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Sergeant enjoys keeping fans safe

By Ariella Rams

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Anaheim’s citizen’s academy students took a fieldtrip this week to the Anaheim Angels Stadium for a course on special events.

“We have a professional hockey team, a professional baseball team, the Grove and the Convention Center,” Sgt. Jerry Blair, who joined the PD in 1990. “We have 360 events per year that we staff, not including Disney or individual traffic control.”

Anaheim PD’s special events detail contracts for anything as small as a quincenera or high school football games.

“All officers have their regular jobs doing patrol or homicide, and so on,” says Sgt. Blair. “They can put themselves on a list to volunteer for events, and I work out a schedule that will fit the events and the officers alike.”

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No matter the event, the number one concern of the department is safety. Even if the event goes seemingly flawlessly, the first thing Sgt. Blair does is look to see how it can be made safer.

At Angels Stadium, there are between 31,000 to 33,000 attendees nightly.

“We make it safer by patrolling the parking lots before hand,” he says. “No one wants a $300 drinking ticket, but we don’t want fights or homicides on our hands either. This is a great way to prevent that and keep the venue and everyone that attends safe.”

Sgt. Blair then took the class on a walking tour of the stadium—from the media box seats, to the dugout suits and finally, into the dugout.

“I grew up in Anaheim, I used to buy the $4.75 tickets for way up in the nosebleeds,” he told the class. “Now I work here, in the stadium. I’m here every day and I love it. I genuinely love the guys I work with and the opportunity this position in the Police Department has given me.”

Polygraphs reveal hidden secrets

By Kevin Rice

Have you ever done anything you’re not proud of? Something you may have done on a whim when you were a teenager?

Maybe just once? Maybe you haven’t thought of it in years, but you are now.

Is this something you want to volunteer in a job interview? Maybe you can get away with lying about it?

Nope.

Officer Vince Delgado’s job is to delve deep into your memory and probe every locked up secret you may have.

It may not seem like it, but his job is not to intimidate, but rather to get straight to the point. The 11-year Anaheim Police polygraph examiner takes pride in his craft, and detailed exactly what one could expect from a 2-3 hour polygraph examination during this week’s PACE citizen’s academy class.

In fact, Delgado explained the complete interview process a police applicant can expect. There are no surprises, and no trick questions. He explained that each applicant is given a 150-page book, of which the test questions are derived.

He explained that only two of every 100 applicants are selected.

“If they study, they will pass,” Delgado said in a matter-of-fact tone.

The second speaker, Field Training Officer Sheddi Skeete, spoke about the importance of the police academy, field training and patrol procedures.

Officer Skeete is passionate about field training, and feels that “street cops” like himself should maintain a high physical fitness, and should always show respect to the citizens they encounter.

“You never know when you may need help, and that citizen you respected could come running to your aid,” Skeete stressed.

Skeete takes his job very seriously, and the enthusiasm he shows is infectious.

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter pointed out how only the top candidates can make  it through Anaheim’s rigorous training and testing. The high level of competition makes the selection process that much better.

Delgado mentioned that “[Anaheim PD] really takes care of business because we have the right people working here.”

Welter interjected, saying, “We’re only as good as the community that supports us.”

The Anaheim Police Department’s Pace class meets every Monday night from 6-9 p.m.

Next meeting’s agenda includes: air support/helicopters, tactical negotiations and SWAT.

PACE class week three focus: Communications and homicides

By Ariella Rams

For the third week of Anaheim PD’s Public Awareness through Citizen Education program, dispatcher Ryan Dedmon and Detective John Duran came to speak about Anaheim Police communications and homicides.image

Dedmon, part of the communications force for nearly 12 years, discussed the importance, protocol and significance of 9-1-1 dispatchers.

“There are 30 dispatchers and 400,000 residents in Anaheim,” Dedmon said. “Plus a Ducks game, add 40,000. Plus an Angels game, add 50,000. Plus the Home and Garden Show, add 100,000. That’s not even including regular tourists.”

There are about a million people in the city at any given time, making Anaheim the busiest communications center in Orange County- for Dedmon, a typical day can net hundreds of calls.

Anaheim 9-1-1 dispatch will first assess a call to see if it is a medical or fire emergency, in which case it will be transferred to the Anaheim Fire Department’s dispatch. If it is a public safety emergency, police will respond.

“First we screen calls and if I need to transfer you I will,” Dedmon said. “Otherwise I will stay on the phone with you until help arrives.”

Dedmon went on to speak about the relatively new introduction of cell phones to emergency communication. When someone calls from a cell phone, the nearest cell phone tower processes the call. Because the cell tower, if you’re in the city, is in Anaheim, the call will be sent to Anaheim Dispatch.

If there is a public emergency, like a car crash or shooting, and many people call in, cell towers can get clogged. This makes the next calls bounce off the local tower and transmit from the next.

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“It’s the best and worst thing that’s happened to emergency communication,” Dedmon said. “If the towers are clogged, other emergencies may not be able to come in.”

Also with the use of cell phones, false 9-1-1 calls have become more common. 80-85% of all 9-1-1 calls are non-emergent. This can be due to misuse of the system or accidental dialing.

Often, people will call and hang up, in which case dispatchers will call back until they can find sufficient information to find out the potential emergency of the call.

Another aspect of communication is non-emergent calls. These are calls for non-emergency police assistance, filing a police report, bail information, general services, or general information.

Anaheim Police Department is on the forefront of pioneering a 3-1-1 number to access that information, Dedmon told the class.

Following Dedmon to speak about Anaheim homicide was Det. Duran who has spent the last 15 years in the homicide department, 23 total on the force.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when “people were drive-by crazy,” the record high homicide for one year was 42. In the past 10 years, the numbers have been kept in the low teens, to single digits. To date for 2013, Anaheim is at 4.

Personally, Det. Duran has dealt with more than 200 homicides and almost three times the number of dead body cases.

With a job that can, at times, be morbid, Det. Duran said he tries not to become emotionally involved.

Homicides aren’t the only crimes detectives on Duran’s team investigate. They deals with resisting or obstructing police officers or any emergency personnel, mayhem (permanent disfiguring), stalking, kidnapping for ransom, brandishing a deadly weapon, criminal threats, discharge of a firearm into an inhabited dwelling or vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon, custodial deaths and homicide.

Stay tuned for next week’s class, where Investigoar Vince Delgado will speak about Testing, selection and polygraphs, and Officer Sheddi Skeete will talk about the academy and patrol procedures.

PACE class week two focus: Internal affairs and traffic

By Ariella Rams

It’s week two of the Public Awareness through Citizen Education program.

The topic? Internal affairs and traffic.

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The police department takes officer misconduct complaints seriously, Lt. David Flutts said on Monday night. And last year, there were 44 formal investigations. Of those, 19 came from outside the police department. The rest came from fellow employees, he said.

The functions and duties of the internal affairs department, as outlined by Lt. Flutts, is to conduct administrative investigations, audits throughout Department, ongoing training throughout Department, Training of Department supervisors on Administrative Investigations, and “Custodian of Records” for Departmental personnel in court proceedings.

Lt. Flutts highlighted investigations regarding misconduct. First, you have to determine what the misconduct is according to the department’s rules, policies, procedures and regulations. Then, it is important to determine whether or not the misconduct was done on or off duty he said. Finally, it needs to be defined as criminal or administrative.

“You can’t go off quick images,” Lt. Flutts said. “You can’t go off quick videos or hear-say. That’s why an investigation goes into it.”

Once an administrative investigation is conducted, there are five possible conclusions.

An investigation can be sustained meaning the misconduct was proved. It can be not sustained, meaning the investigator was unable to prove or disprove. It can be exonerated, meaning the officer or employee didn’t violate any rules. It can be unfounded, meaning no proof was found, or it can be an inquiry only, meaning there wasn’t enough information to determine if anything happened.

Following the presentation on internal affairs, Officer John Roman shared his experiences from 18 years at the police department. .

Officer Roman conducts collision investigations on everything “curb to curb.” He helps with hit and run follow up, enforcement, assists drivers in exchanging info if necessary, and calls for service.

“I write more notes than anybody else,” he said. “I take more reports and anybody else.”

Along with describing the importance of collision investigations, Officer Roman shared his experience with fatal accidents- he showed pictures and described many scenes he’s been to.

Each year, there are between 41,000 to 43,000 collision fatalities, and of those, 37-40% involve drivers under the influence.

“So next time you see your buddy about to drive away from the bar, you might want to stop him,” he said.

Upcoming classes – which are designed to give participants a behind-the-scenes look at policing – include Homicide and Firearms Training Simulations.

Please check back here next week for more coverage.

Get the 411 on police work

It was only a simulation.

But the pressure was intense. Hostages had taken over a classroom. Scurrying children screamed about a man with a gun.

Retired photo equipment salesman Don Williams, a North Anaheim resident since 2003, spotted the armed man. Playing the role of police officer, Williams shot and killed him as soon as he saw his gun.

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“It turns out I shot the wrong guy,” Williams recalls.

One of the hostages had wrestled the gun from the suspect before Williams got there. “The gun wasn’t even pointed at me,” he says.

He should’ve ordered the man to drop the weapon.

“The pressure was so intense, and the decision you had to make, you had a millisecond,” he said. “The experience was a real eye opener for me about the challenges of being police officer.”

The simulation is one of many highlights of the 14-week PACE Education program, which is designed to educate residents about how the Anaheim Police Department works.

The experience was so enriching that Williams now volunteers at least once a week for the police department.

He patrols for graffiti, joins police officers in doing arts and crafts with children in gang-ridden neighborhoods and ensures runners remain safe during events like the Disney Tinkerbell half-marathon.

“The course was a commitment, but I learned so much,” he said. “Everything the police department does – from working homicides to DUI checkpoints – it’s all about helping the community.”

The next edition of the program starts March 4. Classes run on Monday nights from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Officer Connie Najmulski said about 1,000 residents have graduated since the program began more than a decade ago – and dozens, like Williams, have become volunteers.

“I never met anybody who didn’t like the class,” she said. “Everybody rants and raves about it.”

She says every class is popular – and is taught by experienced officers who enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate what they do.

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“It’s interactive and we provide a lot of information about working narcotics, gangs, homicides, forensics. We take them through the jail and the dispatch center. SWAT, helicopter and the K9 teams do demonstrations. We’ve also added a self-defense class, which has been really well received.”

During the DUI course, the instructor places goggles on volunteers that simulate drunkenness. Then they’ll give the volunteers field sobriety tests.

“People really struggle to balance on one foot,” she said. “It makes them feel like they are really affected by the alcohol.”

The use of force class, which includes the shooting simulator, also draws positive feedback.

“We talk about Tasers and all the levels of force we use,” she said. “And we discuss our use of force policy.”

Even the “dry stuff” such as internal affairs and polygraph testing is fascinating to participants because they learn how tough it is to become a police officer and the high levels of accountability, she says.

A Katella High graduate and 18-year Anaheim police officer, Najmulski facilitates the PACE class and oversees of the volunteer program.

“We share what our procedures are and why we do what we do,” she said. “People come away understanding that we’re not here to hide anything.”

West Anaheim resident Judy Benvenuto, 57, is one of those people.

She wanted to volunteer at the library in 2009 when she found the course on the city’s website.

At the time, she was a fledgling novelist and thought getting to know police work might be helpful for her stories.

She got more than she bargained for. She now spends more time volunteering at the police department – four days a week – than she does writing.

“I figured most police departments are the same; they go out there and get the bad guys. But it’s so much more than that,” she said.

The biggest revelation for her wasn’t the split-second, life-and-death decisions or exhaustive and extensive training.

It’s the humanity.

“I remember a homicide detective getting emotional talking about a child that was involved in a case,” she said. “He said he tries not to let things get to him because, if he did, he’d be a basket case. (Police officers) have to deal with some awful things. I also loved the officer who does the polygraph exams. He’ll ask the question: ‘Do you like little boys?’ Everybody backed off because they think of it in a (criminal) way. He gets people to think.”

In the past three years, Benvenuto has volunteered in many capacities, doing everything from patrolling the resort area to dressing up as McGruff the crime-fighting dog at school assemblies.

“It’s been such a wonderful experience. I’ve loved every minute of it,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people behind the uniform,” she said. “They are like everybody else. They have families. They laugh. They cry. Sometimes, they are put in horrible situations and they have to deal with it using their training.”

She said she wishes every Anaheim resident would go through the program, especially people who have a bias against police.

“To get it straight they need to come to a course like this,” she said. “They will learn very quickly and change their opinions. “

Here’s a list of dates topics:

  • Chief John Welter’s introduction, a snapshot of the department’s history and a tour of the police facility
  • Testing, hiring and working homicides
  • Dispatch, patrol and the police academy
  • Internal affairs and self-defense
  • Crime task force, traffic and drunk driving
  • Air support, SWAT team demonstration
  • Use of force, shooting simulator
  • Jail facility tour, forensics
  • Narcotics, vice and the K-9 detail
  • Special events, labor relations (class meets at Angel Stadium)
  • Family and economic crimes (meet at the Anaheim Family Justice Center)
  • The problem solving and community oriented policing models, gangs and criminal intelligence
  • Introducing the role of Cops4Kids and Jr. Cadets in public safety; the volunteer program and crime analysis.
  • Graduation

Are you interested in participating in the PACE class? Visit www.anaheim.net/police or call (714) 765-1987.