Police chief gives report on 2010
Editor’s note: Estherville Police Chief Eric Milburn presented this annual report for 2010 at the city council meeting on Monday.
by Eric J. Milburn
Estherville Chief of Police
The calendar year 2010 was a fairly quiet year for the Estherville Police Department. There were no major crimes, no major accidents, and in the world of law enforcement, no major incidents. Therefore, I shall endeavor to provide some sort of explanation of where your budget dollars went this year.
At this time we are fully staffed. We did have one resignation this year; Officer Brett Lewis accepted employment with the Iowa State Patrol. A Lakes Area Law Enforcement Employment Cooperative test was given in December. From that test, we hired a former Estherville Police Officer who decided that he missed law enforcement. Tim Ahrens returned to police work, and after a short refresher has been integrated back into our schedule. We continue to keep two of our former officers, Terry Watters and Sonja Fagre, who are retired, on our payroll, saving us overtime costs.
The most significant change for the Estherville Police Department is the near completion of the radio system. I say near completion, because while the police are all on the digital system, the sheriff’s dispatchers are still on analog, which doesn’t allow for the best use of the system. We transmit and receive each other in digital, however all communication with the dispatcher is still in analog. Hopefully in the near future, the sheriff’s office will get the necessary equipment to bring the entire system up to the standards that are achievable.
For the police department, the system is beyond expectations. Our officers can talk with each other with perfect clarity over 90 miles away from each other with the squad radios, and over 50 miles with a portable, handheld radio. Prior to the repeated systems, we couldn’t reach 20 blocks with our handheld radios. We have encrypted channels so we can conduct covert operations without fear of being heard by our targets, we have channels that provide direct communication with state and federal officers. The best news is that in fiscal 2011, the city will make its final payment towards that system. As the city’s representative on the E911 board,
I have stated unequivocally that the system will not get 17 years old without upgrades while I am on the board. There will be a maintenance and upgrade schedule put in place. Steps have already been taken for that purpose.
The second largest item of note is the drug enforcement that has occurred during 2010. We had 46 arrests for drug crimes, the second highest total in the last nine years. Additionally, the quantities are in a lot higher range than they were in 2002. There are at least three of these 46 that are federal cases, where these individuals will not return to Estherville as long as I am with the department. There are several arrests that were not charged in Emmet County that the detective was directly involved in, both with state charges and federal charges. Those arrests are not counted in this annual report.
We remain very active in the Iowa Great Lakes Drug Task Force. There were arrests made that have been backtracked to the Mexican Cartel. The Task Force has over 11 pounds of methamphetamines and over 15 pounds of marijuana seized during 2010.
Our K-9 Max and his handler Officer Matt Reineke have had a large role in these investigations. This team is well respected and highly sought after in drug investigations and interdictions. Max and Matt have a great reputation. Max was called out 27 times in 2010, and assisted in six search warrants. One call out was for a tracking situation, the other 26 times for drug searches. Max is credited with 20 finds, one of which was 1 seed in a pants pocket in a duffle bag full of clothes. Another find involved a seizure of $2,500 in cash, which was forfeited. Our share of some of the forfeiture money went to purchase equipment that we use today to assist us in drug investigations. There will be more press releases and arrests from investigations that occurred and started in 2010. Stay tuned for further events.
The largest part of the stimulus grant money that we received was spent in 2010. We purchased two large gun safes for storage of firearms for evidence, and mandatory seizure of firearms, 511(brand name) Light for Life flashlights were purchased, lights that take no bulbs, no batteries, and recharge in 90 seconds. They have worked well for our officers. We also outfitted one of our squad cars with lighting and siren systems, sparing the budget, and finished out our requirements for the new radio system with a final squad car radio, extra handheld radios, and lapel microphones. The difference in our communication system now from when I started in 1979 is laughable.
The department remains active in the Law Enforcement Intelligence Network, the Mid-states Organized Crime Information Center, D.A.R.E. and the High Risk Entry and Arrest Team. The Tactical Team had only five callouts this year, which is good and bad, good that there were fewer serious incidents, but bad, that sometimes it’s frustrating to train and never use the skills learned. There were several “call-backs” which are situations where the team is requested, but the incident is handled while the team is en-route. A couple of them were because the team was called out. There is a good reputation there also. The tactical team purchased several items of equipment this year, one of which is a remote control robot. This robot has a camera that allows the operator to see what is in a room, therefore offering a measure of safety while ascertaining risks in a room.
Officers Lewis and Dunlavy completed a Citizens Academy in 2010. There were 12 individuals who attended the course. As usual, it was well received, often lasting past the scheduled times for the class. Participants leave the Academy with a better understanding of law enforcement and the way the criminal justice works.
Officer Danner reports that there were 121 vehicle abatements mailed. Of those 121, 37 failed to comply initially. They were sent a second letter, and 14 still failed to comply. Randy’s Body towed eight, and J & K Towing towed six.
Estherville police officers were treated to 999.5 hours of training during 2010. Training is an important issue, and their officers are appreciative of the training and travel line item dollars that the city provides.
Our reserve officers continue to dwindle. With the Academy’s stance on reserves, our elder officers have mostly chose to resign. Again, I am afraid this program will eventually go by the wayside.
The numerical statistics follow. The only thing glaring is the amount of warning citations, and looking back, 441 for 2009 is an obvious anomaly.