The completion of the Platteville Police Department’s annual report has again afforded us the opportunity to review the past year and reflect on how things went.
The year 2014 will be known as the year of the tornado. The tornadoes that struck the city June 16 tested our resiliency and our preparedness. In both respects we measured up very well.
The community and our neighbors throughout the southwest part of the state responded to the storm damage and the ensuing power outage by pitching in and helping in big and small ways. UW–Platteville immediately evaluated the scope of the damage and developed a plan to continue registering new students and how they would get ready for the fall semester. At the city level we worked to assist our residents in their recovery efforts and also continue delivering the day-to-day services to the community. As bad as the storm damage was, it could have been much worse and most importantly, we were lucky that there were no fatalities and there was only one significant injury.
Another major local story involved the abduction and subsequent killing of a local cab driver. This incident was a stark reminder that serious crimes can and will occur in our area. The perpetrator was well known to law enforcement and he had been arrested numerous times by the Platteville Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies.
On a national level, the Ferguson, Mo., protests in November brought the issue of police relations with their constituents into the spotlight. The protests were largely in response to the decision of a local grand jury that chose not to indict a police officer in an incident in which an unarmed African–American man was killed. The response to the protests has ranged from calls for increased scrutiny of officer-involved-death incidents and increased dialogue on the nature of police/minority relations to death threats against police officers. Obviously this is a topic that needs to be explored much more but it needs to be done in a setting in which all of the stakeholders are identified so they can share their concerns.
High profile incidents involving the police and their use of force have also led to a push to increase the use of video by police officers. It is believed that this will increase transparency and hold officers more accountable for what they say and do while on duty. The value of video to document incidents has long been recognized by the courts. The problems with video cameras are that they don’t always capture everything that happened during an incident. It’s also quite expensive to purchase and maintain cameras and their download equipment as well as being expensive and difficult to store all of the video data. Hopefully as technology advances some of these issues will be significantly improved.
In Platteville we’ve been using cameras in our squads since the early 1990s and we’ve been using personal cameras worn by our officers for more than a year and a half. We’re continuing to evaluate new cameras and storage options and we intend to implement these as they become appropriate for our uses and as our budget permits it.
As the old saying goes, the one constant is change and this proved to be true in 2014. In October Sgt. Matt Harcus resigned after 13 years of service. He will be missed but I’m sure he will be successful as he begins a new career in the private sector.
Fortunately our pool of sergeant applicants was current and we were able to promote Ryan Knoernschild to fill this vacancy. Previously Ryan has been a field training officer, a firearms instructor and a member of the Grant County Crisis Resolution Team so he has prepared himself well for this role.
The year 2015 promises to bring its own set of challenges and opportunities. Hopefully our past efforts will position us well to meet the challenges and seize and act on the opportunities.
The Platteville Police Department’s 2014 Annual Report is available at http://platteville.org/w/wp-content/uploads/2015/2014-Police-Department-Annual-Report.pdf. Please take the time to check it out. It contains information on our staff and our operations, and data about local crime and the other calls and incidents that we deal with.
The Community Corner is a column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville Public Schools Superintendent Connie Valenza; Platteville Regional Chamber Executive Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.