Feb 16, 2014

Officer highest risks in Domestic Violence and Traffic Stops

BY BOB ROBINSON
ASSOC. EDITOR

GREENVILLE – The most dangerous calls a peace officer can make are for Domestic Violence. “We run two units on all cases,” Darke County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker said. “They are the most volatile to us.” Lt. Steve Strick of the Greenville Police Department agreed. “Definitely,” he said. While neither agency tracks the role of alcohol or drugs in a “domestic” Whittaker believes they play a part a little over half the time, while Strick observes, based on personal experience, they play a major role.

Whittaker and Strick agreed as well traffic stops were “very dangerous,” noting the officer is not only concerned about the subjects in the car but with people walking by and passing vehicles.

“I had to jump on the hood of the car I stopped a couple of times,” Strick said. “I see this car coming at me… I’m out of here!”

Whittaker noted responding to traffic crashes can be dangerous, as well as assaults on a police officer.

Strick was especially concerned about bar fights. “You have a crowd of 50 or 60 people standing around watching with a bunch of people fighting, it isn’t safe to go in without a backup. You could get knocked on the head, your weapon taken…”

While the agreement over law enforcement dangers is based upon experience, both agencies are in the process of detailing those calls and more for 2013. They are getting their “feet wet” compiling calls and incidents with the new Spillman CAD (Computer-Aided-Dispatch) System. Both say there are still bugs to be worked out with the system itself and how they can track and categorize calls. The numbers are reasonably good but not perfect.

The Darke County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) has had the system since late 2010. Beginning in 2011 Whittaker wanted everything recorded. “I soon discovered it’s just not manageable,” he said. “Road deputies spent more time on reports than on patrol. Since then we’ve been ‘fine-tuning’ it, learning what to log and what not to log.”

DCSO took 2,955 incident reports in 82 categories in 2013, yet according to the CAD codes there were 3,283 offenses. “That’s because the officers might go on one domestic but there may be two offense codes: Domestic Violence and Disorderly Conduct.” Another example might be one incident resulting in charges for Drug Paraphernalia, Possession/Abuse of Drugs and Trafficking in Drugs. DCSO officers responded to 311 Domestic Violence/Disorderly Conduct calls in 2013. They responded to 143 drug-related calls.

Whittaker noted another challenge had to do with what officers chose to write incident reports on, how they classified them and their communication with Dispatch. One example included an officer being dispatched on a burglary call but discovers no burglary occurred. If he doesn’t communicate the change, the system will still have it logged as a burglary. He said there is still training to be done in how and what to communicate.

Whittaker said all agencies in Darke County are now on the Spillman CAD except New Madison. Greenville came on Feb. 3, 2013. Total CAD calls generated in 2013 were 30,203. He added Strick is doing an excellent job with the system since they started it. “He’s helped us a lot,” Whittaker said.

Strick acknowledged he has spent considerable time setting up the system for Greenville; at the same time has discovered some areas still need to be addressed. Some categories seem close (to what he expected), while others aren’t. CAD calls (Feb. 4 through Dec. 31) totaled 14,372. Of those, GPD logged 3,009 offenses, 231 accidents and 440 citations issued.

One thing the system has done for Strick is provide information based upon type, time of day and location of crash, as well as road conditions. This raised a major concern regarding one street in what is referred to as GPDN (Greenville North).

“In 2013 Wagner Avenue had nearly 22 percent of the accidents. In January this year it was nearly a fourth,” Strick said. “This is something we need to fix; we can’t keep having citizens hurt like this.” Strick added radar wasn’t effective enough due to the heavy traffic so he’ll be requesting a laser that can hone in on a single vehicle. “We need to do something about Wagner,” he said.

GPD Law incidents are broken into 134 categories with selected ones broken out on how often they occur. Greenville logs a CAD call every 36.57 minutes. Out of those, one a day will be a domestic violence call, there will be a fight every three days, disorderly conduct every eight and one-half days, a burglary every eight days, a drug offense every 3.5 days, a DUI every three days and so on.

Categories worth noting for both agencies in 2013 include: Assault (DCSO 66, GPD 95), Domestic Violence/Disorderly (DCSO 311, GPD 307), Burglary/B&E (DCSO 173, GPD 172), Drugs (DCSO 143, GPD 81), Gross Sexual Imposition/Battery/Rape (DCSO 26, GPD 12), Endangering Children/Child Abuse (DCSO 19, GPD 12), and Vandalism/Criminal Damaging/Mischief (DCSO 131, GPD 200).

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