy, one of Northfield’s finest, retires today. Party on Monday.

Northfield Police Sergeant Mark Murphy stopped by my corner office at GBM on Wednesday and gave me the news: he’s retiring today. I later found the details of his retirement party in this KYMN news blog post, Sgt. Murphy hangs up his badge:

Interim Police Chief Chuck Walerius…  invites the public to an open house for Murphy next Monday, April 22nd at the City Hall Chambers from 3pm to 5pm.  There will be coffee and cake and a chance to say thanks to Mark for all his service to the community.

Mark Murphy blogger Mark Murphy issuing citation 
Mark and I have a history. He hired me to help him with his campaign blog when he ran for Rice County Sheriff. Despite his loss, I was hoping that our professional relationship would be enough to have him look the other way whenever it might happen that I was observed to not be in full compliance with local traffic laws. Not so, it turned out.

Sergeant Mark MurphyMark Murphy and colleagues buying, what else, doughnutsSuzette Taylor, Mark Taylor, Michelle Murphy, Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy personal parking spaceMark Murphy: undercover or just really plain clothes?Mark Murphy and grandsonMark Murphy DWI task force

See all of my blog posts here on LoGro that have involved Mark Murphy. And then get down to City Hall on Monday afternoon to say goodbye.  No need to be careful where you park.

Should the City wait till March to begin the process for hiring a police chief?

Northfield Safety CenterWith the Jan. 4th departure of Northfield Public Safety Director/Police Chief Mark Taylor (see the Dec. 28 rehash of the Dec. 6 story in the Nfld News), the Northfield City Council needs to decide if it should wait till the results of a fire services study by Emergency Service Consulting International (ESCI) are delivered in March. (See the Nov. 30 Nfld News Study will look at consolidating Northfield area fire services; also the June 12 2012 City Council meeting packet for background.)

The Dec. 18 Fbo Daily News editorial urges the City to wait:  Let’s see the results of the fire study before acting on Northfield Public Safety director

Fast forward two years and now the opportunity of further collaboration and sharing of services may be available, depending upon the result of the fire services study. If the study indicates consolidation/collaboration is not only possible, but recommended, maybe a regional fire services director versus a public safety director is the answer. With an open position as yet undefined, that’s a possibility. Perhaps the study will suggest such collaboration would not work. The new city council will then have the opportunity to review the post, especially considering the strides the fire department has made in improving its bookkeeping and operations.

Or is having the best possible police chief more important to the City than whatever secondary fire-related role might be included with the position? Are there downsides to waiting 4 months or longer to having a permanent police chief?

Northfield citizens decline to help capture robbery suspect; severe impact on tourism feared

America's Best Value Inn & Suites - NorthfieldWhen the word of this morning’s robbery at America’s Best Value Inn & Suites on Hwy 3 began trickling out via police scanners, most Northfielders were sound asleep.

When KYMN Radio and Northfield Patch began sounding the alarm at around 6 am that one of the suspects had fired at police officers and fled, members of the Northfield Police Department assumed that citizens would respond in droves to help capture one of the suspects who was still at large and believed to be in the Sechler Park area.

By time the Northfield News began covering the story several hours later, gloom was apparent on the faces of the police officers on duty.  “We had extra department staff ready to handle the flood of citizen volunteers by deputizing them and issuing them firearms,” said Taylor Marcus, Northfield’s Public Safety Director. “No one showed up. No one emailed. No one tweeted. We had no choice to but to call other law enforcement agencies for help. It was embarrassing.”

robberWhen the suspect was finally apprehended mid-morning, the Defeat of Jesse James Days and Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce boards of directors were already in an emergency joint session.  “It’s a Category 4 public relations nightmare,” said Chamber Executive Director Marie Schmaltzy. “If word of this colossal failure of our citizens to respond gets out, we’re likely to see a devastating impact on attendance at DJJD next year.”

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Dewayne Reddy, DJJD board member.  “Northfielders have essentially become a bunch of yellow-bellied, lily-livered, milk-toasted, panty-waisted wimp chickens.  We’ve been riding on the courage of the town’s ancestors from the 1876 bank raid for over 100 years and we’re now morally bankrupt, no pun intended. It’s a sad day. I feel like turning in my spur.”

Noting that the weapon used in today’s robbery had not yet been found, KYMN radio’s Jim Friedman, organizer of the annual DJJD Horseshoe Hunt, said he would attempt to mobilize the citizenry in the morning to help find the suspect’s gun. When asked what he would do to motivate people to participate, Friedman said, “I haven’t got a clue.”

A wrong-way bicyclist on Division St. nearly mows me down

wrong-wayI exited the Goodbye Blue Monday yesterday morning  at about 7:30 and, as always, paused and looked both ways before crossing the sidewalk (yes, the sidewalk) to check for anyone biking, as I was almost hit a couple of years ago.  I then walked between two parallel parked cars, paused and looked left to see if any cars were coming, took one step onto Division St. and was hit by a bicyclist going the wrong way.

‘Hit’ is an exaggeration.  As the young woman skidded to a stop, her front wheel and handlebars just made light contact with my body.  I don’t remember if she apologized but I looked at her and said "Do you realize you’re riding on the wrong side of the street?"  She flatly said ‘yes,’ got back on her bike, and continued riding south on Division on the wrong side of the street.

Two GBM patrons on the sidewalk looked at me and said something to the effect of "Wow, that was a close!"  As I crossed the street towards my car, I noticed a Northfield Police car slowly coming south on Division. I motioned to the car and the officer pulled over and rolled down his window.  "Did you see what just happened?" I asked. He smiled and said "Yeah, I saw that."  I said "She needs to be disciplined!"  He didn’t reply and pulled away.

I wondered whether he was going to pursue her. I saw him make a right turn on 4th  I got in my car, turned right on 4th, saw that Water St was blocked because of people setting up for Riverwalk Market Fair and assumed that he drove across the bridge. I did likewise and then saw him on Hwy 3, turning right on 2nd.  So I don’t know if he caught up to her to issue a warning but it was clear that he didn’t issue a citation.

Back in July, I published a blog post titled Ticketing law-breaking bicyclists: if Edina and NYC can do it, why can’t Northfield? in which I cited the problem of bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the street. I was glad to hear from Mark Taylor, Police Chief/Director of Public Safety who said that they would stepping up bicycle law enforcement. It’s perplexing to me why this cyclist was not issued a citation but I’ll see what I can find out.

Later in the day when I was telling Robbie about the incident, it occurred to me that I should have asked the bicyclist why she was deliberately riding on the wrong side of the street.  My guess is that she would have cited her fears of diagonally-parked cars on the west side of Division backing out into the street and running into her. And that’s something I wrote about back in early July, How to make bicycling in downtown Northfield safer and more popular? Sharrows might work.

And see this Sept. 2011 NY Times article: Study Finds Higher Number of Pedestrians Hurt by Bikes.

More than 500 New York City residents are injured badly enough to be treated in hospitals after being struck by bicyclists each year, according to an analysis by Hunter College professors… Dr. Tuckel, a sociology professor, said these figures represent “the tip of the proverbial iceberg” because they only include pedestrians who wound up in the hospital. They do not include victims who visited their doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic for treatment.

For those of you snickering: 1) no, I’m not yet suffering from PTSD and expecting the City to provide me with CISD services; and 2) yes, it would have been more than a little ironic if she’d crashed hard into me and then cracked her skull on the pavement because she was not wearing a helmet.

Ticketing law-breaking bicyclists: if Edina and NYC can do it, why can’t Northfield?

cop and bicyclistsIt bugs me when I see bicyclists A) zooming through Northfield-area stop signs in high traffic areas; B) riding on the wrong side of the street; and C) riding on sidewalks downtown. 

These behaviors both scare drivers and create animosity towards bicycling… and make it less likely that "share the road" efforts will gain broad public support.

In yesterday’s NY Times:  Penalty for Rule-Breaking Bicyclists: A Remedial Class

If there is one thing that unites New Yorkers who see bikes as a menace with others who view them as a mainstream form of urban transportation, it is a mutual distain for the lawbreaking cyclist.

I witnessed some close calls while visiting NYC last week, including one incident when a cyclist blasted through a red light and almost hit a pedestrian who then screamed profanities at him.

Back in May, Edina Police Chief Jeff Long blogged about the problem:

Edina Police Chief Jeff LongOver the past year, the Police Department has received many complaints about bicyclists’ riding behavior in Edina. The primary complaint is that they are not stopping at stop signs and are dangerously weaving in and out of traffic. I have seen this first hand and have become very concerned for their safety and for the consequences of their dangerous travels… I have instructed my officers to begin ticketing bicycle riders that blatantly violate common traffic laws, just as we do with drivers of motor vehicles. This is considered a moving violation and will cost riders about $144.

Does the Northfield Police Department ticket law-breaking bicyclists? I doubt it. I’ve never seen it happen. But it’s time to start.

Chronic downtown parking violators still a problem that no one is doing anything about

Issuing parking tickets in downtown Northfield Issuing parking tickets in downtown Northfield 
A community service officer intern for the Northfield Police Department was issuing parking tickets this afternoon along Division St.  He said he written up over a dozen in a couple of blocks.  

In May of 2011, I blogged: Do we need a downtown parking hall of shame?

No real progress since then, evidently. But it makes me glad that the City Council hasn’t approved the Streetscape Task Force’s request to spend $700,000 for another parking lot.  The NDDC, the Chamber, and the Streetscape Task Force need to tackle the problem of chronic downtown parking violators first.

Sheena Basness wants you to know about the cheap spay/neuter clinic coming to Northfield on April 30th

Spay and Neuter flier - EnglishDSC08670  Spay and Neuter flier - Spanish 

Sheena Basness, Community Service Officer with the Northfield Police Department, stopped by my corner office at GBM last week to tell me about a cheap spay/neuter clinic on that’s coming to town on April 30, hosted by the Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program (MNSNAP).

See the Spay and Neuter flier in English and in Spanish. You must pre-register. Call Shirley Taggart at 507-685-2393 to reserve a spot.

vet servicesSheena said there would also be some vet services available for a fee. See the image on the right.

More at Nfld Patch: Reduced-Price Spay and Neuter Clinic Coming to Northfield.

Low-income families and individuals will have any opportunity next week to get their pet spayed or neutered at a reduced cost. “This is the first time for us doing anything like this,” said Sheena Basness, a Northfield community services police officer involved in the clinic.

The clinic costs $25 for each pet that is spayed or neutered. The visit also includes a basic checkup. A basic neuter usually costs about $150 and a spay costs around $200, Basness said.

Reporting an erratic driver: law enforcement does it right

Northfield PoliceRobbie and I were returning from the Cities on Hwy 19 about 9 pm on Saturday night and noticed that the car in front of us was swerving erratically.  When it crossed the centerline by about 3 feet with oncoming cars, we decided to report it via a call to 911.

Robbie gave the dispatcher (at the Pearl St. 911 Dispatch Center in Owatonna) the license plate #, car description, and our location and description of our car. Within a few seconds, they handed us over to a dispatcher in Northfield.  As we entered Northfield, the dispatcher asked us if we were willing to continuing following the car, which turned out to be convenient as it was taking the same route as we were.

A Northfield Police Department squad car spotted us just after Jefferson Parkway and Hwy 3 and shortly afterward, followed the car into a neighborhood nearby.

Was the driver intoxicated, tired, on a cell phone? No clue.  But we felt good that we’d done our civic duty and were pleased with the response by the local law enforcement people on duty.

Understanding the new method of policing in Northfield

In today’s Northfield News: Burglaries in Northfield down by 40 percent in 2011

Northfield crime stats 2009 to 2011While calls for service are up through the end of last week, crime overall is down, most notably in the burglary category, which saw a 40 percent drop over 2010.

Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walerius believes that the reduction, along with a drop in reported crimes, is linked to a new method of policing the department instituted this year that takes into account the types of crimes being committed and the most likely trouble spots when allocating resources. Walerius said it’s not only helped to reduce crime, but help officers catch things as they unfold.

Northfield police incident mapping 4th qtr 2011Here’s a map of property crimes in Northfield in the past 90 days, as generated by Northfield’s Police Incident Mapping Application. The pushpin icons represent burglaries, thefts, vehicle thefts, and damage to property. No robberies or arsons were reported. (The crime map only displays property crimes, whereas the table above shows all types of crimes. Also, see this site on the difference between theft and burglary.)

Where are the "most likely trouble spots" that would be new?

And what might Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walerius mean when he says that the new policing method "takes into account the types of crimes being committed"?

I may be able to get him to comment here but it might be helpful to first have some discussion. Maybe I’m the only one who’s puzzled.

Do we need a downtown parking hall of shame?

Sheena Basness, Community Service Officer, Northfield Police DepartmentSheena Basness, Community Service Officer with the Northfield Police Department, was chalking tires downtown in front of Hogan Bros on Tuesday morning.  I’ve been waiting a long time to get this photo, as I commented here last year in the discussion on the blog post Downtown parking: what’s really needed? in which I’d asked:

Do downtown business owners and their employees too often park in these spots or is that a myth?

How rigorously do the police enforce downtown parking ordinances?

The City Council has rejected for now the Streetscape Task Force’s recommendation to:

… spend an estimated $760,000 to purchase a parcel on Washington Street near the library, raze a home on the site and add parking.

So what can be done to improve parking availability downtown? Officer Basness said she chalks tires several times a week in the two-hour parking zone downtown. She indicated that there are several (many?) downtown store/building owners and office workers who are chronic offenders, that citations are $10 if paid promptly, and that an accumulation of 5 tickets results in a stiffer fine.

I couldn’t find anything (can anyone else find it?) specific about downtown parking in the Municipal Code section ARTICLE IV. – STOPPING, STANDING AND PARKING but Sec. 78-104. – Violation and penalties says:

Any person who violates sections 78-93(a), 78-94, 78-96, 78-97, 78-99, 78-101, 78-102, 78-103, 78-105, and 78-106 shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine in the amount established by resolution. Each two-hour period in a two-hour parking zone that a violation of this section exists shall be a separate offense. After the first tagged violation, each 15-minute period in a no parking yellow zone, bus stop or taxi zone or a double parking zone shall be a separate offense. All vehicles in violation are subject to being towed away at the owner’s expense.

I like the idea of parking hall of shame website/blog like the Jersey City Parking Hall of Shame Inductees.

Goodbye Blue Monday’s annual doughnut sale is today

Northfield Police Sergeants  A, B, CThree of Northfield’s finest were first in line today at 6 am for the Goodbye Blue Monday annual doughnut sale.

Out of respect for Homeland Security guidelines and Quality Bakery, I’ve only identified them as Northfield Police Sergeants  A, B, C.

More belt-tightening: Northfield Police Dept. announces ‘Police yourself Thursdays’

Police Officer While the Northfield City Council struggles with budget cut issues, the Northfield Police Department decided to be proactive this week.  It announced a program to reduce department payroll called Police yourself Thursdays.

“The success of the Community Expectations policy is what gave me the idea,” said Police Chief Marcus H. Traylor, citing the ordinance that addresses cleanliness, respect, safety, and pedestrian friendliness in the downtown area. (See the April 27, 2009 blog post for more details on that program.)  “We asked citizens to behave better downtown over the past year and they’ve done it.  We’re confident now that if we ask citizens to consciously avoid breaking laws just one day a week, it’ll save a significant amount of payroll dollars that will help to avoid layoffs.”

Why Thursdays?  Traylor consulted with area pastors who suggested Thursdays because Wednesday nights are ‘church nights’ in the area.  The ministers pointed to the impact of the ‘prayer ladies’ (see the Aug. 2007 blog post Prayer group meets at City Hall) on the improved climate at Northfield City Hall and felt that with a more comprehensive prayer effort, Northfield area crime that’s likely to happen on Thursdays could be bumped into Fridays or even the weekend.

Northfield Riverside Baptist Church pastor Cory Ellingston cautioned, however, that the impact of Northfield’s Police yourself Thursdays would have geographic limitations, not unlike the prayer ladies who attend City Council meetings. “Prayers for the City Council are just not as effective if those doing the praying are across the street or down the block,” said Ellingston. “The Dundas Police Department should not expect crime reductions in their city on Thursdays.”

It was the State Patrol’s FLIR helicopter you heard last night

We got a few emails asking us if we knew why a helicopter was circling over Northfield for quite a while at 1 am this morning.

I spoke with Northfield Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walerius this morning. He said it was a helicopter equipped with a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) unit from the Minnesota State Patrol Flight Section. They had requested it to help look for a suicidal individual.  The individual was eventually found using cell phone triangulation at around 4:30 am.  and was rushed to Northfield Hospital in time.

See the March Strib story titled Thermal imaging: An eye in Minnesota’s sky.

Police Association golf tournament has career impact

Sheena Basness, Community Service Officer with the Northfield Police Department, alerted me about this year’s Police Association Golf Tournament (4-person best-ball scramble), held on Monday at the Northfield Golf Club.

I arrived just in time to watch Northfield Police Chief Mark Taylor (blue shirt) compete in the putting contest.  He pretty much sucked and is reportedly considering keeping his day job.

Northfield Police Chief Mark Taylor, about to miss again Sheena Basness, Northfield Community Service Officer Sheena Basness, Northfield Community Service Officer Northfield Police Association golf tournament Roster, Northfield Police Association golf tournament

Podcast: Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walerius on the April 15 CodeRed test (sign up now)

Chuck Walerius, Tracy Davis, Griff Wigleycodered-brochure-sshot Our guest this week was Northfield Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walerius, talking about the new CodeRed emergency notification system for Rice and Steele counties (brochure/FAQ PDF) and the test of the system coming up on April 15.

You can sign up now so that the system alerts you via landline phone, cell phone, text message and email. Just visit either the City of Northfield Police Dept. page or the Emergency info page and click on the CodeRed logo/link. You’ll be sent to a special Rice/Steele page on the website. (I’m deliberately not linking to it from here in case the URL changes.)

Continue reading Podcast: Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walerius on the April 15 CodeRed test (sign up now)

Verbal abuse of Northfield’s police officers; where’s the line?

A faux ticketDespite what you see in this photo, I’m not the type who would verbally abuse a cop. But this article in yesterday’s NY Times about the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., As Officers Face Heated Words, Their Tactics Vary, made me wonder what the line of tolerance is for our local men and women in blue. Should they ignore the verbal abuse as long as no threats are being made? Does the setting matter (public vs private)? How about if the comments are coming from a youth? (continued)

Continue reading Verbal abuse of Northfield’s police officers; where’s the line?

Early morning ‘revenue enhancement’ citations continue

Parking violation Last month it was a bogus speeding citation while going through Cannon City at 6:30 on Saturday morning. Today’s 6:30 am citation was for my motorcycle trailer’s encroachment in the yellow no-parking zone on Division. When I protested with, “C’mon, Mark, it’s only four fucking feet!” I was cited again for violating the no-swearing-in-public clause in the city’s new ‘community expectations’ policy governing behavior downtown. I had been leaning towards supporting the effort to build a new Safety Center. Now, however…

West Side story: 19 youths cited in March 8 drug/alcohol bust

busted The Northfield Police Report (released Friday) shows that 19 young people were busted for either underage drinking or possession of marijuana / drug paraphernalia on the West Side of downtown (South Water St. between 2nd and 3rd) on Sunday, March 8.

Is this good news or bad news?

Another type of tagger hits downtown

IMG_3998On Thursday morning, I noticed that these cars had been hit by an official PD tagger. Welcome to the Thursday 2am to 6am fundraiser!

Notice my red arrow on the photo, however. The victims might want to contest the fines due to the strategic location of the sticky note.

The Mod Squad now has DWI arrest zones here in Northfield

Kathy Cooper, Rice County Safe Communities, alerted me to the new DWI task force, called the MOD-Squad (“Modifying Driving Behavior”).

Griff, as you probably remember from last year, Rice County was number 11 of the top 15 deadliest counties for alcohol-related deaths and injuries.   Unfortunately, we are on the list again… There will be a briefing in Northfield on Friday, December 5 at 2030 hrs.

I blogged last year at this time about Rice County’s dubious distinction of being among the deadliest counties in the state for DWI-related deaths and serious injuries. I guess it didn’t do any good because…

We’re now 8th deadliest. See the poster (PDF).

Mod Squad briefing  Mod Squad briefing
So I attended the Mod Squad briefing last night at the Northfield Law Enforcement Center. (Click thumbnails to enlarge photos.)

MN State Patrol Lt. Nancy Silkey   Rice County Deputy Blaine Smith Deputy Blaine Smith, Lt. Nancy Silkey, Sgt. Mark Murphy
Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Nancy Silkey and Rice County Deputy Blaine Smith did the presentation. Sgt. Mark Murphy is the coordinator for the Northfield Police Department.  I captured the audio:

Click play to listen. 20 minutes.

Deputy Blaine Smith with DWI Arrest Zone sign Deputy Blaine Smith with DWI Arrest Zone sign
After the briefing, I watched Deputy Smith place a DWI Arrest Zone sign on N. Hwy 3 by the Dairy Queen.

We’re planning to have Silkey and Smith on next week’s Locally Grown radio show/podcast.

See the Rice County 11/22 press release High Visibility Enforcement Scheduled and the press release of arrests made on Thanksgiving eve titled Coming Soon . . . To A City Near You: Rice County MOD Squad Initial DWI Enforcement Effort Successful in Making the Rice County Roads Safer by Arresting 8 Impaired Drivers.

11:30am update: I’ve added the poster above, as the announcement was just made that Rice County went from 11th to 8th deadliest county in the state.

Here’s the email from Deputy Smith explaining the program:

Continue reading The Mod Squad now has DWI arrest zones here in Northfield

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